John 2:1-11 And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: (2) And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. (3) And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. (4) Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. (5) His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. (6) And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. (7) Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. (8) And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. (9) When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, (10) And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. (11) This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.
Within the last month, the town in which I live brought a ballot initiative before the public on whether to expand the sale of alcoholic beverages in our county. I was against it! I had many discussions on the issue mostly regarding the economic impact to the community. Frankly, I could care less about the economic impact. But I had some individuals that wanted to argue that the issue had no moral or religious basis. Some were religious people and this passage is the one verse that is ALWAYS referenced in trying justify the behavior while still remaining a follower of Jesus. So the question has to be asked. Did Jesus create and ultimately serve alcoholic beverages in this passage? Essentially, was Jesus a bartender?
Before we look at the passage itself we need to understand some basic principles.
1Peter 2:21-22 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: (22) Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
We have to work off of the premise that regardless what was done in John 2, it could not have been a sin! Jesus was absolutely SINLESS in this event and all others.
James 1:13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
Not only could Jesus not have sinned, he also, in order to be sinless, he could not lead, encourage, tempt, or otherwise foster an environment to allow others to sin. That was absolutely contrary to the nature and mission of Jesus. So as a sinless, practicing Jew, what would be Jesus’ basis of knowledge for alcohol?
Proverbs 20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.
Proverbs 31:4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:
Isaiah 5:11 Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!
Proverbs 23:29-32 Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? (30) They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. (31) Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. (32) At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.
Romans 13:13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.
Ephesians 5:18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
Habakkuk 2:15 Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!
The bible does not just contain one or two vague references to dangers and warnings of the alcoholic beverage. It is full of them and I did not even try to find the ones that referenced drunkenness!
So let’s get to our main text today. What happened? No doubt, Jesus had servants take 6 waterpots, fill them with water and when it was served, it was a different substance other than water. In fact it was a form of the juice of the grape. That is not under dispute. Jesus truly performed a miracle here. The question here is, at the same moment that Jesus conducted his first public miracle, did he also commit a sin by serving alcohol? I contend that IF it was an alcoholic beverage, it had to be a sin due to the verses we have already shown. I think the real key to this passage is in verse 10.
John 2:10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.
The governor of the feast was surprised at the “new” beverage that was brought out because of a very simple principle. The more people eat and drink the less discerning they are. So good quality refreshments are served first and then lesser quality is brought in later. Notice what is said here about these people. They “have well drunk”. I do not believe that the word drunk implies intoxication, but rather just the past tense of “drink”. But regardless, they had PLENTY to drink of the family’s “wine” prior to Jesus serving his beverage. So if we automatically assume that all “wine” mentioned in the Bible is alcoholic, then at least some of these folks were on their way to being intoxicated. If that is the case, and we assume that the beverage had to be alcoholic, then Jesus, undisputedly was contributing to their intoxication and therefore Jesus sinned that day! That is the only conclusion that can be drawn based on the assumption that Jesus turned water into an alcoholic beverage. This simply cannot be!
So what is my explanation? Jesus turned water into FRESH grape juice! The Bible uses the word “wine” to refer to the juice of the grape in many forms including fresh.
Isaiah 65:8 This is the word of the Lord: As the new wine is seen in the grapes, and they say, Do not send destruction on it, for a blessing is in it: so will I do for my servants, in order that I may not put an end to them all. (NIV)
Here the word “wine” was used to refer to the juice while still inside the grape. Would anybody really try to say that was alcoholic? Absolutely not. So, just because we see the word “wine” we must not conclude that it is alcohol, but rather allow the context to determine that.
In the context of this passage, Jesus adds to the people’s consumption. If it was alcoholic, Jesus was then placed in the role of committing a SIN! Since Jesus did not sin, Jesus could not have produced alcohol that day!