Whenever a Christian wants to justify the drinking of alcoholic beverages to others, he will remind them that Jesus turned water into wine. Most conservative Christians will suggest that the newly created wine was merely the fruit of the vine (grape juice), and not fermented wine. While this is a possibility, Jewish weddings have traditionally included fermented wine. Having been an alcoholic myself, I can attest to the fact that even when drunk, I could tell the difference between the two. Since the host praised the wine as superior to that being served earlier, it is unlikely that Jesus created grape juice. Others might say that since the miracle occurred in an instant, the grape juice didn't have time to ferment. Really? Why would fermentation be beyond the ability of Jesus? After all, He was able to serve thousands and have more leftovers than when He started!
Going to the original language does not help. While the writers of Young's Concordance suggest that oinos is to be understood as grape juice, it is the root word for oinopotes which they translate "wine bibber." A wine bibber is a drunk. To make matters worse, His enemies called Jesus a glutton and a drunk (wine bibber - Matthew 11:19). Would it be sin if Jesus drank fermented wine? After all, Jesus said, "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man, but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man" (Matthew 13:11).
Since this debate has been going on for nearly two thousand years, I doubt that I will resolve the issue in one blog post. However, I would like to address His supposed use of wine on another occasion. And, while I cannot be dogmatic on this point, I believe there is clear evidence that the "cup" at the Lord's Supper contained grape juice, or some other drink: perhaps water. Grape juice, in order to become wine, needs to be mixed with yeast to produce fermentation. Yeast in the Bible is known as leaven, and because leaven always represents sin or corruption, it was forbidden during the Feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread. In fact, not only was the bread they ate during the feasts to be unleavened, there was not to be any leaven in their homes (Exodus 12:15). Because fermented grape juice contains leaven, I do not believe it would be permitted.
The New Testament celebration of the Lord's Supper followed the Old Testament pattern. The bread was unleavened as it represented the body of Christ. The cup represented the blood of Christ. The Feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits pictured the death, burial, and the resurrection of Jesus, our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7). The Passover meal included a lamb (Jesus), unleavened bread (His sinless body), and the cup (innocent blood). It is inconceivable to me how the cup could have contained fermented wine. However, there is another side to this issue, and I will address it tomorrow, Lord willing.