Wine In A Wedding?
By bro Paul Lim
I once attended a friend’s wedding function. He was the bridegroom and was busy going from table to table offering (or receiving) a toast to (or from) the guests. Alas, he swung by the table where my friends and I were seated at, with a cup containing alcoholic beverage in his hand. He came and asked me to accept a toast from him (for those wondering, “toast” here basically means he offered to have me drink with him as a congratulatory gesture). I humbly smiled and rejected the offer, but what surprised me was his response. He remarked something along the lines of, “Hey, it is ok to drink, Jesus turned water into wine!”
I suppose such a scenario may be familiar to many of us. For some, it is ‘customary’ to drink alcoholic wine or beverage during a wedding. In fact, in today’s context, an eyebrow or two may be raised if it was heard that there would not be alcohol in any form served at a Chinese wedding. Likewise, in Christendom, there are those who think that drinking wine is socially acceptable in such functions and it is perfectly fine as long as one is able to “hold one’s liquor” well. Many cite the miracle Jesus performed during the wedding at Cana as a reason for them to drink alcohol. The related passage describing this miracle would be John 2:1-11. Is this really what Christ is conveying to us? Here are some points for consideration:
1. The Volume. There were 6 stone waterpots meant for the “purifying of the Jews”. The water from these pots may have been used for the guests to wash themselves before entering. These were the waterpots in which Jesus turned the water into “wine”. Conservative estimates suggest that the waterpots would have easily contained over 100 gallons of liquid. That’s over 300 litres of wine that Jesus miraculously produced. Water filled up “to the brim” turned into intoxicating wine? What could Christ have been thinking of and promoting with this much wine (c.f. Hab 2:15)?
2. The Entitlement. Vs 10 states that the men have “well drunk”. This means the guests were able to drink “freely (ESV)” of the wine. Note also that the Greek word methuo is used for the word “drunk”, suggesting that one is filled with a large quantity of a drink. Would Christ have wanted to create more intoxicating drink for everyone after they had “well drunk”?
3. The Judgment. The governor could tell that the bridegroom “kept the good wine until now” (vs 10). How could he have told the difference (if any) if he was intoxicated with strong alcoholic drink by this time? Certainly, he would not be able to if he had “well drunk” of an alcoholic beverage.
4. The Good Wine. Note that the wine made here was described as “good”. Modern society defines “good wine” with reference to the alcoholic content or the taste of such a beverage. However, the word kalos is used as “good”. This word kalos is related to good moral standing, virtue and noteworthy character. This shows that it hardly matches the modern-day understanding of “wine”.
5. The purpose. The miracle of turning water into wine was the first miracle that Jesus performed. It was to “manifest his glory” (vs 11). This miracle came after he gathered his disciples in John 1. The disciples were supposed to increase in their faith towards Jesus. Would Jesus want to perform a contentious miracle and have guests wondering if he was actually out to make people drunk at a wedding? Certainly not.
Upon close consideration of the factors above, it is clear that Jesus did not mean to promote social drinking in any form by turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana. Assuming that we are allowed to drink alcoholic beverage because Jesus did this miracle would be to actually go against his will for all of us to live soberly. The bible is clear about God’s stand towards alcoholic beverage:
Pro 20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.
Eph 5:18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit. -- (the word “excess” is translated as “debauchery” in ESV, referring to intemperance and excessive sensual pleasure)
Let us continue to study His word closely and seek to do His will. At the very least, let us stay away from alcoholic drinks, wedding or not. May glory be given to God because of our conduct as Christians on earth.