There is an interesting little story in the Second Chapter of John in which Jesus actually turns water into wine. Hmm, now there’s a subject for controversy; Jesus and wine in the same verse. Among devout evangelicals, wine is nearly always considered an absolute ‘no-no’. And yet, there it is in black and white—Jesus putting His stamp of approval on wine—not drunkenness, but on the wine. Not only did He put His stamp of approval on it, but He produced it to be consumed at a wedding celebration. Thinking back, I suppose I’ve heard numerous sermons centered on the evils of wine or the abuse of wine, but I don’t recall ever hearing a sermon on the virtues of wine. The same holds true even among my favorite commentaries.
That seems a bit strange to me insofar as when Jesus was having His last supper with His disciples, we read, “And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:27-28 NASB).” Then In the very next verse He refers to that cup as being filled with ‘the fruit of the vine’.
These are certainly not isolated references to ‘the fruit of the vine’ or wine. Wine obviously plays an important role in the Scriptures—occurring 262 times in 237 verses. Let’s look at a few of those verses: Melchizedek, king of Salem, presented Abram a gift of bread and wine (Gen 14:18). In Gen. 27:37, Isaac sustained Jacob with corn and wine; in Exodus 29:40 God instructed His people to bring a hin (about 5 quarts) of wine as a drink offering. In Deuteronomy 7:13, Israel was promised to be blessed with plentiful wine and oil, and later in Deuteronomy 14:23, Israel was commanded to bring a tithe of their plentiful wine and oil. Jesse, David’s father, sent him along with bread and a jug of wine to minister to King Saul. Later when David was made king, they celebrated with their abundance, including wine and oil. That verse ended with, ‘There was joy indeed in Israel (1Chronicles 12:40).’ I would imagine the wine played a part in their joy!
In the New Testament, Jesus illustrated a point in one of His parables by saying that new wine should be put into new wineskins (Mark 2:22). In Luke 10:34 wine and oil were used medicinally and again in 1 Timothy 5:23, Paul instructed Timothy to drink a ‘little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments’.
Of course the apex of all these Scriptures came when Jesus took the cup and said, “This is My blood of the covenant”. WOW! We must wonder at what made that juice from the ‘fruit of the vine’ so special as to be symbolic of His own precious blood? In an effort to find the answer, let’s look first at the fruit itself. In order to achieve the optimum fruit for the production of wine, it must be harvested at its peak of perfection, not too green—not too ripe—just right! The next process is to place that harvest of beautiful, succulent, freshly picked grapes into a winepress. Then the workers step into the winepress and begin crushing the grapes with their bare feet. Their objective is to extract all the “blood of grapes (Genesis 49:11)” into a collection vat. They would tread on the grapes until nothing was left in the winepress but the empty skins, the seeds and any stray stems.
We should also notice that when grapes are perfectly ripe for harvest, they are covered with a thin white powdery mold—yeast; or in Biblical terms: leaven. As in other studies we have learned that leaven is symbolic of sin. As odd as that may seem, that ‘fruit of the vine’ was, at its time of perfection, covered with sin! That begs the question, ‘why is the leaven mixed right in with the pure blood of the grapes?’ To answer that, we must understand that the role of leaven is the most important element in producing wine from grape juice. When leaven is present in the vat filled with the ‘blood of grapes, it begins to boil and effervesce. Fermentation has begun. The fermentation process is actually a fierce battle raging between the sugars from ‘fruit of the vine’ and the presence of leaven. That battle will not be over until every trace of the leaven has been defeated by the natural sugars of the blood of grapes. In the end, what was originally ordinary grape juice has been perfectly cleansed of all impurities. The battle against the leaven has been won; it is finished!
I am reminded of a fine restaurant in the Dallas area. We only go there on special occasions. On a couple of such occasions, our little group was treated to seats around a beautiful large table located in their ‘wine room’ where we were surrounded by their entire selection of wines. We couldn’t help but notice the wide variance of prices ranging from a few dollars per bottle to hundreds of dollars per bottle. In taking note of the cost of a very select few bottles, the term ‘outrageous’ comes to mind.
At our first opportunity, we queried the wine steward as to why that very select few of the wines commanded near unbelievable prices per bottle, while others were plentiful and considered affordable. He proudly began describing the circumstances necessary to produce the finest wines. He said the particular grapes for those wines were grown in the best vineyards located on optimum soil; had to be near perfect at the time of harvest, and had to have near perfect climate conditions during their growing season. Even at that, there were very few years in which all those conditions were met. Thus the finest wines, as he described them, were very rare, commanding the great prices. He also concluded that his restaurant felt much honored to offer such an extensive list of wines, including the very rare.
Hmm, in thinking of that, it is near unimaginable to think of the cost Jesus paid to produce that cup of the rarest of wines of which He said, “This is my blood!”