The good wine

Last Sunday was the day of Epiphany that marks Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Cana, turning water into wine.  I don’t understand how anyone can make a Biblical case against alcohol, given that Jesus, who knew no sin, made wine.  And this isn’t just wine for medicinal purposes or because the water wasn’t safe, excuses I’ve heard anti-alcohol Christians make.  (Another ancient religion, Islam forbids wine altogether, so it wasn’t a necessity for life.)  This was specifically alcohol for celebratory reasons.

But what I noticed this time is the distinction made here between “poor wine” and “good wine.”  The text affirms that some wine, as with other human artifacts, is better than others, an affirmation of quality, of aesthetic judgment.  And when Jesus makes wine through a miracle, it is specifically “good wine.”

But these observations just skim the surface of this text.

Read it:

6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.[a] 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.  [John 2]

via John 2 ESV – The Wedding at Cana – On the third day – Bible Gateway.

The miracle is “the first of his signs.”  So what does it signify?

The water was for the rites of purification, the Jewish ritual that points ahead to Baptism!  Christ washes us, purifies us, with water and with His blood, like the blood and water that came out of His pierced side  (John 19:34).  The wine surely points ahead to Holy Communion.  The “good wine” that He gives us, for our purification, is His blood.  Thus, we are all members of His Church, His bride, and we all take part in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6-9).

 

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • tODD

    Good points to consider. Somehow, I didn’t recall seeing before that the jars were for “Jewish rites of purification”. For a long time, this miracle seemed somewhat unexplained, a random display of Jesus’ power to no obvious end (except, of course, that his disciples came to believe in him).

    But it does seem that Jesus is making a claim about himself vis-a-vis the old rites — namely, that they were a shadow of the reality that is found in Christ. And, yes, he is testifying that he is the One through whom all things were made, as he creates aged wine ex nihilo. And, finally, he also seems to foreshadow the sacraments, the elements of which are connected in this miracle.

    Still, it kind of makes me wonder why, in every church I’ve ever attended, anything but “the good wine” gets served. Seems mildly ironic, that.

  • Pete

    Wow – great insight, the “water for purification rites to wine to communion” connection. Is it just me, or does this whole Lutheran thing just keep getting better and better?

  • larry

    Great point and link to the rite of purification and type to archetype as well. Our pastor singled in on the good wine part too. He brought out the with Christ there’s always grace…and more grace and still yet more grace. He contradistinguished that with “what if the church like so many institutions said basically, ‘we’ve run out of grace’.” A harrowing thought indeed. The next guy/gal comes in for forgiveness of their sins and the church says, “Sorry, we are all out”. Like early part of the feast. But not so, with the church and Christ there is grace…and more grace and yet still more grace.

    It’s similar to something Nestigen said once regarding the sacraments. That when considering the sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, one has to think in the logic of the resurrection and not the logic of wanting or lacking. Wanting or lacking always sees not enough there and then asks, ‘who QUALIFIES and what are the qualifications’. A.k.a. works of various kind and sorts, even faith itself as a work. But the logic of the resurrection is grace…and more grace…and still even more grace and its really, really, REALLY free. And thus the question of the Ethiopian eunuch is like a man who stepped into a feast room, “Here is water, what prevents me from being baptized”. Or to paraphrase it, “water, water, water everywhere, so since the Word of God is here what prevents me from thus receiving this forgiveness of sins and washing of them away except my own self?” It’s like a starving man walking into a feast and just not sure if he should take a bite or not…what prevents me. “Here is water, here is the Words of God, lo a baby, what prevents me?” Well nothing, certainly not God, but only you prevent it (or not). Same with the Lord’s Supper.

    Thus, grace…and yet more grace and yet………..more grace. Just like the to the brim good wine pots, the best for last and it never ends and it is without emptying. Sin no longer makes the difference as to whether men or women go into hell or heaven, sinners populate both. “Lo here is water, what prevents me (other than me)”?

  • shell

    Although there are allusions to Holy Baptism throughout Scripture, I do not think this is one of them for two main reasons.

    First, these Jewish rites of purification are not commanded by God in the Torah but are merely pious tradition. The closest washing precursor I can find is the washing of a priest in the Tabernacle. It seems to me that since Baptism is a fulfillment of the Old Covenant it would be connected to an actual rite of the covenant rather than a mere tradition.

    Secondly, the focus of the miracle at Cana is on the wine. There is no corresponding wine in Baptism. I suppose you could make a Eucharistic wine-blood connection that ties in with Rom. 6, but that seems to be needlessly complicated.

    I would say that the miracle at Cana points to the joyful abundance of the New Covenant and is a foretaste of the Feast to Come.

  • SKPeterson

    Shell @ 7:40 – It may also be a replacing of the “things of men” with the “gifts of God” certainly something Jesus (and the prophets) made a point of.

  • SteveD

    Christ changes the water of Judaism into the wine of Christianity (that the rituals and ceremonies necessary to cleanliness would cease as they found fulfillment in Christ); He changes the water of Christlessness into the wine of the fullness of eternal life in Christ; He changes the water of the law into the wine of the gospel; He changes the purification of the flesh by the waters of the Old Covenant into the purification of the soul by the wine of the New Covenant, his own blood. Everything about this sign points to Jesus Christ himself and foreshadows what he would do on the cross as his blood was shed for the purification of sin. – Leon Morris

  • http://www.christlutheran.net Jeff Samelson

    Seeing baptism everywhere there’s water in Scripture and the Lord’s Supper everywhere there’s wine brings one dangerously close to allegorical interpretation of clear Bible passages. While the “interpretations” mentioned above are wonderfully true teachings of Scripture, it’s a stretch, at best, to find them in this passage.

    Instead, be satisfied with … what the text actually says. Let it interpret itself. Why did Jesus do this miraculous sign? Because (finally) his hour had come (verse 4). What was its purpose (beyond the immediate, meeting the need of the newlyweds)? The same purpose as all the subsequent signs, the purpose we already see being fulfilled in verse 11: Christ’s glory is manifested and people — in this case, his first disciples — “believed in him” (meaning here that these five or six had their faith strengthened by this “epiphany”; they had obviously already believed in him enough to follow him).

    There doesn’t need to be anything more or anything deeper in this text than what it already — and clearly — says. The Spirit knew what he was doing when he inspired John to write it; we don’t need to bring things to it that aren’t really there. By the same token, the passages that speak clearly of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are also more than sufficient to teach those doctrines; we don’t need to search for the Sacraments where they are not spoken of.

  • Pete

    @ Jeff Samuelson, who said, “Why did Jesus do this miraculous sign? Because (finally) his hour had come (verse 4).”

    My Bible has verse 4 saying, (John 2:4 NIV)
    Jesus replied. “My time has NOT yet come.” (Capitalization mine.) This prompts the question as to what exactly was His time or His “hour”. The best explanation that I have heard of that question is that His hour, the culmination of His work on earth, was on the cross. Understood that way, it fits very naturally with the explanation proffered above by Dr. Veith.

  • Tom Hering

    Jeff Samelson (@ 9:22 am), I agree with your approach. As a regular here once commented (SKPeterson? Doc Luther?), sometimes books about great white whales are just whaling stories.

  • Gene Veith

    The Bible is full of “types,” symbols, and even allegories. That does not constitute an allegorical interpretation of Scripture, as Rome practiced. What do you do with the Book of Hebrews, which shows that the entire Old Testament sacrificial system is about the sacrifice of Christ? What do you do with Peter 3, which says the account of Noah and the flood points to Baptism? Do you think the judgement in the Garden of Eden was just about a man stomping on a snake, and not Christ’s victory over Satan? When the Bible says that all of Scripture testifies of Christ, that means the Old Testament too.

    As for this passage, John clearly and explicitly says the miracle is a “sign.” That means it “signifies” something. John could have just said “jars” instead of jars for the water of purification. What is being signified here?

    And Tom Hering, you think MOBY DICK is just a story about trying to catch a whale? Have you ever read Moby Dick, which is surely the most explicitly philosophical, searching work inAmerican literature?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Todd @ 1 – good observation on wine quality! My current church uses a less than stellar port. But normally, the stuff is just awful? I think it has to do with $$$….

  • Mockingbird

    There is a great Latin quote on this parable. “Lympha pudica Deum vidit et erubit.” “Pure water saw God and blushed.”

  • Tom Hering

    Yes, Dr. Veith (@ 10:04 am), I’ve read Moby Dick. A darn good yarn.

  • trotk

    Klasie and tODD, many churches use bad wine not for the sake of saving money but instead to remind us of the bitterness of what Christ suffered.

  • mikeb

    Can the same verse include symbols or allegory, teaching a much higher lesson that its plain, straight forward meaning? Isn’t that how we conclude that both Law and Gospel are found in the same text, that the Word is a double edged sword of truth?

  • Bryan Lindemood

    The quality of the wine which God’s people supply now to the Lord’s table is of no importance. By His Word, the present Lord makes it a foretaste of the heavenly banquet to come, for ALL Christians, feeding us with Himself in always the best quality!
    This is a huge issue in poor nations especially which struggle against Muslim culture in which all good things (including wine) have been made to be basically non-existent – oh my dear Sudanese brothers and sisters who have grown to be so shy about partaking because of this very thing!

  • Steve Bauer

    This was the first of His signs. Signs of what? That He was a miracle worker? There were other miracle workers among the Jews of that day.

    Manifested His glory. What glory is that? That He was going to die on the cross? What does changing water into wine have to do with dying on a cross?

    His discuples believed in Him Why did they believe? What is it about changing water into wine that would inspire faith, however amorphous (cf. Matt. 16)?

    Flashback to the Prophet Amos. In Amos 9 the Lord first announces that the time for judgement on Israel has come, concluding with ““For behold, I will command, and shake the house of Israel among all the nations as one shakes with a sieve, but no pebble shall fall to the earth. All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, who say, ‘Disaster shall not overtake or meet us.’”

    Then the prophet turns to the Gospel. God will restore Israel. Note that the coming salvation is described in terms of abundance, so much abundance that the reaper and the treader of grapes will not be able to finish with the harvest before the next crop is being planted and raised.

    11 “In that day I will raise up
    the booth of David that is fallen
    and repair its breaches,
    and raise up its ruins
    and rebuild it as in the days of old,
    12 that they may possess the remnant of Edom
    and all the nations who are called by my name,”c
    declares the Lord who does this.
    13 “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord,
    “when the plowman shall overtake the reaper
    and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed;
    the mountains shall drip sweet wine,
    and all the hills shall flow with it.
    14 I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel,
    and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them;
    they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine,
    and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.
    15 I will plant them on their land,
    and they shall never again be uprooted
    out of the land that I have given them,”
    says the Lord your God.

    Do you get it? The mountains shall drip sweet wine. The hills flow with an abundance of wine. Changing water into wine is the sign that Jesus is the one who fulfills what was promised in Joel. He is the one who is restoring the Kingdom. That’s what the disciples recognize in this miracle. This is why they believe in Him. His wine accomplishes something that makes the “old wine” (or wineskins: Mark 2) of the Sinai covenant seem insipid, obsolete. So the observation about the contrast between the old covenant (and especially the legalistic traditions that the Jews had developed to keep that covenant) represented by stone jars/waters and the “good wine” created by Jesus is appropriate.

  • shell

    Dr. Veith @ 10:04,
    Certainly there are types and symbols throughout Scripture that point to Christ and His sacramental New Covenant. However, I do not think that this particular passage points to Baptism in particular.
    Why then does John include the detail of the jars being used for purification you ask? Perhaps it’s like his use of details with the catch of 153 fish (Jn. 21:11) or the fact that he had reached the tomb before Peter (Jn. 20:8). Perhaps it’s that he anticipated some people would be wondering why these six large containers were conveniently there for this miracle. Or maybe even it’s to show the shortcomings of first century pious traditions.
    But I do not think that it would be an allusion to Baptism because Baptism did not arise from such first century pious traditions and because the miracle is ultimately more concerned with the wine than with the water.

  • helen

    This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. [John 2]

    This is the point of John’s telling us about these wedding events! Would you believe I’ve now read or heard seven sermons on this text and this is only the second which “got it”?

    [I read more than usual this week! The first said this and I was afterward interested in seeing what the others would say. Mostly they talked about marriage (as ordained in Eden, with a sentence or two about its current state); one looked forward to Roe vs Wade and spent more time on that.]

  • Gene Veith

    I do agree that the sign is more about wine than water. That’s a great OT connection, Steve Bauer.
    And Tom Hering, it’s just that you picked the worst possible example of a work of literature that, maybe, is just a yarn and doesn’t contain symbolism. You must have read Melville’s chapter “The Whiteness of the Whale,” in which he launches into this long, detailed, wide-ranging discourse on the symbolism of the color white!

  • Gene Veith

    Notice, everybody, that “nesting” is off of the comments. We haven’t quite gotten numbering, but we’re working on that.

  • Hanni

    This makes me think of Jesus as a loving, friendly man with great taste, in wine especially. He seems to have beenso wonderful to be around. Probably churches use bad wine because it’s cheap or they don’t know any better. I am ulcer prone and after my last surgery I could never drink bad wine (cheap) which I discovered I was doing. I loe to think about Cana, visualize it, Jesus moving around through the festivities.

  • mikeb

    RE: 12:25

    Herr Doktor Vieth, as I read at 1:36 the posts are now numbered. Nice!

  • Steve Bauer

    I see numbers!

    Is it a dream?

    Is it them halubcinations?

  • fjsteve

    Steve @24, you neither halubcinate nor hallucinate. We have numbers!

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Numbered, non-threaded comments, finally! Yay.

    As to the discussion at at hand: I find it quite informative and interesting. I had never thought any more of the turning-water-into-wine incident as anything more than just Jesus’ first public miracle. And like others, I had completely missed that the water was intended for the purification ritual.

  • Tom Hering

    You must have read Melville’s chapter “The Whiteness of the Whale” … (Dr. Veith @ 20)

    Oh shoot. Yeah. That chapter. I guess if it’s been a while since I’ve read a work, I should keep my mouth shut. :-D Now that I think about it, Moby Dick is more than just a yarn, as Melville was quite concerned with the darkness in man, as were the other greats, Poe and Hawthorne, and before them, Brockden Brown. Seems to have been a concern of America’s early authors, because of their familiarity with strict Calvinism, and because the new country had thrown off the past in the Revolution, leaving it in uncharted waters, where anything could happen, and given the darkness in man, what could happen in America might prove rather ugly, so they wrote stories that were cautionary tales as much as anything … have I redeemed myself yet? :-D

  • Dr Luther in the 21st Century

    John is a fascinating Gospel that plays with themes the entire time. I think it wise to be careful about read too much into the things John points out but at the same time we can’t ignore them. The wedding feast is full of things that are going to draw to mind in a Christian various themes of the faith. My opinion is that there is more in three days later there was a wedding feast than in the water. Also we do need to be aware John shows us the point in this event. Jesus’ disciples believed in him.

    Anyhow Fisk has a pretty good look at the text, hopefully Patheos will let me post the link.

  • tODD

    Trotk (@14) … you’re joking, I assume? If anything, the wine I get at communion is bad because it’s oddly sweet. I’ve read that Manischewitz actually adds corn syrup to its wine (except during Passover, when it’s sweetened with cane sugar), making it sort of closer to a port.

    As to why churches seem to prefer not just low-end wine, but specifically kosher wine, I don’t get that, either. Do we keep kosher in any other way?

    Anyhow, Bryan (@16) said:

    The quality of the wine which God’s people supply now to the Lord’s table is of no importance.

    Sure, the quality is not prescribed. It’s not a law. But I’m not sure that’s the same as “not important”. I mean, would you also say that “The quality of the music which God’s people supply is of no importance”? Or that it doesn’t matter at all what anyone wears to worship, including the pastor? At some level, I could agree to these statements. At another level, not so much.

    To think of it in terms of another sacrament, would anyone intentionally put dirty water in the font? I don’t think so. Would we decry a baptism performed in such water, if it were the best option available? Of course not! But, all the same, we do seem to think it best that clean water be provided for the font.

    So, sure, in poor nations — especially those where any wine might be hard to come by — I get it.

    But why, in a country like ours, do I so often find myself drinking cheap kosher wine at Communion? I don’t get it. I could make the same argument about the odd wafers, too. Weren’t these originally elements of a feast? Didn’t people used to enjoy these things?

  • Dr Luther in the 21st Century

    @# 29 I like Manischewitz, it makes a good marinade. Also, how does adding cane sugar or corn syrup make it closer to port? My understanding is port is wine mixed with brandy. But in the end I think you answered your own question. They are cheap. Personally, I’d be all for using Messina Hoff Double Barrel Reserve Merlot, but that is just me.

  • trotk

    tODD, I actually wasn’t joking. I have heard that reasoning before from thoughtful pastors. I have no idea why your church (or other Lutheran churches?) uses kosher wine. Anglican churches usually use Port for historical reasons (something about tensions between England and France…and then we kept using Port because change is bad…).

    I am with you on the wafers, though. I love it when churches use real bread of high quality, and I love it when churches use enough bread and wine that you actually get a substantial bite and sip. I can’t imagine the last supper being just a drop and nibble.

  • SKPeterson

    In one of my old congregations there was a noticeable change in the wine at Lent – it was somewhat soured. We then opened up a really nice red for Easter – usually a Chilean carmenere that could be purchased in the 1.5 liter bottles. I think most wine simply just goes bad, maybe because it was cheap to begin with, but mostly because it’s just stored poorly and kept too long. I might suggest churches use the Bota or Franzia boxed burgundies; the wine is pretty good (especially for the price) and the packaging ensures consistency from first to last.

    Finally, I must say that it is odd that the Sacramentarians aren’t out in force on this one.

  • http://theoldadam.com/ theoldadam

    Any wine will do just fine. The important thing is to trust that it is His true blood…shed for you, that you are receiving…through faith.

  • http://www.christlutheran.net Jeff Samelson

    I apologize for not being able to respond in a more timely manner. By waiting, however, I do get the advantage of numbered responses!

    Re: Pete @8
    While I won’t say categorically that the interpretation you mentioned is incorrect, the context in which Jesus said “My hour is not yet here” suggests instead that the miracle Jesus did shortly afterward indicated that yes, finally, his hour had arrived. The reason for the “not yet” is tied to what preceded it: “What is it to/for me and you, woman?” Jesus was putting a respectful separation between himself and his mother, indicating that things had changed since he left to be baptized by John and she would no longer direct his actions and decisions; he would no longer act because he was her son, but when he acted it would be because it was the time set for him (by his heavenly Father). It’s as though he’s telling her, “We have different interests here, and you won’t be the one to determine when I reveal my identity and power as the Son of God.” What underscores this interpretation is how Mary responded: she did not take his mild rebuke as Jesus saying he was not going to act (“My hour is way, way off, Mom, don’t ask!”), but assumed he would act in his own way, soon, and told the servants to prepare accordingly.

    Re: Dr. Veith @10
    First off, I’d say that what you mention about Hebrews, 1 Peter 3, and Genesis 3:15 fit perfectly with the point I was trying to make: we interpret passages of Scripture based on their clear, simple sense, and then on what the rest of Scripture says about them. The symbols you pointed to there are either immediately evident in the text or clearly explained elsewhere. There is no corresponding “other” passage in the Bible to tell us to find baptism or the Lord’s Supper in John 2:1-11.

    Second, the way the word “sign” is used by John is not in the sense of a symbol. It’s most commonly understood as “miracle”. So it doesn’t represent something, it points to something — in this case (and most every time it’s used) to the fact that Jesus is indeed the Son of God. Also, the “sign’ in this case is not the jars or the water — it’s a reference to the whole event, i.e. the changing of water into wine.

    Re: mikeb@15
    The simple answer to your question is: Yes, the same verse CAN include symbols or allegory in addition to its plain, straightforward meaning, BUT only when the text itself — or a clear reference elsewhere in Scripture — tells us so. But this is not as common in the Word as some would have you believe, and it very rarely shows up in narrative portions of the Bible (such as the Gospels) — it’s found most commonly in prophecy and poetry/wisdom writings. (Also, finding law and gospel in a text is a matter of meaning and application, not symbolism.)

    Re: Steve Bauer @17
    On what basis do you claim that there were other miracle workers among the Jews of that day?

    Thanks for the Old Testament references, which underscore my point — although it’s simply a matter of supposition (again, we have to go by what’s actually in the text) that Christ’s disciples would have had any of that in mind. But the basic point stands: Jesus turning water into wine was a miraculous sign that took the infant faith those five or six disciples had, based on what they had heard about and from Jesus, and matched it to unmistakable evidence they could see, showing that this man from Nazareth actually was the Messiah God’s prophets had pointed to and God’s people had been waiting for. We can certainly appreciate the huge change in perspective this represented, and we understand the significance of it all, but these are things we bring to the text — John 2:1-11 itself makes no observations about covenants old or new.

    Re: Mike Westfall @26
    I’m not sure if this point needs correcting or not, but it would not be accurate to say that “the water was intended for the purification ritual”. Note that Jesus had to tell the servants to fill the jars with water —the water he had them put in the jars was intended to be changed into wine (there really was no kind of intermediate purpose). (The water that had been in the jars for the purpose of ceremonial washing would have been used already when the guests arrived.)

    The phrase, “for the Jews ceremonial washing/purification”, modifies “stone water jars”, not “water”, and is apparently included simply to indicate why these huge jars were present and to give an idea how much water-then-wine we were being told about.

    (Yes, I preached on this text last Sunday.)
    I will now go back to lurking for a while. I always forget the longer-term commitment I end up making every time I comment!

  • Bryan Lindemood

    @ 30, Maneschewitz – that’s what our church uses as well. It is pretty decent, I guess. But I will also always agree @ 33 because of His promise to deliver his best gifts through whatever wine and bread God’s “poor in spirit” people can offer for Him to use at His table, or in other words tODD, I see your point @ 29. By “quality” perhaps I mean “how little or much it might cost”. I’ve heard people argue pretty passionately about what wine is proper to use (white? red? blush?), and frankly, I just can’t get very excited about any of that. I just want more people to hunger and thirst to receive Jesus at His table.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Maneschewitz, Schmaneschewitz!
    Too fancy.
    The church I attend uses Welch’s.

  • tODD

    Having talked with my wife about this, she suggests that one reason congregations may use sweetened kosher wine is that it may keep longer than regular wine when a bottle is not fully used up in a Sunday. Of course, there’s nothing inherently kosher about adding sweeteners to wine, but it’s what the top kosher winemakers in the US seem to do.

    This explanation would also work with port, which doesn’t spoil as easily, either. I think it’s fascinating that Anglicans tend to use port (cf. Trotk @31). That’s classy! Or maybe I’m imagining the nice tawny port I’m about to enjoy right now. At least it’s something I’d drink at home, which I can’t say for Maneschewitz. Sorry. But, still, Trotk, port isn’t at all bitter, so I still don’t get your pastor’s point.

    SK (@32), that’s not a bad idea about boxed wines. Again, not something I’d have at home personally, but still much closer to a normal wine than what I’m used to in church.

    Bryan (@35), I don’t want to be construed as arguing for what someone has to use for communion wine, as such. I just have opinions. One of my opinions is that red wine does a lot better job of getting the point across. Another of my opinions is that not being chintzy can also help drive the point home that this is the feast of victory of our God, not some kind of penitential sampler. Personally, I’d rather we “waste” money feeding everyone good wine and bread than, I don’t know, buying giant screens for our sanctuaries. But, you know, just me.

    Of course, I also don’t get how one can read 1 Corinthians 10:17 and then proceed to serve people wafers that are individually stamped out. Again, not required, but it often seems like we go out of our way to eschew any potentially helpful metaphors that the Bible itself uses to teach us. I don’t get it (and I say this as a guy who’s never been served anything but wafers at his churches).

  • tODD

    Mike (@36), I bet the people at your church also somehow think that pasteurization of grape juice has been around for millenia, as well?

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I agree @ 37 tODD. I wished we used real bread too (it would taste better) and folks in the congregation would take turns bringing it and the wine up to the altar with the offering every time.

  • trotk

    tODD, I have never heard an Anglican defend Port based on its bitterness. I have only heard that from pastors (in other denominations) who use something dry and bitter (and usually bad). And no, the Port we use is probably not of the same quality as what you enjoyed last night.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Todd, the argument I was given for the use of Port was because of its higher alcohol content, the passing of germs through the shared cup is minimized. That is also one of the reasons why the shared cup is silver – silver being anti-bacterial.

  • Steve Bauer

    @34 – These passages show that Jesus wasn’t the only miracle worker around at that time nor in the times to come.

    Matthew 12:27

    And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out?

    Acts 8:9-11
    Now there was a man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him, saying, “This man is what is called the Great Power of God.” And they were giving him attention because he had for a long time astonished them with his magic arts.

    Matt. 24:24
    For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.

  • http://www.christlutheran.net Jeff Samelson

    Steve @42
    I guess we’re working with different understandings of what qualifies as “miracles”.

    The Matthew 12:27 passage refers to exorcisms, which are not normally called miracles, particularly since we still see them today (casting out demons is more an exercise of authority than of power.). I might also point out that since it’s a contrary-to-fact conditional, Jesus wasn’t necessarily saying that these sons or students of the Pharisees actually had the power to cast out demons; it’s more of a reference to their claim to do so. So while it does refer to things among the Jews of Jesus’ day, it’s uncommon usage to call what they might have been doing “miracle-working” and it’s more than a stretch to consider their works/claims comparable to the miraculous signs Jesus did that attracted everyone’s attention and showed him to be the Son of God.

    Regarding Simon Magus, it’s worth noting that Acts 8:9-13 makes a careful distinction between his “magic” and the “signs” and “miracles” that the apostles performed. There is nothing here that tells us Simon actually performed any kind of act comparable to the miracles Jesus performed (and later, his apostles). “Magic” could refer to anything from sleight-of-hand and misdirection tricks like those of today’s magicians to the black arts of pagan priests or shamans — but Simon’s coming to faith and such makes it less likely that he was deep into any kind of occultic practices. His subsequent request for the power to give the Holy Spirit suggests to me that he had previously been a “trickster” who had never had and always wanted real power, and with Peter and John saw his chance. (I’ll also note that even if we accept that Simon was doing works similar to Christ’s, it wasn’t contemporaneous.) Obviously, since this was in Samaria, this couldn’t refer to the Jews of Jesus’ day.

    Jesus’ words in Matthew 24 do not refer to something happening at Christ’s time. They are prophetic and speak of the future. So, not a reference to “miracle workers among the Jews of that day.”

    Finally, Christ’s words to John the Baptist’s disciples about how to interpret his miracles (Matthew 11:4-6) makes clear that they were something unique and wonder-full; the fact that they were being worked was the sign, or proof, of Jesus’ true identity (and purpose).


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