An Aperitif for the Hereafter

"For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the Kingdom of God come." (Luke 22:18)

Something before the meal perhaps?

Wine is amazing. Even if you haven't yet acquired a taste for it, it's hard not to respect "the fruit of the vine". It's beautiful to see how the vine snakes its way back through (potentially) miles of earth to its water source and from there to the fuzzy leaves and opaque globes yielding something that is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. Why did Jesus say what He did during the Last Supper? Maybe it's because Heaven offers something better than wine. Obviously. But look at the sommelier, the wine lover. Those who enjoy wine and have a taste for its subtle intricacies and distinctions are in Heaven already. So Jesus ends on a high note by saying that He's waiting for Heaven to enjoy something that (provided you're older than twenty-one) we get to enjoy here and now. Why would He postpone His enjoyment along these lines while letting us have all the fun?

"Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more." (Proverbs 31:6-7)

Jesus took no wine before He died, refusing even the "vinegar...mingled with gall" (Matthew 27:34) during His crucifixion. He kept His word. He was essentially offered a "sour wine" (Strong's) with an herbal painkiller mixed in. He, however, elected to suffer through every last moment of His life--for us. Let's in turn rewind about three years back to the marriage feast in Cana.

I find it interesting that the first recorded miracle of Jesus involves wine. The "marriage in Cana of Galilee" where Mary somehow knows Jesus is able to do something special with the water. Namely (*whispering*) turn it into wine. Nobody saw that coming. "They have no wine" she tells her son (John 2:3). You had to know that she knew Him as no human ever did. And at thirty years old, He seems to answer her back with what look like harsh words colored by an inside recognition that they shared between one another. "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" Yet notice how Jesus relents mere moments after refusing. Only thing I can surmise is that His Father superseded His refusal to obey His mother. The wine that Jesus made in those moments tasted better than what the master of ceremonies expected. He calls the groom and asks why a better, more expensive-tasting wine would be served toward the end of the meal. A fitting analogy for when we grow tired with the dregs of life. All Jesus needs is something as abundant as water, and He can make each sip of our life better than the last.

Winemaking, or viticulture is a complex art and science. Much like humans, the grapevine takes in its surroundings--the water, heat, light, shade, even propinquitous flavors--and throughout many generations, turns them into the perfect glass. Something that Jesus did instantly at His mother's (and Father's) behest. The intense love of Jesus is enough to take us from water, to wine.

"And wine that maketh glad the heart of man" (Psalm 104:15)

Wine has the power to render our inhibitions and fears ineffective. To make us into who we are without the added baggage of an overbearing social sensitivity. "Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities." Says Paul to Timothy (1 Timothy 5:23) Physiologically, something in our neural pathways opens up and relaxes and we're able to move freely through the crowded room. Guard down, hopes high. Coffee can't do it. Water can't either. But wine on the other hand has this unique quality. Seen this way, I suppose Jesus wouldn't need any wine to help Him feel at ease any more: "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit." (Ephesians 5:18) Something that definitely applies to Jesus--to us too. The more we cultivate our inner relationship with the Holy Spirit, the more we're able to not only overcome our own fears and insecurities with a power that is stable and always on, but we can, and should, do the same for others.


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