Embraced  by  Truth . . .
                                    reflections on theology and life

LIFE > Life in the World > Drinkers of Wine > Jesus and Wine > A Winebibber  


John the Baptist lived in the wilderness, eating locusts and wild honey. His strict life of self-denial was in keeping with the word of the angel to his father that he would “drink neither wine nor strong drink” (Lu. 1:15; oinos nor siskera). But his practice was misunderstood.

Because of his manner of life, not eating bread nor drinking wine or strong drink, John was accused of having a demon. His message condemned the beliefs and practices of the religious establishment, so they attacked his lifestyle. By accusing him of having a demon they could excuse their responsibility for considering the message he proclaimed. What good Jew would consider the message of a demon?

In contrast to John, Jesus came eating bread and drinking wine, and He was accused of being “a glutton and a winebibber (oinopotes)” (Matt. 11:19). He was accused of eating too much and drinking too much.

Neither the teetotaler (John) nor the moderate drinker (Jesus) pleased the religious and legalistic Pharisees, who were childish and could not be satisfied (Matt. 11:16-17). They condemned John for not doing what Jesus did, and they condemned Jesus for doing what John did not do. John had a demon, and they claimed Jesus was a winebibber. Their evaluations served as their own indictment. Pharisees can never be satisfied, and woe to the modern believer who tries to meet their stipulations. It is impossible.

Oinopotes, the Greek word for “winebibber,” appears twice in the New Testament, once in Matthew (11:19) and once in Luke (7:34). In the Old Testament a “winebibber” was synonymous with being an excessive drinker or a drunkard (Deut. 21:20). In confirmation of this the ESV, NIV, and NRSV translate oinopotes as “drunkard” in both Gospels. Jesus, therefore, is said to be a drunkard.

In response, Jesus in these passages is admitting that He drank wine and is indicating that He was wrongly accused in His wine drinking. He never denied drinking wine; He only defended Himself against the false accusation. The Lord enjoyed the wine but never abused the wine; in doing so, He illustrated that it is possible to drink without getting drunk. He further states that His lifestyle would be vindicated, for “wisdom is justified by all her children” (Matt. 11:19). Some persons do not deserve an explanation for your conduct; time is your great defender.

These accusations were made because Jesus drank wine and also ate with sinners who drank much wine (Matt. 9:9-11; Lu. 5:29-30; 15:2; 19:1-7). Wine is not mentioned in these passages, but it was the common beverage served at a meal, especially when entertaining. It would be inconceivable that wine was not served on these occasions or that Jesus did not drink the wine that was served. In many respects Jesus was a typical Jew.

Because He did drink the wine He was falsely accused. He was said to be “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matt. 11:19). It is interesting that a reference of scorn and rebuke has become to His people a title indicating the essence of Jesus’ ministry; He has become known as a friend of the outcast and guilty. God can transform castigations into testimonies.

And we have never been forbidden to laugh,
or to be filled,
or to join new possessions to old or ancestral ones,
or to delight in musical harmony,
or to drink wine.
John Calvin

Return to: Jesus and Wine; Next Article: Parables

For overview of the website, see: Site Map
Copyright © Embraced by Truth
All rights reserved.
Materials may be freely copied for personal and academic use;
appropriate reference must be made to this site.
Links are invited.