The ladies of the church were tucked away at their annual women’s retreat. My wife was charged with preparing for the communion service. However, it was Sunday morning when she realized that she had accidently purchased a bottle of prune juice rather than grape.
There was no time to get to the grocery store. Maybe she could slip in the prune juice and no one would know. It could be a moving service. No – can’t do that!
She ran to the camp host to see if they had any grape juice around. They told her to check the freezer for some concentrates. There were two – passion fruit and lemonade.
Lemonade? Hmm – maybe, but anyone who has ever bought a lemon – would have conflicted feelings about Christ.
Passion fruit was closer to the color of grape juice, and aren’t we all supposed to be passionate about Christ? Passion fruit it was!!
Despite the tropical juice and French bread cubes, the women managed to savor the wondrous work of Christ on their behalf.
It makes me wonder though; Is it important that the juice of grapes be used for communion?
The beverage options in Jesus’ day were limited. The Qumran Quik Stop carried water, wine and sometimes goat’s milk or vinegar. (Eeeww – who drinks vinegar?)
When Jesus gave us the rite of Communion, He did so during a typical Passover meal using what He had before Him, which was most likely wine. People didn’t imbibe a lot of pure grape juice back then because fermentation begins as soon as the skin of the grape is broken. Refrigeration was still 2 millennia in the future.
In fact, the church has used wine through the ages to celebrate communion. It really wasn’t until 1869 that Thomas Welch found a way to pasteurize grape juice to keep it from fermenting. He marketed it to local churches, urging them to adopt it for communion services, calling it “Dr. Welch’s Unfermented Wine.”
Today some of us have red-faced arguments over whether it was wine or grape juice that Jesus used. I was stunned to find out that the Bible does not specify.
When the Lord gave us the rite, He referred to what was in the cup generically as, “the fruit of the vine” which could refer to either. Paul was also vague in 1 Corinthians 11:25-28. I wonder if the Lord was diplomatically trying to help us avoid our present-day communion controversies.
But what is it about the fruit of the vine that makes it an appropriate symbol of the blood that Jesus shed for us? Why not Dr. Pepper?
Maybe it’s because wine is frequently associated with joyful celebration in the Bible. When King David was installed as King of Israel the wine flowed. (1 Chron 12:38-40) Likewise, when Christ shed His blood, He earned the right to rule on the throne of David as King (Philippians 2:5-11) – a great cause to celebrate.
Certainly, the juice was nutritious and life giving – a reminder that Christ gives us life abundant now and for eternity. Not common knowledge back then, but we now know that the fruit of the vine is full of antioxidants that ward off free radicals. We also know that the blood of Christ secures us from the wrath of God. (Romans 5:9)
Or maybe it’s because the blood of grapes becomes more precious over time. It’s not that the value of the His sacrifice improves, but our appreciation of it grows.
My best guess, however, is that the juice is produced by the crushing of the grapes. The ancient prophet predicted that our Savior would be likewise handled. “He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins.” – Isaiah 53:5 NETBible ®
That night in the Upper Room, Jesus made sure that His disciples understood that He was the one the prophet had in mind. Like the juice of the grapes that He held in His hand, He would be crushed, but the blessing that would come from it would be vast, extraordinary and eternal.
The next time you receive communion, forget the prune juice and mull over the fact that Jesus was crushed for you.
A PRAYER: Lord help me to better understand and appreciate the kind of love that Jesus has for me.