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More Thoughts On The “Fruit Of The Vine” Symbolism



I have written two previous articles on this subject (  and ), but continue to see fascinating aspects of the symbolism underlying the cup that we as believers receive at the Lord’s Table.


In the second article I stressed the point that God told Israel in Exodus 12:20 to abstain from eating anything fermented (“leavened”) during Passover. And of course Jesus Christ used the Passover meal (the “Seder”) as the basis for the communion celebration we now refer to as “The Lord’s Supper.” So there are a couple of questions we need to ask ourselves at this point: does it seem at all likely He would consume something during that final meal that He had expressly forbidden to Israel?  And if He did, would it not have violated the Law of Moses?


You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread [during that week]” Exodus 12:20 (Amplified Bible, emphasis mine).

But since Jews at the time of Christ drank alcoholic wine as a part of their Seder services (and they still do today), how do we explain this apparent contradiction?

The answer is found in the fact that at some point in their long and checkered history a rabbinical decision was made that only alcoholic beverages made from grains were prohibited—an interpretation which may have been influenced by the emphasis in Exodus upon eating unleavened bread. But as we can see from the passage above, there were two commands given, the first negative and the second positive: (1) do not eat (consume) anything fermented, and (2) do eat unleavened bread. And we should also note that in God’s original instructions there was nothing mentioned about a beverage to be consumed with the meal. The symbolism of the blood of the sacrificial lamb stood as mute testimony to that which would be shed by their Messiah in the future and no further representation was required until centuries later.


Then at the Last Supper, in what was to become a perpetual memorial of His sacrifice, the Lord added the cup as a symbol of the precious blood He was about to shed. And since it had become customary for alcoholic wine to be served with the Passover meal it is quite understandable why some insist it was in the cup the Lord passed around to His disciples. But that assumption stands in direct opposition to God’s prohibition of Exodus 12:20. The body/blood of the Messiah was to “see no corruption” (Ps.16:10) and the Apostle Paul tells us it in fact “saw no corruption” (Acts 13:37). So I must again ask the question: how can alcoholic wine—the very product of corruption and decomposition—serve as a proper symbol for the blood of Christ—blood that did not experience corruption and decay? Freshly expressed grape juice—the pure “fruit of the vine” (Matt.26:29) that has not experienced the corruption of fermentation—meets that symbolic criteria.


Also please allow me to point out to those who mistakenly insist that fresh grape juice contains “leaven,” thereby rendering it unfit as a symbol, there is no prohibition whatsoever in God’s Word against eating leavening agents of the type contained on the skins and in the juice of grapes! The warning is against eating that which is leavened—has gone though fermentation, in other words. Again it must be stressed that what the writers of the Old Testament referred to as “leaven” was in fact a lump of fermented, “leavened,” dough, because they had no knowledge of microscopic spores! It is an undeniable scientific fact that the very air we breathe is filled with various kinds of yeast spores (the leavening agent that causes bread to ferment/rise and fruit juices to ferment) and every mouthful of food or drink we consume is almost certain to contain some of them. Therefore, it would be totally impossible to comply with a prohibition against the eating of “leaven” if that term actually referred to the spores which cause fermentation!


So I am totally convinced that never in His entire life on earth did God the Son consume alcoholic wine during Passover! The reason I believe that is because He is the only human Who has ever, or will ever, live a perfect and sinless life. He kept every principle and precept of the Law of Moses and even though everyone else in Israel customarily drank wine at Passover, I must insist He could not have done so without violating the injunction of Exodus 12:20—which, by the way, was considered by God to be so severe that the following punishment was to be imposed upon those guilty of it:


“Seven days no leaven [symbolic of corruption] shall be found in your houses; whoever eats what is leavened shall be excluded from the congregation of Israel, whether a stranger or native-born” Exodus 12:19 (Amplified Bible, emphasis mine).

Because of God’s prohibition against consuming anything leavened, it is highly probable that Jesus Christ and His disciples were the only individuals in all of Israel who were ceremonially clean in God’s eyes during that Passover!


So with these thoughts in mind, let us turn our attention to two separate incidents that took place only a few hours after they left the upper room. The first occurred when the Lord arrived at the place of crucifixion and the second just prior to His death.


“And when they came to a place called Golgotha [Latin: Calvary], which means The Place of a Skull, 34 They offered Him wine mingled with gall to drink; but when He tasted it, He refused to drink it” Matthew 27:33-34 (Amplified Bible).

Some commentators say the Jews had a tradition of graciously offering the condemned criminal a mixture of wine and “gall”—apparently a kind of bitter-tasting herb or plant that in conjunction with the wine offered some degree of analgesic relief. And the reasons given for the Lord’s refusal to drink it vary widely—all the way from it simply having a bitter taste to being deadly poisonous—take your pick! But I respectfully submit to you the reason was far more theologically significant than such speculations. If Satan could have deceived Him into drinking the wine (the bitter gall may have masked the taste of the wine), the Lord would have been ceremonially defiled and thus rendered unfit to be God’s sacrificial Lamb! Not one Jew standing by would have recognized it as being a transgression of the Law because as a nation they were wallowing in apostasy. But God’s Son certainly knew He had instructed Israel to avoid it centuries earlier and refused to fall into the devil’s trap! 


But Satan did not give up without a fight because he waited until the Lord’s human body was at its absolute weakest point. Wracked by pain and suffering of an intensity that is infinitely beyond our ability to comprehend, Jesus was once again exposed to the wiles of the devil:


“After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished (ended), said in fulfillment of the Scripture, I thirst. 29 A vessel (jar) full of sour wine (vinegar) was placed there, so they put a sponge soaked in the sour wine on [a stalk, reed of] hyssop, and held it to [His] mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, It is finished! And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. John 19:28-30 (Amplified Bible, emphasis mine).

“Aha,” Satan probably thought, “I have won because He received the wine, was defiled and then promptly died! There was no legitimate sacrifice made for sin!” But the tremendous irony is that by the time the Lord said “I thirst,” God had already made Him to be sin for us and Satan was eternally defeated:


“For our sake He made Christ [virtually] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in and through Him we might become [endued with, viewed as being in, and examples of] the righteousness of God [what we ought to be, approved and acceptable and in right relationship with Him, by His goodness]” 2 Corinthians 5:21 (Amplified Bible).

Verse 28 of John 19 says, “…knowing that all was now finished…,” He said, “I thirst.” So please note it does not say, “knowing that all was about to be finished,” as though something else was required. Hanging there on the cross my Lord and Savior had literally become the essence and totality of SIN and received in His body the punishment all of us so richly deserve. God the Father poured out His undiluted wrath upon the Person of His own Son, Jesus the Christ and in so doing satisfied the demands of His own holiness and righteousness against sin. The greatest ransom ever required had been paid and the transaction was complete. Hallelujah, what a Savior!


By the time the Lord said, “I thirst,” it was—as the old saying goes—“all over but the shouting!” Therefore even if He actually drank some of that wine in an attempt to soothe His raging thirst (a point I personally believe the Greek verb lambano, translated as “received” in John 19:30 does not necessarily prove beyond question)—surely it must have been past the point when it would have made any ceremonial difference. God the Father had already turned His back upon His Son, causing the Lord to cry out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Matt.27:46 and Mk.15:34). He had already been made sin for us and thus how could anything defile Him further? Truly, “…All was now finished” and before He died He “cried with a loud voice” (Matt.27:50; Mk.15:37; Lk. 23:45), said “Father into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Lk.23:46, KJV), and then, “It is finished” (John 19:30).


Also the following passage taken from the Book of Matthew in the Amplified Bible tends to substantiate my personal belief that the Lord did not actually drink the wine:


“And about the ninth hour (three o’clock) Jesus cried with a loud voice, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?—that is, My God, My God, why have You abandoned Me [leaving Me helpless, forsaking and failing Me in My need]? 47 And some of the bystanders, when they heard it, said, This Man is calling for Elijah! 48 And one of them immediately ran and took a sponge, soaked it with vinegar (a sour wine), and put it on a reed (staff), and was *about to give it to Him to drink. 49 But the others said, Wait! Let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him from death. 50 And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit” Matthew 27:46-50 (Amplified Bible, emphasis mine).

* In his book Word Studies In The New Testament, Marvin Vincent makes the point that the wine was “about” to be offered—which appears to indicate an intent that was not actually carried out.


What difference does all this make, you ask? Simply that symbolism in the Bible is extremely important and we should make very effort to “get it right.”


Here is the Apostle Paul’s teaching concerning the way the Lord’s Supper is to be celebrated:


“For I received from the Lord Himself that which I passed on to you [it was given to me personally], that the Lord Jesus on the night when He was treacherously delivered up and while His betrayal was in progress took bread, 24 And when He had given thanks, He broke [it] and said, Take, eat. This is My body, which is broken for you. Do this to call Me [affectionately] to remembrance. 25 Similarly when supper was ended, He took the cup also, saying, This cup is the new covenant [ratified and established] in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink [it], to call Me [affectionately] to remembrance. 26 For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are representing and signifying and proclaiming the fact of the Lord’s death until He comes [again]. 27 So then whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in a way that is unworthy [of Him] will be guilty of [profaning and sinning against] the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a man [thoroughly] examine himself, and [only when he has done] so should he eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discriminating and recognizing with due appreciation that [it is Christ’s] body, eats and drinks a sentence (a verdict of judgment) upon himself. 30 That [careless and unworthy participation] is the reason many of you are weak and sickly, and quite enough of you have fallen into the sleep of death” 1 Corinthians 11:23-30 (Amplified Bible, emphasis mine).



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