Bible Answer

Did Jesus break His promise to abstain from wine?

During the Last Supper, Jesus pledged to not drink wine again until the Kingdom. But on the cross, Jesus consumed sour wine. Did Jesus break His pledge?

In Luke 22 we read:

Luke 22:17 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves;
Luke 22:18 for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.”

But in John's Gospel we are told:

John 19:28  After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture,  said, “I am thirsty.”
John 19:29  A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. 

So did Jesus violate His promise when He took the sour wine on the cross? No, and to understand why, we need to take a closer examination of the Last Supper Passover meal itself. 

In the Passover meal, traditionally four cups of wine were taken as part of the Seder ceremony. At the Last Supper Passover meal, Jesus drank from the first and second cups, but when he reached the moment to drink the third cup of wine (called the cup of redemption), He declined. Instead, He passed this cup to the disciples as Luke records, and told them to drink of His “blood,” which would be poured out to redeem men from their sins. 

At that moment, Jesus symbolically associated the wine of the third cup with His spilled blood on the cross. Since Jesus Himself had no sin of His own, He declined to drink from that third cup at the meal because He had no need to redeem Himself. Instead, only the disciples drank the third cup because Jesus' blood was spilled to redeem them (and us). 

Following the third cup, Jesus stated He will not drink wine again until He reaches the Kingdom. Jesus wasn’t pledging to never consumer wine in any form since we see He consumed a tiny portion on the cross. Such a pledge would have served no spiritual purpose. Instead, Jesus was speaking specifically about refraining from drinking the fourth cup of wine served during the Passover meal. 

Jesus did not drink the fourth cup at the Passover table (neither did the disciples). Instead, that meal was suspended at the point of drinking the third cup. The fourth cup will not be consumed until the inauguration of the Kingdom. Notice what Jesus spoke as that meal began:

Luke 22:15 And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;
Luke 22:16 for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

Jesus said the meal would be "fulfilled" (i.e., completed) in the Kingdom. This statement tells us that the Last Supper continues to be underway until the Kingdom. In that way, Jesus' final Passover meal was intended to establish the Last Supper observance as a bridge connecting His death to His return to establish the Kingdom.

Since Jesus death, the Church's observance of the Lord’s Supper has “replayed" the moment Jesus passed the third cup around the table to His disciples. Each time Christians participate in the Lord’s Supper, we remember that we await the Lord’s return and the moment we will drink the fourth cup of wine with Him in the Kingdom. 

As Paul taught:

1Cor. 11:26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. 

Notice Paul reiterates that the Last Supper meal bridges the period between the Lord’s death and His return. Paul mentions “the cup” of the meal referring to the third cup Jesus passed to His disciples. In a symbolic sense, every believer who partakes of the Lord’s Supper is sharing in the third cup that Jesus passed to those first disciples at that Passover table. 

So we can say that the third cup of Jesus' Passover meal has continued to pass from believer to believer across many generations. Jesus refused to take the fourth cup at that meal because had the fourth cup been served, then the meal would have ended. Instead, Jesus ensured that meal continues uninterrupted by our continued observance of the Lord’s Supper. 

At Jesus’ Second Coming and the inauguration of the Kingdom, a banquet table will be set and wine will be served. At that table, Jesus will finally enjoy the fourth cup of wine, which He declined during the Last Supper meal. (The wedding feast parable that begins Matthew 22 is a description of this coming banquet.)

Notice this same scene described in Matthew:

Matt. 26:27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you;
Matt. 26:28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.
Matt. 26:29 “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

In Matthew’s account, Jesus specifically says that He will drink the fourth cup “with you,” referring to the disciples. So once the Church is resurrected and present with Jesus in the Kingdom to come, then we will all participate with Jesus in a banquet (The feast of Tabernacles) and we will enjoy the fourth cup of wine with Him.

Therefore, Jesus’ pledge in Luke 22 during the Last Supper did not refer to abstaining from all wine generally. Rather, Jesus was speaking of refraining from the fourth cup of wine in the Passover feast until His return and the start of the Kingdom. Therefore, Jesus taking of sour wine (actually vinegar) on the cross was not a contradiction since His taste of the vine at that moment was not the fourth cup of the Passover meal. Jesus has kept His promise not to take that cup without us present.

So, during the 2,000+ years since Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Church has been waiting for the resumption of that Passover meal, which will occur when we participate with Jesus in drinking that fourth cup of wine at the start of the Kingdom. The fourth cup of the Passover meal is traditionally called the cup of thanksgiving, and we will certainly be thanking the Lord for the Kingdom on the day we drink it with Him!