Simcha Fisher, Catholic blogger at the National Catholic Register, once wrote a post about supporting your local priest, and she got this as a reply (from someone who claimed to be a priest himself):
“I’m sorry but many of us do not drink Beer. Wine was the drink of Jesus and is therefore my drink of choice (in moderation). Beer and the modern way of drinking it (out of the bottle ) is just a bit vulgar. I just can’t see Jesus and the disciples hoisting a bottle of beer. If you want to make your priest happy then go to confession on a regular schedule and give up beer for Lent and donate the money to the poor. Too much beer is not healthy for you and it is the reason that many men cannot look down and see their feet. How much money have you spent on beer lately?”
“…I believe with all my heart that, if beer had been present in 1st-century Israel, Peter would have been all over it.”
It reminded me of a question from a caller on a Catholic radio show: why doesn’t the Bible ever show Jesus having fun or telling jokes?
My first thought was, “Because the jokes He told weren’t fit to be printed.”
There is a tendency to put the Apostles, saints, and even Jesus Himself on a pedestal that isn’t really realistic. They are often portrayed as the type of upper-class Victorian gentlemen whom John Cleese likes to satirize. But I think that belies the truth about who this group of men was.
For one thing, they were mostly lower-class, blue collar workers. Palestine at the time of Christ was a poor area; we know that Jesus’s family was very poor by the level of temple sacrifice they could afford to make. Several of the disciples were fishermen, so even if they made a good living, they still got out and worked with their hands every day.
The question is, when you think of carpenters and fishermen today, do you think of rigidly polite, impeccably dressed, wine sniffing aristocrats? Or do you think of grungy guys hurling insults at each other at work and then adjourning to the bar afterward?
I suppose it’s because I spent several years in the Navy, but I always viewed the disciples and our Lord as very down-to-earth men. I’m not saying that Jesus went around taking the Lord’s name in vain, because we know He never sinned, but there are plenty of earthy jokes that would have been perfectly acceptable in a man’s world of carpentry and fishing boats without being explicitly sinful.
I think it’s important to remember that Jesus didn’t come as someone in the upper rungs of society, who would have been admired and followed because of His social position; He came as the lowest of the low, from the poor, the hard-scrabble, the people who would have taken all the little comforts they could get because life was that hard and who didn’t have time or energy for looking respectable.
He was the type of guy who the uptight little old church ladies would be horrified by, He hung out in all the wrong places with all the wrong people, He didn’t have a nice respectable house and a nice respectable career, and He was executed with criminals.
The next time we try to divide society into “us respectable people” and “all the other ones,” we need to remember into which category Jesus falls.