We're Not Drunk

We never get hammered this early in the morning.

Acts 2:13-15 (ESV)

But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.”

Thus begins the greatest sermon in the history of Christianity. As opening lines go – especially great opening lines – this one is about as strange as they get. “For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.

Yeah, we never get hammered before five O’clock. That’s a great opening line?!?

Yes, and it’s brilliant apologetics. Think about the mockers’ accusation. The idea that the brothers’ amazing language proficiency is caused by drunkenness is absurd on its face, but Peter keeps his cool. Notice the term “new wine.”

First century wine making wasn’t advanced. They had no way to accurately measure sugar content, and no easy way to add sugar anyway. Also the yeasts weren’t as good as what we have now. Thus, the alcohol content of wine was variable and not high.

Even worse was the packaging. While bottles had already been invented, they were expensive and rare. Wine was stored in wineskins. Because alcohol evaporates quickly, the alcohol content of wine dropped over time. (The same thing happens to cognac in oak casks.) They weren’t exactly fermenting the wine in stainless steel vats either – so they lost alcohol that way too. Thus, only new wine had much alcohol content and there’s no way it was as potent as modern wine.

So, it wasn’t easy to get significantly tipsy back then and everyone would be sober by morning. Even if someone started drinking new wine when they first got up, it’s virtually impossible to get drunk by the third hour of the day, which is well before noon.

So Peter plays along, addressing the mockers as if the whole crowd agrees with them. He simply notes that it’s too early for them to be drunk. Given how silly their accusation was, this sounds like comedy. It’s like being accused of being a space alien and responding, “No way. I’m much too fat to be an astronaut.”

Thus begins the Christian tradition of starting off a sermon with a joke.

Sermons are difficult. Preparing and delivering one is both a great privilege and an intimidating responsibility. Lift up your pastor’s sermon prep today.

May God glorify Himself through great sermons.

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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.