150 Gallons of Water into Wine: August 8, 2014
Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they remained there for a few days.
Jesus’ Mother/Women – You should notice that in the Gospel of John Jesus’ mother is not named one time. We know her name from other Gospels, but this Gospel purposely leaves it out. What we get is Jesus distancing himself from his mother with his language and actions (though he does end up obeying). There are many speculations as to why this is. I have a few of my own. Theologically speaking, Jesus, in chapter 1, comes from God. Jesus comes from heaven and he is, therefore, associated more closely with his Heavenly Father than his earthy mother. His obedience speaks volumes to his character though. We know that if Jesus is obedient to his mother in this small thing, he will be obedient to his Father in taking up the cross. Famously, it is on the cross where Jesus acknowledges his mother and provides for her.
Chapters 2:1 – 12:50 – these represent Jesus’ public ministry. Chapter 13 begins the “upper room discourse” which is much more private as it is directed to the disciples.
The Jars – We have already seen that Jesus confounds the Jewish religious elites. Moreover, John tells us that Jesus is doing something that fulfills and is greater than the Old Testament or Moses (1:17). At the end of chapter 1 the new disciple tells us that all the Law and Prophets have pointed to Jesus. So it is not surprising for us that these jars, used for Jewish purification rites (washing utensils and hands and stuff), mean something more than just random jars. By being filled to the brim, there is a symbolic representation that the old ceremonial rites have been fulfilled.
Chief Steward – Notice that the water turns to wine and the chief steward doesn’t know where it came from. Just like the religious elite do not know what John the Baptist’s baptism is for. Just like they don’t know where Jesus comes from – even as he stands among them. Only those who drew from the jars knew where it came from.
The Wine – Jesus is going to talk so much about eternal life in the coming chapters. We, as humans, usually think this is some spiritual existence that happens after we die. To counteract this false notion of eternal life Jesus uses lavish and rich physical elements of this life to show us that the Kingdom of God has arrived and eternal life is ready for us to enter into now. More than that, this is not the cheap wine, but the best wine. The Kingdom is extravagant and tangible and lavish and rich.
Jesus comes to fulfill the old way of rules and laws and judgments. He brings instead a generous Kingdom that, even in reluctance, brings out the choice banquet drink -and not just some, gallons upon gallons upon gallons.
What is your picture of God? Do you see a judgmental, bearded God just absolutely angry with you for all your flaws and sins? Or do you see Jesus at a wedding banquet, a party, inviting you to wholeness and healing as you feast on his generosity and richness? One of my favorite Christian sociologists, Tony Campolo, wrote a book with the wonderful title The Kingdom of God is a Party. With the images we have in this scene, how could we disagree?
There is so much we have to give up so we can comfortably live in the Kingdom of God. We have to give up the world, our selves as we know them, our definitions of success, power, wealth and the means to achieve them. But we don’t give them up for a crotchety, dead religion that makes us more miserable than before. No, Jesus invites us to a feast - a feast that endures forever. Jesus invites us to the best life, one that follows after him, full of grace and truth, not held back by the old ways, surrounded by friends and family. James Bryan Smith puts it this way, “And what is the point of this religion? To get us to heaven? No, to get heaven into us” (The Good and Beautiful Life, p. 10). We get heaven into us by partaking at the feast of the new creation.
Eat a rich and delicious meal tonight with your family or friends.. Enjoy the process of making something from scratch. Use the good dishes. Drink in a beautiful cinematic masterpiece. Get back into drawing or writing or painting. Read some fine poetry or put on your favorite album and listen to the whole thing. Put simply, find something edifying that you can taste, touch, feel, smell, or see and enjoy it. Waste some time on it. Use some money for it. Share it with others. This is your sign of the kingdom today. This is your 150 gallons of Kingdom wine at the wedding feast of the New Creation.