Monday, January 18, 2016

Wine That Gladdens the Heart

2:1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. [1] 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. (John 2:1-11 (ESV)
14 You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man's heart. (Psalms 104:14-15 (ESV)
Wine is the great symbol of joy in the Old Testament, in the New also for that matter. Oh, to be sure there are plenty of warnings against the excess use of it, Noah and Ham, Lot and his daughters, there are admonitions throughout scripture telling one not to be a drunkard or practice drunkenness. But the proper use and drinking of wine was actually something advocated, and something expected. Here it would have been a great embarrassment to run out of wine, which in this economy was not all that expensive and would have been about as prevalent as coffee is in our society today. To run out at a wedding was just poor planning. The guests would have considered it an insult. And I can imagine it would have enflamed hard feelings between the in-laws. A wedding such as this was as much about the joining of family fortunes and the consolidation of power as it was about anything. It was a time to make a show of your wealth by sharing it with others. This meant having enough wine to make everyone glad, and keep them happy for the duration of the celebration which could go on for days.
And so here we come to our problem. The wine is running out. Mary comes to Jesus and asks him to do something about it and he does. He turns water into wine. It is perhaps one of his more famous miracles. In our culture overrun with extra-biblical ideas of what it means to be religious, that is ideas no-where supported in scripture or the laws of God, which have never been considered sufficient to the sinful flesh with in us. Our sinful flesh is always trying to supplement God’s law with new ones by which we hope to impress God to look favorably upon us while we all but ignore the ones he has given us. And for this reason, people just assume that as a religious person Jesus would be against drinking, against eating and drinking with sinners, and probably should have dumped what wine was left down the gutter as it seems, according to the steward of the feast that the guests might have already had plenty. They were in his words, drunk. They were in any case too intoxicated now to appreciate the top shelf wine now being brought out to table.  Their hearts had already been gladdened by this gift from God we call wine.
Jesus, at first, responds to his mother respectfully with the same word he would use to address her from the cross, but in a manner which would indicate to us that he was not going to get involved. What does this have to do with you or me? It’s not our problem, he says. And my hour has not yet come. But his mother, Mary as we know her, reads him quite differently. She tells the servants to do whatever he tells them. Perhaps she just knows her son as only a mother can. Perhaps she knows his heart of compassion better than anyone and knows that he will do something to help even if it isn’t his problem. But what he does next is a miracle that only Jesus and his disciples will know about, and its implications are profound.
The miracle, even the help Jesus offers in a hard situation are really secondary which is hard for us to comprehend. But signs as John calls them, miracles are never the tricks of a wandering magician meant to impress and wow by themselves. They are meant to bring about an epiphany, a revelation of who Jesus really is and what he is doing for us. They have no wine. It wasn’t just the bride and groom it was all of humanity relying on these jars, or jars like them for their purification. Stone jars that in so many ways represented the Old Testament.
There have been many jars of this type found in archeological digs. They are about a meter high, there would be clay ones for the storing of foodstuffs, grain, and flour, perhaps even at times wine would be kept in them. But the stone jars were special, stone jars according to the Old Testament, would not be desecrated, that is they would not lose their sacredness or be profaned, and thus have to be destroyed like clay jars if perhaps a lizard was to fall in one and die. They could be cleaned and reused. Stone jars would be used for purifications. These would be ceremonial washings often called baptisms by the people at that time, such as the baptism that Jesus didn’t do in Luke 11 where it says the Pharisee was offended because Jesus did not wash before he ate, the same kind of washings recorded in Mark seven where Peter mockingly records that Pharisees would baptize their couches.
Here there was no joy, no matter how hard they tried they could not justify themselves. They could not make themselves clean to stand before God. They would add to the laws in the same manner that we do. We don’t hold to God’s law, but we try to make ourselves look good in front of others, conforming to societal standards with little to no reflection on what God’s word actually has to say about the matter. We don’t hold to God’s law because God’s law is impossible for us sinners to hold to. And more often than not we find ourselves to be on the outs with society’s standards also, subject to embarrassments of the type this couple was being subjected too. When society becomes our judge, we have replaced one judge with 6 billion plus, and we can’t even serve two masters well. But the only judge we ever have to be concerned with was at this wedding, Jesus Christ who will come to judge the living and the dead.  And he fulfilled the Old Testament for us, even though it wasn’t his problem. He filled the stone jars to the brim, so that they overflowed, not with water but with the joy of his salvation. He changed the water into wine, and lavishly. Not just enough to quench your thirst, but more than enough to make your hearts glad.
This was a sign of what Jesus was here to do, fulfil the Old Testament and replace it with the New Testament in his blood, that no longer would we have to live in fear of embarrassment before God or man, but know that he has forgiven all our sins, he has washed us in his blood, and being washed in the blood of the lamb we have been made whiter than snow. That here in this wine we would find joy that far surpasses the inebriation of first-century wedding guests because on the third day he who would be our judge rose from the dead for our justification and invited us to the wedding feast as his bride.

Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. 

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