In John 2, Jesus turned water into wine. Sometimes, it feels like the Church has been trying to change it back ever since. I suspect legalistic types would prefer it if this story had been excluded from the bible. After all, the party context doesn’t sit well with the misery of religious pretence.
The story can at times be dismissed as a kind of irrelevant incident which happened just before Jesus officially got going. But such a miserable conclusion would completely miss an important point. The Holy Spirit included this incident in scripture for very good reason. We must be sure we never reduce a momentous miracle to a monotonous monologue which sounds more like water into whine than ‘water into wine’. That’s sadly what the spirit of religion tends to do. But joyless religiosity is un-representative of the culture of God’s Kingdom.
It’s interesting that this first recorded miracle of Jesus occurred at a party. It was a happy occasion…well, apart from the little matter of a crisis behind the scenes. The problem? They’d run out of wine. Here was a situation which was clearly brought about by human error. Wedding celebrations in those days would have lasted up to a week. So, the lack of wine might have been because someone had miscalculated and not purchased enough? Or perhaps the budget for the wedding party had not been properly prepared to cater for all the guests? Then again, maybe some attendees had been a bit selfish with their consumption of said beverage, thus denying others? Whatever way you look at it, somebody somewhere had badly messed up.
Yet, it says something about Jesus that he graciously went ahead and performed a miracle. It could have been all too easy for him to resist. He might even have preached a judgmental message on the imperfection of humanity and the ultimate reason for this pitiful mess up! But he didn’t. Instead, he did something about it and created a miracle. But not just any old miracle. From water poured into ceremonial vats which weren’t even meant to be used for drinking (ohh…Jesus is always mixing things up!!), he did something in a moment which should have taken literally years to produce. After all, good wine requires a long process. But there and then, Jesus created the best wine anyone could possibly imagine. I have a sneaky suspicion this was the finest wine that has ever been consumed. AD30 was definitely a year of rare vintage.
The danger when studying this story is that we can try to read more into it than the Holy Spirit intends. To do so is to miss the real point of the outcome. Of course there are lessons which can be gleaned about faith, obedience and courage. But what this event is really all about is… God’s grace. It’s a picture of undeserved favour in the midst of humanity’s failure. Isn’t this what the Gospel is all about? Isn’t this the good news that all who follow Jesus experience every day of their lives? It’s why we celebrate – not because of our own religious works but because of God’s amazing grace. Just like the wine Jesus created, his love & forgiveness are incomparable too.
It is surely no coincidence that the miracle occurred at a wedding party in Cana. Religion doesn’t like this. Yet it represents the vibe of God’s kingdom…gracious, joyful, celebratory, honourable. How on earth could any Christian ever portray Jesus as tedious, intense and clinical? Such a portrayal is a downright travesty. After all, Jesus is the source of real joy…and the finest wine maker on this planet and beyond. If he can work a miracle in the midst of a crisis in Cana, his grace can do the same in your life. Now that’s a message worth celebrating.