Jesus is so often presented like some stoic hippee walking around peacefully dispensing profound pithy sayings. Maybe that's because so many of the movies about Jesus were produced in the 60s and 70s. Or maybe that's because we have a hard time imagining Jesus as a real human being so we reinvent him as a quasi cult leader.
John wrote about Jesus. He saw him in person. He walked with him and ate with him and talked to him. John never gives this impression that Jesus was a sage with a flower tucked behind his ear. In fact, on only the second day John knew Jesus, they went clubbing.
Well, okay, not clubbing, not rave hopping. But they were invited to a huge party and, yes, they went with a few others as an entourage together. And, yes, there was celebration! And, yes, there were crowds! And, yes, there was alcohol: 1st century version of wine, at least. And lots of it.
So John's early impression of the Savior included hanging out with him at a party. And not just hanging out… Jesus actually supplied an abundance of the bubbly!!
John chapter 2. John tells us that they were at this wedding celebration, a prolonged feast that could last for days, and the unthinkable happened. The wine ran out! This was a huge problem. That would be like running out of every possible drink today. No more wine, no more juice, no more coke, no more beer, no more anything. Wine is what they drank back then. It was safe, it was good, and it was a matter of celebration.
Jesus' mom, Mary, had some responsibility for this, or at least she took the responsibility upon herself, so she informed Jesus of the trouble. John recalls their conversation- a mixture of mysterious language and complex responses to which John was only now getting introduced. John doesn't even pretend to try to understand it all. He just reports their interaction. Anyways, the truly memorable part is what was about to happen.
Jesus asked the servants of the party to fill six stone jars with water. John makes a note to tell us that each jar held 20-30 gallons. This is enough to fill the tank of your car a few times. John mentions that when the jars were filled to the brim, Jesus told them to "dip some out and take it to the master of the ceremonies." You get the idea that John was just watching all this happen… for there is no attempt to explain any of this.
Well, the master of ceremonies tasted the "water" and called the bridegroom over. But what he drank was incredible wine! And there was at least 120 gallons of this stuff!!!! He couldn't believe that the host would save the "best wine until last!" Usually, a host would serve the best wine first and bring out the cheap stuff when everyone had their fill.
So why did Jesus party? Why did he supply an over-abundance of wine for the guests of a wedding celebration? And why did Jesus choose this, the turning of water into wine, as his first public miracle?
I'm no expert on this, and don't pretend to know, but I wonder if there are three things we can learn about Jesus from this:
1. Jesus is not a boring sage. In fact, I think it's fair to say, in this case he supplied the life of the party! We've got to get our heads around this. No more imagining Jesus as a wandering hippee with a flower in his hair. No more imagining Jesus as a self-depriving guilt inducing disiplinarian either. Jesus enjoys enjoying.
2. Life with Jesus is not boring. In fact, I think it's fair to say, this miracle is a glimpse into eternal life with Jesus. Later on, Jesus will compare heaven to a wedding banquet. Just imagine the courses and desserts and drinks that God could supply! Later on, Jesus calls himself the bridegroom and the church is called the bride. We will be at the center of the party, with the bridegroom supplying the celebration… a celebration that just gets better and better and better as it goes along.
3. Don't make this miracle about drinking. Christians get hung up on this miracle because it involves alcohol. Some get all nervous that Jesus might be condoning drinking. And some others get all victorious and in-your-face that Jesus might actually be condoning drinking. Come on. That is not what this is about. We all know the general rules: Moderation is okay and don't do anything that causes your brother to stumble. Look, the point of this "sign" from Jesus is that it is a "sign"! This miracle gives us a glimpse of his glory. It points to who he is and what he is going to be doing for us. This miracle is about life and the enjoyment of life and the abundance of life that Jesus can give. This miracle is about the ability Jesus has to recreate and to celebrate with us. This miracle is about Jesus. Just spend some time watching him work, like John did, and don't get distracted by yourself.