The miracle of new wine in Cana
Updated: Jan 30, 2021
Not too long ago, my wife’s daughter got married. It was my wife and her ex-husband who arranged the wedding dinner.
After the buffet food was quickly scooped up and taken back to a table seat, the younger guests soon found their way to the bar.
It seems a good wedding celebration requires that EVERYONE lose their inhibitions and have fun. Fun is easier to come by when one is drunk.
Now in that wedding I attended, the parents of the bride planned for wine and beer to be the alcoholic drinks that would be provided to the guests. However, the younger crowd wanted to show how well they could handle hard liquor, so they began running up a bar tab.
The daughter’s father was quite surprised how much more the wedding dinner was going to cost, because of that allowance. It was a hard bullet to bite, but it is only money and everyone had fun.
When we read the stories in the Holy Bible, we often do not take the time to relate common events then with common events now. We tend to think we are different than those old dusty characters, so what we read can become a simplistic view of the past. We can think what was written captures all of what those ancient people did.
The wedding at Cana was more than we read. It was just like all wedding events throughout all time. Family and friends of the couple are invited to witness two lovers be joined in marriage, and then everyone sings, dances, and celebrates wildly.
Symbolic of the celebration of an emotional union.
All weddings are the same, regardless of how different they seem. Then, as now, it is a celebration where intended wildness is assisted by fermented drink.
This means my wife’s daughter’s wedding was (for all intent and purposes) EXACTLY like the wedding in Cana … except for the miracle.
It would have been a minor miracle if the young people had drank the wine that had been planned for them to drink, rather than have them stampede like wildebeests to the watering hole, as if they had just survived a long drought. It would have been a miracle for skinny young boys and girls to eat lots of the buffet food, rather than leave most of it to be eaten by grandparents and parents. I guess they were saving room for booze.
Perhaps, my wife and her ex could have hired one of those stage hypnotists, who influence people to do crazy things. Maybe he could have convinced everyone that the table wine was shots of bourbon, or vodka, or gin? I imagine trying to make them think the water or iced tea was alcoholic would be impossible.
When I snap my fingers, everything you drink will taste like good wine and you will dance wildly like a fool.
I know that I – for one – read about the miracle of Jesus changing the water into wine and see THAT as the totality of the miracle. Water, of no value (as far as getting one drunk is concerned), is changed into a beverage that makes one loosey-goosey (and costs anywhere from $6 to $20 a bottle at a spirits shop).
Think about it. The wedding party was going to come to a crashing halt if there was no more free wine to pass around. All the celebration over a marriage would be finished, if there were no more alcoholic beverage to be served.
Imagine someone announcing to the crowd, “Excuse me folk, but for the rest of the evening we will be serving well water, because we are out of wine. But, please, the band will play until midnight, so everyone HAVE FUN!”
Can you hear the moans and groans? Can you hear the whispers, “It’s time to go”?
It was a miracle that Jesus saved the party.
But, is that truly the point of reading about the “first of his signs,” as John put it?
Was it the miraculous transformation of water into wine that led John to write, “in Cana of Galilee … [was](his glory revealed) … [so] his disciples believed in him”?
Personally, being one who prefers water or tea to alcoholic beverages, I might not have noticed the miracle.
What? What happened? I missed it. Do it again.
Therefore, I think there is more to it than that. After all, John told us that the servants knew they were drawing a cup of river or well water for the chief steward to taste. The servants were not allowed to get drunk, so they were stone-cold sober when the steward announced, “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.”
“Huh? Um, sir … that is freshly drawn water … no grapes have been added yet. Do you want to taste that again?” they must have thought.
The miracle was not about changing water into wine, but the effect that the water had on the people, believing it was “good wine.”
To me, good wine has a unpleasing taste, one which requires patience to drink. Only after I have consumed a couple of glasses of good wine, when the alcohol kicks in, does the unpleasing taste suddenly gets easier to handle. But, that is me; and I was raised in a church that served Welch’s grape juice for Communion. Talk about a thought that makes my cheeks draw in ….
To wine drinkers, there is still an expectation of an “alcohol taste,” but not a vinegar-like taste. That is why the steward said standard practice was to serve the least unpleasing wine first, so after everyone is drunk you can open up the wines that are more sour and bitter. By then all the taste buds have given up on judging taste.
On the other hand, water is a drink that tastes sweet, even though it technically has no taste at all. Water is the most refreshing drink of all, but it is not alcoholic. Water meets all you needs, but you have to provide your own entertainment. And, you never have to “acquire a taste” for water. Water IS the best drink, because water sustains life.
Now, think about this. At dinner functions it is common to find bottles of red and white wine on each table, so the diners can serve themselves. But, imagine you are Jewish and you know full well what large stone purification tubs are, and for what purpose they serve. Imagine you have to go to the outhouse to relive yourself after a few cups of wine and while on the way there you see servants filling up empty stone jars from a water-filled purification pots. You see the waiters filling containers that are then going to be set on the table for people to serve themselves.
Those water “pots” or “jars” were each capable of holding 5 – 6 gallons, so they were large and possibly ceremoniously marked.
You (being Jewish) know what the purification water is used for; but regardless of it being clean water, how would you feel after seeing that? It is not a place for aging fine wine.
It would be like using a bathtub to store wine.
To soak in it … maybe. To drink it?
Bathtubs often have rings around them because baths cause dirt and oil to come off our skin, in the process of bathing. If the water pots were “standing” in the proper place, then there would be a large tub to pour the water into, into which the woman would ritually cleanse herself. Jewish purification tubs [mikvah] were mostly used by adult women, but also by men who developed skin lesions (leprosy). In other words, a ritual cleansing tub has to be cleaned well after use, so it can be ready to be used again. While one would like to think the Cana wedding event had clean purification vessels ready, think about how drunk you would have to be to drink wine out of a vessel associated with the likes of that.
But the chief steward called that purification water “good wine.”
If you remember last Sunday, when we saw John the Baptizer dip Jesus and others into the Jordan River, they were all baptized by water. The word “baptizó” means “to submerge, to immerse or dip under.” John prophesied that one would come after him, who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. That means one who would submerge drunken egos, so the Mind of Christ could surface.
The fulfillment of that prophecy is the true miracle of the wedding of Cana. Everyone was baptized by water touched by the Holy Spirit. God was in the water the chief steward tasted, and he tasted how God is always “good wine.” So, when the steward was moved by the Holy Spirit to explain, “Everyone serves the good wine first,” this is saying how the Jews had been faithful servants of God … at first.
After they have become drunk with delusions about just how loosey-goosey they can get with their religion, they begin drinking the wine of inferior gods – those who say the bitterness of sin is now less distasteful, so drink all you want.
That statement by the chief steward acts as explaining why the same drunken party-goers would line up regularly at the Jordan River the next day (the morning after), to be baptized by John. Just as women regularly had to purify themselves before they were allowed back in the synagogue, the Jewish commitment to God was like 18 days of being faithful, followed by 12 days of being repentant for having not really been faithful before.
BUT, the miracle of Cana was that Jesus waited until after all the wine had run out and everyone was reveling in the drunkenness of a marriage celebration BEFORE he served them the sweet taste of redemption. Redemption would be the “good wine” that Jesus would three years later tell his disciples, “This is my blood, the blood of a new covenant. Whenever you drink this do so in remembrance of me.”
Despite warning to the contrary, Jesus put “new wine” in “old wineskins,” so the old could experience the new.
Now, if you see the wedding theme in both the reading from Isaiah and the psalm of David, making good fits with the story of the wedding at Cana, you have to understand that is not co-inky-dink.
People filled with the Holy Spirit set these readings up long ago, for the purpose of us being able to connect the dots countless years later. The lectionary is put together with higher thought than casual choice. It does require faith and discipline to make all the connections come to life, but it can be done … when one is willing to spend a good 12 hours devoted to one’s religion … on the day God set aside for BEING HOLY.
I have pointed this out before, as far as the sermons throughout Year B Pentecost went, as the lessons made it clear to me how we are all called to become brides of Christ. We are supposed to be married to God. We are supposed to give birth to a reborn baby Jesus … AS US … as a result of that union.
The same message applies today.
Isaiah wrote, “You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate.”
He continued his prophetic song singing, “For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.”
YOU … regardless of you sex …shall marry your builder … God the Creator.
Thus everyone sitting at this bus stop today and forever more is like a woman, in need of regular ritualistic cleansing; BUT …if you marry God all that ceases to be needed.
God – the “good wine” – rejoices over your marriage to Him. The purification pots are no longer needed! Fill them to the brim with GOOD WINE!!!
In David’s song he sang, “They feast upon the abundance of your house; you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the well of life, and in your light we see light. Continue your loving-kindness to those who know you, and your favor to those who are true of heart.” Praise the Lord! You married God!
This is just like the wedding celebration in Cana. The guests – all Jews – feasted on the abundance of God. They were given drink from the well by the Son of God. The water became the “good wine” of the LORD, as from the source of eternal life. The recognition of the best wine coming out last shows God’s loving-kindness towards his faithful. His “favor to those who are true of heart” is God’s gifts to His brides … those to be married to God.
That brings up the epistle of Paul to the Christians of Corinth. It is focused on the gifts of God, which is more of that “good wine.”
One of the rituals of a wedding is the newlyweds opening the gifts that have been given to them. Gifts are a common element of a marriage and the celebration of a union.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are given by God to all His new wives. Again, let me stress that “wife” does not mean only human females, but all who submit to God and all who commit to serve God and only God, now and forever.
The epiphany of today’s readings is to get drunk with the Holy Spirit’s love for God. We are not called to be guests at someone else’s wedding party, where all we have to do is show up and get free food and booze.
That kind of lifestyle only leads to the morning after, when we line up at the river to be washed clean of our sins … once again. We get so used to needing regular purification that we build stone jars to immerse ourselves in. We sit in one right now.
The first miracle that showed the glory of God in Jesus was he baptized those at a wedding party in the Holy Spirit and they didn’t even know it.
Just like the pilgrims who encountered Peter and the other Apostles on the Day of Pentecost, the chief steward thought the servants had brought new wine … not wine aged to perfection (the good stuff). The disciples who followed John the Baptist (who were at the wedding in Cana too) they saw this miracle of wine … wine so new it had never seen a grape … as a baptism. Instead of water poured over the skin of people, it was new wine placed inside new skins.
They believed in Jesus. Maybe they knew it then, or maybe they realized it later; but the believed.
It was then not yet the hour that Jesus was to begin his ministry and his legacy of miracles and healing. But it was time to clear the way towards that goal.
As part of that path, Jesus is calling now … to be born within us, but at the right hour. Now, it is time for us to drink the good wine of God’s redemption, to rejoice and celebrate in the baptism of our engagement. Soon we are to be God’s newest wife.
We should long for the kiss between one true of heart and her lover … a kiss as sweet as good wine.
You and that partridge sitting in a pear tree …
K … I … S … S … I … N … G.
First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes baby Jesus in us … his baby carriage.
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