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Jesus' wine isn't hidden in a vegetable crisper
When I first got connected to Circle of Hope, I was in college and one of the things that got me to the public meetings were the fact that they were in the evenings. I liked staying up late on Saturdays, so I'd always wake up in time for them!
I wonder if that’s the mentality of a lot of the people around us though. Especially, single, unmarried, and underemployed. I think Circle of Hope, that’s you, makes it easy for us to reach people like I was in college. When I’m walking around Temple’s campus trying to talk to people about the healing and transformative work we are doing, it is reassuring to say, “yeah, the meetings are at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.,” so they know they can stay out late the night before and still wake up in time for the public meeting. Sunday morning is so 1990s anyway.
I think some of our people are great party people and so when we tell them our weekly party is at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., they can get pretty down with it. Sometimes when they make it to the PM, we invite them to a get together afterward. Or one the next weekend. Or perhaps to our cell (which, if you ask my host, is a small party every week). And then they really get engaged in our community—which is one of the best things about us.
That’s the thing we’re trying to do here—get people to really live a full and abundant and fun life where Jesus is their Lord. I think Jesus wants to help us throw great parties. At the party, whether it’s your cell or PM or someone’s birthday or wedding or whatever, I think it can be a ripe environment not just to talk about Jesus, but to be Jesus.
God wants us to use our lives as a delivery mechanism for his love and for life in Him. We are the best vessels He’s got to help people know about his love. So our whole lives should really be one big party that demonstrates God’s love. As Christians, we are trying to live a life that is ripe for people to discover the grace of Jesus in us, merely by having a relationship with us.
The Gospel of John tells the story of Jesus doing the same thing with which he has charged us—live a life that shows the world who I am. The first half of the book is broken into what Johns calls "signs” that show the world who Jesus is and what He is doing on earth. John articulates this in a clear and explicit way.
It would seem like well before Jesus was ready to reveal to the whole world who he was, he inadvertently did so through the “signs” that John records. Whereas Matthew, Mark, and Luke record Christ’s public ministry as having lasted just a year, it would seem like John thought it lasted two years. John may have developed an idea of what incarnational mission was. Whether he wanted to or not, Jesus was delivering God’s way just by living his life. In a similar way, Jesus is alive and among us at our public meetings (our “official” parties) and at the other gatherings that we have. We can’t really turn him off—we are always representing him. Jesus realizes that at the Marriage of Cana.
I doubt Jesus would say the booze is the life of the party but he knows that people start going home once the booze runs out.
Jesus’ mother, apparently, is a little anxious when it happens. And it’s not really because she needs another bottle or something; I don’t think Mary needs to keep "taking the edge off," but she might actually be trying to help the host of the wedding save a little face. It was dishonorable, of course, to host a wedding where the booze ran out before the part did. She wants Jesus to help the dude out.
So his mother knows his secret even before the wedding. She approaches him presumably knowing that he can solve the problem. She doesn’t even ask him directly, just like a mother would—“They have no more wine.”
And of course, Jesus gives her a remark that we might find funny and/or sarcastic. “Woman, why do you involve me?” I wouldn’t recommend referring to your mom this weekend as woman, just know what she wants and do it. With that said, even he knows that no one has a right to access the Lord and his power. A better translation might be, “leave me to follow my own course.”
His point, of course, is that he’s not ready to show himself to everyone in all of his glory. His “hour” probably refers to the start of his public ministry—or it may even refer to his death and exaltation ultimately. He takes orders from his Father alone, as the Gospel of John iterates time and again. But the break in the plan that the miracle he is about to perform is a moment for Jesus to demonstrate his mission on earth again.
John mentions the ceremonial washing jars mostly like because to Jesus and to him he had some symbolic meaning. Jesus is about to take the ceremonial washing jars and use them to make one—declaring truly that the wine he is making, just like the wine that will go on to symbolize his blood—is what cleans you. So he’s already offering complete revelation of who he is even in this miracle (which is why the Eastern Orthodox church will often view the Marriage at Cana as the miracle for which they celebrate Epiphany). He’s not just bringing great booze to the party—he is declaring, I am the party, I am who cleans you, and you don’t need anything else.
Jesus asks his disciples to get the empty jars (which total nearly 200 gallons of water!) and fill them to the brim. They draw some of it out and by the time they do, it’s turned into wine already. It would seem like every ounce of water drawn from the living well is wine. It is life-giving to the party and of course serves as another analogy of Christ himself being a living well that offers ever-quenching water (which John references just a few chapters ahead of this one).
The steward whose reputation is in question, drinks the wine and knows immediately that it's Jesus who made it. His wine is not only saving his party, it’s saving him too. And he’s astonished, too that it’s the best wine. The emphasis here is Jesus’ generosity and abundance, but notably that, what he offers is the best. It again points to this idea that Jesus is bring a perfect revelation to the world.
Jesus uses this opportunity, of course, to demonstrate his love, his revelation, and what he brings to the whole earth.
He shows us first that is love is transformative. Knowing Jesus changes you. Just like the water is changed into wine, Jesus is demonstrating again that he is a transformer. He’s not only changing our souls, he’s changing both the landscape of the whole region. He not only changes us, through the work he does through us, the parties we attend change, our family life changes, how we act our work and in our jobs change.
We become a transformative presence in our marriages, in our relationships, in our families. Our lives themselves are transformed and transformative. Individuals with whom we regularly interact notice a difference. So go ahead and live your life to the fullest, like you are so capable of doing, knowing that your great attitude, worth ethic, and responsibility offers some real transformation to the things you touch.
Moreover, God’s love is sufficient. Truly, it is more than sufficient, but when the going gets though—God’s love and grace is more than adequate for us. We are drinking the best wine in existence and people will notice that too. Jesus helps us be great partners, workers, and participants in life. We don’t just shine in the context of the church—but everywhere. We do it all the time.
And it’s not unnoticeable. The host of the party—some would actually call him the wine taster of the party—noticed the fact that the wine Jesus made was premium. I think you are premium too. I think the transformation that you’ve undergone makes that way and I think your excellence is attractive.
People like the good stuff. And we’re all bringing it. And we can share it with them. At our parties, the wine Jesus makes doesn’t get hidden in the vegetable crisper while the rest of us are drinking High Life.
Not only it is transformative, sufficient, it is abundant. People don’t need to BYO with Jesus, he brings the stuff, it overflows endlessly, and we can share it with the world. There’s enough to go around. We don’t have to limit our best stuff. We can give it away freely and expect to be refilled.
In fact, the more we give away, the more life we have to keep doing this work.
For me, the key application here isn’t turning water into wine, but knowing that in some sense, we are the wine that God has made perfect. We are his representatives and in our regular live, we change people.
The key to unlocking this transformative, abundant, and sufficient love is really trusting God. “Do whatever he tells you” is what Jesus’ mother tells the servants. What does it look like to just “do whatever” Jesus wants? Start believing in who he made you. Believe that you are truly the best vessel that he can fill and the best ambassador he can send.