Tuesday, 4 September 2012

John 2: The party trick

The last chapter of John ended off with a promise of some exciting things to come. In John 2, the party is already getting started, with a...party.

  1. Do you have any party tricks? What does this party trick tell us about you?
  2. What is the most embarrassing situation you've found yourself in? How could this situation been avoided?

The Party Trick

Jesus, his mum and his followers are at a wedding. Something terrible happens: the wine runs out. This may remind you of the scene in Airplane 2 when the air hostess announces that they're also out of coffee. It seems rather trivial. Today, if the wine ran out at a wedding the guests would just go for the fruit punch instead. In Jesus' day, there wasn't a huge variety. It was basically wine or nothing. So, imagine now if a guest went to the bar a wedding and asked for a drink and the bartender told them they had run out of everything.
"Even Babycham? Who drinks Babycham?" The guests would ask.
"Even Babycham." The bartender would confirm.
"What do you expect us to do? Fill our glasses in the bathroom sink?" (Which is sort of what Jesus does do, but we'll get to that later.) Not only was running out of wine a bit awkward, but it could have had legal ramifications. The bridegroom was obliged to give a good banquet and if this doesn't happen the guy could get sued.

So Mary decided to get Jesus to sort it out. He tells the servants to do something a bit strange. To get the wine from the bathroom sink. Well, the first century Judean equivalent. There were huge pots full of water so the guests could clean their hands. This wasn't just because Jews are hygienic, it also had religious significance. The water was so that they could be ceremonial pure before eating. So Jesus got the servants to fill up these pots to the brim and then take some over to the chief steward to try. The steward was so impressed with the wine he complimented the bridegroom and said, "usually you save the worst wine for last, as the guests are too drunk to notice. You save the best until last."

Now, I'm going to have a bit of a rant. A lot of people will take this miracle and use it as an excuse to get drunk. They'll say, "Jesus was obviously down with guys having a good time, otherwise he wouldn't have made so much wine." First, the Bible is definitely not down with drunkenness. There are many verses is the Bible that say do not get drunk, but Ephesians 5:18 is perhaps the best for this context. It says quite clearly, "do not get drunk with wine". Do not get drunk with wine. Jesus, I believe, would never encourage something unbiblical. He wouldn't be condoning getting drunk with wine if it is not the will of God. Also, episodes of drunkenness in the Bible inevitably end badly (with nakedness, incest, and more nakedness to point out a few). If you say this miracle is all about having a good time you are clearly missing the point. Jesus isn't pro drunkenness; he's pro freedom from social embarrassment and legal burdens.

There is also deeper significance to this miracle. There is another instance in the Bible of water being turned into something else and it would be good to see if they have any links. Back in the last chapter Jesus is compared to Moses. Moses is best known for leading the Israelites out of Egypt and around the desert for forty years. Before he was able to do that, however, he had to convince Pharaoh to let them go. This was done with the ten plagues. The plagues weren't to twist Pharaoh's arm though:
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these signs of mine among them that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the Lord.” (Exodus 10:1-2)
These signs were to let people know that God was God. Interestingly, the first of these signs was the Nile being turned into blood. Thousands of years later, Jesus was to turn water into wine (I could mention the whole wine and blood link of the Lord's Supper but I won't. Wait, I just have). John 2:11 says something quite interesting:
What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
This miracle in Cana was Jesus' first sign. Like Moses' first sign, which was to who the Israelites who was Lord, Jesus' first sign shows hints of his glory. The glory that he is, indeed, the son of God.

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