Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Too Much Wine?

There’s a passage in John’s gospel, chapter 2, that is attractive to those of us who enjoy wine. But of course, this being written by John, there are hidden meanings that are much richer than this surface story — or a good Burgundy or Merlot. What was John getting across? How did Jesus’ miracle of turning water into wine, mean something besides a better wedding party? It’s really pretty simple to unravel, and starts with understanding the symbols John has imbedded here. Let’s look.

First of all, this is a wedding feast — one of the most joyful occasions in that society. Typically, for a well-off family, it would go on for days. The wedding celebrated the joining of two people in marriage, and the promise of new life to come as they had children together. A spiritual parallel is the “marriage supper of the Lamb” in Rev. 9:6-9, where the saints are to ‘ arry' Christ, as a picture of eternal intimacy, joy and love with him. John could have referred to this event as some other kind of gathering, but the marriage symbolism points beyond the moment to the greater reality of our union with Christ (which he wrote about again in that passage in Revelation).

Second, we see the matter of the water being contained in pots for ceremonial washing by the Jews (v. 6). Physical cleanliness, as a symbol of spiritual purity, was highly important in that culture, and all practicing Jews took it very seriously. Jesus chose those containers to hold the water he would turn into wine, to symbolize the spiritual washing he would soon provide: “[These saints] have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,” showing spiritual cleanliness because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us (Rev. 7:14). It was not the physical washing but the spiritual, that would make humanity acceptable to God.

Finally (although I’m sure there’s more), we see the enormous amount of wine produced: six containers, each of 20 or 30 gallons — very conservatively, 120 gallons of wine! That much would have provided wine for a four-ounce serving for 3,840 people! There were probably only a few hundred people living in the little village of Cana — so why the huge over-abundance? I believe there are two meanings: one, that salvation is offered to everyone, not just a select few (like those few wedding guests); two, that God’s blessings to us are more than a paltry one or two, but overflowing, out of his great love for us ("that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit,” Rom. 15:13, as only one example).

Was there too much wine at that feast? Well, maybe they were inspired to share it with other villages. Can there ever be too many blessings from God? We are invited by God to bless others as we’ve been blessed (see 2 Cor. 9:8), so whatever blessing we’re given, is to be an overflow to those around us. Let’s make that sharing of blessings, one of our goals in 2019!

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