Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Water to Wine: an Object Lesson about Repentance and Obedient Service

Consider the symbolic nature of how Christ performed this miracle.
1 And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:
2 And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.
3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.
4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, [what wilt thou have me to do for thee? that will I do; for] mine hour is not yet come.
5 His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.
6 And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.
7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.
8 And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.
9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,
10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.
11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him. (John 2:1-11, JST bracketed)
When I was reading this today with my husband, the bit about how the waterpots were used by the Jews for purifying struck me. I remembered how the law of Moses had so much about washing things in order to mark the transition from ritual uncleanness to cleanliness. With so much concern about the difference between the clean and unclean, a careful observing Israelite would have to have a lot of water handy all the time to take care of those little slips into uncleanness. So large storage waterpots were necessary.

I had a feeling that Jesus was even here trying to teach something through this miracle, which would explain His use of those waterpots. So I tried to imagine some kind of modern equivalent. Imagine there is a wedding reception going on in the cultural hall and the punch runs out. Jesus’s miracle might be something like making more punch out of water from a filled baptismal font. If we see it this way, we can understand the message He wanted to send. Since wine is often associated with joy and gladness in the scriptures, Jesus may have been trying to teach that the best happiness and joy come from purification (repentance). To the servants who saw the governor of the feast drink what they had seen was only recently water used for purification purposes, He may also have been trying to show the necessity for inward purification more than outward cleanliness.

Another thing I though of: the first round of wine could have been symbolic of the law of Moses. It was adequate, but those who had tasted it didn’t know it wasn’t that great until they were given something better—the new covenant, something completely transformed and transcendant. It is also interesting that the governor of the feast was practically blaming the bridegroom for holding back on them. (Do we blame the bridegroom-Christ for holding back on us? How ready are we?)

Yet another way of looking at this story is from the perspective of the servants.

Mary tells the servants, “Whatever [Jesus] tells you to do, do it.” This is a great reminder for everyone who serves the Lord. Obedience is the first law of heaven.

Jesus has the servants fill the waterpots to the brim. This could be compared to how we must fill ourselves with the living water. Then Jesus tells the servants to draw out some of that water and take it to the governor of the feast. This could be compared to how teachers take their lessons to their classes.

It is interesting that this story NEVER says exactly when the water actually became wine. (We may never know unless there is some revelation about it.) Consider what the servants may have been thinking if Jesus had asked them to carry what looks like jars of water to the governor of the feast. They may have thought, But it’s just water! This isn’t what they want! This is a great teaching moment for the disciples to see that what they draw of the living water and bring to the people ends up being better than what the people thought they were going to get and far better than what the servants may have thought it was going to be. This shows those of us who are preparing talks and lessons that though we may feel like what we’re bringing is inadequate, the power of God can transform it into exactly what is needed, exceeding all expectations.

Here’s something else that occurred to me as I was considering how the servants may have felt about taking what looked like water to the governor of the feast. Because the scriptures never actually say when the transformation occurred, perhaps the water wasn’t transformed into red wine. Perhaps it changed into white wine, which looks clear-to-light-yellowish. (I looked up “white wine” on Google Images, and that’s what the pictures show—clear-to-light-yellow, which may have been the same color as their water..) If so, then the only way to know it was wine was to taste it (or smell it?) This suggest to us that the only way we may know whether a lesson is good or not is to taste it by hearing it. “Doth not the ear try words? And the mouth taste his meat?” (Job 12:11)

In summary, through this miracle, Jesus taught the joy that comes from repentance. It also shows us how the power of God can change our weak efforts as servants into something that exceeds all expectation.


LeAnn said...

I love to read your thoughts on the scriptures. You always have some good insights and thoughts that give me cause to ponder more.
Thanks for sharing these thoughts today. I believe in miracles and I know that this one was an important one in Christ's time.
Blessings to you! LeAnn