Last week we ended our study of Jesus’s ninth command with everybody holding their breath to see what was going to happen next, and this is what happened: “And he [Jesus] saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.” (I think they were very brave souls!!) “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 2:8-11). Let’s start at the beginning and think through the details of this occasion. Jesus and his disciples were attending a wedding feast in Cana where they ran out of wine. Jesus’ mother, Mary, told Jesus about the problem. In response, Jesus directed the servants to do something that was possible but probably made no sense and was possibly a little scary; they were to fill up the waterpots with water. But . . . how would that solve the problem?It might be worth noting that these ancient waterpots held “two or three firkins apiece” (John 2:6), and my understanding is that a firkin is a quarter of a barrel. I’ve heard estimates of these waterpots holding between 20-30 gallons. Multiply this by 6 (there were six of them), and you have as much as 180 gallons of water! Given that the water was turned into wine, even if the wedding celebration lasted seven days (which was common), there would be no shortage of drinks again! As someone who’s never had an alcoholic drink, I’ve often wondered why Jesus turned the water into wine. Jesus could have purified the water as his miracle, and pure, cool water might have tasted better than anything any of them had ever tasted before. Water symbolizes life, as Jesus taught us in John 4:14, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.“Paul wrote that “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27). Jesus could have simply purified the water, but he did not. Jesus turned the water into wine . . . wine better than the best they had. For the sake of clarity, “wine” comes from the Greek word οἴνῳ, (or in Latin: vino, “from the vine”) and was used generically for both non-alcoholic grape juice and fermented, alcoholic juice products. “Wine” in the Bible is symbolic of joy, and of the Holy Spirit. I don’t know if Jesus turned the water into fresh, non-alcoholic grape juice or fermented “wine,” although after much study (which I’ll write about separately someday), I personally believe it was fresh. Still, as I pondered this, the thought crossed my mind: Am I missing out on joy by refusing to drink alcohol? The Lord brought these verses to my mind: “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), and “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace . . .” (Galatians 5:22). In the flesh—in this world—people experience a certain type of pleasure by drinking wine, but true joy comes from being filled with the fruit of the Spirit—not fruit of the vine. If you’re drinking in God’s spirit, you have better than the best the world can offer! So, none of us who are abstinent are missing out on joy . . . and we may be avoiding great sorrow. 🙂As a last thought, turning the water into wine was such an obvious miracle that the disciples couldn’t miss it. Reading from our perches 2,000 years after the fact, it’s easy to see that “the miraculous draught of fishes” (as it’s commonly called) was also a miracle, but the disciples didn’t really recognize it. They recognized Jesus’ power, but it just made them afraid of him. This time, in Cana, the change from water to wine was indisputable but not the least bit scary, and the disciples began to trust him: “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.”How about you and me? Do we believe the testimony of the miracles that Jesus performed? Has that made us trust him? Are we enjoying the true fruit of the Vine, the Lord Jesus, who is “drink indeed” (John 6:55)? Are you looking forward to participating in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, to which all are invited, but only those who are dressed in the robes of Jesus’ righteousness will be attending (Revelation 7:14)? As Christmas approaches, I hope you are experiencing true joy—the joy of knowing Jesus as your Lord, King, and Savior!
Joy to the World
Joy to the World; the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King!
Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing.
Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields & floods, rocks, hills & plains
Repeat the sounding joy.
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love. (—Isaac Watts, 1719)
(*Photo credits: Photos of famous, “Public Domain” paintings are from free online sources, particularly Wiki Commons and Wiki Arts Encyclopedia: https://www.wikiart.org/en/Search/Marriage%20at%20Cana . I took the photos of the Greek storage containers last fall at Getty Villa, California. The photos from a modern reenactment of the biblical story are from http://www.freebibleimages.org and can be used freely on blogs or for teaching purposes with attribution to: www.LumoProject.com. These are great resources. If you know of other free resources, I’d love for you to share the links in the comment box below. Thanks so much!)