908 bottles of wine

Posted: April 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

I love the story of Jesus’ first miracle – that day at a wedding when his mom pulled Him aside to request He solve the problem of a shortage of wine at a wedding reception.  The older I get, and the more I consider it, the more I love it.  It just doesn’t make religious sense at all.

He starts the miracle by talking back to His mom, basically pointing out that this problem is really none of His business.  The problem with reading the story is there aren’t cues for tone there.  When I was younger, I imagined Him answering brusquely.  Later, I thought His tone might be apologetic or even a bit wheedling – like the teenage groan, “Mooooom!”  These days I suppose it was a playful chuckle.  But that’s all conjecture.  In any event, His response doesn’t seem to model solemn and immediate obedience to a parent, does it?  A very human Jesus, it seems.

And then there’s the fact that though it was a social crisis, from where I sit it looks like it was more about saving face for the host of the party than anything else.  It’s not healing someone sick or rescuing someone from death, is it?  It’s not feeding someone who is starving.  It doesn’t seem necessary.  It’s more a nicety.  I mean, it’s just a party.  It seems to me He’d have been justified in pointing out that this was, as we say today, a “first world problem” – in other words, not a REAL problem.  No one dies from being embarrassed.  Isn’t getting humbled a little good for us, now and then?  And if I were to view this story from a very financially conservative perspective, isn’t the host getting what he deserves, running out of supplies?  Shouldn’t he have planned better?  If he couldn’t afford to throw such a party, maybe it should have been toned down – a shorter guest list or something.  These kids today and their overblown wedding parties – so entitled!

All those available arguments for NOT helping, but He helps.

Also, there’s the timing – the business about drunk people.  The miracle of the wine He made doesn’t happen until late in the party – so late that the praise about it is that most hosts serve cheap wine later in the party, when folks have had enough to drink not to notice the difference – in other words, too tipsy to tell, right? – while this host and saved the best for last.  Now, anyone who’s given the scriptures serious consideration knows we’re not really supposed to get drunk.  I learned something in last week’s message at my church – those six jars He transformed would have held 20 – 30 gallons each.  The math works like this:  if they were 30 gallons, that means He produced 908 bottles’ worth of excellent wine!

908 bottles!  Talk about enabling!  I mean, for sure someone looking to criticize could have made that argument.  Someone with really good intentions and a strong sense of rule-following could have taken Him aside to point out what a bad idea this could seem to be.

The whole story just doesn’t make sense, from a religious point of view.  The miracle is impractical.  It gives people opportunity for quite the drunkfest.  It saves face for a host who maybe should have planned better.  It’s not a lesson in austerity, by a long shot.

That’s what I love about it.  Our pastor called it generosity.  I can’t help but notice that Jesus kept the party going.  THAT is His first miracle – keeping a party going!  That speaks volumes, doesn’t it?  It doesn’t make Him a hedonist, but I’d say He’s all about celebration and about supporting folks coming together – about relationship, and about fun, and about honoring an important event in the life of a family.  Even if they and their guests might drink too much wine in the mix.  Heck, with 908 bottles’ worth of wine, I’d venture a guess that maybe even the servants were welcome to enjoy some at the end of the evening.

That’s an important view of the One I serve, who doesn’t spend His days and nights just scowling in disappointment at my failure to adhere to strictness.  I love the freedom in considering it all.

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