Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Where did the wine go?

At a wedding, women are engaged. I don't mean "to be married." I mean they want to get there early and stay late and help prepare and help clean up and to enjoy, experience, even to criticize the event. The men, well, they are just there. If I'm invited to a wedding, I'm just hoping there will be cake.

Jesus and His disciples were invited to a wedding in John chapter 2. Jesus' mother and probably the rest of His earthly family were there as well. It's interesting to think of Jesus at a party. What did He do? Laugh? Check. Sing? Probably. Did he sing badly? I sure hope so. Did his mother tell Him that he wasn't hitting his Tenor notes? Luckily for Jesus, four part harmony hadn't been invented yet so He's good there.

Most guys just hang out until the wedding is over but in Jewish customs, this party could last for days. Ugh... They probably had it on a Saturday during football season, I mean give me a break! Luckily for Jesus, this party is going to break up early. There has been a foul-up in the caterer's office ,and they have run out of wine.

This would be the point in the story where I would tell Thaddaeus to bring the camels around because we are out of here. But Mary finds Jesus and tells Him something.

"They have no more wine."

Now, Mary, being a woman, thinks she said, "Would you do something to help these people? They are out of wine."

But, being a women, she didn't say that. She just stated a fact and the man was supposed to deduce from that information, with a chromosome that he does not have, that she wanted him to do something to fix this problem.

If my wife came up to me and said, "They are out of wine." I would say, "That's awful. How embarrassing for them. How about the cake? Grab me a piece of that before it's gone too.

But, Jesus, being God, understood what that she really meant was for Him to fix this problem, even though she didn't ask. Ladies, remember that He was the Son of God, and we are but dust. Boneheaded dust. Who loves you very much. Okay, you get the point.

He says, "Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come."

So, Mary asks for help and Jesus says "No."

Mary, being a woman, assumes that He meant, "Yes."

She turns to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."

I would pay money to see the face that Jesus made toward Mary. Did He roll his eyes? Probably not. He probably shrugged His shoulders and said something like, "This is going to cause all kinds of problems in the Southern Churches of Christ in about 1900 years, but here we go."

It has caused a bit of a problem. Why couldn't He have made Kool-aid or something like that. Well, the whole problem of it not being invented probably had something to do with it, but I digress.

The text says that nearby stood six stone water jars. John adds for his non-Jewish audience that they were there for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

Jesus told the servants to fill them with water and the servants filled them to the brim.

Now, normally you don't fill things to overflowing, but I'm convinced that Mary is standing there, probably holding a stick or something and she's making sure Jesus' instructions are being carried out completely. I can see her telling a servant to go back to the 3rd jar because, "I think that one could hold more." You know mothers...

I have a question I would like to ask Jesus. Why did you choose to use these stone water jars for this miracle? Wine doesn't come in stone water jars. Ever. Wine comes from wineskins. There were probably spent wineskins all over the place. People had probably squeezed every last drop of wine out of every wineskin in sight. Jesus could have just pointed His finger and they would have swelled up like balloons, full of new wine, and He could have stayed hidden. He did not need to reveal Himself at all.

I think the answer lies in the purpose of the stone water jars. The Jews had a prayer they recited when they washed before they ate. They had a prayer for the water that flowed off the left arm and then another prayer for the water that flowed off the right arm. This was done often and by everyone who ate. That required a lot of water and it was community water. You would wash yourself with what the guy in front of you washed himself with. And that water flowed right back into these jars. You definitely wouldn't want to drink anything out of them.

Now, can you imagine the caterer? Your job is to make sure this wedding goes off without a hitch. Would you, after you let the party run out of wine, take a ladle full of this bathwater to the guy who hired you and have him taste it? No way. This is the point in the story where I ask myself, "Would I do this?" There is no advertising, your reputation is the only guarantee of future work; there is only word of mouth and if you fail at your job of making this wedding go, then your business is toast. Oh, and there's no unemployment either.

But the servant did so. There's a funny line here. Look at the second sentence of verse 9. The master tasted the wine even though he did not know where it came from. Well, duh! Would you? "Oh, this came from the bathtub; taste it!" But after tasting the wine Jesus made, the master said "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now."

Why is this bizarre story the first of Jesus' miraculous signs performed on Earth?

The everyday Jewish life is centered on rules. Lots of rules. 613 from God and a bunch more from the Rabbis of the day. Jesus took a symbol of those rules and replaced them with something. Something new. Something that brought joy. And it will do away with the need for the 6 large stone water jars.

The old Law was designed to cultivate righteousness among the people chosen by God to put His righteousness on display to the world. The observance of this righteousness had replaced God as what was worshiped. The Jews worshiped the rules instead of the rule giver.

Jesus compared His ministry to sewing a new patch on an old garment or putting new wine into old wineskins in Mark chapter 2. It was a message that was not popular with the "old" religious establishment. But in Acts chapter 5, after being locked in prison, the apostles were visited by an angel of the Lord telling them "Go, stand in the temple courts and tell the people the full message of this new life."

The new Covenant would be one of joy, not the joyless observance of religious ritual. The joy that comes from knowing the Father through the righteousness of the Son is the best reason to party that I know of.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

In the beginning...

I hesitate to start this because I'm not sure how to do it. I have a lot of uncertainty in my life because I'm not sure what God wants me to do. I feel alive when I learn more about Jesus Christ, and I want to pass that feeling on to as many as I can find.

I wish God would make clear to us His direction for our lives. I think about how lucky Peter and Andrew were to have the Son of God tell them in Matthew 4:19 "Come, follow me." How lucky can you get? Put down the nets and follow me. Jesus even told them what they would be doing. "I will make you fishers of men."

Now that's living! Wouldn't it be great if God would come knock on my door and say, "You are moving to Arizona, and you are going to teach an adult Bible study three nights a week and preach on Sunday mornings until you are 65." Well, on second thought...perhaps Him leaving it up to me is a greater gift than what he gave Peter and Andrew.

The best I can understand God, He is now saying to me "Justin, keep your eyes focused on my Son Jesus. Imitate Him. And keep your eyes open for how you can lead others to Him as well. Let Me worry about what is coming tomorrow. You just follow My Son today."

One of my favorite lines in the Bible is in Ephesians where Paul prays for those in Ephesus saying, "I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe."

I hope to add a question segment soon. Until next time.