Verse 3 states "They have no more wine." This phrase is a metaphor for life. This was a wedding day, the happiest day for many people. And on this most happy occasion, the wine ran out. Everything starts out with such promise, but in the end, life doesn’t deliver. The wine runs out. We are left disappointed and frustrated.
Into this context of a happy wedding, Jesus chooses to display his first public miracle, changing water to wine. What are the qualities of water and winde?
Water: colorless, plain, dirty (no filters), stomach problems, cleansing/washing hands for guests
Wine: colorful, delicious, joy, laughter, intimacy, bringing down of masks
This miracle is about radical transformation. Water to wine is a chemical change, a fundamental change in its essence. And Jesus uses this miracle to show the contrast between life before we meet Christ personally with life after Christ.
In Matthew 9, Jesus talks about wineskins and needing a new wineskin before pouring in new wine. Jesus is the new wine, new life and it causes a fundamental change in us. Our old lives, our exterior, cannot be the same. To have the new Christ in us and to keep our old lifestyle is tantamount to keeping the old wineskin and doing a patch job. Becoming Christian is not a patch job, it is not a small tweaking, it is not something we tack on to our lives, it is not a band aid solution. It will cause a radical change in our lives.
Who are the main characters in these verses?
Spiritual Insiders who were privy to what was going on with Jesus and the wine
Spiritual Outsiders who were totally oblivious to what was going on
Insiders: Jesus, Mary, Servants, Disciples
Outsiders: Bridal couple, Master of the banquet
On the fence: Guests
I am not just separating believers and non-believers. There are many Christians who are outsiders in the sense that they are oblivious to what God is doing around them and what God is wanting to do in their lives. Throughout the Bible, let him who has eyes to see and ears let him hear.
What makes one an insider vs. an outsider? How can we have eyes to see and ears to hear?
Prayer, Word of God, His people, Obedience
Let’s start with the Outsiders. Bridal couple – there is no mention of them in this text. They were probably infatuated with one another that even if Jesus told him something was about to happen, they wouldn’t have noticed. Yet, Jesus intervened and this young couple was spared embarassment of running out of wine during this happiest day/week of their lives (back then, the wedding party lasted for a while).
Just a brief point – this couple was spared embarassment unbeknowst to them. I bet when we get to heaven, there will be a long list of times when we almost got seriously hurt, or something could have gone seriously wrong, but God loved us and spared us. There will certainly be many times that we are loved by God and we don’t have the eyes to recognize it.
Likewise, the master of the banquet shows his ignorance. He was probably buried with all the wedding details that he missed out on what God was doing at that reception.
Now lets consider the Insiders. Jesus is the ultimate insider. He call Mary, "Woman." As he began his public ministry, he seems to be setting new boundaries. Mary is no longer simply the mother of Jesus and Jesus her son. Jesus is the Son of God and Mary is a daughter of God in need of the same forgiveness and mercy that others do. Jesus hints at a coming hour, a time when he will be glorified. This is an obvious reference to the cross and resurrection. Jesus came to give us a completely new life and to validate his claims he is going to die on the cross and be raised up 3 days later.
Mary looks at this situation and has a sense of problem. This is love. And she took it one step further and brought the problem to Jesus. This symbolizes prayer and this is the first way that we can move from the outsider group who is oblivious to spiritual things and the insider group who is privy to what Jesus is doing. Noticing things and praying about them on behalf of others is a loving thing. When you encounter problems, what is your initial response? Is it to bring that issue to Jesus?
The second group of insiders was the servants. Just a quick observation: They had 6 water basins which were used by guests to wash their hands. 6 is a number of incompleteness. All human effort cannot cleanse us from our sins. We try and try but the guilt remains. Jesus is the living water. He is the perfect solution that cleanses us from the inside out.
Back to the servants. They obeyed Jesus and through their obedience, they witnessed firsthand the miraculous transformation of the water to wine. This obedience is another way that we can become a spiritual insider. We want immediate results. We are ruled by our emotions. Thus, we give up so easily in our obedience. What if these servants gave up half way? They would not have witnessed the miracle.
There is great value in our daily, mundane, faithful obedience to God. We may not always feel like praying or attending bible study or sharing our faith, but we do out of obedience. At bottom, we pray that God will change our heart through out obedience. Seeing wine from water is not an every day occurence. There will be many days when our obedience will seem pointless. But we trust that our heart will change as we obey – this is perhaps the greatest miracle of all.
A third group of insiders was the disciples. Jesus was their Rabbi, their teacher. And class was in session. Everything Jesus did, every encounter was for the purpose of teaching the disciples a little bit more about who He is. He is not a mere Rabbi, but the Son of God who came to die for their sins. The disciples were studying Jesus together as a group. This symbolizes studying Jesus, His Word, together in the context of a community of believers. Studying God’s Word personally is important. But we cannot underestimate what God will teach to us within a community. Things like love, forgiveness and carrying each other’s burdens cannot be learned in isolation. So the Word of God and church are two other means through which we move from the spiritual outsider to insider status.
Lastly, verse 10 speaks about saving the best wine for the end. Can you think of things that get better over time? Wine, obviously. Hard to think of so it must be a rather short list. One clue is relationships, one of the few things that does get better over time. Think of a marriage. The level of intimacy grows over the years and when the romantic feelings fade, there is a deeper foundation upon which the relationship has been built. The relationship is "Fireproof" (see movie) and can stand the trials by fire that come their way.
Spiritual life is depicted in the Bible as a tree or a living body, or vine and branches. These are all living things. Our relationship with God is a dynamic thing. And that relationship ought to grow over time as well. Is my life with Jesus growing better so that I can God has saved the best for last? The stanza from a hymn comes to mind —
Since I started for the kingdom, since my life he controls, since I gave my heart to Jesus, the longer I serve him, the sweeter he grows…
I want this to be my testimony. He is saving the best for last. God is infinite. I will not exhaust his love, his mercy, his compassion, his character even if I had a million years with him. Not even an eternity will exhaust our ability to know him. Short list.
Right now, I am happy in the Lord, but I am not satisfied. I want more of Him.