19 September 2013

Water into Wine - a study

Whenever I have read the story of Jesus turning water into wine, it has always bothered me. It is the first miracle that Jesus performs and heralds the beginning of his public ministry, yet this miracle consists of creating a beverage at a party.

Throughout Jesus’ ministry he heals loads of people, feeds multitudes with a little bread and some fish, and yet, his very first miracle to reveal his glory was to make a beverage!

I figured I must be missing something and so I endeavoured to do a bit of study and see if I couldn't grasp some greater meaning that I was missing…and I found a few things so I thought I’d share for anyone who is interested and may have felt the same about this miracle. This is not an exhaustive study, nor is it the final say, it’s just some things I've found and thought I would share.

The story is recounted in John 2:1-11 if you want to refresh your memory.
(Scripture quoted in NKJV)

It is important to firstly note that wine is used to describe the blood that Jesus shed on the cross.

So here we have a wedding. Weddings are used in the bible as an allusion to the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus uses weddings in some of his parables. The Church is the bride of Christ…I could go on and on.

Next we have “six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews.” (v.6) that Jesus has the servants fill full of water which he then turns into wine…

For those who are interested in the significance of numbers in the bible, six is the number for man/labour and leans toward imperfection (this is not sound doctrine so you can disagree if you like, but it’s pretty widely agreed upon…you can Google it if you want to look a bit more into it).

And so these six stone waterpots get filled with water, the Jewish custom for cleansing, and get turned into wine. They begin by representing the Law, the traditional way of purification but when Jesus is finished with them, they represent the new covenant.
“Then he took the cup (of wine), and gave thanks, and gave it to them saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:27-28)
The servants then draw some out and take it to the master of the feast as directed by Jesus and the master of the feast drinks it and says… “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine till now!” (V.10).  Just as the wine Jesus made was better than the first, so is the new covenant better than the old
“For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.” (Hebrews 10:1)

I believe this is just scratching at the surface of what is in this part of scripture…but it has given me a much greater appreciation of Jesus’ first miracle and my mind is buzzing at the significance that is oozing out of it. It is the perfect miracle to represent what Jesus had come to the earth for…For all those who are willing to come to the wedding feast, he offers to imperfect man with his substandard way of doing things, the opportunity to be transformed by his blood. This miracle showed that Jesus was about to usher in the new covenant...I wonder how many people at that wedding missed the point as badly as I always have...


Chris said...

oh it's so much bigger :) You have to be careful not to go outside the gospel for your search, look inside John first. First off, the water jars were used for Jewish purification rites, they weren't actually meant to hold wine. But throughout John's gospel, the theme of new life, of re-creation, the theme of taking the old and making it new are all intertwined.

Jesus takes the old system and does something new with it. You can see that in his argument with the Pharisees in John 9 and 10, you can see it with Nicodemus in chapter 3, you can see it with the Samaratin woman ... all of these are about bringing new life and restoration where there was once nothing.

Furthermore, this isn't about a "mere" beverage; this was about a whole community. To run out of wine probably meant either bad planning or, more likely, those who are throwing the party can't afford more. But to run out was a HUGE social disaster (the whole town and several neighboring ones are all at this party), would have been interpreted as a marriage that would fail, and would have brought disgrace and shame on the family involved. So when Jesus turns ordinary water into wine, he's restoring a community and a family.

Water was also a symbol of chaos for the Jewish people, and to turn chaos into something for sustenance and even merriment (you could probably allude to the wedding feast of the Lamb here too) would harken back to creation as well - the spirit hovering over the waters of chaos and bringing land and life out of them. don't forget, John is very interested in us seeing how the Word - the one who enabled creation - had become flesh. What else could he do but create new from chaos?

And THEN ... it all happened on the third day. There's a verse in chapter 10, that Jesus came to give life abundantly, that seems relevant here ... he doesn't settle for the cheap wine, he provides the best they've ever had.

Lots going on here :)

Chris said...

(I've been spending a LOT of time in John this last few weeks for a sermon I'm preaching this sunday)

Shawna said...

Hah! Chirs, I'm not surprised you had something to add, I know you are someone who likes to study. And I'm sure that story keeps going beyond that, that's what I love about the Bible, the more time you put into it the more the Holy Spirit can reveal to you. Although wasn't sure what you meant about not going outside of the gospel for my search...

Chris said...

All I meant was that you should start in johns context in order to figure out the passage, before you go to the rest of scripture, because it's best to look at who the author is and what he's trying to say with his specific set of stories (in John, for example, he says he chose those stories in particular so that we may believe - he could have chosen many others, but he chose those on purpose).