By Bruce Green
Teaching Minister at 10th Street Church of Christ
The word “wine” is used in the biblical witness to refer to fermented and unfermented drink. Numerous contemporaries of Jesus speak of good wine not possessing intoxicating qualities (Pliny, Plutarch, Horace, et al.). In fact, they describe in detail the measures taken to produce such a drink. There’s no reason then, other than cultural bias or biblical ignorance, for insisting that when the master of the banquet spoke of what Jesus made as “choice wine” or “the best” (John 2:10), it had to be intoxicating. Also, there is a boatload of reasons for believing it wasn’t. (Are we to believe the sinless Christ produced 120 to 180 gallons more of intoxicating drink? All of this would be at odds with Proverbs 20:1, 23:29-35, 31:4-6, etc.).
But that’s not what I want to talk about. The above is just something we need to get out of the way so we can move on to the real point of John 2: the power of Jesus to turn water into wine. Moses turned the water into blood, but Christ turned it into something flavorful and delicious.
Water is necessary for life and we are encouraged by those in the know to drink plenty of it. But it wouldn’t be the drink of choice for a wedding. A wedding is a celebration of God’s creation purposes. It reminds us of His declaration that “It is not good for man to be alone,” His grace in making a counterpart for Adam, and the intimacy of her being made from the man himself. From one, God made two, so that He might join the two back together as one. All of that and more was in play when Christ and His disciples participated in the joyous event at Cana.
As we step inside the story, you can feel the celebratory atmosphere. It’s a festive occasion and everyone is enjoying themselves as evidenced by the concern when the wine runs out—it has the potential to put a damper on everything. But Jesus stepped in and turned ordinary water into rich, flavorful wine. And yes, He helped a family avoid a social disaster. And yes, He gave a young couple a wedding they would never forget. But the overarching truth we are to walk away with is that Jesus has the power to turn the ordinary into the exceptional. That’s why the miracle manifested His glory (v. 11).
If you think about it, that’s really what Jesus has done in our lives—He’s turned our water into wine. He’s turned our alienation and estrangement into reconciliation, our emptiness into purpose, and our fear into faith. He’s taken our dry, thirsty lives and filled them with His Spirit. He has lavished His love upon us. Paul says “we boast in the hope of the glory of God . . . and glory in our sufferings” (Romans 5:2-3). Yes, Jesus has most definitely turned our water into wine.
As disciples, we have to be careful we don’t turn the wine back into water. Well-intentioned though we might be, it’s true nonetheless true that we are sometimes responsible for taking the glorious wine that Jesus made and turning it back into tasteless water. It can happen when we act as if God’s commands are burdensome rather than blessings that allow us to “walk in freedom” (Psalm 119:45; 1 John 5:3). It can happen when we define ourselves by what we’re against rather than what we’re for. It can happen when we focus on something other than Jesus. In short, it can happen when we lose sight of what we have through Jesus.
Let’s live like people who have had their water turned into wine by Jesus and be ready when invitations come our way.
You can find more of Bruce’s writings at his website: www.atasteofgracewithbrucegreen.com.