Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Beyond Necessity 2: The Wine


Jesus’ mother says: “The wine has run out”

What happens next?

I. Jesus could do nothing. 
That would be socially acceptable and reasonable. It’s not the guests responsibility to act. Jesus goes beyond necessity and responds. Jesus could say: oh good. Now these people can stop being so happy. The term puritan describes 15th Century Christian believers. It’s been said “puritanism” is the fear that someone somewhere is happy. The characterisation is unfair but Christians can be a lifeless crowd at times. At the Uni bar with Christian students all too often they’ve all ordered water or a coke when the place serves beer.

 II. Jesus, in providing wine, could just make cheap wine. 
 That would be expected. The party is old and no one will notice if the booze isn’t very good. But he goes beyond necessity and makes fine wine, good wine. I was asked to speak on campus at a lunchtime lecture on how Jesus brings fullness of life while we were offered sandwiches made of the most horrible economy bread. Something was out of whack. But, that’s not to say we need to go all hipster/artisan/snobbish about food and drink. But we could learn from Jesus’ culture. Day to day simplicity about food, and then a regular practice of festivals and feasting. I suspect I could use more variety – more plain food, and then more richness. In Jesus’ world food is more than a means of delivering nutrition, we’re made beyond necessity with taste buds.

III. Jesus could make a fool of the Bridegroom of Cana. 
 The man is a numpty who failed on the most important day of his life to provide for his friends and family. I remember towards the end of our wedding reception seeing all the left over food and thinking “we could’ve invited more people” but wedding caterers know what they knew 2000 years ago. You do not risk running out of food. Cana’s bridegroom is a fool, neglectful, stingy… but Jesus doesn’t make a fool of him. In fact he offers him redemption. Quietly. He fixes the problem and only a few of the staff and his friends see it. The best man (chief servant) doesn’t know. The rest of the guests don’t know about it. The man is saved from humiliation. Jesus could take the credit and make a fool of the man – but he doesn’t. And John echoing the heart of Jesus could expose him and record his name but he doesn’t.

IV. Jesus could bring righteous judgement. 
 He’s come into a world that John has described previously as a dark place in which Jesus is a shining light. He could offer a cup of poison and be delivering justice. But he’s going beyond necessity and pointing to something more. He comes eating and drinking. He comes adding life to the party. It’s beyond necessity. It’s gratuitous. It’s lavish. John says: this was Jesus’ first sign (v11), and he revealed his glory (v11). Here is the launch of Jesus. A window into the heart of Jesus. Not stingy, not neglectful, but gratuitous, open handed, gracious. Jesus goes beyond necessity to gratuity. And Jesus is communicating to the careful observer that he is the one who will bring about a great feast. 500 years earlier Israel’s prophet Isaiah had said (25:6-9) that there would be a day when there would be a great celebration on a mountain, with the best meat, the best wine, a day when the people of the world say: this is our God. And we could leave this there and have seen something but there’s something more to catch…

To be continued....

Image - from UCCF Uncover John

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