Friday, January 25, 2008

Replacing Water with Wine

If you did not know, I got engaged about a month and a half ago to the beautiful woman in the picture with me on the left (if you are reading on Facebook, you cannot see this, but she is in my profile picture). I never knew how much planning actually goes into a wedding. Sarah's roommate is a wedding planner, and makes a good living doing it (she is doing our wedding by the way). In the past few weeks, I have learned what runners, calililies, monkey tails, baguettes, and so many other things that I had no idea went into a wedding. It's amazing how much planning actually goes into an event that lasts for six-seven hours, and I'm grateful because Sarah and I will be able to enjoy that day and remember it forever. Imagine though planning a wedding that doesn't last for just seven hours, but seven days! That is how the weddings were in the 1st century Judaism. The couple would have the ceremony under a Chupah, and then walk through the town as people provided the light to walk by lanterns. They would then go and know each other in the biblical sense, and then come back out for the reception which would last for seven days! The couple would be given crowns and robes to wear, and would be treated like royalty for the duration of the celebration. Essential to this party was wine. In the Bible, wine is seen as a blessing from God. God wants us to celebrate, and wine was a symbol of joy and celebration. However, since it was a gift from God, they would not drink to get drunk because that would disrespect God's blessing. To some of you, this seems like your kind of party! It obviously was for Jesus, because in John 2 we find Jesus at one of these wedding celebrations. But something happened. The party ran out of wine. This was a social shame. Not having enough wine to supply your guests would be a family shame for years. So the host of this party was in trouble because he had run out of wine. Jesus' mother found this out, and comes to Jesus for help. And so Jesus, reluctant at first because he knew if he did this sign, the way to the cross would be coming soon, as hour for the book of John is symbolic of the cross. But Jesus saves the day and turns the water into wine. It's interesting what water Jesus uses to turn into the wine. He uses the huge buckets that hold 20 to 30 gallons of water that were used for the purity rituals to keep a good Jew "clean." Clean and unclean was of upmost importance for the 1st century Jew. It became so important that they would send lepers to live in isolation from the community, they would not eat certain kinds of food such as pork, and would only associate with Gentiles if they had to. If they came into contact with any of these "unclean" things, they would go through this washing ceremony before they could worship or even eat. The water would wash away the "unclean" and make one "clean." Jesus, who said it was not on the outside of the person but on the inside of the person is what makes one clean, takes this ritual water and turns it into win. According to Amos 9, wine is going to be a symbol of the new age of salvation and restoration of humans to God. So when Jesus replaces this water with wine, he is saying something more. He is saying the age of salvation and restoration is here, and that Jesus' way is replacing the old way of ritual. The question then for us is what does Jesus need to replace in our lives? For our churches, what does Jesus need to replace there? Does he need to take our judgementalism and replace it with grace? What does Jesus need to replace our old way of doing things, with his way of grace and restoration?

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