Water is a necessity. Too little water, and we die. Too much water and we also die. And water, for most of us, is so basic that it’s, well, basic. So we add lemon to water. We chill, heat, and add tea leaves or coffee beans to change its flavor and composition.
Water can also be a metaphor for scarcity. We say we live on bread and water to suggest poverty, meaning we can’t afford embellished water. And we certainly can’t afford fine wine. We have more of a “beer” budget we might say.
This comparison suggests wine can be a metaphor for abundance. Wine satisfies a desire for something more than water but in balance. Too much wine leads to drunkenness. Similarly, too much of any good thing comes with consequences.
Wine is much more than flavored water. Wine is a composition of human effort in harmony with nature. Yeast consumes the sugar in fruit, converting it to ethanol and carbon dioxide and releasing heat. Making fine wine is an art.
But when all is said and done, wine is mostly water. Without water, there is no wine. Therefore, abundance is impossible without first meeting basic needs.
You’ve probably heard the story, but just in case you haven’t, there are a few details you need to know. First, the event took place in Cana, which tradition suggests was a small village not too far from Nazareth in the hills of Galilea.
Today, Nazareth boasts the largest Arab-Israeli population in Israel. More than half of the Arab residents are Muslim. But in the first century, the people of this village were Jewish. And scripture tells us that Jesus lived there as an adolescent and young adult. The family of Jesus moved to Nazareth from Egypt, where they fled after the news of His birth angered the reigning king.
According to John’s Gospel, Mary, the mother of Jesus, attended a wedding in Cana. Translations of this story claim that Jesus and some of His inner circle were also there by invitation. However, Angela Brown, in her fictional telling, speculates that Jesus was invited as one of Mary’s “plus ones,” and His friends came as extras invited by Jesus.
This explanation supports what happened next. So many extra guests arrived that it was clear the host hadn’t stocked enough wine to serve everyone.
But before we dismiss the drama that unfolded as a simple case of poor planning, remember that Jewish weddings last a week. And out-of-town guests were unable to return home for dinner each evening. Also, neither Motel 6 nor the Red Roof Inn had expanded into small rural towns. In other words, a whole lot more wine was needed than planned.
Also important are the expectations put on a host in antiquity. Hospitality is a prevalent theme in scripture. God insists on hospitality. So to run out of food, wine, or even water, was to deny guests that which God deemed necessary.
Anyone who has prepared food for a large crowd that seems to multiply in real time knows a few tricks. For example, since wine is mostly water, why not increase the wine by adding water. Of course, quality suffers, but the extra guests require desperate measures. Unfortunately, by the end of the celebrations, the quality of the wine reaches its lowest point.
Mary recognizes an inhospitable situation in the making. There wasn’t enough wine in Cana to satisfy this growing crowd. So the host would serve pure H2O by the end of the week. Mary wanted to help but her resources were limited, so she turned to her oldest Son.
At first, Jesus responds more like a teenager asked to help with dishes than an obedient son. Nevertheless, scripture tells us that He did as His mother asked and agreed to devise a solution. Mary tells the waitstaff to do whatever her Son asks.
Every home had giant water jugs used by guests to wash after their dusty trip. But even these were empty from the demand of too many guests. So Jesus tells the workers to fill the jugs with water.
These were massive jugs. It takes a lot more water to wash bodies than it does to water down wine. And, by now, most of the guests had arrived, so the need for full water jugs wasn’t the problem. Can you imagine the puzzled looks on the faces of those watching?
Speaking of puzzled looks, Jesus tells one of the servers to draw a cup of water from one of the jugs and take it to the person in charge. And they do. But what happens next is thought to be the first miracle by Jesus recorded in the Gospels.
One sip made it abundantly clear that the cup the head server was handed contained perhaps the finest wine in all of Cana. And there was plenty of wine to satisfy every guest and then some. It was a wedding miracle! But why?
Everyone else serves the best wine first, and after the guests have drunk a lot, he serves the ordinary wine. But you have kept the best wine until now!
Why didn’t Jesus turn just enough water into wine for the guests to not complain? Why not match the quality of the wine the host had served to this point? The head waiter told the host, “You saved the best wine for last!” Was Jesus showing off His winemaker skills?
Remember that God puts a premium on hospitality. Welcoming others and providing for their needs ranks near the top of God’s expectations for humanity. And God’s track record is abundance. Scarcity is a condition created by the failure of humans to love and cooperate with one another.
The scarcity you witness around you is an illustration of the worst of humanity at work. But it never has to be this way.
Jesus ushered in the Kingdom of Heaven, bringing divine favor to humanity. And entry is into God’s Kingdom is easy. Love God and your neighbor.
However, faith and fellowship are choices we each make. But each decision we mak e affects everyone else.
I invite you to follow along with us during our series. You can obtain a copy of Angela Hunt’s book online, in bookstores, or look for it at the library. Our copies went fast, but you can contact our office if you need help finding a book. We have more copies coming.
You can join us each Sunday in person or online by clicking the button on our website’s homepage – Click here to watch. This button takes you to our YouTube channel. You can find more information about us on our website at FlintAsbury.org.
A reminder that we publish this newsletter that we call the Circuit Rider each week. You can request this publication by email. Send a request to connect@FlintAsbury.org or let us know when you send a message through our website. We post an archive of past editions on our website under the tab, Connect – choose Newsletters.
Our series was inspired by and relies on content provided by Angela Hunt. Daughter of Cana. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2020.