25 May 2006

Water and Wine: Thoughts on John 2

Summer is almost here, but I must admit that Easter still has me in thrall. Bear with me, then, while I reflect a little longer....

A dark night, an upper room. The Son of Man slips into an anteroom before the meal arrives, carrying a wooden bucket and a ladle. He finds a tall, 30-gallon jar of water reserved especially for the ceremonial washing of the guests. He puts the bucket down, picks up the ladle. As his free hand touches the rim of the water jar, he pauses--thoughts invade his mind.

It was another anteroom, full of cleansing jars. It was a wedding, and he had been a guest. For weeks, he had been praying, pleading with God to lay out his mission before him. He had gained followers. He had felt the Spirit draw close to him, so close it was ready to pour out at any moment!

Yet this wedding--this party--seemed the wrong place to start such a mission. "They have no more wine," were words that didn't sound like marching orders. The words came from his mother after all--not God. He wasn't here to perform mere party tricks, couldn't she see that?

"My time has not yet come." They were his words--they are the words God hears almost every time he calls me, too.

Yet he followed, and his mother led him to an anteroom full of empty cleansing jars--jars that had been emptied in the cleansing of the hands and feet of the wedding guests. Suddenly, the Spirit struck: Jesus straightened, shook His head, opened his mouth and spoke the first words of Miracle: "Fill the jars with water."

A dark night, again, the flashback is finished. He fills the bucket with water and returns to the banquet room to wash his disciples' feet. He kneels before them, pouring water over their feet--water that washes away the dust of Jerusalem.

Next comes the miracle with the wine. He blesses it. "This is my blood," he tells his astonished audience, "Poured out for you for the remission of sins." His work has come full circle; His mission is nearly complete.

We cannot understand the Last Supper without a clear picture of the Wedding of Cana and those empty cleansing jars. They bookend the Gospel of John, perfectly explaining Christ's mission. For even as every observant Jew cleansed his hands and feet with water before eating, every observant Christian would cleanse his soul with wine after this night. Water cleanses the body; wine cleanses the soul. The wine is the miracle--Christ's first and his last.

Like the master of the banquet, I am amazed by this miracle--stunned, almost drunk. "You have saved the best till now," I whisper as I drink the cleansing blood, and I feel my spirit break free.

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