John 2 and better wine

In this morning's reading from the Book of Common Prayer, in John 2, Jesus, his posse, and his mother, Mary, are at a wedding when the wine runs out. Mary immediately turns to Jesus, bringing this crisis to his attention.

Now this conversation is highly stylized. St. John is making a much bigger point than Jesus is capable of bringing the party or that Jesus is pro-alcohol. One thing St. John is doing is showing Mary's expectation for Jesus to do something, and it was not a package store run she had in mind, as his answer is also highly stylized, "My time is not yet come."

Mary apparently disagrees because she tells the house slaves to follow Jesus' instructions. Six large stone jars are noted, much bigger than beer keg size. Jesus tells the slaves to fill these empty jars to the brim with water.

Again, St. John is highly styling this story. Seven is used as the number of completeness and perfection in the Bible going back to Genesis when God rested from his creation. Six is the day when God made man. It's a step down, not perfect. The party is at a standstill. The jars for ceremonial hand washing are empty. They can no longer ritually cleanse people. This wedding is turning into a disaster. The night for consummation and uniting of families is going down in shame. These parties are public and the host needs to prepare for everyone and anyone. But he did not have enough either because of his poverty or short sightedness.

After they fill the jars, Jesus tells the slaves to bring a sample from the newly filled with water to the banquet master. Miraculously, the master tastes wine, and not the cheap stuff he was serving everyone earlier. He is tasting the top shelf stuff. the banquet master pulls the groom aside and scolds him for getting the order wrong. It should have been really good stuff then the cheap stuff. Instead he started cheap, not knowing the groom only had the cheap stuff.

St. John stylizes the banquet master's scolding to wake readers like myself up. However, I've only noticed the miracle, not the bigger story until now. “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” John 3:10

Here is what I heard from reading St. John this morning, which was new for me coming from a tradition that tended to focus on the trees and misses the forest. What I hear St. John saying is the old way from Moses is empty, the party is coming to a screeching halt. The old way's inadequacy is shameful. It can't even clean hands anymore. Jesus comes to the rescue. Mary knows this. His disciples get a whiff of it.

This falls in line with my ongoing series that not everything biblical is Christian. Before Jesus, it was the cheap wine of Mosaic theology. It was inadequate. But Jesus brings the real stuff....I admit I'm not a wine drinker. I know beer much more. So for me, before Jesus, it was a Milwaukee's Best party.

It would get you drunk if you could stand it. Jesus rolls in with kegs of Russian Imperial Stout. I used to think beer is beer. I used to think all verses in the bible are equal. Now I know, the "Beast" is for cheap alcoholics who have no taste buds and the stout is for a complex flavor and an awesome drinking experience.

Jesus' kingdom of love and mercy is far superior to the previous religious kingdom of judgment. Now I know what St. John was getting at with this story.


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