A37 NEW WINE
St. John 2.vv.1-11
~ On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine". And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come". His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you". Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water". And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward". So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now". Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. ~
I read recently that a poll among the British people showed that 87% of the population claim to have a higher than average sense of humour! This makes one wonder where the "average" lies! As a schoolboy I was introduced to the idea that the British people according to most Europeans "take their pleasures sadly", and that the further north one goes the less is the joy and sense of fun in life. Certainly some Mediterranean peoples surpass others in this respect. Certainly the Jewish people have always known how to enjoy themselves especially at weddings.
We who are more staid and formal do not share the Jewish wedding festivities; the bright canopy, the lights, the torches, the processions, the feasting often day after day, the open house accorded to the wedding guests by the married couple who are accorded the role of "King and Queen" and exempted from military and other duties for as much as a year. Friends of mine who have attended such festivities have found themselves incapable of keeping up with the prolonged feasting and merriment. There is, however, one essential ingredient in all this - and that is wine. The Rabbis say that without wine there is no joy and joy is the keynote of the changing of water into wine at Cana in Galilee. But let it first be stressed that drunkenness and drinking to excess have never been a part of wedding festivities. Such an abuse of wine would be regarded with severe reproof. Wine was always diluted - two parts water to three parts wine - so those who imagine Jesus approved of excess alcoholic consumption need to think again!
But what was taking place at this wedding.? St. John describes it as a "sign", which means that we must not press too hard the details of the story. Jesus as a guest would naturally have sympathy with the Governor of the feast and the embarrassment of the family and no doubt he would wish to help - but why with 180 gallons of wine (1,000 bottles)? What is St. John trying to tell us in this "sign"?
Surely he is telling us what he has already told us before, namely, that with the coming of Jesus something new, something transcending all the glory and blessings of the past has broken into the world; the old "water" of Judaism has become the new "wine" of Christianity; Jesus Christ is offering to mankind boundless grace; the new order brings blessings enough and to spare for all the needs of mankind; God in Christ is a super-abundant giver of all good gifts, the old order has passed away; new light, new joys are being shed upon mankind. "Behold, I make all things new". When Christ comes life sparkles anew for there is joy and gladness.
In the Victoria and Albert Museum there is a terracotta figure of Jesus and his mother. Mary looks at the child with joy and the child Jesus looks out at us (as in icons) with merriment. The Italian creator of the figure must have known the joy that for the Christian lies at the heart of creation.