January 4, 2019
“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, ‘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.”
Here we have an account of Jesus’ first miracle. For me at least, it is also his most confounding. I have heard a few decent explanations that may well be valid. My favorite take is that this sign was in fact Jesus’ first healing, and a mass healing at that. The logic behind this perspective is that the water would have otherwise been undrinkable—that the bacteria-laden water of that time would have sickened the wedding guests, had Jesus not turned it into wine. I have preached that one myself, but I’m honestly not totally convinced that it’s a thing. Plus, I have to swallow my pride and acknowledge that Jesus was not as tee-totaling as myself, and that he may not have shared my negative bias toward alcoholic beverage.
Psalm 104 is a deeply inspiring hymn to the Creator, praising Him for the wonder of His innumerable works. And right there in v.15, the Psalmist praises the LORD for bringing forth wine, “to gladden the human heart.” In the Bible, wine stands as a versatile symbol, and it is sometimes used as a symbol of joy. Whether or not wine brings joy is beyond the scope of my experience, but I do know that Jesus liked to spread the joy. And, as long as folks weren’t trying to attain joy at the expense of someone else’s joy, Jesus himself was a joyful person.
On my refrigerator, I have a picture of The Laughing Jesus. The expression on his face reveals a deeply seated joy that has spontaneously sprung to the surface . . . a joy that employs the entire face in an urgent attempt to express itself. Jesus was full of joy. It was a joy that was rooted in his knowledge of the Father. He had submerged himself in his Father’s kindness, and he had come up laughing. Joy filled him to the point of overflowing, and spilled onto everyone who came close to him—unless they were allergic. So I guess it wasn’t about preventing dysentery any more than it was about advocating public drunkenness. It was about what it is always about; Jesus manifesting himself as God’s Spirit-filled emissary, come to save us from sin and from sadness.
Giver of Life and Light, make us radiant with joy. Heal us at the root, so that we can celebrate from the depths of our being.
- When was the last time that you felt the medicinal effects of laughter?
- Does your understanding of the Gospel give you freedom to celebrate?