Friday, November 6, 2009

Changing Water Into Whine

There were several dark times in United States history. Ironically, one of the darkest chapters sprang from an attempt at a higher righteousness. On October 28, 1919, the 18th amendment to the US constitution was ratified to prohibit the manufacture, sale, or transport of alcohol. Until repealed by the 21st amendment in December 5, 1933, American mafia groups stepped up the illegally fill the demand for alcohol, greatly expanding their power at the cost of government corruption and the loss of many lives.

The Prohibition had been driven mainly by conservative Protestant denominations; especially the Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Disciples of Christ, Congregationalists, Scandinavian Lutherans, and Quakers. It seems that they had forgotten that Jesus' first recorded miracle was turning water into wine.

Just prior to this study, Jesus had just picked up at least somewhere between three and six of the disciples whom would become Apostles. So now it's time for Jesus to begin His miraculous ministry. Or is it? Let's find out.

Changing Water Into Whine
In John 2:1-11 is the peculiar story of how Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding. It starts like this: Jesus and his disciples were invited to attend a wedding in Cana. As the wedding party progressed, they ran out of wine. Jesus' mom, Mary, tells Him that they have run out of wine. Jesus' reaction to His mom is a bit of an enigma, as we see in John 2:4:
"Dear woman, why do you involve Me?" Jesus replied, "My time has not yet come." NIV
Essentially, Jesus whined to His mom for getting Him involved. In the verses which follow, Jesus' mom tells the servants to obey Jesus, Jesus has the servants fill six jars with water, and then Jesus instructs them to serve from the jars, as the water had been turned into wine. There are some interesting implications to explore about this story.

Mary never specifically asks Jesus to do anything. Christian commentators often cite how humble Mary was, letting Jesus decide the appropriate action. However, that's not what is implied in the text. From Jesus' reaction, it is clear that Jesus knew what Mary wanted, and it actually speaks of a familiarity with Jesus' power as God, as if Jesus had done similar miracles while living with His parents. Dinners at Jesus' house must have been really good! And with Mary prompting Jesus to take action in the first place, Mary seems less humble than she seems perhaps mentoring or controlling. Given that Jesus is God and therefore wouldn't need to be mentored, it would seem the latter is the case.

Jesus' reaction yields an impression that He did not expect Mary's request and that He did not want to perform this miracle. Yet Jesus does go on and turn water into wine so that everyone could have a good time at the party. It's some creative insight into how awkward it would have been for Joseph and Mary to be Jesus' earthly parents. After all, Jesus would have been bound by His own law to honor, and thereby submit, to His parents (Exodus 20:12).

It's the last part of Jesus' response which is strangest of all; “My time is not yet come.” Whether this means His time to perform miracles or His time to die is not really clear. The former seems strange because only several days later He performed miracles in Jerusalem (John 2:12-13, John 2:23).

The angle that this references Jesus' time to die is odd for many reasons. It's been suggested that everything Jesus did was supposed to be viewed through the cross, and so that's why this make sense, but that falls short of being a good explanation due to the lack of hesitation to perform other non-cross-related miracles. It's also been suggested that Jesus hesitated performing the miracle at that time because it might have set off the crucification events too early, but that fails too because it suggests that God is not in control and could not orchestrate events as He wills.

Any way you look at it, this act was not going according to God's master Plan. That's an interesting revelation which suggests either God does not really know the future or that there are multiple paths to achieve the same goal.

Adding one more layer of confusion, Mark 1:14-15 says that Jesus was walking around Galilee saying that “the time has come.” This was before Jesus picked up disciples, so it was before this wedding and therefore before Jesus proclaimed that His time had not yet come.

In closing out the story in John 2:10-11, we find that the wine Jesus made was top notch (Wine Spectator would have rated it a 100) and that this was the first miracle Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee, an act which strengthened the faith of His disciples.

You never forget your first time. Unless, of course, your first time never happened. According to Mark 1:23-28 and Luke 4:33-37, the first miracle Jesus performed was casting out a demon in Capernaum. According to Matthew 4:23-24, the first miracles Jesus performed is briefly summarized as healing many of the sick and the demon-possessed people in the region of Galilee (which includes Capernaum). Yet John, so diligent to record the first and second (reference John 4:46-54) miracles Jesus performed in Galilee, skips the early mention of casting out demons. In fact, in the entire Gospel of John, Jesus never casts out a single demon! This discord is just more evidence suggesting that the Gospels are man-made myths.

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