Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. – John 2:6 NKJV
I’ve read those words countless times over the years.
But as the man sitting across from me in the circle read them aloud, I felt a lightning bolt pierce my soul.
The word that struck me with full force was “purification”.
This verse is taken from the passage in the book of John which describes the first miracle of Jesus at a wedding in Cana.
Many people have pondered throughout the ages the whys and wherefores of this act.
Why did Jesus acquiesce to his mother’s request even though according to his own words, “My hour has not yet come.”?
And perhaps more perplexing is this: Why was Jesus’ first miracle providing alcohol at a party? Why didn’t he do something more meaningful such as a healing miracle?
Why was Jesus’ first miracle providing alcohol at a party? Why didn’t he do something more meaningful such as a healing miracle?
This first miracle has stumped us for so long because we can’t seem to make any sense of it. Many of us have grown up in the church having been taught that alcohol is something evil and must be avoided. If that’s true, why did Jesus go to the trouble to make more of it?
Back to that Tuesday night prayer meeting though…
The new question on my mind was, What was the significance of using water that was meant for ritual purification?
What was the significance of using water that was meant for ritual purification?
As that word “purification” echoed through my soul like a bell, I realized for the first time that the point of Jesus’ first miracle was not to help a bunch of people at a party get drunk.
My best friend is Jewish. Before making aliyah some years ago, I stayed at her house many times. She had cups at the sink that were meant for ritual washing of the hands. I naively asked her one time why we didn’t use soap.
She politely explained that the washing was a spiritual one and not a physical one. I still remember switching the cup from one hand to the other as I poured the water over my hands.
Back to that prayer meeting…
My imagination took me to the image of that wedding in Cana.
I began to visualize those six water pots of stone.
That was a lot of water.
I began to imagine what it would have been like for the host of that party if he had found out that someone had essentially obliterated all of the water he had for purification.
Did you get that? Did you get what Jesus really did that night?
He took all of the water that was originally intended to be used for purification and turned it into wine.
Once he turned the water into wine, it became new wine.
What are we supposed to do with new wine?
What are we supposed to do with new wine?
Luke 5:37-39 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. 39 And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’” NKJV [emphasis mine]
The purification water represented religion and the law. Jesus turned this purification water into new wine.
What happened to the new wine? The people at the wedding party drank it. They didn’t wash their hands with it.
It is interesting to me that the new wine that Jesus has for us does not cleanse us superficially but goes deep down inside of us.
The new wine that Jesus has for us does not cleanse us superficially but goes deep down inside of us.
It is also interesting to me that at the last supper with his disciples, Jesus said that the wine represented his blood poured out for us.
Also see: John 6:54: Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
The passage in Luke 5 above says that Jesus needs new wineskins to pour new wine into.
We must be transformed if we are to receive the gift that he has for us. Just as Lazarus had to throw the old grave clothes off to emerge from the dead, so we must put on new wineskins.
We must be transformed if we are to receive the gift that Jesus has for us.
But this is not always easy.
Notice verse 39: And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’”
As long as we continue drinking the old wine (religion), we will have no desire for the new wine.
However, without new wine we cannot change.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, clothe me with new wineskins that I may be prepared to receive the gift of new wine. Pour into me that new wine that cleanses from within. Amen.
[Image courtesy: By Maerten de Vos – Ophelia2, Public Domain