For years the story of Jesus’ first miracle (turning water into wine) bewildered me, and even confused me. The scriptures clearly say that the people already had too much to drink, and at that point Jesus gave them more wine. Later on in the Book it says, “Do not be drunk on wine but be filled by the Spirit”, so the fact that Jesus seemed to be doing the exact opposite was befuddling because it seemed like Jesus is advocating (even encouraging) drunkenness.
Can you relate?
Lately though, this passage has started to make sense. Instead of explaining it away by saying that the wine was actually not alcoholic, or by shrugging theologically and shelving it, I went to God wanting to know what deep reality He was communicating about Himself. I actually don’t think this passage has much to do with alcohol at all. Instead, I am convinced this situation reveals a beautifully blissful aspect of the nature of God.
I have typically thought of God as extremely careful. Tentative. Not the risk-taking type. Concerned that everyone is doing exactly what they should be. Micro-managing. Never misses a detail. Borderline OCD. The guy that you trust to do your taxes. The friend that sees how crazy/ungodly the party is inside and promptly leaves…and definitely not the guy that THROWS the party.
But the story of creation reveals a different picture of God. He IS a risk taker. He is the One starting the party. He was willing to take the risk and create man even though man would inevitably fall. He trusted us. He put His heart on the line and we completely botched it. So then why did God create man when He knew that man would make a huge mess out of the whole thing? I am convinced that God values celebration so much that any mess that the party produces will not cause Him to call the whole thing off. Sorry Fred Astaire; when it comes to God, He sees the party through to the end. God desires our hearts being full of celebration and happiness in what He has given us more than canceling the party over the few that decide to lose control, hit on the married women, and throw up all over the dance floor as they are cutting the cake. He is a God that always gives us opportunities to prove Him right in trusting us with the freedoms He gives us. He takes that risk. And many take advantage of it. But He let the wine flow nonetheless.
I am not alluding to God being okay with sin, but He isn’t sitting up in Heaven nibbling on his fingernails and worried about it either. He took care of sin 2,000 years ago. Sin has been defeated. Sin doesn’t and never did determine if God was going to throw a party or not. He is the First and Last Celebrator. The Alpha and Omega. The Original MC. The Fountain of Everlasting Joy. The Drink that makes your thirst for anything else cease.
What is so bewildering about this passage for me has now shifted. Instead of trying to reconcile the fact that Jesus gave more wine to already blitzed out wedding-goers, I now get to joyfully grasp this reality: That God is such a holy hedonist that He doesn’t let people’s mistakes ruin the party for everybody. That His priority really is joy. He lets people choose how they want to live their lives. They either honor Him in their celebration, or they don’t. To Him, people’s bad choices are overshadowed by the greater reality of joy. The limitless worship. The songs of happiness sung. The “every tear will be wiped away”. The bliss of His closeness.
Christ’s first miracle shows us that God values joy and celebration even though some people will abuse it. God will not abstain from the fun so that the minority doesn’t make a mistake. The lure of just a few in celebration and worship is enough for Him to crank the music and get the party started. In Christ’s turning the water into wine He was advocating celebration, not drunkenness. If some interpret Christ’s invitation to celebration as advocating drunkenness, that is on them. The Pharisees surely saw it that way, but those that partied with Him knew that the flowing booze, while not the focus, was a sign that pointed to a Wonder. Namely, that God is a God of celebration. He has always, does, and will always prioritize joy over fear.