We are all a product of our upbringing – good, bad, or otherwise. Sometimes that upbringing shapes who we’ve become, and sometimes it’s just a shadow of whom we are no longer.
I grew up under the teachings of the Baptist Faith and Message in a quasi fringe Southern Baptist church. Meaning we played cards, even though it is often considered a sin, and eventually we could wear jeans and flip flops to church (because, after all, God had just recently seen us in the shower. So for whom are we really getting all dressed up?)
In my experience, two things are extremely certain of Southern Baptists as a whole: they love Jesus dearly, and they love rules and traditions almost just as much. Many a devoted Southern Baptist (and I’m sure this fits those of other denominations as well) is also a die-hard legalist. I used to be a card-carrying member of this tribe. And I don’t mean to bash the Southern Baptists at all, for it is among them that Jesus found me. But I do wish I’d heard a little more freedom and grace.
Number one rule of being a Baptist that you must at least pretend to agree with: consuming alcohol is a sin. Period. (Imagine my confusion with the fact that, growing up, my father worked for Anheuser-Busch – the King of Beers.)
So, no alcohol. Got it. I can certainly obey that rule.
Enter: Jesus and the wedding at Cana. Jesus’ first miracle. It always seemed like a conflict of interest to this good little Baptist girl who *knew* drinking wine was wrong. Perhaps, Jesus made a mistake? I mean, we should probably cut Him some slack. After all, it was His first miracle (that we are aware of.) He was just getting started in His ministry and surely would follow our ideologies better as He goes along.
*Cough, cough* Pharisee *Cough, cough.*
John (2:1-11) records that this wedding took place “on the third day.” So, naturally, we should ask: on the third after what? As it “so happens” this wedding took place on the third day after Jesus was baptized by John. Hold on to that.
The Jewish people had certain washing rituals that were required for purification before eating. Many things in Jewish culture were considered unclean therefore the people saw it necessary to purify themselves so what went into their bodies would not make them unclean. (Jesus counters this line of thinking in Mark 7:14-23.)
So it is no surprise that at this wedding feast they would have had jars for this specific purification ritual. And while they may have been conveniently on hand for Jesus to use for His water-to-wine trick, I believe He was making a profound statement that no one would understand until later. Almost exactly three years later, He would use wine at the Last Supper as a symbol of His blood poured out for us. The sign of the new covenant. Our purification. He took what they used for their attempt to purify themselves, and filled it with the symbol of His blood – the only thing that truly purifies.
Are you following this? So three days after Jesus symbolically died, was buried, and was raised through the obedient act of baptism, He starts His ministry at a wedding (which is also how He will end all things. Revelation 19:6-8), and replaces their version of purification with the symbolic representation of His blood! My mind is blown by all the symbolism in this first miracle!
This coming Thursday, many churches will celebrate what is known as “Maundy Thursday” or “Holy Thursday.” It is the day before Good Friday and is when Jesus observed Passover with His disciples. At this Passover meal, also known as the “Last Supper,” Jesus takes bread and breaks it as a symbol of His soon-to-be broken body, and passes the chalice of wine as a symbol of His blood that would soon be poured out. The blood of the new covenant poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:26-29)
Dear friends, this week, this Holy week, eat the bread, drink the wine, and be truly purified by the only One who is able to make you completely clean.
And a side note, for those of you still wondering about the legitimacy of my claim that drinking alcohol is not a sin: John 2:10 says, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” It seems to me that Jesus made wine for people who had already had plenty to drink, or “drunk freely” as it says. (Though I won’t specifically tell you they were drunk – you can interpret as the Spirit leads.) If drinking were really a sin, surely He would have shown up on scene earlier and instead made the wine into water, don’t you think? But He didn’t. He not only made wine, but He made the best wine! I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to be poured of glass of that!
And Happy Easter! He is risen indeed!