I got an email recently that was lengthy, kind of preachy, and quite predictable in its ending.
Apparently, the amount of love I have for God is linked directly to how many people I forward that email to. The email was also broadly accusational toward anyone who would not forward the email to their entire email address book, because not doing so meant I was ashamed of being a follower of God. The author of said email pulled out the tried and true Bible verse I like to call the “uzi of guilt”… “But if anyone denies me before men, I will also deny him before my Father in heaven.” (Matt. 10:33) Really? Are we going to stretch out the definition of fervency for God to include how many people I forward an email to? Really? I can see myself standing before the God of the Universe as He says, “Yes, Jerry, I know you believe that I sent my Son to pay the price for your sin. I know I said I forgive you. I know that you spent your life loving people and serving Me…but it comes down to this: Remember that email you got in April of 2008? How many people did you forward that email to? Was it your whole address book? No? Well, I’m afraid that you’ve damned yourself to eternal hell. Next time you’d better think before deleting.”
I’d be more offended if I wasn’t so busy laughing. But it got me thinking. And its about time, too. If you only gauged that by my blog entries, you’d think I haven’t done that in over a month.
Last night, I sat in a Taco Bell with 8 high school students around a couple of tables and talked. At first, it was just catching up with each other and talking about life. But then we turned our attention to John 2:1-11. Look it up and read it if you want to. It’s here.
It was a wedding at Cana. And Jesus was just Jesus as far as anybody really knew. He was Jesus like Bob was Bob, and Stephanie was Stephanie; nothing really setting him apart was special. Sure, he had called disciples; but that’s what Rabbis did. The weirdest thing that had happened up to that point in Jesus’ life was that a voice was heard from heaven at his baptism; the voice of God saying that He was (and is) pleased with Jesus. Other than that (if you can overlook it), nothing peculiar. No walking on water. No waking up dead people. No 5 loaves, 2 fish, and 5,000 men to feed. Just Jesus.
So, it’s no wonder that Jesus for the first time recorded in Scripture says “No” to His mom. Jesus was at this wedding party (and parties then are not like parties today. They pale in comparison). And as often happened…the wine ran out.
Now, I’m not too shy to stop right here and point out something that probably most followers of Christ and even “church-goers” have long wrestled with…what’s Jesus doing with a glass of wine in his hand?!? I mean, c’mon Jesus…you’re making us churchy people uncomfortable! Put that wine down! Did Jesus really drink wine? I mean WINE?!? You know…WINE!?!
I don’t want to take the time to get into the argument of “was it wine or grape juice?” I’ll just leave it at the fact that my understanding of the Bible, Jewish culture, and exposition leaves me with no other choice than to accept that this drink was in fact wine, which is the fermented grape juice, and therefore containing alcohol, and so consequently having the power to allow people to be drunk. Yep, that kind of wine. (After all, if John had meant grape juice, wouldn’t he have described it as “grape juice”?)
So, the wine runs out early–too early. The party’s wasn’t over (is it ever?) and the wine was gone. So Jesus’ mom comes to Him since she knows who He is and the power He has. I love the fact that Mary calls on Jesus’ power not for the purpose of healing a sick person or casting out a demon, but because the booze was gone. To me, that’s just hilarious.
But Jesus initially says “No” to His mom’s request. Actually, it was worded, “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” He probably used that line when she complained about a mess in his bedroom at home.
Mary: “Jesus, you need to pick up that room before you go outside to play!”
Jesus: “Dear woman, why do you involve me?”
And it wasn’t that Jesus didn’t care about the wine situation. It’s that He knew what time it was and what time is wasn’t. And then, something weird happened. His mom trumped him with the Mom Card. Even after Jesus clearly states that his time is not yet come, that is, that he is not ready for his “close-up”; not ready to be revealed as who He is, Mary ignores him. She turned to the servants (putting Jesus on the spot), and said, “Do whatever he tells you to do.”
So, a few minutes go by and 6 servants carry about 150 gallons of wine back to the party.
Yep, I typed that right: 150 GALLONS. Not a couple more bottles, not a case, but 150 gallons. Not only that, but when the master of the party tasted the wine he questioned the groom as to why in the world would he save the good stuff til later? Every self-respecting party-goer knows that you put the good stuff out first! I mean, it only makes sense–let the partiers get drunk on the best stuff, and then bring out the cheap stuff when nobody knows or cares about the difference. I mean, duh.
But this account of Jesus’ first miracle wraps up with a peculiar distinction. It was well before the wedding in Cana that Jesus had called His disciples. So, they were already following him and most likely right there with him at the wedding feast. They were disciples only in the sense of following, but look what happened after the party: “He thus revealed his glory, and the disciples put their faith in him.” (John 2:11)
Is it possible to follow Christ without putting your faith in Him? Is it possible that thousands, even tens of thousands, even millions of “followers” have yet to put their faith in Jesus? Is it possible that there are church buildings filled every week with followers who remain faithless?