The Story that Doesn’t Belong in the Bible

There is much too much wine happening.
alcohol barrel basement beer

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.

John 2:1-12

So this is a story that feels like, I don’t know, they maybe shouldn’t have allowed it to be in the Bible? At least, I don’t think it was a great idea. Sure, no one actually asked me what I think should and shouldn’t be in the Bible, but if I had been on the Bible selection committee, I would have said, with all due respect to St. John the Evangelist, “Excuse me, but if we leave this story in here, people will get the wrong idea.”

Now, hear me out. Everyone knows that the best way to live is moderately. Respectably. That is what good Christians do. In fact, that is how we know we’re good Christians. We do not do things that would seem shocking or scandalous. We come to church on Sunday, we keep our lawns neatly trimmed, we drive reliable but not ostentatious cars, we vote in our local elections, and we take care to recycle when it’s reasonable to do so.

We don’t throw a lot of parties. When we do have parties, they are very polite parties. We don’t keep the neighbors up with loud music at all hours of the night. We don’t distract them with strobe lights. Sure, we might have a glass of wine—two at the very most—but we absolutely don’t fall over ourselves drunk and make a scene in public.

No no, we are good Christians, and good Christians do not do these kinds of things. And yet, this story almost makes it seem like maybe Christians aren’t as reasonable and responsible as we are obviously supposed to be? There’s much too much wine happening, and it turns into this whole situation that we absolutely wouldn’t want to be associated with.

And so, I rest my case. It’s clear that this story should never have been allowed in the Bible.

Right?

Okay, I see some of you aren’t convinced. That’s fine. We can be reasonable together. Let’s talk more about it, maybe I can get you to come over to my side.

You see, here in this story we have several examples of Jesus doing things Christians are not supposed to do, which is very confusing because we are supposed to follow Jesus by definition. But to make my point clear, allow me to show you all the places where Jesus does not behave very Christianly.

First, Jesus is a person who clearly has tremendous power. He is the Son of God, after all; the prologue in the Gospel of John calls him the Word Made Flesh. Also in the Gospel of John he performs many signs and wonders to demonstrate that He is God’s Chosen Son. Now, we know from Spiderman this simple truth: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Of course, that’s not actually in the Bible, but again, maybe someone should have thought to put it there. Anyway, how responsible is it really for the Son of God to use his great powers to make wine?

Second, the ancient Greek poet Hesiod said something else that isn’t actually in the Bible but that we all know we are supposed to believe: “Moderation in all things is best.” And here, the text tells us that there were six stone water jars, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. So he took all of that water and turned it into wine. Let me do the math for you. THAT’S AS MUCH AS 180 GALLONS OF WINE, THE EQUIVALENT OF 900 BOTTLES.

In case you missed that, let me say it again: Jesus took 180 GALLONS of water and turned it into 180 GALLONS of wine, which is the equivalent of 900 BOTTLES OF WINE.

WHAT IS ANYONE GOING TO DO WITH 900 BOTTLES OF WINE! That is a ridiculous amount of wine! That is NOT moderation, that is the opposite of moderation!

Which brings me to the next point: it’s wasteful. We all know this little proverb, which, again is not in the Bible, but still: “Waste not, want not.” Wedding notwithstanding, no normal household would be able to consume 900 bottles of wine in a reasonable amount of time! So what are they going to do with rest of it? Are they going to throw it out? Do they not know we are not supposed to throw things out? There are starving children in China, for heaven’s sake! And now Jesus is putting this family in a position where they’ll be forced to throw away 900 bottles of wine? Also I don’t know what the sanitation department in ancient Galilee was like but you have to think 180 gallons of wine couldn’t be tossed just anywhere!

But it gets worse, friends! It gets even worse. Maybe you missed this part, but what was the purpose of the stone jars that held the water that Jesus turned into wine? They were for the Jewish rites of purification. This means they were important symbolically and religiously! You couldn’t wash yourself in wine according to ancient Jewish custom, it had to be water! And Jesus took the water for religious washing and said, “Oops! It’s wine now.” That would be like putting wine in the baptismal font! There’s not a Bible verse saying wine isn’t allowed in the baptismal font, but that’s only because no one would ever imagine someone thinking it’s okay! I mean, come on, people! Common sense! Is this story trying to tell us that Jesus wasn’t very religious??

And one more thing. Apparently this wine was super good. So good that when the steward tasted it, he went to the bridegroom and said (okay, paraphrasing again), “What the heck? Usually the good wine gets served first, and then you keep the bad stuff until after everyone’s drunk already. But you’ve saved the good wine for last!” Which, like, a) if everyone is already drunk should Jesus really be encouraging them to drink more wine; and b) isn’t it a shame that no one will be able to really appreciate it? You would think Jesus would be more careful about who he gives his gifts to, and it should only be people who can really understand and appreciate what he is doing, not just a random group of drunk people at a wedding.

So I hope you can see, taking all this together, why this story should not be in the Bible. It’s actually very dangerous.

You might begin to think, upon reading it, that God isn’t very efficient or responsible. You might even get the idea that there are times when God doesn’t agree that there must be moderation in all things! You might start believing there are times when God wants not just immoderation but full-on excess! Superfluousness! Gratuitousness! Unnecessarily extravagant abundance!

We’re good Christians! We can’t have that! How will we know who is good and who is bad if we start operating out of a spirit of extravagant, unnecessary abundance? How will we keep our status as good religious folk if we don’t observe our traditions to a T? How will we save up enough resources to, I don’t know, have them, if we start giving out the equivalent of 900 bottles of wine to people willy-nilly? You get some wine, and you get some wine, and you get some wine—we are not Oprah, people!

No, if we start thinking this way, we are going down a very slippery slope.

We might just start overflowing with forgiveness for someone who didn’t even apologize and surely doesn’t deserve it.

We might start giving the coats off our backs to those in need.

We might start telling random people who get drunk at weddings that we want to know and love them.

We might start throwing caution to the wind. We might start being as unreasonably excessive in our welcome, our hospitality, our care, our enthusiasm, our fun, our joy, our love, as bringing a literal truckload of wine to the next party we attend.

Surely it’s not rational to have a story like this in the Bible.

We couldn’t possibly believe in a God of such absurd, over-the-top, no-holds-barred, extravagant grace.

Could we?

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