Have you ever been at a nice, or even reasonably nice, restaurant, and wanting to enjoy a glass of wine with your meal – perhaps a bottle to share with your guests – you are handed very politely by your hostess or server the dreaded and intimidating Wine List? Your palms go clammy and perspiration forms on your brow as you are confronted with an unrecognizable and seemingly endless variety of options. Nobody else wants the job, but everybody eagerly awaits your decision, but you’re no real connoisseur and you just don’t know where to start.
Here’s a tip that I picked up along the way: after deciding between red and white, choose the second least expensive bottle. Not the cheapest, but the one that costs two or three bucks more than the cheapest. If there is a tie for second, pick the varietal that is least familiar to you – you’ll almost certainly be pleasantly surprised. I’m told that a good wine steward will typically place a very suitable selection in that position on their list. And I’ve found this to be true. Try it the next time everybody treats the little wine list folder like it’s radioactive, and see if they don’t marvel at your oenophilic capabilities.
Do you know a guy who never had to worry about this? That’s right, Jesus. (You were wondering where this was going, weren’t you?) When he was asked to pick the wine, he just took some water and made the best that had ever been served. And if you’re a biblical trivialist – though this may not be trivial – you’ll know that turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana (John 2) is the first miracle performed by Jesus recorded in the Gospels. Interesting. I mean, it seems almost like a parlor trick compared to giving eyesight to the blind, or telling a paralytic to rise and pick up his mat, or raising the dead for crying out loud. Not exactly “announcing his presence with authority”. (Check in if you know that movie reference.)
But we know better. Everything Jesus did was intentional. And everything the Holy Spirit insured was recorded in the Gospel accounts is intentional. So if this is Jesus’ first miracle, we once again must have stumbled across something important. And I think his first miracle is precisely so, because it is a perfect bookend to his last.
In John’s account, notice to whom the chief steward is talking to when he declares “You have saved the best wine until now”. The bridegroom. Little “b” bridegroom. Now this particular bridegroom is otherwise anonymous and dare I say, inconsequential. But the big “B” Bridegroom of the church is of course, Jesus. And Jesus saves his best wine for last, in the cup of salvation that we share at the Lord’s Supper.
And the reason the wine in this cup is the best, regardless of what they pour in the communion cup(s) at your local congregation, is because it replaces the cup of God’s wrath. Listen to this from Psalm 75:8 – “For in the hand of the Lord this is a cup, and the wine is red; it is fully mixed, and He pours it out; surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth drain and drink down.” Chain reference that and you’ll find Jeremiah 25:15-16 – “For thus says the Lord God of Israel to me: ‘Take this wine cup of fury from My hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send you, to drink it. And they will drink and stagger and go mad because of the sword that I will send among them.’” (Both NKJV translations – when it comes to God’s wrath, nothing beats King James language.)
That’s the cup we deserve – frothy, sour, full of dregs, making us stagger, stumble and lose our sanity – the cup of God’s Wrath. And just as Jesus turned water into wine to introduce his miraculous power, he turns fury into forgiveness to conclude it. When we partake of this cup, we trade our wickedness for His righteousness. And that, my friends, is no parlor trick.