The Wedding Scandal: Jesus Insults the Religious

wedding at canaIt’s always a treat when someone points out something new (at least for me) in scriptures. Bruxy Cavey, in his excellent book “The End of Religion” talks about the scandal contained within the story of Jesus’ first miracle. This is something that had never occurred to me before. See if you can pick it out.

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.”

“Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied, “My time 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.[a]

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 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.”

This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.

(John 2:1-11)

Do you see it? If the wedding had run dry then we can assume that there must have been a number of empty wine vessels available. Yet rather than refilling the jars and jugs of wine, Jesus deliberately chose the sacred jars that religious people used for ceremonial hand washing. In performing his first recorded miracle Jesus intentionally desecrates a religious icon. This is hardly something that would go unnoticed at the time; obviously John felt it was significant. But significant of what?

As Cavey simply puts it: “He (Jesus) purposely chooses these sacred jars to challenge the religious system by converting them from icons of personal purification into symbols of relational celebration. Jesus takes us from holy water to wedding wine. From legalism to life. From religion to relationship.”

At least at that particular time Jesus felt that what was needed was more wine and less religion. Why would he feel any differently today?


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  1. #1 by Steve on February 29, 2008 - 11:30 am

    Wow, great catch. It’s interesting to count the number of times Christ unloads on the religious system of the day. Cavey’s point is well taken – it’s not about religion, it’s about the relationship.

  2. #2 by ric booth on March 3, 2008 - 12:02 pm

    I’ve also heard/read that the use of the vessels used for cleansing as a foreshadowing of Jesus shed blood. That is, the wine, representing His “interior-life-cleansing” blood, replacing the ceremonial-human-centered exterior cleansing. I don’t remember the reference but that discussion saw John as highlighting Jesus’ miracles that appear to be pointing to the cross.

  3. #3 by Christian on March 3, 2008 - 12:43 pm

    Good point. I’ve heard that as well. It’s amazing how, throughout his ministry, Jesus tends to construct real life, real time metaphors. And like all good metaphors they evoke deeper and longer lasting understanding than just coming out with black and white statements about life.

  4. #4 by Owen on March 20, 2008 - 6:56 pm

    I just finished reading Cavey’s book and I must say it opened my eyes to Jesus deliberateness of challenging the religious system. Jesus knew what He was doing. As Cavey states repeatedly Jesus purpose was to put an end to religion and have people enjoy a relationship with God.

  5. #5 by Rose Marie Doyle on November 4, 2008 - 9:23 pm

    Just want to know if the picture of Jesus changing water into wine is available for use on a powerpoint in a course for High school students on the scriptures?

    Can you grant permission for its use? Or can you lead me to the proper place?

    Thanks so much!
    Rosy Doyle

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