How much wine is needed for a wedding?
For the Wedding at Cana described in John’s gospel, the wedding party had run out of wine and the mother of Jesus asked him to remedy the problem. John reports that Jesus instructed the servants to fill six stone jars with water holding 20 to 30 gallons. He tells them to draw some out and take it to the headwaiter who tells the bridegroom that he has “saved the best [wine] till now.” (John 2:10)
This is Jesus’ first miracle, and how extravagant it is! If we take an average of 25 gallons times six jars, we have 150 gallons of wine. This would be equivalent to 757 bottles or approximately 63 cases.
This story reflects the extravagant love of God in many ways. We begin with Mary, the mother of Jesus, interceding with her son for the first time on behalf of a likely friend to save the friend’s family from the embarrassment of running out of wine at their wedding. My wife and I have hosted weddings for three daughters, and I can certainly relate to how embarrassing it would be to run out of wine or food at a wedding celebration.
God’s response to this need was far more generous than required, both in the quality of the wine and its quantity. This is emblematic of what God has in mind for people who respond to him through his son.
Jesus is the new wine, quite distinct in quality to the old wine offered by the prophets that preceded him. This new wine allows people to experience God in the flesh, up close and in person. This new wine gives new meaning to the Jewish law, teaching and writings. This new wine reveals the power of God over demons, illness, and the physical elements of wind, storm and sea. This new wine demonstrates the love of God for all people by becoming one of us and then enduring torture and death to free us from sin and leading us to a righteous life through the power of the Holy Spirit.
My wife and I have been blessed to experience the extravagance of God’s love and this new wine through the Christian heritage of parents and grandparents, through respective personal encounters with Jesus within a day of each other, and through the presence of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit in the daily action of our lives.
This extravagant love has been manifested through five children, four of whom are now raising Christian families themselves, meaningful work in the care of God’s creation, opportunities in ministry, Christian friends who support us in life and work, and a disabled adult child who teaches us each day about God’s love and ways.
God’s extravagant love and new wine are available to all who are willing to shed the old wine skin – the old way of life accompanied by sin and self-focus. (Mt. 9:17) “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)
We will never be able to match the extravagance of God’s love. We cannot out-give him, out-sacrifice him, or out-love him, but we can return his love and generosity by opening the door of our hearts to his gentle invitation. “Here I am,” he says. “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come and eat with him and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20)