On the fourth day of Master Simeon’s wedding feast, the wine ran out. We’d seen it coming, of course. The day before, my brother Jehu had hurried back to the kitchen with an empty wine jug in his hand, his forehead creased with worry. He rushed over to count the remaining wine skins and then silently beckoned me over.
“We’re not going to have enough,” he whispered.
“What do you mean?” I stared dumbly at the supply of wine. “We had plenty, didn’t we?”
“We had plenty, yes. But look at how many guests have arrived. And they’re in no hurry to leave!”
“What are we going to do?” As overseer of the household, Jehu would know, wouldn’t he?
“All we can do is start watering down the wine,” he said grimly. “Tell the others. But not a word of this must reach the guest’s ears. Imagine the shame.”
The watered down wine lasted another day. Jehu managed to buy a few more wineskins from a neighbouring village, but by the time we had poured out the last drop, Master Simeon’s father stood wringing his hands in despair in the kitchen, his wife crying silently by his side. One of the guests had an arm around her. We all knew that it was just a matter of time before the news would spread. The guests would leave, the feasting would come to an abrupt end, and the family would never live down the shame of this day, when they were unable to provide for their visitors’ needs.
The guest left the kitchen, probably relishing in her role as bearer of scandalous news, but I heard her voice as she returned a little while later.
“They have no more wine.”
Typical gossip-monger, I thought, but as she drew near me I could see the concern on her face. The man following her was a young Rabbi. I had noticed him before, because—unlike the other Rabbis who spent most of their time in a solemn huddle—he had been talking and laughing with his disciples and guests. He had even smiled at me when I filled his cup.
“Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come.” His reprimand was gentle and the woman merely smiled.
“Do whatever he tells you,” she said, looking straight at me.
I followed the man’s gaze to the six large stone water jars standing against the wall.
“Fill them with water,” he said.
I caught Jehu’s sceptical glance before my eyes met the woman’s gaze. She nodded firmly. I was used to following instructions and this man’s voice held an authority that made me want to obey.
I was the first to move. “Let’s do it, everyone!”
In and out we ran, the clear water sloshing from the small carrier jugs into the much larger water jars. There was a general murmur of discontent among the servants, but I felt a strange sense of anticipation to see what the Rabbi was planning.
When the jars were finally filled to the brim, the Rabbi pointed to me.
“Come,” he said, holding out a cup. “Draw some out and take it to the Master of the Banquet.”
I dipped the cup into the water. Jehu was shaking his head in disbelief; I almost expected him to object as I left the kitchen.
“Sir,” I said as the Banquet Master looked up. “Would you care to taste this?”
My hand shook as he took the cup and lifted it to his lips. A look of surprise passed over his face, and then he laughed heartily.
“Simeon, everyone brings out the best wine first and then the cheap wine when all are drunk. But you have saved the best till now.” He slapped Master Simeon on the back, and a loud cheer rippled through the crowd as Jehu and the others bustled out with the wine jugs.
For a moment I stood rooted to the spot in the midst of the whirl of activity. I tried to make sense of what had just happened. Water had gone into the jars, of that I was sure. But wine had come out of them. What…? How…? When…?
An arm around my shoulder drew me from my confused thoughts. It was the Rabbi, a conspiratorial smile on his face. And suddenly I knew the real question was “Who?” Who was this man capable of changing water into wine?
Over the next three years, Jehu and I heard many stories of the Rabbi. Miracles. Healings. Even an account of a man called from his grave. Jehu scoffed and called the stories lies, even when I reminded him of the wine. The day of the wine was nothing more than a trick, he said. The Banquet Master was merely acting along. It was water after all. Rabbi Jesus was a mere man seeking out attention.
But when I thought back of those eyes so full of laughter, of strength and authority, I knew Jehu was wrong. I believed what some were whispering: – Jesus was not a mere man; He was the Messiah, the Son of God.
My friend Ingrid once said to me: “I wonder what the servants at the Wedding Feast in Cana thought when Jesus turned water into wine?” In writing this account I tried to bring out two possible responses. Ultimately there are only two responses to Jesus: – belief or unbelief. Throughout the Gospel accounts, we see people taking these two paths. On the one hand there were those–like the servant in this story–who believed. On the other, there were those–like his brother Jehu–who didn’t:
“Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in Him.” (John 12:37)
To this day, there are still only two choices open to us: Believe that Jesus is who He claims to be—the Son of God, who died on the cross for our sins—or don’t believe.
It’s a vital choice and each one of us must make it.
The account of Jesus changing water into wine is found in John 2:1-11