I grew up Tee-Total, but since Jesus knew a thing or two about it, I reckon we should dig into his wisdom. 

At the beginning of John (Chapter 2:1-11) we find Jesus, his Mum Mary and his disciples at a wedding party in a place called Cana. On the third day (these parties were l  o  n  g ), the wine ran out. This risked huge disgrace to the 1st Century Jewish hosts – the bride’s family. With no Lidl or Aldi in sight, Mary finds her son Jesus and pleads with him says something along the lines of ‘the wine’s run out – I don’t suppose you could do something?!’

Jesus responds by asking some folk to pour water into six nearby 20-30-gallon water-jars until they are full to the brim. These jars would normally have been used for ritual washing to cleanse people from sin. Jesus gets someone to draw a little from a now full jar and take it to the master of the feast to taste. On sipping it, the master is confused and he calls over the bridegroom saying something like….

‘everyone serves the good wine first and when people have had a bit, they bring out the plonk – no one notices, but you, you’ve kept the best until now. What’s that about?’

Even I know that vintage wine is usually thought better than fresh brew, but with Jesus, the new wine is best – Jesus never has done things the usual way!  

We often talk about this story as if it were a miracle, and it is, but it’s so much more – essentially it is a prophetic act – a sign of things to come; a sign ‘through which he revealed his glory.’ John 2:11

In our personal lives and in our church lives, perhaps the ‘OK wine’ is just about flowing. But is that really enough? Why not plead with Jesus to just ‘do something’ because the wine he offers is so, so much better! Ask the Lord to release heavens’ wisdom and resources into your situation. Perhaps pause and do so now….or maybe get some friends together and plead your case!

Certainly, as I go about our region and beyond, I sense that people are feeling spiritually dehydrated. Sadly, it’s often only when we completely run out of our own resources, that we are finally desperate enough to run into the richness of God’s resources! Yet, our outrageously generous God has more than enough not just for us and our congregations, but for many extra unexpected guests…..folk from our communities, our region and beyond that need his blessing!

Let’s look at another Scripture also about wine.

Jesus says ‘No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out, and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved. Matthew 9:16-17

In Jesus’ day, wine was stored in animal skins, often goatskins. As wine ferments, it expands and does this thing called bibbling, where the fermenting wine pops out little plumes of gas.

When new wine is put into a new wineskin, the bibbling stretches the wineskin. But if new wine is put into an old wineskin, the skin is unable to stretch because it has already been stretched to the max. Bibbling new wine in an old wineskin will make it tear or explode.

Jesus is saying here that the ways of his Kingdom won’t fit into the old container of the Jewish law or the existing frameworks of the Temple…. because they’ve already been stretched to the max. He is bringing something new….

Something that will fulfil Jewish Law; that will fulfil all the functions of the Temple. Something; someone that cannot be contained, not even in a grave…………Jesus! He rose again…on the third day. The same day that John tells us Jesus turned the water into wine – a further hint that John 2 is not just a wonderful miracle… but a foretaste of greater things to come.

…when he would rise from the dead proving that he could be contained; when he would demonstrate his power over the worst that sin, death and evil could throw at him. When the curtain in the Temple will be torn in two – so that all that had been found in the law and in the Temple – with its’ complex rules and sacrifices could now be found in and through the person of Jesus.

Forgiveness, cleansing, reconciliation, peace, wholeness, salvation – all these and more can be found in Jesus. New wine indeed, but the very best…the wine of the Kingdom of God – the Holy Spirit!

There is no further need for ritual cleansing from a water-jar. Forgiveness and cleansing are found only through Jesus and are marked by believers’ baptism in water – the most awesome sign of God’s inbreaking Kingdom into a person’s life and a powerful witness to those around! If you haven’t been baptised as a believer, why not have a chat with someone about it today?

What might happen if every believer in our churches became full to the brim with this new wine until God’s Spirit simply spilt out… all over the place – wherever our people are – families, workplaces, schools, shops, gyms, clubs, villages, towns, cities etc…?

There’s a world desperately in need of the wine of the Kingdom; desperately in need of hope, healing, reconciliation, restoration, peace, justice and salvation and we, his people/his church are called to be the vessels to both receive it and pour it out. Will we dare to be the people and the church that God is calling us to be and to join with Him as he fulfils his purposes in and through us?

Soften our hearts, Lord. Do major heart surgery if needed! 

If you feel parched and thirsty and want the Holy Spirit to be poured into your life afresh as God’s people, I’d love to have a chat – we can encourage one another! Whilst I certainly can’t promise revival or renewal, I’d love to get a diary date so that together we can get the church talking and thinking about ‘preparing the ground’, radical discipleship and the Holy Spirit’s transforming power.

I can offer a 60-minute interactive ‘Thirsty’ seminar. In this we look at some of the things Jesus said about the Holy Spirit and how that might shape us as whole-life missionary disciples. Typically, this would work as part of a longer evening or morning alongside sung worship and prayer or could form part of an away day.

Also, I have a number of ‘Thirsty’ preaches. If these fit in with your preaching plan, I’d be happy to have a chat and see if I can encourage you as you explore being ‘thirsty for more of Jesus!’ 

Lindsay Caplen

Lindsay works for the West of England Baptist Association, pastorally supporting and equipping churches and ministers and developing missional networks in the region. She also works for the Church Team (formerly ‘Imagine’) at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.