The Life of the Party

In his most recent sermon, my dear friend Pastor Bob talked about John 2:1-11, wherein Jesus changes water into wine. For whatever it’s worth (and it’s certainly not worth what Pastor Bob had to say about it), below is a little something I once wrote about John 2:1-11. It’s an excerpt from my book, I’m Okay, You’re Not: The Message We’re Sending Nonbelievers, And Why We Should Stop, a book I wrote in 2006 about the relationship between Christians and non-Christians.

The miracle of Jesus’ that I just think completely rocks the universe—the one that I can definitely say most often comes to my own little mind—was his full-on, first-shot-out-of-the-box, Debut Miracle: turning water into wine.

And why does that particular miracle mean so much to me? I think the answer’s obvious: because of how often I wish I had wine faucets in my house.

I’m kidding, of course. I wish they were beer faucets. But that’s not the point. The point is that when Jesus first decided to prove that he possessed powers never before seen on this earth, what did he do?

He kicked a party into high gear!

He didn’t turn a gopher into a wooly mammoth. He didn’t make trees run around and turn cartwheels. He didn’t fly around in the sky, leaving Repent! I Am God! written in black smoke behind him.


What he did, figuratively speaking, is pop a little funk on the stereo, and then turn that bad boy up.

He busted out the quality booze at a wedding!

He became nothing less than the all-time, hands down, Ultimate Party Guest.

And his turning water into wine wasn’t just some practice miracle, or anything. It wasn’t the result of Jesus being at a wedding, and thinking, “Shoot—I forgot to bring a gift. I know! I’ll turn these huge barrels of water into wine! Well, maybe not; I’m still not all that good at miracles yet. Yesterday I tried to bring that bird back to life, and all that happened is its feathers fell off. Still, I should be able to handle something as simple as turning water into wine. Water practically is wine. Plus, no one even knows I’m at this party; if the miracle flops, I’ll just shoot back home. They’ll think it was Baal, or Pan, or somebody. And even if the miracle does fail, so what? They’ll probably still have water afterwards. At worst they’ll have grape juice. People love grape juice. As long as I don’t turn the water into sewage water or anything, I should be all right.”


That happened.

What Jesus did that afternoon at that wedding was, to my mind, as powerful a testament to how much he loves people as was his very sacrifice on the cross. I believe that his choosing to make his first miracle turning all that good water into all that good wine says everything any of us will ever need to know about what Jesus wants our attitude to be toward not just fellow believers, but toward virtually everyone.

It’s a pretty safe bet that Jesus fully understands the power of first impressions, don’t you think? He knew blessing that wedding with more wine than any of its guests could drink would be recorded as his opening miracle. He knew that for as long as people told his story, they’d remember that that was how he first chose to conclusively prove his divinity.

Pretty clearly, he was meaning to tell us something with that choice. And I believe that something was love people just as you find them.

He didn’t lecture the people at that wedding. He didn’t frighten them. He didn’t try to convince them of the error of their ways. He didn’t start dividing them into groups of good and bad. He didn’t in any way interfere with what they were doing. He quietly and without fanfare enhanced what they were doing—and that was all.

And what were they doing? Dancing, singing, hugging, whooping it up, crying, and in every way acting like people usually do at wedding receptions: Like they’re celebrating all the things about being human that deserve to be celebrated.

In a real way that we all understand, there’s nothing more gloriously human than a wedding reception.

And that’s where Jesus decided to launch his ministry.

And that’s how: by doing nothing more dramatic than making sure that the lovely couple and all their lovely guests didn’t run out of wine.

And not that cheap, comes-in-a-gallon-jug wine, either. Jesus gave them good wine. He gave them great wine.

Because he wanted them to just keep doing what they were doing when he got there.

I don’t see how Jesus could have made any clearer what he obviously intended to be his first Big Message to anyone who would ever follow him: accept and love people exactly as they are when you first meet them.

I think he’s telling us to just be with people.

If we’re with someone who’s soda is running low, we should ask if we can get them another soda. If their wine glass is empty, we should fetch ourselves a glass, and ask them if they’d like any more. If they’re smoking, we should act like we don’t mind their smoke blowing on us, and get them an ashtray. If they’re eating french fries, we should at least try not to steal one when they’re looking the other way.

If they’re wearing a nose ring, we should tell them it looks cool, and maybe ask them if it hurt them to get it.

When it comes to engaging others—all others—we don’t have to wonder what Jesus would have done. The Bible’s really clear about telling us, over and over again, exactly what he did do when engaging others. He loved them. He didn’t assess their worth, or evaluate their moral standing, or in any way determine their quality before he loved them.

He “simply” loved and respected them, exactly as they were.

Who are we to do any differently?

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  • They have run out of wine! Oh wait – gotta read the story!

  • Ida Tjosvold via Facebook

    Thank you so much for this! It isn’t the way I was taught it as a child in church but it is the way I believe it now and it’s beautiful!! Sharing…

  • Laurie

    We just discussed this at our Bible Study last week! How ironic…..that was the same decision that our group came to. It’s kind of like the Ben Franklin statement “Beer if proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy!”

  • William

    Spot on, John. I wish more people took the time and thought to realize this without having to have someone else tell them first.

  • Well thank God He’s not turning all the water into wine NOW or I’d be out of a job.

  • Sharla

    I love this! I once got a couple in my church mad enough at me for a similar message on this text that they came very close to getting up and walking out and never coming back. Because I said that the ones who would stand the best chance of seeing the kingdom of God were the ones who had fun in church, they nearly stormed out of church. “From silly devotions and from sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us.”

  • plus… He did it although “my time has not yet come” (therefore strictly out of love for his mother, celebrations, and people) plus… He did it after they had been drinking for awhile (and therefore unusually serving the best wine for last.) Thank you for this thought today.

  • Diana A.


  • Allie

    The part I like is that the guests were already blasted, according to the host.

    You mean Jesus didn’t turn wine into grape juice? And he didn’t say you couldn’t be a Christian unless you gave up drinking? And wine of the 1st century wasn’t actually “just what they called wine then and nothing like wine today” but was an alcoholic beverage? The horror! My mother-in-law would faint!

  • Sharyn McIntosh Brogger via Facebook

    The church I grew up in said it was grape juice!

  • Soulmentor

    I’ll agree with everything you said John, except the smoking part. THAT doesn’t need to be tolerated. Sorry, but I would actually ask them to take it outside, especially if they had the poor grace to not ask first if it was ok to smoke in my house.

    If it was a public space (which is getting to be less of an option for very good reasons), I’d leave their company. Outdoors, no problem, I can move upwind.

  • Josie

    “I don’t see how Jesus could have made any clearer what he obviously intended to be his first Big Message to anyone who would ever follow him: accept and love people exactly as they are when you first meet them.”

    Love, love, LOVE this!!! Thanks, John. I wish more people lived it more often.

  • Lol

  • Sharla

    Jesus also never told anybody to get their act together and go to church. *this pastor faints dead away*

  • They were wrong. 😉

  • Fenbeast

    Um. Not to be a party pooper, but do you know WHY people drank wine back then?

    Because the water was all contaminated with sheep shit. OK, so maybe some of it was contaminated with goat shit. Either way, water was undrinkable (why else do you suppose the shepherds and Zipporah were arguing over the well back in Moses’s day? Because the well was the only water for miles that didn’t have sheep shit in it!).

    In short, if you drank water, you risked coming down with the trots. Not having wine at a wedding? Serious social faux pas, because all your guests would think you didn’t respect their health, not because were looking for the Aramaic equivalent of Snookie. They didn’t drink because they were party animals. They drank because it was that or raw sewage.

    Jesus turned the water into wine as a contribution to health & hygiene… not because he wanted to party down. Sorry if that makes you sad.

  • I’m sorry you’re such smug dink.

  • Anne Young via Facebook

    i just love the idea of wine faucets!

  • Peet

    That’s what I love about the story. He didn’t just turn water into wine, he turned it into MORE wine.

  • stormkite

    So He couldn’t have made the water SAFE? If He was opposed to the drinking/relaxing/getting snockered thing, and was only concerned with the guests’ health, I mean?

    But.. no, He not only made it MORE wine, He gave them BETTER wine… meaning they’d be drinking even more OF it, getting MORE relaxed/happy/snockered than otherwise….

    Sorry. Doesn’t wash.

  • DR

    Jesus turned water into wine because he was tired of people being assholes. Thankfully in your case, Jesus is the same Yesterday, Today and Forever. Drink up.

  • Yeah, I’ve often heard that arguement as well. But it quickly falls flat. Why? Because back in the day there was very little in the way of food preservation. If it was grape juice and it wasn’t turned into wine, then it would turn quickly into the other thing…vinegar.

    I am not sure how long a barrel of grape juice would keep in an mid-Mediterranean climate, but I suspect a couple of days at best. Who could afford to continue to make more every few days? Especially as grapes can only be harvested during a certain period of the year.

  • Gary

    LMAO – Love it DR!!

    Some people really miss the forest for the trees.

  • Kristen

    Wine…*drools* Jesus! I want some wine!

  • Larry Valin

    On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee.

    There was evening and there was morning, a third day.

    I think it’s the third day of creation all over again.

  • Donald Rappe

    Drink up indeed! Don’t mind if I do.

  • JH

    My favorite part of this story is actually the interaction with Jesus and Mary.

    The guy hosting the party came to Mary to tell her they ran out of wine, and Mary called for her son, and when Jesus heard what she wanted, he told her no. He didn’t mince words, he didn’t hedge, he said it wasn’t his time. Mary didn’t even reply to Jesus’ rejection, she just looks to the servants and tells them to do whatever Jesus tells them to do. And that was when Jesus gives up and does what his Momma asked him to do.

    As my mother’s eldest son, and most dependable child, I’ve lived this little scene more times than I can remember. Someone in church would ask mom for help fixing something, painting something, running an errand, or any number of other things, and I’d get a call on my cell or she’d look up, find me across the room and make that little signal that brought me running… and I’d find myself with a task.

    Jesus obeyed his mother despite knowing it was not the time for him to begin doing miracles. He did as his mother asked him, to the best of his abilities, even though he thought it wasn’t right, but because she did.

    That story taught me a lot about how to honor my mother. Whenever she asks something of me, I do my best to make it happen. I might try to convince her it’s not the right time or thing to do, but if she’s convinced and wants it to happen, I make it happen to the best of my abilities.

    Other people partying is interesting, and yes, Jesus did provide for the party to only get better, but that was secondary to the interaction between a mother and her son, in my eyes.