six stone pots | John 2.6-8
Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. John 2:6-8 | ESV
Now it just so happened there were stone water pots, six of them, pots normally used to hold water for washing hands and feet as people in that Jewish culture were accustomed to doing. And these were big pots! Each had a capacity of around 20-30 gallons. This would be a lot of wine!
Jesus, smiling with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, quietly says to the caterers, “Fill the stone pots with water.”
And even though everyone had already washed their hands and feet the wait-staff filled each pot, right to the brim, just as he said.
Then he tells them, “Okay. Now. Draw some out and take it to your boss, the head caterer.”
And so, no doubt with fear and trembling, they did. MAV
Humor is the most challenging thing to translate from one culture or time to another. But as this whole scene unfolds, it strikes me as high divine comedy. And that’s why I imagine Jesus saying “Fill the pots with water” with a “mischievous twinkle” in his eye. I mean, there are bathtubs and there are carafes, and it seems that would be a good distinction to maintain. The incongruity should release at least a chuckle from the most serious Bible student. God has a delightful sense of humor. Most of us are actually proof of that. It’s hard to know how much to press details in stories such as this. It reminds me of an exchange in the film The Way when the small band of pilgrims encounter Jack from Ireland suffering from writer’s block and struggling with the metaphor of their journey. “Well, Jack from Ireland, sometimes a dogfight near a cheese factory is just a dogfight near a cheese factory.” And sometimes it is. But since this whole story is about a “teaching sign,” it would seem warranted to ask, “So what’s up with the six stone water pots?” Maybe nothing. Sometimes six stone water pots are just six stone water pots. It’s just what happened to be there. Maybe. Maybe, as some sources tell us, since wedding celebrations lasted a full week, this would just happen to guarantee a full supply for each of the following days – and then some. Maybe that’s all that’s here. But I can’t help but wonder about the fact that those pots were there for religious purposes – for ritual purification in the washing of hands and feet so all celebrants would be externally pure for the festivities. And Jesus using those pots – those – to miraculously create wine not just to quench their thirst but to delight their taste buds and fill their hearts with joy… Sounds like a good moment for a coy smile and a “mischievous twinkle” of the eye. Or an outright belly-laugh. Such laughter still echoes if we are listening – for he still loves to take the empty stone jars of our religious efforts of self-purification and turn them into vast vats of celebration from which joy may be freely ladled out for all.
What empty pots in your life are you longing to be filled with new wine?
Lord, make me aware of my own hollows, the emptiness of my own religious or irreligious ways, and then fill me up to the brim with the new wine of your goodness – and let it freely spill out for all around me. Through Christ.
For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.