Thursday, December 5, 2013

Water Into Wine (part 5)

It has been previously said that Jesus created a problematic situation.  What was that situation?  Why was it problematic?  Was it a problem for Jesus?  Responding to the last question first, the answer is “no,” it was not a problem for Jesus at all, at least directly.  It could be an indirect source of problems for Him, which will come to be understood as this analysis is continued. 

So it was not a problem for Jesus, but rather, it was a problem for the bridegroom, who was the host of the meal.  How was it a problem for him?  One would think that Jesus had solved a problem rather than creating one, but reaching that conclusion would be unfortunately short-sighted and fail to take cultural norms into consideration.  At least initially, if the story is viewed from too great a distance, one might be tempted to think that the bridegroom would be appreciative of Jesus’ actions, as He intervenes to “save” the party (at least according to a customary way of thinking), but it is useful to be quickly disabused of this notion. 

One should not look at the fact that His mother presents the information that the party had run out of wine as indicative of a problem that the bridegroom would be looking to rectify, as the fact that they had run out of wine would actually be of no real concern to either the head steward of the party or the bridegroom himself.  Running out of food and wine was a common occurrence, and based on what is revealed later in this story, would have hardly constituted an emergency for this particular event.  Sometimes, guests who were slated for service later in the function would receive nothing at all, and this was simply accepted as part of the prevailing meal culture that was a subsidiary of the honor and shame culture.  It might very well be the case that Jesus, His mother, and His disciples were going to be part of the group that would not have received any wine, as, remembering Pliny and Martial, it is possible that they were sitting at the “wrong end” of the table. 

With this in mind then, and this has been said before, it is necessary to look at this as a situation into which she believed Jesus would want to enter, based upon what she knew about her Son, and about His conception of the kingdom of God which He is said to have preached.  One might even be able to surmise an intrusion of her own sense of His status as Messiah, and based upon that, her interpretation of the great messianic banquet of Isaiah, with this interpretation possibly informed by Jesus’ own thoughts on such (though this is pure and unsupported speculation). 

Again, the fact that there is no wine is not a problem.  Why is that?  It is not a problem because the bridegroom would, presumably, though he would have some type of concern for the enjoyment of all of his guests, be most concerned with providing wine and food to the most honored guests, which had (again, relying on the way the story unfolds) already taken place.  As the service of food and wine reached further and further away from his seat and that of his honored guests, so too would his concern with their provisions recede.  As long as a certain group of individuals had been able to eat and drink to their heart’s content, all was well.  The wedding feast would be looked upon as a success. 

Additionally, it must be pointed out that the bridegroom was now going to gain stature in the community due to the fact of his marriage.  That can be coupled with a successful wedding feast, which would also contribute to his and his family’s enhanced stature in the community.  Because Jesus has done what He has done, this is now at risk of being undone.  The bridegroom, while he is lounging at the banqueting couch with his honored guests, is being unknowingly put at risk of a diminished stature in the community.  How is this so?  It is because the best wine is now being served at the end of the banquet to the less honorable guests.  

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