100+ Gallons of Wine

God doesn’t just provide for our basic needs. God blesses us. Abundantly.

The story of the wedding feast at Cana, Jesus’ first miracle in the second chapter of the Gospel of John, has been interpreted many different ways. Most of the interpretations I’ve seen focus on Mary’s action (“Do whatever he tells you”) or the fact that the wine produced by the miracle is superior to that served earlier (“You have kept the good wine until now”).

Rarely have I seen interpretations focus on the six elements of this story fascinate me: the stone water jars.

Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. (John 2:6)

The literal translation of this phrase is “holding two or three measures.” According to the volume measurement system of the time, a “measure” would equate to about ten gallons today, which is where the translation of “twenty to thirty gallons” comes from.

Multiply that by six, and you have 120 to 180 gallons of wine. By any measure, that’s a lot of wine, but particularly for a small-town wedding where the guests have already been drinking.

So why not turn one jar of water into wine? Or, on the off chance that one might not have been enough, two or three? Why does Jesus turn so much water into wine, particularly good wine?

To me, it’s just an example of God’s generosity. Other examples are sprinkled throughout the gospels, including the multiplication of the loaves and fish (recounted by all four evangelists) and Peter’s miraculous catch of fish (before and after the Resurrection).

Fast forward to the present, and we can see God’s generosity all around us. First, the basics: the planet we live on, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat have, our very lives all been given to us by a loving God.

But God doesn’t just stop with the bare minimum to ensure our survival.

God provides for us extravagantly, even ridiculously.

Beyond physical blessings, God showers abundant mercy on us. We are all sinners. We’re typically more deserving of punishment than mercy, but God offers forgiveness that we have not earned. God does this through an act that is all but incomprehensible: sending His son to die for our sins.

How do we react to this abundant generosity? First of all, do we even notice? Take a few minutes right now to reflect on the blessings that have been given to you, especially God’s mercy. Build a few minutes of gratitude into daily prayer time.

Then, aware of God’s abundant generosity and our own gratitude, let’s consider our response.

Do we give God – and our neighbor – our leftovers, our surplus, our scraps? Or do we emulate God’s generosity in giving our time, talent, and treasure? Do we freely forgive those who trespass against us, or do we do so grudgingly? Worse yet, do we act like the ungrateful servant, demanding justice for a perceived petty slight while ignoring our own huge sins that have been forgiven by God’s abundant mercy? Rather, we are called to be, like God, extravagant in our mercy, forgiving not just seven, but seventy-seven times.

As we practice fasting, almsgiving, and forgiveness this Lent, let our prayer be to imitate the ridiculous generosity of our God.

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