John 2

The Groom’s Wine (John 2.9-10)

When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. (John 2:9-10)

According to one tradition I’ve come across, this wedding took place when one of the twelve got married—Bartholomew, perhaps? But the narrative never actually names the groom. In the early Christian tradition, there was ever only one groom: Jesus. Later John the Baptist will clearly identify Jesus as the long-awaited groom coming to marry Israel (John 3.29-30). Many of Christ’s parables identify his own ministry, and the ingathering of his elect to form a new Body, as a great celebration, often a wedding celebration (Matthew 22.1-14, 25.1-10), and if we see this wedding feast in John 2 as a similar typological depiction, the new wine and the bridegroom become increasingly familiar:

And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not? And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days. No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles. (Mark 2:18-22)

In the synoptic gospels, as Jesus prepares to go to his death on the cross, he swears off wine altogether, until the day he drinks anew in his Father’s kingdom (Mark 14.25 Matthew 26.29, Luke 22.18); John’s gospel has been careful to wrap the concluding resurrection of Christ back into the beginning of Christ’s ministry beyond the Jordan, and any convert familiar with the consumption of Christ’s body and bread through the synoptics could therefore put two and two together, concluding that the “new wine” at this wedding, which is remarkably good, is the final product of Christ’s ministry, and that by participating in the group consumption of Christ’s body and blood, one was concurrently participating in the divine wedding, drinking new wine with Jesus in Christ’s kingdom, the best wine made by Jesus at the beginning, the birth of the church through the events of the crucifixion, wine which has also been saved “for last.” Others, the skeptics, dislike this wine, preferring the familiar and the concrete, but Christians see in Jesus the groom for whom Israel had waited, and having waited wisely, enter into the feast.