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by Sean Wrench
Jesus, Wine, Parties, Miracles …the excitement and irony of it all are simply amazing.
I can’t put into words the anticipation I felt as I waited for ‘Scouting the Divine’ to appear in the mail. Something in my spirit told me that this book was really going to be incredible.
I remember the day it arrived so clearly. My first thought when I saw it was, “Wow, cool looking book.” Yet something began to stir in my spirit. A rush of emotions came over me, and I sensed in my spirit a whisper. A whisper that said I was about to understand my Savior, my Jesus in a deeper way than I ever have before.
This book is the first one I’ve read by Margaret Feinberg. I can assure you it will be the first of many. One thing that stood out to me while reading the book was her honesty. It’s refreshing to read someone who doesn’t want you to think they are a self proclaimed Christian Superhero. Margaret writes with a raw honesty. She openly admits her struggles and issues she faces spiritually.
I was excited to write about the section called ‘The Vine’. Erwin McManus said, “I can only imagine what the church could look like today if we stopped telling people all that they were doing wrong, and started telling them what they were doing right.” In many Christian circles, ‘drinking wine’ would be considered highly taboo. In fact the ‘You’re going to hell if…’ club has been swung around more times that I can possibly imagine. Yet I find it incredibly ironic that something that has become so taboo is actually the center point for the first miracle Jesus ever performs when he turns water into wine. Now don’t get me wrong, the Bible condemns drunkenness, but it also says that wine gladdens the heart (Psalm 104:15).
In Matthew 26:29 Jesus said, “Mark my words, I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom. In Revelations 19:9, we are told that when our story comes full circle, when Jesus comes back and restores things to the original order to which God intended them, there will be a huge celebration. I mean come on… Jesus is going to rescue the entire world, so I hope there would be a pretty big party ! But here’s the twist. The party is called the ‘the wedding feast of the Lamb.’ So Jesus begins his earthly ministry by turning water into wine at a great wedding feast, and he will commence his victory at another wedding feast, and as he tells his disciples in Matthew, at that great feast, he will drink wine with you and me. WHOA! I’m not sure I can even begin to grasp all the spiritual parallels here but that’s pretty deep. We are going to be at the biggest party ever, and will raise a glass with Jesus himself, along with the likes of Moses, Esther, King David, Abraham, Mary and many more. Imagine the stories that will unfold at that party. I picture sitting across from Mary, hearing first hand the story of Jesus’ birth. Or talking to King David, and hearing his many stories of adventure and hearing about how the man who made an insurmountable amount of mistakes earned the rare title of a man after God’s heart. And all of this, just like with the first miracle Jesus performed will take place at a great wedding feast with wine.
Perhaps Jesus making the choice to turn water into wine for his first miracle on earth was to send a message. Or perhaps a number of messages. I mean who would expect that Jesus who was God in the flesh would choose to turn water into wine for the very first miracle he performed on earth. Many Christians put God in a box. They draw a set of assumptions of things they believe God can or cannot do. They make their own list of what he’s for and against. Yet the Bible says he uses the foolish things to confound the wise. This miracle was also one of luxury not of necessity. Perhaps a message by Jesus to show us that he cares about every part of our lives, even the non essential parts. Could it be that Jesus was serious when he told us that he came so that we would have and enjoy a rich and satisfying life? (John 10:10). The other part of this miracle that really grabbed me was that Jesus kind of did it on the ‘down low’ if you will. He told his disciples to fill the empty jugs with water and then after they were done, he instructed them to allow the person in charge of the wedding a taste test. And to the surprise of the host, it was the best wine he’d ever tasted. Incidentally those jugs held over 100 gallons of wine. Jesus wasn’t messing around. But as you read the scriptures other than his mother and his disciples no one else knew about the miracle. Interesting that Jesus chose to remain rather incognito for this first display of his miraculous powers.
As the section continues, Kristof who is the master vintner or ‘craftsman’ as he prefers, gives Margaret a tour of the vineyard. As they come upon the first rows of vines they appear dead. Yet Kristof remarks that in about 4 weeks they will look completely different. He removes a pocketknife and scrapes one of the vines to reveal a light green bud underneath. I paused as I came to the end of this paragraph. On the outside was something that appeared dead, lifeless, of no worth. Yet under the surface was something full of incredible potential and life. If only we could see people as Jesus sees us. We condemn the person who isn’t like us. We frown upon the person with a rough exterior. Yet underneath all that mess, our heavenly father sees the true potential of what lies underneath all that. Potential that only He, the master of the vineyard can uncover. We were all created in His image. Not just some of us, all of us. God has deposited incredible amounts of potential in each of us.
Interestingly enough, Kristof explains that it takes an incredible amount of time, energy and money until the vines really start producing and bearing fruit. It takes 8 years between the first planting and the first bottle of wine.
How often do we become frustrated with our lives as Christians. I wish I could be better at this, or I wish I could stop doing this. Yet example after example throughout scripture remind us that God is all about the process. And as his word promises us, “He who began a good work, will finish it to completion.” (Phil 1:6). As you can see with the vines an incredible amount of time and care go into producing fruitful vines. And the same goes for us, God is willing to put in the time and care into our lives as long as we are willing for him to do so. But one way we do differ greatly from these vines is that they have no choice in this process. God gives us free will. We can accept his offer or we can reject him.
Wine is introduced when Jesus begins his ministry and it will be a part of the celebration upon his return. As Margaret point out, “fruitfulness is a sign of God’s restoration and redemption as well as his promise and blessing.”
When Jesus spoke of wineskins, he informed them that you cannot put new wine into old wineskins. Most of us clearly understand the implication here, but I think it’s vital that we truly grasp the vastness of the statement Jesus made. The religious people of that day were comfortable in their beliefs and practices as Margaret points out. God is always doing ‘a new thing’ in our lives if we let him. He doesn’t want us to remain stagnant and complacent. He has great things in store for us. But we must remain flexible and embrace change. Just as the pruning of the vines causes growth, change allows us to grow and fully move into the life God has created for us. But change is uncomfortable, it can even be painful. Yet as with the vines, it will produce a life beyond our wildest dreams. If we allow our lives to become like the old wineskins we will never experience all God has in store for us.
So as we near the end of the section on the Vine we come to ‘The True Vine’. Margaret comments that she had been waiting to unpack John 15 with Kristof and just as she, I was excited to reach this part of the book.
Jesus said, “I am the true vine, my father is the vinedresser.” Kristof pointed out that he found it confusing that Jesus referred to his father as the vinedresser. The vinedresser, Kristof pointed out often has multiple roles, he often plays a role as the owner, manager and vintner. As I read this a quick though popped into my head, could Jesus’ reference to his father the vinedresser who has multiple roles be a type and shadow of the trinity? Father, Son and Holy Spirit ? An interesting thought….
Jesus goes on to say “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, he takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, he prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”
Kristof explained that it’s the little cuts that are the most important. You can’t just come in with a pair of shears and clip like crazy. Over the course of pruning you make a series of very precise, strategic cuts that will produce the healthiest, most robust vines. WOW, I thought, that’s incredible. That is exactly what God does with our lives. And as Margaret points out it shows how intimately God is involved in our lives.
Kristof pointed out that the vinedresser looks at each vine carefully. Each one is unique. Each one must be handled differently and receives different care.
Jesus summoned us in John 15 to ‘Abide in Him’. Kristof pointed out that the vine is the source of life. If you cut off a branch it will wither and die. By abiding in the vine, the fruit grows on the branch. Interestingly Kristof pointed out that the branch is what is used to plant a new vine. Perhaps as we abide in Jesus he turns us into a branch that can now not only produce fruit, but bring life into other branches because we have chosen to abide in Him.
At the last supper Jesus took the wine and as in typical fashion of our Savior, instead of being served, he served the wine to his followers. Jesus began his ministry by turning water into wine. Before he gave his life for us on the cross, he shared a meal and wine with his disciples. And on that day when we are face to face with our Savior in all his glory. The day when we will no longer see or feel suffering or pain, the day when not so much as one single tear shall ever escape from our bodies. On that day we will celebrate with our Savior, our Jesus. And we will raise a glass of wine at a great wedding feast. But this celebration is different than most, because this celebration is just the beginning of the story…
A new story.
One that was written long before time began. And one that will continue endlessly. At last we will reach our destiny. To spend eternity with our Creator.
I find it amazing that the greatest book ever written really doesn’t have an ending. It really ends ‘to be continued’. Merry Christmas everyone!
About the contributor:
My name is Sean Wrench. I run a ministry in NY called LifePlace. Recently we have started a national youth homeless project called the Forsaken Generation Project. God deeply burdened our hearts to do this when we discovered over 1.6 million children sleep on the streets in our country on any given night. You can read more about what we do at www.lifeplace.us or you can follow us on twitter: @forsakengen