This devotional was originally published on October 30, 2018.

I’ve never been into wine. I mean, I’ve tried it. And I’d like to tell you I have such a refined palette that I can taste the subtle flavors, like oakiness and smokiness, but it’s all expired cough syrup to me. I know, I’m uncultured swine. Many have said that I just haven’t tried the right kind yet, and maybe that’s true. I do know the greatest wine that has ever existed came from a wedding feast in Cana over 2,000 years ago, which just happened to coincide with Christ’s very first miracle. And everyone that tasted it loved it. And who could blame them? It was God wine.

If you’re not familiar with the story, there was this big wedding feast where the host had run out of wine, which was a big cultural no-no. Trying to save the party and not dishonor the family, Jesus’ mother implored Jesus to do something. He seemed to agree reluctantly. But what could have been just a simple miracle of necessity was actually done in a uniquely significant way.

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
— John 2:6–10

There’s some deep symbolism here, and I don’t believe it was unintentional. For Jesus’ very first miracle, He takes something used for ceremonial washing — specifically for repetitive, religious cleansing — and He transforms it into something totally new. Something rich, flavorful and celebratory. It’s a transformation from ritualistic religion into something entirely different. The wine is a picture of grace, freedom and, of course, a symbol of the blood of Christ that would save us and set us free.

This first miracle seems to paint a portrait of what Jesus’ entire ministry would be about. He was establishing a new covenant, just as scripture promised in Jeremiah 31:31. Christ, by His nature, makes all things new, and He was revealing that in a very powerful way at this wedding feast.

So the question for us to wrestle with today is this: Is our faith simply a different form of rituals and traditions? Or is it something more, something new? Jesus came to show us a new way, a better way that revolves around grace, love and a relationship with Him. Not hollow religion. So, whatever your six stone water jars are, your religious checklist, it’s time to see it transformed into a fulfilling life living in the grace of Christ.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.
— Ephesians 2:8