Stone Jars and Elastic Souls

Why those jars?

Ever get a song stuck in your head that just will not go away? An advertising jingle or a song from your kid’s TV show that burrows deep in your brain and nests so that you wake up to realize that you’re humming it as you brush your teeth in the morning? A catchy tune that just gets its hooks in and hangs on for dear life?

This story has been that for me this year. Maybe because it was Jesus’ first miracle. Maybe because it’s just an odd little story nestled in a corner of this big, sweeping narrative.  Maybe because we spent an entire week in January talking about it here on the blog.

Whatever the reason, every now and then I find little details of this story – Jesus turning water into wine – rolling around in my brain, refusing to be ignored.

And lately it’s been this: Why those jars? It’s this verse from the narrative in John 2 that I think is significant —

stone-jar1“Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons.” (John 2:6)

Surely there were empty wine containers around, right? While there were not wine bottles like today, there were specific smaller jars used to hold and serve wine during huge events like this. With as much wine as they’d already gone through, surely there were some empty ones lying around.

So why, when Jesus transformed mundane water into marvelous wine, did he want to use these jars?

These jars had their own purpose. They were present so the attendees could remain clean before God. These jars were filled and refilled with pure water throughout the week-long celebration so the guests could wash their feet, hands and arms to stay ceremonially clean. These jars were essential to celebrating the wedding without offending the Almighty.

It was more than wine that Jesus put in those jars; it was a message. And by doing so he upended something very precious to the Jewish faith.

It’s a habit Jesus would display often during his ministry. Whether healing on the Sabbath or allowing his friends to pick grain in the fields, Jesus could see past the rules and religious practices to the heart of the matter. And that sometimes meant challenging the very institutions that brought people close to God.

Because abundant life comes from relationship, not rules. And relationship is not cut and dry, black and white. Relationship is messy and complicated.

You see, we all have our jars. Or as Trevor put it yesterday, our vehicles pointing to God. The practices or traditions or prayers or rules that we believe are important. Because by doing these things, we can make sense of life and find meaning. We hold tightly to these things because they give us a sense of security.

But if Jesus came and filled your jars with wine, could you handle that type of disruption? Is your soul elastic enough to bend and stretch with the Savior?

Because the sick woman is more important than the Sabbath and hungry friends outweigh harvesting regulations. Relationship trumps rules.

And whatever doesn’t bend, breaks.

So today, may we all thank God for our jars. May we appreciate the vehicles that point us to the Divine. But may our souls also be elastic enough to bend and stretch with a God who places his relationship with us above any rule.

May we trade our stone jars for elastic souls.

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