A very famous old oil painting hangs in the Louvre in Paris. It tells them story of the first recorded miracle of Jesus and it happened in the most unimaginably non-religious setting, a full-scale wedding banquet. I’m sure you’re familiar with weddings but here’s what you need to know about this particular one. It was lasted several days and there was a bit more in the way of booze than a few gin cocktails, an ice bucket and some slices of lime.

Lots of us have grown up with the idea that Jesus was a fairly dull and slightly patronising religious irrelevance. But here’s an interesting question, “If that’s who he really was, what on earth was he doing on the invitation list and quite possibly as an honoured guest at the top table?” Of all the places he could have picked, this is where Jesus goes public for the first time in front of his disciples, his mother and the local community. Everything is going to plan an then disaster strikes, a chronic hospitality malfunction hits the place and the wine runs out!

The father of the bride is staring down the barrel of public humiliation, to say nothing of the company who has been trusted with the catering contract. But just as the revellers are about to be given the bad news, Jesus makes his move, telling the staff to fill six 30-gallon containers with water and then serve it up to the guests. Nice idea! To everyone on the inside, this is a joke that isn’t very funny but they’re not exactly flushed with alternative suggestions so they go along with the plan. That’s when the miracle happens, as the water from the containers touches the glasses it has mysteriously transformed into wine.

Needless to say, the host is relieved to see the old vino flowing again and apparently, it’s pretty decent stuff, not too Chablis. None other than Chateau Lafite 45 BC and gallons of it! I’ve done the maths for you, we’re talking 400 bottles! So, there you have it the first recorded miracle of Jesus performed on behalf of a guy who made a miscalculation on a booze order. A real life encounter that challenges every stereotype and misconception about who Jesus is. He lives in the ordinary not the religious and he connects with real people in the scrapes, mistakes and misjudgments that define our lives.

Maybe you’re of the opinion that Jesus only exists in quaint old stories from a dusty Bible? Let me encourage you to think again. There is a very big difference between the real Jesus and the Jesus of religious traditions and expensive oil paintings. He also did a whole lot more than replenish the bar at weddings. Jesus demonstrated the love and power of the Father but the shadow of the cross was behind every miracle and every act of kindness. After three years among the people, he was sentenced by a religious court to die by crucifixion. But after three days, true to his word, he was raised to life and people saw him. On one occasion to a crowd of 500.

This is not dead religion but new hope and a brand new start in relationship with a Father who loves us and forgives us. Jesus lived the life we could never have lived and, on the cross, paid the debt we could never have paid.

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