Wine, Wells, & Wombs (John 2-4)

Sunday, February 5, 2023


Thank you thank you Heather for your wonderful work on this transcript!

Channing: [00:00:00] Hi! I'm Channing.

Elise: And I'm Elise. 

Channing: And this is The Faithful Feminists Podcast. 

Elise: [00:00:12] We focus on feminist interpretations of scriptures and follow the LDS Come Follow Me manual as a guide for study. We understand scriptures can be a tricky endeavor for readers, but we also believe sacred texts contain compelling examples of loving and liberating relationships with The Divine, others, and ourselves. We hope you'll join us in exploring the problems and promises of sacred texts with imagination, critique, and celebration to reveal what we feel is the loving and liberating heart of scripture.

Channing: [00:00:41] While Mormonism, with its iconic floral foyer couches, is our background, we follow our faith and our God on the winding path of spirituality over institution, and connection over condemnation. We are fellow wanderers, weavers, and doubters. If you’ve found yourself feeling a little too faithful for some and not enough for others: Welcome. We've saved you a seat on the soft chairs. This podcast is funded by our listeners’ generous donations. If you'd like to support our work, connect with us on Patreon or on our website at

Elise: [00:01:10] Hi everyone. Welcome back. Today we're going to be covering John chapters two through four for the dates February 6th through the 12th. And in this week's chapters we cover the wedding in Cana, Jesus throwing tables in the temple, Jesus talking with Nicodemus, and Jesus meeting the woman at the well. As you can see, Jesus is the superstar of these chapters, which also reminds me that this week I went and saw the play, the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” because it was playing in Arizona.

[00:01:41] I know that for the last few episodes we've been trying to incorporate different types of media that you might include in your study. We've talked about paintings and poems and music. And so here's another one that you might consider checking out: the “Jesus Christ Superstar” musical.

[00:01:58] It is very, very rock intense, rock music intensive, and so if you love rock music, you will love it. I would not say that I'm a particular fan of traditional rock. It's just very, yeah, it was just kind of intense for me. And I thought that the play was going to end with Jesus' resurrection and the story I was telling myself is that Jesus would come back resurrected as a superstar and there would be lots of glitter because of course I know that the show includes glitter. Yeah. But it didn't. The show ends with Jesus being crucified. So, it's an intense play all around, but there are some really wonderful songs.

[00:02:41] It's also made me think about, because it follows the scriptural account pretty closely, I've been able to kind of read this week’s chapters and then think back to the musical just to see how they work together. So, check it out. Maybe don't bring your young kids and be sure you like rock music. 

Channing: [00:02:59] Okay. I'm just so glad that you went and I'm so glad that you're able to share that with our listeners because I guarantee you some of them probably really do love rock. So, if you go see Jesus Christ Superstar and love it, let us know, because I also want to hear about it. So as we move into looking at the text this week, we first start in John chapter two with a wedding in a town called Cana.

[00:03:23] Jesus and his mother, Mary, are invited as guests and they're there in attendance at the wedding. And as the celebrations continue through the night, the wine runs out, and we have this fantastic miracle that we read about that Jesus turns water into wine. So, let's dig in a little bit more into why this is significant and a couple of ways that we might be able to engage with this story.

[00:03:48] First, I think we need to understand that weddings at this time were typically multi-day celebrations. Weddings were a time when social contracts were fulfilled, not just between the two people getting married, but also between their families and their communities. Radical hospitality was a pillar of good social standing in one's communities, and weddings were a time when others were welcomed in to feast, connect, and celebrate the continuation of goodwill and care for one another.

[00:04:15] Since these celebrations often lasted many days, it wasn't unusual for hosts to serve the best of the wine and food first and save the lesser quality items for the later end of the feast. We know this because we read about it in this week's text. In John 2:10, we read that the ruler of the feast says, “Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then [they serve] that which is worse…” But what stands out to the attendees of the wedding as they're entirely ignorant of how the wine was made is that the wine being served at the end of the feast is the best they've had the entire time. The ruler of the feast says, “thou hast kept the good wine until now.” Why is this impressive? Why does the quality of wine matter?

Elise: [00:05:05] Well, if weddings are about more than a marriage, but also about extending hospitality and goodwill to the community, then the wine might be seen as a symbol of the host's commitment and dedication to radical hospitality. That the host has assumedly prepared the finest wine for the end when the others often do not showcases, first, wealth or the ability to provide such a deep level of generosity. And second, the desire to invest in the pleasure and enjoyment of their guests, not only to ensure their social responsibilities are fulfilled. We think that this can be read as a deep commitment to not just the health of the community, but also to their pleasure.

Channing: [00:05:47] Yeah, that feels really radical to me. Another thing that really stood out to me as I was reading this part of the text is that, of course we as the readers of the text, know that Jesus is the one who turns the water into wine and Jesus is the reason that the finest wine is served last. But the only people who are present at the wedding who know that it's Jesus’s doing is Jesus himself, Mary, and the servants who help serve the wine.

[00:06:15] Jesus is content to allow the praise and honor for this fine wine to be given to the host rather than to himself. Naturally, there are as many different ways to interpret the symbolism of this story as there are readers of the text, but today we're feeling most pulled to the idea that Jesus took this opportunity to practice playing with and deepening the tradition of radical hospitality.

[00:06:39] Jesus knows the fine wine is usually served first. He wants to turn this usual way of doing things on its head and serve the best wine last. Not only does this bring honor on the host, but it also brings great joy and cause for celebration to everyone who's present. Jesus wants to make sure this party slaps, if you will.

Elise: [00:06:59] From here we might consider asking ourselves what we can take away from this aspect of the story. For us, we're feeling really deeply into the idea that pleasure, joy, and celebration are important things to Jesus. We're also feeling deeply into the idea of the wedding wine as a microcosm of his later teachings of “the last shall be first and the first last.”

[00:07:20] And we think that this shows that Jesus really understands that it is still important to carry on the tradition of radical hospitality. We might ask ourselves: What does it look like for me to serve the good wine first and the best wine last? What role does pleasure, joy, and celebration play in my life? And finally, how can I show up to and serve my community as host, as guest, and also as a co-creator?

Channing: [00:07:48] I love those questions. Another part of this story that really stuck out to me is a part that we read at the very beginning in John John 2:3-4 “And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.”

[00:08:12] And, first, I want to say that we'll hear Jesus call other women “woman” in the New Testament plenty of other times, and from what I've read and understand, this is not a derogatory term as in, like, “Woman, go make me a sandwich,” But as a sign of respect from Jesus. So readers, you can read it however you will, but in my mind, I like to read Sassy Jesus, joking with his mom, maybe saying things like, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? Mom, you know I'm not ready.” And what, what happens next is so fascinating and really intriguing to us. 

Elise: [00:08:48] Now after Jesus says,” woman, what does this have to do with me?” Mary doesn't actually say anything back to Jesus. She doesn't acknowledge or coddle or beg or encourage or persuade Jesus.

[00:09:02] Instead, verse five says, “His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.” And we love this Mary. She's gone from the “handmaid of the Lord” to “come on, Jesus.” Almost as if she's mothered him all this time and knows his heart. We can imagine her saying within herself, “Look, Jesus. From the day you were conceived, I knew you were different and you've been waiting and waiting for the perfect moment to be ready.

[00:09:28] And if you keep waiting, the readiness will still be just out of reach. You've been busy healing people, teaching people, begging them to say nothing, but your wine is too good. Your heart is too good to keep people in the dark about who you are and what you're about. They can't keep quiet even if they try. It's time, even if you're afraid. It's time, even if I'm afraid. And this is an opportunity, if you won't reach out and take it, I'm gonna just put it right in your lap.”

Channing: [00:09:56] So as I was thinking about this story about the wedding in Cana, I was like, “oh, I wonder if someone wrote a poem about this.” I'm just really curious.

[00:10:06] So I spent some time looking. There are a couple of poems, but there wasn't any that I felt really pulled and drawn towards. So I was like, “okay, I'm just gonna write what I'm thinking. A poem that I feel speaks to, I don't know, an idea or a narration of this event that I feel might have happened.”

[00:10:26] So this poem is titled “Three of Swords at the Wedding in Cana.” And it's in three parts.


Three of Swords at the Wedding in Cana


Can you imagine

Mary said to Joseph

What Simeon saw

All those years ago

When he held our boy?

Our sparkling




Baby boy?

I’ve had ten swords

In my heart already, she said.

Remember the day

We couldn’t find him?

Remember the day

I couldn’t decide

If his cheeks were

Red from the heat

Of the desert

Or some flaming

sickness come to

Steal him before his time?

And Joseph said

Yes, Dear, I remember;

No, love,

I can’t imagine.

But Joseph knew

How to read the shapes

The curls of his woodshavings

Made on the workshop floor;

He kept all these things

And Pondered them

In his heart.


Can you imagine

Mary said to Jesus 

In a hallway away from the guests

What they will say

If they run out of wine?

“If, Woman?” Jesus said.

“They will,” Jesus said,

“The amphorae are dry.”

“Who are you to prophesy

To me, boy?” Mary said,

rekindling the easy banter 

They nursed between them;

Though Jesus was hardly

The round-faced,


Soft-today and


Boy who used to

Cry when the words were mean

And the sounds were loud

And the fabric was itchy.

“Mom, It's not time yet;”

He said, “I’ve only healed

A few people

Only said a few words

from the heart, and only to those 

who wouldn’t leave me alone.”

She held his face

In her hands

Like she used to,

The waves of his hair

Curled around her fingers.

Joseph’s oracular tone

In the back of her mind:

Only three swords, he had said,

The first through a cistern of water

Turned wine.

She tucked the loose strand

Behind his ear,

Ran her thumb

Along the bone of his cheek,

And keeping her eyes on his

called to the servants

In the next room, saying, 

Whatever he says, Do it.

Jesus laughed and

Squeezed her hand with his own

Before walking down the hall.


She kept all these things

Tucked away in the box at home

With his first lost tooth,

A lock from his first haircut,

An indiscernible scribble of ink on parchment,

Threadbare swaddles, and

A small sachet

Of gold, frankincense, 

And myrrh.

She pondered Anna and Simeon,

Joseph and that strange, enigmatic angel,

Remembering the familiar words

Written on her heart:

be it unto me

According to thy word.


The end. So, yeah.

Elise: [00:13:04] Okay. First of all, Channing is so, so good at, obviously, writing poetry, but also just building in really tender human moments between characters that we don't get to see but that we could really imagine happening. And I love seeing that play playing out here between Mary and Jesus, especially their banter between mom and son. I love it so much. Channing: [00:13:33] Yay. I'm glad you liked it. I love it too. It's really fun. And it also reminds me a lot of my own relationship with my own little boy. And so it was fun to write and pull a little bit of that in. So thanks for letting me share. 

Elise: [00:13:46] Yeah. Thanks for sharing. And so to wrap up this section about the wedding: what can we take away from this part of the story?

[00:13:52] We might consider asking ourselves questions like: where do I need a push, encouragement, or opportunity to step into the next path of my life's journey? How do my relationships encourage me to grow? And can I trust the people in my relationships have my best interest and growth at heart? 

Channing: [00:14:11] Those are great, great questions, and I think really powerful things that we can take away from this story about the wedding in Cana.

[00:14:20] after the wedding in Cana, John chapter two narrates Jesus overthrowing the tables in the temple in Jerusalem. We've discussed this topic twice in our Holy Week series, and if you're interested in hearing more of our thoughts about it, please check out our episodes “Monday at the Temple” for both of our Holy Week series.

[00:14:38] So we have one for the 2020 and 2021 year, and we have a separate one for the 2022 year. So, both episodes cover the same story with two different perspectives. So, if you wanna hear more thoughts about Jesus at the temple, which is one of our favorite stories, please engage with those. And I'm absolutely sure that this is not the last time we'll talk about it.

Elise: [00:15:01] Yeah, that sounds about right. But I think now we'll jump over to the final two stories that we want to cover. Let's first start with the woman at the well, and a lot of the content we're going to be sharing comes from an article that Rachel Held Evans had written titled “Revisiting the Woman at the Well”.

[00:15:18] So, context-wise, Jesus is becoming quite popular in Judea and the Jewish religious leaders are not super loving it, and so Jesus tried to skip out of town and avoid attention by heading to Galilee. And the quickest way to get there was to go north through Samaria. But because of the longstanding conflict and animosity with the Samaritans, Jews would typically go around the Samaritan territory, not directly through it.

[00:15:48] Samaritans were an ethnic group, descended from intermarriages, mostly between Jews and Assyrians. They claimed to be the true people of God, thought that the first five books of the Hebrew Bible were the most true and legitimate, and believed that worship should/would take place on Mount Gerizim, not in Jerusalem.

Channing: [00:16:09] But our guy Jesus did not hesitate to cross into Samaritan territory. In John chapter four, verse four, we read 4:4 “He must needs go through Samaria” as in, he knew he had to go that way.” We imagine he felt called and compelled. Jesus didn't only come to earth for the Jews. He was also there for the Samaritans.

[00:16:30] We also want to note here that Jesus is crossing geographical, ethnic, and gender divides in this story. At this time, men rarely spoke to women in public, even if they were married to them. So when Jesus meets a woman at a well and asks her to draw water for him, her question in chapter four verse nine reflects the shock and perplexity of the situation.

[00:16:52] She asks, “How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.”

Elise: [00:17:04] And of this, Rachel Held Evans writes, “What follows is the longest one-on-one theological conversation Jesus had with anyone that’s recorded in the Bible—and it’s this conversation with a woman.”

[00:17:17] And so the conversation moves from literal water to spiritual living water of salvation. And the woman is really excited and asks for this water, but the conversation turns, kind of strangely, it turns to talking about her five husbands that Jesus knows about. And I want us to be clear that we're not going to read this woman as a sinner or a prostitute as other interpretations have.

[00:17:42] I just want us to notice that Jesus simply states the facts about this woman without condemnation, and he surely doesn't tell her to go repent and stop sinning. Of this, Rachel Held Evans writes, “When we focus on the woman at the well’s marital history, we miss the point. This conversation is meant to show us something about Jesus, more than something about the woman.”

[00:18:04] So instead, this information about her acts as a revelation about her, and then further invites Jesus to share more about himself as both a prophet and the Christ. Verse 26 says, “I that speak unto thee am he [aka the Messiah].” As such, one might read this as an act of reciprocity and shared disclosure between the woman and Jesus.

Channing: [00:18:31] Yeah. And if we continue to reflect on the revelation about the woman's marital history, the Queer Theology podcast notes “[The woman] goes on to be sort of a missionary. We say this over and over again: queer people have more to offer than what we’re not, God is in the margins. We say that God is embodied in Jesus, and he’s hanging out with this woman and befriending her and inviting her into ministry with him – and not judging her. It’s not just that it’s okay to be gay, it’s not just that you can be LGBTQ and Christian, it’s that we’re central to this story. Queer people and women and immigrants and people who are HIV positive and folks living with disabilities, we’re central to this story of God that we see throughout the Hebrew Bible and Christian scriptures. That’s just a cool reminder that that’s where God is.”

So in in the narrative part of the story, the disciples who had been gone previously looking for food return with that food for Jesus, and they are upset to find that he's been talking to a woman in a public place and Jesus says to them that he has no need for the food that they brought because his conversation with the woman and her acceptance and excitement of him and his message has nourished and satisfied him.

[00:19:47] Okay. I missed that part! 

Elise: Yeah. Isn’t that that cool? 

Channing: Yeah. I missed that part, reading. He fulfilled his own word, that's so cool.

Elise: [00:19:56] Yeah. I think it's the very last verse in chapter four or, or one of the last verses in chapter four. But again, you see these conversations about nourishment and what is life-giving, and I think it's really wonderful to see Jesus celebrating someone celebrating him. And the disciples are still kind of very perplexed. Like, “what do you mean? What are you talking about?” I dunno.

Channing: [00:20:23] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I love that. That's such a cool interpretation. As the final part of our episode, we're gonna talk about the character Nicodemus. We recognize that many of the common interpretations of the Nicodemus and Jesus story focuses on the verbal sparring and Nicodemus trying to back Jesus into a corner and prove him wrong under the cover of nighttime darkness. But when we've read this story for the week, we were really struck by all of Nicodemus' questions and we were reminded just how difficult this whole gospel thing can be to wrap our heads around. And honestly, Jesus can be quite cryptic and confusing sometimes.


Elise: [00:21:03] Yeah, I completely agree with that. In fact, we think that Nadia Bolz Weber says it best in her article “Sermon on earthly things, wombs, and the resurrection of the dead”. Bolz Weber writes, quote, “See, Nicodemis was just trying to wrap his brain around this Jesus thing. He was looking for some basic facts. And trying to apply his reasoning to what he was experiencing about Jesus, he too was finding it all a little crazy. Even to the point of saying one of the most dumb-ass things ever recorded in scripture. Jesus said you have to be born anew, or born from above and literal minded, logical Nicodemis says to Jesus, what? like, go back into your mom’s womb. It’s a graphic image we could all do without, and I can only imagine how this made everyone totally cringe when he said it. But I feel for him. Because in typical Jesus fashion he doesn’t really answer the question but says even more crazy sounding stuff like the wind blows where it chooses and that’s what being born of spirit is like and then some stuff about Moses lifting up snakes in the wilderness. And exactly none of it is very helpful in providing some facts which our minds can make sense of.”

And she continues to talk about how the gospel isn't “domesticateable” enough for our minds to grasp. The gospel is wild.

[00:22:31] It's like the wind, and it often exists outside of and beyond rationality and reason alone.

Channing: [00:22:38] This is fantastic and it really makes us think of the gospel as both faith demanding and materially bound. For example, believing in a God who comes to earth as a half God, half human being through a young virgin mother requires some faith.

[00:22:54] It requires us to fill the gaps in divides in logic and reason, and give ourselves over to something more, something that moves and carries us. But the gospel is also materially bound. God's love shows up in the way we care for our neighbors, the stranger and the least of these. The gospel binds us to the impossibility of feeding, housing, clothing, and recognizing the humanity of everyone, not just people who are like us. Of this, Nadia Bolz Weber writes, “I understand Nicodemis’s desire for this all to make sense. I do. But instead of a religion revealed through philosophical constructs – easily reasoned out and understood, instead we get a God inconveniently revealed in people, and food and wine and water and bodies and pies and oil and beer. When God chose to come and take on human flesh and walk the earth and break bread with friends it was as though God was baptizing the material. As though to say “stop looking for me in the heavens when you aren’t even close to understanding the majesty of a loaf of bread” or as Jesus puts it, if you can’t understand earthly things you’ll never understand heavenly things.” 

Elise: [00:24:11] And this is not the only time that we see Nicodemus appear in John's gospel.

[00:24:16] He'll show up later trying to defend Jesus against his fellow Pharisees. But we see Nicodemus finally, one last time, after Jesus' crucifixion, when Nicodemus assists in laying Jesus' body in a nearby tomb. And Nicodemus brings 100 pounds of myrrh and aloe to anoint Jesus for the entombment. 100 pounds!

Channing: [00:24:40] That's a lot. 

Elise: It's a lot. And Bolz Weber reads this story as Nicodemus finally getting it because he is doing something wild, right? surely one or two pounds of oils and spices would do the trick. She writes, “But instead, Nicodemis casts his crown of logic and philosophy at the foot of the cross of Jesus and instead picks up an embarrassingly extravagant amount of stuff…material, earthly, touchable, carry-able stuff and does what he can in the light of such love.  He got it.  Or maybe more accurately, it got him. We know this because carrying 100# of oils and spices around is just plain Gospel-crazy.”

It's so good. I've never read this story like this. And I just see the faith of Nicodemus is that of questions and doubts, of trying and frustration, and then finally a caution-to-the-wind approach to the gospel in hopes that we, and he, will be saved, despite what we think we know. And so I have a little soft spot for Nicodemus carrying a hundred pounds to care for his savior. 

Channing: [00:25:54] Yeah, and I think again, really speaks to a continuing theme that we've seen across all sacred text.

[00:26:03] It's so easy to villainize somebody who's arguing against Jesus, right? He gets some redemption in the text and we recognize you can ask Jesus stupid questions and Jesus will also give you stupid answers. And Jesus, I think, has a good sense of humor, but we see so much growth in the characters even throughout the text, and I think that's really exciting.

[00:26:32] One additional thought that I wanted to add about Nicodemus, also kind of in line with Jesus Christ Superstar. I feel really basic Mormon bee-otch recommending this resource to everyone, but if you haven't watched The Chosen, it's really good. I really love it. It does stick pretty well to the scriptures and I find myself watching it 100% totally invested in this character, even though I know how it's going to end.

[00:27:02] And in this series, Nicodemus is portrayed as a man who is genuinely curious about Jesus and really does want to follow him and really does believe that He's the Messiah, but has all of these questions that he's trying to reconcile with his own lived experience and his own responsibilities.

[00:27:21] And I think that that series has really humanized Nicodemus and made him really relatable. I remember even watching, there's a point in this series where Jesus invites him to come follow him as one of his disciples and Nicodemus declines because he feels so tied and responsible for his family and his social obligations that he feels like Jesus's ask is too much.

[00:27:49] And you can see just how heartbroken and ashamed he feels about the choice that he's made and you know, even tries to make it up to Jesus by giving him a ton of money to pay for food and all of the things that he thinks he's gonna need for his ministry. It's just, for me, I just remember that, as I go through and read Nicodemus in the scriptures and I just am so appreciative of all of the different ways that are available to us to engage with the text and remember that the people that we're reading about are just like us.

Elise: [00:28:27] Friends, thank you so much for joining us today for another episode of The Faithful Feminists Podcast. We know your time and space is sacred, and we're grateful to have spent ours with you. If you enjoyed this episode, we would love it if you showed your support by sharing the podcast, leaving us a loving rating on iTunes, or connect with us on Instagram as TheFaithfulFeminists

Channing: [00:28:47] We're deeply grateful for your kindness and encouragement. We love you so, so much, and we hope to spend more time with you again soon. Bye friends.
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