Over the next twelve months, starting in November, I’ll be performing a one-man show called Water into Wine. Here I explain why, what it is – and where you can see it.
What’s the most famous miracle Jesus did?
Name three miracles of Jesus.
Your instinct will probably pick the story of Jesus turning water into wine. How do I know that?
While writing The Gospel According to a Sitcom Writer, I ran a couple of unscientific straw polls on Twitter and Facebook of people who don’t go to church. I asked them to name any miracles Jesus did.
Jesus turning water into wine was first on the list for everyone. Everyone.
Is this surprising?
After all, there are so many other miracles to pick from. Many are more impressive, like raising Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus was mentioned a few times in the responses, lower down the list, but healings were hardly ever mentioned. Blind Bartimaeus doesn’t get much brand recognition these days.
But Bartimaeus will always do better than most because he has a name: Bartimaeus. This probably explains why Lazarus does better than the other two people raised from the dead in the gospels: Jairus’s daughter (Mark 5) and the son of the Widow at Nain (Luke 7). We need a name to latch onto. Names are important.
What’s in a Name?
Yet very few recipients of Jesus’s grace are named in the gospel accounts. John gives the whole of chapter 9 over to the farcical response to the healing of ‘a man born blind’, a fascinating character with some laugh-out-loud lines. But he is never named in any of the 41 verses in which John tells that story.
Jesus turns water into wine in only eleven verses. Maybe less is more. It’s so simple and memorable. Jesus is at wedding. They’ve run out of wine. He has servants fill six huge stone jars with water and – alakazam! – it’s wine. Except it doesn’t quite happen that way. As I explain in the show, the story is riddled with, well, riddles. Things don’t quite happen as we remember them or how we assumed they went down.
The Unhappy Couple
While we’re about it, pity poor Shirley and Steve. What are the names of the two people who actually got married in John Chapter 2? We’re never told. Given the faux pas of running out of wine, maybe John decided to spare their blushes.
So when I ask you to name a famous miracle of Jesus, you’re unlikely to respond ‘the one with the paralysed man on a mat lowered through the ceiling’ or ‘the healing of the centurion’s servant.’ You want a name. Or an event. Much easier to say ‘Jesus turned water into wine’.
The other surprising thing here is this: Jesus only turns water into wine in one gospel.
This miracle is unique to John. Jesus feeding the five thousand with five loaves and two fish is in all four gospels. Shouldn’t that be more famous? That said, it almost always comes second on the list.
And In Third Place
So, after Water into Wine, and the Feeding of the Five Thousand, what normally comes next? Can you guess?
It is Jesus walking on water.
Maybe the weirdness of that miracle and the picture that it conjurs in our minds makes it more memorable than most of the others. Add to that the fact we can sing that our heroes ‘walk on water’ in the terraces of football grounds.
Guess what? That story is in John too. (Along with Matthew and Mark.) Our three most famous miracles are all in the Gospel of John – along with a handful of other miracles.
And this is why the Water into Wine show exists. And why I’m excited about it.
Why you need to bring your friends to this show
Biblical knowledge among the general population is rapidly dwindling. Well played, secular education. Well played. But there stubbornly remain a few shared reference points between us Christians and our friends who don’t called themselves Christians. Sporadic research proves we do have these stories:
Jesus turned water into wine
Jesus fed the five thousand people with five loaves and two fish
Jesus walked on water.
But do our friends know WHY? Why did Jesus turn water into wine? And why is it the first miracle in John? And what are all these miracles doing in John’s gospel?
That’s the aim of the show: to explain all this – with jokes and engaging visuals – to any who are curious to find out. No altar calls or anything. I’ll just be presenting what we find in scripture so the audience can engage with it for themselves.
Warning: the audience will be treated as intelligent adults.
So if you are curious – or morbidly fascinated - to find out how I’m going to pull this off in a one-man show, why not come and see it for yourself?
I criss cross the country in November, performing some preview shows in Bognor Regis, London, Knutsford, Loughborough, Southampton and Basingstoke. Details below.
Book in. And why not bring a friend, or two friends? Then you can ask them what they made of this BBC sitcom writer who is hooked on the Gospel of John. Maybe they will want to actually read John’s Gospel for themselves. You could read it again with fresh eyes.
And come and say hi afterwards.
If you’d like me to come to your church at some point with this show in 2022, get in touch with me by either replying to this newsletter, if you subscribe, or going here.
Water into Wine Preview Dates
2nd Nov 7.30pm St Mary Magdalene, South Bersted, BOGNOR REGIS More Info & booking
12th Nov 7.30pm Winklebury & Worting Parish Church, BASINGSTOKE More info & booking
30th Nov 7.30pm St Mary’s Sileby (nr LOUGHBOROUGH) BOOK TICKETS HERE
3rd Dec 7.30pm St Peters, Bishops Waltham (nr SOUTHAMPTON) TICKETS AVAILABLE SOON
Why build a Cathedral?
Cooper & Cary have words with Steve Jeffery about postmillennialism, and why it matters. How did a Christian British man come to be so optimistic about the future of the world? Also, some differences between US and UK churches, why the wise men followed the star, the dating of the New Testament and how we don’t appreciate the significance of the Temple. The Word of the Podcast is: Preterism. Episode 118 as a podcast, but also as a YouTube video.