Water, wine and a sense of humour


Bethany, A.D. 30 - A close friend of the preacher Jesus, who has not been seen for weeks, has said he is probably in the Judean desert praying. "He goes in for that sort of thing lately," said Lazarus, a wine maker in Bethany. "There's a serious side to him and now and again he needs to get away."

Lazarus explained that Jesus had been a friend since both were very young. "Myself and my two sisters, Martha and Mary, used spend our summers with cousins in Nazareth when we were growing up, " he said.

He denied that Mary had been a girlfriend of Jesus's, as has been claimed by the `Spleen Scene' gossip column in the Moon tabloid. Mary said: "We are just very close friends." She dismissed suggestions that Jesus was dour and humourless with a tendency to condemn. "Now that's a joke," said Martha, "God, if they only knew him." She called her brother, who had gone inside the house. "Lazarus, Lazarus," she called, and Lazarus came forth. "Tell the story about the wedding," she said.

Lazarus explained how he and Jesus had been invited to a wedding in Cana. Mark, a man who trained as a carpenter with Jesus and Joseph, was getting married. "Now this fellow Mark was a notorious prankster," explained Lazarus about bridegroom. "Unknown to me he once nailed a corner of my clothes to a bench they were working on as I was leaving the workshop in Nazareth. I was nearly naked before I realised what he had done.".

"Another time he buried money belonging to Jesus, for a joke. It was never found again because he couldn't remember where he put it. So we had to do something," he said.

What they did was hide most of the wedding wine. Very soon there was none left and the bridegroom was pink with embarrassment as guests wondered why their host was being so mean. "Ye are behind this," said a desperate Mark to them. "Please, fellas. Stop messing," pleaded Mark. But he knew it was hopeless.

So he went to Mary, Jesus's mother. She came outside to where her son was laughing with Lazarus. "Jesus. . . ," she called, "you come here this minute." "Uh, oh. . . we're for it now", said Jesus.

Mary said: "They have no more wine." "What has this to do with me Mom? Why are you telling me this?" Jesus protested. But she was not fooled.

She turned to staff at the inn and said: "Do whatever that fellow tells ye." There were six stone water jars nearby which were sometimes used by the Jews for ceremonial washing. He and Lazarus had hidden the wine there. It needed diluting to get the flavour right. He asked the staff to fill each jar with water, then to take some of it to the best man.

They did. The best man thought it the best wine he had ever tasted. He called for Mark. "Everyone else brings out the best wine first and then the cheap wine when people are tipsy. But you, of course, have to do the opposite. Where Mark is concerned the unexpected always happens," he told the guests. They all laughed and clapped.

Later, when Jesus became better known, people said that he had changed the water into wine at Cana. Staff at the inn said they had seen him do so. "Now that's the best joke of all," said Lazarus.