Better Than Bitter
by Impact Church
“Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”John 2:10
8 Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, “Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” 9 So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” 10 And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. Revelation 10:8-10
The Apostle John recorded both of the passages above. The first event was the wedding at Cana when he personally witnessed Jesus turn the water into wine. The second event was experienced in his vision of the end times. These two stories relate to the experience of taste as metaphor for something more substantial in spirit. And both address the reality of this world and our experience of it.
John recorded the testimony of the wedding headwaiter that the wine which Jesus made was the good stuff. He was shocked by a reversal of the norm: “everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine.” “Everyone”? Not this time.
The practice was common: drinking wine dulled the sense of taste and diminished the value of taste. In short, the common way was the good first impression ends with poor or distaste. Why waste good wine on dull taste buds? But that wasn’t the way Jesus worked.
The vision of John in Revelation is a much more severe setting and more harsh than a wedding. John is writing what Jesus unveiled to him. In the end times, the judgment of God is pictured as a scroll. Several Old Testament prophets had similar experience with the Word of God. John’s experience was different. The scroll was sweet in the beginning and bitter in the stomach. The judgment of God might well be something that is sweet when we think about it – our idea of “sweet revenge” – and we might even call for it. However, when His wrath is actually considered, it is terrible and there is nothing sweet about it. It is a bitter reality.
Within these two stories is a contrastive look at life. What is good in the beginning but poor in the end is a worldly way to see things. This world offers initial sweets that turn into poor experiences. By contrast, what Jesus offers exceeds them all: His Grace is better than anything the world has to offer. For His children, for those who believe, He is saving the best for last.
There is also a hard reality to the refusal to believe: initially, the world is sweet to the taste, but when it gets to the end, there a bitter experience coming. This world offers fast and instant sweet tastes that turn bitter in the end. The “passing pleasure of sin” that Moses resisted (Hebrews 11:25) is indicative of this deceptive experience.
Without Jesus, the initial sweet offerings of this world will end bitterly. With Jesus, He will provide us with the good at the end.