Imagine with me, please.
Imagine that you’re a minimum-wage waiter at a small, private restaurant. The owners are nice people, and it’s pleasant work, even though you don’t make much money. Most of the employees have worked there for a while, and know each other pretty well. The rooms are worn, but homey and comfortable. The food is not fancy, but it’s prepared well and served with pride.
Their banquet room stays pretty busy, with anniversaries and birthdays. Today, there’s a wedding reception, and it’s turned into kind of a rowdy bunch. In fact, a number of the guests are getting tipsy. They’re still nice, but their words are slurred and they walk funny. There’s been a line at the bar all night, and now there’s a line for the toilets.
The best man pulls you aside. “Yeah, we didn’t expect this many people! The beer is running out. Do you have a spare keg in your cooler? I’ll pay retail for it!” You check with your shift manager, and there’s no spare keg. The best man nearly panics. His eyes dart around the room.
At that point, one of the grandmothers interrupts. “Relax, John. I’ve got this.” She gestures for you to follow her, and walks off. John does NOT relax, but he’s got no options.
The grandma walks up to the young man who stands out among the crowd of rough men in the corner. You overhear a brief argument before she turns to you: “Do whatever he says to do,” and walks off. This is a woman you don’t argue with.
The guy – he might be thirty, and he looks rough, like it’s been a hard thirty years – turns to you and asks politely, “Where’s your dishwasher?” You lead him to the back.
“Excellent! Just what I was looking for!” He grins as he points at a stack of empty five gallon buckets draining on the drainage rack. “Fill all of these with water please. And this, too,” as he dumps the last pickle out of another bucket. He turns to continue his conversation with his friends.
You check to make sure all the pickles are out of the buckets and then you fill them from the dishwashing station. The guy is still talking. You tap his shoulder. “They’re full of water, sir.” You smell sardines on some of the guys.
“Perfect! Thank you! Now take this, please,” and he grabs a coffee cup from the dishwasher, and dips it into the pickle bucket, “to the best man, and ask him if it will do.” And he turns back to his buddies again.
You stare at the back of his head for a moment, mumbling to yourself, “Take dish water to the best man? Seriously? This guy’s not all there, is he?” But what else is there to do? The lady said to do what he told you.
The best man is behind the bar, nervously explaining to yet another bleary-eyed guest that *this* beer keg is empty, but they’ve sent someone out getting them another one. You tap on his shoulder and hand him the mug. “Will this do, sir?” He doesn’t even acknowledge your presence, but he takes the coffee mug from your hands while he repeats the same thing to a woman with smeared makeup.
He doesn’t look at the mug, but takes a sip, still talking to the bar patrons. You cringe: you know where that mug came from.
It takes a second to register, and you get ready to run. He pauses mid-sentence, and then he stops moving altogether, his eyes open wide. He looks down at the coffee cup, and you see that the water is unmistakably brown now. Oh no! It’s not even clean dishwater! You cringe again, as he slowly turns to look at you for the first time, his eyes bright.
“Yes. Yes, this will do very nicely! This is very good! Why did you save the best keg for last?”
Meditation on John, chapter two.