John 2: 1 – 11
When Bob and I got married, we made a weekend out of it because people were coming from all over the country to attend. Family that hadn’t seen each other, some of them for years, were coming and we wanted time to visit and reminisce. Our wedding and reception were on a Friday night. We had an all day and late into the night open house on Saturday, and then a send-off brunch on Sunday.
Because, after all, a wedding is about a lot more than just the two people at the center of the celebrations. A wedding is also about champagne toasts, open bar, tossing the bouquet, drinking, eating, and chicken dancing late into the evening. A wedding is about reunions, family catching up, fawning over the kids and telling them how big, how beautiful, how grown up they have gotten. A wedding is about remembering weddings past, remembering those who have passed on, telling stories, sharing memories…..and making more memories.
At the heart of all of the celebration there is the excitement of witnessing and participating in something new being created, a new beginning between two people joining their lives together, entering into covenant together, entering into a lifelong journey of sharing and partnership.
At the heart of a wedding celebration, there is a new beginning that speaks to us of hope for the future, passion, joy, continuation of traditions, a sharing of values, and an expansion of family. I’m sure my Dad told Bob that he wasn’t losing a daughter, but that he was gaining a son.
Beginning his gospel with a wedding celebration seems a fitting way for John to illuminate Jesus’ ministry which is about bringing a new way of thinking about God and a new way of being together into the world. What better place for beginning his ministry about God’s new creation, God’s new day, than at a wedding, a joyous celebration of new beginnings and a new life together.
Notice that John doesn’t include any details about the wedding…when we join the party, we are already three days into the celebrating. In those days, a typical wedding feast might last for 7 days. When our story begins, they are only 3 days in and the wine has run out.
Running out of wine would be a shameful event. A family’s reputation and standing in the community would be at stake. Humiliation, shame, and ridicule could be the consequence. Guests were also expected to help provide provisions for a wedding so shame could fall on the guests as well. The whole occasion is at risk of becoming an epic fail. So, when Jesus mother comes to him and says, “They have no wine,” it’s a big deal. There is an implied, “Do something” in her statement of the problem.
She might be reminding him of his obligation as a guest and as head of their household to contribute something to the party. We don’t know what she things he will do, but she clearly has an expectation for Jesus to act. If we imagine Jesus smiling when he responds to her and says, “What concern is that for you and me? My hour has not yet come.” We could hear that as, “No need for you to worry while I am still here with you. Problem solved!”
Seeming satisfied, his mother tells the servants to do what Jesus tells them to do. She leaves no other instructions, confident that having given her problem into Jesus’ hands, he will take care of everything…that he will provide the best possible solution…something better than what she can even imagine.
The Gospel of John is often called the Book of Signs. This wedding miracle is the first of 7 signs in John’s Gospel. Just before this, Jesus has been baptized and he has called his disciples. And then they are all invited to this wedding in Cana where Jesus gives his first sign.
An important thing to know, is that for John, the miracles – the signs- that Jesus performs, are not, in and of themselves, as important as what the miracles are revealing about Jesus and what they are revealing about the kingdom of God. When we are reading John, we need to be looking for what the signs are pointing to for us to see.
So what does this story reveal to us?
Jesus doesn’t fill wine containers which certainly would have been small jugs or jars. Instead, he has the tall water jars filled to the BRIM, and he provides gallons, and gallons, and gallons of wine…certainly enough wine to provide for the rest of the celebration…and then some!
Just as with the loaves and fishes, Jesus provides enough, and more than enough…enough for all to have their fill and still have leftovers. This extravagant sign reveals God’s abundance and generous nature. In God’s kingdom, there is more than enough for everyone.
What else is this story pointing us to see?
Notice that it isn’t the actual transformation of the water into wine that is the surprise. It is the quality of the wine and the timing of when it is served that surprises the Steward. The steward says to the bridegroom, “Everyone serves the good wine first and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.”
This is the sign…the surprise, the unexpectedness, the twist. This is a hallmark of Jesus ministry – he goes against convention, against the rules and customs that encourage a mentality of scarcity and hoarding. He turns things topsy turvey. He never does what is expected.
He is always God’s Word made flesh, bringing God’s Word to life, showing us what it means to participate in God’s kingdom here on earth. Jesus always goes beyond our imagining for what is possible. And he shows us that what is possible is the best of the best, and plenty and more than plenty to share among everyone.
Who is it that gets to see the sign? Who sees and witnesses?
The servants. The servants get to be in on the miracle. They draw the water and fill the jars to the brim. They get to draw the wine out and serve it. They get to carry the surprise in to the waiting guests and see their faces when they taste its goodness.
They get to be filled with wonder and amazement. One mark of Jesus ministry is that most often it is those who are not invited to participate in the feast, those who are invisible, those on the outside looking in…who are most often the ones who get to see Jesus in action and be witness to the miraculous.
And in the end, who is it who believes?
Our scripture says, “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” A first and most important step in their shared journey and ministry together. It is a question for us to carry awhile as we prepare for Lent.
What do we believe?
Who can we turn to when we are running on empty, when we have spiritually run dry? What can we do when we feel inadequate…when the obstacles and challenges before us seem insurmountable?
That is when we are to turn to Jesus and say, “There is nothing left.”
That is when we are to give our lives to Jesus, confident that having given ourselves into Jesus hands, he will take care of everything…that he will provide the best possible solution…something better than what we can even imagine.
Our human resources are limited. We run out of energy, out of strength, out of hope, out of determination, out of inspiration, and we run out of ideas. But fueled by the spirit and held by Jesus, we too can accomplish miracles. We too can do our part to proclaim and reveal God’s kingdom through our love and our action as Jesus disciples, as doers of God’s Word. This story encourages us to celebrate with excitement as we are called to participate in something new being created here and now.
We are vessels waiting to be filled, filled with the Holy Spirit, filled with grace, filled with love, filled with peace…filled to the brim, filled until our cups runneth over….Jesus has shown us that we can depend on God’s grace; gallons, and gallons, and gallons of grace! We can depend on God’s abundant love that never runs out.
We are the servants who get to be in on the miracle. We get to carry the surprise and Good News of God’s abundant love to the waiting guests and see their faces when they taste its goodness. We all get to be filled with wonder and amazement as witnesses and as disciples.
Let us together, give everything into Jesus hands, and trust that he will take care of everything…that he will provide the best possible solutions…that Jesus will lead us to something better and more glorious than we can even imagine!
Let us BELIEVE!