Meals with Jesus
The Wedding Party in Cana
Read : St John 2:1-11 (NIV)
We all look forward to a wedding, don't we? But we may not look forward to the planning in quite the same way. There is no doubt, weddings require a huge amount of organisation . . . the venues, the minister, the rings, the flowers, the organist, the outfits, the meal, the wine . . And with all this planning, and all these different components needing to be woven together, it is inevitable there is a certain degree of nervousness associated with the 'big' day. Everyone wants it to be perfect as did the people, I'm sure, in the passage we read today.
In the Old and New Testament worlds, weddings were happy, festive occasions just as they are today. The marriage ceremony was considerably longer however, during which time there was much feasting and celebration. But of course there was one major problem at that wedding in Cana of Galilee . .. the wine ran out.
Verse three says: When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine."
What is interesting here is that the mother of Jesus, Mary, is present at the wedding, and then obviously takes charge of the situation. Mary clearly informs Jesus with the hope that he might do something about the situation. Of course, of all those present, the mother of our Lord knows Jesus best. She knows better than anyone of the miraculous events surrounding his birth. At this point Jesus has not yet performed a miracle, and we do not know for certain that Mary expects him to do so right now. But from what she does know, it is certainly possible that she expects Jesus to do something out of the ordinary, and sort out the wine problem.
Jesus knows that his mother expects a response of some kind, and so he gives her one, though it is hardly what she expects. "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come."
Of course, Jesus, by this point has grown up. Mary no longer has the same parental authority over him, and in fact, as the Messiah, she has no authority over him at all. With this response, Jesus is reminding Mary of this, especially in addressing her as 'woman' and not 'mother'. He simply reminds her of the change in their roles and relationships. He is no longer her 'little boy', obliged to do whatever she asks; he is the Messiah, who must obey his true Father. He is also sensitive to the face of the timing of 'his debut' - the first sign that he is truly the Messiah.
Undeterred by this put-down, Mary instructs the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them to. Jesus instructs them to fill the six stone water-jugs with water. Up to this point it's doubtful that either the servants or Mary, or our Lord's newly-acquired disciples have a clue as to what Jesus is about to do. The massive jugs of water were for the wedding rituals. The people wanted more wine, not more water for purification, what on earth was Jesus up to?
And then he tells the servants to take some of the water out and take it to the chief steward. The water from these stone water-jugs would probably not have been deemed suitable for drinking. But this was a test for the servants; a test of whether they would actually follow Mary's instructions - 'do what Jesus tells you to'.
In absolute unbelief they must have thought, "I know Mary said to do whatever Jesus said, but surely He can't be serious! We are to serve this "water" to the head steward? When he finds out it is only water, and not wine, he'll have our jobs. And if he finds out where this water came from, we're really in big trouble". No one could have ever imagined what was about to happen. There was no magic wand, there was no flash of light, there was not even a command from Jesus, and yet the water was water no longer.
Theologians argue over when the transformation happened, or even if the servants would have known something had changed before giving the now wine to the chief steward. We don't know if the water would have changed colour, appearance or smell; the account in St John, chapter two, only says the chief steward tasted the water that had become wine, and it was very good.
So where does this story of Jesus' first miracle leave us? What can we learn from it?
Firstly, Jesus care and love for the wedding party is evident in this story. It is important to realise that this first miracle was not hugely necessary, it was more of a luxury. It didn't concern someone who had been suffering for years like the man who had been paralysed for thirty-eight years, or the man who received his sight having been born blind.
The situation at the wedding was not one that demanded immediate or dramatic action on our Lord's part. The wine had run out, but there were far more acute and dreadful situations that Jesus could have 'fixed' by performing his first miracle.But Jesus does concern himself with this 'non-critical' problem, the same way as God concerns himself with all our 'non-critical' problems.
We should never think God is too busy, or too important, to deal with out minor day-to-day difficulties. God is all-powerful and all-knowing and he is also a compassionate and merciful Father, who cares about his children. God is never annoyed when we come to him with our small troubles, and we should always remember that when we are at work, or at home, or at school, or wherever..
Secondly, the people at the wedding party just didn't get what Jesus was doing.
Mary wouldn't have understood why Jesus was being obstinate to begin with.
The chief steward couldn't understand where this wine had come from, or why the good wine was being served after the inferior wine.
The disciples wouldn't have understood why Jesus was bothering getting involved.
We maybe 'don't always get' what God is up to in our lives, or our war-ravaged world. But we must always remember that God's plan is the right plan. God's miracles occur every day, but they occur in ways that seem so natural that we might not even recognise them.
And lastly, Jesus produced something abundant and bountiful in this miracle. The wine Jesus created was the best ever, but he did not create a small quantity, he produced much more than was needed. God's blessings on us are always bountiful, and the greatest of these blessings? Jesus himself.
At Christmas we celebrate Jesus' birth once again. Without him, this miracle wouldn't have happened. Without him, we wouldn't be saved. Let us praise God for Jesus, and like the wedding party in Cana, celebrate with much joy!
Christ is our joy! transforming wedding guest!
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