Wedding at Cana
2 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and 2 Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. 3 When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They don’t have any wine.”
4 Jesus replied, “Woman, what does that have to do with me? My time hasn’t come yet.”
5 His mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Nearby were six stone water jars used for the Jewish cleansing ritual, each able to hold about twenty or thirty gallons.
7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water,” and they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, “Now draw some from them and take it to the headwaiter,” and they did. 9 The headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine. He didn’t know where it came from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.
The headwaiter called the groom 10 and said, “Everyone serves the good wine first. They bring out the second-rate wine only when the guests are drinking freely. You kept the good wine until now.” 11 This was the first miraculous sign that Jesus did in Cana of Galilee. He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.
Thoughts on the passage:
There are seven miracles that Jesus performs in the Gospel of John. Sometimes called the seven signs, these miracles serve as a testimony to the power of Christ, but also are meant to help illustrate who God is and what God is seeking to do through Christ in the world. During the season of Lent, we will be exploring these different miracles to see what we can learn from them. We will also be asking ourselves what miracles God is doing in our lives as well. The miracles of God are not limited to Christ, or even to his disciples in the Bible. Miracles are happening all around us, we need to get better at opening our eyes and seeing them.
The first miracles in John is the story of Jesus turning water into wine. For someone who is aware of the dangers of alcoholism and the negative effects of a culture of partying, I am not always sure I like this miracle. If you are preaching to a bunch of college kids it can sound cool to say that Jesus turned water into wine, but what does it mean for Jesus to be aiding in drinking to excess? Did the Word become flesh and dwell among us so that we would never run out of something to drink?
My own struggles with this highlight several challenges when dealing with miracles. First, we often want to explain miracles, seeking to define what it is that Jesus is doing in the miracle. Second, we can bring our own values and assumptions to a miracle and in doing so can make the miracle about the wrong things. We will see this at other points when people get upset because Jesus is healing (doing work) on the Sabbath, rather than being excited that he has done something amazing and wonderful. In the same vein, it is easy for me to be focused on the fact that Jesus created wine (alcohol) rather than seeing this as a sign of God’s power, abundance, and generosity. This first miracle is a great practice for us in thinking about how we respond to the miracles that God places in our lives.
The miracle of turning water into wine is not about the wine. Instead it is about how God can do amazing things including turning simple water into fine wine. It is about the abundance that is offered through a life with Christ. Symbolically it creates a link between the abundance of wine in John, with the communion wine of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). Just as there is more than enough wine to go around in John, there is more than enough grace to go around in the communion cup of wine that Christ offers to us at the Last Supper.
When we struggle to believe the miracles we find in the gospels, it is usually for two reasons. The first it that we cannot explain what has happened. Those of us who understand science know that there is not a method of changing the chemical make-up of water, which is simply two elements, hydrogen and oxygen, into something that is far more complex and contains several other elements without adding something to the equation. Second, I think we struggle to believe miracles because we don’t believe what they tell us about God. Even if we can believe that what occurred is possible, we struggle to believe that God made it happen.
The wedding of Cana is not meant to teach us that God can turn water into wine. It is instead meant to show how God wants us to live lives of abundant joy. The miracle is the miracle of celebration. The question is not do we believe the God who created the universe and everything in it can turn water into wine. The question is do we believe that God wants us to celebrate and have a good time. The first miracle of Jesus shows us that God does indeed want us to be filled with joy.
Now I get that this can be a hard thing for us as Minnesotans to grasp. We are a down-to-earth group. We do not like to make a big deal about things especially good things that happen to us. We spend far more time complaining about how much snow we got than we do celebrating the sunshine and the good weather we are enjoying. As Howard Moore observed in his book How to Talk Minnesotan, we say “‘it could be worse’, because it can always be worse, it can be worse more often than it can be better.” We are not wired to celebrate and have a good time.
God wants to celebrate. God wants us to be filled with joy. We follow a God that turns the simple into the extraordinary and uses a wedding to display the wondrous power that God has to turn our lives into something wonderful. Are we able to believe in that? Are we able to believe that God wants our lives to be amazing? We are like the wine-steward, who tastes the wine and thinks the reason for it is simply the host saved the best for last. We look for rational answers to the good things that happen in our lives because we cannot believe that there is not a rational explanation but rather an irrational one, that God loves us.
I know that a lot of us are feeling the winter blues as the snow keeps piling up. I know a lot of us are tired of seeing negative temperatures on our phones when we wake up. We are in the season of Lent, a time of austerity and gloom, but I challenge us to look instead for the joy. Maybe God is not going to turn all our water into wine, but God is providing us reasons to celebrate each and every day. God’s miracles are all around us. We need to start opening our eyes to what God is doing in our midst.
What can you do to live a life of joy? What can you do to enter into the wedding feast that God is providing for us? What do you need to do to accept the grace that flows abundantly in God’s presence? Do we act like Mary, believing that God can transform our lives and make a difference, or are we the steward who tries to understand what just happened? God is moving and working in the world. Rather than standing around and wondering how it happens, let us join in the dance and celebrate our God. Amen
Questions to Ponder:
What do you do with the stories and miracles you read about in the Bible?
What is something you need to celebrate in your life?
What is a miracle that has happened in your life that you cannot explain?
God, you move and work in wondrous ways and for that we love you. Open our eyes to the miraculous things you do around us each and every day. Fill us with joy that we might celebrate your good works. Bless us that we might be instruments of your joy in the world. Amen