Jan. 16, 2022 Second Sunday After Epiphany The text is John 2:1-11.
“The ‘Good Wine’ is Served!”
1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9 When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “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.” 11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen
“On the third day”; where have we heard that before? This is only the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, yet the proclamation we confess in the Apostles’ Creed is already being used by John to describe what has happened so far. This “third day”, when Jesus and Mary attend a wedding celebration in Cana happens three days after Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist. The day after that Jesus calls his first two disciples, Peter and Andrew. The following day, he calls Phillip and Nathaniel, and apparently takes some time off to attend the Cana wedding with his mother.
And, during the celebration we read that he performs the first of his “signs’ to be found in John, the changing of water into wine. Pretty dramatic feat for a first-time miracle! And, we should remember that it’s only three days into Jesus’ mission, and he’s already performing “signs”. We should also take a moment to consider why he did this; after all, there was no audience of powerful people, Pharisees, or even Pilate. The blind didn’t have their sight restored, the lame didn’t walk, no “loaves and fishes”, no walking on water. For his very first public demonstration of divine power Jesus chose to ensure that there was enough wine to keep the party going. And, it also seems that he didn’t initially intend to take action until Mary, his mother prompted him to get involved. Who benefitted from Jesus making sure there was enough merlot available so the wedding celebration wouldn’t fizzle out?
Wedding receptions in first-century Israel weren’t the same as the way we celebrate marriages today. In a small town like Cana, likely every resident would have been invited, and this may have amounted to a few hundred guests. Wedding celebrations would normally last up to a week, and to be honest, most of them devolved from congratulatory festivities to what can only be described as week-long cocktail parties. The drinking of copious amounts of wine was the main reason for the party to come together in the first place, and what inevitably kept it going. If the wine ran out the embarrassment experienced by the hosts would be the talk of the town for generations. Don’t forget that hospitality in all its forms was held in the highest regard throughout the ancient Middle East. Jesus’ first miracle, his initial “sign”, while not involving sight to the blind, raising from the dead, or the healing of a leper, did however save the newlyweds and their families from great humiliation. Through this action of water into wine, Jesus shows that he understands the nature of human needs and frailties, and that he is willing to save God’s people from embarrassment just as quickly as from blindness, lameness, disease, and even death. This first of seven “signs” that John recounts assures us that Jesus cares for every aspect of our lives, and that the abundance of life that we are promised entails all that brings humanity comfort.
And, throughout the gospel of John, each of Jesus’ “signs” have two components, at least in the manner in which John narrates them. The performing of the “sign” itself and its deeper meaning for the world.
The turning of water into wine in Cana is miraculous on its own, but what is the more profound significance behind this “sign”? Well, it wasn’t lost on the steward, the first-century wedding planner that the “good wine” was served in the latter part of the festivities; leave it up to Jesus to turn things upside-down in this, his very first public “sign”. But what can we learn from this seeming contradiction in accepted cultural wedding custom? And how does this translate to a more meaningful connection to Jesus’ ministry? What if we don’t simply accept that the good wine was served after the cheap stuff in the box, and instead focus on the fact that the later vintage was so much better than the earlier variety? We then come to the conclusion that Jesus; who he is and what he stands for, is so much better for humanity than anything that has come before. The old bondage to the Law is replaced by the new freedom brought about by Jesus’ resurrection, which will also come on the “third day”. The wedding party in Cana was made better with the serving of the “good wine” on the third day of Jesus’ ministry, and the life of the world and its people will be made abundant on the third day after his death. The “good wine” now is nothing compared to the abundant life Jesus has secured for later.
We should probably take a moment to remember that we are in the middle of the season of Epiphany, and that this “sign” that Jesus performs is the first expression of his divine nature that we encounter since the Wise Men visited him and Mary thirty years prior. Gospel writer John declares that this first of Jesus’ ”signs” “revealed his glory” and that his followers who observed this came to believe in him as the Son of God. And, for us this revelation of the nature of Christ ought to give us pause as we consider the significance of his providing what was needed for the Cana celebration to be maintained. And, perhaps we should think about what would have happened if Jesus chose not to reveal himself at that particular time and place. John writes; “When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
It seems to me that there had to have been more to this conversation between Jesus and his mother, Mary than John chose to relate. Something must have happened between, “woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” and “his mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” More than likely, Mary, as only a mother can, and knowing who Jesus is asked him to intervene in some way to save the family from embarrassment. It’s not a stretch to assume that she may have given Jesus the “look”, you know, the one that mothers give to their kids when they inherently know that the child needs a bit of motivation. “They have no wine”, Mary says to Jesus, her son whom she knows is able to correct the situation. Perhaps she was prompted by the Spirit to press Jesus to take action; this may have been what the Father intended to be the beginning of Jesus’ revelation to the world that God has come to be among the people. After all, this “sign”, the first expression of Jesus’ divinity took place on the “third day”!
It was obvious to Mary that there is a marked difference between abundance and scarcity, and she knew that Jesus had come to ensure that the world would be blessed with plenty and saved from need. Water to wine set this mission in motion; the overall abundant life that all who follow Jesus are blessed with was secured on the “third day” when he rose; perhaps it began with Mary’s suggestion in Cana, the “third day” after Jesus’ baptism.
We should ask ourselves, “how much is enough?” when we contemplate our abundance, and perhaps we might go so far as to question if we might have too much. On the other hand, when we fear scarcity, the question should be, “who do we trust?” If Jesus is able to raise the dead and perform miraculous healings, and he also provides the needed wine at a wedding feast, we ought to take comfort in the fact that life abundant is God’s wish for God’s people; and that any scarceness, any lacking in our lives will be satisfied by the One who ensures that all our needs are met. Jesus’ rising on the “third day”, perhaps foreshadowed by his “third day” turning of water to wine; this, this is the assurance that what has been secured for us is the promise that God proclaims in the Good News…life abundant for all who believe in Christ Jesus, God’s Son.
Will you pray with me? Good, and gracious, and Holy God, we acknowledge that Jesus has come to save your people from scarcity and to fulfil your promise of abundant life for those who follow him. We give you thanks that Jesus knows all our needs, from wedding libations to eternal life with you. Help us to appreciate all that you provide for us, sharing our abundance with others, and not fearing scarcity. And we pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, the One who provides for all our needs; withholding nothing, not even his own life for the sake of the abundance of the world.
God is Good, all the time. All the time, God is Good. Amen.