Water into Wine
Second Sunday of Epiphany. John 2 1-11
In his gospel, John wants to reveal to each of us in a special way the significance of this wedding feast, so he leads us gradually towards it. If we look at Jesus’ life so far in Johns gospel, we have John the Baptist seeing Jesus and saying ‘Behold the Lamb of God,’ and seven days later we have the wedding at Cana.
The number 7 is a significant number in the Bible. In all, the number 7 is used in the Bible more than seven hundred times. Sometimes, the symbolism of 7 is a great comfort to us: Jesus is the seven-fold “I AM” in the Gospel of John. Other times, it challenges us: Jesus told Peter to forgive a wrongdoer “seventy times seven” times. Sometimes, a 7 is just a 7, and we must be cautious about attaching symbolic meanings to any text, however, there are times when it seems that God is communicating the idea of divine completeness, perfection, and wholeness by means of the number 7.
This day will be a foretaste of the wedding feast of the Lamb, to which we are all invited and which is announced in the last book of the bible. Revelation 19 V 6 Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the lamb.
This is the first recorded miracle that Jesus performed and it was at a wedding, and the very last words of the Bible are ~The spirit and the Bride say ‘come’! Come, Lord Jesus’.
This is the first miracle and it is highly significant.
Jewish weddings were usually held on a Wednesday evening. The couple would wear wedding robes and crowns on their heads and they would be treated like royalty – for this was the greatest celebration of their lives and after the official ceremony they would be led home through the town by torchbearers. They would not go away for a honeymoon like the wedding couples today, but would have a party, which lasted up to a week.
Imagine the planning and catering that would have to go into that! There would be lots of guests often hundreds. It was customary that all would all wash the dust off their hands and feet when they came into the house – so there were always huge stone water jars outside the door, these we are told held about 30 litres.
Jesus, his Mother and the disciples were at such a wedding party and I guess having fun. There would be singing, dancing, eating and lots of wine. Yet in the middle of all the festivities there is a moment of crisis and panic. There is no more wine.
Just imagine the embarrassment of the bride and groom and their parents, the party would have to close early. A catering disaster.
Mary, Jesus Mother is at the wedding and when she sees the humiliation of the wedding couple and their families she is moved by compassion and says to Jesus,
‘They have no more wine’
Jesus seems reluctant to do anything at first and almost sounds rude in his reply to his Mother – “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour is not yet come.” You can almost see the scene as their eyes meet and he is try to convey a Mother NOT NOW message in his gaze. But he calls her Woman, which in Jewish terms carried much respect. She seems to take no notice of His refusal and goes to the servant and tells them to do what Jesus says. That was quite a test of her faith in what the Angel Gabriel had told her. But she knew him, she had spent time with him, she trusted him.
Then suddenly Jesus turns a very ordinary wedding into an extraordinary event. It was a miraculous sign. It was a life-changing day for every person at the wedding and a turning point for the disciples as they began to realise just who he was.
Miracles are signposts to who Jesus is and the coming of his kingdom.
To pick up the story:
Jesus takes control – no nipping down to Tesco’s for a couple of boxes – he takes what he sees, takes what is at hand, takes the ordinary and turns it into the extraordinary. I have often wondered how Jesus felt, for as far as we know this is the first miracle and there may have been that I hope this works feeling, or maybe he had been practising, or did he just know?
Jesus said to servants “ Fill the jars with water.”
Can you just imagine the initial reaction? ‘Look here you can’t use those jars, or that water, it’s for washing. Someone might want to wash his or her hands or feet and we won’t have any water. Those jars aren’t sterile, there’s no telling what is lurking at the bottom, remember health and safety. What do you mean you are going to turn it into wine you will have too much – what will we do with it all – we will have 36 gallons of wine, there will be enough to float a boat – or drown the sorrows of mankind in a sitting – this party is going to get of out of hand and what on earth will it taste like?’
Or maybe not – perhaps his command of the situation meant they recognised the presence of God’s kingdom. This is evident in the servants’ obedient response to Jesus’ voice, in their choice to fill the water jars not just enough but “up to the brim.”
The next test was to draw some out and take it to the chief steward. Here again in their pouring out of the wine we see the evidence of God’s best, His abundant love always going beyond the norm always caring for the need of the moment.
At this wedding in Cana, we see the Eucharist anticipated. Wine is the focal point in the miracle, the very first thing that Jesus did, and the very last thing he did at the last supper, before going out to be arrested and killed was to identify himself in the wine. In both events we see the beauty of God’s presence and our sharing in God’s wine as it is poured out in celebration and love.
This was the first miraculous sign that Jess did and it was not in a church, or in a religious setting, but in a social setting at a week-long wedding party. This was the new wine.
Jesus wants his kingdom to come in the ordinary, in pubs and parties at weddings, and celebrations in the highways and byways, and it will happen by us taking Jesus with us where ever we go.
Transforming the water of duty into the wine of love.
Transforming the water of bored consumerism into the wine of joyous giving.
Transforming the water of the old covenant into the wine of the new.
Water to wine.
Wine only needs grapes, water and time to ferment.
Grapes come from the vine; the vine which is Jesus Christ, and the fermenting is our abiding in him.
And time ~ time is needed to break it down into something simpler, that people might grasp, and drink and be content.
Water to wine.
Jesus urges us ‘don’t settle for dull, stale water but long for the wine of my presence. Don’t make do with the ordinary when you can have the extraordinary.’
It is so easy to settle for mediocrity and drift along from one dull day to the next when Jesus longs for us to be filled with the new wine of his presence and power.
The key to this miracle is in verse 5:
Mary, Jesus’ mother, said to the servants at the wedding, ‘Do what he tells you’.
If the servants had ignored what Jesus had told them to do there would have been no miracle. But amazingly they did as they were told. Jesus uses the faith of ordinary people to do beautiful things.
He didn’t just produce some wine, but jars full, abundance – this was the sign the Messianic time had come.
God is continually and unendingly pouring out the wine of his love to us, so that we can receive always more, infinitely more
Water or wine.
Ordinary or the extraordinary?
As they say, ‘The choice is ours."