"Water, Wine, and Waiting On a Miracle" - John 2:1-11
On the third day, there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” She said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Now, standing there were six stone water jars for the rites of Jewish purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “fill them up with water.” So they filled them up to the brim. Then he told them to draw some out and take it to the chief steward, so they took it. When the chief steward tasted the water that had become wine and did not know where it had come from (though the servants who drew the water knew), he called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first and the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have saved the good wine until now.”
Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
So here’s Jesus, with his mother and his disciples, enjoying himself at the wedding party, when the wine gives out. And, even though he tells his mother that the time isn’t right, the time apparently comes, because he goes ahead and does what it seems Mary thought he could or should do something about, right from the get go. (We really don’t know if she even had a miracle in mind. If she was anything like my mother, her glass was empty and she needed a refill. So, maybe Mary just thought he could make a run down to the nearest vineyard and pick up a few more bottles of Merlot.)
Whatever the case, Jesus responds, however reluctantly, by taking some pretty hefty jars of water and turning them into some pretty hefty jars of fine wine – to the surprise and delight of his disciples, his mother, the caterer, and the groom, himself, I imagine – even if none of them know exactly what had happened.
You get the impression that, when Jesus tells his mom that his time had not yet come, that Jesus wasn’t exactly sure he wanted to do what he did. And it makes you wonder why. And even though he did end up performing that miracle, I can’t help but wonder, not only why, but what took him so long to pull it off, too.
After all, Jesus had gone his whole life as far as our Gospels tell it, without doing much of anything that would identify him as the Son of God. As far as we can tell, other than impressing some folks in the Temple as a middle-schooler, Jesus went all the way from the manger as a baby, to the Jordan River as a grown man, to this wedding in Cana of Galilee, without giving anyone any good reason to see him as any more or better or different than that carpenter’s kid next door. So why the wait?
Which is just what I’ve struggled to stop wondering about myself, lately. So soon after Christmas, I just keep finding myself thinking and wondering and praying about more signs – more miracles, really – that could change the state of things for some people and places who could use a miracle, right about now.
Of course, I watch the news and I think about the unrest and fear that continue to have their way with the Middle East – all of that injustice and tragedy and destruction and death. I want for God to “judge between the nations” and “arbitrate for the peoples;” “to beat swords into plowshares” and “turn spears into pruning hooks”; for people to put down their swords and their guns and to stop learning and teaching war any longer – all miracles the prophet Isaiah promised an awfully long time ago.
(It doesn’t seem like too much to ask, but it feels like we’ve run out of wine, and that Jesus’ hour still has not yet come.)
And forget about turning water into wine, really. That’s nothing compared to what I’d really like to see. That’s nothing compared to what so many need right now. Let’s see the poor get rich. Let’s see the hungry eat their fill. Let’s see the blind regain their sight, the deaf hear, the lame walk. Let’s see some binding up of the brokenhearted – more of the promises and prophecies the Scriptures point to.
(But again, it feels like the wine’s run out – that so many are thirsty – and that Jesus is just waiting for his hour to come.)
And you know what, it’s a lot more personal and closer to home than that, isn’t it, friends? Let’s see the chemo work, for Myra and for Paul. Let’s see the radiation do its thing, for Steve. Let’s see the therapy work some magic for Janis, and some medical wonders for Brody and Joan, Linda and Joe, Myra and Dave and John and Brad and Jack and Joyce. And good God already, with the prayers we’ve been waiting on for Chris. Let’s see all of this mourning and suffering and struggling and death, even, become joy and comfort and new life, for crying out loud.
(This isn’t a party and we’re out of more than wine, Jesus – we’re out of patience and answers and strength and faith a lot of the time, too, if you want to know the truth. Or is it just me?!?!)
And all of this makes me frustrated and angry and sad. It makes me skeptical, and cynical, and scared, too, a lot of the time. But it reminds me, again, about why Jesus might have been reluctant to reveal his glory that day at the wedding, in the first place.
Because, as much as we’d like to see those kinds of miracles whenever we’d like to see those kinds of miracles, we’re called to remind ourselves that if we could demand them, or see them at will, or have them doled out at our command – than they wouldn’t be miracles, really.
So I think we’re called to remember that Jesus was about so much more than magic tricks and that these kinds of miracles – the water-into-wine kind of miracles, I mean – are nothing compared to what he really showed up to reveal.
See, Jesus didn’t want people following him just for the show, or for the quick fix, or for the chance to get some face-time with a super hero, either. He didn’t want people following him or having faith here and now, only when the good wine was flowing freely. Jesus wanted us to trust that there was, and that there would be, and that there is good wine yet to come; that God’s grace is always enough and that it would never – ever – run dry, no matter how empty our glasses may seem, or how much more we long for on this side of eternity.
See, I don’t think it was a coincidence that the miracle in Cana happened on the third day. Because it points to the real miracle of God, in Jesus, which is the heavy lifting of his death and resurrection – that Easter miracle of miracles that transforms sinners into saints; that shines light into darkness; that changes trial into triumph; that comforts the lost; that gives hope to the despairing, and that brings new life from all manner of the death and struggle and sadness that surround us.
See, our place in this Gospel story may not be with the bridegroom and the wedding guests that day in Cana, who benefit from the miracle. We may not be able to connect with Mary, either, the mother of Jesus, who requests more wine and gets just what she asks for. Our place certainly isn’t to stand in the shoes of Jesus and work God’s kind of magic in the world, at our will.
So I think our common ground with this story must be to do the work of the servants and the disciples who were at the wedding that day – the ones who drew out the new wine, the ones who refilled the empty glasses of those who were thirsty, the ones who surely had a taste of it themselves, just to see if what they were hearing was true. Like those servants, you and I are called to dole out the goodness of God’s abundance wherever we can find it; to pour out the grace that God brings whenever we receive it. And like those disciples, we’re to look for that glory, whenever it’s revealed in the world as we know it, and to believe it when we see it.
And, like everyone at the party, we’re to be filled with hope that, no matter what – no matter what – the best is always yet to come.