25th January 2009 - "The Wedding at Cana"
It was just an ordinary Jewish wedding. Jesus and his friends had been invited - probably because his mother was going. Jesus had only just met up with his disciples, so they may well have added extra strain on the resources. The wine ran out. The wine always runs out sooner or later in my experience! But to run out at a Jewish wedding before the end of the celebrations was shocking – the bridegroom would have at the very least gained a reputation for being lacking in hospitality if the guests realized what had happened – a shameful thing.
Somehow Mary became aware of this – maybe she had been helping at the wedding with the other women – maybe she was close to the family, we don’t know.
Mary told Jesus. I wonder what she expected Jesus to do….the exchange from her side is so typical of a mother – report a problem and then expect a dutiful son to do something about it! Did she expect Jesus and his friends to go out and buy some more wine? - This is what we might expect if we were at a party and had a problem like this. Did she expect Jesus to solve the problem with a miracle? We just don’t know what her concept of the Messiah was like – all we do know is that, if the stories told in Luke and Matthew are to be believed, she knew that Jesus was the Messiah.
More questions….Why did Jesus sound so rude when he was told the problem?
"Woman, what concern is that to you and me? My hour is not yet come"…
It’s a bit of a jarring response - It does not seem like the Jesus we would expect - to refuse to do something for his mother - to refuse to retrieve the situation at a wedding feast if it was in his power to do something. Commentators have tried all sorts of explanations, including that maybe ‘woman’ is a poor translation of the original Aramaic word... Of course, he could have been joking - it was the bridegroom's responsibility to ensure that the wine kept flowing and it was not his wedding – it’s not my hour! I sometimes think that we fall into the trap of believing that Jesus was above cracking a joke, but he was/is human like us in every way – and I certainly believe that God has a sense of humour!
With John's gospel, however, it is easy to find deeper meanings, as he layers his stories with images that elude either backwards to prophesy in the OT or forwards to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Each story of a miracle in John’s gospel is intended to point towards the revelation of Jesus as the Messiah – they were signs or clues pointing the way to solving the puzzle of Jesus’ identity – which was finally revealed on the cross and the resurrection three days later.
So "my hour has not yet come" could refer to Jesus protesting that he is not yet ready to reveal himself as Messiah – John always records Jesus as referring to his death and resurrection and thus the completed revelation of him as the Messiah as 'his hour'. So Jesus could have been protesting that it was too soon to reveal that he was the Messiah - which presumably meant that he had a better idea for solving the wine crisis than sending the servants down to the local wine merchant.
Despite the objection, Jesus decides to act – maybe his Mother knew him better than he knew himself when she told the servants to obey him! He orders the servants to fill the stone jars with water and produces at least 120 gallons of the finest wine. This wine was so much better than the original that the Steward jokes with the Bridegroom about the quality - advising that most people wait for the guests to be drunk and then serve the cheaper wine rather than leave the best until last. So here we have it - the first miracle of Jesus as recorded by John.
As I said earlier, there are so many images hidden within this story which may have been placed there by John as pointers towards the revelation of Jesus as the Messiah – the use of the old water of purification to make new wine, Jesus taking on the responsibility of the bridegroom and restoring the supply of wine, even the lead in to the story that John uses – those words “on the third day”, echo the time between the crucifixion and resurrection. These are all devices that could have been placed there by John to reveal Jesus as Messiah.
Even if John did not intend them to be used that way, they are images that we can take and use in our own reflection upon the nature of Jesus if we wish. Certainly the lectionary committee picked up on these images, choosing a story from Genesis about Melchizedec, the Priest of God most high serving up wine to Abram and a vision from Revelation of Jesus, the Lamb appearing as the bridegroom preparing to marry his church, the victorious believers.
For me, reading this story again, two things struck me as being important – both again revealing something of Jesus’ nature. Firstly Jesus was and is human, just as we are, we tend to forget this and the balance tips towards thinking of Jesus purely as God, rather than both human and divine. Thus, he brings God right into the messiness of life. Here is Jesus right in the middle of a wedding celebration, presumably enjoying himself as much as any of the guests there. I’m sure that any image you have of Jesus standing solemnly to one side with his disciples looking on would be wrong!
It is easy to think ‘prosperity gospel’ with a story such as this – God will shower those who ask with great riches, which feels a little difficult to believe in these days of belt tightening and worries about future jobs and the cost of living and overlook the message that Jesus has for us – ‘I am with you always’, and so he is – in the difficult times of our lives as well as the good times. So – God hidden in the ordinary things of life; fully a part of our lives – yet also a God that can reveal something of his glory within the ordinary. Jesus turned water into wine and as John writes, revealed his glory.
Secondly - what if those servants had not obeyed Jesus? The water would not have been turned to wine and they and the disciples would not have seen Jesus’ glory, the glory as of the only begotten son – as John puts it in his prologue.
What if we don’t respond to God’s nudges in our lives, what if we don’t dare, as Mary did to ask Jesus for what we want? Will we miss seeing Jesus’ glory revealed within the ordinariness of our lives?