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On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited.
3 When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine." 4 "Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied. "My time has not yet come." 5 His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jewsfor ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet."
They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now."
November 17, 2010
The wine steward took a sip and what he swallowed was not water, but wine! Not just ordinary wine, but the best, aged to perfection.
Here's the story as it unfolds. Jesus, with his family and disciples, went to an ordinary wedding celebration with a buffet of food and drinks, music and dancing. But alas, the hosts had more friends than resources and the wine ran out.
Relationships have patterns and here we get a glimpse into the mother/son relationship of Mary and Jesus. She saw a problem and wanted Jesus to do something about it. He tried to decline, made some excuse. The next part is subtle. Instead of debating with Jesus, Mary spoke to the household servants. "Do whatever Jesus tells you."
Now the servants are looking at Jesus, expecting him to give them an order. You called? Jesus can't explain that he was arguing/debating with his mother and that the timing of her request was all wrong. Mary had put one over on him.
Jesus: "All right. I'll tell you what to do. Fill these 6 water jars full to the brim." Each jar held between 20 to 30 gallons of water! It was a heavy assignment. When that task was accomplished, the servants came back to see what was next.Jesus: "Dip out a sample for tasting."
Surprised by the quality of the wine, the wine steward called the bridegroom and asked why he saved the best for last instead of serving it first when everyone could better appreciate it?
We do not hear the bridegroom speak. Did Jesus wink at him? It's unfortunate that in our Bible stories we miss the body language and the inflections within the conversation. We can only imagine the sense of relief, the cheers and laughter as the new wine was poured and the celebration began anew.
More journal entries
June 17, 1982This is a long ago wedding that still gets read and/or commented upon at some weddings today. The prayer goes something like this: Lord, grace this wedding with your presence as you did so long ago in Cana.
Jesus, his disciples and his mother were all there. Were they relatives of the bridal party? The hosts were probably a generous but poor family; they invited more guests than they had wine for. Or else Jesus and his friends were heavy on the bottle and knew how to celebrate!
The exchange between mother and son sounds like he's still trying to become his own person. She's interfering with his life and he doesn't want her telling him what to do anymore. Mary won this exchange. Jesus ended up telling the servants what to do and they obeyed.
Lots of questions--in American society, wine drinking is discouraged, and even taboo, in some churches. The standard set in the Discipline of the United Methodist Church is that clergy are not to drink alcohol. Was Jesus encouraging drunkenness by making more wine? The wine steward states in this passage that people already had plenty to drink, before Jesus made some more!
This story in my neck of the woods is not popular. I come from a background that does not drink any alcoholic beverages. In fact, we don't do much dancing or celebrating either. We are a sober, work-oriented people; the wine of gladness is a foreign concept. What would Jesus do with us!
June 18, 1982How did Mary know Jesus could do something about the wine problem? This was his first miracle. The conversation between Mary and Jesus is difficult for me to interpret. What do Mary's words imply? Why was Jesus sharp with her?
Dear woman--that sounds affectionate. Some versions just read Woman, which seems harsh and reprimanding. Why do you involve me? So Jesus knows what it's like to be asked to do something he doesn't want to participate in. He didn't wish to be a hero or be part of the solution. Just leave me enjoy the banquet.
Besides he said he couldn't--his time had not yet come. That's an excuse that makes sense only to the one who spoke it. His mother totally ignored what Jesus said. Either she had not listened, or she disagreed.
When Jesus makes wine, he makes the best! I fail to appreciate this because I prefer water. Therefore I won't ask God to turn my water into wine! I don't care for the taste of wine. Would I have liked Jesus' wine? One thing I must grant him, he didn't allow tomorrow's troubles to interfere with the joyful living of today. Jesus surely knew how to transform an ordinary experience into something extra special.
I have to keep reminding myself that wine was a common, ordinary staple of that society. Used mainly for celebrations, a symbol of hospitality and good times. But I'm still concerned about the image of people continuing to drink when they have had enough already. Is this an unintended consequence of Mary's take charge attitude? Was Jesus pleased and satisfied with himself at the end of this story, at the end of the day?
June 19, 1982We are told to use our minds to determine what's right and wrong. Yet we can't use our minds to judge the rightness of Jesus' words or deeds. I can't say Jesus was wrong when he turned water into wine. We don't judge Christ; he judges us. The Bible reveals God to us and we are to accept it. We don't judge it; it judges us. That's what they always say. But today I feel like I want to protest that there's a problem there, when something becomes so sacred that it can't be questioned.
November 16, 2010What did the servants know and when did they know it? They could have known when they delivered the sample that they were carrying a cup of wine. Wine has a distinct odor, and they probably licked whatever liquid spilled onto their hands. There's no mistaking wine for water. Or maybe it was water until the cup reached the man in charge. In that case, the servants might have felt silly, like they were on a fool's errand and would be subject to ridicule.
June 21, 1982This morning I'll imagine I am at the wedding in Cana, with Jesus and his family. At the beginning of his ministry. No hub-bub about his appearance at the wedding. No one expecting anything unusual, except maybe his mother who looks like she is about to make some waves.
The guests enjoy the food and wine. There's lots of happy talk, music and dancing. This is a laughing, knee-slapping Jesus. People are eating and talking at the same time. Singing and dancing in groups together. Sharing guffaws across the room.
I don't know the bride and groom, and am just getting acquainted with some of the guests. Then I heard the supply of wine was running low and finally gave out. The groom's parents were embarrassed. Mary looked distressed, too.
She seemed to take it out on Jesus and there was a sharp exchange between them. I'm not sure what happened next but soon the best man entered with a fresh supply of wine, better tasting than the original stuff. So the festivities continued and the noise level went up a notch.
I think Jesus had something to do with the new supply of wine, but he didn't say anything about where it came from. One minute there was no wine, next thing I knew there was an abundant supply. The new supply of wine was in those big jars used for washing hands according to the rites of purification. Wine doesn't belong there!
I'm not normally a festive person and feel out of place. I would have been more comfortable with John the Baptist than with Jesus! Jesus, is all this celebrating good for people? All this wildness and drunkenness? What's beneficial about it?
Wouldn't it be better for you to be off somewhere praying and meditating? Or discussing plans for your ministry? Is there something wrong with me because I think the latter would be more enjoyable than a party?
So what does this have to do with my life today? Am I too serious in my daily life? I certainly don't want to start drinking in order to loosen up. What does it mean to party with Jesus?
November 11, 2001Jesus went to a wedding and people are still talking about it today. The supply of wine gave out--too many guests; too few resources. Run out of wine and the party is over.
The empty jug would be an embarrassment, too. An admission of poverty, unwise planning, extravagant thinking. The custom was to celebrate for days, but this reality was hampered by scarcity. They had out-spent their resources.
The conversation between Jesus and his mother is interesting. Her words sound like she had witnessed a miracle before, even though John said this was the first miracle. Had Jesus used his powers in their home to supplement their income and supply their needs? Why else would Mary appeal to her son to do something? Jesus protests. Then excuses himself from involvement. Mary doesn't let him off. She knows something the rest of us don't know.
Acquainted with scarcity in her own household, Mary was sensitive to this predicament. Shortages were/are a common problem for the poor. Mary had known her share of shortages. But how do we explain the reluctance of Jesus?
"Do whatever he tells you."--that's what Mary told the servants. Her words are just as relevant for us today. We are wise to heed them. If I want more joy at my party and more fulfillment in my life, then the key would be to obey the instruction of Mary.
There's something similar in this miracle to the time Jesus feed the five thousand. Other people "do" the miracle for him. The servants drew the water, others gathered the cups and poured the wine. Waiters made sure everyone received their share. It didn't need to pass through Jesus' hands. Jesus, the Word of God, spoke and it was accomplished, by the good people of Cana.
After people had too much to drink, Jesus made more wine! It doesn't make sense to me, but assuming that wine is better than water, Jesus took the ordinary and made something extraordinary. He showed God's concern for this particular family crisis by turning emptiness into fullness, and want into abundance. Not just a few gallons of wine, but a boatload of it!
November 17, 2010Mary gave Jesus a nudge to get started on his ministry, as though she were saying, "You are ready. You can do it. I believe in you." Mary knew, as mothers always know. With Mary's encouragement ringing in his ears, Jesus told the servants to fill the water pots.
I like those words. It's a more positive statement than what I have expressed before, a better way to view the interaction between Jesus and his mother.
Here's something else to think about. The hand-washing rituals prescribed by Moses only cleansed the outside, the outer layer of skin. But when Jesus changed the purification water into wine, and people drank it, that fits into the general framework of Jesus' teachings. He stressed inward purity over outward cleanliness. Thinking in symbolic language, we see the greater issue that purity begins from the inside out. Being clean in God's sight is a much deeper concept, and much harder than washing one's hands in soap and water for 15 seconds.
And what about the symbolism of the first 4 words of this text. "On the third day . . ." It was on the third day that Jesus began his ministry with this miracle at a wedding in that little Galilean town. At the end of John's Gospel we read that Jesus rose from the grave and began his resurrection life, on the third day. A coincidence? I wouldn't be surprised to hear that John wrote it that way on purpose. John saw a grand picture and is putting the pieces together for us.