Seward United Methodist Church
Friday, September 21, 2018
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Water to Wine

John 2:1-11

 Everyone loves a wedding.  Even Jesus, apparently.  That alone might be significant.  Sometimes religious people are portrayed as downers, killjoys, sticks in the mud, the kind of people who don’t enjoy anything fun.  Well, some might be, but not Jesus.  He went to a party.  He was able to enjoy the happy times of life.  

 John tells us that Jesus’ mother was invited, as well as Jesus and his disciples.  The wedding was in Cana of Galilee.  In first century Galilee, there were two villages called Cana.  One was Kefar Qana, and the other was Kirbet Qana.  Most Bible scholars believe this was Kirbet Qana, which was about 8 miles north of Nazareth, about halfway between Nazareth and Capernaum, Jesus’ hometown and his “base of operations.”  

 Weddings were a big deal in 1st century Jewish culture.  It was different for a widow or a woman who had been divorced, but young women marrying for the first time always wed on Wednesdays.  The festivities would start with a feast, followed by the wedding ceremony.  After that, the couple would be paraded through the town by torchlight to their new home together.  And if you’re thinking that was the end of it; nope!  After that came six days of partying.  And all throughout it, the bride and groom were treated like royalty.  They even got to wear crowns!  

 Now, the groom and his family had to provide food and drink for a week for the guests.  And they tried to have as many guests as possible.  They would invite the entire town, or even several villages.  And they would go out of their way to invite distinguished guests:  Rabbis, synagogue rulers, and other dignitaries.  It was a matter of prestige and honor to have the biggest wedding possible.  Was it expensive?  Yes, but guests would help to offset the cost with their weddings gifts to the groom.  

 There is a thought that Mary and Jesus may have been related to the bride or groom, especially since they did not live in the same village, but about 8 miles away.  One tradition says Mary was related to the groom, possibly his aunt.  Another tradition says that the groom was none other than John, the Apostle, the author of this Gospel.  We don’t know if either tradition is true, but if the groom was John, then that would explain why he thought so much of this miracle of Jesus.  He’s the only Gospel writer to mention it.  It was not Jesus’ most famous miracle.  Only Mary, the disciples, and the servants even knew that a miracle had taken place.  The master of the banquet, oblivious to it, is more interested in knowing why the best wine was saved till the end. 

It does seem likely that Mary is related to the groom.  She knows about the problem with the wine early on, before the master of the banquet.  She directs the servants on what to do.  That sounds to me like she has some position of influence here, which would make sense if she was a relative.  

 And the lack of wine was a problem, a big problem for the groom, his family, the master of the banquet.  This was a serious breach of the rules of hospitality to run out of wine at a wedding.  It would mean shame for all involved.  The master of the banquet was typically a friend of the groom.  He was responsible for arranging the food and drink service.  He was to make sure that sufficient provisions were on hand.  He would say when and how much wine was distributed, and also how much water was added to the wine.  

 That was part of how wine was consumed in Jesus’ day, with anywhere from one to three parts of water per part of wine.  Otherwise, everyone would get smashed in a hurry!  And it was also a matter of sanitation.  Most water was not safe to drink, so by adding wine to it, you made it safer to drink.    

 Mary brings the problem to Jesus.  His response to her is difficult.  He says something along the lines of “What does that have to do with me?”  Several different interpretations of his response have been offered.  Some think Jesus was offering to take care of the problem, but that doesn’t really seem to fit.  Others think Jesus is saying to Mary, “What authority do you have over me?”  Again, it doesn’t really fit.  The best interpretation is something along the lines of, “Why is that my concern?”  

It’s hard to understand why Jesus says that, but his next comment clears it up a bit.  “My time has not yet come.”  Jesus’ “time” in John’s Gospel usually refers to his death.  I think Jesus knows that once he begins to do his miracles, he is starting down the road which ends in the cross.  And if Jesus was truly human, then he struggled with that.  And I think that’s what’s happening here.  

Mary, for her part, gives him a nudge, a push out the door.  I think one of the best gifts we can give our children is to give them the push, the nudge, when they need it.  

“Do what he tells you to do,” she directs the servants.  She doesn’t know what Jesus will do, but she knows that he will do the right thing.  And sometimes that’s how it is with us.  We don’t know what Jesus will do if we give him reign in our lives, but we can trust that he will do the right thing.

Nearby were six large pots for holding water, each able to hold 20 to 30 gallons.  John explains to his Greek audience that these were used for ceremonial washing.  Some Jewish ritual washings involved immersion of the whole body.  But more likely, these were here for the guests to use to wash their hands before they ate.  

Jesus directed the servants to fill the jars and then take some of the water to the master of the banquet, and the water had been turned into wine.  John tells us this is Jesus’ first miraculous sign.  I think it is meant to mirror the first sign that God gave to Egypt in the Exodus, water being turned to blood.  John especially focuses on parallels between Jesus’ ministry and the Exodus.  

And it’s not just any wine, it’s the best.  It’s better than what had already been bought for the festivities.  Would we expect Jesus to give less than the best?  We shouldn’t, but I think sometimes we do.  Maybe it’s even subconscious.  Maybe we’re afraid to surrender control in our lives to Jesus because we think our lives will be less than if we keep control ourselves.  

This was the first sign of Jesus’ glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.  It meant a lot to John, and to the three or four other disciples he had at this point, which was still early in his ministry.  But what does it mean for us?

As we’ve already discussed, I think one meaning is that we can trust Jesus to do the right thing in our lives, even if we don’t necessarily know what the right thing is.  And second, we can expect Jesus to give us the best, to make our lives in him more than they would be without him.

And third, the story tells us that Jesus gives abundantly.  These stone jars each held 20 to 30 gallons.  There were six of them.  That’s 120 to 180 gallons of wine.  That’s a lot of wine, more than was necessary for a seven day wedding celebration, especially since this was probably already one of the last days of the celebration if they have run out of wine.  Jesus gives more than we need.  As he said, he came that we might have life and have it in abundance.

Finally, perhaps most obviously, the story tells us that Jesus transforms what is given to him.  He was given water; he made it into wine.  We come to him as sinners.  He transforms us into saints.  If we give him our ordinary life, he will transform it into an extraordinary life, an abundant life.  

Water is necessary for life, but it lacks flavor.  And sometimes our lives feel like water.  We don’t have joy or a sense of fullness and richness.  But if we give our lives to Jesus, then he will transform that.  He will give us joy.  He will give us a sense of purpose and direction.  He will give us peace.  

In the depths of our spirits, we long for life to be more than just eating, drinking, sleeping, and all the other necessities of life.  Those things are water.  They’re necessary, but they don’t give us joy.  Jesus can give us wine.  He can make life rich and full.  

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