Seward United Methodist Church
Monday, November 18, 2019
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Abundance In Christ

John 2:1-11

John is the only Gospel writer who tells us this story of Jesus’ first miracle. We know it happened soon after his baptism in the Jordan. What we don’t know is exactly how it fits into the timeline of his ministry, because John doesn’t mention the 40 days of temptation in the wilderness. Apparently, it was not important to the purpose of John’s Gospel, so he doesn’t mention it. He goes directly from Jesus’ baptism to the calling of the first disciples. So there’s a mystery here.

We find Jesus back in Galilee soon after his baptism. He is going to a wedding in Cana of Galilee. We don’t know exactly where this happened because there were actually two villages in Galilee called Cana in the first century, Kefar Kanna and Khirbet Kanna, and we don’t know which one this was. Both were within an easy day’s journey from Nazareth.

The wedding is apparently for a relative of Jesus, because it seems Mary is helping with the festivities. One early Church tradition is that this wedding was for Jesus’ cousin, the son of Mary’s sister. Another early tradition said this wedding was for John, the writer of the Gospel. That might be true, because it seems John knows an intimate detail that might not be known to a casual observer. When the master of ceremonies goes to the groom, he says, “Most people serve the best wine first, but you’ve saved it till last.” That seems like the kind of detail John would remember if he were the groom. And if that were true, then it would seem likely that John and Jesus were also related somehow. But this is only conjecture.

One thing we know is that weddings were a big deal in first century Hebrew culture. They always started on a Wednesday, by tradition. The bride and groom were wed at sunset. They were paraded through the town. They wore crowns and were addressed as “king and queen.” And then the party lasted for a whole week.

Entire villages were invited to weddings. It was a status symbol to invite as many people as possible. The guests would bring gifts, and that would help with the cost of the affair. The groom’s parents paid for the whole thing, unlike in our traditions where it’s more likely the bride’s parents who pay. They provided food and drink for all the guests. Hospitality was considered to be a sacred duty.

The very fact that Jesus went to this wedding, I think, tells us something important. Happy occasions and celebration were part of his life, and they should be

part of our lives. Jesus was no killjoy who said, “There are more important things to do!” And we shouldn’t be killjoys who don’t know how to have fun. That’s the perception some people have of us Christians. We are BOR-ING! And let’s be honest: Some Christians help the stereotype! Find things to celebrate, and celebrate them. We of all people should be joyful!

Back to the story: There is a problem. At some point they run out of wine. This would be a major social faux pas. The hosts have a sacred duty to provide for their guests, and they have screwed up. People will talk about this for a long time. It will be the butt of many jokes.

So Mary goes to Jesus and implies that he should help out. Is she asking him to do a miracle? I don’t think so! This is Jesus’ first miracle. How would she even know that he could? I think she’s just telling him that he should do something about it. “Quick, Jesus, go buy more wine! Your cousin’s reputation depends on it.” (If this is Jesus’ cousin, of course.)

Jesus doesn’t exactly seem to be eager to do anything. In fact, the answer he gives her could even be seen as kind of rude. We don’t know his tone of voice, of course, so it’s hard to know how to read his answer. “Woman, why do you involve me?” There seems to be some reluctance. And perhaps it has to do with what he says next: “My hour has not yet come.”

In the Gospels, Jesus’ “hour” usually refers to his crucifixion. Perhaps Jesus knows that once he takes this first step, then he is starting down the road that only leads to the cross. Perhaps he is reluctant to take that step. Jesus is, after all, fully human. Which of us is ever eager to take the first step on a difficult journey?

Mary insists. Some people see this as her having bold faith that won’t take no for an answer. Others think she is giving Jesus a little push out the door. “Come on, Jesus, you’ve got important work to do. It’s time to get started.” Maybe she’s just a mother. “Hey, son, I told you to do something. Now do it!” As a parent, I kind of lean toward that last one.

And you know how the story goes. They fill the pots used for ritual purification with water, and the water becomes wine.

Notice the volume: Six pots that each hold 20-30 gallons. So we’re talking about 150 gallons of wine, roughly. That would be enough wine for the whole seven day affair, and this is toward the end. Jesus provides more than enough. I think sometimes we are afraid that life with Christ will be less than life without Christ. We’ll miss out on good stuff. But in truth, Jesus provides more than enough. Life in Christ is abundant, not lacking.

The wine is taken to the master of ceremonies. This is a friend of the groom who is responsible for food and wine during the wedding feast. Part of his job is to control the dilution of the wine. You see, they drank wine with every meal. But it was watered down with two or three parts of water to one part of wine. You wanted enough wine to kill the bacteria in the water, but enough water that the guests wouldn’t all get hammered. Alcoholic drinks were a staple of life, but drunkenness was frowned upon in Hebrew culture. And if you ask me, I think that’s a good attitude to have toward alcohol: Enjoy it, but never to excess.

The master of ceremonies says to the groom, “Most people serve the best wine first, but you have saved it till the end.” Jesus didn’t just turn water into wine. He turned it into the best wine. Jesus gives abundantly, and Jesus gives the best.

John notes that this was Jesus’ first miracle: Water into wine. And the first miracle Moses performed in Egypt was to turn the water of the Nile into blood. So there’s an interesting parallel there: Same color, but one tastes better, of course.

Jesus’ miracles were mostly demonstrations of his power to turn back the corruption of a fallen world. He healed diseases, gave sight to the blind, cast out evil spirits, and so on. This one wasn’t like that. And the motive here was not to restore but simply to save a family from embarrassment.

But I think the miracle speaks to what Jesus can do in our lives: He can transform us. He can give us an abundance of good things. He can turn bad into good, and good into best. If that’s all the story has to teach us, then it is certainly enough.

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