A reflection on John 2:1-11 for the Second Sunday After Epiphany, January 16, 2022.
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept 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.
John 2:1-11 (NRSVA)
It is a strange first sign.
Jesus, who was ‘in the beginning with God’ (John 1:1) is drawn into a problem he, by rights, has nothing to do with. As Jesus tries to explain to Mary – this is not his dilemma.
But more importantly this is not Jesus’ time.
Jesus is not at this wedding to ‘reveal’ anything. He speaks as though any interference on his part would be a redrawing of a divine timeline: ‘My hour has not yet come’.
But the one doing the drawing is Jesus’ mother. Clearly Mary could be both insistent and persuasive – even when it comes to her Son of God. It is like she does not – or chooses not to – hear the cosmic argument Jesus offers.
After all there is a wedding underway and she sees a way to offer her – or at least her son’s – somewhat belated assistance.
And so, instead of continuing to converse with Jesus, Mary turns to the servants: ‘Do whatever he tells you’. She has seen the problem, assigned it her best, and left Jesus there in front of bewildered slaves.
The type of matchmaking only a mother could master!
I guess neither Jesus nor the servants had a better solution. So, they await his orders while Jesus looks around for containers big enough to quench the thirst of a Jewish wedding party.
The ‘six stone water jars’ surely looked large enough. With a capacity of between ‘twenty or thirty gallons’ each (75-113 litres), combined these jars could hold somewhere between 102 and 180 gallons of liquid (450-678 litres).
These would certainly do!
And so Jesus orders them filled with water and a sample taken to the chief steward. He is mystified by this mix up. Not only is there now enough – but it is aged to perfection. The standard far outstrips the bridegroom’s earlier offerings. So much so that he is sought out – in the middle of his own wedding – for an explanation.
But both the steward and the bridegroom are none the wiser. Perhaps all they can do is laugh with the relief known only to those who have made a narrow and unexpected escape. They have been saved.
But of course there are some in the know.
The servants – the insignificant ones – stand silently in the background preparing for their next feat. It will be they who stagger into the party under the weight of these brimming stone jars surrounded by their magnificent aroma.
In a world of rank and order these forgotten ones have become the real insiders.
Perhaps this revealing of Jesus’ hidden ‘glory’ is not so much found in the morphing of water to wine. It may be that the real miracle is found in the God who re-schedules the divine time-line to save a couple’s wedding, only tells those who serve unnoticed, and delights in pointing to the kingdom.
It is a story of generosity, relationship, obedience, humility, miracle, sign, and joy. It is the first glimpse of the grace of God.
Perhaps unsurprisingly this maker of better-than-old new wine is already inspiring a people who ‘believe’.
What do you think this first sign points to? How does it speak to you about the nature of God?