Meditation from John 2

September 8, 2010

I recently started rereading the Gospel of John. It make take me a year to finish it at the rate I’m going. I’m not doing a chapter a day. Sometimes it’s one chapter; sometimes it’s five verses or just one paragraph. Or sometimes, like this week, it’s been one whole chapter over and over for several days. There’s a new portrait of the Savior in every chapter. This is long, but if you’ve got time to hang with me through this few pages-worth, I hope you’re encouraged as I was. I’d welcome your comments. Here’s the passage. I love the New Living Translation (NLT):

The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.”

“Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”

But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” When the jars had been filled, he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions.

When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!”

This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him (Jn. 2:1-11).

The text notes that Jesus’ mother “was there.” She must have been there already when Jesus and his group arrived. Since Nazareth is not too far from Cana, maybe this was a relative’s wedding. Perhaps Mary was involved in helping plan, host or serve at the celebration. How else would she have known they had run out of wine? Also, why (if she didn’t have hosting authority or was just a guest) would the servants have listened when she gave them instructions?

According to commentary in the NLT notes, these weddings could last a week! Who knows at what point in the party, Mary told Jesus, “They’ve run out of wine.” Running out of wine meant depleting the “spirit” of the party; it was another way to tell the guests they were no longer welcome. The hosts were at the end of their resources. They had a need, and Mary knew Jesus had the answer. Did He not want to help her? Why did He tell her, “Dear woman, that’s not our problem. My time has not yet come”? It’s almost as if He rebuked her and told her to mind her own business, but I don’t think that’s the sense of the answer. Did He mean that He didn’t intend to help, but then changed His mind? I don’t think that’s it, either.

Jesus looked for empty, ready vessels. He used what was common for an uncommon purpose. The symbolism is unmistakable: He filled the vessels used for cleansing. He, Himself, was the common vessel—a human-flesh body—holding the miraculous cleansing blood of deity. He both started and ended His revelation of Himself to the disciples with the blood of the grape, symbolizing His own blood: first at a wedding, last in the upper room. His time had not yet come; He was not yet ready to fulfill the pouring out of His own blood for cleansing, but He filled these cleansing vessels with miraculous “spirit” that reinvigorated the celebration (gave “life” to the party!).

With that wine, he also met a need most people were unaware of: He cleansed the reputation of the host and reinforced the relationship between the host and his guests. He did it in a quiet, secret way, since He wasn’t ready to reveal His true identity to the entire world. His time had not yet come. But His actions said many things to the watching disciples:

  1. I care about the details of your needs.
  2. I can deal with any problem, meeting it with resources you haven’t considered.
  3. Relationships are important to me: myself with my mother; the host and his guests; my intimacy with you as my friends (trusting you with my secret).
  4. I am able; you can trust me.

Jesus gave step-by-step instructions, and the servants never asked questions. Maybe it was their job to be obedient to whoever was in charge, but Jesus was a stranger. They just did what He said without question or argument. Three steps:

  1. Fill the jars
  2. Dip out some of the contents
  3. Take it to the boss

Until the final step, they were at no particular risk. But their faith passed the test when they took it to the master and he revealed the miracle without even knowing it. The servants knew what Jesus had done. Maybe they told the disciples, or maybe they told Mary and she told the disciples. But somehow, word got around, because “this was the first time Jesus revealed His glory. And His disciples believed in Him.”

In retrospect, Jesus revealed more to us at the Cana wedding than He did to those watching. They didn’t know yet about the upper room. They didn’t know that His vessel would be smashed and the wine of His life poured out to cleanse sin…

Portrait #2 of Jesus: the PROVIDER – the new wine