Sunday, January 15, 2012

Water Into Wine

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine” (John 2: 1-3).

“My time has not yet come” (John 2:4).

Jesus was very aware of his time line. Jesus had a specific mission to complete on earth, he knew it, and he said so. Jesus was sent to be the sacrificial lamb to atone for the sin of mankind. He is the fulfillment of God’s promise of a redeemer to Adam and Eve, the Messiah foretold by the prophets. Jesus himself claims this:

“He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’” (Luke 4: 16-21).

Luke goes on to say that the people marveled. I’m sure that they did. Basically what Jesus did here was take this verse of Isaiah which tells of the coming Messiah’s ministry of preaching and healing, and applied it to himself.

“He then began to teach them [the disciples] that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed after three days and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31).

This moment, however, at this wedding celebration in Cana, his time had not yet come. Jesus’ time of fulfillment would come soon enough on the cross.

“His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you’” (John 2:5).

You sort of get this image of Mary in this passage that she is some sort of state mom, pushing her reluctant child to perform so that he becomes famous and she can reap the benefits of that fame. Knowing, however, the Bible’s description of Mary’s character, such cannot be the case. Rather, the Old Testament figure of Joseph is called to mind by what Mary says. Joseph was a foreshadowing of the Messiah and we are reminded of this in Genesis:

“When all Egypt began to feel the famine the people cried out to Pharaoh for food. Then Pharaoh told all the Egyptians, ‘Go to Joseph and do what he tells you,’” (Genesis 41:55).

The details are different, but this story and the story of the famine in Egypt in the book of Genesis are parallels, in a broad sense. The wedding guests are, like the Egyptians, experiencing a kind of famine - a “wine famine”. When Jesus miraculously provides for the wedding guests, as God provided for the Egyptians through Joseph, we get a hint of who Jesus really is - Messiah, God in human flesh.

“…six stone water jars…” (John 2: 6-7).

We are not talking about an insignificant amount of water here. Western culture has a hard time taking off it’s shoes when it comes over to visit for coffee. Ceremonial foot-washing is simply a concept we Westerners do not generally grasp. Sandals being the footwear of the day, travelers making their way through the desert on foot tended to get dirty quickly. An end-of-journey foot wash was not only a sign of hospitality and respect, but almost certainly an necessity at the end of any trip made in the ancient Middle East. One can only imagine the amount of water needed for the wedding’s host to fulfill his cultural foot washing obligations. John says, “six stone water jars.” Bible commentator Paul E. Kretzmann elaborates:

“The water-pots held two or three firkins apiece, for upon this occasion there was a great deal of water needed; each measure being the equivalent of nine gallons, the combined capacity of the water pots may well have been 120 gallons,” (Kretzmann vol. 1, 417).
When the servants did what Jesus told them, this meant that they filled six large stone vessels to the brim with approximately 120 gallons of water which they had to draw from a well by hand. There was no question to the servants that the liquid contained therein was water. I often wonder what the attitude of the servant was who was sent to draw the water from the jars for the steward to taste. Was he reluctant? Did he hesitate for fear that the dipper once retrieved from the jar would bear only the water they had they had so recently filled the jar with? John doesn’t say. We can assume, however, that the miracle had significant impact on them, since John tells us, “He [the master] did not realize where it [the wine] had come from, thought the servants who had drawn the water knew,” (John 2:9).

The significance of the miracle was not lost on the disciples either, as John indicates that this was the moment when the disciples, “put their faith in him [Jesus].” Indeed, throughout Holy Scripture, this seems to be the purpose of miracles - to inspire faith and reveal the Glory of God. The miracle at the wedding feast at Cana not only did this for the disciples but it does the same also for us. It is a comforting fact indeed that Jesus concerns himself with, “not only the great and pressing needs of men…but also the small embarrassments of life. Our trust in his kindness and love should be unlimited,” (Kretzmann vol. 1, 417).

Works Cited

Kretzmann, Paul E. Popular Commentary of the Bible, The New Testament Vol. 1. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. 1921