On Sunday 16 January 2022 our ALM for prayer, worship and spirituality, Carol O, gave this reflection. You can read it again here:
Some time ago I was listening to a programme where a young boy was being interviewed; he had recently rescued two friends whilst playing at a disused building site near his home. As the interviewer questioned the boy, it became apparent to him that the young boy was a Christian. So he asked the boy if he attended Sunday school. When he said that he did the interviewer asked him, “What are you learning in Sunday school?” “Last week,” the boy replied, “our lesson was about when Jesus went to a wedding and turned water into wine.” Then the host said, “And what did you learn from that story?” The boy replied, “If you’re going to have a wedding, make sure you invite Jesus!”
In our Gospel reading today John tells us about Jesus’ first recorded miracle, the turning of water into wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. I have thought about this, and two questions come to mind. One, why did Jesus turn water into wine and two, why did John specifically record it – after all Jesus performed lots of other miracles that have not been kept for posterity. John gives his reason for his final selection of stories used in his gospel in verses 30 and 31 of Chapter 20, he writes “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
So, this miracle is recorded so that we, his readers, may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and then that we may have life in his name. So, what is there about this miracle that will enable us to have faith in Jesus? Well, it is an incredibly remarkable miracle – not just a drop of wine from a few bottles but six stone jars! So why did Jesus perform this miracle?
On a simple level Jesus felt compassion for this young couple that were just about to make the “faux pas” of their married lives – a social disgrace. In those days, running out of wine at a wedding was not a minor social inconvenience; you couldn’t just pop down to the local supermarket and get a few bottles more, it was a major breach of the demands of hospitality; and it would be devastating for the couple. Also, a wedding wasn’t just a one-day event it went on for a good week with the couple keeping open house rather than going off on honeymoon, so Jesus helped them out. It is worth reflecting here on the fact that when God does something – he does it well. When Jesus changed water into wine, he didn’t make some cheap plonk – he made the best and in a vast quantity.
Have you any idea how many glasses of wine the six stone jars represented – 2,400 glasses – approximately 150 gallons of the best wine. You could hardly call Jesus a killjoy could you? Look what the master of the banquet said to the bridegroom: “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink. But you have saved the best till now”, God has high standards – even at parties. As the young boy in our story said: If you are going to have a wedding invite Jesus, and of course we do at every Christian wedding where we make our vows in God’s presence.
On a deeper level the turning of water into wine represents the new covenant that Jesus was ushering in. And of course, we see in the wine an element of our communion service too. The wine signifying Jesus’ blood poured out for us on the Cross. In other words, Jesus pouring out himself for our sakes revealing the Holy Love of God. Also, Jesus wanted to develop confidence about Himself in his disciples so that they could have faith in him. Those at the wedding feast would know their Old Testament scriptures well, and they would know that an abundance of wine symbolised the arrival of God’s new age. By providing an abundance of wine, Jesus announces the arrival of the Kingdom of God.
The result of this miracle was to develop faith. Verse 11 says this plainly when John writes; This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was Jesus’ first display of his glory, and his disciples believed in him. Was faith just a result of the miracle or had Jesus thought it through. I like to think that it was thought through. Why – because throughout the Gospels Jesus is looking to develop the faith of those around him. Jesus’ disciples were probably a bit mixed up. They had heard John the Baptist identifying Jesus as the Lamb of God – the Messiah. And yet many “messiahs” had come and gone. But this miracle clinched it for them.
Here, I’d like to point out the faith of the servants also. They took Jesus at his word – even though it was utterly unreasonable. To give the master of the banquet – water – when he would be expecting wine – would be courting disaster. But God acts in mysterious ways when we have the faith to take him at his word.
Jesus acted out of compassion for the bride and groom and the wedding was saved. The bride and groom were given another chance. Isn’t that what the Gospel is all about too. Our God is the God of the second chances. God wants us to have faith in Him. The choice, like that of the servants is ours. Our God is the God of love and compassion, take time today to ponder God ’s love given in a tiny, vulnerable baby: fully human, fully God – Jesus Christ. Pray that you might encounter the transforming treasure of God’s love in your own life in mysterious and unexpected ways. Amen