Those days which John’s Gospel is describing in John 2:1-11, in which Jesus was living and emerging as a preacher, healer and teacher in his local community and the surrounding regions must have been confusing and extraordinary for those who knew Jesus as a child, young man and adult; his family and friends.
The events must also have been challenging for those who were listening and wondering, making a choice to go with him, travel with him and learn from him.
It provoked a shift from ‘who are you, don’t I know you?’, into ‘who ARE you, and I DON’T know you.’ So ‘why are you here?’ ‘What do you want from me?’
As a mother, I can remember countless conversations with my two sons, where I had to ask 20 times to get some task done, and their deliberately vacant look that emerges on their faces when they are really not listening because its all too inconvenient and they don’t want to be bothered. And, my own knowledge that something will be done eventually if I let it lie quietly and leave it to them and don’t’ watch.
There is a sense in John’s Gospel with the story of the wedding that Jesus is coming into his power, his authority is changing, people’s reactions are less predictable, and awareness is awakening in those around him that something is different and life is changing and nothing will ever be the same again.
John tells us Mary is at the wedding and Jesus and his disciples have also been invited. As an adult, Jesus is now making his own decisions and choices. While as a mother, Mary still feels she can tell him what to do and ask for his help and rely on his response.
It sounds like Jesus has left home. He has now gathered his first few disciples around him after being baptised, which we heard about last week. And he’s left John, the preacher and baptiser, together with the crowds around John at the River Jordan and after God’s blessings, Jesus has gone back to Galilee to attend the wedding to which he has been invited. The fact he’s been invited implies it’s a wedding of friends or family. Whoever it is, its enough to bring him back as its a commitment which he is keeping.
I don’t think the commencement of Jesus’ ministry happened immediately overnight. We are told ‘Mary pondered these things in her heart’ after Jesus’ birth. She was aware and knew of the shifts and changes in her son. She had watched over him as he grew up. Mary knew what he was able to do. We are told by John in this odd story, what happens at the wedding was important; it was:
The first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him’ (John 2:11)
John’s Gospel is suggesting to us the significance of such actions and signs, is for a deliberate purpose; of belief and life in Jesus. Later on in Ch. 20:30-31 John writes;
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
John is not simply using a different word from ‘miracle’. John is quite deliberate in his use of the word ‘sign’.
The signs often show some aspect of Jesus’ identity as John describes them, Jesus keeps asking us and his disciples, challenging us: ‘who do you think I am?’
Jesus raises Lazarus and claims, ‘I am the resurrection and the life’ (11.25)
Jesus heals the man born blind and claims, ‘I am the light of the world’ (9:5)
Jesus feeds the five thousand and claims, ‘I am the bread of life’ (6:35, 48)
So what is the sign here in this wedding?
I have found myself wondering about the sheer abundance and exuberance of this response to his mother’s request for help. She seems to take Jesus’ resistance to her request without fussing. Mary knows about her son’s power and his response, ‘my hour has not yet come’ would suggest a history of long conversations between them about what he will do, how he will do it and the consequences; and yet, as children do, he does respond and help in spite of his outward irritation.
The details John provides of the size of the stone jars which were generally filled with water for Jewish purification rites, points to the sheer size of Jesus’ response to Mary’s request for help..
John is reminding his listeners and readers, there was no doubt about what happened next. This could not be a mild infusion of water with old wine previously stored, this was a ‘sign’. The sheer volume of wine of at least 120 gallons, makes the whole thing sound like a joke. And yet in typical Jesus fashion, it was done quietly, in the kitchen, and only his mother, the servants and his friends were aware something extraordinary had happened.
We see such abundance from Jesus in other signs, the great catch of fish in John Ch.21 for example and the food left over from feeding the five thousand which filled 12 baskets. These point to a generosity of spirit and compassion that is undeniable.
Mean spirited, niggardly, tight, restrained answers are not God’s response when we make a request. God overflows with love. Unexpected goodness is enjoyed, glory is revealed beyond words. So, as I read and reread this story, this small unexpected and gorgeous story of trust and support, I reflect on how we need to change our own response and behaviours to such love.
Nobody looked for Jesus until the wine ran out. Sometimes it is the old and empty that stops us seeking Jesus. Old attitudes, old habits old hurts that we keep tightly held, old insecurities or old information, old empty rituals and rules that create a dry, loveless, old, empty, safe religion.
As long as there was food, music and wine, no-one thought of Jesus. He wasn’t a guest of honour, he was simply a friend among friends.
And we shouldn’t be surprised by this reflection, we frequently don’t turn to Jesus until there is looming disaster and life’s problems start to overwhelm us.
This story encourages us to stop looking at what we have lost or focussing only on how we can hold on tightly to what we have. Instead Jesus is reassuring us and inviting us to look to him and look around ourselves for the signs, that are in plain sight, and put into Jesus’ hands what we have, giving away the old and empty and letting the abundance, exuberance, joyfulness and glory of God’s love overflow around us.
The Lord be with you