1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and 2 Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. 3 When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They don’t have any wine.”
4 Jesus replied, “Woman, what does that have to do with me? My time hasn’t come yet.”
5 His mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Nearby were six stone water jars used for the Jewish cleansing ritual, each able to hold about twenty or thirty gallons.
7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water,” and they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, “Now draw some from them and take it to the headwaiter,” and they did. 9 The headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine. He didn’t know where it came from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.
The headwaiter called the groom 10 and said, “Everyone serves the good wine first. They bring out the second-rate wine only when the guests are drinking freely. You kept the good wine until now.” 11 This was the first miraculous sign that Jesus did in Cana of Galilee. He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.
I’ve always found this miracle a curious one. I’ve not heard many (any?) Methodist sermons about Jesus turning water into wine. Given our denomination’s historical preference for temperance, I guess that makes sense. But by ignoring it, I can’t thinking we are missing something important.
The Christian Church should be a place to celebrate life. We are rooted in a Jewish tradition that certainly does. In fact, the most famous Hebrew toast is “L’chaim!” (“To life!”) Our key ritual, Holy Communion, is celebrated with bread and wine in the context of a (symbolic) feast (at one time it was a literal feast). And Jesus commanded us to remember him in that way!
But I suppose even those who like a glass of cabernet with dinner might be uncomfortable with the sheer volume of wine Jesus created through this miracle – something between 120 and 180 gallons. That’s like 50 to 75 cases, which is a lot of wine.
Now, we should note that a wedding in those days was a community affair that might last multiple days. In that context, the abundance of wine seems less ridiculous. But, then again, remember that the guests had already finished a whole first round of wine – this was just the backup supply!
It’s not surprising that this is the first miracle recorded in John’s gospel. According to Jewish tradition, one of the signs that the Messiah had come would be an abundance of wine – an unimaginably good harvest. So this is not just about providing an open bar at the celebration. The meaning is deeper, more profound, more theological. Jesus is the one we’ve waited for, God’s answer to our prayers. And that’s worth celebrating!
All of us, from time to time, feel crushed under the weight of daily life. We can become so busy, with so many cares and so much stress, that living can begin to feel like a treadmill: putting one foot in front of the other to get through the day. We find ourselves living for our vacations, if we even feel like we can permit ourselves to take one.
But what are we missing by living that way? Are we ignoring the joy of life that comes with everyday celebrations – a dinner out with family, afternoon visits with friends, a joyous wedding?
Now, we certainly don’t need 50 cases of wine – or any for that matter – to have a celebration. But I do fear that by ignoring this miracle story, we’ve robbed ourselves of important evidence that Jesus cares about his followers finding joy in the everyday celebrations. And when we’re feeling stuck on the treadmill, isn’t joy the thing we need to experience more than anything else? Isn’t that the answer to our prayers?
So today, remember this story. Remember that Jesus is the bringer of joy. And by all means, find something to celebrate!
by Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
As I grow older, I learn more and more about the value of time. One of the mistakes we often make is to live in another time – either the future (most often when we are young) or the past (most often when we are older) – but never fully present in the time we inhabit now. Is your focus on the future or the past robbing you of your ability to celebrate what is good here in the present? Let this miracle story call you back to now, knowing that Jesus cares about you finding joy right where you are.
Prayer: God, remind us that there are moments in the every day that are occasions for joy, thanksgiving, and celebration. Help us today to notice them, and then give ourselves permission to experience them! Amen.