Summary: Jesus turned water into wine. What is it just a good trick? Or was there more to it? This is the beginning of a series on the 7 signs of Jesus in the gospel of John.
OUT OF THE ORDINARY
As I was meditating on Jesus’ miracle of turning water into wine, a phrase popped into my head – “joie de vivre”. I knew of it mostly from theology texts and usually guessed at its meaning and pronunciation. But this phrase kept nagging me, so I decided to look it up on the internet and find out if I was saying it right and if I really knew what it meant.
I Googled the phrase “joie de vivre” on my computer and chose an American dictionary site. There it was, just as I had thought. The site even had a sound bite so you could hear someone say the phrase correctly. So I clicked on it and was struck by the flatness and plainness of the speaker’s voice. He very boringly recited “joie de vivre”. I clicked it over and over thinking I must be hearing him wrong but he kept saying “joie de vivre”, “joie de vivre”, “joie de vivre” so flatly. “It’s not ‘zwa da vivra’,” I thought, “It’s ‘joie de vivre’ (in a French accent).” How can anyone say “joy of life” in so dull a manner? Then I remembered it was an American dictionary – Americans don’t know French.
In the same way that “joie de vivre” needs to be said with passion and zest, Christians should proclaim “I’m a Christian.” What we hear instead is “I’m a Christian”; “Jesus has done so much for me”; “Oh how I love Jesus” (all in an Eor voice). Where is the passion? Where is the zest? Where is the overwhelming joy, the “joie de vivre” of knowing Jesus?
It is a mistake to slide into the belief that the Christian life is boring, or that it is so encumbered with rules that life is sucked out of living. That is not the life that Jesus came to bring. That is not the Jesus who is described in the gospel of John. Jesus was a preacher, (some of you may think preachers a tad boring), but what he did spoke volumes. What he did gave meaning to what he said.
As we look at the event where Jesus turned water into wine, I hope you will see something out of the ordinary – a miracle that pours freshness into your life.
1. How do we understand Jesus’ miracle?
Miracles can be easily misunderstood. The awe of the feat can blind us to the meaning of the event itself. Or our understanding of Jesus or miracles can skew its intended purpose.
a) A mother’s expectation – Take Mary for example. It is thought that the bridal couple at this wedding in Cana were relatives of Mary and Jesus. Jesus and his 5 new disciples had just shown up and the wine was soon gone. Mary, being a relative, had a great concern in this matter, for it was a huge disaster if food and wine run out at a wedding. In fact, a guest could actually sue the groom for running out of wine. Since weddings lasted a week in those days, you had to have a lot of wine around. This couple, so it happened, ran out of wine.
Mary comes to Jesus and plainly says, “They have no more wine.” What is Jesus supposed to do? What was Mary expecting? John tells us that this was Jesus’ first miracle, so there was no precedent whereby Mary could say “You’ve done it before.” He hadn’t done it before. Miracle or not, Mary expected her special son to do something to fix the problem.
Perhaps Mary, treasuring in her heart all that had happened when Jesus was born, knowing he was the Messiah, and perceiving that his ministry had begun, thought that this was the time to come out and reveal himself. Here he would begin his reign and start a revolution. Jesus replies to this: “My time has not yet come,” meaning that what he does here will not convince the nation that he is the Messiah.
b) A good joke – Some have suggested that this miracle was not literal but that when the wine ran out, Jesus commanded that water be used. The MC, with a wink and a nudge, made a joke about this being the best wine of all. Those not in on the joke took it seriously and thus through tradition a miracle was born.
This is an odd assumption for two reasons. One is John recorded that the water became wine. He didn’t include this story as a humorous anecdote or to show Jesus’ lighter side. And two, this miracle had such a profound effect on the 5 new disciples that it would be impossible to sustain their new faith in him based on a joke.
c) A good trick – Others have trivialized the Cana event as a pointless miracle. It was done to appease his mother, or it was simply a misuse of power.