Summary: “Water Becomes Wine!” What of it? Does Jesus’ miracle of changing water into wine matter when you stack it up against other miracles of Jesus?
Name three miracles of Jesus that were the most powerful and beneficial of all the miracles he performed. (Ask for a few responses from the council members.) His resurrection. The raising of Lazarus. Calming wind and wave so that he saved his disciples from drowning. Those are the three miracles I find most impressive. Jesus’ very first miracle on the other hand, the changing of water into wine, seems to be nothing more than a warm-up act - like an acrobat juggling a few tennis balls before he gets around to the grand finale of juggling chainsaws while riding blindfolded on a unicycle. Oh, changing water into wine isn’t something you or I could do, and it did save a bride and groom some embarrassment, but what of it? Does this miracle really matter when you stack it up against the other miracles Jesus did? No dead were raised. No disease was cured. No demons driven out. A wedding party’s thirst was quenched. That was all…or was it? The miracle of changing water into wine does matter because it teaches us what should matter most to us. Let’s find out what that is.
This miracle occurred at a wedding in the small town of Cana not too far away from Jesus’ childhood home of Nazareth. Jesus and his disciples (who numbered only five or six at this time) were invited. We don’t know who was getting married. It may have been someone that Jesus’ mother, Mary, was related to because she seemed to have an active role in making sure the food and drink service was going well at the reception.
Would you have invited Jesus to your wedding? Perhaps you did. He was there in the Word that was preached at your wedding ceremony. But what about afterwards? Did you invite him to the reception? You may have invoked his name in the prayer before the meal but were you glad to get that done with so you could “cut lose” and forget about that “Jesus” stuff for a while? If we think that inviting Jesus to our gatherings will turn them into dour events, we should think again. It was in fact Jesus who kept the party going at the wedding in Cana.
Jewish wedding celebrations in the 1st century often lasted as long as seven days. If you didn’t plan carefully, you were bound to run out of something. That’s what happened in Cana. They ran out of wine. Mary was aware of this and so she came to Jesus and said: “They have no more wine” (John 2:3). From Jesus’ response we know that Mary was doing more than reporting facts. She wanted Jesus to help. Jesus, however, replied: “Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come” (John 2:4). Does that sound like the Jesus you know? Not really. It sounds more like an uppity kid who has come back from college and thinks he’s too cool for Mom. Jesus, of course, had not just come back from college but he had recently been baptized. There, God the Father identified Jesus as his Son while the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus signaling the beginning of his public work as Savior. In other words Jesus was no longer Mary’s little errand boy who would nip off to the local grocer from some milk when needed; he was the savior of the world. As savior Jesus had come to serve but that doesn’t mean that Mary, or we, should treat him as our servant.
Mary took the needed rebuke in stride. She didn’t turn away in a huff but instead faced the servants standing nearby and said, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5). What a wonderful faith Mary demonstrates! She realized that Jesus’ rebuke didn’t mean, “No, I will not help.” Instead she trusted that the Jesus, who had made time to be at a wedding in an insignificant town, loved the bride and groom and cared about their wedding. And so she doesn’t prescribe the means, the measure, or the manner in which Jesus should help, she just trusts that in his time he will.
“Do whatever is best, Jesus.” Would that our prayers were more often like that! Instead we give our Lord detailed instructions including a timetable for how to answer our prayers as if we know what is best. Yes, God wants us to pray specifically and boldly but he doesn’t want us to forget our place…or his. We are nothing but dust, and sinfully cruddy dust at that. He, on the other hand, is the all-wise and all-knowing God. Indeed, even before Mary told him, Jesus knew that there was no more wine. If it really had been a pressing problem, Jesus would have taken care of the need before Mary was even aware of the shortage. Instead Jesus thought it better that there be a crisis before he acted. God is still in the habit of emptying us before he fills us. He does this so that we will turn to him more often and more completely for the help we need because Jesus always does what is eternally best for us.