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Reflections on the Gospel, Week before January 20 2012

John 2:1-11

2On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

What I am Learning:

First century people were not scientific rationalists. The writer of John is not trying to convince people that water can be turned in to wine, and that Jesus is the only one that can do it. To focus on the "how did he do that?" is to miss the point of this text. Most likely they would not have asked this question, or even found this question interesting.

The question is: who is Jesus as the messiah and what kind of God does he represent?  This a sign and not a miracle. It points to something greater than itself.

Mary the mother of Jesus is at the party, probably to help the other women do the work of serving, preparing food and drink for the wedding banquet. She was not responsible for procuring the food and drink, just to help serving it. This kind of work was considered to be women's work, and men were not to take part in it. This is why Jesus says "What concern is that to you and me?" To be involved in this activity is shaming for men.

For this family, to run out of wine in the middle of this extended wedding feast would have been devastating to their honor, their status in the community and a major offense to their guests. It would not be forgiven or forgotten. This is why Mary cares. She cares that this family not be shamed in their community.

Jesus asks the servants to bring six jars full of water each holding 20 or 30 gallons. These jars were reserved for the purification rites of the Hebrew people. The servants obey Jesus. They don't know why. They don't know how. They do as he asks. When they draw some out it is the best wine of the feast - and there is a lot of it.

Who is Jesus as the messiah? He is one who is willing to give up his honor and do "women's work" to save others from shame. He is not only willing to do this for huge things, but for a common wedding banquet.

Isaiah 25 promises that God would host a banquet of rich food, of well aged wines strained clear; that all the nations of the world would taste this banquet. This wedding feast is a foretaste of and a fulfillment of that banquet. Jesus provides the abundant wine to the feast of healing for all the nations.

In the eyes of his disciples he probably lost honor (translated "glory" in this passage). But they did see the true honor of Jesus.  Jesus as the messiah is more interested in this healing than in protecting his reputation - and he will die for it. Yet the writer of John says that this willingness to be willing to give up his reputation to do what is right and merciful and kind is Jesus' glory.

John says that this willingness represents the true heart of God. That God is willing to exchange the glory of light and praise for the deeper glory of self-giving love.

How can we not feel loved in the face of such a God, and go get whatever jars of water we are called to bring?