2 EPIPHANY - C - 19 JOHN 2. 1-11
One of the marks of wisdom in old age is that you recall things once said when you were younger that you discover were true. For example, I have often found myself agreeing with the words of my homiletics professor who made the oft repeated statement that it is the more familiar passages of scripture that are the most difficult to preach on.
Today’s gospel is a good example. Even the un-churched are familiar with Jesus having changed the water into wine. What are we to make of it?
John’s gospel is often called the book of “signs.” In it, he uses seven different “signs” or miracles to make his case concerning the divinity of Christ. The miracle at the wedding feast in
is the first so-called “sign” Jesus performed, and according to John, “it
manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.”
That part we can easily understand. For who would not have been impressed, if not awed if we had been there and witnessed such a miracle. The servants and the wine steward were certainly awed and the bridegroom, no doubt left speechless when made aware of it.
Although we do not hear from them, one would imagine the guests were happy as the celebration continued without interruption. Perhaps they were totally oblivious to the fact that the wine had run out in the first place and of the miracle, Jesus performed.
Jesus’ ability to change water into wine revealed his divinity, his glory, as John would say. His disciples got the message even if no one else attending the wedding feast did. No one, save his mother, expected him to be able to do such a thing.
Even Mary did not know what he was going to do but simply told the servants to do whatever he said. She was confident, however, that he could and would do something. She did not feel rebuked by Jesus’ response, but remained expectant.
An interesting side note. Mary only appears twice in John’s gospel, here and at the foot of the cross. In both cases, her name is not used. Jesus simply refers to her as “woman.”
What Jesus did at the wedding feast in
Cana was not in response to Mary’s
announcement that they had run out of wine, for his “hour” as John refers to
it, had not yet come. The hour of Jesus’ full disclosure was to be determined
by God, not by Mary’s desire or by the prompting of any other human being for
The miracle at the wedding feast in
Cana was the beginning of the journey
to the cross - the final manifestation of His glory.
The setting here is significant. In the Old Testament, marriage feasts symbolized the union of God with his bride,
as alluded to by Isaiah in our first lesson. That this took place “on the third
day” set a resurrectional tone. The day that is the sign to which all-preceding
signs point and the climax of the gospel. Israel
John uses the term “sign” to show that these miraculous actions point beyond themselves to the truth that the
has come among us in the Person of
Jesus Christ. In addition to “signs”, John’s gospel is filled with symbols and
contrasts. In this passage, wine is symbolic of life. Kingdom of God
The six stone jars (one less than the perfect number 7) indicate the Law, illustrated by the water being reserved for the Jewish rites of purification. However, both the Law and the rite were incomplete, imperfect, and unable to bestow life.
The water being changed into wine, symbolized the old covenant being fulfilled in the new, which is capable of bestowing life. The over abundance, of the gallons of wine illustrates the overflowing grace Christ grants to all.
The disciples believed in him after witnessing the “sign” Jesus performed but not all do.
What is the value of faith based on miracles? The miracles are not in themselves the gospel, as it were, but miniatures in which it is represented; and by such signs, some may be brought to faith in the full significance of Jesus and his work.
N.T. Wright in his commentary on John, states that the whole point of the “signs” is that they are moments when heaven and earth intersect with each other. They point away from earth to a heavenly reality. It is all about transformation, the different dimension of reality that comes into being when Jesus is present.
It takes a miracle for some to believe. Their faith in Jesus as Son of God comes through what they see him do. For others the opposite is true. If you have faith, Jesus says in another place, you can move mountains. There is value in both cases.
Yet there are still others, it would seem, that no matter what God has done or is now doing in their lives to bring them to fullness, they fail to recognize and acknowledge the presence of Jesus. They continue to live from day to day believing that whatever happens for their benefit is somehow due to their own efforts or by chance.
The guests, for the most, were unaware of what had taken place as the celebration continued without interruption. The servants who filled the jars with water, and the steward who drew out the best wine and brought it to the bridegroom were obviously surprised, if not awed. As for the bridegroom, he remained silent and accepted the praise offered by the steward. All the while Jesus went unacknowledged, save by his mother and the disciples.
Of all the characters presented in today’s gospel, it is the mother of Jesus, and the disciples, whose example we should follow in our relationship to Christ. Mary expected Jesus to do something to rectify the situation so that the celebration might continue. Upon their witnessing Jesus’ power to transform, the disciples believed in Him and continued to follow him.
The transformation from water to wine signifies the effect that Jesus can have on people’s lives. He came, as he said in another place, that we might have life in its fullness. It is all about transformation, the different dimension of reality that comes into being when Jesus is present, and the new life that is ours when we make ourselves present to Him. AMEN+