St John 2: 1 – 12
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. When 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 and 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.’ Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they remained there for a few days.
John notes that Jesus’ glory is revealed in seven signs of which this is just the first. It is not just transforming plain water into high quality wine but the sheer quantity involved is almost beyond imagining – the equivalent of over 1000 bottles. The steward is so mystified he asks why the best wine has been kept till last.
We don’t know what the bridegroom said. We don’t know if the servants told everybody of Jesus’ miracle. Why did Jesus speak like that to his mother? What did he mean by ‘my hour has not yet come’? Annoyingly none of these loose ends is tied up and we are left to draw our own conclusions.
It’s always tempting to try and dissect or deconstruct miracles with rational explanations and scientific reinterpretations but at the heart of each there remains a kernel of inexplicable glory which we can’t really ignore.
It also raises the question of how we distinguish between good and bad wine. There is an element of common sense but, as anyone who has been to a tasting session knows, it’s very easy to lose sight of what you are assessing after a few mouthfuls. Are we so caught up in everyday life and its difficulties that we can no longer see the profligacy of God’s love and provision for us? Have we lost the ability to discern God at work in every part of our life? Have we simply domesticated the miraculous?
This account is to do with our glimpse into the nature of God who sees a need, meets it, and goes way over the top in providing a solution. Walter Brueggemann describes this as ‘the tension between the myth of scarcity and the reality of God’s plenty’. God’s provision stretches our vocabulary and our ability to grasp the immensity of God’s love beyond the use of words or even actions.
‘Why have you kept the best till now?’
A very good question!
‘We limit not the truth of God
to our poor reach of mind,
by notions of our day and sect,
crude, partial and confined.
Now let a new and better hope
within our hearts bestirred:
the Lord hath yet more light and truth
to break forth from his word’
George Rawson (1807 – 1889)