It is the 20th of January and (for those who acknowledge the Church Calendar) the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany. Today the Gospel reading was the telling of the story of the wedding in Cana of Galilee. A young couple gets married but runs out of wine at the party. Jesus gets pressed into service by his mother, Mary, and viola somewhere between 120 and 180 gallons of wine are miraculously provided. But before He made the wine Jesus put up a protest – why? I suggest you read the account before we go any further. For those who prefer to just accept what I say feel free to skip down past the Gospel text provided.
John 2:1–11 (ESV)
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
This passage is absolutely rich with material and this simple post will not attempt to speak to all of it. In fact, I will only try to discuss one prime point. Why the wine coupled with why the protest?
Why the wine? starts out easy enough. Wine is used to mark special occasions. We toast with wine, we celebrate with wine, wine is used throughout the Bible to mark positive occasions. Wine is even described as a gift of God to make our hearts glad (Psalm 104). Of course there will be wine at a wedding. That reality goes without saying in most circles today and would have gone without saying in all circles then. Wine was crucial to the wedding festivities.
When the host ran out of wine it was a serious social breach – he could not even through a party right for the most important occasion of his life. It could have been a disaster but those who cared stepped in. Mary, tells Jesus that the wine is gone and the host needed more. Mary gives Jesus an implied task – provide more wine for our friend. Jesus protests – What does this have to do with me? And, My hour has not come. Although Jesus gave quick protest He did provide the wine. Maximus of Turin (Bishop of Turin ca 408/423) commented, “the Lord in his goodness did not refuse this small grace.”
The party wanted wine and wine was provided. The wine was even commended for its quality. But the guests did not see what went into the wine being there. What the wine meant – Jesus’ using the opportunity to not just meet a small need but to foreshadow His greater provision. There were six stone jars used for the Jewish rites of purification. Jesus had them filled with water – the jars for purification were empty, they held nothing for the people. Once they were filled with water Jesus changed the water to wine. The means of ritual purification was empty and hollow while Jesus provided what was needed. What was needed for the party and, ultimately, what was needed for purification. It would not be too long from this night that initiated Jesus’ earthly ministry that there would be another night – a night that marked the closing of Jesus’ earthly ministry. On that second night Jesus again provided wine. Jesus took the cup of wine after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
Maximus of Turin thinks Jesus protested Mary’s request “because his mother mentioned to him so casually the lack of earthly wine, when he had come to offer the peoples of the whole world the new chalice of eternal salvation.” With that thought I ask, “Why do we settle for what we want?” What we want is almost always (I will say “almost” as there may just be a truly altruistic reader out there – but probably always) purely temporal. The wedding guests wanted another glass of wine. Little did they know the chalice of salvation was available. No hit on being physically fit but millions of people go to the gym each day to get stronger instead of relying of Christ through whom people can do all things as Jesus strengthens them. We stress over IRA’s and 401K’s instead of accepting the riches of heaven and storing our treasures there. These and many other earthly issues blind us to what is so much greater and we settle for what we want instead of what God wants to give us. By God’s grace He takes care of us anyway.
“By Jesus’ reply, ‘My hour has not yet come,’ he was foretelling the most glorious hour of his passion and the wine of our redemption, which would obtain life for all. Mary was asking for a temporal favor, but Christ was preparing joys that would be eternal. Nevertheless, the Lord in his goodness did not refuse this small grace while greater graces awaited.” ~Maximus of Turin~