The Son of God was no spoilsport. He regularly ate with tax collectors and sinners. He was even accused of being a drunkard and a glutton by his critics. His first miracle took place at a wedding, which would have been a week-long community social event where the guests enjoyed food and wine and the joy of celebrating a new family being birthed in their midst. Family was critical to both community life and the future of the people, so marriages were celebrated in a way that most of us Westerners would find hard to understand.
But that first miracle in Cana of Galilee – now, that was something! It was near the end of the wedding festivities and the unfortunate couple ran out of wine. Hospitality was (and is) huge in that culture and it would have been a humiliating social blunder to run out of wine to serve your guests. They might have been shunned as a result, and they certainly would have been talked about with some degree of ridicule and even contempt. They would have “lost face,” which could have been devastating at several levels.
Jesus was there as a guest. Some of his newly minted disciples were with him, as was his mother. Perhaps Jesus went with his mother, because it appears that Joseph was deceased and Mary was under the care of her son at this time. Mary picks up on the couple’s plight and informs Jesus that they ran out of wine. He basically says, “Yeah, okay. Not my problem.” But Mary knows a few things about her son and so she tells those serving at the wedding to do whatever Jesus tells them to do. Which, by the way, is a good way to handle the messes of life. Do what Mary did. Bring the problem to Jesus and then be ready to do whatever he tells you to do.
There were massive stone jars for ceremonial washings on hand. Six of them. As they were rough-hewn, they held varying amounts of liquid, but each held somewhere between 20 and 30 gallons. Jesus tells the servants to fill them up – which might have taken some time and effort. Then he tells them to draw out some of the water and take it to the steward emceeing the wedding. The result is both wonderful and humorous. Somewhere between the drawing and the drinking by the steward, the water is transformed into wine. And not two-buck Chuck stuff, either. We’re talking Chateau Lafite quality or better. The best wine. And the steward is flabbergasted. “What the….”
I imagine the couple is a bit flabbergasted too. For on the heels of their social misfortune (yikes! we’re out of wine) it appears that some kindly soul has bailed them out. But the steward sums up the situation well. “What’s going on here? This is so bizarre. Everyone serves the good wine first to appropriately honor the guests. Then, when folks have been drinking for a bit, they bring out the cheap wine. No one can tell the difference after a few drinks anyway. But you! You wait until the end of the feast to bring out the good stuff! That’s just nuts, because the gesture will be wasted on most of your guests. But this is really good….! Where did you get it anyway?”
Wine was (and is) a symbol of blessing, of joy, of fellowship, and of being peaceably settled in a place of God’s provision. It features prominently in Isaiah 25, which speaks of the great feast at the end of the ages when God destroys death and wipes away tears from all faces. So, here in Cana, Jesus didn’t just meet the immediate need. He met it with superabundance – some 120 to 180 gallons of the best wine. Not only was the community blessed, but the couple would have enjoyed that blessing for quite some time. Lots and lots of joy for them….
Some things to take away from all of this:
• God (Jesus) is not a stingy giver. He gives more than asked or imagined.
• God intends marriage to be a source of great joy – the best of wine.
• The joy of marriage spills over and blesses the larger community.
• Often the best is saved for last. What joys await those who belong to Christ when he finally gathers them to himself at what has been called “the marriage supper of the Lamb”?!
• For the joy to be experienced, we need to learn to bring our troubles to Jesus and then do what he says.
• A joyful marriage can be a great witness, one through which Jesus reveals his glory. Many may turn to Christ because of what they see in the lives of his followers. (This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. – John 2:11)