2nd Sunday after Epiphany (John 2:1-11)
Our Gospel for today is a puzzling one. John calls Jesus’ miracles “signs” because for him signs point to something beyond themselves. John wants us to see something more than water turned into wine. Phrases like “on the third day,” and “my hour has not yet come” are mysterious. Those who read this story for the first time would know immediately that “the third day” pointed to Jesus’ death and resurrection. “My hour has not yet come” clearly referred to Jesus’ coming crucifixion where he would give himself away totally for the world. Notice Jesus’ response to his mother when she told him there was no more wine. “Woman, what concern is that to you and me?” Today one could see Jesus saying, “They should have hired a better wedding planner.”
Almost everyone in Jesus’ day was poor. A wedding was a joyous event lasting at least a week. Poor people could drink wine at someone else’s expense. The host would serve the best and most expensive wine first, and after several days bring out the cheap stuff. But it was a social humiliation to run out of wine at a wedding and no way for the bridal couple to start a new life together in a humble village where everyone knew each other.
Jesus tells the servants to fill the six 30-gallon jars used for washing hands with fresh water. “Now take a sample to the chief steward to taste.” When he tasted it he couldn’t believe it. The steward calls the bridegroom and says, “Everyone serves the good wine first but you have kept the good wine until now.” Why didn’t Jesus or his mother or the disciples use this as a way to explain who Jesus was? The story leaves us with the bridegroom, the chief steward and all the guests in the dark. How did the bridegroom in the midst of disaster suddenly get 180 gallons of the finest wine? In the Old Testament, an abundance of good wine is a symbol of the arrival of God’s new age. The first of Jesus’ signs can be read as the inauguration of God’s promised salvation in Jesus Christ. However, Jesus remains silent allowing the bridegroom to be the hero. John wrote this story sixty years after the death of Jesus. By then, many Christians had told this story to their children and grandchildren. What was the point and why did they keep telling it?
The chief steward makes the point. When Jesus arrives on the scene, nothing is as it was before. All previous customs, habits and traditions no longer seem adequate to hold the abundance and joy that Jesus brings to the table. What Jesus provides is more than anyone can imagine. And yet, his abundant gifts are seen only
through the eyes of faith. Many will be content to live in the old familiar frameworks and institutions that drain the life out of them. But for those who allow themselves to see in Jesus the very presence of God, life becomes abundant life, eternal life, more fulfilling life than anyone could dream possible. That’s the life those first century Christians found in Jesus, and that’s the life many of us have found in the risen Christ today. St. Paul said it best. “I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and I regard them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him.” (Rubbish in the original language is what the French call “manure.”)
Jesus shows us God’s abundance. We see it, taste it, feel it, even in the midst of our mistakes, embarrassments and disasters. Many congregations our size are dwindling, losing members. We are going to grow. We are going to let Jesus turn our ordinary water into the finest wine. What we’ve experienced so far here at Good Shepherd pales in comparison to what we are about to experience. The best is almost here.