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Lent reflection Cover Image

The Marriage, John 2:1-11

12th Mar 2019

1On 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 10 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.” 11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (NRSV)

This account of Jesus' first miracle challenges me at so many levels. First a bit of background. Having been raised by tee-total parents, becoming a CAMRA member was quite a journey. Now, whilst I've never been incapacitated, there's certainly been the odd occasion when, having had a glass too many of home-made elderflower, the bedroom has assumed a few merry-go-round-like properties. So, my tee-total to tippler mindset comes to this passage with several searching questions. Please forgive my apparent irreverence. 

#Q1 If an abundance of alcohol is so detrimental to well-being and dignity, then why on earth did Jesus create, potentially, 162 gallons of the stuff when the guests had already 'had enough to drink'? And, if 'the best', it would hardly have reduced the rate of consumption!‎

#Q2 What’s with the ceremonial water jars? Ironic? The cleansing properties of alcohol perhaps being stronger than water? Some commentators talk of the ‘new dispensation’, but as Black's commentary points out, we must be careful about reading an allegorical interpretation into all these details – after all 6 isn’t a popular number! Now I get that Jewish weddings can be lengthy affairs (possibly days rather than hours) but wine kept in open top containers doesn't taste so good after a while - assuming the wine was capable of natural decay and didn't contain divine preservatives, else we are into completely different territory! Of course, there’s always the possibility of the water becoming wine as it was drawn…a sort of miracle on tap approach!

#Q3 What had Mary observed that led her to believe that her son was into this kind of stuff - turning beakers of water to orange juice perhaps?! ‘Sounds daft, but Mary obviously felt that Jesus might be up for dealing with this faux pas. As CYM students we were recently reflecting on Jesus' humanity and divinity - noting how both found expression in his speech and actions. While it is tempting to ascribe this miracle to his divinity, the disciples were also involved in nature miracles - Peter walked on water, prisons doors opened on several occasions in Acts and Paul shook off the viper – check!

#Q4 How would Jesus have responded at hearing of the host's riposte to the master of ceremonies - bowed head and silent, thankful prayer, or a manly, high-five, 'Yes, Mate!'

#Q5 Was there a twinkle in the eye of (the apparently, cool, calm and collect) Jesus, when responding to his mum - she obviously doesn't take it as a put-down? Was there a quick 'Is it time yet dad?' prayer, or did Jesus already know it was t-15 (minutes)?‎

That God should rollout his topsy-turvy Kingdom in this way may disturb our religiosity, but we should remember that it bookends with the table-turning at the end of Jesus' ministry in the temple courts, restoring access to the divine [party?] for the gentiles. ‎

Our God seems to delight in abundance, welcoming all, caring about even minor details and all with perfect timing. 'This, this is the God we adore. Our faithful, unchangeable friend. Whose love is as great as his power, and neither knows measure, nor end' (Hart).

Dave Shaw, MCYM student