The wedding at Cana
|The wedding at Cana|
|John 2:1-2:12 (NIV, NIRV, TNIV, KJV)|
In my early twenties I used to play in a ceilidh band, and was often called on to play at weddings. On one occasion, we were asked to play for a Palestinian Muslim wedding in the Grovenor Hotel in Edinburgh. Having played at many weddings before, I had never quite experienced one like this. So much of it was completely alien to me. Customs and traditions I had never encountered before, and like all Middle Eastern weddings it went on for ages. It was like I had entered a different world.
And to some extent that is what we need to do as we try to understand the story of the wedding at Cana. As we try and place ourselves in a different time, in a different culture with different traditions from our own. And as we follow the story I would like to focus on different characters as they each get a glimpse of who Jesus really is; we will consider how they respond and how we might respond too.
So let us begin by reflecting on Mary’s part in the story.
In the Middle East in Jesus’ day, weddings tended to be affairs for family and close friends only, so it is highly likely that Mary was a relative of the family hosting this wedding. And probably through his mother, Jesus is also invited along with his disciples to Cana, a short journey north of Nazareth, Jesus home town.
So Mary notices at some point that the wine had run out. Now for wine to run out at a wedding in Jewish culture was not just a minor mishap, where it could be rectified by send someone down to the off-licence for a couple of extra bottles. It was a major disaster, bring shame and dishonour to the host family.
And yet Jesus’ reply in v.4, “You must not tell me what to do, my time has not yet come.”, is surprising if not seeming to be very rude at first, although it is thought that how this was understood depended upon what tone of voice was used. Whether it was rude or not, it was still the answer, “No!”
Did this put Mary off? Absolutely not! Mary was not giving up, she told the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” Although at this point Jesus had performed no miracles, Mary seemed to recognise something in her Son to put her complete trust in him, that he would do the right thing.
As a mother she knew her son probably better than anyone, and yet there was something about Jesus still to be revealed to her.
And Jesus does as his mother asks. He tells the servants to fill up the stone jars with water, which would be set aside for ritual washing. And the water turned into wine as it was served. Mary trusted her Son completely, even though she did not know what he would do. And Jesus did not disappoint her, as Mary glimpsed for the first time the power of God within Jesus.
Maybe there are times when we cannot see what is ahead of us; we are in the midst of circumstances we cannot understand, but we know the Lord is with us, but we are afraid to trust him completely.
There is a story about a house that caught fire one night and a young boy was forced to climb on to the roof to escape. His father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, "Jump! I’ll catch you." He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see, however, was flames, smoke, and blackness. As you can imagine, he was afraid to leave the roof, but his father kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you." But the boy shouted back, "Daddy, I can’t see you." Then the father replied, "But I can see you and that’s all that matters."
And that is all that matters, that when we cannot see what is in front of us, and we do not understand what is doing, all that matters is that God knows.
Perhaps Mary has much to teach us in these times and situations, that we need to learn to trust the Lord completely. Even though we may have had faith in Jesus many years, situations will arise that test that trust to the limit. But, He will not fail us. He knows about every situation and trial that we face. And he has promised to be with us.
Now let us turn to the man in charge of the feast.
Now every wedding in Jesus time would have had a wine steward or master of ceremonies, someone who would be in charge of the food and drink. And it was to this man that the servants took a sample of the water from the stone jars, which turned to wine only as it was served. John tells us that although the servants knew exactly what had happened, the man in charge of the feast did not, but he knew enough about wine, to know good wine when he tasted it.
Now we don’t know how much this man knew about Jesus, probably very little, if nothing at all, but he recognised that something extraordinary had taken place.
He called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone else serves the best wine first, and after the guests have had plenty to drink, he serves the ordinary wine. But you have kept the best wine until now!”
Maybe there are some here today who like the wine steward may not know much about Jesus, but you recognise that there is something special about him. You know that there is something about him; about his life, about his teachings that you admire. You have a desire to know more about Him.
Well the Apostle John retells this story to help us understand who Jesus is. It is the first miracle or sign as John calls it that begins to reveal who Jesus really is. And signs are things which point to something beyond themselves. And this sign is here to show us that Jesus is the Son of God and encourage us to put our trust in him.
Now we don’t know if the wine steward decided to find out more about Jesus after he witnessed this miracle, but I would encourage you today to do just that, whether you maybe start reading a gospel for yourself and take a closer look at Jesus life or maybe join an Exploring Faith course which the church runs on a regular basis. There are many different ways of finding out more.
So John doesn’t want us just to believe that Jesus was able to turn water into wine, but that we will search beyond the miracles that we might believe that He is God’s Son, and put our faith in Him.
And lastly let’s look at the disciple’s part in the story.
The disciples had only recently begun to follow Jesus, and it was only two days before the wedding at Cana, that Jesus called Philip and Nathaniel to follow him. So up to this point in time, the disciple’s must have understood something about who Jesus was, enough to leave their families and livelihood’s to follow Him. After all in v.49 of John1, Nathaniel says to Jesus, “Teacher, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
Yet they had not witnessed any of the miracles that were to follow Jesus’ ministry. So I am sure that even to the disciples, the miracle at Cana was still a great surprise. And I wonder what expectations the disciples had; they had all decided to follow Jesus. Maybe they expected to be preaching straight away, or going to Jerusalem for Jesus to be crowned King. But their first mission together was coming to this wedding. What could they possibly learn from a wedding? And John tells us that through this wedding miracle, Jesus “revealed His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.” They already believed in Jesus, but their faith in Him had grown and been strengthened.
There was a film that came out some years ago called “The Karate Kid.” It’s a story about a young boy called Daniel who is being bullied by a gang of other boys. So he enlists the help of Mr. Miyagi, an elderly Japanese gardener from his apartment complex, to teach him karate for self-defence. Mr. Miyagi agrees to teach Daniel who goes to him home each day. Instead of jumping straight in to the lessons, Daniel is put to work painting a fence, waxing Mr. Miyagi’s car, and sanding the floors in the house. Daniel is growing quite frustrated with his experience. He didn’t understand how he was going to learn very much. What Daniel didn’t know is that Mr. Miyagi was teaching him all along. The movements from the chores he was doing were the basics of karate. When Mr. Miyagi demonstrated that he was actually teaching the young student all along, Daniel was amazed and put his trust in him. From that day on, Daniel put his faith in Mr. Miyagi to teach him karate and much more.
In the same way that Daniel discovered in that garden that Mr. Miyagi was the master teacher, the disciples discovered that Jesus was more than a master and teacher at a wedding in Cana, but that he was the Son of God, and their faith in him grew.
And perhaps there are some like the disciples here today. Maybe you have just begun to trust in Jesus, you have taken those first steps of faith. And in this story John is encouraging us to be open to Jesus as he reveals himself to us. And may happen in different ways, in ordinary everyday situations that we face, through people we may meet, through prayer and as we read and listen to the gospels as we discover more of Jesus. And if we allow ourselves to be open to Him, he will reveal something more to us of who he really is, and through that, our faith like the disciple’s faith will also be strengthened.
So as John retells the story of the wedding at Cana where Jesus turned the water into wine, he wants us to look beyond the miracle itself and begin to believe in Jesus and the Father who sent him. Each of the different characters in the story, whether Mary, the wine steward or the disciples; they all responded to Jesus in different ways as they came from very different positions and backgrounds. But they all understood something more of Jesus that they did not understand before as he began to reveal his glory among them.
And that is true for us here today. We all come from different backgrounds and stages in our journey of faith, but John is urging us all to be open to understand who Jesus is; that he is God’s Son and to put our trust in him.