A sermon on the Wedding at Cana in Galilee, and Jesus’ first sign – the transformation of water into wine…
So Jesus and his disciples walk into a bar. Jesus winks at his friends and says, “I’ll get this round…” and orders 150 litres of water.
How familiar are you with the Wedding at Cana, when Jesus transformed water into wine? Do you believe it? What does it mean? Apparently, this was Jesus’ first sign: isn’t that interesting… that Jesus’ first sign was to provide 150 litres of fine wine to a wedding banquet that had drunk the bar dry.
John’s gospel was written so that we may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. So something important must be going on here, do you see it? What does this ridiculously generous action tell you about Jesus? Take a step back for a moment. There are three types of people in this story (apart from Jesus himself).
- There is Mary: Mary approaches Jesus for help
- There are the servants: The servants do what Jesus tells them to
- There is everyone else: They have no idea what’s happening but have just been blessed with an abundance of fine wine
Each of these people have some form of connection with Jesus in this story, regardless of whether they know it or not. Take Mary, although she isn’t given her name by John, instead he emphasises her relationship with Jesus: “The mother of Jesus was there” and “The mother of Jesus said to him”. If your mother asked you to do something, before you even begin to think about anything else, the relationship of child and mother is so strong that there is an obligation before we go any further. Mary has spotted that something is going wrong at this wedding.
The groom is supposed to provide the feast and there is the expectation that this will set the tone for the marriage. The quality of the groom’s hospitality will let everyone know whether this marriage will be okay. But imagine if the groom couldn’t even throw a decent party, what does that say about him, his hospitality, and his ability to provide for his bride and the family to come. The wine runs out… this looks bad: how will he provide for her if he can’t even give a good party at the beginning. This is a dreadful situation for the groom, and don’t you think he probably knows? He probably knows he doesn’t have enough and is living with the anxiety that he can’t provide, that he’ll be found out.
This is not going well for the groom and these days we’d be concerned for his mental health and the fallout on social media. Maybe like Mary, we’d want to do something. Maybe like Mary we’d ask Jesus to help?
“Woman – what concern is that of you or me?”
Now, excuse me, but if I spoke to my Mum like that there’d be trouble. Woman. Jesus breaks the family bond. Breaks the obligation between son and mother. And John has emphasised this for us. What happens next has nothing to do with Mary being his mother… and Mary seems unphased by this. She is now putting her trust in Jesus, not because he is her son, but because she already knows he is God’s anointed: the Messiah.
So she trusts. Mary says to the servants, “Do as he tells you” and her part is ended. Mary’s role was to witness human need and to intercede with Jesus on behalf of those who suffer.
So next we come to the servants. Do as he tells you. They haven’t heard Mary ask Jesus to help, they don’t know what he is going to do next, but there is an obedience that comes from being a servant. So however they feel about the task of refilling 150 litres of water in the jars for purification, they get on with it. They listen to Jesus, and follow what he says. As a result – when the water is transformed – they know. They become witnesses too.
Finally we come to the wedding guests, the Master of Ceremonies and the groom. Do any of them know or suspect what might have happened? Were any of them paying attention? The Master of Ceremonies certainly notices that something different has happened. The good wine has been brought out: this is uncommon. The groom doesn’t say anything, but he knows. Something has happened that has changed his fortunes. Perhaps he thinks it is a miracle. The guests? Do they notice? Had the wine bottles on the table become empty, were they beginning to suspect there was no more, and then, woohoo! More wine… and wow is it good, the best wine ever!
None of the guests approached Jesus and asked for help. None of the guests were following Jesus’ instruction; doing God’s will as it were. But all of the guests benefitted from the over abundance of the generosity of God. The wine flowed. Better wine than ever before, freely and generously. Maybe they could stop for a moment of curiosity and ask. The servants would have told them if they’d asked. There was nothing hidden and the blessings poured out upon everyone.
When I ask you what the good news is, this, to me, is another example of the good news in action and can be applied to our lives here.
- Some people pray and intercede on behalf of those in need.
- Some people have a practical and obedient heart, and follow where Jesus leads.
- Everyone. Absolutely everyone is blessed by this – and could easily find out more if they wanted to.
You, me, we, us: the church… we have a direct line of prayer to God the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit. And we can bring before God the needs of the world. A neighbour in poverty. A child who’s hurt. A sick friend. The grief of a friend. We can say to God: they have run out. The have no more. They need…
You, me, we, us: the church… we can listen to Jesus and find out what he wants us to do… and let’s not fall into the atheist trap of thinking, ‘no hands but these’, let us not fall into the trap of a functional atheism that doesn’t trust God to act… let us actually listen or witness what God does.
And then everyone – the world around us, our friends, neighbours, colleagues, carers, teachers and family – everyone, believers or not, can be blessed by God’s action as a result of our intercessions.
I have said before and I’ll say it many times: The blessings that God pours upon us are not to be hoarded.
We are blessed in order to be a blessing on the world around us. And if we are a blessing on the world around us, through prayer and following what Jesus asks us to do… then that will be good news indeed. And whether more people come to faith or not: our community, our lives, and our world, will be drenched in the abundant generosity of God’s goodness. And to that I say… Amen.