Reading: John 2: 1-11 – Jesus changes Water into Wine
I wonder how many times you have already washed your hands today? The UK government encourages us to do so frequently to limit the spread of Corona virus and by now, that should no longer be news, but hopefully part of our routine.
In Jesus’ time, ritual washing was part of the routine, which is why at the wedding in Cana, a few very large basins are provided for people to observe the religious tradition of washing your hands before meals. Now this wasn’t done to remove germs as no one was aware of their existence, but rather in the belief that washing removed ritual defilement. A brief pause, if used properly, to come to God. Or as we see in Matthew 15:2, another chance for the Pharisees to put the cart before the horse and impose near-impossible rules on people while forgetting the heart of the matter.
But anyway, it’s party time! Food, wine, friends, family – sounds like a dream round about now, doesn’t it? But then the unthinkable happens – they run out of wine. We know the story. They run out of wine every time we read the story, and some of us will have read it many times. So many times in fact that we forget that this is a social disaster, something that will be talked about in that village for years. Perhaps it is telling that we know nothing about the wedding couple apart from the fact that they ran out of wine. 2000 years later, the shame of it all is still posted and reposted on social media. And then as we know, Mary asks Jesus for help, He says ‘Lass, what’s that got to do with me?’ and she instructs the waiters to do whatever Jesus says. And so we wait, with mock suspense. What will He do?
He does three things:
He changes water into wine, providing a major clue to the new covenant, which we remember whenever we take communion – the covenant ‘in my blood’. No longer will we be limited to ritually washing the outside of our skin to do away with the spiritual defilement of the past day or so. Jesus will atone for all of our sin by His blood once and for all, making us clean on the inside.
Also, He reveals His sense of humour. The water that is changed into wine isn’t a nice clean glass of water, fresh out of the tap. It’s the water that all the guests have just washed their hands in! Imagine coming into work and duly washing you hands, then being told to serve the water you used to wash your hands to your boss? That’s what these waiters are doing, and I don’t know if they trembled or chuckled as they took the cup to the master of the banquet for tasting, but they will have been very aware how hilarious it was.
And lastly, in performing His first miracle, Jesus reveals His glory and the disciples, who had only the day before been looking at Jesus as a Rabbi now begins to ‘put their faith in Him’. It is not only at the wedding in Cana that the best has been saved for last, it is for us too. Jesus went through death, bore our sin and shame, and out of that, He wrought salvation for those who put their faith in Him. And on the other side of this, once lockdown gives way to a mass exodus, we will see the full reality of that as Jesus Himself comes to serve us at the biggest wedding banquet ever.
He has said that He won’t drink of the fruit of the vine with us again until that day, but when that day does come, we will all enjoy the fruit of His labour. He prayed in Gethsemane and drank the cup in obedience to the Father when it was clear there was no other way. Whenever we raise our communion cups here – and the final toast of hallelujah later – may we all remember how one cup was changed for another because of the willingness of our Saviour to enter into our world, our suffering, our predicament and provide a solution when He could have legitimately said: What has that got to do with me?
That’s love for you. Have you opened your wedding invitation yet?