People at a Party Learn about Jesus
- Express eagerness to learn more about Jesus.
- Imagine Jesus' miracle at a wedding.
- Wonder at Jesus' power to do wonderful and miraculous things.
- Praise Jesus for his power.
Most people notice that John's gospel is very different from the other three. He tells the story of Jesus less from a chronological perspective and emphasizes more who Jesus is. The first part (chapters 2-11) is arranged with seven miracles, or what John calls "signs," because they point in some way to who Jesus really is.
The first sign seems quite baffling at first sight. Why in the world does John introduce Jesus as the one who miraculously makes more wine for a wedding where it's running out? It seems frivolous compared to healing people and raising the dead. It's only by entering the story and identifying the strands of meaning that it becomes a revelation for us.
It all begins very prosaically. Jesus and Mary, accompanied by some of his disciples attend a wedding (a multiday affair) in a nearby town. Perhaps it was a cousin or a friend of the family, but obviously the author isn't interested in the niceties of the wedding invitation.
Things begin to go wrong. For whatever reason, the wine begins to run out before the guests are ready to go home. This causes Mary some concern, which she passes on to Jesus. His response, "Woman, why do you involve me?" seems harsh, as though he's above such concerns. But then comes the real reason, "My hour has not yet come." This is the way Jesus talks about the cross and resurrection he faces; they are the hour he came for, the hour of truth and salvation.
For some reason, Mary doesn't take Jesus' response as a no. She instructs the servants to do what he says, and Jesus instructs the servants to fill the nearby jars with water. We are told that these jars were meant for ceremonial or ritual washing, which was stipulated in the law of Moses. So they filled them to the brim. Jesus never does anything half-way.
Jesus then instructs them to take a taste to the master of ceremonies, who immediately recognizes the wine's quality and faults the bridegroom. His logic is clear. If you're going to throw a big party, you start with the Napa Valley Pinot Noir and after the guests are feeling quite happy, you may bring on the box of non-descript blended red or maybe a "Two Buck Chuck."
What do we make of all this, the first of Jesus' signs? There's obviously lots going on beneath the surface action of the story, something you often find especially in this gospel. For one thing it's a feast. The Bible often pictures the kingdom of God as a great feast, especially as a wedding feast (Isa. 25:6 and Rev. 19:7-8 are good examples).
Then there's the wine. Feasts and wine go together, of course, but in this gospel wine comes to have a special meaning---it becomes associated with the blood of Christ, which he sheds on the cross when his "hour" has come.
The old regime, the regime of the law, is symbolized by the jars of water. Jesus doesn't throw them out; instead he fills them up, he "fulfills" the regime of the law by replacing it with wine in abundance. It's the wine of the kingdom, the joy-giving wine of forgiveness and salvation. God saves the best till last.
This was the first of the signs. Whether or not they saw all that this sign meant, the gospel says the disciples were amazed, and they put their faith in Jesus.
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