Getting Ready to Get Ready
Sermon for Martel UMC
January 20, 2012
John 2: 1-11 (Common English Bible)
1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, and 2 Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. 3 When the wine ran out, Jesus' mother said to him, "They don't have any wine." 4 Jesus replied, "Woman, what does that have to do with me? My time hasn't come yet." 5 His mother told the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." 6Nearby were six stone water jars used for the Jewish cleansing ritual, each able to hold about twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water," and they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, "Now draw some from them and take it to the headwaiter," and they did. 9 The headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine. He didn't know where it came from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. The headwaiter called the groom 10 and said, "Everyone serves the good wine first. They bring out the second-rate wine only when the guests are drinking freely. You kept the good wine until now." 11 This was the first miraculous sign that Jesus did in Cana of Galilee. He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.
Weddings are wonderful celebrations, full of hope and promise, of joy and commitment, of sacred covenant. In my family, there are only two occasions that we can count on everybody to show up - funerals and weddings. While we celebrate life at its earthly end, celebrating the beginning of a new, shared life is much more fun. Family has a rightful claim on us at these times. Tradition says that wedding was of someone in Jesus family. I can imagine his mother saying to him…Now Josh (her nickname for him was Joshua)…now Josh, I know that you are busy, but your cousin is getting married and we must all be there to celebrate with him. Bring your friends with you and come to Cana. There will be plenty of food and drink.
I imagine that Mary must have been close to the bride and groom, because she felt a sense of responsibility when the wine ran short. She thought her son could so something about it. My first take-away from the story is that Jesus was part of the fabric of an extended family and that he honored those relationships and he joined in the celebration. Later teachings by Paul give us a much more stern view of Christian life than the examples of Jesus life in the gospels.
In our church cycle, we are between the celebration of the birth of Jesus and the time when we begin preparing to face his death. February 13 will be Ash Wednesday, when Christians begin in earnest to prepare their hearts for the passion of Easter. The Lenten season is a time of preparation. We have a tradition of making a personal sacrifice during Lent in order to prepare ourselves to receive the blessing of Easter. Now we are getting geared up, getting ready to get ready. Jesus was somewhat in that spot at the time of the wedding in Cana. The whole of his public ministry was a preparation for his final passion. And in this period of time from his baptism through the wedding story, Jesus was getting ready to get ready.
John is the only one of the gospel writers who included this story. All four gospels tell of Jesus' baptism and the other three move from his baptism to his spiritual retreat into the wilderness, and his time of testing. From there he returned to Galilee and began preaching and teaching. When he arrived in Galilee, he began to assemble his team. He called first, Andrew and Peter, then Phillip and Nathanael, James and John. But John's gospel story is different. It moves straight from the baptism account to the story of the wedding in Cana of Galilee. Scholars believe that John was the last to the gospels recorded, so the writer likely knew the content of the others. He knew that people in the growing Christian communities were familiar with the sequence of events in Jesus life. His task was to tell the stories that had not been told and to tell them with the end in mind; that end being the crucifixion and resurrection.
John, alone among the gospel writers, was probably with Jesus at the wedding. I can imagine him as a young man, maybe even a teenager. He was excited to be at the party with the charismatic young Jesus. Every detail of the day made an impression on him. As an old man, he sat down to tell his version of the story of his wonderful friend Jesus. He was able to look back at the events of that day and understand how they may have pointed to what was to come. John's story can help us understand more deeply Jesus story and it's significance for us today.
The story clearly show Jesus honoring his family ties and being part of the celebration. But there is more. Telling the wedding story links Jesus with the longstanding image of the relationship between God and the church that has been depicted throughout the bible as the relationship between the bridegroom and the bride - that is a loving, caring, committed, covenant relationship. One example is found in our alternate text for today, Isaiah 62:4-5: "You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you."
Jesus himself used the imagery of the bride and bridegroom in some of his parables. Of course, Jesus was never literally a bridegroom, which was a bit unusual in his day. It was expected that Jewish men would marry by age 20 and that they would produce many children to increase the people of God. The only exception was if a young man was studying the law. I assume that means priestly law, not civil law. So perhaps Jesus was a scholar during his 20s, excusing him from marriage. Maybe John included this story to point out that Jesus was getting ready, preparing himself to be the bridegroom of the church. But he wasn't ready yet. He told his mother…not yet….my time has not come. The time (or hour in other versions) didn't just mean the time for going public or performing miracles. He was pointing to the time (hour) for his ultimate passion, his death and resurrection.
He gave what seems to be a noncommittal answer to his mother. Mothers of sons, how often have you heard that kind of response. Actually, scholars say that it was not as disrespectful as it sounds to our ears, but a common and respectful term of address and response. In any case, Mary understood and had faith that Jesus would do the right thing. Jesus saved the party and saved face for his relatives by producing the wine. However, it may have been a little embarrassing because his wine was better than what had been served before. The best wine was the last.
Here John is able to use hindsight and reflection to see the events not simply as they took place, but as an indication of things to come. He calls this turning of water into wine a "sign" rather than a miracle. A sign is something that points forward to another thing. By including this story, John is telling us that from the beginning, Jesus was pointing toward his ultimate end.
Jesus, at the Last Supper, almost the end, lifts the wine and says "This is my blood of the new covenant, shed for you." By retelling the story of Jesus first sign, John is pointing us to that final event and to Jesus who by shedding his blood brought us the new wine of the new covenant. This new wine is better than anything that has come before.
So in the simple story of the wedding feast at Cana, we can understand Jesus as a young man who was part of a regular extended family, who honored his mother, who enjoyed a party with family and friends. He was getting ready to get ready for the serious business of his ministry. And He gave us a taste of things to come
We can see Jesus involvement in the wedding as connecting him to the imagery of God's relationship with his people as that of a bridegroom to his bride.
And finally, we can see Jesus providing the new and better wine, wine of the new covenant. We His are guests at the wedding feast, invited to partake freely of what Jesus has prepared for us. Let's get ready to get ready for the party.