On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
Today, we’re going to talk about miracles. And not just any kind of miracle, but bold miracles. The first thing we need to get straight is that miracles never happen for the sake of the miracle itself. This is where things get a little muddy in our day-to-day use of miraculous language. The chief end of a miracle, like all of us, is to glorify God.
So, when I hear, “it’s a miracle Pastor Jon didn’t make us sing that refrain five more times on our opening hymn today,” I just want to be clear—that isn’t really a miracle, is it?
So miracles happen to glorify God, and in order for that to be the case, they’ve got first, to someone and secondly, through someone. And see, this is good news. Because, I think we like to think of miracles as happening to us—meaning we’re the beneficiaries of it. And sometimes they do happen to us. But the other way we can bear witness to miracles is not being the to, it’s being the through.
Now John tells us that Jesus and his disciples had been invited to a wedding. They were all there along with Jesus’ mother, Mary. Now we’ve heard a lot about Mary over the last couple of months, but this is the first time she appears in John’s gospel. It’s the third day of the wedding, and the first thing we hear Mary (or as John refers to her: “the mother of Jesus”) say is: “They have no wine.”
Jesus replies with what seems to me as a fairly short, somewhat terse response: “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me. My hour has not yet come.” Mary seemed to think his hour had come. “Do whatever he tells you,” she told the servants.
You know what happens next. Jesus takes six stone water jars holding up to 30 gallons each, had the servants fill them with water, and somewhere along the way turns that water into wine. And it wasn’t just any wine. It was good wine. Really good wine. Good enough that the steward called the groom over and asks ( and this is the Jon Chapman translation): Why did you wait to serve the good stuff after everyone’s drunk and don’t care what they’re drinking!
This act, this miracle at the Wedding in Cana, is the first of seven signs and miracles John writes about that reveal the identity of Christ to both the Jewish and Gentile world. There’s the cleansing of the temple, the two healings, the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus’ healing of a blind man, raising Lazarus from the dead, and his famous walk on water. Each of the signs reveals the depth of need inherent to the human condition. Often, we are the recipients of these miracles were–John doesn’t give us any names. We don’t know who those people were and because of that, we find it easier to put ourselves in their place. Its easy for us to be the one’s the miracle needs to happen to.
And of course, in this, his first sign, the miracle of turning water into wine, we find ourselves able to put ourselves in those families’ shoes: despite all the preparation we might’ve done, all the checklists we’ve made–we forget something here or run out of something there. Or we found ourselves in the position of needing something more, or of needing nothing short of a miracle.
But if we look at Jesus’ first miracle at Cana, we see that there’s more going on when we talk about miracles. Miracles aren’t just magic, right? There’s always an act of petition. At Cana, it was Mary, telling Jesus that he should do something about the empty wine jars.
Now for John, in a way distinct from the other gospel writers, Jesus is God. The fancy word for that is christology. John has a high christology meaning he emphasizes the Divine nature of Jesus so much that God and Jesus are essentially interchangeable.
So, when Mary, mother of Jesus, tells Jesus the wine’s run out, she’s not just telling Jesus to do something about it. She telling God to do something about it. I’m sure it seems like a frivolous request to our modern sensibilities—to waste a perfectly good miracle on more wine (or maybe not)—but what’s more compelling is that miracle of the water turning to wine didn’t just happen. It happened with some prodding from someone like us. You see, Mary wasn’t the to, in this story—she’s the through. But she’s not the only one of those!
Who else are the throughs? Who else are the ones who enable that water to turn to wine and so glorify god? The servants. You know, here’s the thing about miracles. For them to happen, you’ve got to be willing to be part of them. And I don’t mean just ask, like Mary—we all know it isn’t that easy. It’s the servants in this story, I identify most with. Let’s review how the basic story goes, just incase you’ve forgotten, here’s the screenplay version:
Mary: They’re out of wine.
Mary: Can you make some more?
Jesus. Ugh. Mom. I don’t want to.
Mary: That can’t be your response to everything.
Whiney Jesus: But it’s not time yet.
Mary to servants: Get the jugs.
Servants begin to leave, eyes rolling.
Jesus: I’m not going to do it.
Mary to servants: And put some water in them.
Jesus: I’m gonna have to do this, aren’t I?
Servants arrive with jugs. Miracle ensues. Scene ends.
You see, sometimes we’re Mary—telling God to get it together, demanding that something be done. And sometimes the servants—the ones going to lug jars filled to the brim with water. But one way or the other, we don’t get the luxury of just sitting by and hoping they happen to us. Maybe to other people—like the guests at Cana. But if we’re going to talk miracles and wanting miracles to happen in this world, there’s no room, no time for idleness—only boldness.
There’s one final participant in this miracle. Any guesses? I’m serious. We’ve got Mary and Jesus, the servants, the groom and steward. The jugs! Sometimes you are the through—the one who petitions and bears witness to God’s wonder in this world. And sometimes you’re the to—sometimes, you’re the one to be filled up and transformed by God’s abundance and power.
Whether you’re Mary or the servants or the jugs, I hope you’ll be open to the bold miracles God is doing to and through you. Thanks be to God. Amen.