Tuesday, November 27, 2012



Just about everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike, is familiar with Jesus’ first miracle at Cana; i.e., His turning water into wine. (John 2, 1-12) The story certainly has its moments, especially when the none the wiser headwaiter is surprised by the quality of the newly created wine and says

Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”

Somehow, those of us who have been known in the past to enjoy an adult beverage or two can relate, only many of our stories do not deal so much with new wine as with, say, Budweiser and Buckhorn (The latter was 69 cents a six pack, unless one could find it on sale, when I was a young man…a long, long, time ago. It could only be drunk at near frozen temperatures due to a taste that approximated dishwater in which pots containing lots of onions had been washed. But it completed the job cheaply after one had imbibed several Budweisers.), but I digress. Also, Jesus didn’t mess around; when He made wine, He made good stuff, consistent with His whole approach to life.

The miracle at the Cana wedding feast, however, is more than an interesting and entertaining story. I find two aspects especially intriguing and they are at least ancillarily related.

First, John says that the jars or jugs into which the water was poured and from which it was dispensed as wine were not ordinary jugs, but, rather “six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons.” (John 2, 6, New American Bible) So, first, we are talking about some serious drinking here. Second, and more important, note that everything in John is loaded with symbolism and has at least two meanings. In this case, the replacement of the Jewish ceremonial washings with the new wine of Jesus Christ is interpreted as Jesus’ replacing of the old Jewish law with the new covenant of His message and His blood. That is doubtless true. But the replacement of the ceremonial washings with the new wine of Jesus can also be interpreted as the replacement of rote and sometimes empty ritual with the true worship of God “in Spirit and truth” (John, 4, 24). Not all of that empty ritual took place 2,000 years ago in the Holy Land; many still mistake the rote practice of ritual with true worship of God and of His Son.

Second, “the mother of Jesus” (John 2, 2) (who, interestingly, is never named in John’s gospel), gives the servers a command that transcends the ages:

Do whatever he tells you.” (John, 2, 5)

She was speaking not only to those few attendants who unwittingly, but obediently, became instruments in Jesus’ first miracle. She is telling all of us to “do whatever he tells you” that so we, too, can become instruments in Jesus’ ongoing work. This command of Mary, the only command of Mary in the gospels, is all that we need to do.

The problem of course, is trying to determine what Jesus tells us. God speaks to me and He speaks to you, but never as clearly as we would like. And the problem is compounded by the legions of people who presume to speak for Christ and insist that we do whatever they tell us because, after all, they speak for Christ. And many of these same people seem to insist on the preeminence of ritual, which is sometime good and sometimes not so good, but never capable of leading to salvation. See my 10/22/12 post ST. PAUL, ST. JAMES, AND SALVATION BY FAITH.


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