This evening, we read the story from John Chapter 2, and reflect on some of the difficulties that it poses as we try to understand it.
We’re reading the story about the wedding at Cana tonight because we didn’t read it last Sunday. That was when it was in the lectionary. I chose instead to read the story of Jesus’ temptations. That comes right after Jesus’ baptism.
This is not one of my favourite pieces of Scripture. However, I ought to talk about it. One of my seminary professors said that when you disagree with a piece of scripture, it’s important to discuss it. So here goes.
This is the first of the seven miraculous “signs” by which John’s Gospel attests to Jesus’s divine status. Perhaps what we can say is that “oops” situations happen at weddings. Running out of wine is a pretty big “oops”. Like an “oops” that I recall when the wedding party was 3/4 h late arriving because the bride had a big fight with the matron of honour and refused to let her little daughter be the ring bearer.
However, turning water into wine seems like a party trick. In addition, the story is ridiculous. We’re told that the six stone jars each held 20 or 30 gallons. So we have to believe is that Jesus changed about 150 gallons of water into 150 gallons of wine. That’s more than 800 26 oz (750 mL) bottles How big was that party?
Andrew Prior draws particular attention to how the story begins. “On the third day …” He suggests that this refers to Easter morning. Thus, the wine is, in his words “the real deal”. Prior writes that the new wine is at a wedding, a celebration of new life together where the couple will abide with each other. Likewise in John chapters 14 and 15, abiding with Jesus as the vine and the disciples as the branches.
Even so, we can still view Jesus as better than the old wine, which had run out. Presumably, this is one of the Gospel writer’s snide comments about Judaism. For us today, I’d argue that Jesus is better wine than the watery stuff associated with consumerism.
However, there’s a simpler explanation for the third day. Day 1 is when Jesus called the first disciples, Andrew and Peter (John 1: 35). On Day 2, Jesus called Philip and Nathaniel (John 1: 43). Then the next day is Day 3.
Jesus, his mother, and his new disciples were all guests at the wedding. When the wine ran out, Jesus’s mother was agitated. Why? Whose wedding was it? But when Mary tells Jesus that there is no more wine, Jesus basically says, “So what?” But then, he did what his mom asked.
It’s very strange. One of several instances in John’s Gospel, where Jesus won’t be coerced into doing something, but does them later of his own accord. In each case, Jesus gives the excuse, “My hour has not yet come”. or “so that God’s glory might be revealed.” God’s glory” is a special expression used in the Hebrew Scriptures to emphasize the greatness of God.