The Reception was Excellent / The Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Sunday, January 20, 2019
Rev. Donald P. Beaumont

John 2:1-11

This, the first of His miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revelaed His glory, and His discioles put their faith in Him.

Do you mind if I start today with a terrible joke? Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, like any of my jokes are actually good. Well, doesn’t matter, because I'm going to tell it anyway. Did you hear about the two TV antennas that got married? I understand that the wedding was terrible, but the reception was excellent! I’ll let you think about that for a moment.

Our lesson today from the Gospel of John is about a wedding reception that went from a near disaster to a roaring success. And it became a roaring success, of course, because Jesus was there.

You know the story well. A wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Cana was a very small village, about 3.5 miles from Jesus’ home in Nazareth. It wouldn’t surprise me if Jesus’ family had some close friends in Cana, maybe even some family members. I’m thinking this because of the fact that Mary, Jesus’ mother, was at the wedding, as were Jesus and His disciples.

Unfortunately, something happened at the reception. The hosts ran out of wine. Now you have to understand what a big deal weddings were for Jewish families in that day. The wedding feast, most times, lasted for as long as a week. The newly married couple often had an open house for this occasion. They wore crowns and dressed in their bridal robes. They were treated like a king and queen. Sometimes they were actually called or referred to as king and queen, and their word was treated as law.

It was customary to have so much food and wine at the wedding that there’d be leftovers. Running out of food or wine was considered a cardinal sin. I read somewhere that these families could be sued for running out of wine at a wedding. So, if you ran out of wine, it was more than just an embarrassment. It was a serious problem.

But that’s exactly what happened at this wedding. Mary, the mother of Jesus, brought it to His attention. Telling Him that they have no more wine. Jesus’ response was somewhat surprising. Woman, why do you involve Me? Then He added, My hour has not yet come.

At this point I should tell that Jesus’ answer to His mother wasn’t nearly as harsh in the Aramaic as it sounds to us. It was actually quite civil. It’s obvious that Mary wasn’t offended because she turned to the servants and said, do whatever He tells you. That’s always good advice. Do whatever Jesus tells you. That way you’ll never go wrong.

Six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, and each would, more than likely, hold from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, Fill the jars with water. So, the servants filled the jars to the brim. Then He told them, now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.

And again, they did as He instructed, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He didn’t know where this wine had come from, although the servants knew. Which prompted the master of the banquet to take the bridegroom aside and gave him an enormous compliment. Everyone brings out the choice wine first, and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink. But you have saved the best till now.

Then John adds, What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which He revealed His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.

We’re all familiar with this interesting story: Jesus turning water into wine. But there are some lessons in this simple story, lessons we can profit from. Here’s the first one: The purpose of miracles in the New Testament is that they are signs that Jesus is who He says he is. Miracles don’t happen just because Jesus has compassion on someone. Jesus has compassion for everyone. If that were the only qualification, we’d all experience miraculous occurrences all the time in our lives. Nobody would be sick or poor or lack anything essential to life. We’d simply ask God for a miracle and He would grant it. But obviously life doesn’t happen that easily.

You have to really think about the miracle and brilliance of God’s creation. What a magnificent planet God has given us. It’s perfectly balanced, just enough light, just enough darkness, just enough moisture, just enough dry land, just enough heat, just enough cold to sustain the lives of billions of people. Therefore, issues like climate change are so important. Human beings are the only creatures in the universe who seem to be capable of destroying this very delicate balance.

Even God seems to be reluctant to interfere with the wonderful mechanisms of the natural order. That may be why genuine miracles seem to be so rare. I’m talking about miracles that completely defy the laws of nature.

It’s interesting, even the miracles that Jesus performed conformed to God’s natural laws. A perfect example is the turning of water into wine.

And think of this, water is being changed into wine in every vineyard and winery in Northern East Ohio right now! Which of course is the best quality of wine anywhere in the world. Which is something we can wrap our heads around because we know how wine is made and how it tastes. But, think about that for a moment. Water is being changed to wine all over the world, from the grapevines and then through the process of fermentation. It’s a natural process in perfect harmony with the laws of nature.

Every one of Christ’s miracles Jesus remained true to the laws of nature. He simply short-circuited the natural process. For example, it takes a long time to produce wine from water using grape and fermentation tanks. Jesus simply did instantly what Mother Nature does over a longer period of time. But Jesus did it all within God’s natural order. In no instance did He break God’s natural law.

This universe in which we live is itself a miracle. God created it to be wondrous, bountiful, producing everything we need for life. But it is bound by certain laws.

For example, if you step in front of a speeding car and pray that the laws of gravity and momentum will be suspended momentarily so that you won’t be crushed, you’d be sadly disappointed. Can you imagine the chaos that would happen if the law of gravity were suspended even for one second? Airplanes would be flung far into space. All the dishes would fly out of our cabinets. Even God doesn’t play havoc with the wondrous laws of nature. If you wonder why God doesn’t perform more miracles in our lives, this may be part of the answer. Well one good thing I can imagine about suspending the law of gravity, is that no one would fall ever again.

But back to our point, this doesn’t mean to say, however, that extraordinary miracles don’t happen. The testimony of Scripture is that they do. But they are rare, and they are within the boundaries of God’s law and their purpose is to remind us of God’s presence in our lives.  

People of faith will always have beautiful things happen in their lives that they can’t explain. After all, God is at work in our lives and He is in control of the natural order. He doesn’t break His laws, but He can certainly does work through His laws.

Nevertheless, we’re not supposed to depend on miracles. We’re supposed to focus on living like Jesus and to trust that God will provide us with what we need. Meanwhile, if we ever do witness a miracle or experience a miracle, we’re to see it as a sign of God’s presence and give thanks. Miracles are all around us, the miracle of birth, of life, of the food that grows for our benefit, everything that is in our world is the gift and is a miracle that God has given to us to sustain us and to give us strength to make sure that others know of this love, the love He has shown us through His Son and our Savior.

Have you seen miracles? I hope so, for that means that you are in harmony with the presence of God in your life. Most miracles occur within the events of everyday life within the confines of God’s natural order. That’s the way God has chosen to work, but He does work. Keep your eyes open and, my guess is, you’ll see miracles galore.