I Didn’t Expect That
Jesus is off to an interesting start. Like all of us, the battle for his life has begun. Both evil and good have reached out to him. He has an endorsement from God and has avoided Evil’s trap meant to tempt him. He has shown himself willing to be led by God.
The next event recorded for us in the life of Jesus is a common life event for so many of us. Jesus, his mother, and his new followers are all invited to a wedding. Apparently, it is a wedding of a family friend in a nearby village. Jesus’ mother seems to be a close friend of the bride or groom and perhaps is involved in the preparation for the wedding reception. At the very least she can give instructions to the serving staff that they are willing to follow.
A wedding in Jesus’ time was a significant event—especially in a small village in Galilee. It usually lasted several days and probably involved nearly everyone in the village (as well as people from nearby villages). Since it lasted for several days the host often had to provide a significant amount of food and drink for many of those attending. One’s social reputation was on center stage. It was very important to take care of everyone in this once in a lifetime ceremony. To fail to do so was a black mark on the host’s reputation probably for an exceptionally long time.
On the day of the actual wedding ceremony, there was a large feast providing food and drink (usually wine) for everyone. Then, in the evening, they would all go to the Wedding Ceremony followed by a parading of the new couple through all the streets of the village for everyone to see and celebrate. Instead of a honeymoon like today, the couple would then spend the next week receiving people individually in their own home. The couple was treated like royalty—that is, assuming something embarrassing did not happen during the process.
In this case, the reception took a turn for the worse when the host began to run out of wine in the middle of the party. We are not told why this happened. Was it poor planning? Was it unexpected guests dropping in? Was it just a lack of money to provide what was needed? We are not told the answers to those questions. But the end result was the same: public embarrassment for the bride and groom and their families—an evening meant for joy turned very awkward. A roomed once filled with celebration turned to whispers along the outside.
When news of this reached Mary, the mother of Jesus, she knew exactly who she was turning to for help. She knew who could do something about such a bad situation. It was time to talk to her son. There is little doubt that Mary’s confidence in Jesus being able to help was based on her past experiences with him.
She simply lets him know there is a problem. In fact, she was so confident in Jesus’ ability and willingness to help with this problem—despite a response that might seem otherwise—that she simply told the servants to do whatever he told them. It was a good move on her part. (By the way Jesus’ response that it was not his time yet may be confusing if you do not know more about him and what is coming in his life. That is ok—you will learn more as you continue to explore him. For now, just know that Jesus is willing to interrupt his plans to help someone in a very precarious situation.)
What happened next was both unexpected and amazing. There were six large stone jars at the reception—typically each one could hold between twenty to thirty gallons of water. The water from those jars were used primarily for two purposes: 1) to wash the dirt from the feet of the guest who had traveled to be a part of the festivities and 2) to ceremonial cleanse the hands of the guest before each portion of the meal. So, presumably, with the feast in progress a significant portion of that water had been used.
Jesus directed those serving to fill all six jars all the way “to the brim.” Once that task was completed, he simply ordered them to fill their serving pitchers from the jars and take them to the man running the banquet. It was his job to taste the quality of the wine being served to the guests.
To everyone’s surprise the water was now wine! Jesus had produced between 120 – 180 gallons of wine! Not a watered-down version of wine, but the absolute best wine. The man in charge announced how remarkable it was for a host to serve high quality wine later in the feast.
One of the men there that day was John, one of Jesus’ early disciples. When he told this story, he called it the first miracle that Jesus performed.
So now we have more information to consider about Jesus. What does this really mean about him? At the very least we know that he was a man that had compassion on others. We also know that he was unselfish enough to set aside his agenda for the sake of others or, at the very least, for the sake of his mother.
It is also obvious that something had happened in his growing up that caused his mother to believe that he had the ability to solve this problem. And solving this problem was not as easy as we might think today. There was no local grocery story around the corner to hurry off to! Getting that much wine into a small remote village took forethought and time.
And, of course, we have got to deal with this miracle thing! What do we believe about that? Could it have happened the way John described? Or does this story push us into the category of myth?
You see this idea of a miracle pushes us into one of two directions. One, we believe it is not true and have to discredit the story we have been told. Or, two, we believe it really did happen, which pushes us towards a more radical view of Jesus. If it is true, Jesus is far more than any person I have ever encountered in my life. What do you think so far?
Read this is the scriptures: John 2:1-11