We’re not holding mass right now because our Priest had a stroke back in October 2018. In lieu of mass we’re holding prayer and communion services lead by volunteers from outside. Since we don’t have a Priest to give a homily an inmate will present a reflection on the gospel reading instead.
On Sunday, January 20, 2019 the Gospel reading was John 2:1-12. These verses recount Christ’s first miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana. Go ahead, read it, I’ll wait 🙂
Back? Great! Here’s the scripture read:
Jesus Changes Water Into Wine
On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” 4 “Woman,[a] why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.[b] 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “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.” 11 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. 12 After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.
John 2:1-12 (NIV)
As the fellow inmate gave his reflection on this Gospel reading, he focused on the miracle and its revelation concerning Jesus’s first outward demonstration of His glory. I heard very little of what was said. Instead, I sat in silence contemplating the verses and sought other, more subtle meanings.
The first thing I noticed was that it reminded me very much of the parables Jesus would later use in His teachings. One of the most famous being the story of the Prodigal Son. In that we learn of God’s joy in the return of those who have lost their spiritual way and that those of us who have not strayed should be as joyous as God is for the return of this soul. So if we look at the story of Jesus turning water into wine, what is it we are to learn?
In John 2:4, Jesus asks His mother why she has come to Him with the problem of there being no more wine and adds, “My time has not yet come.” Isn’t it interesting that Mary doesn’t respond to Jesus’ statement but instead turns to the servants in John 2:5 and tells them to, “do whatever He tells you.”? Why would she do this? Is she just being Mom? Is she so invested in the wedding that she can’t let the banquet go without more wine? It seems possible to me that God spoke through her to let Jesus know that, in actuality, His hour had come. That it was indeed time for Him to begin His ministry by revealing Himself and His glory. Perhaps, for us, there are also greater lessons to be learned through Christ’s act of turning water into wine at that particular point in the banquet.
In John 2:10 we learn that the better wine is served early in the banquet while guests can enjoy it and then later, when everyone has had, “too much to drink,” cheaper wine is served. This verse implies that the banquet has reached the point where the guests have had too much wine because the master of the banquet says to the bridegroom that he (the bridegroom) has, “saved the best,” until the end. The master of the banquet is expressing confusion because he thinks the bridegroom has broken with common practice. So why is this break with what amounts to tradition so important?
If we think of how a typical wedding banquet was given we see that, in terms of how the wine was served, the banquet was constructed of two parts: the first part wherein the better wine is served and the second part wherein the cheap wine is served. Now, let’s compare the typical banquet to a typical life of the time. A typical life could be seen as being constructed of two parts just as the typical banquet: life on Earth (better wine) and “eternal sleep” (cheap wine) thereafter. Doesn’t the original, typical banquet sound a lot like the Old Testament? Drinking (man’s) better wine in life followed by cheaper wine in eternal sleep? And why? Because no one could live up to the laws and all of the animal sacrifices couldn’t atone for the sins of man.
But this wasn’t a typical banquet was it?
Christ redefined that banquet by changing what the second part consisted of: the truly finest wine. In so doing He also redefined the two parts of our lives; that through Christ’s presence an alternative ending was made manifest: that the finest wine awaits us in a new eternity and would be shared with Christ Himself – but – to partake of that wine, that new eternity, requires Christ’s presence just as His presence was required at that now atypical wedding banquet. So what happened at that wedding in Cana must then represent the New Testament: that with Christ in your life you can share in the finest wine throughout eternity if you:
“Do whatever He tells you.” John 2:5
Now, if we look closer at John 2:5, we note that it is a command. It’s not a request, suggestion, or piece of advice. It’s a command. And I think it’s the first time that command has been given and it’s given to the servants. It’s not given to the master of the banquet or the bridegroom or anyone else in a position of power, it’s given to the servants. In John 2:9 we read that only the servants knew where the wine came from. For me, this is the first time we are exposed to, “the last shall be first and the first shall be last.”
Isn’t it interesting that He performed His first miracle at a wedding banquet? Let’s look at that. We know from other writings that Jesus attended dinner banquets given by the wealthy. I feel confident in saying that the practice of better wine followed by cheap wine later in the festivities probably happened at all banquets. So He could have performed this first miracle at any of those banquets, right? I don’t think so. I think the reason He performed this miracle at a wedding banquet is because he married, wedded, our Earthly existence to a new eternal existence; a new bride and a new groom; a pair never known to each other before. Hmm…it just hits me: was His mother, Mary, acting as a kind of Yenta in this? Kind of funny to think of her that way.
I believe John 2:1-12 is where the first revelations of what Christ’s ministry would, in summation, be about: act as a servant and do what He asks of you and you will be rewarded in eternity.
John 2:1-12 is a short entry in the Gospels but it is powerful and rich in teachings. I’m certain there’s more there than I’ve written of (and of course I could be completely wrong in my interpretations). I’d love to hear your thoughts on what I’ve written as well as any observations about this Gospel entry you may have.