Connections 01.24.2016: A Wedding in Cana

John 2:1-12

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In the Harry Potter book and movie series, creatures called Dementors can suck the soul out of someone. Those who experience the work of the Dementors report that they felt like there was no more happiness in the world. According to the wizard named Lupin, dementors drain “peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them” (Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban, 10).

Some events seem to drain the life from us while others can do so. Not all events to which we give that kind of weight deserve it, though.

An inconvenience, not a crisis, confronted the family at the wedding feast at Cana. It was a very embarrassing inconvenience, but it was an inconvenience nonetheless. Jesus didn’t make it a regular practice, so far as we know, to protect people from party disasters. Still, John viewed this miracle as so important that he put it right up front in his story of Jesus and went out of his way to point out that it was Jesus’ first miracle.

One way people in Jesus’ day pictured the coming kingdom of God was as a great banquet that would include copious amounts of wine. So Jesus’ first miracle indicated, for those with eyes to see, that the kingdom of God had arrived. As John points out, Jesus by this sign “revealed his glory.” In the Bible, wine is a symbol of life, joy, and plenty. By changing the water into wine, Jesus announced that he had come to give us abundant life.

Jesus connects us with God, the true source of life. God has always been about making that life available. Being who we are, people refuse that life or think they can find a better life without God.

Jesus may or may not have been the life of the party, but the party was about to run out of life until he acted. Jesus is the life of God in the world, and in him we find the life that God wants us to have. The story of Jesus turning water into wine is about him giving an abundant and extravagant gift. Jesus doesn’t just give us life; he gives us life extravagantly. Jesus was and is the giver of extravagant grace, of extravagant love, of extravagant hope, and of extravagant life.

Let’s be careful not to lessen it.

The 19th century Danish theologian SØren Kierkegaard once remarked, “Christ turned water into wine, but the church has succeeded in doing something even more difficult: it has turned wine into water.” How have we managed to remove joy from our experience of God? Sometimes our critical nature, our narrow vision, or our lack of spiritual discipline contributes to the problem. But might not the biggest cause be that we have tried to keep God’s extravagance for ourselves rather than understanding that real joy comes from giving it away?

What if the bridegroom had kept the wine for himself and not shared it with his guests? I guess he could have enjoyed 180 gallons of wine (hopefully over a very long period of time). But it was a party, and a party is about enjoying things together and making sure everyone has more than enough.

What will we do with the extravagance that God has given us in Christ? Will we go off by ourselves and sip the wine alone? Or will we live in such a way that everybody wants to come to the party? Jesus is the giver of extravagant grace, love, hope, and life. Do we squash such extravagance by trying to hold onto it? Or do we embrace it by giving it away to the people all around us who are hurting so badly?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been eighty-seven years old on January 15. Dr. King once said, “Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.”

Jesus gives us the best there is to give—real life, a life connected with the life of God—and Jesus gives it extravagantly and abundantly. How can we help but share the best with others?

Discussion

1. What do you think the conversation between Jesus and his mother is about? What is going on between them?
2. What does Jesus’ willingness to intervene to help a family avoid embarrassment teach us about him?
3. In what way does Jesus turning the water into wine “reveal his glory” (v. 11)?
4. Jesus participated in a wedding feast. What does that tell us about him? What should it teach us about us?
5. How would you evaluate the disciples’ belief in Jesus as a result of his changing water into wine?

Reference Shelf

When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, he called the bridegroom and said, “Everyone serves the good wine first; and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” The steward’s words of admonishment about a breech in social propriety function in addition at the level of religious meaning. The good wine that Jesus supplies surpasses the benefits promised and provided by the Jewish purification rites. The wine (religious reality) made available by the events of Jesus’ hour fulfills Jewish purificatory ritual. This miracle of water into wine is called a sign (v. 11). It is an act that points beyond itself to spiritual reality. It manifests Jesus’ glory (that which makes him impressive to others, here, God’s power). The disciples, unlike the steward of the feast, see his glory and believe in him (v. 11b; cf. 1:14). The miracle story of 2:1-11 functions as the fulfillment of the prophecy of 1:51 (cf. 2:11).

Charles H. Talbert, Reading John, rev. ed., A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Fourth Gospel and the Johannine Epistles (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2005), 89.

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra and father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin). A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. You can visit and communicate with him at MichaelRuffin.com. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

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