Belief in the Signs
A wedding! We’ve all attended weddings, we know what they’re all about. Family and friends gather together to celebrate to people joining their lives together in front of God and their loved ones.
Weddings can be big or small, lavish or simple, dramatic or serene. It all depends on the personalities of the two getting married.
We all like weddings, they are celebrations of families coming together through their children, they are a reminder of the wonderful gift that life and love are to us from God. They are a reflection of God’s love for us in the love the couple have for one another. And in that love they are occasions for happiness and joy.
In Jesus time it was the same. The families, friends, food and fun. It was the responsibility of the two families to make sure there was enough entertainment, food and wine for everyone. This was a big deal because unlike today where you attend and wedding and reception and then go home the same day, in Jesus day wedding celebrations lasted for seven days. There had to be ample refreshments.
Jesus, his mother and his disciples are invited to this wedding. This was an area that they knew, likely they knew one of the two families involved. But they were simply guests like all the rest.
John’s gospel is the only place you will find this story. Some call John the book of signs, a book of stories and happenings, things of power which point to Jesus as the Son of God. Feeding multitudes, healing the sick raising the dead. The wedding here at Cana is the first of these signs. And it is the most private.
They join the wedding party and things are fine, until the master of the feast (what we would call the best man) discovers that for some reason the wine is almost gone and there is no way more can be obtained. This would be a great shame to the bridegroom and his family. What should he do? Jesus’ mother, Mary, found out and went to tell him they have no more wine.
Mary takes the servants aside and tells them do whatever he tells you to do. So when Jesus tells the servants to fill up the jars standing there for the ritual mikvah they obey. A mikvah is a bath to cleanse oneself before God. These jars were stone, not clay which is porous and could allow impurities to seep into the water. Each jar held twenty to thirty gallons and there were six of them.
When the ‘wine’ is brought to the master of the feast, he thinks the bridegroom has been holding out on him – this is the best yet! Most folks serve the good stuff first that the average stuff after the party is going.
Jesus does this this with no fanfare, no announcement of what he has done, he simply fills a need. He is not there to advertise himself, but to celebrate a wedding. No one knows where the good wine came from.
His disciples, the servants who filled the jars, and his mother are the only ones who know. This is also common in Jesus work – it is the people in the background, the poor, the working class who get to witness first hand these miracles, or signs.
In John’s Gospel the signs that Jesus does are what might be called ‘ministry at the margins’. He heals, feeds, comforts, uplifts, raises the dead, but not in the presence of the powers that be. Most of Jesus signs or miracles took place in the sight of the regular everyday people.
They were the ones who saw the signs, saw God’s glory working through Jesus and came to see him as the Messiah. What kind of Messiah they couldn’t possibly understand at that point, but they would. They just knew that through Jesus they felt that God was near to them and that God actually cared for them, which was a far cry from the kind of worship taught in the Temple or synagogue.
And as a result of that encounter with Jesus their lives were never the same. They believed, they became followers of Jesus teachings, even if they never wandered with him as he did his work. In small ways in their daily lives they learned to love and care for others as Jesus did which glorified God through him.
We don’t get to see all those miracles (though as a pastor I’m sometimes asked to turn water into wine at weddings – never tried it), we merely hear the stories that others have told about Jesus. But one thing all the stories have in common is that peoples lived were changed for the better after their encounter with him. The presence of Jesus made a difference and changed things for the good.
And while we don’t get to see those miracles up close and personal, we can see others. The food coming in for our food pantry – and going out just as quickly. The donations we had for MLM and Caring for Kids, going to bring smiles at Christmas and lighten burdens. The work we do in spring time to clean up our nearby parks to help keep our world a safe and clean place, as God intended it to be.
Simple things too, like letting someone with just a few things to purchase go ahead of us in line. Or when we see someone struggling to pay for what they need, reaching out and covering the difference.
Working to solve problems of homelessness and job/food/health care insecurity to make sure that all people have what they need to become the people God called them to be. All these things bring glory to God just as surely as Jesus did that day in Cana.
In John’s gospel the first sign of Jesus relationship to God was what happened at that wedding in Cana. It was the first of many things he did, as John said so that people would believe. That belief changed lives and people could see it. We know this because we have all these stories that were collected to become John’s gospel.
What will we do to point people to Jesus? How will we help them believe? It will happen by showing that same indiscriminate unconditional love and grace that Jesus showed in his signs. He didn’t ask for perfection, for proof that they were good Jews (or Jews at all) he didn’t put conditions on anything he did. He simply loved and showed it. Grace flowed out from him as water from a stream a life giving stream.
I don’t believe that the age of signs is over. I believe that each one of us sitting here today is a sign of God’s glory in Christ, simply because someone told someone and here we are as believers. We heard the message and here we are.
So the question we each must ask ourselves is how will we make it visible to others? What is God calling us to do to share ourselves as a sign of Gods glory?