Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Vessels of Purification into Vessels for Glory (John 2:1-12)

“On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it to him. When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him. After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and they stayed there a few days.” (John 2:1–12, NASB95)

By this point a lot has happened; Jesus’ baptism by John, 40 days of fasting and then testing, the introduction to four men who would become His disciples, and now a chance to attend a wedding with His mother and these new disciples. We know nothing of who was getting married other than the wedding was happening in Cana of Galilee, which was the home of Nathaniel. We don’t even know with any certainty where Cana was located geographically except that it was in Galilee, probably not far from Nazareth. It might have been about nine miles away where the ruins of the village Khirbet Qana are found today. The wedding was probably going along great, until a major failing for such a significant social event occurred—they ran out of wine. These celebrations were generally not as they are today where the event begins and ends within a few hours, but they might have lasted for an entire week. So, running out of wine, especially early on, was a big deal.

When the wine ran out Mary came to Jesus and told Him, “They have no wine.” Jesus responded with words seem to question why He was being told this news. Was He being expected by His mother to do something about it?  It is here that we can be reminded that Mary knew who her son was—the Son of God. When I’ve read Jesus' response over the years I’ve thought about those times when I have asked similar questions, but with a different motive. Jesus knew why He had come, and He was focused on that purpose. When I’ve asked the question it has generally been from the perspective of not wanting to get involved or thinking that it’s not my responsibility.

But Jesus’ mother persisted with her expectation that Jesus would solve the problem, by instructing those at the wedding to do whatever her son said for them to do. She had every confidence that He could and He would step in to save the wedding celebration from disaster. As I think about Mary’s response, I also am challenged to consider how I respond to situations which do not seem to affect me or be up to me. I’m given cause to pause and consider whether or not this is really true, or an excuse to walk on the other side of the street (so to speak). I am so thankful for the lessons that God has been teaching me throughout my life and for those that He has brought around me as examples. Stepping aside is not to be our norm as Mary demonstrated through her interaction with her son, and the Son proved her to be right.

God intervened into man’s rebellion by sending His Son. Here, His Son, stepped into a disastrous situation as a guest to save that which was out of His host’s control. That’s what His mother knew He could do, and that’s what she expected that He would do. Mary knew her Son. Of course, Jesus listened to His mother and gave instructions to the servants at the wedding. He told them to take these massively huge stone containers, which were set aside for a special purpose—purification, and they were to fill them with water. This was not a small task considering how many there were and how much water they held. I can’t imagine them filling these with 120 or so gallons of water unless there were a large number of servants, but they did just as they were instructed. When they were finished Jesus told them to draw out some and take it to the headwaiter. Tasting the water, now wine, the headwaiter you would have thought would have been ecstatic over the problem being solved. But he appeared to be perplexed.The wine was not just ordinary wine, but was wine of the highest quality, and the headwaiter thought that the host was being miserly for serving the cheap stuff first.

Isn’t it just like our God to answer far more abundantly than we could ever ask or imagine?Jesus’ mother knew He could help and He helped amazingly. He took vessels set aside for purification and turned them into the finest offering for the celebration. I don’t want to go too far in putting meaning into this miracle that may not be intended, but as I thought on this event—the first miracle of Jesus—this is how I was impressed. I am awed at how God takes our vessels sown in dishonor and turns them into vessels of honor for His glory, and the source for this happening was the same source that the water of purification was turned into fine wine of celebration. This reminds me of the great hope that I have of a life given to me and made righteous with the righteousness of Christ. One day even I will be presented with all of the other believers in our glorified bodies to our Lord at the wedding feast of the Lamb. This also reminds me of why we regularly join together at the communion table as believers in remembrance of Him, what He has done, and the hope that we have. Isn’t it so fitting that the symbols of communion are the breaking of bread and the sharing of wine (or in many cases grape juice)!

These verses conclude by saying, “This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him….” What a beginning!!!

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