Scripture (John 2:1-11) can be found here.
Jesus, his mother, and his friends are all at the same wedding. Years ago I read a book that asked the rhetorical question, “When were you ever at a wedding with both your parents and your friends?” My first response to this: This happens all the time in a small town. My second response: This also happens in faith communities. But the writer insisted, It was your own wedding, wasn’t it? So this must have been Jesus’ wedding! I think that writer was wrong. I also think that writer was right.
This is a vividly described story: I can almost see the colorful clothing and hear the celebratory music. If there were six stone jars there, for people to have ceremonially washed their hands prior to eating… this was a large wedding. Maybe the wedding of two big, wealthy families, able to provide a meal and a celebration, not only for their own kin, but for the entire village.
The mother of Jesus speaks to her son, saying “They have no wine.” If I’m right about the size of this wedding, this is an almost unbelievable lapse on the part of the hosts. To run out of wine is not only an awkward social situation… it’s also a bad omen. A wedding feast should cast a vision of the life of joy and abundance wished for the couple. Wine, itself, is a powerful biblical symbol of joy and abundance. No one wishes this on the couple. Jesus’ mother, perhaps just to inform Jesus, but more likely, to prod him into action, tells him the news.
“Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?” Jesus’ response sounds to our modern ears like a glass of cold water in his mother’s face. Who calls their mother “woman,” except, maybe, s surly teenager, testing boundaries? And it sounded odd to ancient ears, too. BUT: Four times in the gospel of John, Jesus calls a woman, “Woman.” Each time, she is about to receive a revelation; she is about to witness something marvelous, or learn something true.
“My hour has not yet come,” Jesus continues. His hour is the hour of glory: the moment when he will be raised on a cross, and draw the whole world to himself.
Jesus rebuffs his mother, but he reveals something to her as well. And in the next moment, he does as she hoped he would do.
Jesus instructs the steward to fill all the jars with water, and then to take a drink. And what the steward tastes sounds like it must be the ancient Middle Easter equivalent of the finest fancy French wine out there. The wine is so delicious, he calls over the bridegroom to ask why he saved the best wine for last?
And even if the bridegroom isn’t Jesus, it turns out the bridegroom is Jesus, and this is his banquet. At least, the earliest hearers of this story will think so. Jesus, the bridegroom in all those parables, has walked into a parable right here in John’s gospel.
And the first sign he gives in his ministry—because, in John’s gospel, this is the first of his seven signs that show Jesus for who he is—that first sign is one that remembers something that hasn’t happened yet. It recalls a promised banquet, off in a future in which God’s reign has been firmly established.
I know that sounds too out there, impossible, fanciful.
How about this: it evokes that moment when God will call us all to a table, because it’s time to celebrate. And around the table is everyone you’ve ever loved, as well as loveable strangers and guests, and all the old hurts are healed, and all the old fights are forgotten, and all the old soldiers have all their limbs again, and all the old prejudices are banished, and all the people who weren’t speaking to one another are leaning together with tears in their eyes, cupping one another’s faces in their hands; and all the children are climbing on the laps of grandparents they never met before, and all the regrets have been woven back into the tapestries of lives that, now that we think of it, were full and beautiful and meaningful.
And this is the wine Jesus pours for you, because he knows it’s your favorite.
Thanks be to God. Amen.