He faced life-long shame as a stingy host.
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.
John 2:1-2 NRSV
The bride smiles shyly beneath her veil, stunning in her embroidered white robe and jewels. The handsome groom leads the procession from the bride’s house to his family home. The whole community joins in joyful music and dancing.
Toward the end of the weeklong wedding festivities, a problem arises.
When the wine gave out…
Uh-oh. No more wine! An enormous social blunder in those days! Perhaps the groom’s father underestimated his guests’ drinking capacity. Perhaps he purchased as much as he could afford. No matter, he is about to gain a reputation as the stingy host. Village lore will include, “Remember when Joe ran out of wine?”
We might think “No big deal,” but ancient standards called for generous hospitality. We recall Abraham and Sarah entertaining strangers. And Lot inviting visiting angels-in-disguise to stay in his house.
The mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”
Mary has a close relationship with the host who’s at risk of humiliation. Her invitation to Cana, only 9 miles north of Nazareth, means the bride and groom are relatives or dear friends.
Mary sees the need and turns to her son. Somehow, Mary knows Jesus’ power. Her tone and ‘the look’ say it all: “Fix the problem.”
Jesus knows what she has in mind.
Did the maturing Jesus perform miracles at home as He realized His identity and mission? We don’t know, but at 30 years old, baptized, tested, and with disciples, Mary thinks it’s time.
Jesus’ resistance sounds harsh to us, but not in their social context. His response reminds his mother that He follows God’s timetable, not hers or his own. But Mary confidently presses Jesus to action.
His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.
Consider a 5-gallon Home Depot bucket. It pales in comparison to a 20-30 gallon clay jar. Each one must be waist high. Filled to the brim, six of these enormous vessels yield a minimum of 120 gallons or 600 bottles of wine—far more than necessary to complete this wedding feast.
He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.”
A host typically serves the best wine early in the week and serves the box wine when the guests can’t tell the difference. But Jesus provides the very best wine, so the host looks very good.
Jesus provides a ridiculous quantity of superior quality.
What a fun first miracle, right?
But Jesus never performs miracles just for fun or to draw attention to Himself, but always for the benefit of others. Every miracle heals a disease, restores a person to social inclusion, or lifts them out of poverty.
With this miracle, Jesus replaces the host’s impending social shame with renown for lavish generosity.
The groom’s father becomes Cana’s hero (and perpetual party host).
Do you carry shame? Wonder if Jesus cares about you?
Maybe it’s caused by personal failure or rejection by someone close to you. Perhaps the source is societal expectations or feelings of inadequacy.
My shame resulted from guilt, from violating my own moral values. I believed God couldn’t love me. I wasn’t worthy. But Jesus removed my shame, reassuring me of His unconditional love and inherent value. Paul writes about dying to the old self and becoming a new creation. That’s how I’d describe my experience – releasing my guilt and receiving a new identity as His child.
Jesus cares. His very first glory-revealing miracle pre-emptively removes a man’s shame.
- Reveal your shame to God
- Receive His assurance of your inherent value as His beloved child
- Release your shame and claim your new identity
Epiphany – an event confirming Jesus’ identity
The Wedding at Cana is the 4th event celebrated by the early church at Epiphany. The first three epiphanies are the nativity, the wise men’s visit, and Jesus’ baptism. This miracle revealed His glory and power, causing his new disciples to believe.
The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Jn 2:1–11.
Bruce Barton et al., Life Application New Testament Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 2001).
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