The Wedding at Cana
An occasion of joy, celebration, and intimate union between two persons was the occasion for Jesus’ first performance of a miracle. There is much to be deduced from this simple fact and normal human event. The God who married himself to Israel and pledged himself to her in spite of her innumerable and enormous infidelities upholds and confirms the sacred bond that is analogous to God’s connection with his people. The divine bridegroom comes to seek out his wayward partner in generous grace.
The opening phrase “on the third day” alerts us as to the significance of Christ’s attitude and action displayed at a humble and modest matrimonial ceremony and celebration. In Holy Scripture the third day signifies something monumental - an extraordinary transformation in circumstances of which the resurrection of the Lord Jesus is the epitome, the ultimate climax of biblical third days. Jesus is indicating the arrival of a new era - the lavishing of divine love upon lowly and desperate people. In his manhood he identified with such people and was fully involved in their community, the community of ordinary folk caught up in ordinary life. He mingled among them as a skilled and respected carpenter - no pretensions! He was a well-disposed member of the wedding party, and the couple he supported by his presence was obviously of modest means because they could not fulfil the obligation of expected hospitality to their guests - a legal obligation - to supply adequate food and sufficient wine. To fail in this could be grounds for complaints against the newly-weds entailing financial compensation.
At the outset of wedded life this pair of devoted persons faced personal disaster.
When Jesus responded so magnificently to their crisis they were not only delivered from public and pecuniary embarrassment, they launched out on married life with a valuable asset - finest quality excess wine left over from the party. They could sell this and set up home with a stable future before them. Jesus’ first miracle was a sign of God’s great liberality, bounteousness, and kindness as well as the gladness with which god blesses the needy and transforms their prospects.
The miracle at Cana was an endearing exhibition of God’s gracious intentions to -wards mankind through his wonderful and winsome Son.
But the story has greater depth than the Saviour’s compassion toward a particular couple. It signifies the renewal of human life that Jesus came to bring through his assignment of rescue from the poverty and death of human sin and estrangement from God - dangerously eternal if not dealt with promptly. On “the third day” Jesus was announcing the solution to mankind’s insoluble problems. God has the answer and power to act in deliverance. Just watch!, says Jesus. And when Jesus performed his miracle the husband and wife were relieved and the disciples believed - taking a first step on their slow journey of faith.
There are clues in this account of Jesus’ mercy and power that help us to grasp the character of God in our humble and reliant walk with him. God is not tied to any predictive formula but we are habitually given to fear, frustration, and anxiety.
Our difficulties are not merely circumstantial. They include the private and profound agonies of soul that we sometimes pass through - the persistence of sin, the sense of spiritual privation, the pining for divine presence and reassurance. Sometimes our weakness overwhelms us, and Satan rages against us. We are susceptible to torments and temptations. We are in the midst of a war that we cannot win and God seems distant and indifferent.
Of course, our minds and emotions are lying to us, but these lies are very convincing and are strengthened in force by the father of lies who meddles with us more than we are aware. His campaign is to thwart right thinking and distort our perceptions. He is the marauder of the mental processes detaching us from rational guidance of God’s truth. But there is help in what we read of Jesus in the narrative of his first gracious sign of effective divine deliverance.
Mary poses a problem to her Son. “The wine has run out.” Mary believed that Jesus was much more than an emergency caterer with the right connections. She knew that Jesus was a carer. Both mother and Son are solicitous of the welfare of the bride and groom. They possibly knew them very well, hence the invitation and their acceptance. They were involved. But each had a different perspective. Mary’s is the natural human and maternal approach. “Please act promptly!”
Jesus’ affectionate reply reveals the standpoint of God whose hand is in perfect control. “My time has not yet come.”
When we yearn for a so-called “third day” experience, a momentous intervention of God, it is often that his time - the time of rescue and renewed hope - has not yet come. Our panic would minimize the dimensions of his mercy towards us. He has something far greater in mind than the alleviation of the misery of the present moment. Our moods do not determine the moves that God has decided to make. We are frail, wounded, and short-sighted. We have every cause to be urgent and it hurts us terribly to cope with delays when God seems to keep on indicating that “my time has not come”. It is no fairy-tale solution to say that we must be patient - it is sometimes excruciating and unbearable.
But it will be the testimony of the redeemed in the final outcome- perhaps delayed until heaven- that Jesus reserves the best blessings until last. If our cup is bitter here and our joys are not replenished, whatever we see and sense does not nullify the ultimate outpouring and in-filling of divine grace and generosity.
The Word of God, the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper we observe say with absolute certainty that for us who believe Jesus has saved the best wine for all this time until he deigns to inform us, “the best is now”. He is waiting to toast the triumph of the Father with us. “For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (Luke 22:18).