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 10and 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.’ 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
When John relates the “signs” that Jesus did, he is giving us a window through which to see the true glory of the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. This first evidence that the kingdom was on earth as well as heaven comes on the edge of a major event in Jesus’ home district. A wedding was not just about a bride and groom or family or certain invited guests – it was a celebration for the whole town. And though the newlyweds may have been the center of attention, something else was going on in the corner between Jesus and his mother and the servants. A scarcity of wine would soon lead to a crisis of hospitality. This would not be the last time that Jesus initially objects or delays in getting involved. There is something in his intentions or purpose that cannot be easily claimed or grasped for our own agendas. But the story moves along from filling stone jars with water to drawing off the first taste of 120 or so gallons of wine.
What interests me today is the reaction—and John loves to have the unwitting reaction alongside the insider reaction. The steward of the feast does not know what has really transpired and exclaims to the bridegroom, “You have kept the good wine until now!” As Frances Taylor Gench reminds us, abundant wine was one of the images for the arrival of the messianic age. So the steward gets it without knowing he gets it and John adds that the disciples get it, too.
John writes near the end of his gospel, “But these [the signs] are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” John is inviting us to hear about these signs, and I believe by extension he is inviting us to look around and listen up for the signs of the risen Christ all around us. (That may have been a spoiler alert during Lent.) There is something today which we will encounter and perhaps unwittingly respond with an observation that goes deeper than the surface of our daily routine.
On the morning I wrote this I saw a colleague rushing off to lead a Lenten devotion of mostly silence. I knew she had a hectic morning so far. So I called out to her that I would pray that she could enter the stillness that she would be inviting others to enter. She answered that my hope had just been uppermost in her mind. (I should add that she has “centered” me on more than one occasion.) The season of Lent is already inviting both of us to go deeper than the tasks at hand.
What will you see or hear or taste or touch or smell (or find in a quiet moment) today that invites you to know that the Lord is near? And how can you help someone else to see the signs in our life together?
In the splendor of your creation, in the power of the risen Christ present in our weakness and in the persistent urging of your Spirit, there are signs of the kingdom all around us and in us. Help us to see, O God, how you fill our day with these signs and move us to exclaim that your abundant love has been poured out for all people. Amen.
Trinity Presbyterian Church, Atlanta, GA
(Laura’s note: We look forward to Stephen and his wife, Jan, being back with us soon, as Stephen is finishing up his time as an interim at Trinity in Atlanta!)