‘In the beginning was the Word…and the Word was with God…and the Word was God.
‘He was in the beginning with God.
‘All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
‘In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
‘And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
‘There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
‘This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe.
‘He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
‘That was the true Light, which gives light to every man coming into the world.
‘He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.
‘He came to his own, and his own did not receive Him.
‘But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.’
“Anyway. Then He went to a wedding and changed all this water into about a hundred and fifty gallons of booze.”
“Yeah. I mean, not plonk.Y’know. Good stuff. Think a tanker-load of Penfolds 1962 Bin 60A Coonawarra Cabernet Kalimna Shiraz and you’re in the ballpark. ‘Aromas of cigar box and dried fruits, a fine tannic structure with a finish that lingers for the whole afternoon.’”
“I kid you not. Apparently the quality absolutely floored the maitre de.”
“ But this was the Son of God. The Word made flesh…coming into the world. He wouldn’t start His ministry in that way.”
“Yeah? What would He do?”
“Well, He’d gather together some disciples…”
“Yeah. He did that.”
“Then He might start healing people and talking to them gently about repenting of their sins and believing in God, through Him.”
“Yeah, yeah, He did that. A bit later. And I don’t know about ‘gently.’ You see, apparently He got to this wedding in Cana and His mum said to Him: “They’ve run out of wine.” And He said to her, and I quote : “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”
“Nah nah nah. He would not speak to His mum like that.”
“Uh huh. What about changing the water into booze.”
“Wrong. Wrong. He wouldn’t have had anything to do with alcoholic beverages. It must have been non-alcoholic grape juice.”
It’s fairly clear that not everyone is happy with what the opening page of John’s gospel tells us about what Jesus did at the wedding at Cana. Views posted on the internet tell us that Jesus wouldn’t have had anything to do with alcohol and that when He spoke to His mother He would have addressed her as “Dear woman”, rather than just “Woman.”
Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, wouldn’t have spoken to His mum like that and wouldn’t have have fired up a mob of wedding revellers with a miraculously produced abundance of alcohol.
But I think the Cana incident, like much of what is revealed in John’s gospel, stamps the book in a particular way….and not in the way in which I once thought of it….as a thing of spiritual peace and beauty. It’s more like a can of worms. Or stumbling blocks .
What Jesus did at Cana still challenges people in this day and age, so much so that they wrestle with some difficulty over whether Jesus really changed water into alcoholic wine. And so much of it. I sympathise. We have addiction problems in my family and I know the lives of so many people, families, have been wrecked by addiction to alcohol.
It’s a difficult challenge…. In a book which seems to seethe with difficult stuff. The raising of Lazarus, for instance. Did Jesus really have to wait four days before dragging Lazarus out of the grave? You know….we’re well on in the grieving process….we’ve vaguely sorted out how we’re going to cope with the household chores now that Lazarus has gone….and frankly, his relationship with the publican’s daughter had become a little embarrassing…..Dead and buried…life moves on…no it doesn’t….Jesus wants to dig him up.
Lazarus emerges from the grave, in his grave clothes. And people go running off to tell the Pharisees. A genuine resurrection notwithstanding, perhaps some of them were highly offended by something they found to be in very bad taste.
And it doesn’t end there. Jesus talks with the woman at the well in Samaria–an outcast in a nation of outcasts. He allows Mary to anoint His head with expensive oil, money from the sale of which could have been given to the poor.
Many of His disciples leave Him when He tells them He’s the son of God and they should eat His flesh and drink His blood.
“…..no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My father,” he tells the disciples. And a lot of them walk out.
“….before Abraham was, I AM” He tells the Jews. Who is this megalomaniac? They take up stones to throw at Him.
There’s a lot of that in this book.
People seem to be constantly angry with Him. Our understanding of Jesus might lead us to believe everyone loved and adored Him, apart from the high Jewish authorities. But in this book they seem to spend a lot of time screaming: “I want to kill Him.” And trying to do just that.
The Gospel of John is not a still book.
It is full of angry bustle. And the guy these people keep trying to kill–and who they eventually crucify–He’s dishing it out Himself at times in a highly undignified way.
After all, the first thing Jesus does after sorting out the wedding at Cana is to sort out the traders and money-lenders in the temple. Passionately. Violently. Overturning their tables, driving them out with a whip made of cords, telling them to ‘Clear out’ in a manner and voice which recalled for the disciples the cry contained in Psalm 69: “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.”
“Who is this lunatic?” they cried out 2000 years ago. A lot of the disciples couldn’t cope with Him. They went….. perhaps joined up with a calm spiritual group who met once a week to burn incense and say a few mantras: To quiet the soul.
Can we cope with Him? Yeah…He healed the lame, gave sight to the blind….but He also walked on water and changed water into wine…and there’s all this arguing and so many people seem to hate Him.
“In the beginning was the Word….and the Word was with God…..and the Word was God.”
There is a lot of talk about light in that opening passage of the gospel. I think the whole opening passage is the light in which we are meant to consider what happens and what is said in the rest of this book. And Jesus is equated with God in those opening sentences.
And then He does what He does, He behaves as He behaves, He says what He says…healing and reassuring and glorifying the one He says is His father and doing weird things and causing people to riot and try to kill Him. This is Him, the gospel says…He is God….And this is how He is. Can we accept Him? Do we dare?
‘…there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee and the mother of Jesus was there. Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. And when they ran out of wine the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”
We don’t know–and this happens a lot in the New Testament doesn’t it–we don’t know exactly how Jesus spoke to His mother at the wedding at Cana. But this is Jesus, not some authority figure in a costume drama. I think He’s got a way of saying things. Enough to hold massive crowds for hour after hour….enough to flatten the mob when they came to arrest Him in the Garden of Gethsemane.
John 18:6. ‘Then when He said to them “I am He”–they drew back and fell to the ground.’
At Cana it seems fairly obvious that, yes, He was asserting His authority…authority as the Son of God…but also that He was saying it in a way which didn’t discourage his mother.After all, His mother then said to the servants…‘“Whatever he says to you, do it.”’
And in a way which perhaps resonates with those words from Him to His mother as he hung from the cross in agony, words of love and authority, sending His mother to be looked after by his dear friend, John: “Woman, behold your son.” ‘Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.’
And the wine? The wine at Cana. Good stuff? A hundred and fifty gallons or so ?
You may think differently. I think that that’s what it was. A tankerload of Penfolds 1962 Bin 60A Coonawarra Cabernet Kalimna Shiraz. That for me has the ‘wow’ factor which fits with the size of the heart and mind responsible for that act of generosity.
There’s an echo of that grand generosity in the closing passages of the gospel when the resurrected Jesus on the beach at Galilee produces for his mates about a hundred and fifty fish after they’ve spent a fruitless night’s trawling. And we end with that smell of barbecued fish and toast on the beach, a quiet meal with our Lord and his friends.
Magnificent generosity. Massive. Unpredictable. All the way through John’s gospel…to the Cross and beyond.
Isn’t that really why we sing…
My God is so big, so strong and so mighty
There’s nothing my God cannot do.
First preached at Holy Trinity, Dulwich Hill, by David Baldwin, January 20, 2012.