Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Reading Signs...



ON THE Second Sunday in Epiphany, we have read about an event recorded exclusively in the Gospel According to Saint John. The event, an ancient wedding, was the setting for the first of many miracles done by our Lord during his ministry on earth. Many see this occasion as presenting a prophetic sign concerning the unfolding future of the church… and guiding its faithful people. We read… 

On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”
 And Jesus said to her, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
 Now six stone jars were standing there, 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. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast.”
 So they took it. When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.”  This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (John 2:1-11)


For Those Gathered…
In this gospel, we see that immediately after his interaction with John the Baptist, and his subsequent choosing of his own disciples, Jesus was not quite ready to begin his public ministry. Here it seemed he was reluctant to be revealed too quickly. This sign, however, occurred as his response to an unintended situation. Our Lord’s mother pushed, as parents often will… for him to show his leadership. While being seen as reluctant, he gave way. Given this early witness then, I view it being placed as a road sign, directing our reading traffic beyond... toward seeing in our mind's eye... the most glorious event to come.

Follow Directions…
 As we travel through this gospel then, we find that the number three has special importance. Examining the text, we note that the wedding occurred three days after Jesus’s baptism. We therefore connect the waters of his baptism with the water that was found in the jugs at the wedding. Reading the gospel is like driving through many puddles along the same road. Three days had passed since Jesus was with John at the Jordan, so we might rightfully consider the time lapse as a speed bump to the most important three days to be later described by the author. Remember! Three were the days of time during which the crucified Jesus had been buried descended into hell, and rose again. If this connection intersects, we make a prophetic connection… routing our thinking from the words spoken by Jesus to his mother… that his time had not yet come. The last three days were not yet there. But if we read through the Gospel of John, we shall get there soon enough. For as readers, we need to just follow directions and turn the page.
 If we see this wedding as a sign that carries a prophetic tone, we might grasp that the miracle opens up a wondrous road for those gathered. Any person familiar with the Old Testament scriptures knows that this was not the first time that God changed a substance for the sake of God’s people… for example, this type of change occurred at the time of Israel’s escape from Egyptian captivity…

Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded; in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants, he lifted up the rod and struck the water that was in the Nile, and all the water that was in the Nile turned to blood. And the fish in the Nile died; and the Nile became foul, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile; and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.
 But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts; so Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them; as the Lord had said.
                                                                                               (Exodus 7:20-22)


Father Gives the Son Away
Given that the story in Exodus described God as working through the two elements of water and blood to free his people, a substance was certainly being altered, and thus the miracle being performed by Jesus was the new Moses. Jesus was the new Messiah… the Deliverer.
 Notice that Jesus did not change the elements in answer to his mother’s demand. He respectfully rebuked her request, but then turned and worked to assist the joyous gathering. This told the church, that we cannot command Jesus to do our bidding, but that God is often found to do exactly those thing for which we pray. Though Jesus stated that it was not yet time for his revealing, his actions at the wedding told of his love. He changed water into wine and pointed us along the avenue… toward a cup of wine, changed into his blood poured out for our salvation. In this way, John’s early church community knew that Holy Communion provided in their setting... was the true body and blood of the One who was baptized and declared as God’s own son. As well, the early church could then know that Holy Communion pouring out was done by God’s power and was not accomplished by the will of any mere human being. The church simply stood, and yet stands grace-filled at the intersection of heaven and earth… reading the signs placed… and serving others as instructed.
 Our gospel writer has related that our Lord’s mother, and his disciples… eventually knew the importance of the wedding scene. This came into view long after Jesus’ crucifixion, death and Resurrection had occurred. They then recalled the story for the church of John. They, and others, related the Truth as confirmed by the witnesses who had served at the wedding. Remember! The servants knew… for they saw that Jesus took the six water jars meant for ritual cleansing and changed the water into wine. The wine steward had noted that it was the “best” wine.

For Us and Our Salvation…
 Please note that there were only six cisterns standing there. The jars were not the perfect number of seven. This emphasized that the standing water normally be used for bodily cleansing had not enough power to cleanse the people for all eternity. Thus at the wedding, Jesus showed that more was coming. The water changed by Jesus filled to the brim with wine… a plenteous supply for the gathering.
 Though some people argue that the jars did not contain the wine of Holy Communion at the time, we can see that the miracle at Cana exists as a sign that points beyond the occasion… to the future road. The gospel route we are traveling in John's gospel is one where God would work out our everlasting salvation through Christ.
 I suggest that John simply emphasized that the “Last Supper” to come was not our last time on earth with Jesus. We must entertain the possibility that John wanted to strengthen the use of Communion as a time still shared with our Lord, thus the gradual revealing of the Sacrament exists as central to Christian community life. Consider that for a time and times again… from the Sermon on the Mount… to the Feeding of the Five Thousand and Upper Room elements of bread and wine drove the church toward the God’s establishment of Communion as an enduring sign. Communion at the last participated in the reality of what it represents. There is no indication given by John that the supper gathering was a one-time occasion. For John, the wedding feast at Cana, and the wedding feast presided over by the King of kings are both sign of an ongoing celebration, and any church existing with the disciples as servants, is called to be the Bride of Christ.
 In the substance of this miracle, therefore, we find that this was the first of his signs… and each sign then subsequently continued to guide us to the Great Wedding feast. Each celebration thereafter revealed our Lord’s identity as God. The wedding’s occurring within three days of Jesus’ baptism, and followed later by our Lord’s crucifixion, death and Resurrection also occurring within just three days… is more than accidental. The “three days” time frame represents a completeness of eternal time. As we read further, within that time frame we travel with our Lord, who said from the cross, “It is finished.” All that is needed for our salvation was done by him for all eternity. Consequently, being shown these signs, we are redirected away from our sinful ways… from going down the wrong road… to the altar of God! We encounter our Lord there and are changed by God’s Word. As his servants then, we are given forgiveness and a new view of the Truth. Jesus miraculously turns the sinfully plain, dirty water of our blood, into the sweet wine of discipleship for his church. We thus gather prompted by the Holy Spirit… to give thanks to God for this precious gift. Thanks be to God!




No comments:

Post a Comment