And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus was called and his disciples to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. And Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee ? Mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.
John the Evangelist here records the famous story of Jesus turning the water into wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. It is an intriguing event because it challenges the temperance view of certain Christian believers.
This miracle underlines the fact that the Bible does not teach total abstinence from alcohol. Yes there are arguments made by the temperance movement that this was only grape juice. But in fact the apostle Paul states clearly the Christian view of alcohol – and more generally too – when he wrote to the believers at Ephesus be not drunk with wine. [Ephesians 5.8]
Christians are called to avoid excess, ie to avoid the indulgence of the greedy human heart. They are called to be sensible and sober, in control of themselves, responsible; not out of control, making a fool of themselves, even making themselves susceptible to manipulation by those who use people’s vices to get control and enslave human beings [as in drugs and prostitution, for example].
Rather, as the apostle Paul goes on to say to the Ephesians, but be filled with the Spirit. Christians are to desire God himself, and live in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. [Romans 14.17].
But that is by way of clarification of a potentially contentious issue.
The focus can easily be the miracle. But the real issues here are
- Why does Jesus turn water into wine
- Whatsoever he says, do it !
- How the water gets turned into wine
Jesus does it in answer to his mother’s request. She intercedes on behalf of those in apparent need. She asks Jesus to solve the problem. He is disinclined but responds nevertheless. And the lack of wine is resolved.
It is his mother. The occasion is a marriage – the union of a man and woman who will become the foundation for a new family, another mother and father who are to provide the loving and nurturing environment for children who will in turn grow up and become the progenitors of the next generation.
Jesus here marks out the vital and fundamental importance of the FAMILY. The family is the fundamental building block of a successful and stable society. Family provides the essential love and protection every human being needs above all else. Family provides the model for love and nurture; family provides the vital experience of family for every one of us.
When family goes wrong, human lives go wrong. When family goes right, human lives go right.
This beginning of a new family was a critical moment for the two people involved and for their wider family. Was it to be marked by success and happiness all round – a positive, happy and memorable start to their lives together and their coming generation of a new family ?
Or was the experience to be marred, spoiled and ruined because of the failure of a basic ingredient of the occasion’s success ? Were they to be embarrassed by the fact that they had evidently not provided sufficiently for the occasion ? Was their wider family’s shortage of means to be exposed ?
And thereby give the couple a most negative start to their life together ?
This miracle concerns positive constructive psychology for family. It is not about water and wine. It is about why the miracle took place.
Which brings us to the How.
The most important element here is Mary’s statement to the servants
Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it !
This advice is timeless. This advice goes to the heart of Christian practice.
Strip away all the theology and all the contention and all the religious accretions and aberrations of the centuries and you come down to the very essentials of what the Christian faith requires.
OBEDIENCE TO GOD – DO AS HE SAYS !
He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
These are Jesus own words, recorded by John the Evangelist later in his Gospel account [chapter 14.21]
The miracle of knowing God’s presence and activity in our lives is predicated upon obedience.
And that is what we see here at Cana in Galilee.
It is as the servants pour the water in strict obedience to the particular command, not doubting that things might work out, that the water turns to wine.
And as we in our lives live out the teaching of Jesus, we see the miracle of our inner lives turned from the mundane and material to something marvellous in God’s eyes and our own.
The spiritual wine of God’s presence and power in us.