The vintner of new life works his first sign of water into wine. As usual, John’s Gospel takes us into something deeper.
As we get further into the season of Lent, and John’s Gospel, Jesus has not yet begun his earthly ministry. He does perform his first miraculous sign. Pastor Ben reminded us that the first two sections of John 1, “In the Beginning”, and “He Tabernacled with Us”, are the sudden flash of a lightning strike. John 2 is the first bass-ie rumble of thunder.
Expect a Miracle
The wedding in Canna is a well-known scene. Jesus and his brand new disciples are attending a wedding. His mother, Mary, is there, and despite all the planning put into weddings, something always goes wrong. In Israelite culture, the weddings went on for days – providing more opportunity for something to go wrong. As we know, they run out of wine, and that’s about as bad as it gets. Mary, likely invested in the wedding in some way, goes to Jesus and tells him about the problem. She is in distress, and feeling shame for the family who let the wedding run out of wine. When he seemingly shrugs her off, she goes on as if he’d said, “Sure, I’ll take care of it.” She seems to expect a miracle.
Miracle or Sign?
The water-into-wine miracle is so well-known that there are memes.This one in particular has many versions, and can be found on the web and social media with a quick search. As you can see, the sign on the wine shelf is wrong, and reads “water.” The caption, “Jesus was here.” shows how familiar the story is. Pastor Ben even described it during his sermon, “The Vintner of New Life.” But, as Pastor Ben also pointed out, the scripture John 2:1-12 doesn’t call water-into-wine a miracle. Rather, it’s a sign. Not only a sign, but his primary, or exemplary sign. A sign points to something else.
Nothing in the water-into-wine story is there by accident. In particular, the stone water jars used for washing serve a particular purpose. The water is used for washing at different occasions, throughout the day, a bunch of times a day. Each washing is a reminder of being unclean before God. Furthermore, the wedding itself is a reminder of the wedding in Genesis. In both weddings, there’s a problem, followed by distress, and then shame. Jesus brings abundant new life to the stone jars, and the wedding alike.
Jesus, the vintner, or wine-maker, is the agent of the miraculous sign of turning water into wine. While, as Pastor Ben reminded us, He is also the agent of creation. Water is miraculously turned into wine in nature every day. Do we forget how miraculous the transformation is, just because it’s commonplace? In fact, St. Augustine commented:
We take for granted the slow miracle whereby water in the irrigation of a vineyard becomes wine. It is only when Christ turns water into wine, in a quick motion, as it were, that we stand amazed.
Jesus solves our problem, distress, and shame as only He can. He turns us from earthly water, into kingdom wine.