For Christmas, Faith had been asking for this pendulum clock. Now, this clock comes with probably a thousand different pieces. Some of them the size of my head, some of them about the height of an eraser on the end of a regular pencil. To say that “some assembly is required” is a total understatement.
Faith and I have been working on this putting this clock together. We don’t work on it every night, but it is definitely taking some time. Punching out the correct pieces, sanding the little connectors off, putting the pieces of this gear or that gear together. Each piece preciously connecting to the next and all the while … no gluing required. The ultimate goal is that when we get done turning over the pieces and getting them all together … the clock works.
Life in general … it comes in pieces, doesn’t it? A million pieces which need to be put together. And you know how it goes when you put things together. A doesn’t always connect with B. C doesn’t also bolt onto D. And sliding E over to F is often impossible. M. Scott Peck, famously beings his book The Road Less Traveled with these words … “Life is difficult.” Really? You don’t say? Life is difficult. The premise of the book is that the sooner we embrace this fact, the better off each of us will be.
However … if we refuse to accept the fact that life is difficult, we will soon find ourselves frequently irritated. We’ll find ourselves blaming others. We’ll find ourselves feeling useless. We’ll also find ourselves being unhappy most of the time. Is there a better way? Of course there is! Give the problem over to Jesus. That’s exactly what Mary does in our gospel reading.
Over this season of Epiphany, this season where the person of Jesus is revealed to us, we are going to dig into Christ’s Seven Signs, the seven miracles of Jesus found in John’s Gospel. Now why seven? Remember how John begins his gospel? John 1:1 says, “In the beginning …” John starts offs as though he’s writing a new creation story. And the thing is … he is!! The seven days of creation correspond to the Christ’s seven signs. The seven signs of Christ illustrate that nature of God’s new creation. A new creation where there is beauty, abundance, resurrection and life!
So let’s get into this first sign which Jesus performs in Cana of Galilee. “When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, ‘They have no more wine’” (John 2:3). Someone, the wedding coordinator, underestimated the size of the crowd or the thirst of the guests or the number of friends Jesus would bring. Regardless of what caused the problem … without the wine, the wedding is going downhill and downhill fast!
When I meet with people who are about to be married, I always tell them not to expect a perfect wedding. There is always something which goes wrong. The bride loses the garter, the downpour of rain causes roads to flood and dresses to get wet, the ring bearer or the flower girl has a major melt down. There is always something, yet I tell the couple, “It’ll all be fine.”
But not in this wedding in John 2. Without wine, everything is going to shut down and shut down fast. To run out of wine at feast would be a major social failure. In fact, in first century Palestine, in the days of Jesus, these social customs were so serious that lawsuits could be filed against people who ran out of food and wine. And remember, these feasts were not like our 3-hour wedding receptions, these wedding feasts in Jesus’ day would last a whole week.
This all begs the question … what have you run out of lately? Is it ideas? Is it patience? Is it money? If you’re a parent, chances are you have run out of all three – ideas, patience, and money! Or maybe it’s a marriage and you’ve run out of love. Or maybe it’s your job and you’ve run out of enthusiasm and joy.
What did Mary do when people ran out of wine? Mary wasn’t bossy. She didn’t walk up to Jesus and say, “Hey! Jesus! Go down to the grove at the corner, accelerate the growth process of some grapes, and turn them into wine for us!” Mary didn’t try to fix things. She didn’t huff and say, “I’ll just take matters into my own hands. If it’s going to be done right, it’s up to me to do it!” Mary wasn’t critical. She didn’t complain, “If only they had planned better. People just don’t think ahead these days. Oh, what is the world coming to!” Mary didn’t blame Jesus. “Seriously Jesus, what kind of Messiah are you anyway? If you were really in control, this would have never happened!” Mary didn’t blame herself either. “Oh, it’s all my fault. I’m a miserable friend. Now the wedding is ruined. Their marriage is going to collapse and it’s all my fault!” What did Mary do? She gave the problem over to Jesus. Mary gave the problem to Jesus. “They have no more wine.”
Why give the problem over to Jesus? Because Jesus has taken care of even bigger problems. Jesus has taken care of even our biggest problem. Jesus has taken care of sin, and with it, death and hell. Seeing how Jesus has conquered our biggest problems will empower us to give all of our problems over to him. But I listen closely … interpreting this miracle of changing water to wine at Cana in Galilee is a lot like Faith and I putting together her pendulum clock. There is “some assembly required.” So let’s look at the pieces.
Piece A: “On the third day a wedding took place in Cana in Galilee” (John 2:1). Later in this chapter, Jesus says, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (2:19). There’s something about this wedding which points to the resurrection, to the new creation, and new beginnings. “On the third day.”
Piece B: Jesus calls Mary“mother” (John 2:3) and “woman” (2:4). Mary only appears two times in John’s gospel. She’s here at the wedding and she doesn’t appear again till she is at the foot of the cross on Good Friday. In both cases, Jesus addresses her as “woman” (John 2:4; 19:26). At the cross, just like here at the wedding in Cana, there’s water. Remember, as Jesus hung on the cross, a spear was thrust through his side, bringing forth a sudden flow of blood and water.
Piece C: Jesus says, “My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4). Throughout John’s gospel, whenever Jesus talks about his “hour”, he always means the hour of his death on the cross. Every single time.
Piece D: “Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing” (John 2:6). The number six signifies less than perfect, like the mark of the beast which is 666. What’s up with the number six here? Changing water into wine from six stone jars indicates that imperfect Old Testament washings are being replaced by a better, greater and absolutely perfect washing.
Piece E: John writes, “This, the first of his miraculous sings, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory” (2:11). Jesus created the equivalent of 908 bottles of wine! The H2O became abundant merlot! The couple can begin a wine business in the Napa Valley! But this glory at the wedding points us forward to the cross. Throughout John’s gospel, Christ’s supreme and ultimate glory is found in his rejection, his suffering, and his death on Good Friday.
Okay. So there are the pieces … let’s put them together. I promise, unlike Faith’s clock, this won’t take that long. Pieces B (Mary), C (the hour), and E (the glory) all go together. All three take us to the cross. Piece A (on the third day), connects us to the empty tomb. The crowning piece, the piece which connects it all together is piece D (the six stone jars for washing). Put them all together and what do we have?
Through Christ’s death and resurrection, our empty lives are made full. We are washed of all sin! Jesus completely washes away all sin and by faith we stand blameless, without blemish before the throne of God! Life’s greatest problem of sin, and with it, death and hell, are conquered! What an awesome gift of grace that is!
Did you know that there’s another version of this story though? It’s not in the Bible, but it happens, it happens all the time. Mary doesn’t give the problem to Jesus. Instead, she chews the groom out for poor planning and then storms out of the party. The groom loses his temper and emotionally wilts. The bride tells the groom that if he can’t manager his anger he surely can’t manage a home. The guests leave, the marriage is over, and Mary is absolutely beside herself.
Like I said, this version isn’t in the Bible … but it shows up in our lives. How often does all hell break loose because we get impatient? Because we get angry? Because we take out our frustrations on a child or on a spouse?
Don’t take your problems out on each other. Temper tantrums never advance the cause. Don’t take your problems to the bar. Jim Beam can’t solve them. The moment you sense a problem, however large or small it is … give it to Jesus. I hear you, “But Pastor Mike, if I give my problems to Jesus every time I have one, I’m going to be talking to Jesus all day long.” That would be the point. Yes, talking with Jesus all day long would be the point!
Faith’s pieces of her clocks don’t always fit. Wine runs out. “Life is difficult.” These are the facts of life. But here is another fact. Jesus says, “Give your problems to me. State them simply. Present them daily. And trust me completely.” And when we do that, before you know it, we’ll be raising a glass of wine and giving thanks to … Jesus! Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.