24 December 2012

Encountering Jesus ~ Wanna be in the know?

Photo originally retrieved 16 December, 2012 from here.
Way back in April, 2008... WOW! That's almost 5 years ago, now... I first started teaching through the Gospel of John for the Ladies' group at our Harobanda church... 

This lesson was one of the very first Bible studies I taught, one of the first times I attempted to use the Zarma language to communicate God's message to others. I spent hours and hours preparing.

Still today, it remains one whose lessons I find applicable to my life, EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. In fact, not a day goes by that the Holy Spirit does not bring some portion of this passage of Scripture to my mind. For God so loved the world that He gave not only His Son, but His Word to reveal that Son to those who long to encounter Him, but must wait for Heaven to do so face to face.

Thus, today, as we remember and celebrate the Lord's First Advent, it seems particularly appropriate to remember His first public miracle, performed at a wedding... which can also direct our thoughts to the hope and expectation of His Second Advent. 
Three days later, there was a wedding in Cana, in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus was also invited to the wedding with his disciples. As they were running short on wine, Jesus' mother said to Him, "They don't have any more wine." 
Jesus responded back to her: "Dear lady, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come?" 
His mother said to the servants: "Do that which He will tell you to do." 
There were 6 stone containers destined to be used for the ritual cleansing of the Jews, each one able to contain approximately 120 liters. Jesus said to the servants: "Fill each one of these containers with water." And they filled them to the brim. "Now, draw some out," He said, "and take it to the chef in charge of the meal." They carried it to him. 
When the chef in charge of the meal had tasted the water changed into wine - not knowing from where this wine had come, whereas the servants who had drawn the water knew very well - he called the bridegroom and said, "All men serve their best wine first, then the wine of poorer quality after, when the people have already been drinking; you, you have kept the best wine until now." 
Such was what took place at Cana in Galilee, the first of several miracles that Jesus did. He manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him. (John 2.1-11)
The Bible does not state why Jesus was at this wedding; most educated in these sorts of matters suppose His mother was related to the family celebrating. 

Culturally, 1st century Jewish weddings were much more similar to how weddings are celebrated in Niger than how we "do" weddings in the West. First, while the civil ceremony happens in a contained amount of time, the preparing before and the celebrating after can last up to several days. In this land, anyone walking by can show up at the wedding and expect to eat. Invitations are scattered about and there is no way to know who or how many will show up for the celebration.  But beware: Running out of food at a huge fête generally leads to shame and embarrassment. Similarly, running out of wine at the wedding in Cana was likely shameful and humiliating for the host families. 

The mother of Jesus came and said to Him, "They don't have any more wine..." Mary knew she could come and share this need with Jesus. 

Clearly, there was no doubt in her mind that there was something very special about this man she'd watched grow from a boy: His birth announced to her by an angel, the incredible circumstances of His arrival and the ensuing hullabaloo, His wisdom and ability to teach learned ones in the temple as well as other things that she would have certainly seen as He grew up in her home. The Bible tells us she had the habit of gathering these things up and pondering them in her heart (Luke 2.19). The Bible also says that this was His first public miracle, so I don't really think it was His habit to go around miraculously correcting difficult or uncomfortable situations. I love the song, "Mary, Did You Know?" so often played this time of year, partly because it asks this very same question. 

Mary knew her son was unique and very extraordinary, but did she realize just how special? 

I don't think even she could have recognized the significance of all that He had come to earth to do. Yet she knew Him well enough, and had sufficient confidence in Him that she knew she could bring this need before Him.

Jesus responded to her... I love that fact. 

Do you ever wonder what Mary might have thought He'd say? I have no idea what Mary was expecting... I imagine the answer she received was probably not exactly the one for which she was hoping. 

But He heard her and He did respond. The things that concern us concern Him, too. And He will respond for the best. 

Mary somehow understood this, because while Jesus' response ("Dear lady, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come?") may not have been what she was hoping to hear - she trusted that He would do something and that what He would do would be right. Thus she tells the servants, "Do that which He will tell you to do." Seeing this side of Mary's faith in Jesus both challenges and encourages.

Six stone vases... each able to hold about 120 liters... 

Jesus told the servants to fill them with water. They filled them up to the brim! I love that detail. Servants are usually quite in tune to what's going on around them. They "sense the vibes." Perhaps they picked up on Mary's confidence in her son. Maybe they were just exceedingly obedient and did exactly what they were told. The Scriptures don't give that detail, but for whatever reason, they filled those vases as full as they could... and that allowed others to receive a blessing.

As Jesus responds, as He prepares to work this miracle... stop and think for a moment about the extravagance of what He is about to do. Sandy Winter wrote, 
"Jesus chose an act ...truly extravagant and exaggerated.... We would have thought that Jesus would recommend moderation. What does it mean, then, that He responded so excessively? 720 liters of rich and intoxicating wine...? This, then, is the true question. What was He trying to demonstrate by His nearly scandalous extravagance in this, the inaugural event of His ministry,... especially knowing that later miracles would deal with desperate needs: healing, provision, security, life?"[1]

Why would He love to delight by responding extravagantly to even seemingly insignificant things (in the grand scope of life) that concern us?

Think back to the first time we read of a miracle where water is changed into something else. God, working through Moses, changes water into blood, ushering in law and judgement. 

This, the first miracle of Jesus, the Lamb of God who came to usher in salvation by grace, was water changed into wine in super-abundance. Jews familiar with the Scriptures would have understood that this abundance of wine heralded a celebration for the Messiah's arrival. (See Amos 9.13,14 & Isaiah 25.6-10.) The passage does later say, "He manifested His glory and His disciples believed in Him."

And, of course, we can't forget Revelation 19 - a wedding supper no one will want to miss, the Wedding Supper of the Lamb.

Or was His motivation simply because He loves and it was within His capacity and His Father's will to give such a gift?

Whatever the Savior's reasons, the man coordinating details for this wedding was astonished. Not only was there an abundance of wine, but it was really high quality stuff. It impressed him and he called the bridegroom to essentially ask, "What's up? No one goes about it this way..." He doesn't get an answer, for the bridegroom did not know.

No one knew except for one particular group of people. 

"...the servants who had drawn the water knew very well..."

It was this phrase that first grabbed my heart as I began studying this passage. I want to see my Lord working miracles. I want to see them regularly. 

Thus I need to be in a place of humble, unquestioning service, doing that which He tells me to do.

From this Jesus encounter come five applications that touch my life almost every single day: 
  1. Just like Mary, I know I can approach the Lord with whatever need, big or small.
  2. Jesus responded to Mary; He will also respond to me. It is not always the response I desire, that for which I was looking, or the one I want to hear. But, He does and will respond.
  3. I can have confidence in Him, just as Mary did. Whatever His response, whatever He chooses to do, it will be very good.
  4. Jesus performs extravagant miracles - things far and above what I might imagine or dream up on my own. He loves to bring pleasure to those He loves. He lives to demonstrate His lavish love.
  5. Servants, those in the position of unquestioning and immediate obedience, where the first to see and recognize this first miracle of Jesus. To see God working, I too must be found in that same heart position.


How have you heard or seen Jesus respond extravagantly to you in recent weeks?

What do you find most challenging about remaining in that heart position of servitude?

[1]The quote from Sandy Winter is translated back from my French notes; therefore it is more accurately a paraphrase and NOT an exact quote.

- repost edited from the archives
this week's gratitude list:

(#'s 3396 -3414 ) 

out to dinner with my guy for our anniversary

getting rid of lots of old files and records that we don't need any longer

super yummy homemade marshmallows - best ones yet

an internet page where I can find how to convert the amount of gelatin in one of those European sheets as compared to the amount of powder in a Knox envelope

Vitamin C to help fight colds

kids finding all of the old Land Before Time videos and watching and watching and watching them

checking skype late one night, a friend was on and the resulting conversation encouraged my heart

pepperoni pizza - with pepperoni "from 'merica" as Elsie Mae likes to exclaim

planning the Parc W trip

staying up late

sleeping in

lots of snuggles piled under blankets since it is actually cool enough

bonfire season

not feeling so tired all of the time

meditating on the Messiah

looking forward to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb

Choosing to gently rest, gently trust... even when it isn't always what my heart feels

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