You know, there are at least 153 synonyms for that expression. I just looked it up. Of course, that includes many different nuances, not all of which are applicable to the sense in which I'm using it tonight, but still...
Sunday, the sermon at church was drawn from a passage of the Bible that I love. It's a passage I've studied and taught several times and the lessons drawn are always fresh, always applicable, even though they're old lessons , they are still things I'm still in the process of learning. Maybe I'm just a slow-learner, but I'm starting to expect that from God's Word.
After all, truth is always truth
God's truth never becomes trite or cliche
I approach it with a teachable spirit.
So, as I said, this passage and I have a history (more than 10 years worth, now). It's one of the first passages of Scripture that I memorized: "Amma goy-teerey kaŋ na haro kaa wo bay... " Yohanna 2.1-11(in Zarma), so that I could teach a ladies' Bible study at the church we attended - so I'm probably a little sentimental, too.
So what passage is it?
It's Jesus first miracle, performed at a wedding in Cana, and found in the beginning of John 2.
I always used to wonder why this was the first miracle John recorded. But the richness of the lessons in this account - and they just keep piling up - well, blown away! Those are the words that come to mind as I try to describe how I feel as I meditate once again on these words.
I knew it was coming up, as our pastors are preaching through the book of John right now. And I was looking forward to it - because I was sure I'd learn something new.
First, a quick review, though:
We don't know why Jesus and his mother were at the wedding - most figure it was family, or friends like family. But this passage first began to make sense after I'd attended a few weddings in Niger. Culturally, 1st century Jewish weddings were much more similar to how weddings are celebrated in there than how we "do" weddings in the West. First, the civil ceremony, then a celebration after can last several days. Anyone walking by can decide to attend - and expect to eat and drink. There is no way to know exactly who or how many will attend. 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 would have been shameful and humiliating for the host family.
I love how 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). 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 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 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.
Sandy Winter wrote these words about Jesus' response: "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?"
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:
- I can approach the Lord with whatever need, big or small.
- Jesus will respond.
- I can have confidence in Him - whatever His response, whatever He chooses to do, it will be very good.
- Jesus' responses are often extravagant - far and above what I might imagine or dream up on my own. He lives to demonstrate His lavish love.
- To see God working, I too must be found in the heart position of a servant - immediate and unquestioning obedience.
It's that last one, there, that usually hits me square between the eyes on an almost daily basis, challenging me to remain teachable, humble, gentle...
But, as the preacher taught from this text last Sunday, two new "things" became clear.
The first - a reminder of the purpose of the book of John - "...these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20.31)" caught my attention. John, as he wrote this gospel, included the account of the wedding in Cana for this reason - to help readers recognize that Jesus is the promised Messiah. I was thinking about that while someone in the congregation read the text aloud. When he got to the the part where the bridegroom is questioned about why the best was saved for last, it hit me: clearly this wedding miracle points to God's best, most extravagant gift. Consider these words: "On many past occasions and in many different ways, God spoke to our fathers through the prophets. But in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe, (Hebrews 2)" the high priest of a new covenant (Hebrews 8). The provision of a better wine in this story rescued the host family from certain social shame; Jesus, by his once and for all sacrifice, ushered in new covenant and the opportunity to be rescued from the shame and sin that separates men from God.
Also, the speaker probed a little deeper into Jesus' response to his mother - suggesting that distance in Jesus' response could have been a way to communicate to Mary that he was not just her son, but also her Savior and that she, too, needed to trust him for her eternal salvation. Faith, not the fact that they were family, would be what saved her.
By God's Word. By how His Word never fails to speak. By how perfectly timely and applicable it always is.
I'm so thankful!
Are there any lessons from these verses that particularly speak to you?
Much of the material in this post
has been published here before.
Original posts are found here: