The Wedding at Cana (John 2: 1-11)
The first “sign” that John records, in his gospel, is the turning of water into wine at a wedding. Some of us are – we think – familiar with the story. And it is a lovely story – a happy story – a success story where things turn out happily. It has a party-feel!
Let me introduce one or two puzzles. Why aren’t we told whose wedding it is? The happy couple are basically invisible. Jesus seems unnecessarily sharp with his mother – one sharp element in otherwise a happy story – but she seems to know he will do something. The master-of-ceremonies doesn’t know what has happened but the servants do. And lastly that is a lot of wine – about 120 gallons, and wine in those days was strong and served diluted. Quite a party! But there are some deeper things to think about in this happy story.
Some scholars think the bride-groom was responsible for the wine at a wedding. Jesus becomes the bride-groom as he provides the wine, even though he has pointed out his time has not come – it will not come until the Cross where his blood will be poured out.
One image of the church is as the bride to the bridegroom; one image of God’s love for us is of groom for his bride. This “sign” is about a full marriage celebration with the best wine flowing; an image of the coming of the Kingdom, which Jesus has made happen. Note it happens “on the third day” which has a resurrection hint. As we read on in the gospel we will find Jesus drinking the bitter wine, on the cross; if we put the whole lot together we see this is so we can enjoy the best wine at the party. God takes the dross and gives the best.
So the bridegroom is invisible so we can see Jesus fulfil the role, and there is a tension about timing because our salvation and invitation cannot come without the cost of the Cross. And in God’s world sometimes the poor and outcast have a privileged place and know more than the more powerful!
The wine is both the opposite of the bitter wine, and also in contrast with the blood of Jesus shed for us. Our gift at God’s expense / cost.
There is a generosity- a happy generosity – and a profound depth in this story which says something about the heart of God, and the depth of his love.
Communion is a foretaste of this wedding to come, of our invitation. Hopefully we can find a way to share the wine soon, as it is part of the deep rich symbolism of the sacrament.
Rev’d Peter Reiss