On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9 When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
There are some stories we have of events in our lives that will never go away. These are the incidents that shape us, that tell us who we are. Sometimes they are really good events, sometimes the stories are tragic.
Here’s one of those stories. I was a sophomore in high school and had a history of being a favorite target for bullies. But it had died down since Junior High. Until that day.
Our high school had a pool next to the gym. And on that day, for some unknown reason, a group of kids picked me up and carried me to the pool and threw me in. Fully clothed and before lunch. I had a long day in wet clothes.
All the old memories of being bullied rose up and took over again. Once more, I was nothing more than the unpopular nerd kid. I figured I just deserved to get beat up several times a week. I would, I assumed, continue to get picked on for the rest of my life.
The humiliation of having to go to class dripping wet for the rest of the day was, I thought, unbearable. I will never live this down. Ever. I could only imagine what new and horrible nick-names would haunt me from now on. I couldn’t imagine anything worse than this.
I think that must have been how the bride and groom felt in this story from John’s gospel. Weddings were big deals then, bigger even than they are for us. Everyone was invited, they became huge community festivals, and lasted for a week. It was the biggest event in a couple’s life. And to run out of wine was the worst possible thing that could happen. They would never live this down. The shame and humiliation of their wedding would haunt them for the rest of their lives. They would now be the benchmark for every bad wedding that would ever be held. I’m sure they couldn’t imagine anything worse than this.
You’ve been there before, right? Maybe you’re there now. You know what that’s like. Thinking nothing could be worse, unsure how you’re going to get through this shame or pain or depression or slip up. That horrible defining moment in your life with a hole so deep that you’re sure it has no bottom. You will just fall forever.
Well, my involuntary dip in the high school pool was, in fact, a defining moment. But different than I ever could have imagined. The story spread through the school, but no one laughed at me or ridiculed me. Instead, somehow, it was told with some awe, and my name was—dare I say it?—used in the same sentence with the word “cool.” “Did you hear about Moss? Yeah, he got tossed into the pool. It was awesome! Look, there he is! He’s still wet!”
The worst event became one of the best. My life changed as a result. I was never picked on again.
The worst event became one of the best. “The steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’”
The worst event became one of their best. This newly married couple’s lives changed as a result. Now, theirs was the benchmark for the best wedding—the wedding to beat.
The worst event became one of the best. Jesus shows up.
It’s important to note that this wedding wasn’t a fancy affair with important guests. It was a poor couple in a backwater village who didn’t plan their wedding very well. But Jesus still shows up.
It’s at the worst times that Jesus reveals something better. It’s at the poor, backwater, poorly planned events that Jesus points to something better for us.
I would never disregard the awfulness of these desperate moments in our lives. It’s horrible when these tragic, shameful, painful events assault us. The pain and shame are real. It seems as if the horror will never leave. But it Jesus shows up. And so we hang on and wait patiently. Even now, though no one notices, Mary is telling the servants to do whatever Jesus says. Even now, back in the kitchen, large stone jars are slowly being filled up with water—one after another. Even now, unnoticed by anyone, the chief steward is tasting the new wine in those jars and looks up in surprise. Even now he’s looking around to complement the despairing bridegroom. Even now Jesus is showing up.
At some unknown point in your life, in some surprising way in the midst of the shame and the hurt, the astonished steward will call you over and say, “I don’t understand it, but this is amazing. You have kept the good wine until now.”
And the worst event will be the event that assures you that Jesus does, in fact, show up. The worst event will be the event that assures you that God’s reign is true.
“Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Even at the little wedding of Cana, Jesus shows up. Even in your life, Jesus is there.