God’s Glory in the Ordinary
We are nearing the end of the season of Epiphany in the church calendar. Part of Epiphany is Jesus’ first miracle, changing water to wine at a wedding.
(This is a photo I took in Italy this summer, of modern-day guests arriving for a wedding.)
“What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him (John 2:11).”
I recently gave a message on this story, in which Jesus blesses marriage by his presence. I was struck by several things that I had not noticed before. To those at the wedding party, wine was a symbol of joy and celebration and a sign of God’s provision of fruitful land. God cares about the things that bring us joy, and we can bring all of our cares to him.
(This drawing is from my book, “Supper with the Savior.” Here is the link: http://www.amazon.com/Supper-Savior-Communion-Bible-Today/dp/157383453X)
The large pots that Jesus told the servants to fill with water, were used for Jewish rites of purification. Hmm…and the water put in those pots turned to wine…and at the Last Supper, Jesus said the cup of wine was his blood of the new Covenant …and at the end of time we will celebrate the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9).”
It is clear that this story has Eucharistic implications. (“Eucharist” mans thanksgiving, and is another word for Communion.) We are now purified through Jesus’ blood, which we celebrate in Communion.
The artist Veronese recognized the Eucharist implications of this story.
Here is a link to images and a commentary from the Louvre Museum in Paris, where Veronese’ painting of the Wedding Feast at Cana now resides after being captured, rolled up and transported to France by Napolean’s troops:
(Accessed for this blog on Feb. 1, 2016)
The commentary on this painting by Aline Francois notes that,
“in the center of the composition a servant slices meat, symbolic of the body of Christ, quinces—symbols of marriage—are served as dessert to the guests. “
The commentary also points out that the artist mixes sacred and profane images. This reminds me that Jesus ate and drank with tax collectors and sinners (Luke 5:30). We are all sinners in need of the great physician; this tells me not to live exclusively in the bubble of my church community.
The Third Day
John specifies that this happened “on the third day (John 2:1).” This was the third day after Jesus had called Nathanael and told him he would see greater things (John 1:50). John is also pointing to Christ’s resurrection on the third day.
Many years before, the prophet Hosea had referred to the third day and called out,
“Let us return to the Lord…on the third day he will restore us…he will come to us…like the spring rains that water the earth (Hosea 6:2,3).”
In the Bible, the third day symbolizes fulfillment, completeness, restoration, resurrection.
Jesus’ first miracle reveals that Jesus is our Lord the healer prophesied by Hosea, the restorer who brings new life, like spring rains awaken sleeping seeds buried in the ground.
I like this utube video of the Marriage at Cana. (That part of the video is about 3 minutes long.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTAl-v2qkc8
I like the sly smile Jesus has, when he asks his mother why she involved him in the wine issue, and says his time has not yet come. (“Woman” was a respectful address in that culture.) Notice how Jesus’ power is apparent as the pots are being filled and the water is changing to wine. His glory is almost scary.
I also like how the chief servant looks a bit confused after the pots are filled with water, but still follows Jesus’ instructions. (That is how I feel sometimes, but I can still live faithfully.)
The bride and groom continue to celebrate blissfully, not realizing all that has happened. Isn’t that like us too—not realizing all Jesus has done for us?
Wine and the Fountain of Life
At the Cana wedding, Jesus’ wine was the best. His party at the end of time will supersede anything we have yet experienced. All peoples are invited to the feast:
On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
… he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
It will be said on that day,
“Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
Isaiah 25:6,8, 9 New International Version (NIV), Revised Standard Version (RSV)
This miracle reminds me that there are things worth waiting for, and I don’t have to fear growing old.
As theologian Alexander Schmemann writes,
[Christ] is the wine of the new life of the children of God, and communion in it will proclaim how, by getting older and older in this world, we are growing younger and younger in the life which has no evening.
(Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World, New York: St. Vladmir’s Seminary Press, p. 91).
Comments are welcome!
How has God’s glory in Christ been revealed to you? What miracles has God done in your life and community? When have you been aware that the Holy Spirit dwells within? How have you have experienced new life, restoration and joy?