“Beyond the Miracle”

John 2:1-11

January 18, 2004


          Paul Little, in his book entitled KnowWhy You Believe, tells of a conversation he had with a friend about the deity of Christ.  “I find it very difficult to believe,” the friend said, “that a man could become God.”  Paul Little replied, “Yes,…so do I, but I can believe that God became a man.” 

In this conversation lies one of the most daring claims of the Christian faith, that God became human, that the Sovereign and Majestic and Almighty and Holy and Awesome God became flesh and dwelt among us in the person of Jesus Christ. 

          In a world that saw the human body as corrupt and evil, as a prison that shackled the soul and confined the spirit, to even think about God or a god becoming human, let alone becoming directly involved in human affairs, was nothing less than blasphemy.  But that is exactly what the Christian faith proclaims as John tells us in his first chapter of his gospel when he writes,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being….And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth….No one has ever seen God.  It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made God known.”

It is the conviction and confession of the Christian faith that in Jesus Christ, God is made known.  In Jesus Christ, we are shown the true heart and character of God, and the very Word of God is revealed for the whole world to see and believe. 

In Jesus Christ, the eternal and transcendent God, the immortal and invisible God, the Creator and Sustainer of heaven and earth, has revealed God’s self in the concreteness of time and space of human history, has directly involved God’s self in the matters of human affairs, and has given the way, the truth, and the life that leads to salvation.

          This radical confession is not just ivory tower theology; it is the confession and indeed the witness of the writers of the New Testament.  For them, in Jesus Christ a new age had dawned, a new time had intersected our time in a dramatic way ushering in a new reality and new life in which believers are to live in.  For the New Testament writers, the cross and resurrection was more than a piece of wood or an empty tomb, they were the fullest expression of the love of God and the witness of God's dramatic inbreaking into human history. 

No longer can believers look at history in the same way again as simply a collection of events marking time.  Believers are to look at history as the arena in which God is at work and the events of history as opportunities for divine glory to be revealed. 

With the eyes of faith, believers are to always look beyond to the bigger picture of divine action and initiative taking place even in the most insignificant of places, even in the events of every day life, even at a wedding in Cana.

Cana is located north of Nazareth making up one of the many small settlements in Galilee.  It was a village of no great significance, not even mentioned once in Hebrew scriptures, and only twice by John, and it is there that a wedding is taking place of a bride and groom who we do not know.  Just another wedding in another small town, but something unexpected and new is about to happen.  Divine glory is about to be revealed.  God's action will once again intersect with human history. 

John's story of the wedding at Cana is short on details, but rich in symbology.  As John tells the story, Jesus and his mother and some of Jesus' disciples have been invited to a wedding.  The wedding is going along fine until the wine gives out.  The celebration comes to a halt.  The hospitality of the bride and groom is in jeopardy.  Jesus' mother is aware of the problem and asks Jesus to do something about it.  But Jesus response is not what one might expect, "Women, what concern is that to you and to me.  My hour has not yet come."  Maybe something else is going on here besides just a shortage of drink. 

Jesus' mother turns to the servants and says to them, "Do whatever he tells you."  Jesus tells them to fill six stone jars with water, each jar holding 20 to 30 gallons, that's 120 to 180 gallons of water!  They fill them with water to the brim, which almost certainly would have been spilling out.  Jesus tells them to draw some out and take it to steward, the one in charge of the party, and have him taste it.  So they took it.  And the steward tasted the water that had become wine but he didn't know where it came from.  (But the servants knew.)  The steward called the groom over and told him how amazed he was that the groom had saved the best wine until the end.  Jesus did this to reveal his glory, and his disciples believed in him.  Something unexpected and new has happened.  A sign has been given.  Divine glory has been revealed.  God's action has again intersected with human history. 

My friends, there is more to this story than a historical account of a wedding in Cana.  John wants us to see that there is something bigger going on.  John wants us see that God is at work even in the lives of small group of people in a small town. 

John wants us to see that the one was like us in our humanity, who walked the dusty streets of Galilee and Jerusalem, who ate and drank with outcasts and sinners, who told stories about farmers, wealthy land owners, vineyard workers, and rich people, who loved and healed, and who died a criminals death, is the same one who in every way reveals the glory of God, who in every way reveals that he is the Word of God incarnate, who in every way reveals that he is the Son of the Most High God.

This story is about the divine glory of Jesus Christ and the new life that has come through him, a new life that is to be lived as a celebration of the union between God in Jesus Christ and humanity, a new life that is to be lived as a celebration of the coming of a new age, a new life that is to be so filled with the grace of God it spills over the sides, a new life that is to rejoice in the abundance that only Jesus can give, a new life that is to look beyond the miracle to the signs, which point to God's ever expanding kingdom upon the earth. 

          In Jesus Christ, God made a big splash in the waters of human history, it's waves still radiating out from the center of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection.  The story of the wedding at Cana invites us to consider just how powerful those waves are, and whether or not they are strong enough to move us beyond the miracle to a new place that fully embraces the reality of the new life that we have in Jesus Christ. 

If Jesus is only human, then this story is just a tale of a fancy substitution trick, and God's waves have long since died down to nothing more than tiny ripples in the stagnant water of a life with only a hoped-for possibility rather than a hope-filled promise.  In the end, like the old wine, life itself will eventually run out. 

Where Christians come together to worship and pray there must be newness of life if this is not to be an idle story for us.  To believe is to know that Jesus is someone more.  To believe is to know that Jesus Christ is the self same God who continues to move over the waters of human history, flooding creation with wave after wave of the revelation of his glory and grace, baptizing people and events of history into the new life of the kingdom until all is made new, including a wedding party in the small town of Cana, including a church in the small town of Stuarts Draft.

Only those who live in newness know to look beyond the miracle. 

Only those who live in newness know to look for divine action and initiative and then respond in faith.  Only those who live in newness dare to claim that Jesus is not only our Lord and Savior, but that he is also our God.  Amen.