On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and His disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it.
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 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.” Jesus did this, the first of His signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed His glory; and His disciples believed in Him. (John 2:1-11, NRSV)
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This first miracle of Jesus is so significant.
We quickly discover the setting as a marriage feast – a multiple day experience full of life, excitement, and so much food. Our modern-day weddings would definitely not compare. You and I would quickly become overly stimulated by all of the movement, longevity, and intricate details.
But in this place of indulgence and satisfaction, there arose a need.
There. Was. No. More. Wine.
In our day, this may appear to be a small issue, one only a few would care about. But in this culture, wine was the center of fellowship and the symbol of hospitality. The absence of it signified the end of the feast. And from what we can tell, the party was not even close to an end.
So we find Mary coming to Jesus, the Rabbi, who is now three days into His public ministry. And though He questions why she would come to Him with this, He still decides to take ownership of the problem. And in doing so, He points out six stone water jars.
Though we know where the story goes from there, I want to pause on these jars. In the Jewish tradition, these were only to be used as purification jars. They held the water one would wash with in order to be “ceremonially clean.”
Over time, this ritual became just that; a ritual. To both the Jewish leaders and the common people, these jars became symbols of outward transformation; if you washed – you were made clean.
But as you and I know, there is little transformational significance to ceremonial washes. They were physical actions to follow physical rules that never once touched the heart.
And in their legalism, Jews could quickly become as hardened as those very vessels.
Yet they are the very vessels that Jesus chooses to use for a miraculous work. Why? To show us something more.
In an instance, these jars that typically held the ticket toward ceremonial transformation became vessels of such a miraculous transformation. From water, came wine. From legalism, came grace. And everyone in the party was blessed by it.
Think back to the story – the water was drawn and then Jesus sent the servants straight inside. They, themselves, did not know the reality of what was within and those in the party had no further knowledge of the miracle that happened. Yet with one taste, the servants saw things clearly and the people were blessed by the hospitality.
These jars of stone became images of grace; vessels of His glory. I do not know about you, but this first miracle screams of something so much more than just jars.
What Jesus is foreshadowing is the work that He longs to do within each and every one of us every single day. Like these vessels of stone, He wants to take our lives and transform them for His glory. He wants to transform both what we have and who we are into images of grace. And before we even know of the true power of what He has done within, He sends us out into a hurting world, a culture in need, and we get to spread the product of His grace.
And what I find completely powerful is that the people inside did not need to literally see Jesus to experience the glory of His work.
With one simple encounter, they were amazed with questions. The steward’s reaction is priceless - he knew of how counter-cultural it was, yet he craved it. What was within those jars was so much better than he had ever experienced before.
And this transformation still happens today. When it comes to the work of God – His grace will always bring transformation into our path.
But the questions are unavoidable: Do you and I seek it out? Do we realize the glory and grace that is within us? And do we seek to proclaim a counter-cultural transformation that shakes expectations and stirs hearts?
This first miracle proves that our God is a reality changing God. And though the world misses His hands at work, you and I get to provide them with the product of His transformation.
Today, do not mirror the hardened and lifeless shell of ceremonial jars. Instead, provide your family, your co-workers, and your friends with a vessel full of God’s grace and glory.
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Greg, Declare Glory