Bible Readings: John 2:1-11
Free Resources: Water into Wine (Experiment)
Unit Theme (December 31—January 21): Encountering the Messiah
As we move further into the season of Epiphany, we see the glory of Jesus revealed more and more. Here we come to the first of the “signs” or miracles in the Gospel of John, Jesus turning water into wine. I find it somewhat humorous that this is one of the seven signs in the Gospel at all, much less the first one. Basically, Jesus provides a ridiculous amount of wine to a bunch of drunk people! But, in this ridiculous sign, we see the ridiculous love of God at work.
A Ridiculous Sign
The wedding at Cana is the setting for Jesus’ first miracle (sign) in the Gospel of John. The wedding was a celebration, a community event. Somehow, Jesus’ mother, Jesus, and his disciples were invited, so they came. Somehow Mary finds out that the feast ran out of wine, and it wasn’t close to ending! I imagine that such an embarrassment in a first century small village might be more significant and longer lasting than if something like that happened here and now. Perhaps it would bring shame on their family or families. Nonetheless, Mary finds out and has full confidence that her son, Jesus, could do something about it. After an intriguing conversation, she seems to take the decision out of Jesus’ hands by involving the servants.
So, Jesus uses the resources available (six stone jars and water) to demonstrate the power of God. Perhaps I’m wrong, but adding more than 150 gallons of wine to the party seems to be overkill here, 150+ gallons of the really good stuff. Jesus provided quantity and quality. And, from the comment the steward makes, it seems that the guests are already drunk. So, Jesus makes a ridiculous amount of ridiculously good wine for a bunch of drunk people. At least from our 21st century perspective, this seems like an extraneous use of God’s power. No one was sick or injured, no one had a significant disability, there wasn’t even a bunch of people who were hungry. The overt reason for this sign was to avoid embarrassment for the happy couple. Isn’t that ridiculous?
Of course, we know that this story is more than that. Verse 11 tells us: “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” This was not just about a family saving face, this was about giving us a glimpse of what God is really up to in Jesus.
This story makes me think of our reading from Isaiah 55 just a few weeks ago. There, God was spreading a banquet for everyone. Here God is providing free drinks. Both are about abundance, the generosity of God, both are about the ridiculous love of God for us. What makes God’s love ridiculous is the utter breadth and depth of that love, so carelessly spread to everyone. When you think about it, that really is laughable, hard to believe (i.e. ridiculous). We talk about God’s love, God’s grace so freely given, but how often do we actually think about it? God invites the worst villains, the most horrible people you know to pull up a chair to God’s all-you-can-eat banquet table. That invitation is open, even to us. Isn’t that ridiculous?
-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)
Our free resource this week is a science demonstration called “Water into Wine” where clear water is turned red in a striking chemical reaction. It takes a bit of extra prep work, but this activity can be used as a visual in worship or with a group of any age. This comes from our Living the Word: Youth curriculum.
For more great ideas on how to engage participants of all ages in the story of God’s love, check out our Living the Word series for elementary students, youth, adults, and intergenerational settings!
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