Reflection for Epiphany 3

Reflection by Revd Simon Aley

If you who are married, or if you have been to a wedding, how long did it last, including the reception, a few hours? I went to one with Carys years ago, not our own I hasten to add, that lasted from the afternoon before the wedding day through to brunch the day after the service in a grand Hertfordshire house but that was exceptional.  In Jesus’ time, that day + wedding would also have been exceptional It was far too short!! Weddings lasted for a week. The only exception was if the bride was a widow when it could be shortened to 3 days! Still longer than the longest wedding I ever attended!!

The wedding at Cana was therefore nothing exceptional lasting 7 days. These were big events, very public and reputations were at stake. It was about far more than family and friends it involved the entire community If the bride and groom came from different places then two communities as well as families. The standing of your family depended on it and what happened. If it was a success your family would be revealed as people of respect and honour but if anything went wrong, then you were ashamed and humiliated. Everyone chipped in and brought presents although often on loan – with 2 major exceptions – food and wine!! And at Cana, the wine ran out. When? right at the start of John 2, we are told “On the third day”. Hold that thought!

If you like books with order and symmetry, then John’s Gospel is a book for you. It is packed with carefully placed pointers because the writer builds up his case in a careful and deliberate way. What is his case? In the first few verses of the Gospel, often called the prologue where we are introduced to the Word who is God, the Divine who becomes flesh and lives among us and in him is the life of all of us and in him we see glory. Signs point us to Christ and His glory. Christ is perfect and Christ is Lord. So, this, the first of John’s 7 signs is highly significant revealing who Jesus is. It is also significant because Jesus is there with his mother. The only other time John refers to Jesus’ mother – he never calls her Mary, is at the cross, woman behold your son he says as she stands alongside the disciple who Jesus loved. We can assume from this account that the Groom lived in their village and Jesus’ mother has some catering role at this wedding. Mary acts as an intermediary for the embarrassed host and interceded to Jesus to rescue the situation. And Jesus replies “leave it to me!” – well no! Unsympathetically, you might suggest he responds ”It’s not our problem” or words to that effect. How many times have I been reluctant to intervene because it’s not my problem. This will not be the only time Jesus responds this way. Read about the Syrophoenecian woman in Mark 7, who is even compared to a dog! And God’s people were all referred to by Jesus as a faithless generation and might be so described today. Yet Christ saved us all and met the needs of the syrophoenecian woman and turned water into wine and in this we see His glory.

Mary’s faith shines through. “Do whatever he tells you”, she commands the servants, her little boy, who she nurtured and protected can now be placed in complete control. We too, sometimes need to have the faith to let go and let God. Mary knew in whom she was placing her faith.

About 100 bottles of wine would probably have been enough not that the wine was in bottles, but God’s abundant grace produces and consecrates more like 750 bottles. The glory of the Lord is in the richness of His grace and generosity to us.

Of course, back in the day, before Jesus ascended, it was so much better, when He was with us. It was so much better back then. Well no. God gave us so much more to sustain us when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost and the wedding at Cana points to that – the best wine, not the cheap plonk, was saved till last. We may not always feel like it but are we are recipients of that abundance, the best wine saved for us.

When did all this happen? On the third day – that is all we are told but it is enough. After Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the tablets of stone, God consecrated the people on the third day and the people had to do whatever Moses said to avoid seeing God and dying. What does Mary say to the servants when Jesus is asked to solve the wine shortage “Do whatever he says”. John is pointing out this sign as a revelation and epiphany – 3 readings for epiphany – visit of magi, baptism of Jesus and the wedding at Cana show who he really is and what will happen to him – my hour has not yet come is the clearest possible reference to his passion and death at the third hour – his hour has not yet come. This sign which gets the host out of a very embarrassing situation, without being aware, since only the servants know is also a profound revelation and manifestation of who Jesus really is – a real epiphany moment. This was the first sign in John’s Gospel and the last is the resurrection which took place on the third day.

But the pointers don’t just stop there. This is a wedding feast – at Cana we have no idea who the happy couple are we are never told – it doesn’t matter. But we do know who the happy couple will be at the Wedding feast of the Lamb in Revelation 19. The groom is the Lamb, Jesus Christ. The Bride is the Church that is you and me. We are all invited and not just invited we are even now the betrothed – the bride, the dowry has been paid by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for us. We are why the wedding feast is happening at all. Christ is taking his bride in that third and final phase of the marriage at the wedding feast. The first phase or day is the contract – so God becoming man in Christ, the second phase or day, the dowry payment and the third phase or day is the wedding feast of the Lamb and the wedding feast in Cana points us to that greater and more glorious wedding and we can all be there! Amen