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.” (Read the whole passage)
On the 3rd day of the wedding in Cana, they ran out of wine. It might seem strange to be talking about a party running out of wine today. Last week we heard the story of Jesus’ baptism, God spoke to the crowds and us. It was a big deal. And then between Sundays, the dollar and oil continued to drop in value prompting lots of economic talk in the news. And as if to bring the point closer to home, as we prepare for our Annual Meeting next week, economic talks have been taking place here as a budget is prepared and challenges are contended with much like the rest of the country.
This week also brought what has come to be routine terrorist attacks around the world, politicians behaving badly at home and abroad. Daily life has become serious business, stress filled and difficult business. So talking about a miracle where Jesus turns some water into wine at a wedding sounds almost trivial.
Yet, despite being known mostly for its poor party planning, Cana is a place where life is serious, stress filled and difficult too. Cana knows the dangers of the world. They too worry if there will be enough on the table, worry about bills and taxes, work and family. Cana was a small town in the middle of nowhere. They lived under and paid taxes to the Romans, to Herod, to the Temple, to the Synagogue, to the local authorities and soldiers.
And here they were, trying to have a nice celebration for the community. To set a couple off on the right start for their marriage. To celebrate a bit in an otherwise dark, serious, and difficult world.
But on the 3rd day of the wedding they run out of wine.
Mary and Jesus and the disciples are in Cana for a wedding. They are probably at the wedding of a distant relative, but for Cana this would have been a whole community affair. Like weddings today, the weddings of ancient Israel were big celebrations. It was expected that a fortune would be spent on the party. Wine and food was to flow for a week – literally 7 days – the Bridegroom was meant to be broke by the end of the party. The hospitality and celebration, the extravagance were meant to be sign of blessing. If it was a good party, it would be blessed marriage.
Except it is only day 3 in Cana, and they have no wine.
Mary points this out to Jesus in only the way a mother could. And Jesus responds in only the way a son could, “Woman, what concern is that to you and me? My hour has not yet come”. Jesus has different idea of timing than his mother. But, she doesn’t care. She tells the servants, “Do whatever he tells you”.
Jesus seems to only to see a party that has been poorly planned. A party that has run out. But Mary sees something different. Mary knows that the wine has run out on day 3, not even half way through. The wine might run out on a poorly planned part on day 6, but not day 3. The family is probably too poor to throw a proper wedding.
Maybe they didn’t know about wedding socials in Cana. Maybe they didn’t come together as people do here, knowing that if everyone contributes a little to everyone else, when the time comes to host your own, the burden won’t be so great. But the people of Cana almost certainly did know this, and probably had all already chipped in to the party.
And Mary sees that this community is too poor, they don’t even have enough reserves to have one party for some newlyweds.
Mary and Jesus embody the moments of scarcity that we face every day. We know what it is like to need for more, to fear running out, to know that the time isn’t right, to hope for something different and to long for change. We know this feeling and how it weighs on us at home, at work, at the grocery store, at school, at church, on the road, in the world. But this is just how our world operates, these are the reasons we toil away, the reasons that keep us up at night and stress us out. We know that we are closer to running out than we like to admit. Running out of time, of energy, of money, of love, of life.
Running out is something we all fret about, and yet it is connected to a much deeper fear. At the core of our being, within all of us is that fearful sense that if there is not enough for us, that if we run out, that we will suffer, we will lose, we will be alone, we will die. We fear not having enough so much that it can make us crazy. It is the fear of running out that makes fight with each other, that makes stubborn and unable to see the needs of those people around us, that makes us hold on with all our might, even when holding on is what is killing us.
So when Mary pushes Jesus to act, even though he resists… it is because she must see that it isn’t really about the wine or the party ending 4 days early. It is about a community without much else to hold on to, a people without hope. If there is not enough wine, than there is not enough to eat or drink. There isn’t enough to live on. The world will have overcome them. There is no future, no hope, only death.
Mary sees this deep connection between running out of wine, and how Cana is not that far away from death. She sees a community that needs some hope, that needs a future. And she knowns the only person who can truly provide.
And so Mary presses the issue, not with Jesus, but with us.
“Do whatever he tells you.”
Easy instructions for the servants… but words that should take our breath away.
As we face our economic news, as we face challenges and struggles making ends meet and just keeping it together day to day. As we wonder if there is any hope for us, if there is a future here… if all we have to look forward to is death. “Do whatever Jesus tells you.” is a word that demands faith from us. Faith that we really don’t know how to give.
But God does.
Even when it doesn’t seem like Jesus’ hour, it is. And it isn’t just an abundance of wine that Jesus provides. Instead, God breaks into the world. God comes to a small community that is forgotten by everyone else. And God blesses the wedding, blesses the whole community.
It is not about the wine. It is about the blessing. About God’s presence there in that moment. Mary seemed to know that with God present at that wedding in Cana, running out of wine was something Jesus needed to do something about.
And all of a sudden on the 3rd day of the wedding, when hope was lost, when there was no future… God breaks into the world and provided wine. God meet that community and gives them hope. God creates a new future.
Today, God breaks into our world here and now. God provides us with hope. God creates us a future.
And it is no mistake that the wine ran out on the 3rd of wedding at Cana. It is no mistake that we meet on Sunday, the 3rd day too. We are meant to be reminded of that other 3rd day miracle when life seemed to have run out of world, God turned it into delicious abundant life. When all hope was lost, God found us at the empty tomb. When we didn’t seem to have a future, God gave all creation new life in the resurrection.
Here on this 3rd day, here in our world, here in our community, it might feel like our wine has run out. It might feel like there is no hope and no future. But God is revealing to us the Christ who brings delicious and abundant wine, who fill the jars of our hope, who makes sure that there is future – because Jesus has saved good wine until now, he has saved it for us.
5 thoughts on “They Couldn’t Afford the Wine in Cana”
I think it’s also relevant that the 1st miracle was at a wedding. We are the bride of Christ. Weddings are joyous celebrations. “There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour.” Ecclesiastes 2:24. Weddings from my perspective are a part of the abundant life, a grand part of celebration, for many of us the happiest days of our lives. Yes we have our difficulties. But our hope is in Christ, who, is central to the joy in our lives as he was to the guests in Cana. H. Robert Rubin, Memoirist and essayist, Author of Look Backward Angel, available through Amazon in electronic format.
Beautifully crafted, brother.
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I enjoy reading your posts, as they provide new perspectives on bible stories that I’ve read at face value. The “fear of running out” is definitely something that I can relate to. This post reminded me not to stay parked in that fear, but to look at the hope that God provides.
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It was indeed a gift of wisdom to you brother. Godbless you.