Water to Wine: A Christian Perspective

Three wine stem glasses, red, amber and clear water
Water to Wine: A Christian Perspective

About the Author

Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

The Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes is the Minister of Maple Grove United Church, and is a member of the Interfaith Councill of Halton. A chatty extrovert with a conversational preaching style, a multi-tasker who is a “multi-worrier” when it comes to caring about people’s problems, and a leader who treasures teaming with the lay people in her church, Morar says that at Maple Grove she has experienced “a deeper level of ministry than I thought possible.” Anyone who has personally received Morar’s deeply compassionate caring and wise counsel will testify to what an inspirational, healing and encouraging ministry it is.

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Jesus was a challenging child to begin with, running off when he was twelve to discuss theology with the rabbis in the temple, leaving his desperate parents wondering where he was.

And just when he was old enough to make a difference in the livelihood of the family, he took off. But then he reappeared with – can you imagine, parents? – twelve of his new friends, a pretty rough lot. Mary is resigned to entertaining them, but preoccupied with plans for the wedding of her nephew. She reluctantly drags along this crew to the wedding. John 2:1-11

Perhaps their presence is enough to cause a wine shortage. At any rate, just as the party is getting going, the wine runs out.

The folks who are experts on what society was like in those days make it clear that running out of wine at a wedding was a major problem.

Weddings typically lasted a week. The host would serve the better wine at the beginning when the guests could actually taste what they were drinking, a nice award-winning Chardonnay, perhaps. Only after a few days of drinking would the guests be served the wine in a box.

Running out of wine altogether would have been a disgrace and it would be devastating for the young couple. Everywhere they went, for the rest of their married life, they would be known as that couple who ran out of wine. The strain on their life together would be enormous.

Mary notes that the wedding hosts have run out of wine. Jesus’ response is that they should have hired a better wedding planner.

Mary pretty much ignores that , but she does assume that Jesus is going to be a good son and listen to his mother.

But, I wonder what she saw in that moment. What did she know of Jesus up to that point that would cause her to believe that such a miracle was possible from him? And how did she know that this was the time for Jesus to reveal his glory?

The mother of Jesus appears only twice in the Gospel of John, at the wedding at Cana and at the foot of the cross. While we are not told here about her reoccurrence at the cross, we get a hint of her return in Jesus’ reason for what seems to be a refusal of her request, “My hour has not yet come.” Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus will refer to his “hour” which signals the time of his death. The mother of Jesus brackets his life, surrounds Jesus’ earthly ministry. She is there at the beginning and she watches him die.

So, knowing something really important, in the lives of the people who were there, is going on, Jesus has to decide what to do. He has to decide whether to change his timetable-whether to wait before making himself known, as he had planned, or to act right then, for that need. Jesus acts, the wedding was saved, and the bride and groom were given a new chance.

What is God doing for us through Jesus at this party?

The details of abundance cannot be overlooked — six water jars, each 20-30 gallons,120 – 180 gallons of the best wine. The amount in and of itself is extraordinary.

It’s tempting in church life to evaluate our lives in terms of achievements. By that standard, what Jesus’ does should be useful. In the Gospel of Matthew, the first miracle is about usefully getting rid of demons. But here we have a miracle that isn’t really useful at all.

The story of the wedding at Cana reminds us that being a Christian is really supposed to be great fun, wedding feasts and friends and good wine, and that all of this is a sign of what our relationship with Christ is like – a party!

A party that celebrates Christ’s relationship with us, a party at which the best comes last:

What is the good news of Jesus about? It’s about a wedding banquet at which the wine never runs out, and where the best is saved for last.

The first sign in John’s gospel account, is a sign of joy, of celebration. It is the foretaste of the perfect society God prepares for humankind – a party!

That’s what God does for us in Jesus.

What do we do for God?

For deeper reflection on how we can participate in Jesus’ miracle of turning water into wine the poem, The Jars Stand Empty, by Andrew King, is helpful.

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