John 2:1-11; Water into Wine: The Miracle of Hospitality (Pt 3)
By the Rev. Bob Gochenour (September 21, 2014)
A small boy was asked on a television show (Art Linkletter) if he attended Sunday School.
When he said he did, the host asked: “What are you learning?”
The boy answered: “Last week, our lesson was about when Jesus went to a wedding and made water into wine.”
“And what did you learn from that story?” the host asked.
After thinking for a moment, the lad answered:
“If you’re going to have a wedding, make sure Jesus is there!”
Hospitality was a large part of the Middle eastern culture in the first century.
Even today, hospitality is a big deal.
The host felt responsible for his guests—providing them protection, comfort, food and drink, everything that is needed to make the guest feel at home.
Abraham demonstrated the gift of hospitality when he welcomed the three strangers into his tent.
He invited them to rest underneath his shade trees; he provided water to wash their feet, and baked them bread to eat.
He took his finest calf and slaughtered it and ordered his servant to prepare it for dinner. He gathered curds and milk and set it before his guests and watched them dine.
Hebrew people have been providing shade and fresh water to their guests for thousands of years—it is who they are.
Hospitality can be serious business—once you gave a guest a place under your roof, you would protect them with your own life from any enemy. Your home became a sanctuary of protection.
Hospitality at a wedding was no different—serious business.
The Bride and groom were the hosts—they were serious about providing the best hospitality possible on their wedding day.
Weddings were special days of celebration in any local town.
In the midst of difficult days or making ends meet, providing food for your family, and endless work; weddings were the few times when the community could gather and celebrate.
Weddings were the ONLY leisure time that anyone experienced.
For 7 days, the whole town stopped working and celebrated a holiday—there was singing, dancing, feasting, drinking, and revelry.
The bride and groom were careful to plan ahead: they hired a chief steward to direct the servants so that everything would be perfect.
When they ran out of wine: it was a hospitality crisis.
The reputation of the bride and groom was in danger.
The rumors started.
“I knew the groom was too young to get married…”
“I knew that the bride shouldn’t have picked him…”
“Did you know that the groom cannot handle his finances???”
“Did you hear how much the bride paid for her dress?”
Once this rumor mill starts it is hard to stop it—some people do not care about the truth, they just want to cause hurt upon others.
If this wedding party stopped in the middle of the week it could be the end of the marriage—the bride and groom would never get their reputation back. The town would never forget this crisis.
Mary seems to agree with the little lad: it was good that Jesus was at the wedding.
Look closely at what Jesus does.
Look closely at what Jesus does not do.
Jesus does not become the Host of the Wedding.
Jesus does not stand up in front of the crowd and take over the celebration—he does not go public.
Jesus does not become a showman and demonstrate his great power for all the guests to see.
Jesus does not perform this miracle for all eyes to see.
Jesus stays in the background and instructs the servants to gather water into the 6 water jars standing in the kitchen.
Everything Jesus does was to repair the reputation of the host—he intervenes to save the bride and groom from total ruin.
This is a miracle of hospitality—but it is covert, without fanfare, performed behind the scenes.
The Servants do all the heavy lifting.
These servants had been agents of hospitality during this whole week—cooking, baking, serving tables, clearing tables, washing dishes, wiping down tables, responding to the needs of all the guests.
These servants were the agents of hospitality—providing shade and fresh water, protection from the sun, sanctuary from all enemies, and a wonderful celebration for 7 days.
The servants were the first to know that they ran out of wine.
They knew how important hospitality was for the bride and groom.
They were the ones tasked to fulfill this cultural mandate.
They did not want to let the bride and groom down—failure was not an option.
When Jesus instructed them to fill the water jars with water—they were eager to comply.
Can you imagine the servants filling the water jars?
(Video shows that they just ladled it from a sink)
Water was not that common—they did not have indoor plumbing.
Water had to be hauled from the town’s well or spring.
Can you imagine how long it took for the servants to provide 180 gallons of water?
It was a difficult task—they completed it without complaint.
They filled the water jars to the top of each jar—there was no slacking off here.
This was serious business—they were providing the ministry of hospitality.
The feast must be a celebration with excellence as its goal.
Jesus instructed them to dip out some of the water and take it to the chief steward—their boss.
What did they think was going to happen?
Why would they give plain old ordinary water to the wine steward who was prepared to serve the guests more wine?
What would he do when he tasted nothing but water?
It was a scary moment for these servants.
We experience a lot of these kinds of moments in Church work—we always seem to be on the edge of disaster and on the brink of a miracle. We do not always know which way circumstance may fall.
We try new programs—sometimes they work and sometimes they fail. We sometimes get discouraged and give up
We sometimes get surprised when God works a glorious miracle through us; sometimes God works the miracle in spite of us.
This is true for these wedding servants—the test comes and we wonder what is going to happen.
The chief steward tastes the water and discovers that it is the best wine of the week.
The chief steward does not know where this wine came from.
The chief steward does know that it is the best wine he has tasted all week.
It is like the Welsh’s Grape juice ad on television.
It shows a cute little girl—no older than 6.
She is explaining how she feels when she drinks Welsh’s grape juice.
She explains: “I always drink my grape juice in small sips, because I like the burst of flavor on my tongue. It tastes so good. You don’t get that with anything else in all the world.”
Only the servants knew that just moments before it was only water.
Only the servants knew that this wine was the result of Jesus’ intervention.
Only the servants knew that a miracle of hospitality had just taken place.
What the chief steward does next provides the good news of this story.
This miracle of hospitality has repaired the Grooms reputation.
In fact, the chief steward said that the Bridegroom has shown a great deal more hospitality than is common amongst men.
The Bridegroom has not only repaired his reputation—but he has gone beyond the social norms of hospitality and proven himself a master of the art of hospitality.
“Everyone brings out the best wine first. They bring out the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink. But you have saved the best until now.” (John 2:10; NIrV)
The chief steward praises the Bridegroom for reversing the common custom—he saved the best for last.
He deserved a great reputation as a great host—one who truly cared for his guests, one who cared to provide excellence, one who provided the best party in Cana’s history.
Jesus stayed in the back of the scene with the servants.
He did not get up in the wedding guests and take the credit for this miracle of hospitality.
Only the servants knew what happened—and the disciples.
The disciples understood that this was a miracle of hospitality.
The disciples understood that this first miracle revealed God’s glory—Jesus is more than an anonymous guest at the wedding.
Jesus came as the Servant of all—God’s servant that will repair all of our reputations; God’s servant that will give us new wine; God’s servant that will work behind the scenes to give us new life.
Jesus still works this same way in our lives every day.
He works behind the scenes—hidden to others and even at times hidden to us.
He instructs the holy servants—the angels and the Holy Spirit to fill our empty jars with water.
He turns our water into wine—he gives us resurrection life even when our life seems to be all defeat, destruction and death.
He restores our reputation—silencing our critics, resolving our crisis, and providing us a divine celebration.
Jesus doesn’t take over our life—he works behind the scenes to make us the best people we can possibly be.
In this way, Jesus continues to reveal God’s glory in us and through us.
Jesus gives us the ultimate gift of hospitality.
Jesus is the Lord of Hosts—the master of hospitality.
He fulfils the ancient prophet:
“The time is surely coming, says the Lord, when the one who plows shall overtake the one who reaps, and the treader of grapes the one who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. 14I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.”
Stewardship point: Jesus invites you to be a servant like him
Provide Hospitality for others
To become servants for the world
To work behind the scenes to create God’s new wine.