Jesus’ miracle at the wedding in Cana appears only in the Gospel of John. But this scene at the wedding is crucial to the message of Christ as represented in the fourth Gospel. What I found as I read this passage and began to search for answers to my questions is that even the positioning of this scene in the Gospel was important. We start off with the scriptures connecting Jesus to the creation of humanity and the world. Then the next thing we see is not his birth but rather his baptism followed by his recruiting of disciples followed by the wedding feast he attended with his mother. So I asked myself why. Why does this appear where it does in the Gospel and what is the purpose of this first miracle?
So I read about marriage customs in ancient Israel and discovered that John is centered on this binding relationship between Christ and the world, between Christ and those who follow his word. John uses the marriage practices of the time to describe the relationship between God and God’s people. Many of the teachings in John use the metaphor of betrothal to invoke understanding of the dedication of Jesus to his people and his people to him. In ancient Israel, there was no ceremony around the actual marriage. But there was around the betrothal. There was a bride price and then the couple would enter the hupa to commit to one another and drink from the cup of covenantal wine entering into a sacred covenant but then they would return to their families taking the next year to prepare for marriage. A year or so later, once the father of the groom felt sufficient preparations had been made, there would be a wedding followed by a week of feasting. The feast was more important than the ceremony of the actual wedding. At the feast, one provided the best foods and wines as a sign of the commitment and the way the husband’s family was going to care for the bride.
Jesus was attending a wedding not for an afternoon or evening, as we would in our culture. But rather he attended a week of celebrations at which the family ran out of wine which would have been a huge embarrassment. It would have signified a lack of preparation and the poor estate of the family taking in this new bride. So Jesus stepped up at the request of his mother and changed water into wine. But not just any wine the richest wine anyone has ever tasted. Jesus is beginning to show himself as the bridegroom providing in this instance the first of his betrothal gift to humanity. He is in this act entering into an spiritually and legally binding agreement.
This is a commitment Christ enters into with each of us. Last week, we discussed Baptism as a commitment that we take on, this is the commitment we enter into. We commit ourselves to Christ promising to accept him, to love him, to share his message, and to live by his ways. We commit to waiting for his appearance in our lives and in our world. We commit because we trust in his care, compassion, and presence in our experiences and lives. But we also are committing to live by Christ’s command to love our neighbors as ourselves.
To do this we really need come to an understanding of what loving our neighbor means? This is how we prepare our hearts for Christ. This is how we prepare our souls so they are open to the presence of the Holy. So this morning, I would like to work together as a congregation to talk about how we live into this commandment. So feel free to shout out your answers and we will write them on this board here. How do you interpret loving your neighbor? So let’s break down this question into two questions. First, who are our neighbors? Some people take this literally but I believe Christ is challenging us to expanding our understanding here. Second, how are we called to love our neighbors? For some of us, it might mean helping them when they are in need. Some people do so by providing food and clothing to those less fortunate, some do so by checking in our elderly neighbors and friends when they are ill. Others do so by inviting people to spend holidays with their families, and visiting people in the hospitals. There are many ways to interpret this commandment.
No one way is wrong. Just as long as we put some real thought into who our neighbors are and how we can reach out to them to express our care and concern for their well being and the well being of future generations. Today we heard the story of Jesus’ extravagant gift to the wedding feast of some family member or friend a gift that showed all present his care and concern for those in need. Jesus was beginning his ministry by showing the world what it truly means to love one’s neighbor. And by presenting this account in his book John is reminding us of God’s promise to us being enacted for us again in Christ’s miracle. Remember the promise from Psalms, “Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds … you save humans and animals alike, O Lord”. This type of love is what we are called to. We are being challenged today to take time everyday to meditate upon how are we going to care for one another, how we are going to live up to our responsibilities as followers of Christ? How we are going to love others as we have been loved? So take a moment each day to contemplate or meditate on this? Because our care, our compassion, the work we do in Christ’s name could mean all the difference in the life of another.
 Psalm 36: 5 and 6, NRSV.
(Based on Psalm 36: 5-10 and John 2: 1-11)