Bible Study January 7 for Worship January 20Posted: January 3, 2013
Bible Study January 7 for Worship January 20
John 2:1 On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there;
2 Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples.
3 When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”
4 And Jesus said to her, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.
7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.
8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast.” So they took it.
9 When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom
10 and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.”
11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples; and there they stayed for a few days.
Unlike John the Baptist Jesus was not an ascetic or a teetotaler. He did spend time in the wilderness getting his act together, but then he went through the villages and the towns of Galilee preaching, teaching and healing. He lived out his message of sharing by calling people together to share food, and on more than one occasion eye witnesses claimed that the food multiplied until everyone had enough.
On this occasion Jesus was invited to a wedding feast in the town of Cana. His mother was also there indicating she was kin to the bride or the groom, or perhaps to both. There was more than one Cana in Galilee so we do not know exactly where their wedding took place, although a small predominantly Arab town to the Northeast of Nazareth claims the distinction. Why not? Lots of tourists stop, buy souvenirs, and patronize the restaurants.
Jesus had been invited to the wedding, but he also brought along with him several followers, and maybe that is why the wine ran out. In the ancient world hospitality was a very, very important virtue. To invite people to a feast and not have enough food or drink to serve was a major embarrassment. Whenever a wedding would occur in the future people would remember the time when the ben David family ran out of wine at their wedding. Embarrassed for her relatives Mary asked Jesus to do something. And Jesus’ initial reaction was, “what do you want me to do about it!”
Mary didn’t even argue with Jesus, she just told the servants to do whatever he said. Whether the story was factual or not something rings true about this exchange. If we allow ourselves to get bogged down in exactly what happened, how the water became wine, we will miss the metaphor. The jars in question were used for the ritual of purification at the wedding. (There may be some mixing of metaphors in this story. Ritual of purification perhaps linking to baptism, and the miracle performed at the wedding feast reminding us that the church is the bride of Christ.) According to some commentators, our translation may be inaccurate, a “firkin” being equal to about 9 gallons rather than 20 or 30 gallons. Six times nine gallons would still be fifty-four gallons of wine, surely more than enough. Not only was there more than enough, but the wine was really good. The metaphor is God’s extravagant hospitality – like the extravagant welcome at United Church. The God of Jesus is a God of abundance. And since God’s creation is full of abundance, we can share trusting in God to provide enough. Life is not a zero sum game where we have to beat out other people in order to get a larger piece of the pie. We can share and work together so that everyone has enough.
The story of the wine at Cana is also a metaphor for the Eucharist. Jesus shares himself with those who follow him in the bread and the wine of the communal meal of the faith community. Wine is also a symbol of joy in Hebrew culture. The sharing of the Eucharist brings joy. The story is very specific in calling the wine at Cana a sign. John of course was focused upon miraculous signs as proofs that Jesus was the Messiah.
LET’S ASK SOME QUESTIONS OF THE TEXT
1. What day was the marriage at Cana?
2. According to the text who all were there?
3. Who calls Jesus’ attention to the fact the wine has run out?
4. What was Jesus’ initial reaction when asked about the wine?
5. What instructions did Jesus give to the servants?
6. How much wine was produced?
7. What was the reaction of the Steward of the Feast?
8. What was the response of his disciples?
9. Where did Jesus go when he left Cana?
LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK QUESTIONS OF US
1. Why do you think Jesus’ mother enlisted his help?
2. How do you explain Jesus’ reaction to his mother?
3. What do you find most challenging trusting God’s abundance?
4. How important is sharing communion as one of your spiritual practices?
5. What significance do you think the wedding feast has in this story?
6. In what ways do you think life is a zero sum game, where you have to fight for your piece of the pie?
7. What meaning you hear in the Steward’s words: “Every man serves the good wine first, and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now?”
8. How important to you are the miracle stories in establishing Jesus as the Messiah?