The story is told of a woman married to a farmer who was a very difficult man. This man would complain about everything and not only would he complain he would lose his temper and shout and argue. He would complain about his meals, he would complain about his work, the weather, his neighbors, his tools, he would complain about everything. In fact he seemed to always have a negative spin on everything and he picked at everyone who happened to be around him. One day he was taking his mule to the field and he was as usual muttering about something wrong with someone. He saw an item on the path and he bent down to pick it up and when he did that, his mule up and kicked him in the head and he died.
At the funeral everyone from the little rural community was present and the minister noticed that when all the men walked by the widow they would lean forward and whisper some words and the widow would nod her head yes. And when all the women got to her they would lean forward and whisper some words but then every time the widow would shake her head no.
After all had left, the minister said, “I couldn’t help but notice that you would nod your head yes when the men whispered to you but you would always shake your head no to the women. Why, to what were you saying yes and to what were you saying no?” The widow responded, “The men would say how sorry they felt for me and ask if I was going to be alright. So I shook my head yes saying, “Yes, I’ll be all right.” When the women walked by, they all asked me if the mule was for sale.”
It is important if you want to know what is really going on, to know what is being whispered, isn’t it? It is important to know the sub-text because then we understand the why of what is happening. In our Gospel reading we have a situation that to understand it, we need to know the sub-text otherwise we don’t really get it. John, after telling about this short event, says that Jesus did this, the first of his signs and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. John told us at the beginning of the gospel that in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Jesus, the living Word of God lived among us. John said, “We saw him. We are witnesses to his life and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” As John writes his gospel he specifically points out 7 miracles that Jesus does and calls these miracles signs, that is, pointers that reveal who Jesus really is.
In fact we need to understand that this entire gospel is written so that we, the readers get it. It is written so that we understand that we see what Jesus did and who Jesus is. And so that we grasp along with his disciples that Jesus really is the God-man, the Son of God, the one God sent to the world to save and rescue us. This miracle, this event at Cana is the first sign, the first pointer.
Which brings us back here to this gospel lesson, how does this story show us Jesus is the Son of God? How does this story show us his glory? How does this story tell us what is being whispered?
We know the overt story, right? Jesus is at a wedding ceremony in Cana. It is a typical village wedding. Weddings in the first century Jewish culture were big deals. They were extremely important events. The entire village and all the friends and relatives of the family would all turn out. It was typically a one-week party! It was very expensive for the groom because he and his family were supposed to supply all the food and drink during this time. This is one of the reasons the engagement time could be a long one because it took time to save up. It would be very humiliating if they ran out of food or wine. And not only humiliating, it could be taken as a sign that their marriage was not going to turn out well, that they were not going to be happy. If they ran out of food or wine it would be a terrible thing. And that is what happens here; this unnamed groom ran out of wine. Mary comes to Jesus and lets him know that they have run out of wine. At this point in time apparently only a few know this. The groom himself may not even know. Jesus replies to Mary, “This really is not our problem.” And then he says, “My hour is not yet come.” In other words, I am not ready to announce myself. Jesus did not want to use this occasion to make the big announcement that he was the Messiah; this was supposed to be a special time for the bride and groom and Jesus does not want to intrude on this their time. But yet, there was a need. A friend or perhaps even a relative needed his help. So he tells the servants to fill up the stone water jars with water. Once they were all full, he had one of them draw a glass out and take it to the chief steward who tastes it and then he calls the groom over to tell him that this is really good wine. Bing, somewhere between the filling of the stone jars with between 120 to 180 gallons of water and bringing the chief steward the glass the water has been changed to wine.
Notice hardly anyone knows that the miracle has even taken place. Only the servant who drew the water knew and his disciples knew.
Jesus did this miracle without any big fanfare so how did this reveal his glory when only a handful of people knew about the event? At the feeding of the 5,000 there were thousands of people who saw what he did. Here there were less than eight. Yet, what he showed them was really pretty amazing wasn’t it? Apparently Jesus does not say anything nor does he pray out loud, nor does he wave his hands about. No, Jesus simply willed about 150 gallons water to change, to transmute into something else. The water changed into wine simply because Jesus wanted it to do so. Clearly, someone who has this sort of power, this sort of authority is more than simply a man, more than simply human.
Also, consider that wine is not an instant drink. That is, one can take a bunch of grapes and squeeze them and get grape juice. But wine is different; wine needs time to ferment. Good wine needs a good amount of time and great wine needs even longer. Jesus made great wine and he did it instantaneously. So not only is Jesus transforming water into another liquid, he is aging it at the same time as well. Willing something to change and aging it all at the same time are indications that God’s power is at work. And this event also showed his disciples God’s character as well. Jesus did not make a big deal about this. No one knew he did this miracle except for the servants and his disciples. The disciples see the divine power of Jesus and they see his humility; he never steps into the limelight at the wedding. It is interesting to note that we are not even told if the bridegroom ever found out that Jesus had saved him from humiliation at his wedding.
So what is being whispered? What is the subtext? Jesus is God in a man’s body and he was here at the wedding feast. Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. He is the one for whom Israel and even the whole world has been longing and he has come. And now that he is here, what is he like? What is God like? He is powerful and even has awesome authority. But who could have guess that God, Almighty God would be so humble and that he would delight in helping his people. We see Him tenderly providing for his people, even when they do not know their needs. This is the whisper, “This, this one, this is our God. This is the one who is so powerful, yet so loving and humble. This is the One who loves us! This is the One in whom we trust, and we follow, and we love.” Amen.