“The master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, ‘Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.’”
His back hurt, his feet throbbed, his whole body ached in exhaustion. The wedding celebration wasn’t even close to ending, and his hope of rest was only a mirage flickering far off in the distance. Three days ago, his master, the bridegroom’s father, had given permission for his son to finally collect his bride. With shouts of joy, the bridegroom and his friends made their way to the home of his beloved. Together they then ambled slowly through the streets of Cana, receiving congratulations from everyone they met. Their party grew larger with guests following them from every corner in the village, until they arrived back at the home of the groom’s father. Then the joyful celebration began in earnest.
This wedding celebration had been planned for more than a year. The servant had worked diligently alongside his master in the vineyards to make sure there would be abundant wine for the wedding of his only son. Grapes were picked, wine was brewed and sealed in massive clay jars until the cave up in the hills was full. More jars of wine were then buried in the ground behind the house. For weeks now, while other servants were cooking, cleaning, and preparing the choicest foods for the week-long feast, he had been hauling those jars of wine into the storeroom, stacking them carefully, with the most aged wine in front. This wine would be used during the ceremony and for the blessings at the beginning of the banquet when two glasses of the choicest wine would be poured into one, symbolizing the joining of the groom and bride.
Guests from out-of-town began appearing several days before the wedding, further tasking the already harried servants. A favorite guest arrived from Nazareth early on the morning before the celebration with her oldest son, Jesus, and his friends entering not far behind her. The men had traveled from Bethany, near Jerusalem, some 40 miles away, and were weary from their journey. Knowing how important Mary and Jesus were to his master, this faithful servant went out of his way to attend them. As he was washing the dust from Jesus’ feet, he felt the warm hand of this man gently touch his shoulder. Looking up, he was met by the kindest smile he had ever seen, and then Jesus actually thanked him! A lowly servant, just doing his job, was never noticed, and certainly never thanked. He had been pondering this moment continually since his encounter with Jesus.
Now as singing and dancing and feasting was well underway, a frantic commotion among the other servants caught his attention. More guests than the master expected had joined the party, and the servants were scrambling to provide enough food and tasty morsels to satisfy everyone. Alarmed, he went to the storeroom and gasped to find only empty jars littering the stone floor. They were out of wine! Even the ceremonial wine, used only for the prayer of sanctification and seven blessings at the beginning of the banquet, was gone. And this wine was still important for the end of the ceremony when the bride and groom would drink it to symbolize their separation to each other and away from their families. Every jar was empty! The servant panicked, and his aching body shook all over. He had heard the old rabbinical saying, “Without wine there is no joy,” and he also knew that powerful guests could legally sue his master for breach of hospitality if there wasn’t enough wine to last. This was a tragedy, and he had no remedy.
Leaving the storeroom, he found Mary just outside the door, and she noticed immediately his white, terrified face. Without thinking, he blurted out, “We have no more wine!” Mary patted his shoulder and went to get Jesus. The servant stood in the shadows as Mary explained the problem to her son and heard his gentle voice respond, “Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come.” The servant’s heart sank even deeper at these words, but then Mary drew him out from the corner and spoke to all the servants gathered around, “Do whatever he tells you.” Again, without thought, the servant pointed to the six stone water jars nearby that were used for ceremonial washing. Jesus nodded and instructed the servants to fill them to the brim with water. Then smiling directly at him, Jesus instructed him to draw from one of the jars and take it to the master of the banquet. The directness of Jesus’ gaze left no room for questions, only obedience.
When the master of the banquet called the bridegroom over, the servant fully expected blame and a beating for bringing water instead of wine. Instead, he was astonished to hear “Everyone brings out the choice wine first…but you have saved the best till now.” Joy flooded the servant’s heart as he turned to see Jesus smiling at him again. He knew God’s glory had been revealed that night, and along with the disciples, this servant put his faith in Jesus. Never was there a more joyful celebration than the one he experienced as a tired but faithful servant in Cana.
Emptiness became abundance, tragedy became triumph, blame became commendation and panic became praise that night as Jesus turned ordinary water to the finest wine and a lowly servant to a grateful saint.
Jesus, sometimes the “wine” in our jars seems to simply run out. We struggle: Not enough money at the end of the month to meet demands that never end; sorrow and grief multiply while joy is only a mirage shimmering in the distance; not enough sleep, illness, work, and caring for others saps our strength; panic, fear and worry water down our thoughts and emotions; and all too often we allow the poor “wine” of this world to consume our focus. Help me respond like Mary did by immediately and calmly turning to You. Help me respond as the servants did, without question but with simple obedience. Turn my panic into praise and fill my jars to the brim with Your overflowing grace and mercy. Help me to sip from the well of Your love with exuberant gratitude, knowing You have saved the best for last. For the day soon will come when Your Father sends You to collect Your Bride and there will be the never ending “wine” of joy in Your presence for all eternity.©