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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

Power For The People

Second Sunday After Epiphany


On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”


“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”


His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”


Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.


Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.


Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”


They did so, and 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.”


What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.


After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.


When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”


John 2:1-16



At first, the two incidents we read about in the Gospel reading don’t seem to have anything in common. In the first one, Jesus did His mother a favor by performing a miracle to prevent embarrassment at a wedding feast. In the second one, He lashes out in anger against money changers and hucksters in the temple. The two events couldn’t seem much more different – until we see one thing that holds them together.


That one thing is power. In both instances, because of His love for the people involved, Jesus unleashes His miraculous authority and keeps two quite different forms of celebration alive. He first blesses a wedding celebration that’s run out of its essential wine; and then He attacks crooks who have made a mockery out of people’s celebration of God. In each case, Jesus demonstrates that His power is power for the people.


Palestinian life in Jesus’ day was hard by today’s standards. It was tough to scratch out a living with a scorching sun overhead, rocky soil under foot, a hostile government in charge, and unfriendly neighbors on every border. Common people had little cause for merry-making. That’s why weddings were so important. They gave a legitimate excuse for a village to stop working to eat and drink and make merry for a few days. In a small town like Cana, where everybody knew everybody else, the whole village would join in the festivities.


A man would work for years to be able to provide enough food and wine for a wedding celebration that would last for several days. If he should run short, he and his family – and the bride and groom – would be socially humiliated. And in a small town like Cana with long memories, it might never be forgotten!


So when Mary whispers to Jesus, “They have no more wine,” there’s some anxiety in her voice. She doesn’t want her friends to be embarrassed. And Jesus moves to prevent disaster for the hosts. Why perform a miracle on behalf of a social party? What reason could there be, other than His love for people? His miracle on this occasion proves that the Lord of Love wants His people to celebrate life!


His love of people is the motive. We often see Jesus’ love reaching out to the infirm, insane, and the needy of all kinds, and we praise Him for His concern. But we don’t often think of His miracle at Cana as an example of His love.


Maybe you don’t picture Jesus laughing at a party, or doing His bit to keep others laughing. If so, you’ve missed the notes of joy that ring through the scriptures:

  • Like Mary saying, “My soul praises the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:46,47)

  • Or the angel speaking to the shepherds: “I bring you good news of great joy.” (Luke 2:10)

  • And, “Then (the disciples) worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.”

  • And Jesus Himself said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11)


Far from being a killjoy, Jesus said that being His disciple is like participating in a perpetual wedding feast. And John, in his Revelation, writes, “Then the angel said to me, write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb.’” (Rev. 19:9)


His people’s love for Him is also reflected in these verses. Jesus’ love of life is reflected in the joy people have, being in His presence. In the Gospel narratives, He’s almost always surrounded by crowds who are there just because they enjoy hanging around Him. His love for people is obviously returned with interest. Jesus and His followers enjoyed seeing each other.


And that’s how our worship services are. We’re not afraid to smile – or to laugh out loud! The Bible tells us that the angels rejoice when a sinner repents – and we have no reason to believe that their rejoicing stops when they hear us singing and laughing with them. We’ve come into the house of the Lord to cheer!


John writes in his first epistle that he wants his readers to know what he has seen and heard “so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.” (I John 1:3,4)


So we Christians get together as often as we can, enjoying the presence of the Lord we love, and the presence of the ones we love in the Lord. Our worship is celebration!


This is what makes Jesus so angry in the temple. Worship, the celebration of God, has been perverted. Money grubbers have turned the house of prayer into a noisy merchandise mart. What God intended for the benefit of His children, has degenerated into a place for making money from people’s belief in God. And that made Jesus angry!


Was it okay for Jesus to be angry? To express His anger quite violently? We’re often told that anger is bad – that we need to control our anger. “In your anger do not sin,” Paul tells the Ephesians, quoting a Psalm. (Eph. 4:26, Ps 4:4) So, obviously, anger can be either bad or good.


It’s bad when it’s directed at people – bad for the receiver and bad for the giver. That’s why it has to be controlled and tempered. That’s why Paul continues, “Don’t let the sun go down while you’re still angry, and don’t give the devil a foothold.” (Eph. 4:26,27)


But anger can also be good. It’s good when it’s directed at things like unfairness, untruthfulness, immorality and unloving acts. These kinds of things are most unpleasing to God, and anger, under the control of a higher purpose, can release energy and raise effectiveness. Anger in the cause of God can cleanse a temple; anger on behalf of people can set captives free.


In the Old Testament, there are more than 450 uses of the word “anger” – and 375 of them refer to God’s anger! There are some things a holy God just can’t abide!


And so we see Jesus. For thirty years He has lived quietly, biding His time, preparing for His ministry. Now He’s ready. He celebrates life with the wedding party in Cana and then, offended by religious huckstering, He drives out the perverters from the temple, the place to which people come to celebrate God.


His joy in Cana and His anger in Jerusalem express His love of the people through His use of power for the people. Thank God for the Lord of Love!


Amen

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