If Momma Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy!, John 2:1-11, Second Sunday after the Epiphany, January 20, 2019
A fifteen-year-old boy came bounding into the house for dinner and found his mom in bed. He asked if she was sick or something. He was truly concerned. Mom replied that, as a matter of fact, she didn’t feel very well. The son replied, “Well, don’t worry a bit. I’ll be happy to help you down to the stove”. Mom wasn’t too happy about that response. And, you know what they say, if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy! But more about that in a minute.
If I asked you to name three miracles of Jesus that were the most powerful and beneficial of all the miracles He performed, what would you say? You might suggest: His resurrection, or the raising of Lazarus, or calming wind and wave, so that He saved His disciples from drowning. Those are three miracles that I might think of as the most impressive.
On the other hand, the miracle we heard about today, no one was raised from the dead, no leper cleansed, no demon exorcised, nor any blind eyes opened. This miracle is simply Jesus making sure someone’s wedding isn’t a bust because they ran out of wine.
This was Jesus’ very first miracle, the changing of water into wine. It seems to be nothing more than a warm-up act; like an acrobat juggling a few tennis balls before he gets around to the grand finale of juggling chainsaws while riding blindfolded on a unicycle.
Oh, changing water into wine isn’t something you or I could do, and it did save a bride and groom some embarrassment, but so what? Does this miracle really matter when you stack it up against the other miracles Jesus did? A wedding party’s thirst was quenched. That was all, or was it? The miracle of changing water into wine does matter, because it teaches us something.
This miracle occurred at a wedding in the small town of Cana, not too far away from Jesus’ childhood home of Nazareth. Jesus and His disciples (who numbered only five or six at this time) were there. We don’t know who was getting married. It may have been someone that Jesus’ mother, Mary, was related to, because she seemed concerned about making sure there was plenty of food and drink. And you know what they say, if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!
Jewish wedding celebrations in the 1st century could last as long as seven days. If you didn’t plan carefully, you were likely to run out of something. That’s what happened in Cana. They ran out of wine! Mary was aware of this, and so she came to Jesus and said: “They have no more wine” (3). It’s possible that the lack of wine could have involved another embarrassment, it’s possible that it might have rendered the bridegroom’s family liable to a lawsuit.
I wonder what Mary expected Jesus to do about this situation. Did she want Him to send His disciples out to buy more wine? Was she just telling Him because she felt bad for the couple? What, if anything, did Mary want Jesus to do about it? What was she expecting?
From Jesus’ response we know that Mary was doing more than just reporting facts. She wanted Jesus to help. And, you know what they say, if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy! Jesus, however, replied: “Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come.” (4) Does that sound like the Jesus you know? Not really. To me, it sounds more like an uppity kid who has just bound in the door and is expecting dinner. Or maybe it sounds like a kid who thinks he’s too cool to pay much attention to Mom.
Jesus had, if fact, just come back from recently being baptized. There, God the Father identified Jesus as His beloved Son, while the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus, signaling the beginning of His ministry on earth.
In other words Jesus was no longer Mary’s little errand boy who would hop down to the local grocer for some milk and bread. He was the Savior of the world. As Savior, Jesus had come to serve, but that doesn’t mean that Mary, or anybody else, should treat Him as nothing more than a mere servant to run errands.
But, you know what they say, (say it with me) if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy! Mary took the rebuke in stride. She didn’t turn away in a huff, but instead faced the attendants standing nearby and said, “Do whatever he tells you” (5).
What wonderful faith Mary demonstrates! She realized that Jesus’ rebuke didn’t mean, “No, I will not help”. Instead she trusted that the Jesus, who had made the time to be at a wedding in a minor little town, loved the bride and groom, and He cared about their wedding. And so she doesn’t prescribe the means, or the measure, or the manner in which Jesus should help, she just trusts that in His time, He will.
How many times have we trusted Him to do His will? “Do whatever is best, Jesus!”
Oh, that our prayers were more like that! Instead of giving our Lord detailed instructions, including a timetable for how He is to answer our prayers. As if we are the ones that know what is best!
How about you, have you ever felt like that? You cry out to God, but it seems as if He isn’t listening or helping? Have you ever felt as if your prayers are going as far as the ceiling in the room, and they’re getting stuck there? I guess that’s a pretty common feeling.
In Psalm 6, David says that he is in great anguish, and is flooding his bed with tears. He cries out, “But you, O Lord—how long?” The disciples were scared to death in a storm at sea, while Jesus was in the boat sleeping. They cried out, “Lord, don’t you care if we drown?” And St. Paul prayed to the Lord three times to take away his thorn in the flesh, but the Lord refused. We all have these times when we cry to the Lord for relief, but it just seems as if God doesn’t answer. Indeed, there are times when we all feel like we’ve made a request to God, only to be rebuffed.
Yes, God wants us to pray specifically and boldly, but He doesn’t want us to forget our place, or His! We are nothing but dust, and sinfully, scummy dust at that. He, on the other hand, is the all-wise and all-knowing God. Indeed, even before Mary told Him, even before momma wasn’t happy, Jesus knew that there was no more wine.
If it really had been a pressing problem, Jesus would have taken care of the need before Mary was even aware of the shortage. Instead Jesus thought it better that there be a crisis before He acted. God often has a way of emptying us before He fills us. He does this so that we will turn to Him more often and more completely for the help we need, because Jesus always does what is eternally best for us.
So what did Jesus do about the wine shortage? He told the attendants to fill up six stone water jars. Now, these were big jugs, up to thirty gallons each. They did, and then He instructed them to take that water and give it to the master of ceremony for tasting. Wouldn’t you just love to know what was going through their minds as they hauled all that water to the master of ceremony?
If they had witnessed the exchange between Mary and Jesus, maybe they thought this was some sort of joke. Jesus obviously didn’t care about fixing the problem. If He did, He would not have made them trudge to the well and back to fill these huge jugs with water.
We often think the same about Jesus. We look at all the suffering and pain in the world and imagine Jesus could care less because He doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it, or what we think He should be doing about it. But He is doing something about it, just as He was doing something about the wine shortage.
When the master of ceremony tasted the water, which had been turned into wine, he called the groom over, to applaud him for the quality of wine. If my math is correct, Jesus supplied the equivalent of 180 gallons of top-quality wine! 180 gallons of pure grace!
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). That’s the answer that allows us to rejoice in our sufferings and hardships. The miracle in this wedding story is a miracle of pure grace. There is not one trace of judgment. There are no put-downs, such as “you drink too much”, or “you party too much”. This miracle is pure grace! Any good Lutheran pastor can scan a text and find Law and Gospel. However all I find in the text this morning is all Gospel, 180 gallons of pure grace!
Did the miracle of water turning into wine matter? It mattered to the bride and groom of Cana. Jesus took care of them in their time of need, and He did so with abundant quality. This miracle also mattered to Jesus’ disciples for John says: “This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed His glory, and His disciples put their faith in Him” (11). The disciples now had some tangible proof that Jesus was who He said he was: the Son of God. And so this miracle also matters to us because it’s proof that God is not indifferent to us. He provides what we need at the proper time, even giving us something as insignificant as a glass of wine.
Of course all we really need from Jesus is forgiveness for treating Him as our errand boy, or for accusing Him of not caring about us, or for us. The same Jesus who turned water into wine is the Jesus who now turns wine into a sin-soaking agent. He does that in Holy Communion where He gives us His blood with the wine that we drink. This wine, Jesus’ blood, soaks up our sin.
No, it might not be the most spectacular miracle in the Bible, we might continue to think if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, but the miracle at Cana matters because it teaches us that what should matter most is a humble faith that trusts that the Son of God is in our midst and will act in our best interest.
Jesus may never give you 108 gallons of premium wine (because it’s probably not what would be good for you) but through His death and resurrection, He has given you something even better: pure grace, a place at the eternal banquet in heaven. No, you’re not seated at that banquet yet. You may have to endure some lean and trying days now, but cling to Jesus through the thick and thin, just as Mary did in Cana. You won’t be disappointed. Amen.