I have a tendency to get my wires crossed, especially if my emotions are blaring at full blast and the situation at hand becomes all I can see.
I imagine I am not that different than the steward responsible for making sure the wedding reception in Canaan in the book of John went smoothly.
In ancient times, you were known for your generosity, especially when you invited people into your home.
Wedding receptions were hosted by one of the families of the newlyweds in those days, so a great deal of personal preparation was invested in these events. And these receptions could last for days.
That’s right. Breakfast, lunch, supper, snacks, desserts, and beverages for umpteen people over several days. That’s a lot of work on the shoulders of the family and their household staff. Especially the cooks, and the steward.
Think of the steward, or the master of the banquet, as being like the British butler Carson on Downton Abbey: responsible for the smooth running of the complete household, any major party thrown by the family, and the management of the accounts and cellars.
For today, especially the cellars.
A typical wedding reception would start off with the best wine, and taper off to lesser wines after the initial wedding supper. For the cost of maintaining the best of wines over a multi course meal would have been beyond the reach of less wealthy families, especially given how the celebrating could go on for days.
In John 2:1-11, Jesus, his mother and his disciples were all at a wedding supper in Cana. And the worst thing that can happen while you are hosting an event happened.They ran out of wine. A no-no for any event, but especially in the middle of an event.
Notice that Mary drew this to Jesus’ attention. This account doesn’t mention that Jesus already knew this had happened, as it does in other situations. Jesus was likely busy enjoying being one of the invited guests, relaxing and enjoying himself with his friends.
Also see how Mary simply blurts out the need to Jesus. No sugar coating it. She tells him the need, then expects him to meet it. She went to the servants and told them to do whatever this guest might tell them to do.
I imagine there must have been an undercurrent of tension brewing by this point among the staff, who were likely going to get an unkind word or two from the guests once they learn there is no more wine, and the party wasn’t over yet.
So I am guessing they were looking towards Jesus with a mix of confusion and hopefulness… as they wondered how whatever he would tell them could make a difference to this crisis.
Jesus gave the staff a simple direction in the beginning verse 7: “See those ceremonial washing jars? Fill them to the brim with water.”
“He wants us to do what???” likely ran through the mind of each and every one of those servants. But the bible says they did as they were instructed, at the end of verse 7.
Then here comes the even weirder part, He then instructed them to dip out a sample and bring it to the steward/master of the banquet (verse 8).
I would have been shaking with trepidation had I been one of those staff, but again, they obey and do so. Note that is apparent from Jesus’ response back to his mother in verse 4 that his public ministry has not yet begun. So no one apart from his mother or his newly gathered disciples would know much about him other than he was Mary’s son and a carpenter, possibly not yet known as a rabbi.
The miracle we most need to see isn’t how Jesus met this very public need, nor how He did so in private. It is the miracle of the quality of what He provided.
The steward, not knowing where this wine came from, pulled the groom aside and praised him for saving the best wine for last! (verse 9-10)
When your events taper down, many times we just serve what’s left, instead of providing what is freshest right up to the end.
Keeping the best wine til the end, made in the outer welcoming jars, lavishly expressed God’s inner desire for us to be blessed with His best.
Jesus didn’t do this for public attention. Most of the guest and family would have been blissfully unaware of this entire event, as by the time this likely took place, many would have been pleasantly already full of wine. Not too alert at all!
This reception could have ended in stress, upset and embarrassment…
- had Mary not been paying attention to this one detail at the wedding supper
- had she not spoken to Jesus, but kept it to herself
- had the servants not obeyed Jesus
- has Jesus not stepped up when asked, even when he didn’t have to do so.
Jesus shows us that how we receive Him becomes part of our story:
- Do we welcome His instruction?
- Do we first look to Him for our needs be met?
- Are we tuned in enough to receive His direction?
- Will we obey His Word both in private and in public, no matter what He asks us to do?
Lord, help us to become increasingly tuned in and receptive to Your leading us through our days. May You help us to seek You first in all situations and circumstances, to hear Your instruction clearly and to willingly follow it to completion.
May we too receive the best You have for us!