Weekly Bible Reflection
Mark's Alternative Economy
Third Sunday of Epiphany
John 2. 1-11: "Disaster Averted "
Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
Share together experiences of social events that went wrong. How, if at all, was the problem resolved. If not resolved, what was the outcome.
A Window on the Text
At the end of his gospel, John explains that its purpose is to lead readers to the conviction ‘that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God’ and so to experience life with a capital L (20v31). Earlier, Jesus’ disciples were promised they would see ‘greater things’ happen (1v50).
Here is the first of seven signs in John that reveal Jesus’ ‘glory’ and which cause his disciples to ‘put their faith in him’ (v11). Each ‘sign’ is selected to convey a different aspect of Jesus’ identity and mission, and is followed by an outline of its deeper meaning. John wants his readers to consider who Jesus is and recognize in him as the ‘Word made flesh’, God’s very presence.
Life for ordinary people in this remote part of Galilee was harsh: long working days and little by way of recreation and diversion. Occasionally the routine was relieved when the community came together to celebrate a wedding. This was an occasion of joy; indeed, Jesus likens the kingdom of God to a wedding banquet (Matthew 22v1 f).
Most likely, this is a wedding of a member of Jesus’ family clan. His disciples are with him and his mother Mary, as guests. These celebrations went on for several days and at some point Mary (women seem to have an instinct for these things) realises that the wine has run out! A social disaster looms which would result in shame and disgrace for the hosts and upset for bride and groom; taking the joy out of the party! Mary brings the crisis to Jesus’ attention. To start with, he doesn’t want to get involved – ‘my time has not yet come’ (v4). But then he steps in to prevent it all going wrong and very simply and unobtrusively deals with the situation. Later in the gospel, we learn that Jesus is the true vine (
The wine that is produced is of the finest quality – and it comes in substantial quantities! (vv 9-10). The day is saved! No one, apart from the servants and Jesus’ disciples, realise how the crisis is resolved. Those who do are faced with the unspoken question, ‘Just who is this Jesus?’ Here is the start of a gradual ‘epiphany’ (revealing or self disclosure) for his disciples, who have yet so much to grasp.
Responding as a community
- Do you think miracles, that seem to run counter to natural processes, happen today? Does the Western habit of separating the material from the spiritual world have a bearing on our inability to accept these miraculous happenings?
- Do you think an emphasis on signs and wonders is an appropriate way for Christian communities to witness to their faith in Jesus today?
- John presents this miracle as a sign pointing to a deeper reality – the presence of God’s reign in the world. What evidence of the presence of God’s reign do you see around you, within and beyond your community?
- Jesus shows by his presence and action the importance he attaches to traditional community and family events that strengthen fellowship. He is there in the midst of it all, in an unobtrusive way, seemingly unnoticed. He does his best to ensure it really is a good party! What might we draw from this about how we are present at social events in our local community and how we handle situations?
- Why do you think Jesus is so extravagant in the provision of so much good quality wine? Does it say anything about how we should be as a Jesus community?
- In what ways do you provide people who do not belong to a Christian faith opportunity to consider who Jesus is? Is the idea of throwing a party part of your community’s practice? If not, should it be?
Consider as a community organising a ‘Neighbourhood Breakfast Café’, Neighbourhood Barbecue, Community Arts Trail or similar event in support of a charity (e.g. it could be a local charity or ‘Red Cross’, ‘Send a Cow’, ‘Tearfund’, etc). Alternatively, you might share in organising a Community Neighbourhood Fun Day with local residents. Think about meeting in a neutral venue in your locality not ‘church’ premises – and encourage friends and neighbours to come. This is one way of widening people’s perception of and engagement with the Jesus Community. Alternatively, you might throw a party of some kind or find an excuse to have a fun-time to share with your local community and simply bear witness to the Jesus who enjoyed a party.
Spent some time in silent meditation thinking of your community ‘as a sign which points to Jesus’ and considering what God is inviting you to do about it? Let this inform our initial praying whether aloud or in silence.
You may wish to pray together one or both of the following prayers:
Almighty God, whose Son revealed in signs and miracles the wonder of your saving presence: renew your people with your heavenly grace, and in all our weakness sustain us by your mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Collect for Epiphany 3 - Common Worship)
O God of celebration, you have kept the good wine until now - the wine we have longed for, but never thought to taste. Take the tap water of our lives - our struggles and our dullness - and with your grace make strong and dark and joyful all that our hearts contain; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Join together in The Lord’s Prayer. Conclude by sharing the Peace together.
(From Janet Morley’ All Desires Known)
- The six stone jars, holding between 20 and 30 gallons of water (120 -180 gallons in total) were used for Jewish purification rites to wash away uncleanness. The demands of keeping the Law invaded every aspect of people’s lives. The water was used to keep the nation consecrated to Yahweh in a sinful world. In turning the water of purification into the wine of joy and celebration we see Jesus providing something that the Law could not – true joy in abundance. This seems a fitting introduction to the seven signs.
- Many see a deeper sacramental thread in this passage. It anticipates the wine that is the blood of the new covenant poured out for the life of the world (15v11).
- In this passage attention is drawn to the tension for Jesus between acting impulsively in response to presenting needs and discerning God’s timing. John presents him as facing these ‘temptation’s and maintaining control.
- Only a few guests at the wedding recognize the significance of what has happened in this event, most remain ignorant and only experience better tasting wine. They are in on the secret. The majority at the reception don’t know ‘who’ has enabled this ‘miracle’ to take place. They are unaware of Jesus’ presence, love and power.
Mark's Alternative Economy - Discussion
From Martin - Nottingham
Miracles are a question of degree, not principle, for most people. If you believe in yourself as a being with a free will, you're a miracle. The alternative is that everything is an unavoidable consequence of the start of the universe... including everything you do or think. It makes no sense to live your life like that - so better believe in miracles!
From JES -
The account of what happened at Cana in Galilee is carefully selected for inclusion in John's gospel and seems to be included because it was an unusual occurrence which only those who were observing what Jesus recognised ie it seems to be an 'extra-natural' event took place -it seems to be part of' he who has ears to hear let him hear -otherwise why should what an apparently far fetched story be included?. Of course everything in creation is a miracle ie the very 'fact' of creation and existence. For those who get hung up on supernatural 'miracles' I have found it is better to ask them to consider the far more 'difficult 'miracle of the resurrection of Christ. If he is the creator in human form in one sense whats the problem!!
From Martin - Nottingham
Indeed! But I was casting my net wider. Even those who claim not to believe in God need to believe in miracles (in the sense of events which don't obey the rules) if they are to make any sense of their lives.