Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C
Sunday, January 16, 2022
Long ago, as Christianity was forming, people got it in their heads that the human body was bad, intrinsically evil. We seem to hear some of this in the words of Saint Paul like when he is arguing that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, or when he writes the splendor of the heavenly bodies is of one degree, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is of another—even though Paul is really preaching about the resurrection of the body—we still hear the vestiges of Puritanism. But in the first centuries of Christian world there were lots of spiritual ideas floating about that fed the belief that, there was no way Jesus could have been fully human, because He was purely good. Some folks adamantly thought the two cannot be made into one, because human flesh, cannot hold the pure goodness of God.
So there were great arguments about this in Christendom. Questions were batted back and forth. Was Jesus only a spirit that seemed to be human? Just how would you crucify and kill something that is not a true physical body? It was hard for those who couldn’t imagine God inhabiting this sinful human life. It was hard for those who witnessed the life of Jesus, heard his teaching, saw him healing, stood to see his crucifixion, and put their hands in the wounds of his bodily resurrection, to imagine otherwise.
But at the beginning of Jesus ministry, neither of these two factions knew much about Jesus at all—nor did they know they’d become so impassioned about who or what he really was.
Ironically John’s gospel, the last of the Gospels we have in our bible, the one written last—probably around 90 CE, was seized by those who wanted to believe that Jesus only seemed to be human. I say ironically, because John’s gospel in so many ways makes it perfectly clear that Jesus is indeed a real human being. Jesus humanity comes through loud and clear in the passion and resurrection stories, but truly from the start John shows us the very human nature of Jesus.
Today’s reading, telling the story of the wedding at Cana that Jesus, his mother, and the disciples attended, shows just this. There are things we humans do sometimes, just to please our mothers.
You know…Wear that colorful Christmas sweater she gave you.
Pretend you like the unusual casserole she made– just for you.
Agree to go on ….
And while none of our mother’s expected a miracle from us, our mothers know just what are capable of, and expect us to help out in time of need.
I daresay, that Jesus, if he’d been planning out what message his first miracle would send, would not have chosen this one. His reluctance is evident. Why would he want to reveal himself here, at a wedding of all places. But, his mother asked him to do it, and he was a good son.
John doesn’t say that Mary impelled her son, but the story says, she just turns to the servants, knowing he will act, and tells them to do whatever Jesus commands of them.
John calls this Jesus’ first sign—he intentionally doesn’t use the word miracle. John doesn’t want folks to hear him make Jesus into some common miracle worker, a magician. A miracle could be thought of as an omen. John says signs—so that people understand these mighty acts point to something more. The signs show God’s power in Jesus in order that the world may hear what God has to say.
Though I’m sure Jesus may have planned it out otherwise, he obediently and beautifully shows himself in this first sign. He doesn’t make wine appear out of thin air. He uses water, the life blood of all living things. Jesus doesn’t wave some wand or make a fuss, he quietly directs the servants who’ve filled the pots to the brim, to take some to the steward. Jesus doesn’t require any thanks, his disciples’ belief in him is all that is needed.
I love that John gives us this first real glimpse into Jesus as human. A son, pleasing his observant mother, as she kindly helped to save the wedding feast. Jesus’ decision to act, offering himself to the joyful celebration of a marriage, reminds us that such celebrations are worthy and good.
John’s gospel gives us 7 such signs revealing the glory of God, but the truth is, these actual signs are not the focus for John. John wants his readers to see beyond the signs, to hear more than the words on the page. John is forming for us a Messiah—a real person, the anointed one, which is what the word actually means. One who is sent by God, a heavenly messenger in the form of a real person.
One who is sent by God, in the living flesh so that in believing, we may have life.
Thanks be to God.