My topic was the significance of Jesus' first miracle as recorded in the gospel of John: the infamous turning of water into wine, notably one of the most practical, compassionate, and life-changing miraculous works Jesus did. Okay, I am being facetious, but let me tell you what I read about how people interpret this story. Mostly, theologians hold one of two positions: 1) they decide that it is an unfortunate story, not really a fitting start for the saviour of the world and either dismiss it as relatively unimportant or try to explain how it really wasn't about people getting drunk at a wedding party, or 2) they symbolise and allegorise and analogise the heck out of it, saying the whole thing is all about the Eucharist (communion for you reformers) or Jesus' superiority to the old Jewish law. This lets them neglect the awkward details of the account like the manner in which he speaks to his mother, the incredulous amounts of wine made, and the lack of any real pressing need. In short, it is a bit of a tricky miracle to get your head around.
And that was the point of my paper exactly. As the first sign - Jesus' coming out as Messiah, so to speak - it was appropriate precisely because it was so troublesome, don't you think? You either loved his quirky and challenging remarks or you were irritated by them. You either enjoyed the party he was celebrating or you were scandalised by his extravagance. You were either intrigued by his lack of explanation or you were annoyed by his evasiveness.
Jesus reveals God and his greatness in whatever way he decides, whenever his timing is right, and to whomever he chooses. This can appear to be scandalous (what's up with having to hang out with the dregs of society on a regular basis? and why couldn't he cooperate with the ranking religious guys instead of insulting them? that certainly didn't earn him any brownie points) or it can be alluring (mmmm...free fish and bread, and woohoo, crippled people walking!). He follows no rules but his own, and that can be pretty irritating, especially when we have rules that we think are working pretty well for us. He throws a party when we would rather he withhold his generosity, and his benevolence seems sadly lacking just when we think a good dose would be the appropriate gesture.
Yep, Jesus' first miracle is in the book for a reason. It forces us to decide what we really think about him. Here are the last three sentences of my paper:
Some people were scandalised by Jesus because they found it difficult to picture a divine Saviour in such an unflattering and insignificant role. Others were attracted to him because he sought out the needy and promised them more than they could ever gain on their own merit. The question remains: which side do we find ourselves on?
If I know I am needy, I am more likely to be attracted to Jesus. If I think things are pretty good the way they are, or I have a certain standard that God needs to measure up to in order to impress me, I am probably a bit disappointed and offended by Jesus. My decision.
This is the scene outside my window tonight.