Since today is my birthday (November 30) I thought I’d share a few reflections on the one party we see Jesus attend in the gospels. Not a birthday party, rather a wedding party in a town called Cana. You can read about it in John chapter 2.
I love lots of the details in this story about Jesus’ first public miracle – the turning of water into wine. It’s fabulous that Mary, the mother of Jesus, treats him like all moms treat their sons – she doesn’t really listen to his objections. I love that Jesus carries out what his mother wants, likely with a smile and a wink.
But what I really love about this story is that only the servants really knew that a miracle had occurred. They filled the pots with water and they drew out and served the wine. God reveals himself to the servant class as opposed to the wealthy. It’s often the case that the poor and the weak glimpse God before others. Just like the shepherds in Bethlehem to whom the angels appeared and announced the birth of the Savior. They met Jesus first, before the kings from the East. Something for us to think about.
And now the servants at Cana get the first glimpse of the divine power of Jesus. They weren’t powerful or well-placed or educated, but they were chosen by God to see, and taste, the miraculous. I bet it was fantastic wine. I wish I had some for my birthday, but chocolate cake will make a nice substitute!
There’s the weird little snippet of a story in John 12:9-11 that I’ve never really thought about or heard discussed or sermonized (is that a word?). The chief priests in Jerusalem have decided to arrest and kill Jesus (see John 11). Then, Lazarus, who’s already been successfully raised from the dead, shows up and the crowds go double wild. Due to this popularity and the fact that Jesus had raised him from the dead, the chief priests decide to off Lazarus as well. Reminds me of The Godfather.
I wonder if the priests thought through the proper order? You’d need to kill Jesus first, because if you killed Lazarus first, Jesus would just raise him from the dead again. I’m sure they worked through a problem-solved process.
What kind of mental state had these religious leaders gotten themselves into? They were to be shepherds of the people, not natural born killers. Once they decided that the murder of Jesus was an option, it was not a leap to decide to kill the next person, Lazarus. Then the next. Any tactic was justifiable in the pursuit and maintenance of power.
Religion, divorced from a relationship with God, can become as callous and despicable as any other system of government subjugation. Rules and traditions don’t save people, Jesus does. The same Jesus these men later killed. But who, like Lazarus, just wouldn’t stay dead.
As a twelve year-old boy, Jesus is left behind in Jerusalem. Sort of like Home Alone, but the opposite direction. We read about this example of inattentive parenting in Luke 2:41-52. Jesus’ parents are leaving Jerusalem after a religious holiday, mixed in with large crowds of people headed home. They think Jesus is in the entourage somewhere and when they realize he’s not, they head back panicked.
They finally find Jesus in the temple (after three days of looking), where he’s discussing religious topics and answering questions with the top scholars of the day. You might say he was conducting a seminar with the top professors in the field. Everyone who heard him was “amazed at his understanding and his answers.” Jesus was a prodigy, like Mozart or Pascal.
Memories are long, especially in a religious culture hungry for a messiah. I wonder who in the crowd of teachers remembered this Q&A time with the young wunderkind when Jesus began his public ministry eighteen years later? Surely, someone would have put this together. How about Nicodemas, who came to Jesus at night (see John 3)? Had stories circulated over the years? Rumors about the boy with all the answers who’s making furniture somewhere out in the sticks?
Just one of many questions I have. His mother also had questions, but she kept them to herself. We’re told that Jesus went home obediently and grew up “in favor with God and man,” waiting for future, more contentious meetings with the religious leaders in Jerusalem.