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Power and Compassion at Cana

When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” (John 2:9-11 ESV)

A rookie steps into the batter’s box for his first plate appearance in his major league debut. Nerves racing as the crowd cheers, he grips the bat, the pitch comes in, and he deposits the ball into the outfield bleachers. A homerun in his first at-bat in front of the home crowd, the type of memorable first impression of which dreams are made! And if we had the power to choose, we’d all want a first impression just like that. In a job interview, at a new school, in a new relationship—who doesn’t want to leave a memorable first impression?

Considering this, Jesus’ first miracle appears to be a strange choice. Certainly, He had the power to choose when and where to first make His glory known. But where did He choose? A small, backwater town in Galilee. The occasion? An anonymous couple’s wedding. The miracle? Changing water into wine. The witnesses? Only a few servants and Jesus’ own disciples. When we think of the other miracles that manifested His “glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14), many of them would seem to fit better as a memorable first impression. Wouldn’t feeding 5,000+ people with just a small boy’s lunch be a better way to announce His glory? How about publicly raising a dead man to life—wouldn’t that be a better introduction? Why would Jesus choose to do something so seemingly insignificant as the first of His signs?

I know of one person who didn’t think this miracle was insignificant (even if he didn’t witness it)—the master of the feast. Consider his embarrassment if the wine had run out! Yet, that did not happen. For Jesus—the Son of God, full of grace—was there. And proving Himself to be God, He also showed what God is like—merciful, compassionate, caring even for the seemingly insignificant. This was just a foretaste of that same character which He would display throughout His ministry as He cleansed lepers, showed mercy to widows, befriended fishermen, and called tax collectors and sinners to Himself.

Whenever we consider our small place in the world, we ought to be struck even more by the insignificant status we deserve as sinners before a holy God. Yet we have been given great assurance of God’s care for us. When Mary approached Jesus regarding the wine, Jesus replied, “My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4) A few years later, He’d return to the topic: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son . . . that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.” (John 17:1-2) Armed with the power to choose, Jesus’ glory was that He would choose to put His power aside to save insignificant sinners like us. His first impression in Cana was a sample of that love, and it was written “ that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31)

Samuel Rodebaugh is pastor of Faith Lutheran Church of Manchester, Missouri.