120 Gallons of Wine- When the Spirit enters the Ordinary

wineShe came to me to share her story, a choice of obedience that was causing her such sorrow that she could scarcely eat or sleep.  Tears rolled down her cheeks as she talked of loving God, of pursuing Him at a significant cost.  As I listened, I felt the Spirit’s prompting – “Jerry, just tell her that I am a good, good Father!”

The words were hard for me to say because that is my own struggle since Bev’s death. I do not struggle to believe He exists. I know that He is near me and I can accept that He allowed this painful thing in my life. My struggle is to believe that He is good to me!  In my prayers I tell Him, “You say You are good, but You allowed my precious wife, my partner, my friend to be taken from me at the very time in life that we enjoyed one another most. From where I stand You seem, at best, uncaring; or worse, cruel.”

So, I struggled for a moment to obey Him before I said to that woman, “He is a good, good God!”  And, in fact, He is!  In follow-up I found that young woman accepting His goodness and seeing His provision. I, too, found footing for re-birth of faith in my own obedience.

John tells us a little story at the beginning of his gospel that ought to make us smile. It is about Jesus’ first public ‘sign,’ a miracle that demonstrated His calling and mission. It was at a private event, an act of charity that did nothing to relieve human suffering, but that brought joy in the moment.  We know few details except that Jesus was at a wedding in Cana with His family and His disciples. Weddings were important events in the society of the time, going on for days. Jesus borrowed the imagery of a wedding to describe the arrival of the Kingdom.  The Church looks forward to joining her Husband at the Marriage Feast of the Lamb. So, John tells us about a minor crisis at this important event.  The wine ran out!

“The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.” “Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:3-5, NLT)  Mary apparently believed that Jesus could and should do something about this fiasco. The family was going to be seriously embarrassed by this development.  The celebration could not go on without the wine!  Jesus insists that the problem is not His to solve, but His mom ignores Him and tells the servants to approach Him and to do what He tells them to do.  There is the first lesson for us.  Need God’s provision in your life?  Obedience is a key factor. “Do whatever He says!”

John is spare with the details of what caused Jesus to step in, but he gives us what we need to know.  “Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” When the jars had been filled, he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions.” (John 2:6-8, NLT)  Getting those jars filled was no small task. One did not just go to the spigot and turn it on. Water had to be drawn from a village well, carried back to the house, poured into the jars which would have been too heavy to move. There could be no trickery, no magic trick. The work demanded the efforts of several servants for an extended time.  When they had finished, Jesus gives them cryptic instructions: “Take liquid from one of the jars to the best man.”   And, they did!  Once again, obedience is in view.  Keep that in mind.

I love the resolution of this little story. “When the host tasted the water that had become wine (he didn’t know what had just happened but the servants, of course, knew), he called out to the bridegroom, “Everybody I know begins with their finest wines and after the guests have had their fill brings in the cheap stuff. But you’ve saved the best till now!”  (John 2:9-10, The Message)  Somewhere between the well and the best man’s lips, God did, in an instant, what grape vines and vintners did over a year’s time:  He made water into wine!  It was not just wine; it was good stuff.

Here is my question to you today – is there a place of lack in your life?  Is your celebration of life, your ability to feel joy being hindered by a development you did not foresee, a problem you cannot solve, a situation that came from nowhere?  If the Lord of life would invest Himself in a little wedding, in a remote village, can you trust Him to invest Himself in you today? He is a good, good God!

“Ah, Jerry, I cannot pray about that. It is not a big deal; it’s just life.”  Was running out of wine really a big deal? Not so much, but Jesus cared.  And, He cares about your need today. So ask Him for His provision.  Hear Mary’s words and take them to heart:  “Do whatever He tells you.”  And, in obedience, you will find that He enters the ordinary and something amazingly wonderful will emerge, the best stuff, on the third day!  That’s just another way to say, ‘in a way and at a place when you least expect it.

The word from the Word comes from my favorite part of the Scripture, from a letter that overflows with hope and promise.
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3, NLT)  

“And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.” (Ephesians 1:13-14, NLT)

“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:16-21, NLT)

________

Father, I need a minor miracle today,
The quiet work of the Spirit to enter the ‘ordinary’ of my life.
I present myself to you, my lack, my need, my emptiness –
And I pray for Your Presence to come.
I am listening, Jesus, for Your voice and direction.
As You come, Spirit of God, may there be a change in me-
Like water turned to wine, my heart made alive anew,
Hope reborn, Your abundant life in full view,
Your glory declared – ‘the best saved for last.’  Amen

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