Everybody, at some point in their life, wants a miracle. But it is usually when all hope is gone; when every cure has been tried and every test has been taken; when all of our best thoughts and efforts appear to have been in vain; when we stand empty-handed, perplexed and desperate ~ at that exact point we are finally open to the transforming grace of a miracle.
Jesus’ first miracle, performed at a wedding in Cana, did not fit such criteria. He was at a wedding, wishing, perhaps, to be able to kick back and relax without someone demanding something of him. But in the midst of the celebration, a problem arose. They ran out of wine. Perhaps they didn’t order enough, or the guests were drinking more heavily than anticipated. We don’t know. We do know that Jesus’ mother was alarmed. “They have no wine” she said to Jesus. And Jesus responded: “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?” She never answered him. Despite his reluctance, Jesus performed the miracle of transforming water into wine.
Why the change of heart? One possibility is that he performed the miracle to get his mother off his back. Another is that Jesus benefitted from performing this miracle because it revealed his divinity. But not everyone at the wedding became a disciple of Jesus as a result of witnessing the miracle of transforming water into wine.
While miracles may convert some persons to belief, they may also convert others to suspicion. In ancient Palestine, after all, there were lots of wanna-be-Messiahs wandering the countryside, trying to cultivate a following with magic and other acts of awe and wonder. “Who is the trickster?” I can almost hear some of the guests say.
Jesus also said, “My hour has not yet come” meaning, as some postulate, that the time of his death had not yet come and he was going to save his miracles for the big finale. He may also have meant that the time to perform miracles had not yet come because the true significance of a miracle would be lost on the revelers who, far from looking for a Messiah to follow, may have simply been looking for a wine glass to empty. In Ecclesiastes 3, with which Jesus was surely familiar, the belief is stated that there is a time for everything under heaven. Just because someone longs for a “miracle” does not necessarily mean that the miracle’s time has come.
The purpose of a miracle is not entertainment ~ it is changed lives. And the essence of miracles are time and timing. God seems to give us precisely what we need at the precise moment we are willing to receive it ~ if we are willing to receive it, that is. When we keep our eyes, minds, and hearts open to the miraculous occurring in our every day life, God may choose to act.
I know from experience. God performed a miracle in my life by changing wine into water. It took my participation and the help of a fellowship; but it was a miracle nonetheless. That was thirty-five years ago and I have not consumed wine or any other alcohol ever since. It seems to me that God was telling us that with God’s help, we could go out and perform our own miracles: such as turning sickness into health, despair into hope, separation into unity, fear into faith, and congregation into community. I have seen many, many miracles since then. I am willing to bet that you have too.
Dwight Lee Wolter is the author of several books and the pastor of the Congregational Church of Patchogue on Long Island, New York. He blogs at dwightleewolter.com
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