Jesus’ first miracle in the Gospel of John (Chapter 2) was done reluctantly. At a wedding in Cana where the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother comes up to him and says simply: “They have no wine.” Jesus is about to begin his ministry and is contemplating the hour to begin when his mother pushes the issue to save the bridegroom from embarrassment. Turning to the attendant, Jesus’ mother says simply: “Do whatever he tells you.” Jesus may be the messiah who will save the world, but he is also a good son who listens to his mother—no matter how much she may vex him.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus does miracles specifically so that people may come to believe. Unlike the Gospel of Mark, where Jesus cannot do anything if the people lack faith, or in the Gospel of Luke, where Jesus performs miracles because his caring nature demands it, in the Gospel of John, Jesus’ miracles are signs of who he is and of the salvation he brings. But in this case, scripture is clear that the miracle would not have happened without the prompting of his mother. I wonder, how many miracles happen today because someone stormed the heavens and reminded God of just what God can do. How many times have we not prayed for ourselves because our “problems” are insignificant compared to the “real problems” of the world?
But what was the real problem Jesus was addressing? Scripture suggests the guests are already drunk, and wouldn’t know the difference between Boones Farm and Chateau lafite Rothschild. So what was the existential crisis for the miracle?
Other than John’s audience, few people probably knew the source of the new wine. But it did keep a special moment in the lives of two people going forward. Who are we to suggest that Jesus’ miracle didn’t happen to change someone’s life for the better? Miracles happen every day, and most of us are rarely the wiser. Augustine once wrote that we make a great deal of Jesus’ miracle of turning water into wine, but we take for granted the more common miracle of simple grape juice being turned into wine through the careful ministrations of the wine maker. Maybe the larger point of this story isn’t about Jesus’ first miracle, but about his mother, who nudged him to bring it about. Maybe the point is that ordinary people like you and me can be the impetus for God’s everyday miracles. And further still, maybe this story should remind us that wine, in and of itself, is a miraculous gift of a loving creator. Just how many simple miracles do we miss on a regular basis looking for the big miracles in life—like the resurrection of Lazarus later in the Gospel? Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to stop missing God in the miracles of our lives.