Water and Wine
"While we were still sinners…"
While attending a wedding at Cana, Jesus performed his first miracle, which is, in a way, similar to his last on this Earth. When they ran out of wine, Mary, who was the first to truly know Him, asked Jesus to help. Like a lot of mothers, she had faith that her son was capable of accomplishing anything. She was more right than even she could have imagined. The large water jars were used for the Jewish rites of purification, and after they had been filled, Jesus, of course, turned the water into wine.
He had taken something that was of human effort, something that could only make you ceremonially, superficially clean and He made it into something else entirely. Something that was no longer to be used on the outside, but imbibed. Taken within. No longer plain and dirty, but something intended for joy and celebration.
This is often where Jesus finds us, trying in vain to make ourselves clean by our own effort, doing the things that we have been taught to do, following them to the letter, often times without even thinking.
Maybe we are in the tombs, lost and crazed, a stranger to our own loved ones and even to the self that we once were, roaming the places where no one else is willing to go. Except Jesus. Here he will find us, and offer us peace.
Maybe we have been suffering and sick, for so long that we have forgotten what it was like to feel good, to not struggle with the smallest of tasks without suffering. In our desperation, we reach for the smallest piece of His robe.Even though we are beyond believing that things might get better, we find a spark of hope in Him. He gives us healing.
When we, as a sinner, are surrounded by everyone and everything that would accuse us, throw our failures and shortcomings in our face, whether it be the overly-pious, the hypocrites, our own thoughts and guilt, or the accuser himself - all of them eager to throw their stones, Jesus intercedes on our behalf. Our guilt tells us we deserve it. As sinners, the law requires atonement, it may even require death and sacrifice. The work we could not finish, Christ did. Wrapped it up and put a bow on it. His gift, for us. He turns away the stones, not with force or a heated debate, but with unwavering and abounding grace. Like a stubborn knot finally coming undone, the stones are dropped, and all of the accusations, the guilt, the shame, the sin all slink away in the face of His goodness and mercy. “Neither do I condemn you.”
He intercedes for us, heals us, restores us, cleanses us. Makes us new. His life has been traded for ours, His love and grace proved so magnificent. The infinite made intimate. Now, what does He ask in return? He gave His life, so we are to give ours, our life, our old self exchanged for life more abundant. Thus we are entered into the Body of Christ, to be His hands and feet.
Here we encounter the beautiful dichotomy of Christ.
We who wandered the tombs, are called to enter them again and offer to those we find peace. We who were suffering to offer wholeness and healing. The frightened sinner, bracing for the first stone, now called to turn aside those stones. Sinners called to be the instruments of the Savior. Not because they deserve to be interceded for, but because neither did we. We are asked to let Christ dwell in us, to work and love thru us, and to see Christ in all that encounter. As C.S. Lewis wrote in The Weight of Glory, “Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.”
Jesus’ final act in the flesh was giving His life for all of ours, and in doing so, remaking sinners who were, at best, ceremonially clean into the hands and feet of Jesus Christ Himself. We move from empty gestures and simply moving the dirt from one part to another to a wholeness, a love, and a life that is to be experienced, shared and enjoyed.
“…but you have saved the best till now.”
© 2019 Gregory Rector