The gospel of John is full of hints! (Scholars use the Biblical word "signs" but "hints" is a far more fun way to look at it!) There are stories that have been carefully chosen by the author to hint toward the resurrection. The first of these is the story of turning water into wine.
In John 2, when Mary suggests that Jesus could use his miraculous power to solve the problem of the wine running out, he says: “My hour has not yet come”. Later in John 12, Jesus says the hour has come for glory…when he will die and rise again. The mother of Jesus only appears twice in John, here and as Jesus is dying (chapter 19). This first story about the wine gives us hints to the end of the story.
John starts the story with “On the third day”, which is odd! The other days before it are not numbered. Why mention this one? What major event happens "on the third day" in the story of Jesus? Resurrection! The story is about renewal! It’s a sign of what Jesus’ life, death and resurrection means.
Jesus takes something good – water for cleansing – and turns it into something better – abundant wine for feasting.
Lent is a time for both things: a cleansing of our lives and hearts and minds (getting rid of the junk, making room), and a celebration of the life that Jesus calls us to, life that is abundant (creating, celebrating goodness). In other words, getting used to “doing whatever he tells you" and seeing what God does with that.
John gives us a beautiful picture of what Jesus’ redeeming looks like – a community of people celebrating in abundance. The dream of a redeemed world is also described in Isaiah 25:6-8, linking feasting and fine wine with the end of death and the beginning of eternal life:
“On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth.
Palker J Palmer describes it this way:
In the human world, abundance does not happen automatically It is created when we have the sense to choose community, to come together to celebrate and share our common store. Whether the “scarce resource” is money or love or power or words, the true law of life is that we generate more of whatever seems scarce by trusting its supply and passing it around.
This beautiful wedding story shows us what resurrection life is like: a community of abundance, with a quality far superior to what we first experienced.
As we walk with Jesus through Lent, let's find ways of cleansing, doing whatever God tells us, and celebrating abundance in community.
Some questions for living in Lent:
How do we order our lives so that there is plenty for everyone?
How do we order our lives so that the ordinary stuff is available for God to work a miracle?
How do we order our lives so God can transform us?
How do we order our lives so that we celebrate more than we worry about our lack?
How do we order our lives so that prayer is the first step in problem-solving?