Have you ever played the board game ‘Cluedo’? It has always been a firm favourite in our household. The aim of the game is to find out which of the characters committed murder with what implement in what room of the house. Was it Colonel Mustard in the dining room with the dagger or the Reverend Green in the billiard room with the lead pipe? As the game progresses, each player in turn gets to see the cards of other players and so eliminate the suspects one by one until they feel confident enough to have a guess at the circumstances of the murder. The first correct answer wins the game.
The incident from today’s bible reading is not a murder but a question of wine…very good wine to be precise. The cast are all at a wedding at Cana in Galilee. Here are the characters in the order they appear: the mother of Jesus otherwise known as Mary, Jesus himself, his disciples numbering just 4 or 5 at this stage if following John’s account. Then there are the servants, who work for the catering company, the chief steward who is in charge for the day and of course the bridegroom. The bride does not even get a mention! Sorry girls.
As readers, we are told in verse in verse 3 that the wine has run out but who else knows that? Mary knows and she goes to bend Jesus’ ear about it. ‘Son, they have no wine’. Jesus knows too that the wine has gone, and we can guess that the servants and the chief steward knew as well and were panicking trying to keep it from the other guests.
As readers, we are again in the privileged position of knowing what happens next behind the scenes. Jesus tells the servants to fill six large jars which were to hand for Jewish rites of purification with water, then draw some off and take it to the steward. We are also told that the water had become wine…but who else knew that? Who else knew where the fresh supply of wine had come from? Obviously, Jesus knew and we are told that the servants knew too, but the chief steward doesn’t appear to know or the bridegroom?
Amazingly, it is the chief steward who verifies that a miracle has occurred without even realising it happened. As he tastes this new supply of wine, he is so impressed, he calls the bridegroom across assuming that he had some secret stash of really good wine he’d been holding back. ‘Everyone serves the good wine first and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk, but you have kept the good wine until now.’ (John 3.10)
It is quite possible as the evening wore on and the wine from the water jars kept flowing that the chief steward and the bridegroom never knew the true nature of what really happened until sometime later.
The so-called miracle or sign as John prefers to call it is brilliantly understated. It is almost taken for granted in the text. It is like a clue for those who are looking to solve the real mystery; not the who dun it of Cluedo, but the mystery and meaning of life, a mystery that centres on Jesus himself.
Let’s go back through the events in Cana once more, this time to consider who knew what about Jesus. Mary his mother. She had a good idea didn’t she. She had other children, but Jesus was different, he was without sin and it showed as he grew up. That didn’t mean he wasn’t infuriating. She knew he could solve the wine problem if he wanted to but then he started saying his hour had not yet come. What could that mean? ‘Do whatever he tells you!’
The disciples: Andrew and Peter, Philip and Nathaniel have been convinced enough by Jesus to change their plans and follow him as we heard last week. But it seems that through the events at Cana their relationship with Jesus deepens; that they believed in him.
The servants must have been pretty impressed by what happened. They saw it first-hand. Did they become followers of Jesus and part of the early church? The chief steward, the bridegroom, the unmentioned bride and the rest may have been the last to catch on to what actually happened. What effect did this have on their lives and how they thought of Jesus?
How about you? Life can seem like a game of Cluedo. But we’re not looking for a murderer! Quite the reverse, we are looking for signs of life, to something, someone who makes sense of our existence. It was not just the wise men who looked into the night sky for clues. Countless people ponder the stars on a clear crisp night, sense the spiritual in a given place or search for meaning in a horoscope.
John recorded the events at this Cana wedding for one reason and one reason only. The same reason that he wrote the rest of the gospel that bears his name. ‘…that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and through believing you may have life in his name.’ (John 20.31) For him, Jesus was the answer, in him was life. He did not need any more clues.
To win the game of Cluedo, you need to carefully piece together all the clues. Water into wine is just the first one says John….but what terrific wine it was. Never overlook or be careless about the clues that point to Jesus. Ponder them carefully that you might find in him the fullness of life.
When you play the board game, you keep the information to yourself, less you give the game away to others. But Jesus is an open secret. It’s good to share the clues so that the whole cast of your family and friends may taste the best wine which reserved until now. Amen
Epiphany 3 24.01.2021