What to do when the wine runs out

On the third day, a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone…

Have you ever invited someone over to your house for dinner and the meal was a bust? Perhaps your timing was off and dinner took longer to prepare than you anticipated. Or when you pulled the dish out of the oven you discovered it was overcooked or underdone. Or upon taking that first bite, you realize you left out the most important ingredient. Moments like this are filled with panic and embarrassment.

Now multiply that ten times over.

In John 2, Jesus finds himself on the receiving end of one of those moments. Along with his mother and disciples, he’s been invited to a wedding celebration. And in his culture, wedding festivities could last up to seven days. First century Jews knew how to throw a party! But at this celebration, only a few days in, the wine runs out. Essentially, this wedding is about to become a social disaster. The bride, groom, and their families are about to become the laughing-stock of the entire town.

Whether the bride and groom are aware of the situation, or whether it’s just the wait staff, we don’t know. But Jesus’ mother, Mary, knows and she tries to absorb the panic and embarrassment for the couple. And she knows just what to do and precisely who can fix it.

When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

I love Mary’s response. Spoken like a good mother. She completely ignores her son’s abruptness and resistance and gets on with the solution. She gathers the servants around and says… “Do whatever he tells you.”

Let those words linger just a second – Do… whatever… he tells you.

I love the confidence that Mary has in her son. I don’t know if she truly understands his vocation and calling as Israel’s Messiah and what that ultimately means for her son, but she knows her son is different. She knows that God is orchestrating something for her people, and her son, Jesus, stands in the middle of it. She knows that at this moment the situation they face isn’t too big for him. He can handle it.

“Do whatever he tells you.” 

I long for that same confidence in Jesus. It’s inspiring. It’s breathtaking. It’s astounding. I want a front row seat to the wonderful things that Jesus is capable of doing in and through people who have complete confidence in Him. I wanna be one of those people. Don’t you?

But while those words are tremendous, they’re also terrifying. Because it means if I’m gonna be the type of person who has that level of confidence in Jesus, I also have to be the type of person who’s willing to do whatever he tells me. It’s one thing, like Mary, to tell other people, “Do whatever he tells you.” It’s another thing to follow your own admonition, because it might mean he asks us to do something ridiculous and foolish, something that, on the surface, makes no sense at all. Like filling empty jars with water and then trying to serve it, passing it off as though it’s wine.

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

When Jesus gives direction to the servants on what to do, he gives no explanation. He just gives direction. He’s quick and matter of fact. He expects that they’ll do it. And when I read this story I can’t help but wonder, when did the water turn to wine?

Was it once the water jars were full? Did it happen when they dipped the ladle into the water? Or was it only after they started walking toward the master of the banquet? I have no idea.

When it’s all said and done, what I find remarkable is the description of servants. When the water jars are full and water most likely has also splashed all over the ground, and Jesus says to draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet, it says of the servants…

They did so… (v8) 

We're also told that their obedience is quiet and unnoticed. John tells us that the master of the banquet didn’t know where the wine came from but the servants did (v9). And that’s all that we hear about them, or Mary, in the rest of this story.

They slip away unnoticed, taking no credit. They don’t make a big fuss. They don’t try to gain recognition by association. They simply did what they were told to do and then carried on with their jobs. They obeyed in anonymity.

I can’t help but wonder if somewhere along the way there was some measure of anxiety and doubt for them. Jesus was asking them to do something rather odd that most likely they’d never seen done before. But could it have been that Mary’s confidence in Jesus somehow inspired their own? That her certainty helped them push through their doubt?

Which leads to a few questions…

1. Do the people in your life inspire you to have greater confidence in Christ? Or do they cause you to grow suspicious of Him?
2. Is Jesus currently asking you to do something that seems weird or ridiculous?
3. Are you willing to follow even though it may not make sense?

Pour yourself a glass of wine. Sip it slowly and think it over.