The Servants Who Draw Water
1. In chapter two of John which I read to you there is an account of a wedding that took place in a town called Canaan of Galilee. Jesus is introduced at that wedding with his disciples, and Mary the mother of Jesus participated in giving assistance with serving the food. Based on this, both Jesus and his mother Mary knew quite well the family who was having a public wedding at that period of time, and we can imagine they were working at the party because of their friendship.
2. In times of old as well as today weddings have been the finest stage in life; a wedding is a clean and fresh start. How wonderful it is that the Lord Jesus was there in attendance! Amid such a wonderful blessing, the bride and groom were embarking upon a new life right then and there.
3. But while the party was going on in full swing, an unexpected turn took place. For no reason at all the wine ran dry. In our lives accidents are likely to arise whenever every thing is running smooth, that's when we will trip up unexpectedly.
4. In the weddings of this time period, the head of the house would serve wine to the guests assembled for the celebration, and the custom was that he would have them enjoy themselves until their heart's content. To do this, the master of the house had to prepare ahead of time by having a surplus of wine. However, there were either more guests than expected or he had probably made a mistake in estimating the amount that he was preparing for. At any rate, the wine ran out that was being served at the wedding, which was a major killjoy for the guests and an embarrassment for the head of the house, and furthermore, for the new couple it was an incident that was a bad way to start off which did not help them off to their new life.
5. Well, Jesus' mother Mary notices that the head of the house is puzzled over running out of wine. What could she do to help in such a time? These well-known friends have fallen into a real predicament. "Somehow I've got to help." Under these cirumcstances and having no one else, she brings her problem to Jesus. What do we do when a sudden accident comes upon our well-known friends? At those times, the people who bring their problems to Jesus are happy and fortunate. When the wine ran out Mary went to see Jesus. So without keeping it a secret she briefly only told him the facts of the situation. Namely, verse three goes like this, "We ran out of wine." She did not tell him what to do for her. When Jesus is there he knows the need before we ask. We can experience confidence and trust over how he deals with us because he has the best plans.
6. Jesus replies to this issue in verse four in this way, "O woman, what kind of connection do you have with me? My time still hasn't come." We might feel that he gave a cold reply to his own mother, but the Greek word "o woman" is neither a discourtesy nor does it have any vulgar implications. It's just that it seems Jesus consciously did not use the word "mother" at this particular time. In short, in speaking about the work of Jesus, Jesus made it plain when he said that he obeys the plan of no one else but God and even if it was the request of his mother, he does not obey human demands. When Jesus said, "My time still hasn't come," he meant he will perform God's work not by being ordered about by other person's instructions, but only following God's time or just following the plan of God alone.
7. However, in normal parent and child relationships, if a mother receives a reply like this from her beloved son, she would feel let down and get depressed. But, Mary the mother said to the servants, "Please do just as you are told by this man." We can see a new confidence there for Jesus.
8. Well, in this scene it is plain how Mary gave orders to the household servants and how she had quite a familiarity with the household. In the eyes of the servants Mary, as a friend to the head of the house, was a person on equivalent footing with the master of the house because the orders given by Mary were equivalent to commands made by the master of the house.
9. By the way, in Luke's Gospel (chapter seven), there is a record of a Roman centurion appearing with a request for Jesus to heal a sick man under his command. At that time, the centurion makes his request, "O Lord, you don't need to trouble yourself in going over there. Please say one word and heal my servant." With this the centurion compares the example of himself and his subordinates. That is, he relates how "I am one under authority and there are soldiers under my authority, if I say to one 'come,' he comes. And again if I say to a subordinate 'do this,' he does according to what I said." He declares with such faith that since things happen according to what I say with one word to my subordinates, even more so with one word from the Lord won't there be healing from sickness for those under us? Jesus gave great praise for this man saying, "I say to you I have never seen as much faith as this even in the middle of Israel."
10. Well, just like the centurion had said, when one is a servant one is expected to obey the orders of the household. In this wedding scene, Jesus, in receiving the commission from Mary who was equivalent to the head of household when she said, "whatever this man tells you to do, please do just as he says," is also another person in an equivalent position as head of household over the servants. There are differences between a soldier and a servant, but in this scene when they obey Jesus' directions it was the proper thing to do, if one can speak properly about it.
11. But as for us, we are people who experience trouble from day to day in obeying others or even God. When we are ordered by someone for a reasonable purpose or the intentions or purposes of the order are understandable, it may not be as hard to be obedient. But when we are told, "Get it done!" and when we don't understand the purpose, will it be easy to obey an order like that? For example, although you obeyed, you felt doubt about it, so it will only be a short time that you are able to refrain from asking the question, "For what purpose must I do such a thing?" It wouldn't be too long before you asked it, would it?
12. The command Jesus spoke was "Fill up the water jars completely with water." What they needed was wine and not water. It wouldn't be an odd thing if the doubts they might have had said, "Why must we draw this water?" Furthermore, one could consider the work itself as nothing much at first glance, but if you just think about it a little, you will understand this as very hard work. First, since it was a stone jar, of course it was made of stone. It is different from drawing water with a plastic bucket. Besides that, the size of those stone jars was not like ordinary every day ware. The Bible describes them as stone jars of neither two or three "firkins" in the King James Version or metretes in the Greek, but as we look at the appendix in the New Interconfessional Version [Shinkyodo Version] at the table of weights and measures one "firkin" is written as approximately thirty-nine liters [about nine gallons]. That is, with one stone jar of various capacities of eighty to one hundred twenty liters, the contents of the jar alone could reach more than one hundred kilograms. If you add to this the heaviness of the jar itself which is made of stone, how much could the weight of this go up to? And there were six of those stone jars in all. And add on this besides the weight and number, the work itself of drawing water was not easy. It wasn't the days when you turn on a water faucet and out comes water. I don't know if they drew water from a well or a spring, but it most definitely was rather hard work.
13. However, the servants quietly obey the command given by Jesus. They obeyed based on the word of Jesus who was equivalent to the head of the household. What's more, they did according to what Jesus said, "Please fill it up full with water," and without skimping out on any work, they filled it with water "up to the brim of the jars."
14. Were there doubts boiling up inside their hearts, "Why must we do this?" But, when we look at their manner of work, that is, when we see their manner of work where they went and filled "the jars up to their brims" with water just as he had said, can we not see how they were being obedient to Jesus from their hearts?
15. At one time, Peter the fisherman couldn't catch one single fish even though he was dropping his net all night long. It is a story that takes place before he becomes a disciple of Jesus. Jesus said to that same Peter, [not yet a disciple], "Please row out to the middle of the lake, let your net down, and fish." Peter was a fisherman by trade. You might say Jesus was an amateur in fishing matters, so even though Jesus gave such an order, would Peter be able to obey immediately? Peter said, "Teacher, we worked the night through and still we took in nothing." But, he obeyed. Though halfway full of doubt, he obeyed saying, "Nevertheless, since it is your word, I will see about letting down the net." The results were a big catch of fish and Peter so happened to follow Jesus as a disciple.
16. Well, when we are shown by the Lord what we should do, do we quickly obey him? At times, there will be things shown to us by the Lord that go against our own thoughts and wishes. However, whenever we don't make the will of God a priority in our thoughts, are we really able to follow God?
17. At times, when not understanding what the Lord's purpose may be, feelings may arise that say, "What is the purpose behind this that the Lord made me do it?," and when I compare myself with others, "Am I not being made to take a preposterous detour?," and "Am I not zapped by a rash of bad luck and bad days?"
18. However, we are people who confess Jesus as Lord. If that is so, aren't we then required to have obedient behavior before the Lord just as the servants did who worked faithfully in obeying the head of the household and the Lord's words exactly, and just as Peter who let down the net in obedience to the Lord because he asked him, and based on the reason that it is the word of none other than the Lord himself?
19. Well, Jesus commanded the servants who drew the water, "After drawing it, please bring it to the banquet sponsor." The servants also obeyed this command. Right there a great deed from God occurred. Namely, the work of God was that the water was turned into wine. What Jesus used for that work was plain ol' water. And he used some nameless servants.
20. We understand from this event that in order to be used by the Lord neither skill nor ability is necessary. Just like these servants it is good for us to be nameless and "small" people. The only thing required is following his word, that is, obedience.
21. The sponsor of the banquet just praised the wonderful quality of that wine without knowing where the wine came from. The attendants of the wedding also, without even knowing the wine ran out, probably enjoyed this banquet to its very end. It was more than a case of the master of the house spared the great embarrassment of running out of wine during the course of the wedding; on the contrary, in having taken the best wine for the latter part of the party he would have been able to do the master a great honor.
22. However, except for some of the people there, they did not know the faithful manner of work done by these servants. Their work was not placed before the eyes of men or women.
23. But their work was placed before the eyes of the Lord. And they were able to receive from the Lord a one time special reward.
24. That is, "The servants who drew the water knew where this wine had come." Yes, they did. They knew it quite well. It is an indisputable fact that it was only water drawn by their own hands by the sweat of their brows. Every one of them knew this fact deep inside. However, what was also present was the finest wine. "The servants who drew the water knew it." Even if God had not been at work in that impossible and wonderful occurrence, what did occur was that they saw right in front of their eyes part of an impossible and wonderful deed from start to finish. And, besides witnessing it, they participated in an honor that gets no higher in being used as carriers of that work in which Jesus manifested his glory. Furthermore, this deed was the first sign that was commemorated in the public life of Jesus. Though they were nameless persons, their work was eternally memorialized, so that after two thousand years have passed it still is being passed down without fading away.
25. We are people who often times pursue making a name for ourselves, aren't we? We seek more self-honor, style, and standing than we ought to and we are preventing the glory of the Lord from appearing, aren't we? How wonderful would it be if only the glory of the Lord was shown and we were happy as nameless persons?
26. Again, aren't we people who frequently pursue some good cause? Aren't we making our human ideas a priority while we are disobedient to the Lord? The Lord is literally our head of household. As we look to Jesus as Lord we are the servants of the Lord. Because we are servants, the word of the master of the household is absolute and even if his word makes no sense at all we will obey.
27. However, the Lord is a master of the house who loves us so much that he gave his life for us. Will such a Lord as this order us to do something that makes no sense at all to us? As we look over the lives we have lived up to now, and when we recall the numerous blessings that the Lord has done for us, can't we say that the Lord has never done anything that was outside the highest level of goodness for us? Doesn't everyone have experiences where the Lord has changed our blunders and errors into something profitable upon our repentance and obedience? And, isn't faith in the Lord who will not do anything outside the highest good for us sufficient reason enough to obey the word of the Lord?
28. Surely the path to obedience to the Lord is not just all fun. At church services or in day to day life, at times we will have experiences of pain, bitterness, people we can't understand, and situations we won't be able to have a reasonable understanding about. But please do not quit in your obeying the Lord. The Lord comes down and knows your work. Just as he rewarded the servants who drew the water with an exceptional blessing, the Lord will provide us with some token of thanks, and for the person who labored hard in obeying the Lord he answers with a special blessing which he or she can not even imagine.
29. Today, I would have you to be people who obey the Lord faithfully and that we ourselves might be as the nameless servants who drew the water.