Sunday, January 15, 2012

the Second Sunday after the Epiphany: Private Miracles or Public Signs?

And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.

And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.

When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.

This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

St John ii.1 et c.

It;s interesting to examine apparent differences between the Gospels especially when each has its distinctive take on the life of the Lord. Here we see the first miracle in St John's Gospel the transformation of the water into wine at the wedding feast. Compare that with the first miracle in the Gospel of St Mark - the casting out of the demon of a man in Capernaum. The way that miracles are treated in the Synoptic Gospels is different from that of St John. In the Synoptic Gospels, one is given a sense of Christ giving assistance to those in need spontaneously as that need presents itself. In St John, we have Christ speaking and then ramifying his speaking with a miracle or, as St John prefers, a sign.

Of course, the Gospels don't exist in isolation, their position in Holy Scripture is to bring us in to the life of Christ. While conflation may indeed confuse the distinctive voices of the Gospel writers, it is better to look at the corroboration of what they say. The question with which we are presented is: Are the Miracles intended to prove the identity of Christ?

In St John's Gospel, they are: "I am the Bread of Life" is followed by the feeding of the multitude; "I am the Resurrection and the Life" is followed by the raising of Lazarus. It would appear that Jesus is using the suffering of others to His own agenda of proving His identity. However, contrast that with the Christ in the Gospel of Mark who constantly tells the people whom he has healed not to tell anyone about it. So here is an apparent contradiction and a rather negative view of a mercenary Jesus using the sufferings of others for His own Glory. except it isn't like that at all.

The key factor to resolve this contradiction is the very person of Christ - God made Man. In casting off the trappings of Godhead to be like us, He has limited Himself to our mortal frame. This means a limit to His time and to His energy. He has a Gospel to proclaim and a Death to die and He also has love and compassion for all who come to Him in humility. Those who demand signs from Him so that they can satisfy their intellectual pride are frustrated. Christ comes to share yet another suffering with humanity, the suffering that we can't do it all in the time that we have.

St Mark almost has Jesus frazzled and worn out by ministering to the people. Every time He goes to pray by Himself another crowd pops up with genuine concerns which He meets. This may just be a feature of the breakneck speed of St Mark, but it does show us something about our own lives. We too are often busy with genuine concerns which interrupt our quiet time with God. There are times when we have to say "no" and make that time due to our human weakness.

The Jesus in St John's Gospel comments on His life with His disciples including St John. St John seems to be speaking of a more intimate Jesus comfortable with His friends around Him, explaining the happenings and their relevance to His life so that they might believe and spread the Gospel. This is not a mercenary Jesus, because, with St Mark, in St John's Gospel we still see the Messiah crucified for the whole world regardless of person or position.

In putting the Gospels together more carefully we have a better inkling of how it is that God became flesh and dwelt among us and still does if we are willing to accept it. The limitations to the ministry of Jesus are only limitations if we let Him do all the work. The point is that He established the Church in order that His ministry might be continued for everyone, that the hungry might be fed, the thirsty given something to drink, the naked clothed, the slave freed, the prisoner visited and comforted, the orphans and widows provided for and in these acts of Charity, the Gospel might be preached more effectively and really than by words, syllogism and argument.

We can turn water into wine, but not necessarily in the way we would expect.

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