Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” John 2:6-8
What grace water has, before God and before his Christ, for bringing out the meaning of baptism! Christ is never unaccompanied by water. He himself is baptized in water, and when he is invited to a marriage, he uses water in making his first show of power… His witness to baptism continues right up to his passion. Tertullian, c. 160 – c. 225 AD
More than ever before in human history we are beginning to understand that, for sustaining physical life, water ranks right alongside the air we breathe. This helps us to understand more clearly than ever before, I believe, the beautiful and powerful importance of water for sustaining spiritual life also.
In the synoptic accounts (syn-optic being from the Greek words which mean ‘to see together’) of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus is baptized by John in the water of the River Jordan, and then spends time in the wilderness , with almost no water, where he is tempted by the fierce power of evil. In John’s Gospel, Jesus is still baptized by his cousin in the water of the Jordan, but then he begins immediately to start calling his disciples. Baptism is one day, calling disciples is the second day, and ‘on the third day there was a wedding…’
Water is basic, essential, in all the Gospels, and so is Jesus’ baptism. His final baptism is his death on the cross, where he is immersed completely, utterly, finally, in the human experience, our experience, even our sinfulness, and he is totally overwhelmed by all of our brokenness. Maybe you remember Jesus’ question to James and John: “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” That’s the Cross! That’s death. But, as we know, that isn’t the end of the story. After Good Friday, there is Easter; after the Cross, there is resurrection.
We are joined, all disciples everywhere and every-when, to Christ and his cross and resurrection in the waters of death and life, with water, H20, and the promise of God. We participate in him, in his life now and forever through the grace of God given in God’s eternal promises, and in the miracle of water joined with those promises.
Water itself is a great miracle, a marvelous gift of God, without which life as we know it would not be possible. Even in Jesus’ first public statement of his identity, water plays an integral role. There would be no exquisite wine at the wedding in Cana if there were not first those six stone jars full of exquisite water. Even Jesus needed water, for life, for ministry, for amazing grace.
What if we could have the faith of his blessed mother, his long-suffering mother? Who knows what might happen if we were to trust in him completely, as she did, so that even as she sighed she was able to tell the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Just think what wonders we might do together; just think of the powerful witness there could be to God’s love at work in this world, this wounded world where so much water is wasted, where so much blood is spilled. Who knows? We might even be able to change dying lakes into the sparking bodies which once they were. Perhaps more rivers could be brought back to life, filled again with fish. Maybe even the oceans of the world, the lungs of the world, could be brought back from the brink, and be restored to health once more. Might it even be possible, that the poisonous and broken relationships which plague us all, from painfully close to globally painful, could be healed?
Pour the water! Pour the wine! Either way Jesus is alive and working still, in spite of us, and even more wonderfully, through us, so that God’s vision for the future will come to pass. Come to the Wedding Banquet. You see, the very best is still to come. Thanks be to God!