Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Empty Vessels

“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast." So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now." This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”
‭‭John‬ ‭2:1-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

At this point early in Jesus’ ministry, His mother and brothers (v. 12) were still with Him. When the unnamed hosts ran out of the wine they needed to fulfill their hospitality duties, Mary approaches Jesus and presents the need. She doesn’t tell Him what to do about it or even ask Him to respond in a certain way. She simply says, “They have no wine.”

That place of emptiness and inability to do what God has called me to do is, honestly, where I wake up most days. My first prayer, before I even get out of bed, is “Lord, I can’t do this. Will You please help me? Show up and show off. Give me Your strength and wisdom to do what You want me to do, and protect me from anything that would injure or aggravate my back and joints.” I understand how it feels to be out of resources, to be an empty vessel with nothing to pour out.

After Mary presents the need, the next step is expectant obedience. She tells the servants to do whatever Jesus says, which in this case is to fill the empty jars with water, 120-180 gallons of water. This is very far outside of my life experience, but it hardly seems like a quick chore. In March we had no running water for a couple of days because of a plumbing repair, and it wasn’t a quick and easy task just to fill our pitchers, buckets, and pots with water in anticipation of that need. How many times during the trips back and forth to the well, river, or cistern did the servants ask themselves what the point was or grumble inwardly or outwardly about this task that appears to make no sense? But they are well enough trained and obedient to see the task thoroughly through, filling the jars “to the brim.”

Then Jesus commands them to draw some out and take it to the party planner, who in puzzlement tells the bridegroom that this water-become-wine is better than all the wine served to that point in the feast.

In the time it takes to fill six large stone water jars with water and take some to the master of the feast, Jesus has created approximately 150 gallons of superb wine. (How many people were at this feast, anyway??) In today’s standard wine bottle volume, based on the ESV conversion of ancient measurement to gallons, that would be 1,524 bottles of wine. If the particular jars held 30 gallons, it would be even more. He responds to need and emptiness not with criticism or rejection, but with superabundant provision.

Charles Spurgeon makes this comment on John 2:11:

“It is a blessed need that makes room for Jesus to come in with miracles of love. It is good to run short that we may be driven to the Lord by our necessity, for he will more than supply it. If we have no need, Christ will not come to us. But if we are in dire necessity, his hands will stretch our to us. If our needs stand before us like huge empty water pots, or if our souls are as full of grief as those same pots were filled with water up to the brim, Jesus can, by his sweet will, turn all the water into wine—the sighing into singing. We should be glad to be weak so the power of God may rest on us” (Spurgeon).

Lord, we bring our emptiness to You. We bring the fullness of our griefs to You. Thank You for our necessity, inadequacy, and weakness that prepare us for Your power to shine forth for Your glory. Fill and transform us. Draw others to trust You because of Your glorious goodness and might in our lives. We ask these things in the name of Jesus our Savior. Amen.

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