Unexpected Expectations

The unexpected had happened.  The wine for the wedding feast had run out.  The importance of wine at the celebration of the wedding feast of Cana in Galilee was underscored by a saying of the rabbis, “without wine, there is no joy.”  The prophet Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 25:6 of a time when the “Lord of hosts will make a feast for all peoples and of well-aged wines strained clear.”

As Jewish law dictated, a wedding service took place on a Wednesday, but seven days was the expected time for wedding celebrations as the newly wedded couple stayed at home and, for a week, kept open house.  The new husband and wife wore crowns and were dressed in their wedding robes as they were treated like a king and queen.  Where poverty and hardship were the rule of life, a week-long wedding feast of joy and celebration was one of the highlights of life.  As noted in the reading from the 2nd chapter of John, the best wine was served first at a wedding feast and then watered-down wine, consisting of two parts of wine and three parts of water, would be served for the remainder of the wedding feast.

It is in the midst of the unexpected that Jesus’ first miracle in the Gospel of John is recorded as Jesus turns water into wine.  Told by itself, this miracle is the story of Jesus responding to his mother’s request that he do something to help the newly married couple avoid embarrassment as she reports to Jesus that “they have no wine.”  This news leads to an unexpected and somewhat humorous conversation between Jesus and his mother as he tells her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?  My hour has not yet come.”  In turn, Jesus’ mother pretty much ignores what Jesus says and tells the servants to “do whatever he tells you.”

I always thought this was a rather harsh response by Jesus to his mother.  Sort of unexpected, you might say, but it is Jesus’ unexpected conversation with his mother that establishes the expectation of Jesus’ ministry throughout the Gospel of John as John 2:11 states:

“Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in Jesus.”

Expectation #1 – Throughout the Gospel of John, the expectation of Jesus’ ministry is that his disciples will believe in him as his glory is revealed.  Jesus’ glory will be revealed so that his disciples will believe in him.

Expectation #2 – When Jesus told his mother in John 2:4 that “My hour has not yet come” he was announcing that his ministry could not be fully understood until his crucifixion.  In John 12:23, Jesus announces that he has reached the destination of his ministry as he prepares himself for the cross and states, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”

Expectation #3 – Throughout the Gospel of John, the glory of Jesus is revealed as Jesus deals with the unexpected on his journey to the cross.  Some of the unexpected stories in Jesus’ journey include the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry in the remaining verses of the second chapter as he unexpectedly cleanses the temple and he replaces the watered-down temple ministry with the new wine of his ministry.  In the third chapter, Jesus unexpectedly speaks with a Pharisee named Nicodemus in the dark of night about being born anew.  In the fourth chapter of John, Jesus unexpectedly speaks with the Samaritan woman at the well in the light of noon and identifies himself as the Messiah.  In the remaining chapters of John, Jesus’ identity as the Messiah is revealed as he heals on the Sabbath, feeds the 5,000, engages with the outcasts of his day, and interacts with Greeks who were outside of Judaism.

Expectation #4 – Stated in the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in John 2:11 and affirmed by Jesus’ ministry throughout the entire Gospel of John, disciples of Jesus believe Jesus is the Messiah.  In his book Peculiar Treasures, Frederick Buechner describes what it meant for John to believe in Jesus.

“Jesus, for John, is the Jesus he knew in his own heart, and the one he believed everybody else could know too if they only kept their hearts open.”

  1. 76, Peculiar Treasures, A Biblical Who’s Who, Frederick Buechner, Harper San Francisco, 1979

The faith of unexpected expectations is the faith that Jesus proclaims in the Gospel of John.  All of which leads to the second scripture reading for today, the scripture about spiritual gifts and God’s Spirit.  To appreciate the context of this scripture, it is essential to understand that the church of Corinth was the poster church for dysfunctional ministry.  This church was begun by Paul in a city that was an intersection of world views and religions.  It is in this reality that Paul planted seeds of faith in the expectation that members of this church would believe in Jesus.

Corinth has been defined as the most contentious church that Paul began, perhaps, the most unexpected church that Paul planted.  It is in the midst of the inner contention and chaos of this congregation that Paul addresses the expectation that God will use this unexpected congregation to help people believe in Jesus.  Listing the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Paul is writing about unexpected expectations for the ministry of the church in Corinth as they kept their hearts open to Jesus.

The Man Who Moved a Mountain is a biography about Bob Childress, a hardened mountain man who became a Christian and then, unexpectedly, became a minister in the mountains of southwest Virginia in the first half of the 20th century.  He knew about the faith of Jesus being realized in unexpected places as they kept their hearts open to Jesus.

There was a woman, named Josie, who was struck with the disease of glaucoma and lost her eyesight.  She could not be consoled and had been bedfast for a year, with a small child when Bob Childress met her.  She was so thin she was barely alive when she told Bob, “I’m a-goin’ to die.”

Bob told her, “Oh, no, you’re not.  You’re a-goin’ to your daddy’s where your sister can take care of you and the baby.”  “I’ll die there,” Josie said.  All Bob said was, “If you do, you will be as close to heaven there as here.”

Bob drove Josie to the doctor, a forty-mile trip she had been making by covered wagon.  He kept talking and joking all the way.  And when he found out she had a reed organ and had a gift for playing it, he pulled the car to a stop.  “Josie, I declare the Lord has work for you.  You’ve just got to play for us.”  Josie only moaned and shook her head.  But the next Sunday she was in church with her organ, and she didn’t miss a service from then on.”

The Man Who Moved a Mountain, Richard C. Davids

Unexpected expectations.  Water being turned into wine.  How are you keeping your heart open to Jesus?

Unexpected Expectations
by Pastor Marc Brown
January 16, 2022

Accompanying Scriptures: John 2:1-12

Fort Hill United Methodist Church
Order of Worship for January 16, 2021


Scripture Lesson                      John 2:1-12

The Good News                         “Unexpected Expectations”

Music                                              “We Are Called”  by David Haas



Closing Music                        “Spirit of God Descend Upon My Heart”   by David Paxton

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