Frequently, I don’t know if I should speak or not. I am exceedingly introverted, but I love to share stories or facts that I find interesting. My wife, however, likes to point out that not everyone wants a lecture from “Professor Driver.” I would be a better husband, and certainly a better party guest, if I told fewer stories that turned into history lectures and did a bit more listening. I am trying. The lectionary this week addresses the opposite situation from mine: how speaking up on God’s behalf can be a great blessing.
The passage from Isaiah opens with what sounds to me like a self-pep-talk: “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest” (Isaiah 62:1). The author is psyching himself up to speak, even though he is conscious of his ever-present enemies. The reason that the author can’t keep quiet is that vindication and salvation are coming and will shine forth like the dawn and a torch, respectively (Isaiah 62:1). The author must not desist from speaking until the world knows of God’s glory (Isaiah 62:2). That is quite a burden to have placed upon oneself. I don’t think that same responsibility rests on all of us. But it is important to know when to speak and what to say.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, knew when to speak and when not to stay silent. She told Jesus that he needed to save a booze-less party (John 2:3) and that the waiters should do whatever Jesus said. Even though Jesus said his time to reveal himself publicly had not arrived, at his mother’s urging he spoke up, told the servants what to do, and provided way more wine than could possibly be consumed. When we read this story in isolation, however, it doesn’t seem to point toward God’s vindication and glory. It was nice of Mary and Jesus to provide alcohol for a wedding, but what does turning water into wine have to do with God’s victory over enemies?
Scholars posit that the largest part of the Gospel of John (1:19 – 12:50) is a “book of signs” that points to God’s power and the inauguration of a new era. The signs all witness to God’s power over the Greek gods worshiped in Hellenized areas of the Levant. For example, the feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:5-14) is a demonstration of God’s power to multiply food over and against Demeter, the goddess of the harvest. The healing of the paralytic man at Bethesda (John 5:1-15) tells of Jesus literally strolling into a temple to Asclepius, the demigod of medicine, to demonstrate God’s power to heal when Asclepius fails.
The provision of wine at the wedding is the first sign in John’s “book of signs.” It, too, is aimed squarely at undermining the power of a Greek god, in this case, Dionysus, the god of grapes and wine. When the wine/power of Dionysus ran out, Jesus was content to let the party fade. But Mary called for Jesus to speak, to show that the power of the one, true God is superior to even the divine specialties of Greek gods. So Jesus spoke up and told the servants to draw from the massive vats that held water for ritual purification (John 2:6). The master of ceremonies exclaimed that this wine, made from washing-water, was superior to the other (John 2:10). The gospel author’s gloss at the end of the passage makes sure that we know, again, that this was the first of Jesus’ “signs” and, in performing it, he revealed his glory (John 2:11).
Just as Jesus didn’t stay silent and let God’s glory go unproclaimed, so we are also called to magnify God’s name. What has God done for you? How has God seen you through difficulties? Most importantly, how has God shown God’s self to be more powerful than evil forces in your life, such as fear, unrighteous anger, bigotry or hate? Let us not keep silent or remain quiet, but thank and praise God aloud of all God’s goodness in our lives.