Revealed Through Actions
January 17, 2016
Show me the money!
Have you ever heard that expression? It comes from the movie Jerry Maguire. The movie is about Jerry Maguire, a sports agent who has to lure and entice talented athletes to commit to letting him be their agent, negotiate their contracts with professional teams, and do the things agents do. In a famous scene, Jerry Maguire is trying to convince a star football player to sign a multi-year contract. The player becomes tired of listening to Jerry’s long-winded promises and endless descriptions of rewards and riches, and turns to him and says, “Don’t just stand there and talk. Show me the money!” In effect, he’s saying, “Let your actions speak louder than your words. I don’t want words. Words are empty, I want proof. I want something tangible. Put your money where your mouth is.”
Show me the money.
Who wants words when they can have action? Who will settle for promises when they can see the real thing? Who will be satisfied with bland statements when they can have bold accomplishments?
At the wedding at Cana, Jesus shows the power of God, but He does so almost silently. He doesn’t use many words, but He demonstrates clearly who He is and how God’s power and compassion flow through Him.
John sets the scene of this momentous occasion for us. You know, whenever a story starts with a phrase like “on the third day,” it should make us curious and ask questions like: “What happened on the first two days?” “What led up to the third day?” “What special events were going on that caused someone to keep track and to count those days as something extraordinary?”
It turns out that the three days leading up to the wedding at Cana were action-packed. Several times on those preceding days Jesus showed people who He was through His actions. Two days before the wedding Jesus called His first disciples. He encountered Simon Peter and Andrew and invited them to “come and see” what He would do and how He would live out his identity as God’s chosen one. They immediately call Him “teacher,” which gives us some insight into how Jesus would live out His own calling.
On the next day Jesus traveled to Galilee where He met Philip and Nathanael. As He called them into discipleship, He said, “You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
There was indeed a lot of excitement and energy around Jesus. God was on the move! “Come and see!” It was like people were saying: “You won’t want to miss this!” “God is acting in our midst!” “Come and experience God’s heavenly presence in your real, earthly lives!” Not only was Jesus busy, but John the Baptist was on hand to give some commentary on what the people were witnessing. Jesus, John announced, was “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
With all of this momentum in mind, John turns our attention, with a sense of anticipation, to the story of the wedding. What will Jesus do next? Clearly this will not be simply a “normal” day. We get the feeling that this particular wedding, this particular celebration of the covenant of love, faithfulness and commitment, will be something special because Jesus is there. We get the feeling that it will not simply be a day to share the vows of two people, but will instead be a demonstration of the presence and promise of a God who can change the ordinary into the extraordinary. We get the feeling that Jesus will reveal God’s ability to alter circumstances and transforming them into something new.
The disciples, who had only just been called to follow Jesus, must have wondered exactly who He was, what He could do, and what kind of ministry He, and they, would have. Jesus answered all of those questions at the wedding, not with His words, but with his actions.
The wine gave out at the wedding. Either the bridegroom didn’t plan well or his guests were doing a lot of drinking. Whatever the reason, there was suddenly a real need. The lack of wine at a wedding in those days and in that culture represented an embarrassing deficiency in hospitality and caring. This is was a crisis situation for the groom’s family. Jesus’ mother knew that He had the ability to transform these circumstances, and gives wonderful advice to the servants who were on hand. She tells them, “Do whatever He tells you.” These are words that both the newly called disciples and all of us who want to be followers of Jesus can take to heart. Though not addressed directly to them, those instructions were exactly what the disciples needed to hear. And because they were willing to listen to Jesus, they got to witness a marvel of God.
Jesus performed this first-recorded miracle very matter-of-factly, without wasting any words. He simply directed the servants to fill the available jars with water. He did not offer a prayer or command the water to be changed by the power of His words. He told the servants to give the now-transformed water to the steward, who, when he tasted it, is amazed by the quality of the wine.
Jesus demonstrates God’s power and presence not with a lengthy sermon or even with an explanation. He does not describe God, He shares God. He doesn’t talk about ministry, He does ministry. He lives His faith.
Jesus, the wise rabbi, knows how to teach. As any classroom teacher can tell you, students will learn best not from endless repetition of facts and figures, but by rolling up their sleeves and experiencing the learning process with their five senses.
This is the theory behind the museum and learning center at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead. When tourists go to visit this “Little House on the Prairie,” they are encouraged to immerse themselves in learning about life in the 1880s. This is not a typical museum where children have to tread cautiously with their hands behind their backs, careful not to disturb precious relics. Instead, there are signs everywhere that read, “Please touch!” Young and old alike are invited to sit on the straw-filled mattresses, climb up hay bales and try their hand at picking vegetables in the garden. They can marvel at the one-room school house as they squeeze into the tiny wooden desks and pass around the single tin cup as they share water they have hauled up out of the hand-dug well. The museum curators know that visitors will remember what they learn because they get to see, taste, touch and feel what life in the 19th century was like. This welcome attitude of exploration encourages hands-on learning that will last a lifetime.
And so it was with the amazed steward at the wedding in Cana, who tasted the wine and exclaimed with awe, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Maybe he sensed that God was in that moment. Jesus didn’t have to speak a word, but a miracle was experienced. In the wine steward’s moment of revelation, we see that God chooses to provide the very best for God’s people, simply because God can. That act of love, generosity and grace will stay with the steward for the rest of his days. Not many wedding guests actually saw this miracle of transformation take place, but all of them benefitted from this generous gift. Jesus provided for them, and many people received without even realizing that a miracle had occurred.
Friends, this is the ministry to which you and I are called. Yu and I are asked to share the hope, peace, love and compassion of God. God cares about our concerns, large and small. You and I are asked to share God’s bounty and to demonstrate God’s caring wherever we may find ourselves. We may be guests or visitors in a situation, but we are asked to allow the love and compassion of God to flow through us. You and I are invited to be like Jesus’ first disciples and be witnesses to the glory of God all around us.
Just like those first followers, you and I are also invited to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and live our faith. Our lives, our actions and the way we treat others can be an expression of what we believe. Long after our words have faded from people’s memories, our actions will stand as a testament to our Christian discipleship.
Like the character in the movie Jerry Maguire, people want to see your and my actions more than they want to hear our words. They will remember our showing them God’s love more than our telling them about God’s love. They need to hear God’s love from us, but more importantly they need to see God’s love in us.
Jesus reveled who He was through what He said, but also in what He did. Let’s show Jesus to others in what we say, but also in what we do.
We can be inspired by the adage that is attributed to Saint Francis. When he was speaking about how to be faithful disciples, he wisely said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”
Let’s make sure we reveal Jesus, and our faith in Jesus, to others in our actions as well as our words. Amen.