There are so many stories about how God might show up in ordinary – or extraordinary – life. Ancient myths tell of half human superheros battling (usually battling!) great odds in deeds of bravery and endurance. There is a strong echo in the superhero comics of western culture. It gets a little fuzzier, and perhaps more emotionally based, in a tolerant and diverse mix of races and traditions. Superwomen get fitted in, perhaps a little uncomfortably, as dependant as their male counterparts on their superpowers.
So will Jesus just join the supercult? Perhaps not. John wants to tell us in his gospel of the “signs” that marked Jesus out. Yes, they are powerful, but the power is rather more thoughtful and significant than the “Blam” “Zap” action of the comic strip. The first sign John records (John 2:1-11) is not one of earth-shaking power, not of terror-inspiring judgement. The story starts as Jesus goes with disiples to a village wedding. His mother is there – perhaps as a relative, for the servants take instructions from her.
The disaster is that the wine runs out. We don’t know why. (Did the disciples have too great a thirst?). But this is terrible, no one will forget the wedding that ended in disaster and disgrace. Jesus seems unready, but his mother shows confidence, and instructs the servants. Then, there is wine again, and the MC is making comments about how odd it is to use the best wine after there has been a good deal of drinking already!
What would you have expected the first sign of Jesus ministry to be? Something awe inspiring? A dramatic warning – this is your LAST CHANCE!!! An intellectual breakthrough for the scholars? It seems that God’s choice is a generous act of kindness, rescuing a young couple and their humble family, standing alongside ordinary people and using unimaginable power without belittling or embarrassing them.
John has additional things to say – about something more powerful that “Jewish rites of purification”, and about the time not having come for the great demonstration of God’s power (which will come, with awesome puzzlingness, at a hill called calvary). But don’t miss the point. The first sign of Jesus power points to things which will remain significant: involvement with ordinary people and real life, transformation, discovering God at work in all that. Hooray!