“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7: 13-14
“The Fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.” Proverbs 19:23
“For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. I know that His command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” John 12:49-50
“Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys My word will never see death.” John 8:51
“They did so.” John 2:8b
From John 2
They aren’t even named. “Servants,” it calls them; for eternity, they will only be known as “the servants.” We brush by them when we read the story as we do the bag boy and walker #3. Sometimes, the most beautiful, the most profound, the most extraordinary acts – are so small and quiet we don’t even see them.
Recently, a teacher taught me to see them, the servants. I am so moved by them, and the extraordinary thing they did – “so.” They did “so.” Who knew how much one little word could convict me, change me, grow me – such is the power of Scripture, no?
But before we can discuss what they did – “so” – the stage must be set. Back to the beginning: Jesus. Jesus had been born in some remarkable circumstances, and a moment or two in his childhood had also made folks around him turn their heads and wonder. But after that? Well, Scripture is awfully quiet about Him for a long time. He seems to have begun living a perfectly ordinary, quiet life.
Until. One day, when he was thirty, he went out and began gathering some men, the way rabbis gathered pupils. His were very odd – fishermen, rebels, cynics, even a tax collector – but he picked them so carefully, it almost seemed he knew something about them no one else could see. Then, he went home.
Yep. That is where John 2 begins. See, Jesus and his disciples had been invited to a wedding. It seems his mother was very well acquainted with whomever was hosting the wedding – either that or she was just bossy, because she was ordering their servants around. Some have speculated that perhaps this was a relative’s wedding; given the responsibility Mary seemed to have felt to make sure everyone had enough wine, this seems plausible, no? But the Bible doesn’t say whose wedding, just “a” wedding, and I suppose that’s because it doesn’t really matter – wouldn’t change the story much, now would it?
Anyway. So there he is, with twelve branny-spankin’ new (oddly assorted) disciples, at a wedding.
And they run out of wine.
This is a big deal. HUGE. <cue Indigo Montoya voice> Humiliation galore!
Now, folks have put two and two together and figured out Jesus is some kind of special…something. Prophet? Teacher? Something like that. But they don’t know much else.
They don’t know He can make the blind see.
They don’t know He can calm a storm with a command.
They don’t know He can feed a crowd of thousands with just a few loaves and fish.
They don’t know He can raise the dead.
He hasn’t done any of that yet.
But I’m sure he’s an awesome tradesman. And he was probably a nice enough guy, I’d guess.
That’s what they knew about him, these servants, when they did something absolutely crazy – because he said so.
Back to the story: they ran out of wine. At a wedding. Shame of all shame, they could not meet the needs of their guests! My bet is they were in the middle of drawing straws for who had to tell the master when Mary came in. “Do whatever he tells you,” she said to them.
And do you know what he told them to do? Fill up some jars. With water.
And by now, as a rational person, I’m thinking – ??? Okay, this is weird, but he seems to have a plan so we’ll go with it.
They do what he says and bring the water to him, probably wondering the whole time what it’s for.
And then he drops the bomb on them – “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”
Oh, no, no, no, no, crazy man. The master may be a little tipsy, but he’ll know the difference between wine and WATER, all right?
But – here’s the part, the totally insane, completely and ridiculously stupid part – “they did so.” They DID it – they actually DID it!
And because they did it – because they listened to a perfectly ordinary man’s completely ludicrous advice – they got to know something no one else knew. Jesus could turn water into wine. (Good wine!)
The master of the banquet had no idea that what he was drinking had been water only a few minutes before. The party guests were just happy to have more to drink and didn’t care where it came from. But Bag Boy and Walker #3 – they got something way better than a good time. They saw a miracle. The first miracle.
“They did so.” Wow. You know, I find it really easy to brush off words like these, thinking to myself, well of course they did! It was Jesus. But they didn’t know that and I do, and yet “they did so” and too often I don’t. It’s terrifying, isn’t it? To do what God tells us to do. His directions are, frankly, ludicrous at times. Give the master a cup of water. A cup of WATER. Yeh. But they? They obeyed.
And that’s it, isn’t it. That’s the narrow road: obedience, wild, nonsensical, reckless obedience. Oh yes, that gate certainly is small.
Now, I’m not talking about just following the rules. Believe it or not, my dear, that is a wide, wide road. Many are the rule-followers who do not obey.
Oh yes. Here is an idea that has been steeping in my heart. I have been a rule follower all my life, and many times I have congratulated myself for being such, but God has never been fooled. See, I thought I followed the rules because I was somehow just better than everyone else; really, I was just afraid, afraid of authority, and I used the rules to hide. “No one will have any reason to look closely at me if I just follow the rules,” I thought in my heart. That’s what most rule-followers really are doing: hiding. Many Bible rule-followers are hiding from God. Like the Pharisees.
“Give me the rules, and I will follow them!” I said to God. “No,” He said to me. “Come, follow Me.”
Here is the difference between obeying the rules and obeying God: the first avoids relationship, and the second depends on it. How can I obey someone I avoid? To obey the rules, I only need to know the rules; to obey God requires me to be in constant communication with Him so that I know His will in every circumstance, every decision, every moment. It requires trust like I can hardly believe – it requires me to take a cupful of water to a boss who told me to bring wine. It is, entirely, a much harder thing to do – a much smaller door to enter through.
And yet, Bag Boy and Walker #3 – “They did so.” Maybe, just maybe, I can have that courage, too.