In the second chapter of the Gospel of John (2:1-11), Jesus performs his first public miracle in the small Galilean hill town of Cana. His mother Mary is apparently involved in the planning, and Jesus and his disciples are invited. Maybe due to the presence of too many guests, the wine runs out before the party ends. Mary points this out to Jesus, expecting him to take care of the problem. “My hour is not come yet,” Jesus tells her, implying that it was not yet the time for him to be working miracles, before his public ministry begins. But he does provide the alcohol, miraculously converting six stone jars of water into fine wine. This “was the first of the signs given by Jesus; it was given in Cana in Galilee. He let his glory be seen, and his disciples believed in him” (2:11).
Cana has been much in the news lately. It’s now spelled “Qana” and falls within the borders of the state of Lebanon. Recall that on Sunday, Israel precision-guided bombs falling on Qana killed 57 civilians, including 37 children -- just a fraction of the 400-plus slaughtered so far in the Israeli assault on the Jewish state’s northern neighbor. This is what virtually every government in the world, except for the U.S., has called “disproportionate” use of force in retaliation for the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hizbollah in what may or may not have been Israeli territory. Even the Israeli government, rather than denying the charge, exults in it:
“[T]o those countries who claim that we are using disproportionate force,” Israeli UN Ambassador Dan Gillerman told a wildly cheering pro-Israel crowd in New York July 18, “I have only this to say: You’re damn right we are.”
With Sen. Hillary Clinton standing and smiling at his side, the ambassador exuded the racist arrogance of the Zionist state, the cultivated posture of victimhood, and the antinomianism of those who suppose themselves elect and hence exempt from the normal requirements of international law. Damn right, they’re tearing up the Holy Land once again, in the tradition of the legendary soldiers of Joshua. You remember, those whom according to the Bible at God’s exhortation killed whole tribes and peoples -- to the last baby -- as they conquered the Promised Land of Canaan?
There is so much righteous slaughter in the Bible, in accounts of the past, and in prophecies for the future -- the latter curiously more credible. I don’t believe the biblical Exodus account, the accounts of the Hebrews annihilating the Canaanite tribes -- any more than I believe that Jesus turned water into wine in Qana. But I believe that the IDF killed those kids in Qana, and (I hereby prophesy) that the Washington-Israel axis will kill many more kids as George W. Bush, with the End Times enthusiast religious right in tow, marches onwards towards a Southwest Asian empire warmly embracing Israel at its core.
Some newscaster on CNN International the other night mentioned that the Qana targeted in Lebanon was the Cana of the New Testament. I wondered how many Christians picked up on that. Maybe those children were sleeping early on the morning of the Christian Sabbath, on the very spot where Mary told Jesus the wine was running out, causing him to perform his first miracle. I’d imagine it would provoke some pain among believers to think that the government of the reconstituted Israel would be boasting about the disproportionate exercise of violence against this town. It’s a pilgrimage site in many religious Holy Land package tours popular with American Christians. But now with maybe an eighth of the Lebanese population fleeing their homes, and no clear end to the Israeli attack, Qana’s going to be pilgrim-free for awhile, I suspect.
The miracle at Cana is unusual in that nobody’s healed, or brought back to life. You find a lot of that sort of thing in Matthew, Mark and Luke, but whoever wrote the Gospel of John was much less interested in miracle-working than the other gospel writers. Yet “John” -- alone of the gospel writers -- records the first supposed miracle, one that shows Jesus’ supernatural abilities, not to heal the sick or resurrect the dead, but rather to provide a “sign” that he is indeed the Messiah. He does so on a very joyous occasion -- a wedding banquet.
Jesus in the myth brings wine to Cana revelers, affirming fun-loving life. Israel in the here and now rains down death and hellfire on Qana’s hunkered innocents. Polls indicate that the majority of Lebanese Christians (as well as Muslims and Druze) support Hizbollah’s resistance to Israeli attacks in their particular part of the lands Jesus walked. You’d hope that American Christians, however sympathetic to the Zionist cause on prophetic-religious grounds, would pay attention, and that they’d ask why, and ask who’s really “damn right” in this situation.
Gary Leupp is a Professor of History, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion, at Tufts University and author of numerous works on Japanese history. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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