Thursday, June 29, 2006

Empty Vessels

When did the miracle take place? Have you ever wondered that? The wedding was in progress, and something horribly embarrassing happened. Right at the peak of the celebration, they ran out of wine. The host was about to be humiliated, but God intervened and instead, the wedding guests were about to witnesses Christ’s first miracle. Our Lord began with instructions. That was often the case. Not always, but often. Take the six stone water jugs, and fill them with water. Why? Because they were empty. Profound isn’t it? Not really. But what He was about to do was. The text doesn’t answer my question, but I’m still curious. When did it happen? At what point exactly did the water change its properties from water to wine? Was it at the instant they were filled? Did the servants carry wine back unknowingly to the feast? Did some transformation occur within the well before it was dipped? Or was it not until the first sip met the lips of the master of the feast that the water became wine. I wonder, but it doesn’t really matter. The point is, at the start of the first miracle, the barrels were empty, just as with creation, the Master began with nothing.

Consider the widow of Zarephath who gave sacrificially to Elijah. This story is a little different. This time the jars of flour and oil were not empty. Almost, but not quite. She was just about to spend the last of it, to make one final cake for her son, and then they would die. Along comes a stranger, and her plans were interrupted. She poured out the last of her flour and oil for God’s anointed, but the barrel didn’t go dry. For days, it didn’t go dry. And it wouldn’t, not until it had rained. She didn’t know. She thought she was giving all. She didn’t know she would be spared.

One more picture and it’s my favorite. I love this story because it’s such a perfect example of a sinner in the hands of a merciful Father. It’s the story of a woman who was an outcast, unworthy, undeserving, with noting to give, but her tears. This vessel, tarnished by her shame, dared to touch the incarnation of holiness. And I assure you, she gave it all. While onlookers scorned her boldness, she annointed His feet with her tears, wiping them with her hair.

I’ll share my application because it’s somewhat vague and I want it to be clear. My heart’s desire—and it’s the desire I’m sure that reflects the heart need of many Christians—is to be used. I want to have something to give, something to offer. As God confronts me with the areas in my life that need to change, something holds back. Something fears that if this vessel is emptied, it will have nothing left to offer. And I fail to recognize that I never had anything to offer. There was nothing I did at the point of salvation that assured my forgiveness. There is nothing I can do now to ensure His love or to confirm my worthiness to be His child.

Until I recognize that it is Him and not I, I remain the water jar half full, confident, unaware of my need to be filled. I remain the widow’s pitcher, knowing I’m about to be spent, but hesitant to give up the last little bit. I remain a vessel with nothing to offer but tears, but somehow wanting to hold back until I can spill out treasure at the feet of my Savior. But it is not treasure He demands. It is all—even though my all is nothing.

And while I foolishly wait, the Master patiently waits.

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