When Jesus went to the wedding at Cana (see John 2), he was not the Messiah.
He was not a miracle worker or healer. He was not a teacher. He was not a spiritual leader. He was not the Son of God. No one had ever called him “King of kings” or “Lord of lords.”
He was just an anonymous guest at a wedding whose invitation had more to do with his identity as the son of Mary than his identity as the Son of God.
Except when Jesus went to the wedding at Cana, he was the Messiah, a miracle worker and healer, a teacher and spiritual leader, the Son of God, “King of kings” and “Lord of lords.” Only nobody knew it yet.
When the wine was running out at the wedding, Mary asked Jesus to do something about it. But Jesus hesitated.
There were things inside him – God-given qualities that made him unique, that he had yet to share with anyone. And he knew that once he showed his other side, people would never see him the same way again.
He would never again be just Jesus. He would never again be just Mary’s son. People would see him differently and treat him differently, and his life would be transformed forever.
He knew that if he turned the water into wine, he would take on a new identity. So he hesitated.
We forget sometimes that Jesus was a person – fully human just as we are human. Jesus’ hesitation to reveal his divine identity provides a clear reminder of just how human he was.
Revealing our true identities can be scary. It makes us vulnerable to criticism, accusation, insult and hurt. For Jesus, it was downright dangerous. And Jesus teaches that it can be dangerous for us, too. So we hesitate.
Identity is, of course, a lifelong process of discovering who we are and wrestling with questions about where and how we fit into God’s plan. This is especially true of children and youth.
As they begin to take ownership of their own identities, we want to encourage them to share the God inside them before the adult inclination to hide God from the world takes over.
In Christian circles, when we talk about what people are hiding, we’re almost always talking about sin. Secret addictions, past mistakes, harbored grudges, jealousy, envy, greed, pride, hard-heartedness and brokenness. We almost never talk about the good that’s hiding inside.
Perhaps we ought to assume that everyone we meet is hiding something great from the world – that they’re harboring a special ability or protecting a fragile gift from those who would tear them down.
We ought to assume that God is inside them just waiting for the right moment to be revealed.
So what good are you hiding from the world? What is it that people don’t know about you yet? What God-given greatness do you hesitate to share? And how do people identify you?
Inevitably, we identify people by their pasts. It’s the only way we have to know them. We know people by where they’ve been because we can’t see where they’re going. That’s why Jesus was Mary’s son when he went to the wedding.
But when we share the God inside us, we invite people to know us for our future. We let them know where we’re headed. We dare people to see us for who we’re becoming. That’s why Jesus was God’s son when he left the wedding.
What would it take for people to identify you as a child of God, a brother or sister of Christ? Probably less than you think.
You won’t have to turn water into wine or bring the dead back to life, but you will need to be more open about your faith. It will involve risk and vulnerability. People may never see you in quite the same way again.
And we know that. So we hesitate.
When Jesus hesitated, Mary ignored his protests and gently prodded him forward. Consider this a gentle nudge. Take that other side of you, the one you’ve carefully guarded and God has patiently cultivated, and share it with the world.
People will see you differently. They’ll treat you differently. And your life will be transformed forever.
Matt Sapp is the minister of congregational life at Wieuca Road Baptist Church in Atlanta. A version of this column first appeared on Wieuca Road’s blog and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @MattPSapp.