John 2 1-11 notes
A Study of the Book of John
“That You May Believe”
Sermon # 6
“Jesus – Performs His First Miracle!”
This story begins with the words “On the third day,” that is to say just three days after His baptism in the river Jordan, and His identification as the Lamb of God by John (John 1:33-34), Jesus performs His first recorded miracle. Jesus performed His first miracle, not at a funeral but at a wedding; not in the temple but in a private home.
The occasion of the miracle was a village wedding feast to which Mary, the mother of Jesus had been invited. I find it fascinating that the earthly ministry of Jesus began at a wedding and all of human history will culminate with a wedding (Rev 19:9).
Weddings are always special, but Eastern wedding are far different from what we in the West are use to! In Western weddings the bride is the star of the show, the groom just shows up and tries not get in the way. When she enters, dressed in bridal white the whole congregation stands as the organ plays, “Here comes the Bride.” But in Eastern weddings, it is the groom who is the featured one. And here is something to send a shutter down the spine of all the parents of boys in the congregation. Not only is the groom the featured person but he also pays for the entire affair.
Another key difference is that instead of the couple leaving immediately after the wedding for a honeymoon, they had open house for a week.
The setting for Jesus’ first miracle is given in verses one and two, “On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. (2) Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.”
This morning I want you to notice three things with me about this miracle.
First, The Reason For the Miracle. (2:3-5)
The Request of Mary (v. 3)
“And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine."
Apparently, the amount of wine needed for the wedding feast has been underestimated. As the pastor I understand the dilemma of trying to estimate how many people will be at any particular function. There is the ever present fear that supplies will run out before everyone has been served.
The problem is that the wine has run out and there appears to be no solution. Either there is no more wine available or there is no money to purchase more wine. So Mary takes the problem to Jesus. This in no mere report and although we really have no way of knowing what Mary’s expectations were when she made this statement to Jesus, she informs Him with the hope that He might do something about the situation. Some suggest that she is hinting that He and the disciples need to leave, but I hardly think this is likely. J. Vernon McGee suggest that Mary is asking for is that He at last vindicate her reputation that He is indeed the Son of God. But since He had not yet performed any miracles, this was probably not asking for something super-natural, she just wanted His help. [Warren Wiersbe. Classic Sermons on the Miracles of Jesus. Ch 1. “Empty Waterpots.” (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1995) p.8]
Mary is very careful not to tell Jesus what to do, but it seems clear that she hopes he will do something.
The Response Of Jesus (vv. 4-5).
“Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”
Although in English Jesus’ use of the term “Woman” in addressing His mother seems harsh and abrupt, it was in fact a common term. It is the same form of address He used with the woman at the well (John 4:21) and with the woman taken in adultery (John 8:10) and with Mary Magdalene at the Tomb (John 20:15). It is also the same form of address He uses from the Cross to commend her into the Apostle John’s care (John 19:26). There is no harshness in his voice on any of those occasions.
Jesus goes on to say, “What does your concern have to do with Me?” (v. 4). A literal translation of the Greek phrase would be, “What to me and to you!” Jesus is asking his mother just what has caused her to think the problem was His problem as well as hers. It is as though Mary has said, “Jesus, they are out of wine and WE need to do something!” There is probably not a man in this congregation that can not identify with his wife saying, “WE need to do this or that” but what she really means is “you need to do something!” Jesus responds in like matter with “Ma’am what do you mean we!” Jesus is asserting that not only is he a grown man no longer under the authority of his mother but he is the Messiah! Jesus’ response seems to be setting new parameters in his relationship with his mother. For many years (Jesus is now 30 yrs old) she has raised Jesus as her son. It is perhaps a gentle reminder that she could no longer view him as other mother’s viewed their sons.
Catholics and non-Catholics strongly disagree on the meaning of this verse. Catholic scholars in an effort to support Mary as an intercessor with Jesus are convinced that Mary uses her influence on Jesus to get him to do what he would not otherwise do! The text seems to tell us just the opposite however. The Lord neither abruptly nor arbitrary turns down the request, he does not say, No but neither does he say, Yes. He simply reminds His mother that there has been a change in their relationships.
The only time that Mary is ever recorded as asking something of Jesus, she ends up simply turning to the servants and In verse five says, “….Whatever He says to you, do it.” That is still good advice!
Jesus adds, “My hour has not yet come.” This must surely mean it is not yet time for me to act. Not until the till the wine was completely exhausted would his hour have arrived. All other help must fail before the hour for a miracle has arrived.
Notice Not Only the Reason for the Miracle but…
Second, The Reassurance of This Miracle (2:6-8)
“Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. (7) Jesus said to them, "Fill the waterpots with water." And they filled them up to the brim. (8) And He said to them, "Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast." And they took it.”
There were six stone water-pots that were used by the people who attended the wedding for ceremonial washing (according to Jewish customs people’s hands had to be washed before a meal), each of these pots would have held 20-30 gallons. Multiply 20-30 gallons by six and you have some 120-180 gallons.
Jesus does not wave his arms over the water-pots nor does He speak some magical incantation, there is no hocus-pocus no mumbo-jumbo in which he commands the water to become wine. It appears that He never even touched the water in the pots. The water simply becomes wine. We do not even know for sure at what point it became wine. Somewhere between the water pots and the master of the feast the water became wine.
It should perhaps also be noted that perhaps many miracles today occur in ways that seem so natural that they are not even recognized as miracles.
Four Things We Can We Learn From this Miracle.
•This Miracle Assures Us That Jesus is even Concerned About the Little Things In Life.
It is encouraging to note that the Lord’s first miracle is one that many would consider non-essential. A shortage of wine at a wedding may not seem like a big deal but Warren Weirsbe points out that it was necessary for the groom in those days to have adequate provision at the wedding. It would be extremely embarrassing for him and his family to run out of food or wine. If the supplies had run out at a wedding feast, the family and the young couple would never have lived down the shame. Leon Morris points out, “If one gave a feast of such and such a quality (and quantity!) when his son was married, he was entitled to an equivalent when his neighbors son married. If the neighbor did not provide it, he could be taken to court and sued; a wedding feast was not simply a social occasion, but it involved a legal obligation.” [Leon Morris. “Reflections on the Gospel of John”(Peabody, Mass: Henrickson Pub, 1988) p. 70]
It is unlikely that Jesus would have performed a miracle just to save someone from a minor social embarrassment. What Jesus did was He rescued this young couple from a financial liability which had the potential to cripple them financially for years.
•This Miracle Assures Us That When God Takes Something That Is Ordinary He Makes It Into Something Wonderful.
John specifically points out the water pots were “for the Jewish purification rites” (v. 6). To eat with unwashed hands was an act of defilement. Therefore whenever guest arrived, water from these pots was poured over their hands in a ritual cleansing. Jesus took the water from these water-pots and turned it into fine wine, the finest that the master of ceremonies had ever tasted. Nothing is ordinary after Jesus has touched it.
By the same token, the Lord takes some very fallible vessels, men like James, and John, Peter and Andrews, Philip and Nathanael and makes them in men who ultimately turned the world upside down.
•This Miracle Assures Us That With God
The Best Comes Last!
We are assured that the best comes last. The devil however, gives his best first. He lures us into sin with promises he cannot and does not intend to keep and doles out his trinkets up front. Whatever passing pleasures he does hand out in this life will be best that will ever be experienced. The devil never shows you where he is taking you; he only shows you the next enticing step.
“But for those who know Christ as Savior is as bad as it ever will get. Sometimes our heavenly Father gives us a bitter cup to begin with, perhaps the cup of conviction of sin, but its purpose is that we might take the cup of salvation. Sometimes He gives us the cup of loneliness that we might drink from the cup of His presence. Or we are asked to drink from the cup of failure that we might remember that we serve Him alone. But the day is coming in which our fortune will be reversed: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18) The best is yet to come.” [Erwin W. Lutzer. “Seven Convincing Miracles.” (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999) p. 48.]
•This Miracle Assures Us That God’s Provision is Always Abundant.
Jesus created over 120 gallons of fine wine, this is certainly more than was needed for the wedding. Yet I think the amount is literal and that Jesus intentionally produced the wine in abundance. The young couple would be able to sell the excess and start their married life with an asset instead of a crippling liability.
Not Only Notice the Reassurance of this Miracle but…
Third, The Results of the Miracle. (2:9-11)
“When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. (10) And he said to him, "Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!" (11) This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.”
In verse eleven, John says “This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.” The Greek word (semeion) translated here as “sign” occurs 77 times in the New Testament, and is used to identify an act which calls for the exercise of supernatural power (John 20:30-31). The miracle stories confront us with the question of whether the power of God was or was not revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ. They compel us to say Yes or No!
The effect on the disciples.
The disciples had already believed in Jesus as least to the extent that they understood him. The disciples had only recently begun to follow Jesus and it was only two days before the wedding in Cana that Philip and Nathanael had been called to follow Him. What the miracle in Cana did for them was to deepen their existing faith rather than to bring them to faith. They already believed in Jesus, but their faith grew and was strengthened.
When John tells the story of the wedding in Cana where Jesus performed his first miracle he wants us to believe in Jesus and the Father who sent him. And if we already believe he wants our faith to be strengthened.
“Jesus – Performs His First Miracle!”
First, The ___________ For the Miracle. (2:3-5)
The Request of Mary (v. 3)
The Response of Jesus (vv. 4-5)
Second, The ____________ Of This Miracle (2:6-8)
What Can We Learn From this Miracle
This Miracle Assures Us
• That Jesus is Even Concerned About The _______ Things In Life.
• That When God Takes Something That Is Ordinary He Makes It Into Something ____________l
•That With God The Best Comes ________!
•That God’s Provision is Always ________.
Third, The __________ of the Miracle. (2:9-11) John Hanby
The First Sign: Turning Water into Wine
Have you ever missed a sign? You were looking for some place and you missed the sign. Signs are an important part of our society.
Road signs provide direction. They give information or instructions.
* DMV test—you had better know your signs.
White rectangular signs give information.
Yellow signs give warnings.
Red octagon shaped signs mean stop.
As a driver, you better know your signs.
Signs are also used by virtually every business and restaurant in our culture. One of the keys to a successful business or restaurant is advertisement, and signs play a large part in that venture.
* If I pull into a restaurant that says McDonalds, I want McDonalds and not Burger King. Furthermore, if there is an inspection sign on the wall that has a C, I want to know it. Signs.
Signs are also used for advertising products, places of entertainment, radio stations, television shows, movies, clothing stores, cars, and almost every thing that can be purchased, leased, or borrowed in our society.
Churches even use signs.
Funny church signs—3 mile BC, 2 miles this way. Burnout BC. Hope BC. New Hope BC. Greater New Hope BC. Signs.
People are looking constantly for signs of the end times. The Left Behind series is one of the top-selling novel series of all times. End times preachers warn of the signs of the times. People are searching for religious signs.
A recent BC comic. God give me a sign to know you are there! Wham! A sign drops from the sky.
In our text today, we have what John labels, the first sign. In his gospel, John highlights 7 of these signs in order to fulfill his primary purpose. Do you remember our purpose statement from 20:30-31? “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”
In his gospel, John provides signs/markers that encourage the reader to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing on Him, one is granted eternal life. In today’s text, we read about our first sign. Let’s examine the narrative together and then draw some life lessons from the first sign. Read text.
Jesus and his disciples (at least 5 at this point), along with his mother, have been invited to a wedding in Cana of Galilee. And during this midst of this celebration, the wine runs out. Now understand, weddings were a major event in Jesus’ day (not to suggest they are not major events today). Weddings of that time lasted a week or more; therefore, it was necessary to have plenty of food and beverage. To run out of either was a disgrace and embarrassment for the groom and his family and was even grounds for a lawsuit. So when the wine runs out, it is a major catastrophe.
Mary, who seems to have some organizational role in the wedding, does not know what to do about this situation, so she turns to Jesus and says, “They have no wine.” Evidently, Mary believes that Jesus can fix the problem (this may be motherly ambition). There is no indication that Jesus has performed any miracles prior to this event, but for whatever reason, Jesus’ mother believes Jesus can solve the setback. He may be the primary caregiver in the family at this time.
Jesus’ response may appear a bit harsh: “Woman, what does that have to do with me? My hour has not come.”
I do not suggest any of our youth use this response at home with your own mother. Take out the trash. Woman, what does that have to do with me? My hour has not come. Make your bed. Woman… If you do try this, you may discover that your hour has come sooner than you had anticipated.
What is going on here? Is Jesus setting a bad example for how we should treat our parents? Actually, Jesus’ response is not as unkind as it may appear in our English translations. His reference to His mother as “Woman” was a common term in the first century that does not reflect irreverence or disrespect (but neither is it a term of endearment).
And what about his reply, “what does this have to do with me” or “what do you and I have in common,” is this disrespectful? It appears that Jesus’ abrupt response seems to be setting the parameters for his relationship with his mother. For many years, Mary has raised Jesus as her son. But now, Jesus is redefining their relationship. He is establishing distance between them. Why?
No longer are family relationships to be the determining factor in Jesus’ life. He is beginning His public ministry. He is starting a journey that will end on Calvary’s cross. And just as every other human being, Mary must respond to Jesus in saving faith. She must embrace Him as her personal Savior and Lord. The relationship between Jesus and Mary has changed.
Jesus seems to be reminding Mary that He is controlled by obedience to the Father and not by human relationships. His hour is coming, but it is an hour determined only by the Father. His destiny is not controlled by human relationships but by His divine appointment with death. Indeed, His hour is coming, but it has not yet arrived.
Mary seems to understand at some level this break in their relationship for she instructs the servants to do whatever Jesus says to do. She shows some faith here.
Jesus points to the six stone water-pots that were used for the ceremonial cleansing performed before the meals and instructs the servants to fill them to the brim with water. With all 6 containers, there would have been around 150-180 gallons of water. Why to the brim? So there would be no doubt about the genuineness of this miracle.
The servants obey. Let me interject the words of JC Ryle here: “Duties are ours. Events are God’s. It is Christ’s to make the water wine.” Be faithful to do what we are told to do—fill the water pots and leave the miracle/event to God.
Jesus next commands the servants to draw some of the water out and take it to the chief waiter. Suddenly from the time the servants draw the water and the head attendant tastes the liquid, a miracle occurs. The Bible simply states, the water had become wine. A few simple words for such an extraordinary event. The water has become wine!
The headwaiter is shocked. He has never tasted wine so good. As a matter of fact, he accuses the bridegroom of breaking a first century custom and saving the best wine for last. “You have kept the good wine until now,” asserts the attendant. From all indications, only the disciples and servants know the real story.
In v. 11, John states that this was the beginning of signs in the ministry of Jesus. And as a result of this sign, Jesus’ glory was revealed and the disciples believed in Him. So the miracle created 2 responses: the glory of Christ was revealed and the disciples believed. Remember John’s 2-fold purpose? He wants to tell us who Jesus is (reveal His glory) and to create belief (the response of the disciples). So in recording this miraculous event, John is fulfilling His purpose.
Now let’s draw some life lessons from this story, but before we do, let me mention a couple of things we need to keep in mind about this text.
1) I believe this event is an actual miracle. I do not believe that Jesus merely added water to a half container of wine. I believe when the Bible says the water became wine that the water actually became wine.
2) This text is not to be used to justify the consumption of alcoholic beverages. The primary focus of this text is not the legitimacy or illegitimacy of drinking alcohol. The focus is upon revealing Jesus and creating belief.
Was this fermented wine? more than likely. Does this text justify drinking alcohol? absolutely not. Why not? First of all, today’s alcohol is not even comparable to the wine of Jesus’ day, which was diluted with water to between 1/3 and 1/10 of its fermented strength. And the Bible is clear about abstaining from strong drink, which is where most if not all alcohol of today would fall. To justify drinking alcohol from this text distorts and twists its intended meaning.
Let me just go ahead and say at this point that I believe it is better for the Christian not to partake in alcoholic beverages (and the staff here at Calvary supports me). I believe it is very unwise to support an industry that is responsible for thousands of murders, abused spouses and children, destroyed marriages and homes, and ruined lives. Alcohol consumption is not productive or wise for the Christian. It hinders one’s testimony and can cause a fellow believer to stumble; therefore, it is my stand that abstinence is the best policy for the child of God.
3) I should also mention, on the other hand, that this text should not to be used to suggest that the wine Jesus made was not fermented. I have heard many preachers, who wanting to justify their stance against alcohol, suggest that Jesus made plain grape juice. Perhaps He did, but this cannot be defended from the text, so it is best left unsaid.
Let’s just stick to the primary purpose of this text. Let’s stay focused on what the text does teach us. So what does this text teach us? What life lessons do we learn from the water to wine miracle? We learn to…
1) Trust His provision.
This text reminds us that Jesus Christ provides for our needs. Jesus meets needs. While wine may seem like a trivial need on some levels, it was very important to this couple and to Mary. And here we find that Jesus met the needs of the situation. This provision testifies of His grace. Jesus did not have to perform this miracle, but He did. Jesus did not have to turn the water to wine and save this couple and family the subsequent embarrassment, but He did.
Do you know what this truth tells me? It informs me that Jesus has my interests in mind. His grace is abundant, and He wants to meet my needs. I must merely learn to trust Him. I must rest in His provision. We get very busy trying to meet our own needs when we serve the One who is able and willing to meet our needs.
Let me tell you this morning. Jesus wants to meet your spiritual needs. Each of us has a need spiritually. We are dead in our sins and condemned, but Jesus Christ came to meet that need. He came to provide for our sins. He came to do what we are unable to do—satisfy God’s requirements.
You see, Jesus is the fulfillment of the OT Law. At one level, I believe this text teaches us that Jesus came to fulfill the OT. The OT prophets spoke of a messianic age when the wine would flow freely and Jesus stands as the fulfillment of those promises. He meets our spiritual needs. He has provided the way to eternal life.
This text also reminds us that Jesus replaces the ordinary with the extraordinary. He replaces the old with the new. And indeed, as John tells us in His purpose statement, Jesus is the Messiah. He is the fulfillment of the Law. Spiritually, Jesus wants to meet your need for a Savior. Trust His provision. Come to him in faith. He is able to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.
I maintain that Jesus also wants to meet our physical needs. In Matt. 7.7-11, Jesus teaches us that God wants to provide for His children. We are instructed not to worry about our physical needs on this earth b/c God wants to provide for us. Trust Him. Trust His provision. He will meet your needs.
2) Believe His plan.
This passage shows us that Jesus was living in obedience to God’s plan for His life. He was not on Mary’s agenda. His disciples do not dictate his actions. He was not even following His own plan. His life, his destiny, was controlled by the Father. Jesus did not receive His significance from His mother or disciples, nor does He receive it from us. We are to believe in God’s plan and trust it. God has an agenda and we must move onto God’s agenda and not our own. He has a plan for your life as an individual. He has a plan for CBC. He has a plan and we must believe and trust in His plan and not our own.
Also remember that God’s timing is always best. “My hour has not come,” were the words of Jesus. He was living on God’s timetable, not the reverse. Sometimes we want to run ahead of God. We want God to work on our timetable. But we are directed in this narrative that God has a plan, and we must believe that He is in control. Trust his timing. God is in control. Believe His plan. We must do what we are instructed (fill the containers) and then wait to see what event God has planned.
You just be faithful to do what God has told you to do. Follow the example of Jesus. Believe…Obey…Wait
3) See His power.
As we trust His provision and believe His plan, He allows us to witness His power. John testifies that the disciples saw the glory of Jesus and they believed in Him.
Not everyone who was at the wedding that day saw the glory of God. Not everyone witnessed His power. Only a select few were given the privilege to see the glory of Christ. Only a few believed that day. Many failed to realize the miracle that occurred in their presence. Only a few saw the glory. Throughout much of his ministry, Jesus revealed his glory, but most of the time, only a select few saw this power.
Of course, Jesus Christ’s ultimate glory would be revealed through His death, burial, and resurrection. And Christ’s glory is now revealed in the resurrection power and life he offers to those who respond in faith to God’s call.
Jesus Christ has the power to change lives. He is still in the transforming business. He still meets needs through His transforming resurrection power. And those who experience his forgiveness and embrace Him in faith see His glory revealed. They participate in the power of forgiveness. And that is how we see and experience God’s glory.
Even so, as we pray and read our Bibles and learn to trust in Him and are drawn into a closer relationship with Him, we experience the glory of God. We can witness His power of transformation as He molds and makes us more like Christ.
You see this text is really all about Jesus. It is not about the way He spoke to His mother. It is not about the wine. It is not even about the miracle. It is about the fact that the disciples saw the glory of Christ and believed in Him. And the challenge for us is to see and experience the glory of God and as we do, our faith is increased. Through this first sign, we are to catch a glimpse of Jesus. We are to trust His provision. We are to believe in His plan, and we are to see His power.
Look at the sign. The sign breeds faith. Devin Hudson
What John says is – “He thus revealed his glory.”
That is the purpose of the miracle, to dramatize the glory of Christ, and how the glory of Christ has the power to transform.
Jesus changed the water into wine.
In our lives, there are many times when – figuratively speaking – the wine runs out.
Joy dries up.
We get excited about the rising stock market. We invest with great joy and enthusiasm. Then the Dow drops. And joy dries up.
Families that were once joyful and loving, end relationships in the pain of divorce. Their joy dries up.
A cancer spreads. It is hard to keep the faith. It is discouraging. Joy has dried up.
There are individuals who live from day to day, discouraged and full of sorrow, who can imagine taking a gun – who can feel the barrel being placed against the forehead. They imagine that and think, maybe today. Perhaps tomorrow. Joy has dried up.
You see, for St. John, this was not just a cute wedding story about how some things go wrong during the service and how Jesus fixed it.
This miracle captures the essence of every miracle that was to follow.
This miracle proclaimed the glory of Christ, and how his whole ministry was to come to this earth in order to transform.
And not just to change, but to bring back the joy. To bring wine into the party of life.
Every miracle, every one of the seven signs in John’s Gospel, has to do with demonstrating what the glory of Christ is all about – and how Christ has the power to transform.
A Samaritan woman unable to find anyone who cares for her – she is passed on from one man to another. Almost useless property. Then she finds Jesus at a well and not only does she meet Christ, she meets herself as well. Faced with the truth of her impoverished life, and faced with the insightful grace of Christ, she is transformed.
A government official with a sick son hears of Jesus. He does not ask for a miracle. Only that Jesus comes to be with him and to wait for the child’s death. But what he receives, according to John’s Gospel, is a miracle. The son is healed and he lives. As a result, the entire family believes, and is transformed.
A sick man beside a pool at Bethsaida has become content with the illness within him. For over the years, it has freed him from responsibilities. And allowed him to make demands that others feed him, cloth him, and care for him. When he meets Christ, in the Gospel of John, the man is transformed so that for the first time he really does WANT to be well, and he is healed by the transforming power of Christ.
Moved by the death of a friend, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. A man is thus transformed from death to life.
This is what the Gospel of John is all about.
The power of Christ to change lives.
The power of Christ to transform.
The one whose life is overwhelmed with sin can be transformed and renewed.
The one whose life is at a stagnating standstill can be transformed and empowered.
The joy that has been dried up, can be transformed and restored.
The story of Jesus changing the water to wine is not just a cute little story in John’s Gospel about how Jesus can do whatever he wants to do.
It is the essence of the Gospel.
It is a reflection of everything that Jesus is all about.
Jesus has come, to change things.
Jesus has come, to transform lives.
Copyright 2002. All rights reserved by the author. The Rev. Dr. W. Maynard Pittendreigh
2. God’s new age
Those at the wedding feast who knew their Old Testament scriptures knew that an abundance of wine symbolized the arrival of God’s new age.
Let me read a couple of these texts
"The time is surely coming says the Lord when
the mountains shall drip with sweet wine and
the hills shall flow with it; when my people shall plant vineyards and drink their wine." ( Amos 9:13, l4.)
"On this mountain the Lord will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of well-aged wines strained clear…This is the Lord for whom we have waited. Let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation." (Isaiah 25: 6-10.)
Jesus provided an abundance of wine at the wedding feast - to announce the arrival of the Kingdom of God.
3. Jesus is looking to develop faith
The result of this miracle was to develop faith. John 2:11 says;
This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was Jesus’ first display of his glory. AND HIS DISCIPLES BELIEVED IN HIM.
Was faith just a result of the miracle or had Jesus thought it though. I like to think that it was thought through.
Why - because throughout the Gospels Jesus is looking to develop the faith of those around him.
Jesus’ disciples were probably a bit mixed up.
They had heard John the Baptist identifying Jesus as the Lamb of God – the Messiah.
And yet many “messiahs” had come and gone.
Israel at this time was a hotbed of unrest, with terrorist groups like the Zealots springing up everywhere.
For example Theudas had led a revolt with 400 men and this had been put down, followed by Judas the Galilean (see Acts 5:36/37)
They were right to be wary about following “any old Messiah”.
But this miracle clinched it for them.
On this point, I’d like to point out the faith of the servants.
They took Jesus at his word – even though it was utterly unreasonable.
To give the master of the banquet - water – when he would be expecting wine - would be asking for trouble.
God acts when we have the faith to take him at his word.
Our God is the God of second chances.
Jesus acted out of compassion for the bride and groom and the wedding was saved.
The bride and groom were given another chance.
Isn’t that what the Gospel is all about. Our God is the God of the second chances.
God wants us to have faith in Him. The choice, like that of the servants is ours.
Last week I began by asking you a question. I’m going to do the same thing this week. I want to start by asking you a question about driving. It’s a really easy question to answer but it does help us in understanding our passage today: When driving, do you keep your eyes on the side of road to keep your eyes on all of the road signs or do you quickly get the meaning of the important signs and then turn your attention to what they’re pointing to? For instance, if you see a road sign indicating that a sharp turn is ahead, do you pay careful attention to the road or do you keep scanning the side of the road in case there are more important signs to be read? Of course, you pay attention to the road, because the sign tells you there’s a sharp turn ahead that you have to be aware of.
What is the significance of signs, then? Are they important in and of themselves? Are we to pay a lot of attention to the signs themselves? Or are we to be more concerned with where they are pointing us?
Just looking in the dictionary tells me that a sign is something that conveys information about something else. Many of the definitions of sign use the word symbol, and a symbol is something that represents or stands for something else. Signs convey the meaning and importance of something else. This is true of road signs, of signs and symbols used in mathematics, of any kind of sign. This is also true of biblical signs, and it is significant that “sign” is John’s word for “miracle.”
A Wedding Faux Pas
So here’s the occasion. It’s the day after Jesus calls his first disciples, and he has literally just begun his public ministry. He, his disciples, and members of his family, including his mother and brothers, are invited to a wedding. And of course they attend. Now, weddings in the Jewish tradition lasted seven days – an entire week! – and the bridegroom as the host was expected to provide enough food and wine for the whole seven days. Knowing how much work a wedding celebration is that lasts only a day or so, just so recently having been involved with Alisha’s brother’s wedding, I can’t even begin to imagine how much work it was to pull off a wedding like this one in Cana! And perhaps the bridegroom didn’t know much it took either, because they ran into a big problem at this wedding – they ran out of wine!
What we basically have is an example of first century Jewish math: The wine has run out plus an unfinished wedding celebration equals a major breach of social etiquette. In Jesus’ time running out of wine at a wedding celebration was considered a major social faux pas – a definite no-no – and the host would be the butt of jokes for years to come. Being in Alisha’s family I know what it’s like to be the butt of a joke.
You can be sure, then, as you read this story that this embarrassing situation is going to haunt the bridegroom for years to come unless something is done to fix it. Have you ever been to a wedding celebration where something embarrassing has happened, something that reflected poorly on those who prepared the reception? That is what’s happening here in our story. What happens next?
“They have no wine.”
Well, Jesus’ mother, Mary, is also present at the wedding, and when she learns that they have run out of wine she approaches Jesus. This is the Gospel of John’s first mention of Jesus’ mother and this story provides us with some evidence that Mary perhaps knows of Jesus’ power and identity. We definitely know from the other Gospels that Mary had a habit of pondering things about her son quite deeply.
But Jesus does not, it seems, respond positively to his mother’s implicit request. What does he say? He says, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?” Another translation says, “Woman, what do I have to do with you?” Now before I get into the actual main point of the story, I want to talk about Jesus’ conversation with his mother here, because it can be easy to misunderstand. Some people might say Jesus is showing a lack of respect for his mother here, and that he is being harsh with her. Is this true?
The fact is that Jesus often addressed women by saying “woman.” Now it was unusual in Jesus’ day to use this form of address when speaking with one’s mother, but it seems Jesus does this to play down their familial relation. It calls to mind Jesus’ saying, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Rather than be seen as rude, it was Jesus way of distancing himself from his family connection.
Jesus’ response to Mary tells us also that Jesus is not controlled by anyone – the will to which he is subject is the will of the Father. Not even his mother has a privileged claim on him. Jesus’ actions will be governed by the hour set by God and not anyone else’s time and will. And we should also note that Mary’s response reflects the humility and character that she exhibited 30 years before when first approached by the angel Gabriel and she spoke the words, “Let it be with me according to your word.” Here she says, “Do whatever he tells you.”
The Significance of Miracles
So we next see Jesus – of his own volition – choosing to do something about the wine. What does he do? He has the servants fill the six stone water jars, normally used for Jewish purification rites, and once they have filled them to the brim, orders them to draw it out and bring it to the chief steward. At what precise moment the miracle occurs, we are not told, but once it reaches the chief steward the water has transformed into wine. The steward, seemingly ignorant of what has happened, congratulates the bridegroom for saving the superior wine until this point in the wedding festivities. The servants appear to know what has taken place, but only the disciples believe in Jesus as a result.
I once heard a story about an alcoholic who became a believer, and he was asked how he could possibly believe all the nonsense in the Bible about miracles. Someone asked him, “You don’t believe that
Jesus changed the water into wine do you?” “I sure do,” the man said, “because in our house Jesus changed the whiskey into furniture.”
Have you ever asked God to show you a sign? You thought to yourself, if only God would show some kind of miraculous sign, I would find it easier to believe. I would believe! No longer would I doubt. My faith would be stronger. I know that I have felt this way. Maybe it’s a moment of weakness, and you just want to confirm His truth and His existence in a powerful way. Maybe you’ve seen some of those healers and preachers on television who seem to be able to work miracles and wonders almost on cue.
Here in our story only the disciples believed in Jesus because of the miracle or sign of the turning of water into wine. The servants saw it happen too. The text doesn’t say they believed. Were they indifferent? Confused? Astonished but yet unbelieving? The steward didn’t even seem to notice the miraculous source of the new wine. Or if he did, he ignored and gave a rational explanation – he explained it away. One scholar comments that “the steward tried to reshape the miracle to fit his former categories, while the disciples allowed their categories to be reshaped by this extraordinary transformation of water into wine.”
My point here is that there was more than one response to the sign that Jesus performed – and only the disciples are described as believing in Jesus as a result. This says to me two things at least: first, just being in the presence of a miracle doesn’t mean I will notice anything miraculous; second, even if you witness a miracle, this doesn’t mean you will understand the significance of this miracle or respond the way God intends.
The Meaning of the Sign
Miracles, in and of themselves, are not significant. God’s desire is not to impress, astonish, amaze, and, worse, entertain us. Remember what I said about signs at the beginning of the message today? Signs are pointers. They draw and direct our attention to something, or in this case, to someone else. I like how John calls miracles “signs” because it really highlights what kind of importance these powerful deeds of Jesus have and where their significance lies. John doesn’t try and dress it up and use it as a moment to amaze us. And therefore our question is this: if the turning of water into wine is a sign, what is it signifying? What is the meaning of this sign? Where is it directing our attention?
New Wine in Old Jars
Notice first of all the stone jars or jugs. The story gives us a vivid picture of the jars that are used to make the wine. These jars would normally be used for Jewish purification rituals. At the beginning they are empty waiting to be filled. The Judaism of Jesus’ day, at least at the levels of leadership, was corrupt and spiritually bankrupt and empty – and the filling of these jars with new wine tells us that something new is being created in the midst of Judaism. It reminds us that there is continuity between Jesus and Judaism, and between the Old and New Testaments, that we cannot ignore.
Grace Upon Grace
The jars were filled to the brim with water. They could each hold 20 or 30 gallons. There were six of them. All of these facts point us to the extravagance of the miracle about to take place. Through this sign we see the superabundance of gifts available through Jesus Christ, through whom, we read in 1:17, we have received “grace upon grace.”
The True Bridegroom
The steward, when he tastes this new wine, congratulates the bridegroom for this unusual breach of etiquette – of saving the best till last – but we know that the bridegroom isn’t responsible for this new wine. Or rather that it is the true Bridegroom, namely Jesus that is responsible for the wine. John the Baptist refers to Jesus as the Bridegroom later in 3: 29, 30. Here Jesus is revealed as the Bridegroom, the only one who can provide new wine.
Pointing to Jesus’ Glory
Our story explicitly says that through this sign Jesus “revealed his glory.” What does this tell us? Look back at 1:14 where it says that Jesus’ glory is that of a Father’s only Son. This points us to Jesus’ relationship with the Father. We can trust Jesus to reveal who the Father is – to make God the Father known to us. One clear purpose of miracles was to authenticate the character and person of Jesus and his relationship with his heavenly Father. By revealing his glory through this sign Jesus reveals who he is and who his heavenly Father is. As someone says, “The deed reveals the doer.”
My Hour Has Not Yet Come
When his mother tells him that there is no more wine, Jesus says “my hour has not yet come.” What does he mean here? Has his ministry not yet begun? What does Jesus mean by “hour”? If we take a quick look at John 17:1 – 5 we catch a glimpse of what this hour refers to. John 17 is a passage many call Jesus “high priestly prayer.” Some call it the real “Lord’s Prayer,” because it is the prayer that he prayed and not one he gave to his disciples to pray. It takes place in John’s Gospel in the same place as the prayer in Gethsemane takes place in the other gospels. The first thing he says in this prayer is this: “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.”
When Jesus speaks of his “hour” he is referring to the cross, to the journey to Golgotha, to Calvary, that he is going to take. Once Jesus reveals his glory through the first of his signs, that hour has come. John’s Gospel links this story with the cross as bookends to everything that happens in between. It is in going to the cross and being raised from the grave that Jesus is glorified and God made known.
Conclusion: Responding to the Sign
The whole point of this sign, this miracle of Jesus, is so that his glory might be revealed and that we might believe in him. The whole point is to draw our attention to who Jesus is and what his purpose is. The whole point is to look away from the miracle as quickly as possible and look toward Jesus – and to look toward him with eyes of faith, of belief, of wonder, and of trust, knowing that by looking at him we are also looking at God himself.
So how do we respond to this miracle, this sign of Jesus? Do we rationalize it like the chief steward? Do we react with astonishment and awe without believing like the servants? Or do we respond with belief like the disciples? The greatest miracle here is not the turning of water into wine. No, the greatest miracle is the belief of the disciples. The act of putting our faith in Jesus Christ is more amazing than all the miracles and signs put together. There are places in the gospels where Jesus could not perform miracles because of the unbelief of people. There are other places where faith precedes miracles, such as the woman who was healed by touching Jesus garment. Each of us should always be more interested in seeking more of Jesus than more miracles and signs and wonders. Derek Melanson