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(032) The Gospel of John IV: The Wine that Glorified God

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The Gospel of John IV: The Wine that Glorified God

John 2:1-12

June 1, 2008


·         Read: Hughes’ commentary; DJG: Wine

·         Bible: John 2:13ff and main commentaries, Romans 14:1ff

opening: The church’s uneasy RELATIONSHIP with alcohol

I have been looking forward to this sermon. As I’ve said, most Christians drink, but most churches pretend they don’t.

·         That’s because they are avoiding the hornet’s nest.

·         Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

I believe that our church has a calling to be both an open, honest, and authentic community and to engage our culture.

For both good and evil, alcohol is a significant part of our culture, and we must be able to effectively engage it, regardless of whether or not you drink.

·         Not “Beer will send you to hell” nor “get drunk for Jesus!”

The reason we are addressing this is we’re in John 2:1-12, where Jesus turns water into wine. It is a cool story, but this idea of Jesus making 150 gallons of wine is very troubling to many.

·         Deacon: “He shouldn’t have.”

·         Many preachers and teachers are so uncomfortable with this that they create interesting ways around the plain meaning.

That’s no surprise: Alcohol can be a hugely divisive issue in churches. On one hand, it has been such a destructive force in many lives, on the other the Bible is generally positive about alcohol, while it soundly condemns drunkenness.

To the glory of God!

The goal of this sermon is to teach us how to glorify God whether we drink or refrain from drinking.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV

For believers, our goal is that everything we do, individually and corporately will show the world just how good, loving, and cool God is.

·         God must be welcome into every part of our lives. 

·         My hope is to offend and challenge each of you.

The challenge is that I cannot possibly fairly cover this entire subject, with all its various aspects, in one sermon. I have decided to break it into two:

1. “The Wedding at Cana” and what the Bible has to say about alcohol and the believer.

2. How God calls believers to interact on debatable issues, and the “strong” and “weak” are called to live in unity.


Speak to us at where we are at. I doubt that any of us are spot on alcohol. Convict each of us (myself included) of where we are lacking in love, in grace, or in self-control.

·         Teach us how to glorify you in everything we do: by what we eat or don’t eat, or what we drink or don’t drink.

The wedding

1On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there,  2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 

·         Wedding festivals were huge events, the only party in town, and would last a week.

·         Jesus honors marriage by performing his first miracle at a wedding – the Gnostics thought of it as a necessary evil.

3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” 

She probably knew from experience that Jesus got things done.

4”Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” 

It wasn’t time to reveal himself to the world through miracles.

5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Like a good mother, she ignores him, like the college student insisting he can do his own laundry. But this is a beautiful act of faith, one of the earlier demonstrations of such.

 6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

The Jews were literally legalistic about washing their hands before they ate (I wish I could get my girls to do that).

It’s kind of funny Jesus uses these objects created for legalism and fills them with wine! He got rid of the religious stuff in order to have a party.

·         That’s like using the baptistery for the spiked punch.

But this is not a trivial detail. Jesus intentionally supplants the religious ritual to demonstrate that something better has arrived. More on that later

7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. 

·         That’s a lot of wine – 750 bottles worth!

8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so,  9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine.

This is a miracle of the highest order. Some miracles are divine ordering of events, this is setting the laws of physics aside.

He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.

Remember that Jesus said it was not his time? Notice that he manages to do it in a way that does not draw public attention to himself, but still blesses this couple.

·         Running out of wine would have been a huge social faux pas.

·         They may have sold the leftovers.

Then he called the bridegroom aside  10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

This statement is kind of funny. Once the guests are halfway to drunk, you can fill the empty French bottles with boxed wine and pour gin and tonics without any gin.

This part is also very troublesome to many commentators. Not only does Jesus make 150 gallons of really good wine, but he serves it to people who have had too much to drink.

Q   What are we supposed to do with that?

I don’t know. There is nothing I can say at this point that won’t get me into trouble, so you figure it out and tell me. 

11 This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.  12 ¶ After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days. John 2:1-12 NIV

John’s symbolism

This story has rich meaning on two levels.

1. The events themselves: Jesus demonstrates his power, and in the following passage, Jesus demonstrates his authority.

·         This wine glorified God.

2. Rich symbolism: Jesus is the vine, the wine is his blood.

The water could only wash the exterior, but his blood is able to truly wash us and cleanse us of sin.

·         This miracle seems to foreshadow Jesus death.

Water could only wash something away, but the wine could bring joy, and in Christ we find not only cleansing, but the fullness of joy.

Ä  In fact, even as the Bible condemns drunkenness, it frequently uses wine is a symbol of God’s rich blessing.

Q   Why wine?

It was something of a luxury that required peace and a bountiful harvest. If you were disobedient, no wine, but if you were in obedience, God blessed you with lots of wine:

9 Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops;  10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. Proverbs 3:9-10 NIV

Ä  But this symbol of blessing doesn’t translate well, because alcohol has been such a curse.

The devil’s drink

·         Appx. 14 million Americans (1 in 13 adults) abuse alcohol.

·         Alcohol is the third leading cause of preventable death

·         Drunk drivers are responsible for 50% of highway fatalities

·         Alcohol is a factor in nearly half of America’s murders, suicides, and accidental deaths

·         Individuals in stable marriages have the lowest incidence of lifetime prevalence of alcoholism (8.9%) as opposed to co-habiting adults who have never been married (29.2%).

·         Alcoholism is most common among the unemployed, those of lower socioeconomic status, and high school drop outs.

We know that alcoholism is a destructive force to many people, especially in this neighborhood [High Gravity can]. We also know that it has been destructive to many in this church.

·         These facts make it very hard for many Christians to see wine as a blessing, for indeed it is a curse to them.

At the same time, these problems are not new. Drunkenness was very common in Biblical times, which is why the Bible has so many warnings, and so we look to the Bible as our guide.

Ä  Two points are very clear Biblically.

What the Bible says

1. Alcohol is not evil.

Friend of sinners

The Bible is also clear that Jesus drank, and not grape juice. The Pharisees called him a glutton and drunkard, and a friend of sinners. He wasn’t a drunkard, but you don’t accuse a teetotaler of that.

·         Every time they see him he’s got a beer in one hand, hot wings in the other, and he’s tell jokes to the prostitutes.

·         This is the kind of God that people want to hang out with.

Q   How many Christian do you know that look more like the Pharisees than Jesus?

God’s gift

14 He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate – bringing forth food from the earth:  15 wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart. Psalm 104:14-15 NIV 

Notice that it “gladdens” hearts: Contrast this to an article that said that if you can feel it, you are sinning

·         Because we don’t usually see people stop at a “glad heart,” but go straight to “drunk,” it’s hard to appreciate this.

BTW: My theory, Jesus gave wine to the guests who “had plenty to drink,” they had glad hearts, but weren’t drunk.

Additionally: Wine was given by God as a gift. Hell has no pleasures; it can only corrupt heaven’s gifts.

Ä  Depending on how you feel about drinking, up to this point you have probably thought “This is a great sermon!” or “What on earth is he saying!?!”

·         I hope to swap those two groups now.  

2. Drunkenness is strictly prohibited.

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;  20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions  21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 NIV   

·         It’s on God’s dirty dozen!

3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do – living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.  4 They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. 1 Peter 4:3-4 NIV

As I said, the devil loves nothing more that to take something that was meant to be a blessing and make it a curse; and drunkenness makes drink a curse.

·         Short term: Words or actions we regret, DUI’s. Even one time can get us into big trouble if we are unlucky.

·         Long term: A life of drunkenness destroys lives and families in unimaginable ways.

God doesn’t call it sin because he doesn’t want us to have a good time, but because he wants to save us from a world of pain.

My fear for the church

It is my guess that drunkenness will become a bigger problem among evangelical Christian because more of them are drinking, but church aren’t teaching about.

·         The pendulum swings, and freedom becomes indulgence.

I have seen this happen in my own life, and I seen in other believers. We can be so on guard against legalism that we walk into ungodliness.  

There are a lot of churches saying “Don’t drink,” but not many saying “Here is how to drink, or not drink, to God’s glory.”

Guidelines for Glorifying God

1. Follow the Bible’s commands: Don’t get drunk, obey the law.

2. Ensure that you are not mastered by anything or that you are not injuring your health.

·         Not just alcohol! Caffeine, nicotine, food, TV.

·         Can you give it up for a time?

3. Look for opportunities to bring glory to God through your drinking or abstaining.

·         My small group: We have fun together and that has allowed us to grow.

·         Choosing to drink or not drink to build relationships (Nate’s neighbors and my neighbors).

·         Whichever group you are, you will be able to speak to people the others couldn’t, help people who others can’t.

4. Show love and grace towards each other: don’t injure a weaker brother (next week), and don’t judge a stronger brother.

·         On this topic, before I close, I want to have Noel speak, as a recovered alcoholic.

·         Alcohol only has positive associations for me, it equals fellowship and sharing Jesus, so I cannot fully appreciate what it mean to be hurt by it.


1. His association with alcoholic

2. Grace to understand each other

3. Help each other out

4. Asking for grace from both sides

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