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Joy and Judgment

The Gospel of John  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  45:08
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As Jesus performs a quiet sign and a public challenge, we are faced with the question: am I following Jesus and finding joy, or am I fighting Jesus and finding judgment?

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Let’s think back to the question Jesus asked last week: what are you looking for?
What are you looking for to make you happy right now? Is it a purchase you hope to make? A promotion you have worked hard for? Graduation, or at least winter break? Are you hoping a relationship will finally make you happy?
Where are you looking for joy?
This morning, we are going to look at an unusual account in John that is chock full of incredible imagery and powerful pictures as we look at two different events that almost bookend Jesus’s public ministry on earth.
The first is a quiet sign that Jesus performs at a wedding at the beginning of his ministry, and the second is a public confrontation between Jesus and the religious leaders that happened at the end of Jesus’ ministry.
There is a lot to unpack in these two stories, but as we go through them, I want you to keep this main idea in mind: following Jesus brings joy, but fighting Jesus brings judgment.
We are going to see that more clearly as we read through these stories, so let’s dive into the text.
Start in John 2:1-12...
From the story of this wedding, we are going to see that...

1) Following Jesus brings joy.

This is one of the most unusual stories for us because so much of it feels foreign to us.
On the other hand, it is full of ways in which Jesus is fulfilling some beautiful pictures that God gave his people in the Old Testament.
Let’s walk through some of those together as we take a closer look at what is going on.
There is something interesting to catch in the very first phrase: “On the third day”.
Scholars debate on whether this is the third day that continues right after chapter one or if this is the third day since Nathanael has been called.
Depending on how you look at it, it may or may not have unique significance. Since it is somewhat ambiguous, though I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on things the Bible just hints at, which is a principle we are going to use throughout our look at this account.
Either way, we know that the idea of “the third day” is significant for us as Christians. What else happened on a “third day?” Jesus rose from the grave!
It is interesting to notice that John points us toward the resurrection from the very first miracle Jesus did.
Now, let’s talk about the wedding itself. The Bible doesn’t give us a lot of the details we would want: who was getting married? Why was Mary involved? How many people were there?
Since John doesn’t tell us, we can only speculate. It appears that Mary was somehow involved in the banquet preparation, and that implies that there may have been some kind of family connection.
In those days, a wedding feast could last up to seven days, and the family was in charge of food and drink for everyone for that entire time.
By this point in the feast, they had already run out of wine, which would have been a big social disgrace to the family.
Mary comes to Jesus and lets him know what is going on.
Although there are some traditions that report miracles Jesus did as a child, those don’t seem to be accurate.
That means that Jesus had never done any miracles, so it isn’t clear what she expected him to do.
Jesus’s response to her in verse 4 seems really shocking to us, but you have to realize that this wasn’t considered rude to them like it would be to us.
He refers to his mother as “woman” in John 19, which is an incredibly tender passage, so he isn’t being rude.
Instead, he seems to be distancing himself from his mother and the situation, making it clear that he didn’t want to get involved. [1]
His reference to “his hour” is pointing to the events at the end of his ministry: his death on the cross, burial, resurrection, and glorification.
As soon as Jesus performs this miracle, there will be no turning back. His course is set, and he is headed to the cross.
Perhaps he wanted to simply enjoy this wedding with his disciples before he officially began his ministry. [2]
In any case, his mother recognizes that something is about to happen. She doesn’t pester him or nag him; instead, the focus shifts from what she wanted to what Jesus was going to do. She is not in charge. Look at verse 5.
We have one last piece of information that sets the stage for what is coming next. Check out verse 6...
The Jews observed very rigorous ceremonial cleansing laws, and that would have required a lot of water.
In fact, the text says there were 120-180 gallons of water total between all the pots.
This water was designed to be a part of ceremonies that symbolized purification for God’s people.
Now, though, it is about to be transformed by the one who would bring not just outward cleansing but inward cleansing and transformation of the heart.
He is replacing the Jewish ceremonies with the realities they could only point to.
Look at verse 7-9 - At Jesus’s direction, the servants fill the jars. Miraculously, when they give it to the man in charge of the banquet, it had been transformed into wine.
In a quiet moment, the Messiah had demonstrated that the kingdom of God was here.
But why wine? Why is this the first sign that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God?
Wine played an important part in their culture. The water was often unsafe to drink, so wine was a safer alternative.
There is more going on than that, though.
Wine was also a symbol of joy in the Old Testament. In talking about ways God provides for animals and people, the psalmist says that God gives:
Psalm 104:14–15 CSB
He causes grass to grow for the livestock and provides crops for man to cultivate, producing food from the earth, wine that makes human hearts glad— making his face shine with oil— and bread that sustains human hearts.
Wine was also a symbol of God’s provision for his people, right along with grain and oil:
Deuteronomy 11:14 CSB
I will provide rain for your land in the proper time, the autumn and spring rains, and you will harvest your grain, new wine, and fresh oil.
We could also look at the prophets, where the lack of wine is a sign of God’s judgment:
Joel 1:10 CSB
The fields are destroyed; the land grieves; indeed, the grain is destroyed; the new wine is dried up; and the fresh oil fails.
Interestingly, just a few chapters later, Joel begins talking about what it will be like when the Messiah sets up his kingdom, and this is what he says:
Joel 3:18 CSB
In that day the mountains will drip with sweet wine, and the hills will flow with milk. All the streams of Judah will flow with water, and a spring will issue from the Lord’s house, watering the Valley of Acacias.
God promised that abundant wine would be a part of the Kingdom that the Messiah would initiate.
So, what is the first miracle that Jesus does? He makes 120-180 gallons of wine, which would be equivalent to 725-900 modern bottles of wine.
At this largely unknown wedding in a town that we don’t even know for sure where it was, the Messiah who had been anticipated for hundreds of years quietly begins his public ministry by making wine.
Not just any wine, mind you—Look at the conversation in verses 9-10.
The wine Jesus made was better than any of the other wine at the feast.
All of this is foreshadowing another wedding, the greatest feast that history will ever see: the time when Jesus takes the church home to be his bride.
Here is how it is celebrated in Revelation 19:6-9
Revelation 19:6–9 CSB
Then I heard something like the voice of a vast multitude, like the sound of cascading waters, and like the rumbling of loud thunder, saying, Hallelujah, because our Lord God, the Almighty, reigns! Let us be glad, rejoice, and give him glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has prepared herself. She was given fine linen to wear, bright and pure. For the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write: Blessed are those invited to the marriage feast of the Lamb!” He also said to me, “These words of God are true.”
Jesus is quietly pointing people to the kingdom that is coming, and is even now in their midst.
John sums it up in verse 11...
The disciples were able to see God’s glory demonstrated when Jesus took water and transformed into a symbol of joy and abundance that came when the Messiah would bring his kingdom to earth.
This is not just a miracle; it is a sign that points to the fact that Jesus is the one they were waiting for.
Look back at the text: who was it that knew what Jesus did? Who knew that it was Jesus that provided the wine?
Look back at verse 9…the servants who did what he said, and then down to verse 11 - the disciples who were following him.
The headwaiter didn’t know, and we don’t know when people started finding out, but what we do know is that those who followed and obeyed Christ were the first to know what he did.
The first ones who saw that Jesus was the one who brought joy instead of shame were the ones who followed and obeyed him.
I would argue that the same is true today: those who follow Christ are the ones who find true joy.
On the night before his death, Jesus says this to those same disciples:
John 15:11 CSB
“I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.
One of the gifts Jesus gives to his followers is joy. Joy doesn’t always mean happiness, because some circumstances shouldn’t make us happy.
However, there is a deeply rooted joy that comes when we recognize and acknowledge that we serve the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, like we mentioned last week.
This sign that Jesus performed at the wedding was to show that he is the Messiah who is bringing joy, so let me ask you: how have you done this past week with being joyful? Are there situations that you have let overwhelm you to the point that you have lost sight of the fact that you are loved by the King over all creation and that he has drawn you into a relationship with him that cannot be taken away no matter what?
Then drink deeply of the wine that Christ gives this morning! Choose to find joy in Christ no matter what you are facing, because all of those things will one day be over and we will sit together at the marriage supper of the Lamb in the most extravagant feast we will ever know.
Enjoy hints of that now as you experience joy as God speaks through his Word or answers prayer or through the encouragement of your spouse or your kids or your church family who points you to Christ.
Listen to me: I don’t know exactly what is going on in every facet of you life, but what I do know is that if you know Jesus, he is right there with you in the middle of it, and you can find joy.
Think about how Paul, at one of the lowest points of his life, realized that God was using that to show himself strong:
2 Corinthians 12:9–10 CSB
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
This is what it looks like to drink deeply of the wine that Christ gives: to rejoice in the fact that my weakest moments give an opportunity for God’s power to shine brightest though me.
Notice something interesting, though. As we mentioned, only those who followed Jesus understood what was going on.
Although others drank the wine, only his disciples saw God’s glory.
If you aren’t following Christ, the full joy that he offers is not yours.
In God’s goodness, he has made creation full of things that bring happiness and pleasure, but you cannot experience the depth of joy that he offers unless you follow him with everything you are.
We see that in the next account John gives here in chapter 2.
In fact, what we find is that...

2) Fighting Jesus brings judgment.

John does something unique in verse 13.
The wedding took place at the very beginning of Jesus’s public ministry, but now, John fast forwards to the very end of his ministry to give us a contrast.
Jesus’ followers experienced joy as he demonstrated that he was bringing his kingdom to bear on earth. However, even though he had been teaching for a few years, not everyone was willing to give up their ideas to find the joy he gives.
Read with me, starting in verse 13-22...
Let’s explain a little of what is going on here.
Every year, the Israelites were commanded to travel to Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover feast. Since some people were coming from far away, they would just buy a sacrificial animal when they got there instead of bringing one from home.
A lot of those people would have Roman money, which was considered unclean, so they would have to exchange it when they got to the temple.
Although this may have started off as a decent solution, it had reached the point in Jesus’ day where the Temple had turned into a marketplace, and a shady one at that as people were price-gouging and charging ludicrous exchange rates.
Jesus, as the Messiah who is bringing the nation back to worshiping God the way they should, makes a whip and starts driving the animals out and turning over tables.
This is a stark contrast from the first account, isn’t it?
This sure doesn’t look like someone bringing joy and abundance, does it?
It looks like someone who has lost his temper and needs a Snickers or something to calm down, right?
Or, as the text says, is this exactly what we should expect the Messiah to do? Look at verse 17...
Yes, the Messiah comes to bring joy to those who follow him, and that joy is abundant and overflowing and will last forever when we get to heaven with him.
However, for those who fight against him, Jesus brings judgment.
He does not tolerate the merchants and money-changers who cheapened worship and took advantage of people in the name of God.
In their pride, they had reached a place where their conscience was seared and they didn’t think they were doing anything wrong, but they ended up fighting against Jesus.
Interestingly, the Jews ask him for another sign.
Look at his response again (verses 19-20)
Isn’t it interesting that we started the chapter “on the third day” and now we are seeing again that Jesus is going to rebuild the temple in three days?
The Jews had no idea what he was getting at, and they even tried to use these words against him in his trial.
This was the culmination of years of him teaching and working miracles, and yet the Jewish leaders refused to follow and acknowledge that he was the Son of God and the Messiah.
They fought against Jesus, accusing him of blasphemy and manipulating the charges until the Romans agreed to put Jesus to death on a cross.
They thought they had won.
Instead, they missed out on the joy that Jesus brings to those who follow him. They missed out on the abundant life that he promises to those who live in his kingdom now, and unless their hearts changed before their death, they will miss out on the joy-filled feast that Jesus has prepared for his followers.
In fact, those who fight against Jesus find themselves separated from God and judged in their sin for all eternity.
Listen: I don’t want that for you.
I want you to find the joy that comes with following Christ and not the judgment that comes from fighting against him.
Here’s the thing: you may not think you are fighting against Jesus, but if you aren’t following him, you are.
The Jewish leaders fought him overtly, but notice the reaction of the crowd down in verses 23-25...
They liked the signs they had seen, but Jesus wouldn’t entrust himself to them because he knew their hearts.
He did open up to his disciples, and they were able to see his glory, and he even calls them his friends.
However, the crowd liked what Jesus did but were unwilling to follow him, and he knew they would turn on him.
You are either following Jesus or you are fighting with him.
You either face a joy-filled life and eternity, or you face judgment.
How can you escape judgment and find joy? By turning to the one who took your judgment on himself.
He took your judgment on himself by dying in your place, and you know why? The writer of Hebrews calls us to..
Hebrews 12:2 CSB
keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
He endured the cross, taking the shame you and I deserve for our sin, and conquered it so now, he can offer you joy.
Endnotes:
[1] Osborne, Grant R. John: Verse by Verse. Edited by Jeffrey Reimer, Elliot Ritzema, Danielle Thevenaz, and Rebecca Brant. Osborne New Testament Commentaries. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018.
[2] Ibid.
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