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The Wedding at Cana

The Gospel of John: Believe  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  33:43
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Jesus turned the water into wine, and so much more.

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I have a problem. I don’t like things on my hands. As a result I wash my hands too often when I’m cooking. Now, you may not see that as a problem, after all, cross contamination of various foods is never good. But I do. The other day, Danielle and I were preparing dinner together. My job was to open up the salmon from its individually wrapped packages and then put salt and pepper on them. I could not figure out how to do it without washing my hands several times. I must have washed my hands 4 or 5 times that night.
When I eat French fries, I have to wipe my hands between each bite.
I think the bottom line is I can’t stand having stuff on my hands. I don’t like being dirty.
I have a problem.
But, as I understand it, I’m not alone.
Today, as we continue our study in the Gospel of John, we’re going to consider his first miracle or “sign” which happened at a wedding. This involved hand washing and so much more.
If you have your Bibles, let me encourage you to open them to the book of John, chapter 2. As we did last week, we’ll consider the contextual elements of the passage, and then we’ll reflect on some points of application.
Let’s begin with...

Reflections on the passage (John 2:1-12)

So, we’ve tried to leave some extra space in your outlines in case there are things in this passage that jump out at you.
Before we dive into the specifics of this passage, I think it’s important that we consider the context. This chapter marks a new beginning. Chapter 1 included the prologue and a bit of the ministry of John the Baptist. Chapter 2 marks the beginning of what some commentators call the “book of signs” - chapters 2-12. The final chapters of the book commentators refer to as the “book of glory” - chapters 13-21 - as Jesus displays his divinity to his disciples.
John 2:1–2 ESV
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.
So Jesus, His mother and His disciples have been invited to a wedding. The timing of this seems to indicate that it is happening 3 days after the preceding event - which was the calling of Philip and Nathanael.
John 2:3 ESV
When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”
Several of the commentators suggested that this wedding must have been among some close friends or family members to Mary. Her concern over the lack of wine may indicate that she had a hand in the catering.
In their culture, a wedding celebration could last up to 7 days. It became a very big deal. To have the wine (or any of the food) run out would have been a gross oversight on the part of those who were in charge of the provisions - namely the grooms family. This could have resulted in shame or disgrace on the part of the new couple and their extended family - not the best way to begin a marriage.
With Mary approaching Jesus with this concern, it is unclear exactly what she is expecting him to do or even what she believes he can do. She is simply raising the issue.
John 2:4 ESV
And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
As we read this in English, it sounds like Jesus is being disrespectful and harsh - calling his mother “woman.” But this is the same Greek word that Jesus used when he addressed the Samaritan woman in chapter 4, the woman caught in adultery in chapter 8, his own mother on the cross in chapter 19, and Mary Magdalene after the resurrection in chapter 20. (Burge). It might be better understood if it was translated “Ma’am” (Carson). While the Greek word is not an endearing term, it is not as distant as “woman.”
Jesus’ follow up question seems to be a sort of “measured rebuke.” (Carson).
While his public ministry was just getting started, He seemed to be reluctant to go public enough to gain notoriety. And yet, as we will see, while the miraculous sign that followed was a blessing to many, the people who understood what really happened was minimal.
Even with his response, Jesus must have indicated that he would do something, because Mary responds...
John 2:5 ESV
His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
John then gives us a little context.
John 2:6 ESV
Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.
In Judaism, being ceremonially clean was important. This is where my hand washing problem connects. Ceremonial cleanliness indicated that a person could be present in a worship assembly. It also indicated that someone could remain in immediate fellowship with others. These jars, being made of stone, would be resistant to contamination. They would also have likely been used to clean some utensils used for eating and drinking. It’s unlikely that they would have been used as serving vessels.
The story continues…
John 2:7–10 ESV
Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”
So, somewhere between the time that the servants filled the jars with water and the master of the feast tasted the wine, the miracle happened. Jesus bypassed months of harvesting, crushing, fermenting, and mixing - in a moment He turned the water into wine. The MC even acknowledged that this was the best wine that had been served at the feast.
So, in this moment of turmoil, Jesus took what would could have been a shameful blot on the groom and seemed to bring him an added measure of honor by saving the best for last.
John then concludes this pericope, or event in Jesus ministry, with something that bible scholars call and inclusio. Look in your bibles at verse 11. John uses the exact same wording here as he did in verse 1 “at Cana in Galilee”. (Carson) These statements seem to form a bookends to help us grasp the entirety of an event. So John writes in verse 11...
John 2:11 ESV
This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
We learned a couple of weeks ago that John hand-picked several “signs” in order to lay out his argument that Jesus is the Son of God.
John 20:30–31 ESV
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
His whole account of Jesus life is pointing people toward belief.
But, John, by using the word “sign” - does something interesting. He is indicating that the miraculous activity of Jesus is more than a demonstration of his divine power - but they have more significance. You see, John could have used different words to describe Jesus’ activity. Sometimes the gospel writers would use the word dynameis or “mighty works” - but John never does. Other times the writers us the word terata which often gets combined with the Greek word for “signs” to indicate “signs and wonders.” But John is up to something different.
Carson notes:
The Gospel according to John 1. The First Sign: Jesus Changes Water to Wine (2:1–11)

Jesus’ miracles are never simply naked displays of power, still less neat conjuring tricks to impress the masses, but signs, significant displays of power that point beyond themselves to the deeper realities that could be perceived with the eyes of faith.

And this first sign has that affect on Jesus disciples.
These signs would give his followers a glimpse into His glory and divinity. Do you remember back in chapter 1, in the prologue? John wrote...
John 1:14 ESV
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
So this first sign revealed a bit of his glory, his true nature and resulted in his disciples believing in him. They entrusted themselves to him.
After the wedding, John tells us...
John 2:12 ESV
After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.
Jesus and his growing entourage make their way about 30 miles east to the town of Capernaum on the coast of the sea of Galilee.

Points to ponder:

In considering this passage, I think it’s important that we reflect on a couple of things - maybe some more practical elements.
First, in this event at the wedding in Cana, we can see that...

Jesus addresses our earthly needs

There are times when we may feel like the needs or concerns of our lives are too small or mundane to worry the God of the universe, and yet I think that Jesus’ ability and willingness to act in this circumstance communicates that he understands. He knew the shame that would befall this family.
Gary Burge reflects on this a bit in his commentary (p. 102):
There's a practical side to the story that we could easily miss, thanks to our zeal to collect some spiritual truth from the passage. Jesus stepped into a wedding of good friends and fixed a simple problem. They were out of wine and the crisis could prove socially tragic unless a remedy was found. It is easy for us to spiritualize the work of Christ today and conclude that he is only in the business of saving souls and renewing lives. But is he really interested in the commonplace elements of my life? Is he really interested in the simple conundrums of every day living? The Cana and a story says “yes”. We can invite Christ into dilemmas that seem embarrassingly inconsequential – dilemmas that seem ridiculously practical – and ask him to help.
By virtue of the fact that Jesus - the Word of God - became flesh and dwelt with us gives us confidence and hope that he is aware of the challenges we face.
He knows what it’s like when that friend betrays you.
He feels the hurt when that loved one rebells or fall into sinful habits.
Mary, Jesus mother, took a very real problem for the bride and groom and brought it to Jesus.
While this event in Jesus’ ministry is not a direct call to prayer, I believe that it is an application.
There is a famous hymn that states:
Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer,
Thy wings shall my petition bear
To Him whose truth and faithfulness
Engage the waiting soul to bless:
And since He bids me seek His face,
Believe His word, and trust His grace,
I'll cast on Him my ev'ry care,
And wait for Thee, sweet hour of prayer!
Beloved, Jesus is aware of and is willing to address our earthly needs. Present them to Him in faith. Nothing is too small or large for His consideration.
But in addition to addressing our earthly needs, I think this passage helps us to see that...

Jesus addresses our eternal needs

As we began considering this passage today, I told you about my hand-washing problem. We’ll, I’m not alone. The traditions of Judaism required washing on multiple occasions. In order to be ceremonially clean, there had to be a washing. This was a ritual that happened over and over and over again.
Let’s look briefly back at verse 6.
John 2:6 ESV
Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.
John could have simply told us that six stone water jars. Why did John tell us that these are for the Jewish rites of purification? Is he communicating something more? What’s more, the water that had filled those jars for ritualistic purposes had been changed into something completely different, something new.
Don Carson in his commentary on John suggests that this event along with the events of the next two chapters - cleansing the temple, the conversation with Nicodemus, and the conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well - mark what the apostle Paul described as:
2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
The ritualistic requirements of the old religion have been replaced with new wine of life in Jesus.
I love what Burge writes in consideration of this new thing (p. 99)
We must keep in mind that Johnanian themes of Messianic replacement and abundance. Judaism's vessels of purification are now being filled with new things. Or more important, the wine that has been served already is exhausted in Jesus’ new wine is replacing it. "You have saved the best [wine] till now" is thus the theological statement about Jesus and the relative merits of the religious environment he has come to fulfill.
Jesus perfectly fulfilled all of the requirements of the law. In him, all of the performances of washings and sacrifices have been completed. For those who trust in him, we get to have new life, abundant life - free from the ritualistic pressures of religion. We get to allow his finished work to seal us for eternity with God. We get to allow his Spirit to transform us.
Friend, if you’ve not yet entrusted yourself or believed in Jesus, let today be the day of salvation. Let today be the day that you acknowledge the fact that your performances - no matter how good - will still fall short. You can’t wash your hands or your heart enough to be saved. in my hand washing and the salmon, it turned out that I needed help. I needed Danielle to do part of it. You and I need Jesus to help us out of our sinful problem. It only happens by faith.
Ephesians 2:8–9 ESV
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Believe in Him today.
So this sign of turning water into wine met an immediate need for the wedding party. It also demonstrated to Jesus’ disciples that he is introducing something new. He is replacing the the rituals with a new relationship. They responded with belief.
Let’s pray.

The Lord’s Supper

It is providential that we’re considering the sign of the wine at the wedding on a day when we are also observing the Lord’s Supper. Not to make too much of my dirty hands, I think there is another element to this sign that we can overlook. We are all sinful. In the old sacrificial system, we would have been required to offer sacrifices in order to be forgiven, just as my hands needed regularly cleansing, but in the new wine of Jesus blood, we experience permanent, eternal forgiveness. Still sinning, but no longer condemned.
Distribute elements
lead through taking the elements
2 Corinthians 13:14 ESV
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Burge, Gary M. The NIV Application Commentary: John.Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000.
Carson, D. A. The Gospel according to John. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991.
Crossway Bibles. The ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008.
Milne, Bruce. The Message of John (The Bible Speaks Today). Downers Grove, IL. Inter-Varsity Press, 1993.
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