Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on January 31, 2016
Open your Bibles with me to John 2:1-12. We will read our text, pray and then examine our text so as to see the glory of God in the face of Christ.
At first glance, this story of events seems to be lacking. We read these verse and we shrug our shoulders and say so what, why do we care, how is this relevant, how does this help my broken life?
If that is you, I want you to know that the text is not the problem, your heart is. If we find the living Word of God to be mundane, boring, irrelevant, ineffective it is not because God is a poor writer of books, it is because you have sin blinding you from seeing what God wants to show you. For each of us, sin effects how we read God’s Word, and we under value its worth. We undervalue its relevance. We undervalue its depth. We undervalue its power. So let us not to that today, for this is God’s Word, coming from God’s mouth.
From the moment that Jesus was revealed as the long awaited for Messiah in John 1, things began to move very quickly. In our text we see John emphasizing that fact by stating these events too place on the third day. At this point in the unfolding of this Gospel, Jesus has five followers: Andrew, Peter, Philip, Nathanel, and the other unnamed disciple. Most likely this unnamed disciple is the author of our story, John, hence why he remains unnamed, but we can’t be for sure.
On the third day they find themselves at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Earlier we learned that Cana was the hometown of Nathaniel. The town itself was believed to be no more than 500 people, so about the size of Wyoming, IA. Cana was located about 9 miles from Nazareth. It is believed that Nazareth was slightly larger and it is believed that a fair amount of people from Cana would have gone to Nazareth for trade. Because of the small size of Nazareth and Cana, it is likely that the reason that Jesus was at the wedding is because he personally knew the bride or the bridegroom or both. Our text does not tell us, but Mary's concern about the lack of wine seems to lead us to believe that she was somehow concerned about how the success of the event. Likewise the ending of our story has Mary, Jesus' half brothers, and his disciples going together to Capernaum. Therefore, I think it is fair to assume this wedding was a family affair.
Weddings during this time were even bigger deals then they are today. Weddings would have been the event of the year for a place like Cana. It is not like today where we have entertainment overload. There were no high school sporting events, no movie theaters, no concerts, nothing but weddings and funerals. Therefore, when a wedding occurred, they went all in. The tradition was the weddings could last up to seven days long. There would be eating and drinking and perhaps dancing. The one thing that was different about wedding celebrations back then as compared to now is that the celebration fell squarely on the bridegrooms shoulders, not the bride. Today our tradition is that the parents of the bride pay for the reception, not so back then. And you can see this in our text in verse 9 where it says, “the master of the feast called the bridegroom.” For it was the bridegroom was the one who was responsible for supplying the wine.
Now one thought that may be running through you mind at this point is who cares? Who care is the wine runs out? Just go get some more, or end the party sooner. What is the big deal? The big deal was the embarrassment. One of the reasons the bridegroom was responsible for the festivities was to display his ability to care for the bride. This was the first display of his role of husband, to be a provider. This was the first impression to his bride, her family, and the entire community in regards of what type of bridegroom he would be. Failure to provide a sufficient amount of wine would have been a sign of the bridegroom's inadequacies and would be a stigma that would last his entire life. The wedding was a defining moment man's life.
What this Text is Not About
When I was in high school, I didn't cuss, didn't drink, didn't do anything bad. As Paul said, I was a pharisee of pharisees. At that time in my life I wasn't saved, I was a legalist. Because of that, this story drove me crazy. I hated that the first miracle that Jesus performed was to turn water into wine. I was a teetotaler, and I wanted Jesus to be one too. This miracle destroyed that hope. I attempted to rationalize that perhaps the wine was non-alcoholic, but I knew that probably wasn't the case. So I always struggled with why. Why did Jesus of all ways to break into the public limelight and choose that his first miracle to be turning water into wine. To answer that question lets begin by clarifying what this story is not about.
As is common, the Roman Catholic Church has twisted this section of Bible to suit their own purposes. As all of you know, the Roman Catholic Church exults Mary to the position of God. They will argue that they don’t, but the evidence is overwhelming clear, they pray to her, sing songs about her, hail her, plaster her on billboards, and put little idols of her all around town.
Because of the idol worship of Mary they change the meaning of text to match their false teaching. One way they do it is John 2. In this story we see Jesus’ mom coming to him and informing him of a problem. Jesus responds, and then his mom tells the servants to do what Jesus tells them. The Roman Catholic Church sees this as an example of the special position Jesus mom has as mediatrix. By this they mean that Jesus’ mom is the mediator between man and God. Therefore, Romans Catholics are taught to read this text and see the glory of Jesus’ mom, and therefore go to Mary for grace. Teaching that this text is about Mary is first of all intellectually ridiculous, but it is also straight from the pits of Hell. The Bible is very clear.
Now, if you noticed, I never once referred to Jesus’ mom by name. What is interesting is neither does John. He chooses to leave her name out of our story today. However what is interesting is that John never speaks Mary's name in all of this Gospel. It is as if John is attempting to take the focus off of Mary. It is as if he is trying to create a distance with her.
And it is not just John who does this. Notice Jesus’ response to his mom. Instead of calling her mom, or Mary, or anything affectionate he calls her “Women.” Why does Jesus do this? Why do we see his interaction with his mom, as he begins his ministry, as one that is ordinary, or common? Why doesn’t Jesus display a specific affection for the women who gave birth to him? It is really quite elementary. It is because Jesus is God.
As Jesus begins his public ministry, the veil is being lifted, and in this semi-public setting he wants to make it clear that His mother does not have authority over him. Instead he wants to make it clear that He has authority over her. It is interesting that the truth of this text is actually the exact opposite of what the Roman Catholic Church teaches. Jesus desires to display a separation with Mary because he knows the sinful hearts of man and our propensity to worship created things, not the Creator. Mary was a creature. She was a descendent of Adam, just like all of us. And just like all of us, through Adam we have all inherited a sin nature. Mary was a sinner in need of God's salvation just like you and I. And so in our text today, we see Jesus right out of the gate making it very clear that he does not submit to his mother’s demands. However this does not mean that he will not act.
Angels of God Ascending and Descending
So if the glory of Mary is not the purpose of this text, then what is? For us to understand what is going on, it would be wise for us to think big picture. If you recall, the purpose of this book is found in John 20:31, “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.” John writes this gospel for the ultimate purpose of putting Christ on display so that those who read these words would believe in Jesus and have life. This is the author's purpose.
With this in mind, turn back to John 1:51. Last week, I passed over this text but it is a good launching point for today.
What is John saying here? First it is a reference back to Genesis 28 where Jacob had dream where he saw a ladder that reached to heaven and angels were ascending and descending, and in Genesis 28:14 God says this to Jacob, “Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” Jesus is proclaiming, and John is telling, that this prophecy in Genesis 28 is being fulfilled in Jesus at this moment in time.
It is one thing to say it, it is another thing to show it, and that is what John does in his gospel account. He wants to show that heaven really was pouring out on Christ. In the Gospel of John there are seven signs, or miracles, that John testifies to: changing water into wine, the healing of an official’s son, the healing of a paralytic, the feeding of the 5000, Jesus walking on water, the healing of a man born blind, and the raising of Lazarus from the dead. On top of these signs there is, of course the resurrection, which is the greatest of all sings, and then there is a closing miracle of a great catch of fish.
Were these the only miracles Jesus performed? No. John says in John 21:25, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” John by the power of the Holy Spirit was selective so as to paint the picture God wanted him to paint of the Glory of Christ. And this is exactly what the ultimate purpose of this miracle was all about, to display the Glory of Christ.
By Jesus transforming water into wine without planting a seed in the ground, without the growing of the grapes, without squeezing the juices, and without fermenting and straining the wine, but instead by just commanding it into existence was displaying something that no one had ever seen before. Why? Because the last time something like this happened was in Genesis 1 when God was hovering over the waters and said let their be light, and their was light. Jesus is like manner, as he begins his ministry does something that only God himself can do...speak something into existence.
And as the five disciples sat and watched God in action, there response was appropriate, they believed. Didn't they already believe? Yes, but the display of the Glory of Christ right before their eyes increased their faith. They went from one degree of believing to the next. And the more glory of Christ that they would see, the more they would believe.
And this reality is not only true for them, but it is true for us. We, who have chosen to follow Christ, have only a mustard seed worth of faith. At times, our lack of faith in Christ is lacking. We are weak in times when we should be strong, we are afraid in times when we should be bold, we are anxious in times when we should have peace. The reason for these shrotcomings is our lack of faith in Christ. So what shall we do to increase our faith? We must see the Glory of Christ. As it says in Hebrews 12:2 we must, “[look] to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.”
How do we do this? The Word of God. When we read, and study, and meditate, and pray through the powerful Word of God, what we are doing is setting our eyes upon Jesus Christ. This is why the Word of God sanctifies us, because in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God...and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. When we read the Scriptures we are gazing upon the revelation of God in Christ.
So many Christians struggle through this life. They battle against anxiety, against coveting, against loneliness, against self-image, against immorality, you name it. And the way you cast off those strongholds is through seeing the Glory of Christ in the living and abiding Word of God. So pick up your Bibles and set your eyes upon Jesus.
More than a Miracle
Now, I have still not addressed my childhood problem as it comes to this miracle. If this miracle was fundamentally about a display of God's glory, why water to wine at a wedding. Why not fire from heaven, or something else more dramatic?
The coming of Jesus into the world marks a significant transition in the relationship between God and man. Prior to Christ, the way in which God ordained that man would commune with him was through the nation of Israel. A nation that was built upon the laws of God. Despite the rigidness of the laws, God still viewed this relationship as an intimate one. In fact, in the Old Testament it was not uncommon for God to refer to Israel as his wife or his bride.
This relationship between God and man consisted of laws and rituals, such as the ten commandments, sacrifices, and ceremonials washings. These practices were engrained in the culture. It was all they knew. It was the way they were to relate with Yahweh.
The problem with these things was that they were insufficient. The law as bridegroom was not able to provide the bride with the joy that she longed for. And this should not surprise us, for the law was not given by God to make one heart merry, it was merely a steward until the true Bridegroom arrived.
It is no coincidence that Jesus in performing this miracle used six stone water jars that were there for the Jewish rites of purification. With this act Jesus was declaring that the days of purification were over, that the old wine of the law had come to an end, and the new wine provided by the true Bridegroom had finally arrived. This new wine was the new wine of the new covenant, a wine that is sweeter than the religion of old, and one that never runs out, and one that will make the heart eternally merry.
The reason Jesus performed this miracle had nothing to do with his mom, and had everything to do with the announcement that Israel's bridegroom had finally come. The bridegroom that was more than able to provide for his bride, not only for a few days, but forever.
So how does this relate to you? I think it is safe to say that no one in this room is Jewish. The rights of purification is not something we find ourselves clinging to. Even though none of us struggle with Jewish rituals, many of us still struggle with looking to something other than Christ to satisfy. There are many things in this world that we can look to satisfy our hearts: religion, good works, Mary, your spouse, your children, your money, your self-esteem.
The wine of those things will some day run out. And when it does, I hope you have the sense to turn to Christ. What Jesus provides is sweeter than any other wines this world can provide, and it will never run out. My role today is the be the servant that brings the cup and asks you to drink. It is my prayer that, if you have not yet done so, you would be like the master of the feast taste and see that the Lord is good.