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Let’s pray. Our gracious heavenly Father, on this day of our Thanksgiving feast we would be remiss if we did not come to You with our thanksgivings, for life, for freedom, for this church, for this place, for family and friends, for food in abundance, that we live as most people in the history of the world have not lived, trying to keep ourselves away from too much food instead of wondering where the next meal will come from. Surely the lines have fallen for us in pleasant places and we thank You. And as we give thanks, we are also mindful of those who are grieving this morning. We pray for Richard McCulloch on the death of his father, William, and also for Butch Barkman on the death of his sister, Ruby Shaffer. We pray that You would surround them and show Yourself to be a God of compassion and a Father of comfort. We pray for the family, that this might be a means to gather around the Lord Jesus and know His sweet sympathy. We thank You on this day for veterans, those who have served this country near and far. We thank You for those who have served in conflict, in harm’s way, and we give thanks for the freedoms that they have given of their time, their energy, some, over the years of their lives, to protect. We pray for our presbytery, for the meeting this Tuesday as we gather. We pray for East Charlotte this morning and their pastor, Tyler Dirks, that You bless their ministry. We pray for other congregations in our city. We think this morning of Hickory Grove Baptist and their pastor Clint Presley. We pray that You would bless their ministry and you would give them fruitful years and see conversion. We pray for their school. We pray for the people on staff. We thank You that we labor in this city not alone but with many brothers and sisters and with other churches. We pray that You would help us now to focus upon Your Word, that You would speak to us, that You would give me a humble heart, that I would preach Your Word boldly, faithfully, and that You would help us to listen that we may find from Your Word wonderful things. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
I wonder if you’ve ever played the game “Bigger and Better.” We have had, over the years, from time to time, people in the neighborhood or from a youth group come by playing this game. I don’t know if you’ve done it here or if I’m giving you a bad idea by introducing it, but the idea is you start with something small and insignificant and you take an evening and you see if you can get people to trade you for something bigger and better, and you see what you can end up with by night’s end, and so we’ve gotten rid of some ugly couches that way, some nonfunctioning TVs. My kids have sort of a dream that they’ll one day be able to set out with a penny and come back with a car. So just know if DeYoungs come knocking on your door, you might want to pull the shades and run away. But the idea is you start with something small, something lesser, and then somebody gives you in exchange something bigger, something better. Who doesn’t like the idea of trading in something small and insignificant for something that’s big and something that’s better?
We’ve been in John’s Gospel for two months now, and one of the things we’ve seen over and over in the first chapter is that Jesus is bigger than you think. If you can encounter Jesus in the Bible and walk away thinking, “well, He’s not quite as impressive as I thought,” then you are not reading your Bibles very carefully. He’s bigger than any of us can imagine. All that we’ve seen in this first chapter alone.
I met a man. Over this weekend I was speaking at a PCA Mission to the World conference in Dallas on Friday and Saturday and got back yesterday afternoon, and I met a man there, just came up and was friendly and was telling me about his testimony. He said that he was a militant atheist. He described himself as having been a general in the devil’s army, that he was recruiting people for the devil’s work and was living a life to match, and at some point in his life he said that he went and he read through the Gospels. Hadn’t read them before. And he said “I came away from reading through the Gospels with one overwhelming conviction, and it was that this guy Jesus was absolutely nuts.” He said “this guy, He clearly thinks He’s God, and I can see why the Pharisees and all these other people are upset with Him because this guy is certifiably nuts.”
Now later, as he told the story, he said he became convicted through a number of circumstances and convinced that not only did he think He was God, but this Jesus of Nazareth was actually God. Bigger than he could have scarcely imagined and now he said he loves to just tell people his story and tell people about the story.
We’ve seen already in John this Jesus is the Word, life, light, the Christ, the king, the lamb, Lord, Son of God, Son of Man. Bigger than you think.
And now this morning I want you to see something else. Not only bigger, but better. Everything changed with Jesus. When Jesus came along, He was not just a little salt and pepper on some bland potatoes. He was, instead, a whole new meal. An entirely new feast. Forming a new people, inaugurating a new kingdom, bringing about a new age. Sometimes we are so familiar with Jesus we miss the surprising things He says and He does. And I imagine there are hundreds of you this morning, we are very familiar with Jesus. In fact, we familiar with this story, many of us, the miracle at the wedding of Cana in Galilee. What a great story — water into wine. But be careful. While familiarity may not breed contempt, it can breed, over time, a seeming irrelevance. You think “yeah, yeah, Jesus, I know Jesus.” Well, I want you to see this morning not only is He bigger than you think, He is better than you can imagine. He’s not ho-hum, humdrum, and if that’s what you think of Jesus, then you have not begun to see Him as He is in the Gospels. Because when you encounter Jesus in the Gospels and begin to see Him as the people around Him saw Him, you know that He must be absolutely nuts, or so much bigger and so much better than you dare to think possible, even if you’ve been at church every Sunday for decades.
Follow along as I read from John chapter 2, verses 1-12:
“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. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 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.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.”
The Gospel of John can be divided into two main sections. The first half of the book, through chapter 12, is sometimes called the Book of Signs, the Book of Signs because in it we see Jesus performing seven miraculous signs. He turns the water into wine, chapter 2; heals a royal official son, chapter 4; heals a lame man, chapter 5; feeds the 5,000 in chapter 6; walks on water in the second half of chapter 6; heals the man born blind in chapter 9; and then seventh, ultimately He raises Lazarus from the dead in chapter 11. That’s the first half of the book, sometimes called the Book of Signs.
The second half of John, and this is from chapter 12, 13 onward, is sometimes called the Book of Glory because it focuses on the glory of Christ in His sufferings, in His death, and His resurrection. And sprinkled throughout the Gospel in both halves are seven “I am” statements: I am the bread of life, I am the light of the world, I am the gate for the sheep, I am the good shepherd, I am the resurrection and the life, I am the way, the truth, and the life, I am the true vine. Clearly, John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, has a method to his madness. He is very particular and organized in what he’s doing in writing this Gospel.
So there are seven signs, even though we know from the end of the book that if all of the signs were written about, it would fill up the whole world. So there’s seven signs, there are seven “I am” statements, there are these two halves, Book of Signs, Book of Glory.
And this morning we look at the first of those signs. Here at the wedding at Cana in Galilee. You’ll notice it’s introduced in verse 1 and then in verse 11 it’s a kind of book-ended story. We read again this is the first of His signs Jesus did at Cana in Galilee when He manifested His glory and His disciples believed in Him. In this miracle, we see that Jesus is not only bigger, He’s also better. And I want us to look at this miracle which builds and crescendoes into this theme. And we’re going to do it by unpacking Jesus’ interactions with three characters in this story. We are going to see first how Jesus interacts with His mother. Well, actually He doesn’t interact, but we overhear with the master of the feast, and then finally how the disciples relate to Jesus. So three characters: His mother, the master of the feast, and the disciples.
So first Jesus and His mother. You’ll notice in verse 1 it says “on the third day.” John has been giving us this chronology very deliberately throughout the first chapter, now into the second. And we’ve already had several “next days.” So when it says in verse 1 “on the third day,” that’s not the third total, but that’s the third day as reckoned from the last day, which was when Jesus calls Philip and Nathanael, and you’ll see that in verse 43 “the next day.” So from that day now three days later. And remember that in the Jewish reckoning, they count the days inclusively, meaning that day one, day two, day three is really two days as we would count it. Think of Good Friday and Easter. “On the third day, Jesus rose again from the dead.” Counting Friday as the first day, Saturday as the second, and Sunday as the third. So this is two days later, as we would count it. And we’ll come back at the very end to say why that is probably very significant.
But here we read “on the third day,” after his encounter with Nathanael. He’s at a wedding. And we’re introduced to His mother. Now you’ll notice it never mentions the name of his mother. We never hear in John’s Gospel the name “Mary.” Now she’s mentioned in other Gospels, so it scratches your head a little bit, why wouldn’t John mention her by name? Well, it may be so that she is not to be confused with the other Marys who show up, there’s a lot of Marys hanging around. Or, I think even more likely, it’s because John has a particular respect for Jesus’ mother. And do you remember why?
Turn in your Bibles to the end of the book, to John chapter 19. Remember Jesus is on the cross. And we read in John 19:25 “standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother,” notice again doesn’t mention her name, “His mother and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene,” so we can say because there’s a lot of Marys, maybe he wants to make it clear. And then verse 26: “When Jesus saw His mother,” so He’s on the cross, about to die, “when Jesus saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved,” this is a reference to John, this is how John describes himself, not wanting to draw attention to himself, he doesn’t mention himself by name but this is the self-designation he gives, the disciple whom Jesus loved, “when Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to his mother, ‘Woman,'” same language he used in chapter 2, ‘Woman, behold your son.’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, you mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.”
It’s yet another indication that John is indeed the actual author of this book and that John is the disciple whom Jesus loved, because it makes sense when Jesus on the cross is saying to his mother, thinking of his mother, Joseph has apparently by tradition has died at some point and Mary is a widow, he says to his mother, on the cross, John here, this is your mom, and mom, this is your son. In other words, I’m looking out for you in my very last breath, and this man is going to take care of you. So it makes sense that John, with that kind of respect, that Mary is to him almost like a mother in his care for her that he wouldn’t mention her by name, but rather speak of her respectfully, as Jesus’ mother.
So Jesus is at this wedding, Mary is at this wedding. It must have been the wedding of a close relative, for Jesus to be invited and Jesus even gets to bring his friends, he gets to bring his disciples; probably five at this point, Peter, Andrew, John, Philip, and Nathanael. And we know that it must have been a very close relative because we have indication that Mary feels some responsibility for what’s going on, they’ve run out of wine, and so she comes to Jesus to tell him about it. Mary feels some responsibility of what’s happening here. The celebration in the ancient world for the Jews, a wedding, could last up to a week. And you notice when the master of the feast comes and talks to the bridegroom, that it was the bridegroom’s family’s responsibility. And some of you would say “well, I always knew that was a good verse in the Bible,” so we have different traditions. But here it was the responsibility of the bridegroom.
So Mary is somehow connected, and she’s brought in on this and she comes to Jesus. Now she’s not expecting a miracle. We read here this is the first sign he did, so she doesn’t know, she’s not expecting Jesus to just start making it rain down wine from heaven, but she undoubtedly has come to know him as trustworthy, reliable, resourceful, something special. So she comes to him for help. This was more than just a little social faux pas. This was a potential social catastrophe. Not just an awkward moment, but there was a great expectation to provide for and care for your guests for the duration of this wedding. So it’s not just “hey, we checked the kitchen, and we’re out of chicken nuggets, we’ll get you something else.” This was considerably embarrassing. And in fact, some scholars have argued that it may have opened up the family to legal repercussions, because in the ancient world here they were known for hospitality, but also for reciprocity. There was a sense that yes, you have to be amazingly hospitable for all of your guests, but also a sense of reciprocity that if you don’t do good on this, that you’re owed something, because after all, in a small-knit community, you’ve all been to somebody’s wedding and hey, we didn’t run out of wine, and what are you trying to do for us, trying to do this on the cheap?
So this is more than an awkward moment. This is a catastrophe about to happen. So she tells Jesus, “they have no wine.” And Jesus speaks to her in verse 4. And he speaks to her in a way that seems a little surprising to us. “Woman.” Now this language of “woman,” it’s not rude. Again, we saw that’s the language he uses on the cross, the language he uses to the syrophoenician woman, but it’s not normal either. This is not the normal way that a son talks to his mother. One commentator suggests that it’s on the level of “ma’am,” sort of polite, although, you know, some of you would maybe call your mom and dad “ma’am and sir,” especially if you were about to get in trouble.
So it’s not the normal thing you would say to your mother in that culture, but it’s not rude. It’s maybe close to saying “my dear lady.” Not something you say to your mother, but it’s not rude, either. So Jesus here, when his mom comes and says they have no wine, says “my dear lady, woman, what is this to me?” Literally, in the Greek, “what to me and to you?” It’s a strange phrase. The idea is “what does this for you have to do with something for me?” Or as it’s translated here, “how is any of this my concern?” And Jesus says in verse 4 “my hour has not yet come.” It’s a common refrain in the Gospels. It’s Jesus’ way of saying “look, this is not yet my time, it’s not my time to fully reveal myself, to show all of my glory, that will happen in my suffering, my death, and my resurrection. It’s not yet time to make obvious who I am.”
Which is a good reminder, incidentally, that Jesus’ timing is now always the same as our timing. We’d like God’s timing to be “God? Now? Now would be a time for you to, you know, bring healing. Now would be a time for a job. Now would be a time that you would save my children.” But God’s timing isn’t always our timing, and Jesus says “woman, it’s not the hour, not the hour to do everything.” But he will do something in just a moment.
It also shows us something as Jesus relates to Mary. It shows us this lesson that there is no inside track with Jesus. Surely if anyone had an inside track with Jesus, it would have been his mother. If anyone would have had a special sort of shortcut, it would have been his own mom. You’d think Jesus would have said “mom, what is it? For you, anything. It’s not quite my hour yet, but you’re my mom, after all. You gave birth to me. Anything for you, mom.” But Jesus doesn’t do that. Because there is something even greater than familial obligation. And that is God’s divine purpose and kingdom. So everything, even family ties, must be subordinated to the divine mission. And we have to remember that.
I’ve often reflected that the last acceptable idolatry among evangelical Christians is the idolatry of the family. Now we’re going to talk tonight about honoring your father and mother, so, and the importance of the family, sometimes we make it on equal par with God. “God, I’d like to do some of these things, but I do have a family. I’d like to come to church, but family’s got stuff going on.” You see Jesus here doesn’t give an inside track to Mary. He almost reproves her a little bit to say “woman, don’t you now it’s not my time yet?”
So what are to make of Mary here? It’s just worth mentioning in passing that we certainly see debunked here some of the later Catholic traditions that would develop. In some Catholic theology they say “well, when Jesus called her ‘woman’ he was thinking of the prophecy in Genesis chapter 3, or he’s thinking of the woman in Revelation,” but other women in the Gospel are called “woman” by Jesus, so this is not Jesus giving some particular designation to his mother.
Others have said “well, here we see Mary, she’s going to be a mediator, a kind of Mediatrix, because after all, we see people some to Mary and then she goes to Jesus, and then Jesus does favors for the other people. So maybe we should go to Mary, and when we work through Mary, she gets what we want from Christ.” Isn’t that what we see here? But of course, that won’t work because first of all, Jesus gives his own mother a bit a stiff arm at first, and second, what about all the other times in the Gospels where somebody says “I have a daughter who’s sick, I have a son who died, my brother Lazarus is dead,” and Jesus goes and helps and performs a miracle. Are all of them mediators as well?
We also see the end of this passage, verse 12, refutes the notion that Mary was a virgin her whole life. Later in Catholic tradition some people would assert the perpetual virginity of Mary, a way to sort of elevate her to exalted status. But we see quite clearly that he went with his mother and his brothers, which may include brothers and sisters. There were other siblings in the family, which is why Matthew 1:25 says “Joseph knew her not until she had brought forth a son,” implying that after that he did know her sexually. Or Jesus is referred to as Mary’s firstborn son, so clearly Mary had other children, had relations with Joseph.
So we can set aside some of these later Catholic notions about Mary. And yet, we want to be honest. This is still overall a positive portrayal of Jesus’ mother. She is stopped a bit short, and yet she still says, with an expression of faith, in verse 5: “Do whatever he tells you.” There are worse definitions of Christianity than that.
What is a Christian? A Christian is someone who does whatever he tells you to do. He being Jesus. Let’s be honest. When we get through, you know, the emotional stuff which is hard, the intellectual objections which can be very real, at the end of the day, when we don’t follow Jesus, it’s because we do not want Jesus telling us what to do. Jesus gets into our business. He messes around with us, and with our family, and with our lives, and with our idols, and with our gods. Being a Christian, someone said “what does it mean to be a Christian?” You do whatever he tells you to do.
Of course, that’s not all we would say, but that’s a pretty good place to start. The lordship of Christ is the heart of the matter. Are you willing to do whatever he tells you to do? And incidentally, when you share the Gospel with people, and sometimes you come to hard situations and maybe there is a, you know, someone’s in a relationship that they shouldn’t be in, or they’re about to marry somebody, and it’s not a marriage that should really happen, or there is some sort of problem or idolatry, and you want to kind of get to the sin, and you’re evangelizing the sin. Don’t evangelize the sin, evangelize the person. Bring the person to Christ. Let Christ deal with them.
Now, part of discipleship is pointing out those sins, but pointing out those sins won’t do any good unless the person actually believes that Jesus is Lord of their life. And that like Mary said, I’m to do whatever he tells me to do. Until you get to that point, we’re just working on behavioral modification. Could you just shape up? Could you do this? This is what the Bible says. When the real heart of the matter is, is Jesus savior and Lord? Are we to do whatever he tells us to do? That’s what it means to be a Christian.
So Mary expresses loyalty, and some at least burgeoning faith.
And then we come to the second character. Moving from Mary now to the master of the feast. Look at verse 6. The information here is very important and we’ll see why in a few moments. There were six stone water jars there, large jars, each holding 20 or 30 gallons, so it says in the Greek, two or three measures which equals about 20 or 30 gallons. So there’s 120 to 180 gallons ready here in these stone water jars and they’re running out or maybe they’re empty because they have to draw from the well and fill them up again, but they’re here for Jewish rites of purification. Well, what are those? Well, it’s possible that it was for the conjugal act that the husband and wife at this wedding would have and they needed to be ritually pure for that, or more likely, it was simply for all of the washing of hands because you need to be ritually pure before you would partake of this feast. And so you have a big party, it lasts a long time, so you need a lot of water for all of this ritual purification.
And then we come to the miracle itself. Jesus says in verse 7: “Fill them up, draw from the well, fill them up to the very brim.” And interestingly, we don’t know exactly when or how the miracle took place. All we know is that sometime between drawing water from the well and putting it in the jars, and then asking the servants to draw from the jars and bring it to the master of the feast, sometime in that activity, that water became wine. And the size of the jars is important, because it tells us that there is no way that this was just smuggled in from somewhere else. You don’t smuggle in 20 to 30 gallon stone jars and “well, we have some wine hidden in the back.” Clearly, this is miraculous activity.
Now let me just say a word about the wine. It was alcoholic wine. We see in verse 10 the master of the feast understands that usually you serve the good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, and the word suggests some level of inebriation, then you bring out the poor wine because they don’t care anymore, they’re not noticing anymore. So we can’t say that this is unfermented grape juice. I am personally, know this about your pastor, I’m personally a teetotaler. I don’t drink anything, I think the most alcohol I’ve ever had was at an Anglican communion service. You know, I just, I don’t, I don’t like, well, anything, really. I don’t like, I hardly like anything, so I never really tried it, got into it, and now that I have celiac and gluten issues, I couldn’t have beer even if I wanted to. I suppose I could have wine, but I just don’t, for a whole bunch of reasons. But, that’s not to say that Christians, every Christian, has to be a teetotaler. We see here, and from plenty of passages in the Old Testament where wine is described as a great gift from God, that there is a proper place to drink alcohol when you are legally of age, and to do it in moderation. There’s just no way around the fact that Jesus’ first miracle is water into wine. To go from that to saying Christians can’t ever drink anything takes a lot of gymnastics.
Calvin says “when God daily gives us a large supply of wine, it is our fault if his kindness is an excitement to luxury.” So don’t blame God for the gift.
Now having said that, it is true that wine in the ancient world was significantly watered down. It would tend to be 2 or 3 parts water to 1 part wine. And when the Old Testament uses the language of strong drink, there is wine and then there’s strong drink, strong drink was of higher alcohol content, probably more in keeping with what we would drink as wine today. So it was something different, but it was alcoholic nonetheless, and it was considered a great gift, as we’ll see in a moment.
Now notice, what amazed the master of the feast as he spoke to the bridegroom. Look at verses 9 and 10. You’re probably familiar with this miracle, and you think “what was the miracle? What impressed the master of the feast?” Now it wasn’t the quantity, though that was amazing, to have 120 or 180 gallons now of wine in these six stone jars. In fact, it’s probably quite a wedding gift that Jesus is giving here to this couple. The family, maybe, was too poor and that is why they have run out of wine, and now Jesus is giving them quite a gift. “I leave you with 180 gallons of wine.” “Thank you very much.” So it wasn’t the quantity that he was amazed by.
You notice it wasn’t the transformation, though that’s what we usually focus on. The miracle that we look at is water, with its H2O properties, miraculously becomes wine with its whatever grapey qualities and fermenting, that’s amazing. That chemically, that doesn’t happen. You don’t just leave water out and it becomes wine. So we’re amazed by the transformation of it, the science of it, the chemistry of it. What is Christ doing by his divine powers in putting it in the stone jars and then when you pull it out, now it’s something different. But notice, that’s not what amazes the master of the feast. He doesn’t know where it’s come from, so if he did, perhaps it would have, but that’s not what’s noted here.
And as I was studying this again, I even saw this with fresh eyes, because I’m so prone to think “yeah, the miracle is water into wine, water into wine.” But you notice the master of the feast, what he marvels at is that the wine was so good. The wine was so good. Verse 10: “Most people give the good wine first. They drink freely, then the poor wine. But you,” he’s speaking to the bridegroom because he doesn’t know where this came from, he’s saying “oh, boy, your family is amazing. You have kept the good wine until now.” So the miracle as he understands it is “this is the best wine.”
Wine is, in the Bible, an expression of the good life. It’s that expression of God’s divine favor. Like dwelling under your own vine and fig tree is an expression of prosperity and having wine flowing is an expression of lavish goodness. We would say steak and lobster, or whatever, or root beer float, I don’t know, whatever. Something really good. Lucky Charms, perhaps. Just flowing. These are magically delicious.
He’s amazed at how good the wine is. This wine is better than I thought possible. This is not what I was expecting. This is better.
Now, there’s even something more going on here than meets the eye. Remember I said at the beginning that John is very deliberate in how he lays things out. He’s obviously, you don’t just on accident get seven signs, seven “I am” statements; he’s clearly doing something here with the number seven. Biblical number, completion, creation. But track with me here with what day we’re on. Because why does John do this, in particular in these first two chapters, why does he take the time to say “and this day and the next day and the next day,” unless there’s something building, unless there’s something significant about all these days.
So look at John 1, verse 1-18, that’s the prologue, that’s all the theology getting out there, and then the ministry really starts in verse 19 through 28, we’re introduced to John the Baptist. So this is day one. Day one in the life of the early ministry of Jesus. And then verse 29, “the next day,” so now we’re on day two. And then verse 36, “the next day,” so we’re on day three. Now before we go to verse 43, you have to see that there’s another interesting demarcation that John gives us, because go to verse 39. “Come and you will see, so they came and saw where Jesus was staying and they stayed with him that day for it was about the 10th hour.” And again you say, “Why? Why giving this information? Why are you suddenly telling me what time of day it is?” Well, John’s doing so because he wants us to notice here it’s the 10th hour, which is 4:00 p.m., which near the equator means you’re getting to the evening hours of the day, and so they stay with him by implication until the next day.
So now we’re on day three. They stay with him into day four. And we get to verse 43, “the next day.” So the next day after they had spent the night at Jesus’ place because it was getting late in the evening. So now we’re on day five and then we come to verse 1: “On the third day.” Remember I said they count the days inclusively, just look Good Friday and Easter, it’s two days later. So we’re on day five, which is first, then day six, and then day seven.
So what do we have here in chapter one and two? We have a perfect week. A perfect week in the life of the early ministry of Jesus. Seven days. Now it’s not to say that this day is the seventh day, meaning the Sabbath, the Sabbath probably happened somewhere in these, between the end of chapter 1 and chapter 2, which is why we’re not reading of anything happening there on the Sabbath. But the seventh day, as it’s reckoned in this week, suggests something significant. It suggests just as we began the book in Genesis, so now we have Genesis on the brain. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” We expect to hear “in the beginning, God” but instead we have “in the beginning, the Word.”
And now just as we would have in Genesis God creating with his seven day creation week, now we have the Word with his initial seven days of new creation. Interestingly, Jesus never actually creates in his miracles. Not ex nihilo. What he does is he multiplies loaves and fishes, he transforms water into wine. He makes it into something new. It’s a picture of what’s happening here. Not creation ex nihilo, “out of nothing,” but taking what is and now shaping it and making it and announcing it as something completely new. In other words, the joyous messianic wedding feast has arrived. Something new. A new creation. With Jesus. The choice wine of the Gospel is replacing the tapped out water of the Jewish ceremonies.
Do you see all these connections? Clearly John is hinting at something when he mentions not just that there were six stone water jars, but he says for the Jewish rites of purification. Why do you say that? Because he is showing with these pictures that the water has literally run out. The wine has literally run out. These symbols of the Jewish ceremonial law, their rites of purification, what it was to really be ritually clean, Jesus said “I want you to fill those things up to the very tippy top,” and now it’s something new. We’re transforming those. We don’t need the water pots of Jewish ritual purification. We now have the abundant, ever flowing feast of messianic wine.
And we’ll see this played out in chapters 2, 3, and 4 over the next weeks and months, that over and over again Jesus is introducing himself as the one who is bringing something new. “I have new wine. I’m a new temple. You need a new life. You need a new heart. You need a new birth. I’ll give you a new heart.” The newness of the wine is what is so surprising.
Which is why I directed your attention there to verse 10, that the miracle as the master understands it is not just the transformation, but that now, finally, we have the good stuff. You see, it’s a sign. It’s pointing to what Jesus is bringing. Finally, we have what we’ve been waiting for, and it’s bigger and it’s better than we thought possible.
This is far removed from the kind of asceticism that some of the Essenes would have or the different communities in the caves in Qumran who are disassociating themselves with any sort of enjoyment or pleasure in life. No, Jesus, comes to introduce this new joyous era, this messianic wedding feast. So when Mary said way back up in verse 3 “they have no wine,” she said much more than she knew. She meant “we’re out,” but it’s true on a whole different level. Judaism at this point was out of wine, spent itself, ready for the Messiah to come. And the story ends then in the best way possible, with a perfect ending to this miracle in verse 10: “You have kept the good wine until now.”
With Jesus, we finally get the good wine.
Which brings us to the end and the disciples in verse 11. This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. In the first half of John’s Gospel we see the glory revealed. In the second half of John’s Gospel, we see the glory of Jesus received. He reveals the glory here in these miraculous signs and then he receives the glory in his suffering, death, and resurrection. And this is just the beginning. This is just the beginning of those greater things. Remember Jesus said to Nathanael in verse 51: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven open, the angels of God ascending and descending on you.” And in verse 50, he said “because I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” You thought that was impressive, that I saw you under the fig tree? Oh, boy, you have not seen anything yet, and so it begins with this first sign at the wedding in Cana in Galilee.
The synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, use a different word for the miracles. Usually it’s the word “dunamis” meaning “power,” “mighty workings.” But John never uses that word, he uses this word, translated “signs,” because for John it’s not so much that it points to Jesus’ great power, though it does that, but it’s telling us something about this Jesus. And here in this first sign, though they probably didn’t fully understand it, it tells us that this Jesus who has arrived on the scene is bringing to you something much bigger and much better than you thought possible.
So friends, what will you do with Jesus? What will you do with Jesus? Are you ready for a new day? Do you feel like the wine has run out on your life? No joy left? Don’t have purpose? Don’t have a clean conscience? You’ve sort of done it your way, you’ve spent it your way. Maybe you’ve been in and out of church, but really you’ve been doing it your way, and the wine has run out and you’re parched, if you could admit it to yourself.
What will you do with Jesus?
The disciples saw his glory and they believed. That’s the difference between the crowd, a fan, a well-wisher, and a disciple. Crowds can be impressed, fans can marvel, well-wishers can like Jesus. Disciples see his glory and believe. And so they did.
What will you do? There is a feast coming. Now we’re going to have a feast in just a few minutes. Isn’t this just perfect? Don’t you love it when these things work out? Good thing we’re going to eat and drink in just a few minutes.
There’s a better feast, a better feast to come, than you thought possible.
Growing up, we had the same thing every Friday night. Every Friday night we had pizza for dinner. It’s part of explaining my diet, we had the same thing almost every night of the week, week by week. We had pizza every night, and it was, you know, whatever the closest, cheapest pizza possible was. Edible for kids, that’s all that’s required. And we’d get that, and be hungry, and you’d come in and the smell, and the aroma, cheap, kid-friendly pizza. It’s a great thing for 5 bucks. It’s been 5 bucks for ages upon ages. And I love that, and would welcome it, and you’re hungry and you’re starving. And when you’re a kid, you don’t know that there’s Chicago deep dish pizza, and the kind that has the sauce on the top and has the cheese baked into the middle and has like sausage this thick and has other sorts of dead animals piled up on, you don’t know that. You just know you got $5 pizza. And it’s good. And then it runs out. You ever been at those parties where everybody is eating up the pizza and everyone’s put in a dollar and all of a sudden it’s gone and you didn’t get your money’s worth? And usually then it’s just “well, we got some frozen ones and we’ll just pop those in the oven, if you’re really hungry.” No thanks. What if the guest says “now we got the good stuff, now we got the deep dish. You saved the best for last!”
That’s the story of the Gospel. Saving the best for last. There is a feast that is coming. Don’t miss it.
Let’s pray. Our Father in heaven, we thank you for your son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who brings out the best wine to the party. That we might know and see and savor and enjoy such a bountiful feast prepared for us by you, our heavenly Father. Lord, work in our hearts that we may come with faith and in repentance, that we may not miss out on the feast to come, bigger and better than we can imagine. In Jesus we pray. Amen.