John 2:1-11 (NIV) 1 On 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. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” 4 “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. 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. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. 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.” 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.
I love a good wedding, how about you? There is something so special, so magical, so joyful about a wedding, even if it isn’t yours, that you can easily get caught up in the celebration and romance. I love to go to weddings with my husband. We seem to hold hands just a little tighter. I love to officiate weddings and glance at my husband when one of those sappy romantic songs is being sung. A wedding reminds us we were made for relationship. We were made for joy. God desires that life be a celebration. But as we know, a lot can get in the way of that sense of euphoria, that feeling of being carefree, those moments when time and stress seem to be suspended and when it is back to reality. Life never goes as planned. What happens when the unexpected happens in your life or in the lives of those you love? We are going to explore the answer to that question this morning.
The turning of water into wine at the wedding of Cana is Jesus’ first miracle. A lot can be said about firsts in the Bible. We know how the story of creation sets the tone for everything regarding our relationship with God, about His authority and our stewardship of His resources, about our relationship with others, about the marriage relationship between a husband a wife, about what happens when we sin and how God has us covered, and what our role is as human beings on this planet. A whole lot is packed in the story of the beginning. The same is true of this very first miracle Jesus performs.
Let’s talk for a second about what the point of this story is NOT. The point of this story is not to encourage drinking alcohol. While it is true the Bible doesn’t say, “Don’t drink alcohol” it also warns us in many passages about the dangers of alcohol. Jesus would never promote something dangerous or reckless. The wine that was consumed in Bible times was very, very diluted with water. It was very important in that culture that the groom’s family would provide food and wine for all of the weddings guests and weddings lasted for seven days! You heard me. Seven days. Seven days of the Macarena and the Electric Slide! And in that culture, to run out of food and drink for your guests was a disgrace. It was unthinkable. People would talk. It was unacceptable. I even read in one place where the groom’s family could be fined for running out of wine. I know that sounds crazy, but if the Lord tarries, people will be reading a few hundred years from now about some of the craziness going on in our culture and will think the same thing about us!
I also want to point out that wine, in the Bible, is a symbol for joy. (Psalm 4:7, Psalm 104:15, Isaiah 24:7-11) Hold onto that thought.
Jesus’ mother, Mary, was concerned about the potential social crisis. The text suggests she was the first to discover the problem. The wedding couple was oblivious. The host of the reception was oblivious. It even seems as if Jesus had been unaware of the situation, but Mary discovered the issue and became concerned about what the ramifications might be. Why was she so concerned? Scholars agree Mary must have been an extended family member at this wedding. This was her kin that were in trouble. This was her family that was facing social shame and embarrassment.
Jesus’ response can sound a bit alarming at first read or even after a lot of research. I will do my best here. Jesus looked at her and said, “4 “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” First of all, “Dear Woman” wasn’t a rude or abrasive or derogatory expression in the original language. It was an expression of tenderness. He was trying to speak softly in response to her concern.
The next part is a bit more difficult to explain. Jesus told His mom His time had not yet come which seems to suggest He hadn’t received the “go-ahead” for public miracles, but He did go ahead and perform the miracle. Notice that this miracle, although recorded for us to read, was kind of on the “down-low” as only Mary and the servants and maybe the five disciples with Him even knew that a miracle had taken place. So, while Jesus did perform a miracle, it wasn’t one that made His messianic identity known to all in attendance. Another explanation could simply and rightly be that when Jesus said what He said to His mother, His Heavenly Father whispered in His ear, “Listen to your mama.” ?
Notice that she didn’t tell Jesus what to do, but she brought the need before Him. She said to Him, “They have no more wine.” She then told the servants to do whatever Jesus told them to do. She knew time was of the essence. The problem, the lack of wine, could soon become known to all of the guests. The servants would need to comply in a hurry. Mary was anticipating a miracle for her family, and Jesus responded.
I don’t know what miracle you stand in need of this morning. I don’t know if you are in a social crisis, a financial crisis, a spiritual crisis, a relational crisis, an emotional crisis, or a physical crisis, but I want you to know Jesus can do something about your situation. The groom’s family didn’t plan to run out of anything at the wedding feast. This was an unexpected and unprepared for circumstance. Remember, I said that wine was a symbol of joy in the Bible? Has anyone here had their joy run out because of an unexpected turn of events?
Listen, there are things beyond our control, but they are never beyond Jesus’ reach.
When Mary became aware of the problem, she immediately turned to Jesus as the solution. I want you to know this morning that Jesus can do a now thing. It is closer than you think. Turn to Him. Make Him aware of what is in your heart. Tell Him about your struggle.
We aren’t meant to live without joy. We aren’t meant to run out of joy. We aren’t meant to live empty lives. We aren’t meant to live with shame and embarrassment. When the unexpected happens, we need to talk to Jesus and then we need to be ready to do whatever He asks us to do. But sometimes we aren’t willing to do things God’s way. Sometimes we aren’t willing to get joy God’s way. Sometimes we look for joy on our own which always ends up becoming the hard road, the long road and the broken road.
Notice that Jesus directed the servants to go to the six ceremonial water pots that were nearby and to fill them. Now each of these water jars held 20 to 30 gallons of water and there were six of them. That was going to be a lot of water! 120 gallons to 150 gallons. It wasn’t like they could hook up a water hose, turn on a spigot and fill them. No, they were going to have to take smaller containers to a well somewhere and make several trips in order to fill the pots. If there was going to be a miracle, they couldn’t wait around, they couldn’t mess around, they were going to need to get going to do what Jesus had told them to do and with great focus. The wine needed to be replaced right now, not in a day or two.
Perhaps the servants would have reasoned that it would be easier to go to local homes of uninvited guests and ask if they could borrow some wine, promising to pay them back later. I am sure they would have been thinking, “What will us making trip after trip after trip to the local well to get water do to provide for the wine need? We don’t need water. We need wine!” Yet we don’t have record that they argued with Jesus, that they gave input about a better way to handle the situation or that they talked among themselves about how ridiculous Jesus’ plan was. They filled the pots, and the text tells us they filled them to the brim. I think if I had been one of the servants who was walking however far to get water and then was hauling it home, I would surmise that ¾ of a pot would be good enough. Not these folks. John tells us they filled it to the brim.
Neither Mary nor the servants tried to tell Jesus how to handle the situation. They were submissive to Him and His instructions. How about us? When we get into trouble due to unexpected circumstances we have to remember, we are limited in our understanding, view, and ability to figure a way out. We may see one possibility or two. Jesus sees every possibility. We may take the risky road which takes us further down a joyless pass.
We may conclude there is no hope and just sit down and accept a life without joy when all the while there are some empty water jars just around the corner that need to be filled. Maybe God is saying to some of us here this morning, “It is time you take some responsibility for your joy! Get up and start doing what I direct you to do.”
We may bring our need to Jesus but then be unwilling to take the necessary steps as He outlines them to regain our joy. I do know this, The kind of joy Jesus gives will involve our cooperation and participation. But if and when you do, your life will change in a big, big way.
Maybe you need a miracle this morning. Maybe you need a miracle on the “down-low” this morning. Maybe not many know about the crisis in your life. Maybe you can’t share what is going on. Don’t look for some back road to travel. Don’t look for some back alley to hide in. Take it to Jesus. He is the answer, and His resources are closer than you think.
Jesus can do a new thing. It is better than you can imagine.
I want you to know this morning that Jesus didn’t come to bring you a band-aid for your life. He didn’t come with some duct-tape and a staple gun to try to prop you up, tide you over, or to provide some temporary fix! He came to make you new! Revelation 21:5: “Behold, I am making everything new!” “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Those ceremonial water pots have more meaning than just their large size. Six was the number that was just shy of biblical perfection. The writer, John, wanted us to know there were six pots exactly. He was hinting at how incomplete life is without Jesus, how we will never be satisfied without Jesus in our lives. What the ceremonial law could never provide would be found in Jesus alone.
Well, the servants were told to dip out some of the liquid from the ceremonial pots and take it to the master of the banquet and let him drink from it. Look at verse 8bThey did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. 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.”
The master of ceremonies drank the wine and was beyond impressed. He had no idea a miracle had taken place. He just thought the groom was saving the best for last. Not only was the last wine much better than the first wine, but there was a ton of it! Remember, 120-150 gallons of water had been turned into wine! Instead of winding down, this party was getting better and better, but only because something that was empty and old had been filled and made new.
Those ceremonial pots pointed to old traditions that had long lost their meaning. They pointed to old cleansing rituals that couldn’t free a person from sin. Listen, we can’t want true, ongoing, and expanding joy and be afraid of something new.
Obtaining joy may mean an old tradition dies. Obtaining joy may involve a new way of doing things. We see from this story, the new wine was better than the old wine, and it wouldn’t run out. This first miracle was a huge theological commentary on the Ceremonial Law. Jesus had come to usher in a brand-new way of relating with God that wasn’t focused on external cleansing, but internal cleansing and renewal; not in a way that was over and over and over again, but in a way that was ongoing and never-ending.
It was no longer about pouring water on your hands, but it was about a cleansing of the heart, a new covenant that would be lasting, fulfilling, and satisfying forever. Jesus, the Salvation of the World was in the midst of a joyless situation, and even though “His time hadn’t come” He couldn’t help but express what God had sent Him to do in and through this quiet miracle! Jesus didn’t fill the old pots with new water and leave them with water in them; making the new experience more of the same! He filled the old pots with new water and then transformed it into new wine! How much transformation can He bring to your life? I’ll tell you how much He wants to bring—infinite and ongoing transformation that will leave you in awe of what He can do!
Note that the host of the banquet commented to the groom that people usually present the good stuff up front and then bring out the cheap stuff when people are either tipsy or uninterested because the party, after all, has lasted for 7 long days! (How many of you could spend 7 whole days with the same people and not be “done!?”) Anyway, this new wine had been presented at the end of the celebration, and the host had taken note of it.
You know, the world’s joy never satisfies and it runs out quickly. Satan tries to dazzle you up front with the shiniest, most sparkly, sinful experiences that he promises will bring joy to your life, and then as soon as you are “hooked” on that experience, things go south from there. But Jesus has the opposite life to offer you. As you allow Him to direct your steps, life with Him will get better and better and better.
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Your wildest dreams don’t compare with God’s plans. He wants to enter into your social crisis, your shame, your whatever, no matter how complicated it is, and He wants to bring lasting joy to you. He wants to enter into the empty places of your life and fill you to overflowing. Will you cooperate with Him?
Or what if He wants to use you like He did Mary? What if He wants to reveal to you a potential problem, an impending calamity? What if He wants to show you something that He doesn’t make known to anyone else because He wants you to engage Jesus on behalf of someone else?
What if He wants you to carry some water so that someone else can have a miracle they didn’t even know they needed? I mean the layers in this story are incredible!
He can do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine. (Eph 3) Why would we want to do things our way? Whatever your idea of God is this morning, it is too small. God can’t be measured, limited, or confined to any human expectation. He wants to do things we can’t conceive and would never dream up even if we had ten lifetimes to brainstorm and daydream.
Here’s the thing: What you need and what God wants to do for you aren’t off in some distant location. They aren’t even off in your future. Jesus is here in our midst right now. Your cooperation with Him is all that is needed for Him to do something spectacular, mind-boggling, and life-changing.
As I close, allow me to mention something else about John’s description of these events. He says they took place on the third day. It wasn’t the third day of the week. It was the third day after Jesus called the first disciples and they took off walking to attend the wedding. This mention of the third day is a reference to what is clearly evident elsewhere in the Scriptures: it is a reference to the fact of the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus had not yet taken place, of course, but even in the prophetic Scriptures of the Old Testament there is a reference to the third day as being the day in which Israel would be spiritually healed and returned to her Lord (Hosea 6:2). Here, then, is the first hint in this account of the significance of this miracle of changing water into wine: it was a miracle of transformation, of bringing life out of death. Don’t miss what might be tucked inside this story for you. What needs to be changed in your life? What empty thing needs to be filled? What old thing needs to be replaced with something better?
Do you need a quiet miracle this morning? Has something unexpected happened? Do you need some joy? Do you need snatched out of a situation where there is potential embarrassment or shame? Do you need something old and stale to be made fresh and new? It’s time for a now thing. It’s time for a new thing.