June 9, 2019
[Jhn 2:1-11 ESV]
1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 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 10 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.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
In this account from John’s Gospel we reach the seventh day of Jesus’s public ministry.
It is somewhat complicated to keep track of the days.
On the first day John the Baptist gave his testimony to the delegation of priests and Levites from Jerusalem.
On the second day He saw Jesus and said “Behold, the Lamb of God.”
On the third day Jesus gathered the disciples Andrew, John, and Simon Peter. They stay with Christ for a day. The fourth day.
Then on the fifth day Jesus gathered his disciples Philip and Nathanael.
Now on the third day from then, we come to the 7thday. And here we have the wedding at Cana.
As I preach on this passage I will address it in three points:
I. The Setting for the Miracle
II. The Miracle itself
III.. The Meaning of the Miracle
1. THE SETTING FOR THE MIRACLE – THE WEDDING AT CANA
We start then on a new day—the 7thday of Jesus’s public ministry. And on this day we also have a new person introduced. So far in the Gospel of John we have heard of John the Baptist, we’ve heard of Jesus, and we’ve heard of the first five disciples. Now, entering the scene is “the mother of Jesus.”
You might ask, “why is she not named?” We know from the other Gospel accounts that the mother of Jesus is named Mary. Why doesn’t John name her? Well, we don’t really know. But, remember, John doesn’t give his own name either. He is just “the other disciple.” And later he refers to himself as “the disciple that Jesus loved.” So he doesn’t put his own name into the story, and neither does he put Mary’s name in the story. Perhaps it is out of humility that he avoids naming names.
We have a new person – the mother of Jesus – and we have a new place, Cana of Galilee.
Well, I have a personal story about Cana. Maybe it fits into the sermon, maybe it does not. I’ll let you judge. I was blessed with the opportunity a few years ago to travel to Israel. I spent some time in Jerusalem and then went up to Galilee. Well, I was riding in a taxi-van there and passed a village, and I saw the sign “Kana.” They spelled it with a “K.” K-A-N-A instead of C-A-N-A. But it was the same place as mentioned in the Bible. Well, the interesting thing was that as we were passing through this place, I looked out and saw a shop that sold wedding cakes. So there are still people having weddings in Cana of Galilee, even today. I don’t recall if I saw anyone selling wine or water, but I definitely saw that one shop selling wedding cake. And it reminded me of this passage. That’s my story.
With this Biblical wedding at Cana, it is probably the case that someone rather close to Jesus and Mary was getting married. Perhaps it was a family member or a close friend from their area. Cana was not far from Nazareth, where Mary lived. And it seems that Mary was called upon to have some role in working for the wedding. Jesus was invited too, as were his disciples.
It would have been a grand affair. The Jewish weddings were not 1-day parties but could last for many days. It was a true time of celebration. A time of joy.
Jesus, in attending the wedding celebration puts, in a sense, his stamp of approval on it. He approves of marriage itself, and he approves of celebration. We can take encouragement in the fact that it is good that we enjoy and celebrate these good times.
But, a major crisis loomed at the wedding celebration. The wine was running out. One commentator notes that a “Such an embarrassing faux pas could have stigmatized the couple and their families for the rest of their lives.”
Running out of supplies is a great embarrassment.
Have you ever traveled a long way to some store or restaurant only to find it out of what you wanted? Or maybe the store is closed entirely; having just odd open hours. You might never go again. Likewise, if a family invites you to a wedding celebration and you travel far to get there, and the celebration is all day long, and they give you nothing to eat or drink, would you not be very turned off? Quite upset? I would be. Or if you friends invite you over for the superbowl and then they run out of queso. That would be the end of it for me. I’d go home.
So we have the setting for the miracle. Jesus, his disciples, and his mother are all at a wedding in Cana of Galilee and the supply of wine is running low, threatening social ruin for the families involved.
That is the setting. Let’s look next at the miracle itself.
II. THE MIRACLE ITSELF
When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Now, this language is not so rough in the original as in the English. It is true that Jesus refers to Mary as “women” rather than “mother.” And this might not seem so endearing, but it points to an additional form of relationship between them. Yes, Jesus is Mary’s son. But he is also her Lord. Thus Mary says to the servants “Do whatever he tells you.”
But before she says that, Jesus says “My hour has not yet come.” What does he mean? He means this – his major purpose in life is not to improve a wedding, nor to transform water into wine, but his major purpose is die for the sins of His people on the cross. His hour had not yet come. When it does come, “wine” comes back in to the picture. At the last supper Christ relates the wine of the cup with his blood of the covenant, shed for all who will believe. The people in Cana do not have wine and they do not yet have Christ’s blood either.
But even though the hour has not come, even though the main purpose of Christ’s life has not arrive, there is yet another purpose. We’ll see what this is later, but first now to the miracle itself.
So at Cana there were at the wedding six stone water jars, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Their purpose, the text tells us, is for the purification rituals of the Jews.
We read about these rites in Mark’s gospel:
[Mar 7:3-4 ESV] 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.)
There was a lot of washing to be done, and thus there were very large jars for water for the washings.
So Jesus tells the servants to fill these jars with water. And when the master of the feast takes a drink from one of them he finds that it is now wine. A miracle has occurred. These six jars now hold upwards of 150 gallons of wine! I know that a gallon of water or of wine weighs about 8 lbs. So 150 gallons is 1200 lbs. That’s a lot of wine. It must have been a large celebration. And the quantity goes to prove the miracle. Certainly that much wine would not have been overlooked by the master of ceremonies when the wine stock was running low.
Now in some fundamentalist circles a century ago, there were many attempts to argue that this was merely grape juice and not wine. But the text says wine. In times past some were so opposed to alcohol that they apparently could not accept that Jesus turned water into actual wine. They would argue that this wine had a very low alcohol content. But that is not what the text says. It refers to this as the good wine. It says “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. Bu you have kept the good wine until now.” Clearly, “the good wine”—or even all of the wine—has alcohol in it. The idea is that after drinking some wine, the wedding-goers are less perceptive to the quality of other wine. And this is evidence of Jesus’s miracle. Had the good wine been there from the beginning of the celebration, it would have been consumed. But the wine had just appeared. And they didn’t have convenience stores in Galilee. A truck did not arrive with a new shipment. A miracle occurred – Jesus had turned water into wine.
There is no promotion in this story, however, no promotion nor acceptance of drunkenness. If some at the celebration did drink too much, that is immaterial to the story. Wine was a common drink, safer than water because the alcohol in it keeps germs from growing in it. Wine was a normal part of life. But drunkenness was never acceptable in Jewish law.
We find opposition to drunkenness in the Old Testament:
Proverbs 23:20-21 – “Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.”
Isaiah 5:22 – “Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink.”
But while drunkenness is opposed, yet alcohol itself is not banished or forbidden.
In Psalm 104:14-15a God is praised for giving wine to man.
“You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man.”
And Paul even says in 1 Timothy 5:23 that one could “use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.”
So wine is a gift from God; drunkenness a sin of man against God. [REPEAT]
Jesus then does not let the celebration come to a sad ending, but miraculously turns the water into wine. This is said in the text to be “the first of his signs.” That is, it is the first of his public miracles. There was already the miracle of his birth to a virgin. And n the calling of his disciples Jesus had already displayed that the Holy Spirit empowered him to know things that a person would not normally know. Jesus knew Simon Peter immediately upon meeting him. And likewise, Jesus “saw” Philip under the fig tree, though he was not present at the fig tree at that moment. But the turning of water into win is the first public miracle, seen by more than Jesus’s mother and disciples.
III. THE MEANING OF THE MIRACLE (THE GLORY OF JESUS REVEALED)
But, what does it all mean? This is the third part of the sermon. We’ve had the setting for the miracle, and then the miracle itself. Now, the meaning of the miracle. What does it all mean? What was the purpose of the miracle.
Jesus’ miracles were designed to reveal his glory, to reveal who He really was. [REPEAT]
The miracle is a sign. And that is the term John uses – a sign. And signs point to something else. Something of greater significance. The purpose of a sign is not to say “here is a sign” but to point to someone or something else. Have you ever seen a street sign that says “here is a street sign.” No, that would be ridiculous.
So the miracles of Jesus point to Jesus himself.
The purpose is not to point to how great the wine is, but to tell us how great Jesus is. [REPEAT]
The Glory of Jesus is revealed. He is seen to be wonderful. And this is a testimony to his power.
The disciples saw this testimony. And the disciples believed in Him.
This is John’s purpose in writing the Gospel. The signs revealed Jesus’s glory, but John writes about these signs so that you might believe. He writes:
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.
Now, you might think, “didn’t the disciples already believe in Christ.” They called him the messiah, and the son of God, and the King of Israel.
Yes, they did believe. But this sign revealed Christ’s glory to strengthen their faith.
All of us Christians believe in Jesus, but our faith is strengthened when we read His word or hear the Word preached. And our faith is strengthened by the sacraments.
We are like the father of the child whom Jesus healed in Mark’s Gospel. The father said “I believe, help my unbelief.” [REPEAT: “I believe, help my unbelief.”]
We have doubts, we have struggles, our assurance waxes and wanes. And so we pray to God, “I believe, help my unbelief.”
The confession well says of saving faith:
This faith is different in degrees, weak or strong; may be often and many ways assailed, and weakened, but gets the victory: growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance, through Christ, who is both the author and finisher of our faith.
Jesus revealed his Glory, and he did so for the sake of the faith of the disciples, and for our sake that we may grow in faith.
The miracle of turning water into wine declared, for the first time publicly, that Jesus was the King of Glory. And we are to believe in Him.
Now, I want to look at two applications. And maybe we’ve had one already – that is, alcohol (wine) is to be enjoyed only in moderation. Drunkenness is a grave sin. But we should not therefore declare that that which God has given us (wine) is bad in itself. No, only the overindulgence is bad.
So here are two more applications.
1. LIFE IS TO BE JOYOUS
Life is to be joyous. Not filled with frivolous trivialities, but with real joy. And a marriage ceremony is one of those joyous times. Jesus’s presence at the wedding at Cana and his giving of a gift (150 gallons of wine) shows us that Christian discipleship is not incompatible with enjoying nice things in life. [REPEAT: Christian discipleship is not incompatible with enjoying nice things in life.] Thank the Lord that you have a nice house, a nice car, and plenty food. These are blessings from God. Do not feel guilty for having these things, but praise God that He has so provided for you.
2. (And this point will double as the conclusion for this sermon). NOT ONLY CAN JESUS TURN WATER INTO WINE, HE CAN CHANGE YOU FROM A SINNER TO A SAINT.[REPEAT]
This is the power only Jesus Christ has. Your salvation, your justification, your sanctification cannot be attained of your own will, nor of following any other man nor false god, but only in following Jesus Christ. He, and he alone, is the one in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Jesus Christ alone can change you from a sinner to a saint, he alone can transform you from death to life.
This is the promise to all who believe: now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.