Water into Wine – A Sign of Celebration: At a wedding in Cana, Jesus performed his famous miracle of turning water into wine. This served as the first sign to the disciples of who Jesus is and what the kingdom is like where he is King. And what does this miracle teach us? Turning hundreds of gallons of water into the best wine at a wedding feast is a wonderful sign of celebration. Recorded on Jul 23, 2023, on John 2:1-12 by Pastor David Parks.
Finding Life in Jesus’ Name is a sermon series on the gospel according to John in the Bible. Have you ever felt unsatisfied with your life? Or, even when things were going well, something was still missing? Many people sense there must be something more. But what?? John, one of the closest friends of Jesus, believed that Jesus came into the world so that we may have life and have it to the full. Jesus turned John’s life upside down, and John claims this new life — marked by God’s power, presence, and purpose — is available for all who believe.
So this month, we’ve started a new annual theme for our preaching ministry, that is: Finding Life in Jesus’ Name. And normally, we’d have a selection of sermon series under this theme from various parts of the Bible throughout the year. But this year we’re doing something a little different. For almost the whole next year, we’re going slowly, chapter by chapter and verse by verse, through the gospel according to John. So far, we’ve made it through chapter 1, which really has served as an introduction for the whole series. This morning, with the start of chapter 2, the author, the Apostle John, kicks off the public ministry of Jesus with the famous miracle of turning water into wine. Now, I know it’s the summertime, so if you missed any of the sermons so far, you can always go back and watch online or listen to the audio podcast if you’d like. But today, with turning water into wine, we’ll see the first of seven signs in John’s gospel, which reveal who Jesus is and what the kingdom is like where he is king. And this first sign at the very start of the ministry of Jesus sets the stage for what his unique and world-changing ministry would be all about. And the message here is so surprisingly good. The way of Jesus, becoming a disciple of Jesus, the life that is found in Jesus’ name — none of this is easy, but it is so very good. The first of the seven signs is a sign of celebration which ought to be received with joyful praise and surprised thanks. If you have a Bible/app, please take it and open it to John 2:1. Let’s jump right in.
John 2:1–5 (NIV), “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 “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”” Let’s pause here. Ok! Just like the Godfather movie, the public ministry of Jesus starts with a wedding. Chapter one ends with a few men starting to follow Jesus as his disciples. We saw last week that Peter, Andrew, Philip, Nathanael, and John the author all started following Jesus initially because of the testimony of John the Baptist. But after they spent some time with him, they started bringing others to him, convinced that he was the Messiah or the chosen one sent by God. If we look at a map, we can see that this happened in the southern region of Judea to the east of Jerusalem in the wilderness beyond the Jordan River. That’s where John the Baptist’s ministry took place. Here in chapter two, the author says they attended a wedding in the small town of Cana in the northern region of Galilee. And Cana was only a few miles north of the town of Nazareth, where Jesus grew up. Now, we don’t know whose wedding they were attending, but we can guess it was someone who was a family friend of Jesus, since his mother Mary had been invited, too. Because Joseph isn’t mentioned in the gospels after Jesus was twelve years old, many assume that Joseph had passed away at some point. We don’t know for sure, but I believe it’s likely. But Jesus and his disciples were there, and a problem arose. Mary makes a statement to Jesus, “They have no more wine.” And this is a big deal. Commentator Don Carson writes, “A wedding celebration [at this time] could last as long as a week, and the financial responsibility lay with the groom. To run out of supplies would be a dreadful embarrassment in a ‘shame’ culture” (Carson, PNTC, p.169). Mary recognizes this embarrassment and points it out to Jesus. From the context, it appears that she is expecting him to do something about it, but Jesus gives a curious response, “Woman, why do you involve me? My hour has not yet come.” The NIV gives a footnote trying to help Jesus out by saying that the Greek here for woman isn’t disrespectful. However, it doesn’t seem overly affectionate. In fact, it seems as if Jesus is bothered by something, but what is he bothered about? Something about his hour? Let’s come back to that in a moment. For now, Mary tells the servants at the wedding, “Do whatever he tells you.” which, I must say, is wonderful advice. Whatever Jesus tells you to do, you should do it. Do whatever he tells you. Ok, well, despite his cryptic response, Mary seems to understand that Jesus might still do something to save the groom from embarrassment. But what could he do? v. 6.
John 2:6-10 (NIV), “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.”” So, the Jewish people at this time had two sources guiding them morally. They had the Law, also known as the Law of Moses, which was the collection of 600+ laws given to them by God at Mount Sinai. But they also had the traditions of their elders. And the ceremonial washing using these six large stone jars wasn’t based on a law of God, but a tradition of man. In Mark’s gospel, he writes, “The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.” (Mk 7:3-4) Now, this wasn’t the same thing as doing the dishes or washing your hands with soap. This ceremonial washing represented the cleanliness of a pure heart and hands. It represented holiness and the forgiveness of sins. The way Mark describes it, there was probably a bit of showmanship or attention for the Pharisees, too. It wasn’t just that they wanted to be holy (which is good!); it was that they wanted others to see them as holy, too. So it’s interesting that Jesus told the servants to fill these particular jars with water for two reasons, at least. First, these were big jars, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. This means that Jesus turned about 150 gallons of water into the best wine (750 bottles). This is such an extravagant gift! The master of the wedding banquet, not realizing where all this wine had come from, was surprised at the quality. He 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.” Meaning, normally people start with the expensive stuff but put out the cheap stuff toward the end of the night when people are, let’s say, a little less picky. But the master of the banquet recognized this was not the cheap stuff. This was the best wine. The groom wouldn’t be embarrassed. And there was more than enough for everyone. Let’s finish this passage. v. 11.
John 2:11–12 (NIV), “11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. 12 After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.” So, as we’ve said, this wedding in Cana starts a long section in John’s gospel which highlights Jesus’ public ministry. Chapters 2-12 in John’s gospel is sometimes called the “book of signs” because they contain seven signs (miracles, really), changing water into wine being the first. However, we know that Jesus did many more than seven miracles in the three years of his public ministry. The impression is that miracles were almost a daily occurrence for Jesus. At the end of his gospel, John writes, “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (Jn 20:30-31). So, these seven signs are presented very intentionally by John as a sample of the miraculous ministry of Jesus. But why signs, and why seven? Later, Jesus makes the statement, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never believe.” (Jn 4:48). Miraculous signs serve to authenticate the message and the messenger. Seeing evidence of God’s power is helpful to our faith. But why seven? In the Bible, seven is a number representing completeness or wholeness. So, I envision the seven signs recorded by John are like a wing in the art gallery that he curated for us about Jesus. This wing is called “Signs of Glory” and contains this collection of miracles performed by Jesus which revealed his glory to his disciples and which they responded to by believing in him. The whole gallery reveals the beautiful truth about who Jesus is, but this wing teaches us seven truths about the miraculous power of Jesus. Each sign tells a little different story as to who Jesus is and what the kingdom is like where he is king. So what does this first sign teach us, turning water into wine? This sign is a sign of celebration. Think about the context. We’re at a wedding. This is a party. Everybody was invited. The DJ is playing music, people are dancing, there’s a feast. Do you want to know what the kingdom of God is like? Do you want to know what the person and work of Jesus is like? It’s like bringing the best wine to a feast, with more than enough for everyone to share. I just can’t think of a better picture to describe the way of Jesus. It’s certainly not an easy way. But the truth is that in a broken world, there is no easy way! And sometimes, following the way, doing whatever Jesus tells you to do, will get you in serious trouble. But his way is so very good. It’s a good life, it’s an abundant life, it’s an eternal life with God and full of God’s blessing and provision and goodness. But all of this life and faith rest on Jesus’ cryptic statement about his hour. “My hour has not yet come.” What does that have to do with this sign of celebration? Everything. We can’t have the ultimate feast, the ultimate celebration, and party until Jesus faces the hour. It is here that John introduces a thread that runs through his whole gospel. There are seven references in John to the hour of Jesus, and every time it refers to his suffering and death on the cross. Everything is in sevens for John, but another wing in the gallery could be called “The Hour.” Was Jesus bothered at the wedding because he was thinking of what he would have to endure on the cross? Given his reference to the hour, we can assume this is true. This wedding in Cana reminded him of what he still had to face in order to enjoy his own wedding banquet, the wedding feast of the Lamb, with his bride, the church, in the age to come. Is this a stretch? I don’t believe so. Remember how this story started? With a reference to time. On the third day, John says, was when this wedding took place. If you read back through chapter one, there are four different days that are referenced, starting with the introduction to John the Baptist’s ministry. That means that this wedding is happening on the seventh day so far in John’s gospel. Just as John started by using language to represent a new genesis/beginning (In the beginning…) so here, he uses language to represent a new week of creation. In Genesis 1, Moses uses a seven-day framework to tell the story of creation. After the prologue, John has the ministry of John the Baptist as happening on days 1-2. Then, the calling of the disciples on days 3-4. Now here, three days later, the wedding in Cana would be taking place on the seventh day. And I do not believe for a second this is an accident. Otherwise, why would John reference the days? And seven is too significant of a number for John. So, if this is a reference to the first week of creation, what happened in Genesis on the seventh day? Genesis 2:2–3 (NIV), “2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” God “sabbathed” or ceased from his work. Later, in the Law of Moses, this Sabbath is commanded for God’s people. Here, in this first sign of Jesus, we have a sign that a new Sabbath, a new celebration, a new and better offer of rest is coming into existence. As the author of Hebrews writes, “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.” (Heb 4:9-10). So this sign of celebration is pointing not only to the new creation of Easter Sunday and the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead but to his second coming and the wedding feast that will happen on that day. So, if that is what Jesus has in mind, why does he seem bothered? Because of the hour. He knew that before that day was one great and terrible day that would come first. Which leads me to my big idea for the day:
Celebration comes after the cross. This was true for Jesus, and so it is often true for us who follow Jesus. Joy comes after mourning. The dawn comes after the night. Wine comes after water. And the celebration of the resurrection comes after the horror of the cross. The person and work of Jesus needs both the cross and the empty tomb. It needs both joy and sorrow. Sorrow for our sin, sorrow for the brokenness of this world, sorrow for the loss of how things should have been. But also joy. Joy because we have a savior. Joy because there is a way that leads to life and joy and peace. Joy because there is a gospel and it is as true today as it was 2,000 years ago. What is Jesus like? And what the kingdom is like where he is king? It’s like bringing the best wine to a feast, with more than enough for everyone to share. And it will one day be a greater celebration than any of us can imagine. But for now, celebration comes after the cross. Let us pray.