In 1857 a woman named Anne Cousin wrote a hymn called ‘The Sands of Time Are Sinking.’ Part of that hymn reads as follows:

“O Christ, He is the fountain, the deep, sweet well of love! The streams of earth I’ve tasted, more deep I’ll drink above. There to an ocean fullness, His mercy doth expand, and glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land…O I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved’s mine! He brings a poor vile sinner into His “house of wine.” I stand upon His merit—I know no other stand, not even where glory dwelleth, in Immanuel’s land.”

These words describe the conversion experience with the imagery of bringing poor vile sinners into Christ’s house of wine where those sinners turned saints drink deeply of the delight found in Christ. Let me ask you: do you know the words of this hymn to be your own experience? Do you know what it is to drink deeply of the wine of Christ? Or do these words leave you feeling confused and perplexed about what they’re describing? Wherever you are in regard to this imagery, pray with me, that these words (and more so this text before us) would come alive to us today.

Follow along as I read John 2:1-11.

Three points to see today as we walk through this passage:

a) The Problem (v1-5)

b) The Solution (v6-10)

c) The Glory (v11) 

 

The Problem (v1-5)

Normally in our day when we talk about weddings we talk about things like the number of people in attendance, the decorations, the flowers, the music, the groom’s face, and of course last but not at all least…the beauty of the bride in her dress. But as we get into this passage we see right away that John is concerned about certain details of this wedding, and very un-concerned with other details of the wedding. He mentions there is a wedding in Cana, but mentions nothing about the bride and groom at all. Rather, he immediately begins talking about two people and a problem. The two people are Mary and Jesus, and the problem is that the wine has run out. Now, first century Jewish wedding customs are very different than our own. Wine back then was a symbol of means and hospitality, in that the groom was to provide enough refreshments for all the guests invited under penalty of law. Maybe more guests came than originally invited, maybe he couldn’t afford to provide enough for the guests, or maybe the guests drank more than he had planned for – so as v3 tells us, they ran out of wine. Which would have been enormously embarrassing to the groom and his family.

Notice that when the wine runs out, Mary, the mother of Jesus, tells Jesus in v3, “They have no wine.” I don’t think Mary is just giving Jesus a snid-bit of information here about what’s going on at the wedding. I think she is asking Jesus to step in and save the day by solving this problem for them, and thereby revealing who He is (the Son of God) to all in attendance. Let me show you why I think this. Up until this time Jesus had not performed a miracle, and Mary knew who her Son was. Mary remembered that before Jesus was born angels spoke to her saying He would be the Messiah. Mary remembered that she conceived Jesus while she was a virgin. Mary knew that the whole fabric of Jesus’ life stamped Him as different than every other human in history. She knew He was the long awaited Messiah, the Christ, who would save God’s people once and for all, and by telling Him the wine had ran out, she is asking Jesus to take action, reveal who He was, and begin His long-awaited Messianic ministry.

Jesus’ response to Mary further proves that she was asking Him to do this. Jesus replies in v4, “Woman, what does this have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” Now, I ought to make clear that it was a common practice as well as good manners in this culture to call older women and your own mother “woman.” This is similar to our usage of the word madam or ma’am in our culture.[1] So do not think it disrespectful for Jesus to call her this. After all Jesus called her ‘woman’ again when He was on the cross (John 19:26) and called the Samaritan at the well ‘woman’ as well (John 4:21). Rather than asking if this is disrespectful or not, ask another question. Why did He do it? Why turn down His mother’s request? I think Jesus wants to make it crystal clear that He has a supreme allegiance to His Father’s will above every other will, including His mother’s. Jesus’ reply shows that His mother’s desires for Him to reveal His glory in a very public manner is not pleasing to Him, it is not in line with what His Father wants. He follows His Father’s will over Mary’s will – always. The phrase “My hour has not yet come” shows us that there will come an hour when Jesus will reveal who He is in a public fashion that will leave no doubt as to His deity. Jesus knows this hour is coming, He knows the day will come when He must do this, but that time is not now. This is a gentle rebuke to Mary for wanting Him to do something before He intends to.[2]

That Jesus calls her “woman” shows us also that according to Jesus, Mary is similar to every other woman on the planet. Yes, she is the mother of Jesus, she is the one who carried Him, who nursed Him, who cared for, provided for, and raised Him. But now, Jesus denies her request. In Luke 11:27-28 there is a similar event. Jesus is teaching, and someone cries out, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” Jesus answered and said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!” You see the point Jesus is making there, and the point He is displaying here with His Mom? Mary is special for sure, blessed of course, but she does not have any special favor from God because of her family relation to Jesus. Mary does not have a special advantage over the rest of mankind, and in this text she is seen as a follower of Jesus, not family.[3] What should this teach us? No one physically attached to Jesus has any special grace from Jesus! Followers who come to Him and receive salvation from Him do so by faith, not by family lineage. So be encouraged here church, if you desire to come to Jesus, it doesn’t matter who your family is, what they’ve done whether it be good or bad. Anyone who comes by faith, who comes repenting and believing in Jesus enters in.

Mary responds to this in v5 with advice that we, and Christians throughout all time, should follow, “Do whatever He tells you.”

The Solution (v6-10)

The interesting thing about this miracle is both the quantity and the quality of the wine Jesus creates. John says that there were six stone water jars at the wedding being used for ritual purification, each being able to hold 20-30 gallons of water. That’s anywhere between 120-180 gallons of water. This is no small amount of liquid! After Jesus had commanded the servants to fill these jars with water, he told them to draw some out and take it to the master of the wedding feast. They did, and the master (being surprised) called the groom over and said in v10, “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.” After tasting the good wine the master of the feast was astonished that the groom had been so gracious, because the quality of this wine was so good.

So we’ve got quantity and quality here. 120-180 gallons of fine wine, created from the Son of God Himself. The question we should ask at this point is “Why?” After gently rebuking Mary, Jesus goes ahead and answers her request by turning the water into wine, revealing His deity and power to the servants, His disciples, and His mother. I thought He only obeyed the Father? I thought His time had not yet come? Well, it hasn’t, but Jesus goes ahead and performs this first miracle to let a small group of people know what’s to come. In the Old Testament both the prophet Amos speaks of the days when the Messiah will come and bring an abundance of wine with Him. Amos 9:13-14 says, “Behold, the days are coming…” declares the LORD “…when the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.”

An abundance of wine was thought of in Jewish thinking as a blessing of the age to come! A gift the Messiah would bring to indicate that He has brought the Kingdom of God with Him. So when Jesus replaces the water with fine wine, do you see what He’s doing? The jars of water were meant for Law-keeping and Jesus fills them with new wine. This shows us that the Old Testament law is being done away with, and that with the coming of Jesus comes a new age, a new rule, and a new kingdom. Let me illustrate: I know of a pastor who always eats a cookie before the rest of his meal during his church’s Wednesday evening dinner. He calls it his “eschatological cookie” and as he eats it he says to the congregation, “This is my eschatological cookie, a foretaste of the greater desert to come.” This is what I think Jesus is up to in this miracle.

So we deny the liberal position that Jesus used a kind of trickery here instead of actually performing a miracle. We also deny the hyper conservative position that’s embarrassed Jesus would make more instead of rebuking people for drinking wine in the first place. Both of these positions miss the point. Jesus didn’t perform this miracle, or any of His miracles to impress people or to show that the supernatural really did exist. He did all of them, and this one in Cana in particular, to show that He is the One who is bringing the blessings of the age to come into this world! Unlike the groom who failed to provide enough wine for his own wedding party, Jesus is the greater Bridegroom who provides abundantly for His own people. When all other wines run out, His wine never will! Through the free offer of the gospel, His ever-flowing wine is extended to undeserving sinners. Isaiah 55:1-2, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.” So let me ask you: what wine are you drinking? Wine that makes you drunk with the lusts of the world? Or the best and most pure wine that Jesus, the perfect Bridegroom, gives to His Church?

If you do not receive this wine, the wine of the Kingdom, then you are like a person dying of thirst in the desert who comes across a beautiful oasis, only to eat a mouthful of sand thinking it will satisfy you. Stop eating sand, come to the wedding, come to Jesus, He is gushing with the wine of the age to come, and His wine will satisfy your souls!

The Glory (v11) – conclusion:

So we have seen the problem in v1-5, and the solution in v6-10, now we turn to v11 where we see the glory.

“This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” This verse has one thing to teach us, that’s it. Jesus revealed His power for a purpose, and the purpose was to reveal His glory. This should not surprise us at all because this is the theme of the entire Bible! God revealed His glory by creating the world – Psalm 19. God revealed His glory by creating mankind – Isaiah 43. God revealed His glory by creating and calling out the nation of Israel – Isaiah 49. God revealed His glory by rescuing Israel from Egypt – Psalm 106:7-8. God revealed His glory and showed His power by raising Pharaoh up against Moses – Exodus 14. God revealed His glory by leading Israel through the wilderness – Ezekiel 20.

God reveals His glory by causing our good works – Matthew 5:16. God reveals His glory by predestining a people for Himself – Ephesians 1:3-14. God reveals His glory by answering prayer – John 14:13. God reveals His glory by forgiving our sins – 1 John 2:12. God reveals His glory by receiving us into His fellowship – Romans 15:7. God reveals His glory by sending out His Spirit into our hearts – John 16:14. God reveals His glory by telling us to do all things to and for His glory – 1 Cor. 10:31. God reveals His glory by ordering all things for the sake of His glory – Romans 11:33-36. And most of all, the one event which God revealed His glory to the uttermost was when God revealed His glory through the death of His Son Jesus for sin on the cross – Romans 3:21-26, because through His Son Jesus many, many, many, people will glorify God for His mercy – Romans 15:8-9, and those many, many people will see the glory of God in the loving and tender face of Jesus Christ – 2 Cor. 4:6.

So you see, when Jesus used His power at that wedding in Cana, He did so purposefully – to show a small group of people His glory. And John included it here in his gospel – so you would see His glory, be stunned by it, cherish it, and enjoy it as the joy of all your joys, and the pleasure of all your pleasures!

Did you notice what happened when Jesus revealed His glory at the wedding? Look at the end of v11, “…And His disciples believed in Him.” When the glory of Christ is revealed, or when the glory of Christ goes public, faith in Christ is born! Most people think the “glory of God” is something abstract that they cannot get at or see with any clarity. This miracle teaches us that we don’t need to look to any other place to see the glory of God in this world – we only need to look to Jesus!

Once we believe in Him after seeing His glory we shall all one day be at a greater wedding ceremony, the wedding supper of the Lamb, where we shall drink the sweet wine of the kingdom for all eternity with the King Himself.[4]

 

Citations:

[1] R.C. Sproul, John, St. Andrews Expository Commentary, page 20-21.

[2] Ibid, page 21.

[3] John Piper, Obedient Son, Ultimate Purifier, All-Providing Bridegroom, sermon from December 14, 2008, desiringgod.org.

[4] R. Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe, Preaching the Word Commentary, page 63-65.

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