Christ Covenant Church
Jon Marq Toombs
27 March 2016
May the grace and truth of Christ be with you!
Today is Easter Sunday, a day when Christians throughout the world commemorate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Most people only think of resurrection of Jesus as one extraordinary event in space-time history. Jesus died, was buried, and was raised to life on the third day. Period. And that is all good and true. But I want us to see that the extraordinary resurrection of Jesus affects ordinary people in the ordinary activities of their ordinary lives. In other words, I want you to know that the extraordinary life-giving power of the resurrection applies to ordinary folks like you. Now, let me show you how.
We are walking through the Gospel of John and focusing our attention on Jesus, the Word made flesh for the life of the world. Our sermon text for today is John 2:1-11. If you are able, please stand and listen to God’s Holy Word.
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 word of the Lord. (Thanks be to God!) May God add his blessings to the reading, preaching, and hearing of his word. All the church says: Amen! You may be seated.
At first glance, this story seems like an unlikely Easter Sunday story. But my prayer is that you will see that it is perfect for the occasion. Why? Because it shows us that the extraordinary life-giving power of the resurrection applies to ordinary folks like you in ordinary places like this in the ordinary circumstances of your life.
It’s hard to come up with titles for sermons, but you notice in the worship order that I titled this one Ws on the Third Day.
WEDDING (On the Third Day)
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.
I am well aware that some men hate weddings and that most women love them. But I want to point out that Jesus went to a wedding. While I am tempted to say only a man who is also God can enjoy a wedding, the story shows that Jesus went along with his disciples — and they were also men. Some were even rough and rowdy fishermen. So I conclude two things: One, that real men enjoy weddings. Two, if you want to be like Jesus you will gladly attend weddings.
Most of that was tongue-in-cheek. But on a more serious note, it is worth pointing out that marriage is right and good. By marriage we mean real marriage between one man and one woman for one life. Not fake marriage between men or between women, which is no marriage at all.
Echoing the Holy Scriptures, we gladly proclaim that
“Marriage was instituted by God himself in the time of man’s innocency and uprightness. The Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him” (Genesis 2:18). Thereupon God created woman of man’s own substance and brought her to the man. Our Lord Jesus Christ honored marriage by His presence at the wedding in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11). And He confirmed it as a divine ordinance and a union not to be severed when He declared, “Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:6). — BCO, Appendix B
Jesus was just a guest at the wedding in Cana, but at the end of all things he will be the groom at his wedding.
So far in our journey through John’s Gospel, we have seen and heard that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. What you might not know is that he came into the world to lay down his life to pay the bride price for the love of his life — the church. In other words, he came into the world to kill the dragon and win the girl.
The Book of Revelation shows us a vision of the future marriage supper of the Lamb of God. After he slays the dragon, het takes his bride. In the vision, there was “what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And an angel said, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb. These are the true words of God.” (Revelation 19:6-9)
On behalf of the Lamb of God, we wish to extend an invitation to all of you. “You’re all invited to wedding feast of the Lord Jesus Christ.” He was present at ours, we must be present at his. So use whatever time you have left in this life to get ready for his wedding in the next life. That goes for you children, you men, and you women.
Speaking of women, the brings us to the next key word.
WOMAN (On the Third Day)
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.”
One of the things that is so easy to forget about people is that they have mothers. Mothers should play a crucial role in shaping the life, virtues, image, and habits of their children. Jesus had a mother who brought him up in the grace and truth of God’s word. I hope you had a mother like that. I thank God that I do, and that my kids do. But if you did not, there are some godly women here that would happily serve as a spiritual mother for you.
Now, even when Jesus was a thirty year old man, he and his mother still had a good and healthy relationship. But in this story we see mother and son working out the kinks of their relationship. When Mary sees that there is no more wine, she tells Jesus about it. And every son knows what she meant. “You need to do something about it.”
Now, Jesus is no longer a boy; he is a man. Furthermore, he is the God-man on mission to save the world. He has bigger concerns on his mind that wine, and he lets her know that in the way only a son can. “Woman, what does this have to do with me?”
Mary sees this as a chance for him to show who is is and what he can do. Jesus pushes back and says, “This is not on my time table.”
Like a good mother, she ignores him and responds, “Whatever.” Actually, she tells the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Mothers, if you don’t remember anything else, remember this. There is no better advice, counsel, instruction under heaven that you can give your sons and daughters than this. “Do whatever Jesus tells you.” And, children, obey your mother and father in the Lord so that things will go well with you. “Do whatever Jesus tells you.”
Now, lots of ink has been spilled on why Jesus called his mother “Woman”. Most commentators agree that it sounds rude to our ears, but it did not sound rude to Mary’s ears. She took it all in stride.
So why woman instead of mother? Brace yourselves. Are you ready for this?
Dr Michael Reeves (President of Union School of Theology and Professor of Systematic Theology) points out that in John’s Gospel, “when Jesus calls his mother “woman,” he might be hinting that he is the seed of the woman who has come to crush the serpent.” (Source: via facebook, on March 4, 2016)
In other words, he might be echoing God’s promise from Genesis 3:15 — thus hinting that he is the dragon-slayer.
Need more convincing proof?
Later on in John’s Gospel, when Jesus was hanging on the cross, he saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, and he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” (19:26)
Why would he say that?
She knew what he had come into the world to do. She knew that someday his hour would come. She’s been nudging him along. She’s his number one fan. She’s the best cheerleader. She’s the one wanting him to accomplish all these things. And in the moment when it looks like he’s not accomplish any of those things he says, “Woman, behold your son.”
Woman, look at your seed! The promise is fulfilled. Now, watch me crush the serpent!
From the Garden of Eden to the Garden tomb, every man and woman watched and waited and wept for the seed of woman to come. They were seeking the savior of the world even with tears. So, after his resurrection from the dead, Jesus said to his friend Mary, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” (20:15)
The search is over. The seed of the woman has come and slain the dragon. So there is no more need to watch, wait, or weep.
Jesus had a clearer perspective on these things than we realize.
At one point Jesus explains, “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a man has been born into the world.” (John 16:21 cf Genesis 3:15; 4:1)
That’s true in a general biological sense, and it’s true in a special theological sense. Now that the woman’s hour has come, now that the God-man has been born into the world, the woman my forget her anguish and pain.
Why? For she will be delivered by the dragon-slayer whom she delivered. No woman understood this better than the woman who gave birth to the Word made flesh, the God-man whom she washed with water and nursed with milk when he was a baby.
When Jesus said to his mother, “Woman, what does this have to do with me?” She could have answered, “Everything son. Everything.”
Speaking of water, the brings us to the next key word.
WATER (On the Third Day)
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.
It’s hard to imagine, but there were no utility companies treating and pumping fresh potable water into the houses at Cana. People in Jesus’ day did not have running water at their homes, so they had to draw water from wells, streams, or rivers and store it in water jars. My wife and I have lived in places in Mexico where water is scarce. So we know what it’s like to collect water and ration it.
In this story, the large water jars were used for purification rites.
The Law of Moses required many kinds of washings with water in order to keep oneself ceremonially clean. The clean water was carefully applied by sprinkling, pouring and dipping unclean hands, feet, dishes, whatever.
It is likely that some of that water had been used for an actual bridal shower, a special bath to prepare her for marriage. It is also likely that some of the water had been used so wedding guests could wash their faces, hands, and feet before eating, drinking, and dancing at the wedding feast. That explains why they had to be filled up to brim.
The point is that the water in the jars was not used for drinking or cooking. It was (in a manner speaking) “holy water” set apart for special purpose of cleansing and purifying.
In this story, the stone water jars would hold between 120-180 gallons of water.
It is estimated that most Americans use about 120-180 gallons of water per day. Between showers, flushes, laundry, dishwashing, and watering plants it adds up. Compare that to some places in Africa where the average person uses about 5 gallons of water per day.
We have it so good here, but we don’t seem to know just how good we have it. We take so much for granted, but we ought to give thanks to God for every drop of clean water we have. It is a priceless resource that no-one can afford to waste.
Water is a luxury to some; wine is a luxury to others.
Speaking of wine, that brings us to the next key word.
WINE (On the Third Day)
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.”
It is likely that some of you are wondering what Jesus’ mother was so worried about. Some of you might be thinking, when the wine runs out that signals the end of the party. Others might be wondering why in the world they had wine at all.
In the OT scriptures we learn that God’s people used wine for
Celebrations, including worship — Deuteronomy 14:26-27; Psalm 104:14-15; Esther 5:1-8;
Covenant-making, including weddings and communion — Genesis 14:18-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26;
Comforting the sick and poor — Proverbs 31:6-7; 1 Timothy 5:23
N.T. Wright explains that the wedding probably involved the whole village and neighboring communities. Running out of wine was not just inconvenient, but a social disaster and disgrace. The families would have to live with the shame of it for a long time to come; and the bride and groom might regard it as a sign of bad luck, a curse on their marriage. (John for Everyone (Pt 1), p22)
Before you scoff and shake your head, remember that in the OT, wine running out was a covenant curse, a sign of judgment. But wine overflowing was a covenant blessing, a sign of God’s pleasure and deliverance.
As I said, the water in the jars was not for drinking, but only for cleansing. So when Jesus commanded the servants to draw some out and take it to the master of the feast, he asking them to do something that was culturally taboo — and he was asking them to trust him and to obey him — whatever he commanded.
They had no idea why Jesus wanted them to take water to the master of ceremonies.
They did not know what he intended to do with the water.
They certainly did not imagine that he had turned water into wine.
The only thing they knew with certainty was how the MC was going to react when he tasted the water from the stone jars.
If he tasted pure water, he would pronounce the end of the wine and the wedding feast would effectively be over. But when he tasted wine, he pronounced the party was just getting started. Why? Because this wine was better than all the wine that had already been served.
Jesus took water jars filled to the brim and turned water into wine.
I have heard that in some places in the middle east, when a host wants his guests to feel welcome in his home, he will pour wine in their cups until it spills over the brim. But if he wants them to feel unwelcome he will not fill the cup to overflowing.
Jesus was not the host at the wedding feast, but he does something host-like to show us that he is the Good Shepherd of his people, who makes their cups overflow and makes sure that goodness and mercy follow them all the days of their life (Psa 23:5-6).
Now, before we move on to the last key word, I want to point out that water and wine come together again at the end of John’s Gospel. In John 13, Jesus took a basin of water and washed his disciples’ feet (purification). Then, in John 19 he tasted the sour wine while hanging on the cross. Finally, when he gave up his spirit and died, a soldier jabbed him with a spear, and water and blood flowed from his side.
While he was sleeping she was taken and formed out of his side. When he awoke on the third day he said, “Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.”
The Word made flesh laid down his life for his bride. She was purchased by his precious blood and washed with the pure water of his love.
Speaking of word, the brings us to the last one.
WORD (On the Third Day)
This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
It does not take much imagination to see that 120-180 gallons of fine wine was a lavish gift for the newly weds. But it is much more than a wedding gift.
“Here, in the story of the first sign, all the emphasis lies on the fact that in [Jesus] is given the fullness of God’s gifts in their joy-full, world-illuminating, and life-giving meaning.” (Herman Ridderbos, p109)
Turning water into wine is a sign, a picture that Jesus used to reveal the grace and truth of his glory to his disciples.
Now, Jesus had told his disciples that they were going to see his glory revealed in truer, better, and greater ways. And this sign is just the first of many signs to come.
But what does it all mean?
One pastor (Edward Markquart) put it like this: In this story, Jesus takes 180 gallons of Law and transforms it into 180 gallons of Grace and Truth. 180 gallons of ritual transformed into 180 gallons of reality. “For from the fullness of his glory we have all received grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:16-18)
By turning water into wine, Jesus brought a wedding feast back to life from the dead. If he can bring wedding feast back to life with a little wine, surely he can bring your heart back to life with his Spirit, surely he can change your despair into hope, surely he can transform your broken past into a healed future, surely he can refill your empty soul; surely he can flip the script on your story, surely he can revive your marriage, surely he can save you from disaster and disgrace.
By doing this sign on the third day, Jesus shows us that the extraordinary life-giving power of the resurrection applies backward and forward to ordinary folks like you, in ordinary places like this, in the ordinary circumstances of life.
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but this sign was 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.
Jesus in the resurrection and the life and he came so that you may have life — and have it filled to the brim and overflowing.
All you have to do is heed his mother’s wise counsel: Do whatever he tells you.
And this is what he tells you to do: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Do not doubt. Believe in me.”
If you do what he says you will experience the life-giving power of his resurrection now and always.
Post-Script added 3/29
Curiously, in Jeremiah 13 jars filled with wine was a sign of shame associated with divorce. In John 2 jars filled with wine is a sign of glory associated with marriage. (cf Jer 3:6ff; 13:11; Gen 2:24; Rev 19:6ff)