NOTE: This service was supposed to occur on Sunday, January 17, 2016. However, due to inclement weather, services were cancelled; therefore this sermon/service was a week later.
2 Epiphany Proper C2
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
John 2:1-11 Sermon
January 24, 2015
Click here for service internet broadcast/podcast.
Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal)
42 "O Thou Love Unbounded"
105 "Praise God The Lord, Ye Sons Of Men"
129 "Hail Thou Source Of Every Blessing"
119 "Great God We Sing, That Mighty Hand"
THE PERFECT WEDDING GUEST
TEXT (vs. 9-11) “…and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realise where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 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.’ 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.”
It's been several years ago that I was preaching at a midweek Lenten service at St. John. And one of the nice things about having joint Lenten services with St. John are the Lenten suppers they have before their second service.
They serve the meal from 5-6:30 pm. I usually show up some time just before 6:00 pm because there isn't as long of a line, and I still have plenty of time to eat and visit with all of the nice folks there. And yes, I have fun doing this.
However, one time things weren't quite so good. I hadn't had much to eat that day, so I was more than ready for a good meal. And it was going to be a spaghetti supper, one of those foods I've enjoyed all my life. So, I arrived at my usual time, and there was quite a line of people, which was unusual. Then I found out what was happening. They ran out of food, something that was also unusual.
Now believe me, I'm not telling you this story to embarrass St. John or the fine people there. I enjoy the fellowship we have, and it means a lot to me. We're almost like an extended family, and I certainly mean them no disrespect whatsoever.
But as things go, goof-ups often do occur. In this instance, the young people serving the supper didn't know how to adequately calculate the amount of food that was necessary. So they ran out.
As we look at our text for today, we see that there is quite a gathering of people assembled, where food and drink were being served. It was a wedding feast, and it was taking place in the town of Cana of Galilee. Wedding feasts were major gala events in the lives of the people. They lasted for days. There was a lot of food, and a lot of wine. It was expected that the host of the feast would provide enough food and drink so that none of the guests were left wanting for anything.
However, for them to run out of anything wasn't as simple as running out of spaghetti noodles at a church supper. This was far different. For the host (which would have been the groom and his family) to run out of anything, especially the wine, it was more than just a social faux paus, or an unfortunate miscalculation by the groom. This was taken as a sign that God was not going to bless the marriage, or maybe putting it into the vernacular, the marriage was jinxed.
Why would this be? If we look at Proverbs chapter 3, verses 9-10 we can get an explanation: "Honor the lord with your wealth, with the first-fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats brim over with new wine."
For them to run out of wine was an indication to them that the Lord had not blessed them, and that they had not been properly honoring the Lord in their lives. So, it was not simply an embarrassment to run out of wine in those days. Plenty of free flowing wine was a symbol of God's blessing.
Let’s take a good look at this situation. Jesus was there as were his disciples. From all outward appearances, they weren’t any different than the rest of the guests. For all intents and purposes, Jesus didn’t stand out as being someone special or noteworthy. He was there, hanging out with the people and having a good time. The only thing people might have noticed was that he wouldn’t have over-indulged in the food and alcohol; but that in and of itself wouldn’t have singled him out as being odd, or that he was someone special.
Mary, Jesus’ mother was there too. I believe that it is quite likely that Mary was a close relative of the groom. She was perhaps helping with the celebration, probably acting as the hostess for the party. So when the wine ran out, she was more than just a little concerned about it. This would be a bad reflection not only on her and the groom, but the entire family. She couldn’t give the impression that God wasn’t going to bless this marriage because of her family’s miscalculation and error. She needed help, and she needed it fast!
Who could help her out in this situation? She went to the only person she knew could help, and that was her son Jesus. Even though she knew that he was God’s only Son, she most likely wasn’t sure whether he either could or would help with this dilemma. But she had to ask anyway.
Jesus’ response to her is almost puzzling in a way. In verse 4 of our text, we read: “’Dear woman, why do you involve me?’ Jesus replied. ‘My time has not yet come.’”
First of all, Jesus addresses her in a very formal way. “Dear woman” is not the way children addressed their parents. You would have almost expected him to say, “Aw mum,” but he didn’t.
Second, he asks “Why do you involve me?” Isn’t that almost like he’s saying, “Hey, this running out of wine thing wasn’t my blunder. I didn’t make this mistake. I’m only a guest at this party. Why should I do anything about it?”
And third, Jesus says that his time had not yet come. What time was “his time?” When would it be “his time?” Was there a special time when he could help out in this situation? How long would they have to wait?
Well, here’s the answer to all those questions. When Mary came to Jesus for help, she didn’t come to him like a normal mother would come to her son. If she had, she would have said something like, “Hey Jesus, why don’t you and your friends go down to the liquor store and pick up some more wine.”
Mary approaches Jesus because he is true God. She came forward in faith looking for a miracle to alleviate this situation. And because she approached him in this manner, he responds with the more formal address of “dear woman.”
And then what follows is more understandable. When he says, “Why do you involve me?” we need to understand the reason Jesus came to this earth in the first place. He didn’t come to be the little old wine maker, or to work some hocus-pocus to keep the party rolling. He came to save the people from their sins, and to be the Saviour of the world. And Mary knew this.
When Jesus says that his time had not yet come, we need only look at Mark chapter 1, verse 15. Jesus begins his ministry after John the Baptist was put into prison, and says: “The time has come…The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
The wedding feast at Cana of Galilee wasn’t the time or the place for Jesus to begin his actual ministry, and he wasn’t going to put on the proverbial “dog and pony show” to amuse or awe the people gathered there. For him to do so would not have served his more noble purpose of ministry, and thus showing himself to be the promised Messiah. He was an invited guest at this wedding, and he had no desire to be anything more than that.
Mary had no doubt that Jesus would help out, although she probably wasn’t sure how he was going to do that. So she simply instructs the servants there to do whatever Jesus told them to do, and left it at that.
What Jesus does then is almost beyond belief. He spots six stone jars which hold about thirty gallons each. He tells the servants to fill them to the brim with water.
These jars are noteworthy. If we look at Mark chapter 7, verse 4 we can see what the Jewish tradition was, and why they had these jars handy. We read: “When they come from the market-place they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers, kettles, and dining couches.” Interestingly enough, the word “wash” in this verse is the Greek word “baptize.”
In any event, these jars weren’t even used for drinking water. They were used strictly for the water used in the Jewish ceremonial washing or baptizing. This second-rate water would be the water Jesus would use to work his first miracle, the changing of water into wine.
The people of Jesus’ day certainly knew their wine. It was probably the most common beverage. Despite what the temperance people would like to think, wine in the Bible had alcoholic content. In Acts chapter 2 on the day of Pentecost, some accused the Apostles of having “too much wine” when they spoke in tongues—they reckoned that they were drunk. There are other places in the Bible that clearly indicate wine was an alcoholic drink.
Wine was a safe drink for them. It wouldn’t make them sick like polluted water would. The alcohol killed any nasty bacteria that would have been present in other drinks.
So yes, the people definitely knew their wine. The cheap wine, often made in substandard and non-sterile vats, would attract strains of wild yeast, which would make the wine bitter or sour. But the good expensive wine was made under optimal conditions by people who knew their trade well. An excellent glass of wine was duly noted and appreciated by the people, with everyone being a wine aficionado in their own right.
The master of ceremonies at the wedding feast recognized this wine as being of superior taste and quality. In fact, he makes the comment that people usually bring out the cheap and inferior stuff later on in the celebration when they reckon people are too inebriated to really care. But he is surprised when Jesus’ wine is served, indicating that they saved the best for last. What do you think he would have thought if he knew that this excellent wine he was enjoying was made from the substandard washing up water stored in those stone jars?
In our text for today, there are two very valuable lessons to be learned. First, we see Jesus for who he really is. He is indeed true God, and therefore has the power and ability to do anything. Mary knew this when she approached Jesus in the first place. She came to him in faith.
Jesus worked this first miracle of his in a very quiet, inconspicuous, and unceremonious way. The only people at that massive wedding feast who actually knew what he did were Mary his mother, the servants who filled the jars with water, and his disciples. He didn’t make a public spectacle of himself.
But this did serve a great purpose indeed. Verse 11 of our text for today says, “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.” This of course was his primary purpose for the miracle.
We can look at ourselves as those stone jars, full of substandard water, and not really fit for much of anything. But when Jesus comes into our lives, he works an astounding miracle. He cleanses us and transforms us into a new creation, people who are holy and acceptable to God and fit for his kingdom.
Through faith, Jesus changes each and every one of us from sinners into saints. We can’t transform ourselves or make ourselves into something we are not. Without Jesus, that water would have remained in the state it was, sitting in those stone jars. The water couldn’t change itself into wine.
But the Holy Spirit has given us that faith in Jesus our Saviour, and by God’s grace we are indeed changed. Our sins and impurities have been washed away and removed.
And so, we are a new creation of God. We have been transformed for a purpose. The new life we have received is now a life which is to reflect God’s blessings to others. We are no longer sinful vessels, but instruments of God’s love and grace. We can’t transform ourselves or make ourselves holy. Only Jesus can do that.
Remember I said that this text taught two valuable lessons. I’ve only given you one of them. Here’s the other.
This wedding feast was a happy event. It was fun. Jesus was there, obviously enjoying himself. His disciples were also enjoying themselves. They were having fun.
Jesus could have taken a different approach by saying, “Oh well, the wine’s gone, the party’s over, too bad, so sad; well, see ya!” He didn’t need to make more wine and keep the party going, but he did.
Jesus doesn’t mind if we have fun. In fact, he wants us to enjoy life. He doesn’t mind if we socialize, or go to parties, or laugh, or play games. In fact, he doesn’t mind if we consume alcohol, so long as we don’t overindulge; that’s the important thing.
I’ve known many Christians in my life who have somehow gotten the idea that a Christian lifestyle is somber and staid and stoic and basically Puritanical. And I have come to the conclusion that if some of these people were to crack a smile, their face would break.
Our text for today tells about Jesus and his disciples enjoying themselves at a big party. Even though this was the site of his first miracle, and as serious as his mission was, everyone still had a good time.
During this life, may we always keep ourselves focused upon Jesus. Remember who he is and why he came. Remember what he has done in our lives.
But we should also not forget to enjoy ourselves along the way. Have a good time. Do things that we enjoy. Take time for recreation. Have fun. Be happy.