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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:the Great Bridegroom brings joy to a wedding feast at Cana
Text:John 2:11 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Amazing Grace
 
Preached:2015-01-25
Added:2015-04-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

2010 Book of Praise

Bible Translation: NKJV

Psalm 92:1,2

Psalm 65:2

Psalm 65:3,5,6

Psalm 23:1,3

Psalm 36:2

Read:  John 2:1-12.

Text:  John 2:11

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is strange.  Why would the Lord Jesus turn water into wine? 

It is surprising.  What is the Lord Jesus doing, going to a wedding party just as His public ministry begins? 

It is perplexing.  Why did the Lord respond to His mother Mary in a manner that seems so blunt?  And why did He first say “My hour has not yet come – but then almost immediately after this He performed this miracle of changing the water into wine? 

It makes you think.  John 1:11 says,

“This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.”

But how exactly did this manifest Christ’s glory?  And how do we behold His glory and believe in Him on account of it?

Most people who know something about the Bible would have heard of the miracle of how the Lord Jesus turned water into wine.  For some it is a subject of ridicule.  For others the talk will quickly turn to the consumption of alcohol, even the excessive consumption of alcohol with reference made to the large quantity of wine that the Lord provided.  And others will try to explain the miracle away, trying to find ways to convince us that it was not so miraculous after all.  But that is not how we view this miracle through the eyes of faith.  We know that all Scripture is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and for instruction in righteousness and we know that this portion of Scripture in particular reveals to us the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  And the way for us to understand this is to see this miracle in the context of who the Lord Jesus Christ is and what He had come to do.  And that is how I wish to preach on this miracle of the water turned to wine.  I do so under the following theme:

The Great Bridegroom brings joy to a wedding feast at Cana.

  1. A mother’s problem.
  2. A miraculous provision.

1. A mother’s problem.

There was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, a town not far from Nazareth where the Lord Jesus grew up, the town from which Jesus’ disciple Nathanael came from.  (John 21:2)  Just who was getting married we don’t know but perhaps it was a family member or a friend.  At any rate, Jesus’ mother Mary was invited, as was the Lord Jesus Himself and also His disciples.  Weddings were big, drawn out events in Israel at that time and the feasting could go on for days.  And, based on the number of stone water jars that were there for ceremonial washing, this would have been a big wedding.

  And Jesus was there – and that is striking!  It appears as though at this point of time the Lord Jesus had just five of His disciples and two of them, Andrew the brother of Simon Peter and most likely John the writer of the gospel had been disciples of John the Baptist.  Now John the Baptist was very different in some respects.  Describing John the Baptist, Matthew 3:4 says that he was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.  John lived an austere sort of a life, living in the wilderness, apart from the hubbub of everyday life.  As the Lord Jesus said concerning John in Matthew 11:18, he came “neither eating nor drinking.”  John the Baptist, therefore, didn’t go to wedding feasts.  But how things changed for these two disciples of John the Baptist when they left him to become disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ!  The Lord Jesus was most at home at this wedding.  He was there participating and rejoicing along with everyone else.  In fact He was even criticized for this by those who opposed Him.  Matthew 11:18,19 –

“For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon.”  The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!”

Now the Lord was not a glutton, of course, and although He drank wine He was not a wine bibber in that He would never have drunk excessive amounts of alcohol, something that was not only frowned upon in Jewish society but went against the Bible’s clear warnings against drunkenness.  Nevertheless, He did attend this wedding feast and on this as well as other occasions He did eat good food and he did drink wine.  It is important to take note of this for two reasons. 

In the first place this teaches us something very important about what sort of a person the Lord Jesus was.  Many traditional pictures that depict the Lord Jesus Christ present Him as Someone not quite human.  Traditionally He is pictured as being dressed in white, having a halo around His head and some dreamy, far away look in His eyes.  Someone not quite human.  Someone you could not get too close to.  Someone you could not really relate to – and Someone who could not really relate with you.  But the Bible reveals to us a Saviour who is very different to that.  The Bible reveals the Lord Jesus to us in the fullness of His humanity.  As a man He was immersed in daily life.  He had a mother, a mother with whom He interacted.  We know that He also had brothers and sisters and not only was He the Son of a carpenter but Mark 6:3 says that He Himself was a carpenter.  In other words, before He began His public ministry, He worked with His hands and He just went about His daily living like everyone else – except that He had no sin.  And now He was at a wedding, celebrating with the happy couple.  And so not only did He honor the institution of marriage but He also honored the way it was being celebrated in the time and culture in which He lived – insofar as the festivities were God-pleasing.  It is important to note this not so much so that we can relate to Him, but to know and believe that our Lord Jesus Christ can relate to us, in our joys, in our sorrows and in all our daily living.

So in the first place the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ attended this wedding along with His disciples teaches us about His real humanity.  But in the second place, the fact that Christ attended this wedding at the beginning of His official ministry teaches us something about His ministry, what He had come to do and proclaim.  Whereas John the Baptist lived a very simple life, preaching repentance and calling for a separation from sin, the Lord Jesus came to declare the coming of His Kingdom, a Kingdom that is characterized by joy.  A Kingdom that Christ Himself compared on more than one occasion to a wedding feast.  A Kingdom where Christ is the Bridegroom and the Church is His Bride.   And so the message of the gospel that Christ had come to bring was a message of joy, yes, a message glad tidings and of great joy!  And feasting, along with wine was a symbol of the joy that is ours in the Kingdom of God.  Do you remember the words of Isaiah 55:1?

“Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat.  Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”

And describing the time of blessing to come, the prophet Amos spoke of the glorious future under the Messiah in chapter 9:13 –

“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.”

You see, the fruit of the vine was not just an important part of Israeli agriculture, but it was sign of God’s blessing.  Wine was a sign of joy and gladness:  Psalm 104:15 says that it “makes glad the heart of man”.  And so the drinking of wine was an important part of Israelite culture, a most important part of festivities. And that is where the connection is between the fruit of the vine and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The message of the Kingdom, the message of the Gospel that He had come to bring was a joyous one and therefore He and His disciples did not go about as those who were in mourning but with joy.  Christ Himself explained this in Matthew 9:14,15.

“Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?”  And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?”

And so it was fully consistent with Who He was and what He had come to do that our Lord Jesus Christ was present at this wedding feast, along with His disciples.

 However I do think it is important to point out here, brothers and sisters, that this wedding feast was not some sort of a 7-day binge, a big booze up.  Although alcohol was drunk at these weddings it was seen as very wrong to drink to excess.  Further, wine was regularly diluted in those days and it has been suggested that the alcohol content would have been no more than that of a mid strength beer today.  I would also like to remind you that the Scriptures say much more about the use, particularly the abuse of alcohol, warnings that we need to take very seriously – particularly the warning of 1 Corinthians 6:10 that drunkards shall not inherit the Kingdom of God.  This does not take away, however, the fact that wine was in common use in Israel and, when used rightly, was to be seen as a blessing and not a curse.

But now at this particular wedding feast, there was a problem.  Those who were serving at the wedding feast ran out of wine.  This was not good!  This should not have happened.  You need to understand that running out of wine is not the same for us as it was for the people of Israel in those days.  I have been to weddings where the wine ran out – and that was probably a good thing!  At weddings today, if wine is served, the host of the wedding dinner will often pay for a certain amount of wine to be drunk.  And when that is drunk he can either go and pay some more money or else conclude that the festivities had gone on long enough, that the people had had enough to drink, that it was time to wrap things up and go home.  But at that wedding feast of Cana it was not quite like that.  For the bridegroom of the wedding recorded in John 2, to run out of wine was a failure of hospitality, it was a slur on the family.  One person compared this to a wedding where, when you are serving dinner the food runs out – and there are still 7 tables to go!  It is an embarrassing, a mortifying thing to happen.  And at the wedding feast at Cana, the greatest shame would be on the head of the bridegroom since he was the one who had put this wedding party on.

Now Jesus’ mother Mary got to hear of this and she began to fret.  The wine had run out!  The bridegroom would be humiliated!  The shame would be upon the family and this wedding would be remembered far and wide for all the wrong reasons.  And so Mary went to her Son Jesus and she spoke to Him saying,

“They have no wine.”

“They have no wine, Jesus!  I don’t know what to do about it, but maybe You do.  Can you please do something, Jesus?”

We do not know what Mary was thinking here.  We do not know if she thought that perhaps Jesus would perform a miracle.  But what we do see here is a mother looking to her adult Son in the hope that he can somehow come to the rescue, to help solve the problem that she was aware of. 

But now there is also something else that we need to remember.  Not only was Jesus the Son of Mary, but He was also the Son of God!  And God had sent Him into this world not to fix his mother’s problems but to do His Father’s will!  John 4:34 –

“Jesus said to them [that is, His disciples], “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.”

And John 6:38,

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”

And John 17:4,

“I have glorified You on the earth.  I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.”

Now think about this in connection with what Mary had said to Jesus in John 2, when she said to Him, “They have no wine.”  Mary came to her Son Jesus and what she basically said was this:

“I have a problem, my Son Jesus, and I want you to do something to fix it.”

But do you see what is wrong here?  Mary wanted Jesus to follow her agenda, to fix her problem.  But the Lord Jesus was not here to fix Mary’s problems.  He was not here to follow Mary’s will but the Father’s!

And when you understand that, then you can begin to see what Jesus meant when he said to Mary in John 2:4,

 “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me?  My hour has not yet come.”

“Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me?”  Jesus was not being rude here.  A little abrupt maybe, but, in the Greek language, not rude.  Another way to translate this is, “Dear woman, what does this have to do with you and me?”  The point is that Mary needed to understand that now that He had begun His public ministry, Christ’s relationship with Mary would change.  The Roman Catholics have made a great deal about Mary, the Mother of Jesus.  For the Roman Catholics, Mary, whom they call the Queen of Heaven, is some sort of a mediator between us and Jesus Christ.  If we pray to Mary, it is thought, then we can get to Jesus through her.  But John 2 emphatically denies this possibility.  Although she is highly esteemed, Mary does not have some sort of an inside track, some sort of advantage, a “mother’s privilege” when it comes to the saving work that Christ had come to do.   Christ’s response to His mother Mary was loud and clear: “I am not here to follow your agenda, Mother Mary. Rather, I am here to follow the agenda of My Father.

And then He said something else in verse 4.

“My hour has not yet come.”

But what does this mean?  It can not mean “My hour to perform a miracle has not yet come” because soon after this He did indeed change the water into wine.  Rather in saying “My hour has not yet come” He was referring to the hour or the time of His death!  What our Lord Jesus meant here was “Whatever I am doing, I am doing for purpose.  I am now living under the shadow of the hour of My death.”  That was the “hour” that was to come – as we can learn from the rest of the gospel according to John.  (John 7:6, John 7:30, John 8:20, John 12:27 and then John 17:1 when Christ prayed “Father the hour has come.”)

And so Jesus did do something about the lack of wine, He did perform a miracle.  But it was not a miracle to sort out Mary’s – and the bridegroom’s problem.  Nor was it in submission to Mary’s personal desires.  And nor was it an incredible but ultimately meaningless display of His power.  Rather Christ performed this miracle to reveal His glory in the anticipation of the full revelation of His glory that was to come.

2. A miraculous provision.

Mary’s problem was not just the fact that the wine had run out, but her problem was that she still seeing her Son Jesus through the eyes of a mother and not through the eyes of faith.  But Jesus’ response to her called her to rethink how she saw Him and to place her faith in Him as the Lamb of God, the One who had come to take away the sin of the world.  And so Mary did not give up at Jesus’ mild rebuke but she then went to the servants and said,

“Whatever He says to you, do it.”

Now there were six stone water pots there at the feast, each holding about 100 liters of water.  They were there, the Bible tells us, “according to the manner of purification of the Jews.”  The Jews had elaborate washing practices not just for their hands but also for cups and plates and utensils.  And so large amounts of water was used to make things ceremonially clean.  You can read about that in Mark 7:1-4.  But Jesus was not very much concerned about these ritual washings and purifications that were largely the traditions of men and could not truly make a person clean:  He had another use for those water jars.

  “Fill the water pots with water” He said to the servants and they filled them to the brim. 

  And then Jesus said to them in verse 8,

“Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.”

And they took it and they brought it to Master of Ceremonies.  And then something amazing happened:  when the Master of the feast tasted the water, He did not taste water but wine.  And not just any wine but the best wine!  And knowing nothing about this, about where it came from or what had happened, the master called the bridegroom over and he said to him, “What is this?”

“Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior.  You have kept the good wine until now!”

But had he?  The bridegroom had done nothing of the sort.  In fact his wine supply had gone right down to the dregs.  But this wine did not come from the bridegroom of the wedding feast:  this wine came from the Great Bridegroom, our Lord Jesus Christ.

What happened next, what the bridegroom of the wedding said when he (we assume) discovered the truth, we do not know.    But verse 11 says this:

“This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed Him.”

Christ manifested His glory:  He declared Himself to be the true Bridegroom and that the Messianic age that the prophets of the Old Testament had spoken of was now here.  And His disciples believed in Him.

  No, the disciples would not have understood it all.  They did not fully understand Christ’s words that His hour had not yet come.  They did not know that this Jesus would follow His Father’s will to death on a cross.  But they believed in Him.  They were convinced that they had found the Messiah.

And as they walked with Jesus, as they followed Him through Israel and then to Jerusalem and to the cross, they would learn more of who He is and what He had come to do.  They would hear and be witnesses of the true Gospel, of being cleansed not outwardly by the washing of water by inwardly by Christ’s blood and Spirit.  They would walk with Jesus to Jerusalem and they would see Him take a cup and would hear Him say to them,

“Drink from it, all of you.  For this is My blood of the new covenant which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”  (Matthew 26:28)

And then they would hear Him say further,

“But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”  (Matt. 26:27)

He would not drink the fruit of the vine with them again because from there He would go to Gethsemane and from Gethsemane to the cross.  And so He would drink from another cup, the cup of God’s wrath against sin.  He would drink that bitter cup down to its dregs.  Yes, the One who turned water into wine, who made more than 600 liters of wine would hang on the cross and, with a parched tongue, say “I thirst.”  And He did all of this so that we might never thirst but rather might drink – and drink freely and deeply – from the cup of God’s blessing.

And now Christ offers that to You.  Now the Great Bridegroom offers to you His cup of blessing.  Now He commands you to take and drink, to receive Him.  Will you do that?  Will you, confessing His glory, believe in Him?

The Great Bridegroom, who brought joy to a wedding feast at Cana brings joy to each one of us, His children.  But that is not the end, and that is not all.  Now we have a foretaste of the abundant joy which He has promised us at the marriage feast of the Lamb but the time will come when we drink the wine new with Him in His Kingdom, when we will rejoice in the fullness of His glory.  Let us therefore rejoice and give Him the glory, for the marriage feast of the Lamb is coming!  May the almighty, heavenly God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ help us in this through His Holy Spirit.  Amen.[1]

 

 

[1] Concluding words of the Form for the Lord’s Supper.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2015, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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