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Author:Rev. C. Bouwman
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Congregation:Smithville Canadian Reformed Church
 Smithville, ON
 www.smithvillecanrc.ca
 
Preached At:Yarrow Canadian Reformed Church
 Yarrow, BC
 yarrow.canrc.org
 
Title:At the Wedding in Cana Jesus Restored Something of Paradise
Text:John 2:1-11 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Comfort in a World of Pain
 
Preached:2010-01-03
Added:2010-01-04
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 121:1,4     

Ps 86:1,2

Ps 63:1,2,3

Ps 4:3

Ps 131:1,2,3

Hy 55:1,2,3,4,5

John 2:1-11

Jeremiah 33:4-11

Revelation 22:1-5

John 2:11

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. C. Bouwman, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


 

Beloved Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ!

               

By the good guidance and mercy of our God, we have come today to the first Sunday of the year 2010.  Our New Years celebrations are behind us, so that we can now cast our eyes forward to what the New Year will bring.  The details of the New Year are hidden from us, but we are aware that in this New Year we need again to “put our faith” in Jesus Christ.  As if to press that point upon us all, the Lord in His providence puts Jeremy on our path today as he wishes to profess before us all the faith God has worked in his heart.  His profession is equally our profession.

Who, though, is the Christ in whom we believe?  As we stand at the beginning of a New Year, what do we actually believe about Jesus Christ?  And how does that determine what the year before us will –or should– look like?

John answers such questions in the passage before us this morning.  Jesus, John tells us, has come to restore Paradise.  The disciples noticed that, and put their faith in Him.

I proclaim to you God’s Word this morning, using this theme:

AT THE WEDDING IN CANA JESUS RESTORED SOMETHING OF PARADISE.

  1. When Jesus did His first sign,
  2. What Jesus’ first sign was,
  3. Why Jesus did this sign first.

1.   When Jesus did His first sign

One can imagine the anxiety of the part of the Master of Ceremonies: the wineskins are empty!  For whatever reason –was it careless preparation?  Did more guests arrive than they counted on?  Did a skin or two burst?– for whatever reason the kitchen staff reported that there’s no more wine.  How in the world was one to celebrate a wedding without wine?!

                The problem was brought to Jesus’ attention: “They have no wine” (vs 3).   At His time He commanded the kitchen staff to fill the six stone water jars with water, and then instructed that some of the contents be drawn and presented to the Master of the Feast.  His face (we may imagine) lit up on account of the quality of the wine – and he in turn went to the bridegroom to express his indignation that the best wine had been saved for last.

                For us the story is so very well known; we’re familiar with it since childhood.  We are to note, however, brothers and sisters, that this is more than a story; this was a very real, physical wedding, with a real, physical shortage and a real, physical solution.  What the Lord has recorded for us in John 2 is not a story rooted in a colourful imagination.  This happened in real life; the first readers of John’s gospel could go to Cana in Galilee and ask the locals.  I say this because the habit of our day has become that one see the miracle of our passage as an allegory made up by the early church to explain what these Christians thought about Jesus.  So: this miracle is a story, doesn’t touch real life, didn’t touch real problems long ago and so doesn’t touch real problems today; it instead expresses an expectation, a hope, a pipedream.  Lest we fall for the thought that Jesus’ work was remote from real life, it is to be clear to each of us that the wedding described in our passage was as real as, yes, as the weddings in the congregation this past summer, and the empty wineskins as real as the empty dishes after our breakfast this morning.

I say this in order to drive home the fact that the problem faced by the Master of Ceremonies in John 2 was as real as the problems we daily face in our homes and in our work.  In some ways we don’t know what the year ahead of us will bring, but in other ways we are keenly aware of what’s ahead, and that is that 2010 will confront us with abundant frustration, shortages of temper, of love, perhaps of work, there will be sickness, there will be unfaithfulness, there will be pain, there will be death.  We, like the couple getting married in Cana, live after the fall into sin as recorded in Genesis 3, and live under the curse God pronounced upon the human race; “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life....  In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread...” (Gen 3:17ff).

Then we may dream of a better year ahead than 2009 was, and it’s true that dreaming comes for free and can even be fun.  But the fact of the matter is that we live outside of Paradise, outside the garden of plenty, live in a world of brokenness on account of our sinfulness.  Politicians and economists can promise much, but there’s no doubt that 2010 will definitely see its moments of anxiety and frustration, of grief and pain.  The unknown of the New Year is: what shall the precise shape and colour of the pain and anxiety and frustration be?  Shall it be in the form of shortage at a wedding or shall the brokenness manifest itself in some other way?  So we do well at the beginning of the year to consider just what Jesus did at the wedding in Cana. 

There is a second aspect to the ‘when’ of Jesus’ miracle that needs our attention.  For John tells us that this wedding happened “on the third day”.  You’ll have noticed when we read chap 1 in previous weeks that John keeps using the phrase “the next day” (cf 1:29, 35, 43).  Adding up the days John lists leads to the conclusion that this wedding happens on the last day of the first full week of Jesus’ public ministry.  This is the seventh day of Jesus’ work.  And the seventh day, we recall from Genesis 2, is that day that God rested and enjoyed the fruit of His labour in creating the world.  That observation brings us to our second point:

2.   What Jesus’ first sign was

In response to the shortage at the wedding, a shortage rooted in the fall into sin, Jesus made wine out of water.  And He didn’t make a little of it; six water jars, “containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece”, were filled with wine.  In metric calculations: that’s in the neighbourhood of 500 to 700 litres of wine!  Talk about an abundance!  Here’s certainly more than the wedding feast required – even if it had to last another week.  What’s this about?

We are not, congregation, to look at this miracle in isolation from the rest of the Scripture God has given.  We need to recall that the Lord God had foretold in the Old Testament that a Saviour would come, one who would deliver from sin and its consequences, and this messianic age would be characterized as a time of abundant wine. 

Jacob on his death-bed, for example, prophesied concerning Judah that from him would arise one day a king who would deliver his people.  This king, prophesied Jacob, “washed his garments in wine, And his clothes in the blood of grapes” (Gen 49:11).  That is: the reign of this king would be characterized by so much wine that it’s as common and as abundant as water.

                The prophet Amos described the day of the Messiah like this:

“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.” (Amos 9:13).

And Jeremiah:

“Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion,

Streaming to the goodness of the Lord—

For wheat and new wine and oil,

For the young of the flock and the herd;

Their souls shall be like a well-watered garden,

And they shall sorrow no more at all” (Jeremiah 31:12).

                Such were the prophecies of the Old Testament.  Israel, languishing as they were under the heavy hand of God on account of their sins, would experience mercy on the day of God’s favour.  That day of deliverance would mean that sorrow would be gone, the struggles of this life of misery ended.  And to symbolize that the sorrows resulting from the fall into sin would disappear, the Lord promised an abundance of wine, so much wine that the harvest of grapes would not be finished by the time the ploughman had to start his ploughing, so much wine that the mountains dripped with it and the hills flowed with it.  Shortage would be no more, there would be only abundance, super-abundance.  That’s the messianic age, the time when the cause of all shortage and all misery shall be taken away.

                These were prophecies that Jesus knew very well.  So it was that He, Messiah that He was, set out to demonstrate from the Scripture that now the messianic age had come.  He issued a command, and see: there’s an abundance of wine, a super-abundance, 500-700 litres of it in one house!  For those who knew their Bibles, here was evidence that the promised messianic age had come at last; now was the day of God’s favour!

 

                To drive home the point that indeed the messianic age had come, Jesus prepared a quality of wine much better than the bridegroom had been able to organize for his wedding.  The master of the feast called the new wine “good”, a term that echoes God’s stamp of approval on the world He made in the beginning; God’s work was “good”, yes, “very good”.  So too was Jesus’ work.  He came to take away the results of our fall into sin, and His work was not what we would call ‘half a job’, a job poorly done; here was ‘good’ work, very good work.  With this beginning of His signs, Jesus pointed up the good news that Paradise was being restored, the curse of sin being taken away.

 

There’s a third way in which Jesus drew on Old Testament Scripture to underline that the new age in fact was here.  Scripture had characterized the coming of the messianic era not only with the notion of wine; the Old Testament Scriptures had described the Messianic age also with the symbol of marriage.  Consider a passage as Jeremiah 33.  Said God to His broken people:

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Again there shall be heard in this place—of which you say, “It is desolate, without man and without beast”—in the cities of Judah, in the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man and without inhabitant and without beast, ‘the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride...” (Jeremiah 33:10).

Well, in Cana of Galilee was heard the “the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride,” for there was a wedding.  But “the voice of joy and the voice of gladness” was dampened by the horrible whisper: “they have no [more] wine!”  That’s the opportunity Jesus uses to point up that now is the time of God’s favour; He makes wine from water, buckets full, so that “the voice of joy and the voice of gladness” can return.  And the people can praise, as the prophet of long ago enjoined the people, can

“Praise the Lord of hosts,

For the Lord is good,

For His mercy endures forever” (Jer 33:11).

Here is the messianic age!

 

                There’s a fourth aspect.  God had spoken of old of Himself marrying again the people of His choice.  Is 62:

 “ your land shall be married....

...as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,

So shall your God rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:4,5).

You see: it’s not just that the Lord prophesied joy and gladness, the marriage of bride and groom.  God spoke of the marriage of Himself and His people!  And we understand that in the strife of this mortal life such an event is delightful, is deliverance profound, is Paradise restored! (See also Ezek 16.)

                Here now is a wedding, and the wedding of this bride and groom in Cana of Galilee –as any wedding amongst God’s people– pictures, symbolizes, the wedding of God and His people.  Weddings in this life, despite all the happiness they include, are marred by brokenness and the results of sin.  But exactly because the messianic age has come –the Christ is here!– does Jesus sovereignly take away the shadow that threatened to becloud that wedding in Cana.  The Messianic Age had come, God about to reconcile His people to Himself in Jesus Christ, and so all ought to delight in the riches of God’s mercy and all should sing of the marvels of God’s goodness in showing mercy to a people burdened by their own fall into sin.  Hence the command of Jesus to the servants: “fill the waterpots with water.” And hence the resulting top-quality wine.  Here was proclamation that the Messiah had come, that the curse of the fall into sin was about to be taken away.

 

And there’s a fifth.  Jesus’ sign in Cana contains still more evidence that Yes, the Messianic Age has come.  It’s not without significance that Jesus seized upon the “six waterpots of stone” standing over there.[1]  These stone waterpots had a function at the wedding, and that function was this: one was to wash before one ate.  In the book of Leviticus, the Lord had stipulated to Israel that one became unclean before God by touching this or that.  To be rid of the uncleanness again, one needed, amongst other things, to wash (Lev 11:29ff).  The Jews, now, had expanded upon this principle of the law to stipulate that one wash oneself regularly, and certainly before eating, lest any uncleanness you may have picked up along the road linger upon you and so you be unclean before God (and who knows what unclean thing or person touched you!).   Hence the “six waterpots of stone” at the wedding feast.  Lots of water was needed so make sure that the law was faithfully kept. 

                Yet in practice these pots represented not a humble submission to God’s good laws; these pots, because of the rules the Jews had added to the law, in fact represented slavery to God’s law.  While the law stipulated that you were unclean if you consciously touched something unclean (and the point was to teach Israel to steer away from all sin), the Jews built a system of fear around the law – you had to do this and this, and make sure you don’t do that and that, lest you inadvertently come under judgment.

                Jesus took those symbols of Jewish legalism –and what does He do?– He uses them to show that the messianic age has come!  Those containers used to wash away any uncleanness, now become vessels for wine, for celebration.  Uncleanness symbolized sin, but see, here is the Saviour of the world, here is the one who takes sin away!  So the washing isn’t necessary anymore; in its place can come celebration!  Here again is the material of Jer 33:

“I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned and by which they have transgressed against Me” (Jer 33:8).

                So, beloved, it’s all of one piece.  The various aspects of the sign that Jesus performs at the wedding in Cana conspired together to proclaim that the age of the Messiah has come, proclaim that now the curse which came upon the fall into sin is taken away, proclaim that “the cause of our eternal hunger and misery, which is sin,” is removed.  By His sign, then, Jesus proclaimed the gospel, the good news of the forgiveness of sins, the good news that all the hurt and all the grief and all the tension and all the anxieties of life –flowing as they do from our fall in Paradise– are overcome.  The cause of shortage and anxiety, and hence the curse of sin, is being broken, defeated, overcome!  No wonder that John can write in our text that, with “this beginning of signs” Jesus “manifested His glory.”

We need now to move on to our third point:

3.  Why Jesus did this sign first

What was the benefit of Jesus doing this sign first?  Why should He, on the seventh day of His public ministry, surround Himself with a happy crowd relieved of shortage, surround Himself with the evidence that He was taking away the curse of the fall into sin?  Why, brothers and sisters, Jesus –as His Father before Him– would enjoy the fruit of His work!  Yet not Jesus alone would enjoy the fruit of His work, but His disciples also.  And see, that’s precisely the message of our text; “He thus revealed His glory, and His disciples put their faith in Him.”

What would the future bring for the disciples?  They knew life as well as we did; life knows tears, struggles, grief, shortage, anxiety.  But in Jesus Christ these disciples learned to see a better future!  With Jesus they could sit down to enjoy abundance, Paradise in principle restored! 

True, the abundance of this wedding, on the seventh day of Jesus’ public ministry, did not spill over into each day so that the disciples tasted Paradise every day.  They followed Jesus for three short years, then saw Him arrested, tormented, crucified – and they all fled.  There was no abundance for them at the cross, no Paradise; at the cross there was for them only fear and terror – the bitter fruit of the fall magnified….  But the Christ who died there for sin restored His disciples to Himself and assured them that through His sacrifice He had reconciled sinners to God, so that in turn the peace of the wedding of Cana and its abundance would be theirs forever.  That’s why Jesus Christ could tell John in his exile on Patmos (talk about loneliness and brokenness and shortage) of the wedding feast of the Lamb about to happen.   “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come...” (Rev 21:7), John could write.  And: “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev 21:9). It’s a time, says Christ, when “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.  There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev 21:3f).  More: in that New Jerusalem there shall be super-abundance, even as was prophesied of old.  Jesus shows John the “river of water of life”, and John sees that “on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month” (Rev 22:2). And the bottom line is this: “there shall be no more curse” (Rev 22:3).

 

                We today, then, have more than the disciples in Cana had.  They saw Jesus’ sign, and believed.  We haven’t seen Jesus’ sign in Cana with our naked eye; in fact, we’ve seen nothing of any of Jesus works on earth.  All we have is the Word, the preaching.  But Jesus said this: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jn 20:28), believed the gospel of John 2, the good news that the curse resulting from our fall into sin is gone, gone, and so the peace of Paradise in essence is ours again. 

A New Year lies before us.  With Jeremy we all have come to recognize who Jesus Christ actually is and why He’s come.  The naked eye may see more of shortage in the year before us, plenty of evidence that we don’t live in Paradise anymore.  But the eye of faith accepts that the significance of Jesus’ work in Cana, and so believes that daily we receive what we need for service to our God – and tomorrow, when Christ returns, we’ll enjoy a super-abundance at the marriage feast of the Lamb.

Come, Lord Jesus!

 

 

 



[1]Cf HJJ Feenstra, “Het Begin der Tekenen” in De Reformatie, vol 49, no 14.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. C. Bouwman, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2010, Rev. C. Bouwman

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