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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Title:Jesus reveals his glory at a wedding
Text:John 2:1-12 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 24:1,2

Psalm 73:9 (after the law)

Psalm 100

Hymn 67:1-4

Hymn 67:5-7

Scripture reading: Isaiah 25

Text:  John 2:1-12

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of Christ,

Every time we go to a Christian wedding, we’re witnessing something special.  A man and a woman covenanting for life and taking that seriously is rare these days.  Marriage is an institution under threat in our culture.  The only people who seem to value it are homosexuals and Christians.  A lot of others just look at it as unnecessary.  Why get married and spend all that money on a wedding when you can just live together and get almost all of the same benefits?  And if things don’t work out, then it’s not complicated to just move out and move on.  But as Christians we follow what Scripture says and so we highly value marriage.  We value it as a life-long relationship between one man and one woman, sealed by a covenant commitment to one another. 

In our Form for the Solemnization of Marriage, there is a line that connects directly to our text for this morning from John.  The first section of the Form is about “The Institution of Marriage.”  About three-quarters through that section, it says, “Also, our Lord Jesus Christ honoured marriage when he revealed his glory at the marriage feast at Cana.”  It’s just one line, but it says a lot.  It reminds us that in John’s gospel, Christ chose the occasion of a wedding to first reveal his glory.  Choosing a wedding was significant.  He chose the God-instituted bedrock of family life.  He chose a feast where a husband and wife become committed to one another for as long as they both live.  That choice honoured the institution – it showed that Christ himself held it in high esteem, and therefore so should we.

But Christ also chose the wedding at Cana for another reason:  it was a joyous occasion, or it was supposed to be.  As we’ll see in a moment, something stood in the way of the joy.  But weddings are typically joyous.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been to a wedding where there wasn’t joy.  If you’ve been to a wedding where there was no joy, that’s really sad.  I think we’d all agree that would be the exception.  Normally you go to a wedding and there’s great joy, it’s a day of celebration.  Those invited to the wedding at Cana were looking forward to the same thing.  They were expecting to come to Cana and have a good time with the bride and groom, celebrating their love and God’s love.  As we go through this passage, we’ll see how our Saviour Jesus came to bring joy to a wedding. 

I preach to you God’s Word from John’s gospel and we’ll see how through a wondrous sign, Jesus reveals his glory at a wedding. 

We’ll consider the:

  1. Serious snarl
  2. Spectacular solution
  3. Significance of it all

It was three days after Jesus’ encounter with Nathanael.  There was a wedding in the Galilean village of Cana.  Jesus’ mother Mary was there, and from verse 12 we can gather that also his brothers were there.  It would appear that this was the wedding of a close friend or family member.  Whose wedding was it?  Scripture doesn’t say, but an early church tradition says that it was the wedding of John, the author of this gospel.  It could have been, but we don’t know for sure.  The focus isn’t on the bridal couple here, but on the most important invited guest at this wedding.  Together with his disciples, Jesus was there in Cana, and he had a purpose in being there.  It wasn’t only to celebrate with the bride and groom, but to reveal his glory. 

Now there are a couple of things you need to understand about weddings in those days.  Today when we go to a wedding, it’s basically a one-day affair.  It usually starts around noon or early afternoon and then goes into the evening.  Weddings in Bible times were quite different.  They would often last a week.  There would be a whole week of celebrating.

The second thing you need to know is that to keep things festive, wine was the drink of choice.  Why wine?  In the Bible, wine is associated with joy.  We saw that in what we read from Isaiah 25.  That passage looks forward to a time when God’s salvation comes to all kinds of peoples.  They will all be brought together on God’s mountain.  And God’s mountain includes a feast where there is “aged wine well refined.”  Tears are gone, shame is gone, and all that’s left is joy in the LORD.  Wine is the drink that fits with joyous occasions like that.

One more thing:  the wine that was enjoyed at weddings and other joyous occasions was typically quite weak.  It was often diluted with water.  It was actually weaker than the beer-flavoured water often served in the United States.  You would have to drink a lot of it to become intoxicated.  You can be sure that some people did drink a lot of it, they abused it, and became drunk, but it took some effort.

So we have a long wedding feast where wine is the drink of joy.  That sets the stage for what happens in verse 3.  This wedding encounters a serious snarl, a major problem.  It seems to be the first day of the wedding and already they’ve run out of wine.  Mary reports this to Jesus.  This is a serious snarl – it’s a major embarrassment for the family of the bridal couple.  Who goes and has a wedding and then runs out of wine?  This would be very shameful.  But also remember what I just said about joy.  Wine kept things festive.  One commentator (Richard Phillips) pointed out that when Mary says, “They have no wine,” she could just as well have said, “They have no joy.”  This wedding is at risk of becoming a fiasco.  It’s going to be an unforgettable wedding, but for all the wrong reasons.

That’s what drives Mary to her son.  She somehow knows that he has the power to do something about it.  Has she seen him do something miraculous before?  Scripture doesn’t say.  But she does know that something is different about her son.  She knows that because some 30 years earlier, the angel Gabriel had told her.  It wasn’t unreasonable then for her to bring the problem to him and expect him to do something about it.

But then look at Jesus’ response in verse 4.  He says, “Woman, what does this have to do with me?  My hour has not yet come.”  These words have bothered and perplexed people for centuries.  The first part is the part that often bothers people.  Jesus seems to be quite short with his mother.  He calls her “Woman.”  That seems rude to our ears.  But in that context, the way it’s worded would not have been taken as being rude.  Jesus was not rude to his mother.  It was simply a polite expression of distance.  Someone once compared it to saying, “Ma’am.”  He adds, “What does this have to do with me?”  Essentially what it all means is, “Please don’t push me around.”  He knows that she is his mother and he still respects her, but she also has to respect his office and calling as the Messiah, as the Son of God.  She has to give him the room to do what he’s called to do.                    

“My hour has not yet come” is the perplexing part of his response to Mary.  It’s perplexing because if you study the use of this expression elsewhere in John’s gospel, it always refers to the hour of Christ’s suffering and death.  But here there’s no obvious connection between revealing his glory at a wedding, and the hour of his cross.  It just doesn’t seem to fit and all the explanations that try to make to make it fit are quite complicated.  I struggled a bit with this as I was studying this passage.  My conclusion is that in this context it refers again to Jesus’ refusal to be manipulated and pushed into doing something miraculous.  “My hour has not yet come,” means that he has an agenda, he has a schedule, and Mary and others have to wait for the right moment.  He will act at the right moment, not before or after.  He will reveal his glory when the time is right.

And that seems to be confirmed when Mary approaches the servants or waiters at the wedding feast and says, “Do whatever he tells you.”  She anticipates that the hour will come.  She seems to know that the right moment will come along and, when it does, Jesus will do something to address the serious snarl of no wine, no joy at the feast.

Life after the fall is like that, a life with no joy at the feast.  After Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, they introduced sin and misery into this world.  The world we live in is broken and messy.  True joy is elusive for so many people.  What about for you?  Have you found joy?  Let me explain.  Joy is not the superficial happiness that stays for that weekend where you’re having a good time.  Joy runs far deeper than that.  At its roots, true joy is really a deep sense of contentment.  It can express itself in happy ways, absolutely, but interestingly, it can also be there when things are upside down in your life.  You can still have contentment and peace in God – and that’s Christian joy.  If you want to see how that can be, read the little book of Philippians today.  Paul was in prison for his faith, yet joy is his theme, and this is coming out of his heart.  As a Christian, you can have joy, not only at a wedding, but also at a funeral.  Christ came to bring that joy into a broken world, a world where joy is desired, but so often missed.  Let’s see further in our passage how he first revealed this at this wedding.

We’re now in verse 6.  At this wedding, there were six stone water jars.  The Jewish people had to cleanse themselves before eating and drinking – that’s what these were for.  This wasn’t a biblical requirement; it was something that Jews in later times had added to biblical teachings.  The Holy Spirit emphasizes for us that these jars were large – the ESV says 20 or 30 gallons each.  That works out to about 70 to 105 liters each.  There are six of them.  So all up, these six jars would hold anywhere from 420 to 630 liters of water.  We’re talking about a great quantity of water here. 

Jesus tells the servants at the feast to fill the jars with water.  They would have had to go to the village well to do this.  And they did.  They didn’t just fill them a little, they filled them right up to the very top.  Again, you have to see the emphasis on the quantity involved.  That’s an important detail here.  It factors into showing us how spectacular the solution is.

Somewhere between verse 7 and verse 8, the miracle takes place.  All that water, 420 to 630 liters, amazingly turns into wine.  How did he do it?  Normally, wine takes at least several weeks to produce.  By its nature wine takes time to make.  You have to pick the grapes, you have to mash them and get the juice, and then the juice has to ferment.  Especially the fermenting process takes some time.  But here, in a moment, Christ turns hundreds of liters of water into a wine in an instant.  Scripture doesn’t explain how he did it.  We just know that he did it and he had the power to do it, in fact, he still does.  

We can think about this in connection with creation at the beginning.   Earlier in John’s gospel when God created, we learn that his Son was involved.  It says in 1:3, “without him was not anything made that was made.”  God created through his Word, through his Son.  So the One we see at the wedding feast at Cana was the same One who was there at the beginning when the universe was created.  On the third day, God created plants and trees.  If you had been there, you might have looked at these trees and plants and concluded that they were so many years old.  But God had just made them that day.  The Son of God had just created them.  On the sixth day, God created animals.  If you had been there, you might have looked at these animals and thought that they must be so many years old.  But God had just made them that day.  On the sixth day, God created man too.  He created Adam and Eve as adults, able and ready to reproduce.  If you had been there, you might have looked at them and concluded that they were, say, 30 years old or so.  That’s what they looked like.  But they had just been created that day.  The Son of God had been involved with creating them.  He has the power to create something that looks like it has been around for a while already.  He had the power to do that at the beginning in Genesis, and now he does it here again in John chapter 2.  He creates wine that has the taste and appearance of wine that has been in preparation for weeks, if not months.  He has the power to do that, because he is the Almighty Son of God.  This miracle reminds us that God can and sometimes does create things that have the appearance of age.  Because he is God, Christ has that mighty power.

To reveal that glorious mighty power, he tells the servants to take a sample from out of the jars and bring it to the master of the feast.  This was sort of like the master of ceremonies at today’s weddings.  He was in charge of the food and drink and making sure that everyone was going to have a good time.  The wine shortage was his problem.  Verse 9 tells us that the master of the feast took a taste of the wine and he was surprised.  He was in charge of the wine, he knew it had run out, and he didn’t know where this supply had come from – though the servants did.  Before the servants can even say anything, he calls over the bridegroom to commend him.

In verse 10, this master speaks of the normal procedure at a wedding.  Normally the good wine comes out first and everyone goes through that.  After everyone has indulged, then you bring out the poorer quality wine, the cheaper wine.  Good expensive wine is for the beginning, and only later on do you bring out the cheap stuff.  But this wedding has turned out different.  Or so the master of the feast thinks.  He thinks that the groom has saved the good wine for later.  Not knowing that Jesus is behind it, he credits the groom for supplying the good wine. 

Now we have to stop and notice a few things here.  One is what we’ve already noted:  the great quantity of wine.  If there are 600 liters of wine here, that’s a huge amount.  The joyous festivity of this wedding is guaranteed.  Another thing to note is the great quality of the wine.  The master of the feast is astonished at the excellence of this wine that Jesus has produced.  Wine not only has to ferment, fine wine also has to age.  The wine that Jesus has spectacularly provided is like that in Isaiah 25, “aged wine well refined.”  This is the good stuff.  It’s wine to be enjoyed for its flavour and complexity.              

Now the quantity and the quality have to be taken together.  Together they point to the significance of what our Saviour did here.  He restored joy to the wedding feast – and he brought not just a little joy, but an overflowing abundance of joy.  He saved the bridegroom and bride from an embarrassing situation.  He ensured that the celebration of love could continue without interruption.  This was a sign, John says in verse 11.  This miracle pointed to something.  It pointed to our Saviour Jesus and his glory as the Son of God.  As the Son of God, he has the power to restore joy – to bring abundant  joy -- to turn away shame, and give us the means to always celebrate love, especially God’s love for us.  Brothers and sisters, this whole passage is about Jesus again showing himself for who he really is and what he does.  It’s not about a miracle worker as such, but the deeper significance is in a Saviour who has come to address our most serious problems.  We’re pointed to Jesus in his glory as the mighty Son of God who gets involved in the messiness of this world and does something about it.  Above all, he comes to bring overflowing joy.  Really, he is the fulfillment of prophecies like that found in Isaiah 25.  We can say with Isaiah 25:9, “This is the LORD, we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in our salvation!”

And look at what the result was at the end of verse 11, “And his disciples believed in him.”  They saw his glory, they saw who he was, and they responded appropriately.  That means that they accepted what Christ revealed about himself in this sign.  What are readers of John’s gospel today supposed to do with that?  There’s an implicit question to all of us:  will you believe in him?  That’s the purpose of John’s gospel after all, that you might believe.  You’ve seen the sign that Jesus did at Cana, bringing joy to the wedding, do you believe that he is the Son of God with power to bring lasting joy to your life?

There’s one more verse in our passage and I’ll just briefly touch on it.  Verse 12 is a transition between this passage and the next one.  After the wedding, our Lord Jesus went down to Capernaum.  He’s back on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, together with his mother, brothers, and disciples.  He stayed there for a few days.  Presumably in that time, he continued to teach and disciple those who would listen, especially those who have thus far believed in him.  It’s worth noting that it says in verse 11 that his disciples believed in him.  But not his mother or brothers who go with him to Capernaum.  They’re the closest to him, they’re from his family, but they don’t seem to get what he’s really about, at least not yet.  Just because you grew up with him, doesn’t mean you believe in him.  Familiarity with Jesus does not always or immediately produce faith.  That’s something to take home and think about.                 

Loved ones, the Word of God has again put our Saviour Jesus squarely before us.  Here we’ve seen him in his glory as the One who brings joy to a broken world.  He’s already brought a great measure of joy to those who believe in him.  But he promises to bring the fullest measure in due time, when he returns with the clouds of heaven.  The day is coming when our joy will be complete and we will be at the greatest marriage feast ever.  There we’ll experience joy of an amazing quantity and quality.  Let’s continue to look to Jesus in faith, trusting that he will bring that great day, praying for that great day.  AMEN.


Heavenly Father,

It gives us joy to hear about our Saviour Jesus from your Word.  We thank you for the quantity of joy that we have in him.  Our joy in Jesus already overflows and we look forward to the day when we’ll experience the full measure.  We thank you for the quality of the joy that we have in Christ.  There is no joy like that found in him.  Father, we know that there are many counterfeit joys around us.  There are many substitutes which tempt us.  O God, please give us all the eyes to see that there is no real joy in these substitutes.  Help us to see that they’re just foolish and destructive. 

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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