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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:The Bridegroom Gives an Abundance of New Wine
Text:John 2:1-11 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Miracles
 
Preached:2021
Added:2021-02-07
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 104:1,4                                                                                   

Ps 36:1,3

Reading – Joel 3:14-21; John 20:24-31

Ps 65:3,5,6

Sermon – John 2:1-11   

Ps 36:2

Hy 67:1,5,7

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


Beloved in Christ, when you meet someone new, it can take a while to get to know them. Maybe you’re starting at high school or university, and you’re meeting all kinds of people for the first time. Or you just gained a few new colleagues at work. Well, it’ll take a while to get acquainted. You chat together on and off, you notice how they act, and you slowly get an idea of what they’re like. Some people are easy to warm up to: they’re open, friendly, straightforward—while others are closed, reluctant to let others in.

Jesus Christ is someone who wants to be known. He wants us to come close, and learn what’s important to him, and know his words. That’s not just true of Jesus, of course—this is the will of the Triune God, that we know him: “Let him who boasts boast in this,” says God in Jeremiah 9:24, “that he understands and knows me.” For to know God is to love him, to enjoy being near him, and to want to do his will. All of Scripture is God telling us about himself.

Today we open a Bible book which features Jesus revealing his glory. He wants to be known, we said, and in the Gospel of John, He unveils himself in two particular ways: by signs and by sayings. The seven sayings are when Jesus says things about himself, like “I am the Light of the World,” or “I am the Good Shepherd.” And just like when a person introduces himself to us on the first day of school, we should pay attention. What does Jesus want us know? Can we trust him? Should we follow him? We’ll know if we listen to his sayings.

And the signs are his miracles, amazing displays of power and grace, like giving sight to the blind man and raising Lazarus. The trouble is when we hear about these miracles, we miss the point sometimes. We get so impressed by the special effects that we stop paying attention to the plot. But signs move us to take action.

So for the seven signs in John. They point away from themselves, to something else: to Jesus. Listen to what John says near the end of his gospel. “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (20:30-31). Jesus did many signs, and this is their point: to bring you to faith in him, the Son of God, the source of true life. So I preach God’s Word to you,

            For his first sign, Jesus transforms water into wine at Cana:

                        1) a wedding feast on the brink of failure

                        2) a glimpse of the Bridegroom’s glory

                        3) the disciple’s response of faith

 

1) a wedding feast on the brink of failure: It’s sometimes nice to have a glass of wine. On festive occasions like birthdays and weddings, we enjoy it too. As the Psalmist puts it: “Wine makes glad the heart of man” (104:15). This is as true today as in the time of Jesus. Already then, wine was a part of most weddings. When a man and woman entered into marriage before God, it’s a joyful occasion—so bring out the wine!

In the background of our text is a wedding. Now, John says that it happens “on the third day” (v 1). The third day of what? If you look back into chapter 1, you see it’s the third day of Jesus’s public ministry. John the Baptist has just announced him as the Lamb of God, baptized him, and Jesus begun calling his disciples: Andrew, Simon, Philip, and Nathanael. These men have just started to learn who Jesus is. But we’ll see that this story ends with these new disciples putting their faith in Jesus.

So Jesus, together with at least four of his disciples, goes to a wedding in the small village of Cana. We don’t know why exactly He was invited. Maybe it was a second cousin from Galilee who was getting married. Or perhaps it was because Jesus was already known as a local rabbi, someone to honour with hospitality.

In that time, the tradition was to invite to your wedding feast as many persons as you could afford to feed, even distant associates and friends of your friends. A wedding was an opportunity for the family to show their generosity.

And as you’ve probably heard before, weddings back then went on much longer than ours today. It wasn’t unusual to have a wedding feast that lasted for several days. And a long feast, of course, with a lot of guests, is going to require a lot to drink, even assuming that people aren’t getting carried away and drinking too much.

But at this feast, the wine runs out. The shocking discovery is made that there are no more full wineskins in the kitchen! Maybe more guests had come than expected. Maybe there was heatwave and people were thirsty. Whatever the case, this was not good. It’s only proper that there be enough wine for this happy event, that all the guests be well taken care of. Running out of wine would bring deep shame to the bride and groom and their families. This wedding was on the brink of disaster.

This is why Jesus’s mother Mary feels badly, and she reports the problem to her son, “They have no wine” (v 3). It’s very early in his ministry, but Mary knows her son. And she knows that He’s not your regular Israelite. Mary is confident that He can do something about it.

But Jesus answers her in a surprising way: “Woman, what does your concern have to do with me?” (v 4). There’s a couple things to notice here. First, He calls his mother “Woman.” Not the familiar “Mary,” or even “mother,” but He addresses her with a term that you’d use for someone you don’t know very well, even someone you’ve just met. He’s taking a distance from Mary and her earthly anxieties.

“Woman, what does your concern have to do with me?” Second, his answer sounds rough—as one translation puts it, “Woman, that’s not our problem.” It’s not rude, but it is emphatic. Jesus doesn’t want to get involved with this little crisis.

He explains, “My hour has not yet come” (v 4). In John’s Gospel, “the hour” is a phrase loaded with meaning, for it refers to the time of Jesus’s death. For example, in chapter 12, just after Jesus has entered Jerusalem for the last time, He announces, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified” (v 23). The “hour” was the appointed time, the highpoint of his work, when by his blood He would cleanse sinners.

But that hour hasn’t come yet. Jesus wasn’t sent to earth to rescue people from social embarrassment, or save wedding parties from failure. He had his eyes on far greater things, more spectacular wonders, like offering himself up as the Lamb of God.

That’s a good lesson, to remember what is central in the work of Christ. Jesus didn’t come to relieve our stress, or to find us a girlfriend, or to improve our character. As our loving Saviour, one whose heart goes out to us daily, Christ is concerned about these things, and we can seek his help in all of them. But let’s always focus on Christ’s true purpose in coming to earth. He didn’t come as a therapist, or a financial advisor, or a life-coach, but a Saviour. Because more than anything, we need rescue from our terrible burden of guilt, from the fear of death, and Satan’s cruel power. And He can save you from this! So if you have that rescue through faith in the crucified Christ, then you have what you most truly need.

In John 2, Jesus is still on his way to the cross. And until that hour, all his miracles—including this one—will be pointers of what is to come. So He is reluctant, but He’s not unwilling to lend a hand. Mary seems to know this, because she says to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it” (v 5). Jesus will intervene, and so will give a glimpse of his glory.

           

2) a glimpse of the Bridegroom’s glory: For Jesus’s miracle, He’s going to use six big pots full of water. The text says they contained “twenty or thirty gallons apiece” (v 6). How much is that? If you’ve ever taken a bath, and filled it pretty full, you probably used somewhere close to thirty gallons, or 100 liters. So Jesus is about to make six bathtubs-full of wine!

He gives the command, “‘Fill the waterpots with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim” (v 7). Now, we know that Jesus doesn’t actually need ‘raw materials’ for his miracles. Later on He’ll feed 5000 people from next to nothing, so surely He could’ve made enough wine by multiplying the last mouthful of wine in the last wineskin.

But there’s a message in these waterpots. John says that they were there, “according to the manner of purification of the Jews” (v 6). They were for ritual washing. Because in the course of daily life, even at a joyous wedding, the contamination of sin was all around God’s people. So people would repeatedly cleanse themselves by splashing water over their hands.

Those big waterpots at the back of the wedding hall were a reminder that all is not well with us humans. We get dirty, constantly. We are polluted deep within our souls by sin, by the perversity of our thoughts and the wickedness of our desires. It’s the kind of filth that big buckets of water or hand sanitizer can never remove from us. Totally unclean in God’s sight, we deserve to be cast out.

But now Christ has come, and He’ll show that the customs and regulations of the law are fulfilled. The old covenant won’t continue forever. Soon there won’t be a need for the external washing of religion, because in his hour Christ will bring a real cleansing, a true washing of our soul and spirit forever! John the Baptist hinted at this already in chapter 1, when he said, “I baptize with water” (1:26), but “He baptizes with the Holy Spirit” (1:33). Unless Jesus purifies you from sin, no one is worthy to come near to God, to know him in true fellowship. But the Lamb will make you clean.

First, though, the wine. Once the waterpots are filled, Jesus says, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast” (v 8). There’s an impromptu wine-tasting for the master of the banquet, who was probably something like the headwaiter. And when he samples it, it’s no longer water, it’s wine—good wine, like the best vintages from the finest vineyards of Galilee. The master of the banquet is shocked, thinking that one of the kitchen staff has found a secret reserve. And of course, he’d be even more shocked to learn that this wine was little more than H2O a few minutes before!  

Try to appreciate the miracle of it. If you’ve been on a winery tour, you might know that winemaking takes a lot of time: from harvesting to crushing and pressing, to fermentation and clarification, and then aging and bottling. In fact, it’s not a process that can be rushed—going slower is better. But in an instant, Jesus has produced something that is already aged, years compressed into milliseconds. As He is going to do many times, He’s laid aside the normal or natural way of doing things. And it means the wedding feast can go on uninterrupted and in high spirits. For it is a massive supply: six bathtubs full of good wine!

In a way, the story is straightforward enough: a wedding disaster averted, and everyone goes home happy. But let’s think about this a little more. Remember that it is a sign, pointing us away from the actual event and towards a deeper truth.

In the first place, doesn’t it seem a strange display of glory? Why would Jesus make this his opening miracle? He doesn’t raise an only son from the dead, remove illness from some broken body, or feed a crowd of hungry people. No, his first miracle is to provide quality wine for a roomful of guests at a country wedding! It might’ve been socially obligatory to serve wine at a wedding, but this was no physical necessity.

So why this sign? Listen to what John says, that by it, “[Jesus] manifested his glory” (v 11). He showed it, not so much to the wedding guests, who had no idea where the good wine came from. But Jesus revealed his glory to his disciples, so that from this moment, they believed in him! To his inner circle, it was a revelation of who their Master really was.

For the disciples knew the Scriptures. As faithful Israelites, they knew about the coming age of the Messiah, the great day of salvation that God promised. There were many aspects to the coming redemption, of course. But one of the prophecies was that when the Messiah finally came, there’d be wine—lots of wine!

“‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD in Amos 9:13-14, ‘when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman, and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills…My exiled people will be plant vineyards and drink their wine.’” In the days of Amos, God’s people were poor, oppressed, and bound for exile. So God described their salvation in terms they could understand, with earthly, physical images. One day their land—now so desolate and barren—one day it’d again be blessed with abundant livestock and grains and fruits.

It’s also in Joel 3, “And it will come to pass in that day that the mountains shall drip with new wine, the hills shall flow with milk” (v 18). Or in Joel 2: “The threshing floors shall be full of wheat; and the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil” (v 24). When the Saviour arrived, there’d be no shortage of the good things of the earth. In the grain and new wine and oil, Israel would have sure symbols of God’s grace. As they ate and drank, they could be assured that God’s favour rested upon them once more.

So when the disciples looked at all that fine wine, and when they saw the man who made it without an effort, they knew this: God’s promised salvation is finally here! This must be the Christ, who makes the vintage overflow, and the best wines run like a river. Here’s the One who will finally bring true joy to his people.

And when we keep looking at this sign, it directs our hearts to another truth: the bridegroom being celebrated that day was actually Jesus. The Old Testament often speaks of God as the husband of his people. He was the patient husband, though Israel was unfaithful. As an example, listen to Isaiah 62, “The LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married… As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (vv 4-5).

So in this way too, Jesus is bringing the Old Testament to fulfillment. In Mark 2 He asks his disciples, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them?” (Mark 2:19). He is the bridegroom, and He brings a time of joy and plenty for God’s people, like the joy at the most festive wedding. By his atoning work He is going to restore God’s unfaithful people back to their loving LORD.

Jesus has come for his bride, to cherish and love her. He’ll even give himself up for her, to sanctify her and present her to himself as a glorious church without spot or wrinkle or blemish, but pure and holy. Cana was just an early feast for this bridegroom and his precious bride.

Three years later, Jesus again poured out good wine for his people. It happened at the Last Supper, when He gave the cup to his disciples. Though the Bridegroom was about to die, they could drink in happy remembrance of him. They could rejoice in what He made possible: the full forgiveness of sin.

Beloved, that is still our privilege. We can thirst for God, and Christ satisfies us. We can bring our emptiness to God, and Christ fills us. And then whenever we have Holy Supper, and we take that sip of wine, we can rejoice in Jesus. We call it the “celebration of the Lord’s Supper,” for it’s a festive meal! Not because we have so much wine, but because of who gave us the cup. For Christ poured out his precious blood on our behalf.

 

3) the disciples’ response of faith: In the four Gospels, the disciples aren’t always quick to understand. But when they see this first sign, they know where it’s pointing. Verse 11: “This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” They weren’t distracted by all the wine, overwhelmed by the moment, but they knew what it meant. This was Jesus manifesting his glory—putting his true glory on display.

In Chapter 1, where John sums up everything that has happened in the life of Christ, he says: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” (1:14). His whole life was a display of his glory, the glory He shared with the Father from eternity. For He wants to be known, and He wants to be believed. This is who He is: our Saviour, our Lord.

Turning water into wine on that day was just the beginning. There are more signs to come, pointers to the world-changing thing that is going to take place. We don’t get the full story yet in chapter 2, but John expects us to keep reading.

For the most spectacular show of his glory would be seen in that most shameful event: his crucifixion and death. Listen again to what Jesus said in John 12, just before He goes to the cross, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (v 23). He was about to manifest his glory through laying down his life for sinners.

But already on this early day, three days in, the disciples respond as they should: “They believed in him.” And isn’t that exactly what Christ wants from us too? For you are saved by faith alone. This remarkable sign means we have to go home and do something. It calls us to action: “Trust in God, trust also in me,” Jesus says.

So acknowledge him as Lord. Trust in Jesus as Saviour. Submit your life to him as King. Love him as the Christ. Believe that Jesus gives you what you truly need: the complete forgiveness of your sins, and the renewal of your life.

And to those who love him, the Bridegroom gives this promise: his great marriage feast is coming! At that party, there won’t be any tears, no sorrows or regrets. At that feast there won’t ever be the disappointment that it’s coming to an end, that the joy is running out, but there will be blessedness unending. It will be more blessing and more goodness than you ever imagined possible. There, Christ has said, He will drink the wine new with us in the Kingdom of his Father. Beloved, that’s something to look forward to, that’s a feast to get ready for.

You’ll be ready for the feast, if today you believe in Christ. You’ll be ready, if your life is about putting sin away and walking in the cleansing that Christ freely gives. You’ll be ready if you know him, and you love him.  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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