Saturday 26 October 2013

Wine (John 2:1-11)

1 On the third day a wedding took place in Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.

     The heading in my NIV bible reads, “Jesus Changes Water to Wine”. By the end of this account (verse 11), the event is described as a miraculous sign; a revelation of the glory of Jesus Christ.
     Yet it is important to notice how the account begins: Verse 1 introduces us to the setting of the event (a wedding), the date of the event (the third day following the last account, which would make this the Sabbath; cf 1:29, 35, 43) and a key character in this event, namely, Mary.
     These three elements of the setting, the date as well as Jesus’ interaction with Mary come together to help formulate our understanding on how Jesus’ glory is revealed through the course of this miracle.

     Pastors often make a passing reference to verse 2 when officiating weddings today: Jesus was invited to attend this wedding in Cana in Galilee. This, and the fact that Jesus’ disciples were also named on the guest list, suggests that the wedding was that of a relative or close family friend, and that Mary was helping out with the catering, given what she goes on to say in verse 3.

3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
4 “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied, “My time has not yet come.”

     Jesus replies his mum in a surprisingly somewhat callous way. The ESV translates verse 4: “Woman, what does this have to do with me?” (Literally: “What have you to do with me?”)
     This is the very first mention of Mary in the gospel and John’s first record of Jesus’ words to Mary serve to distance him from his mother. He calls her “Woman,” or “Madam”. Or as we would say in Cantonese: Tai Tai. (Jesus uses the same expression in addressing Mary from the cross in John 19:26, “Woman, here is your son.”)
     Jesus is dealing with expectations. We saw this last week in his first question to the two potential disciples in John 1:38: “What do you want?” He does the same thing here with Mary, adding these words, “My time has not yet come.”
     As hard as it must have been for her to these words from her own son, Mary responds in a remarkable way. “Do whatever he tells you,” she says to the servants in verse 5. How does she respond? In faith and full obedience to his word.
     Like John the Baptist, Mary’s role in the gospels is to redirect our attention to Jesus. With that, she disappears from the scene.

6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, 9 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.

     Something happens before the water is changed into wine. Jesus tells the servants in verse 7 to first fill up these six stone water jars. Only after the servants have finished doing that does Jesus say to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”
     Why? Jesus is giving us a picture of the transformation that is taking place - not simply with the water into wine, but from the act of ritual cleansing to an occasion of great celebration.
     The six stone water jars prepare us to understand the significance of the wine in the wedding. The water contained in these jars, verse 6 tells us, were to be used for ritual cleansing (katharismon = the cleansing of impurities). Stone jars were less porous than clay (which were susceptible to mould). Washing yourself with the water from these stone jars was meant to cleanse you spiritually; to make you acceptable ritually.
     The footnotes in my NIV bible says that each of these jars held up to 115 litres of water. Meaning: You could empty up to 460 extra large Coke bottles into these containers. The servants are instructed by Jesus to fill each of these water jars to the brim: symbolising the fulfilment of the Jewish laws of purification; symbolising perhaps even the need for impurities to be completely immersed and washed away by water as John was doing in the previous chapter when he baptised his followers in the River Jordan. That was the symbolism of the water.

     The wine, on the other hand, was for celebration. A transition was taking place from water to wine; from cleansing to celebration; from consciousness of sin to a cause for great celebration.
     It is important to see the connection between the two. In verse 9, the master of the banquet, “did not realise where (the wine) had come from.” But the servants who had drawn the water did. The water which filled the jars and the wine served at the wedding came from one source.

Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

     The master of the banquet is the emcee of the wedding. The best man, if you like. It is obvious from his comments that this is not his first gig. He has attended many banquets. He has sampled the finest wines. This vintage, however, so impressed the master of the banquet that he calls the groom aside and says, “You have saved the best till now.”
     Now knowing this: Why does Jesus tell the servants to bring the wine directly to the master of the banquet? Notice Jesus’ instructions back in verse 8: “Take it to the master of the banquet.” Why him and not, say, directly to all the guests, or to the bride and groom, or even to Mary who made a fuss of the lack of wine in the first place?
     Jesus is again dealing with the issue of expectations. The moment the master of the banquet tastes the fine wine that has been served up to him, his first reaction is not commend the catering staff but to praise the groom.
     You see, it was expected of the groom to supply the wine for celebration. It was his responsibility to host the feast.
     Except that we know where this fine wine had come from: Jesus. The miracle of the water turned to wine is Jesus’ way to revealing to us that he is the true bridegroom. This is strange, of course, for the obvious reason that Jesus was single for all his life on earth. He never married. He never had a wedding. Yet Jesus reveals that he is looking forward to a day when he will come as the true bridegroom.
     If you turn the page to John Chapter 3, we see there in verse 29, John the Baptist referring to the Christ coming as a bridegroom to receive his bride. This miracle is a preview of that. Jesus is looking forward to the day when this will happen even if it  isn’t today. “My time has not yet come,” he says to his mum in verse 4.

     Well, when will that day be? I wonder if some of you are wondering the same thing: When will it be my turn? When will I be able to have that relationship to celebrate and commit to?
     If that is you, you know that attending someone else’s wedding can therefore be a painful reminder of your own longing to love someone as a husband or wife. That is the same longing Jesus has for his bride; for his wedding day.

     Yet at the same time, this passage reveals what it would cost Jesus to make that day a reality. Verse 4 can also be translated, “My hour has not yet come.” Whenever you see that word “hour” you need to know that Jesus is talking about the hour of his death. He explains it like this in John Chapter 12:

23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

27 Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father glorify your name!”
John 12:23-24, 27-28

     The hour is Jesus’ way of referring to his death; it’s a way of referring to the cross. So when he says to Mary, “My hour has not yet come,” he is saying, “It’s not today. It’s not now. But soon, it will happen and when it does, my Father will be glorified and I will be crucified.”
     The transformation of water into wine gives us a glimpse of how that one event of great sadness leads to great joy. The cross cleanses us from sin and gives us his righteousness. It is a picture of sacrifice. Jesus dies to take our place of judgement on the cross; that’s how he cleanses us. But at the same time, he supplies the wine for the feast. As gross as it might sound, his blood is the wine. He says that in John Chapter 6, verse 55, “My blood is real drink,” by which he is saying his death sustains us in our relationship with God; and that his sacrifice sustains us in the love of God. When Christians celebrate communion, they take the bread and the cup to remember the body and blood of Christ. In other words, it’s a meal. His death supplies us with the means to gather at God’s table as his guests at his banquet, the same way the bridegroom supplies the wine at his wedding.
     Jesus was looking forward to the cross. The miracle of the wine was a preview to that: of how his death on the cross would open the way for sinners to dine at God’s table.

11 This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their trust in him.

     The account ends with Jesus’ glory revealed. We get a glimpse of his true nature as Son of God. But what exactly are we meant to see?
     It’s more than the miracle of water turning into wine. It is actually the glory of Jesus who provides the wine as the bridegroom. The miracle is a “sign” - as in, a signpost with a big arrow - pointing to Jesus’ identity as the bridegroom.
     Ephesians 5 is a passage commonly read at weddings because it talks about the relationship between a husband and wife, but in reality, when you look at it, Ephesians 5:25 says quite plainly that it’s talking about Christ and the church. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.” (Ephesians 5:25-26)

     It means that longing we all have to be committed in love and devotion to single individual can really only ever be fulfilled by Jesus. If you are single, you need to realise that: Having a husband or a wife can never replace that. If you are married then Ephesians teaches that your marriage is there to be a parable of your love for Jesus. You grow your love for one another by growing in the knowledge and love of Christ as your Saviour.

     But finally, it means that Jesus looks at us in love. He has cleansed us with water and he has paid for us with his blood. The same way that a bridegroom looks upon his radiant bride on their wedding day, that’s how Jesus sees his church. That’s how Jesus sees his bride - as holy, as spotless without blemish, as beautiful beyond measure.

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