A sermon based on John 2:1-11
Sunday, January 17, 2016 – Epiphany 2C
The big day was finally here! The day she'd dreamed about since she was a little girl! Today was her wedding day! But right before the ceremony was about to begin, disaster struck! Her maid of honor was only trying to help, but as she went to clean up, she dropped her lipstick. And it fell right on front the bride's dress. There it was: a bright red streak that wouldn't come out! And it was too late to try anyway! The music had started! What would the guests think?! What about the pictures?! How embarrassing!
This morning we hear a wedding story with a similar embarrassment… well, almost. Though this new bride and groom were in a potentially embarrassing situation, Jesus helped them. He performed a miracle to do it! When they ran out of wine, Jesus gave them more—turning water into wine. And in this, his first miracle, Jesus did more than help a couple out. He showed that he was a miracle worker and revealed his glory. He demonstrated that he had the power to help and that he had the desire to help, so you and I know that we can trust his help. Listen now to the account of Jesus' first miracle recorded for us in John 2:1-11…
On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 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."
5 His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
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 realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now."
11 This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.
I. With the Power to Help in Every Need
Perhaps through his most recently added disciple, Nathaniel, who was from the town of Cana, or perhaps through his mother, whose home in Nazareth was less than 10 miles away, Jesus and his five or six disciples (at this point), received an invite to the festive celebration of this newly married couple. But this wedding, like most, was not without its faux pas.
John presents the problem rather briefly here. He simply says, "When the wine was gone." But what's the big deal? Couldn't they get something else to drink? Well, first remember that there weren't that many choices. With no refrigeration, your only options were really water or wine. That's it. Also remember that wedding receptions lasted more than a few hours like they do in our culture. It was often a week-long event held at the groom's house as he took his new bride into his home. That's a lot of wine to provide. And perhaps with some unexpected guests joining the celebration the couple quickly ran out.
Now this problem would more than just ruin the wedding photos. It was a serious social blunder that would ruin a person's reputation. Some commentaries even suggest that the couple could be fined by the community for this social blunder. This was enough to ruin the happy celebration and make the couple want to go hide.
But how blessed they were to have Jesus as a guest! He stepped in to help out. With six large jars, used for the regular ceremonial washings a large crowd of Jews would continually need at a festival like this, Jesus provided a solution.
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." …he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now."
What a great present Jesus gave this couple for their wedding! He didn't just bring them a bottle of wine, but gave them around 150 gallons of wine. And this wasn't the cheap stuff! This was no Boone's Farm! Jesus gave a higher quality wine than the couple could give their guests! And by his miracle Jesus not only saved the couple some embarrassment, but won for them compliments from the caterer. "You've saved the best till now!" And he revealed his glory—his power to help in their need.
And in this miracle he reveals his power to help you in your need. Do you ever wonder if Jesus really can help you out? Can he really help solve that problem at work? Can he really restore your broken relationship? Can he really take away the disease the doctors have diagnosed as terminal? In this, his first miracle, and in all his other miracles, Jesus displays his glory. He demonstrates that yes, he does indeed have the power to help. He has power over the laws of nature, power over sickness and disease, power over sin and death. He is the omnipotent God with power to do whatever he wants.
So how come we sometimes do suffer? Why does he let the cancer stay? Why doesn't he always use his power to help? Is it that he can, but doesn't want to help us? No. Jesus' miracle at Cana demonstrates his desire to help us in every need great or small…
II. With the Desire to Help in Every Need
Jesus mother, Mary, relayed the couple's problem to Jesus, "When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine." Now you might still be thinking, "What was the big deal? Who really cares if they ran out of wine? So what if they were embarrassed! This was nothing to complain about! This didn't need to ruin their wedding. Much worse has happened to many other couples on their wedding day. And this was certainly nothing to waste Jesus' time with! After all, there were people dying of leprosy and in extreme pain both physically and emotionally cut off from society. There were people going through life deaf, blind, crippled, and lame! There were people being possessed and controlled by demons and evil spirits! Who cared about a little wine!
But Jesus cared. This problem was not too big for his power. And it was not too little for him to care. He cared enough about this couple's "little" problem to act. He cared enough to make this wedding in Cana the location and setting of his first miracle, where few would see it and recognize him as the miracle-worker he was. Jesus did act because he loved this couple and so their problems, great or small, were important to him. He had the desire to help in every need.
And the same is true of our problems. We might not think outright, "This problem is too little for Jesus." But we do all too often neglect to take our worries and concerns to him. And what a mistake that is! As the hymn writer put it, "Oh, what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!" Jesus cares about your problems big and little.
Author Richard Carlson, wrote a popular series of books beginning with one entitled Don't Sweat the Small Stuff (And It's All Small Stuff). And there's a lot of truth in what he writes. But to just say, "Don't sweat it," doesn't really help us deal with our problems. But to know that Jesus does sweat it over our problems—big and little—does allow us to rest easy. Jesus does care about your health, about your job, about your kids, about your grades, about your pets, about your car, about all of your problems because he cares about you. Jesus not only has the power to help, but desire to help in every situation. If it's a big enough problem to be a concern to you, it's big enough to take to Jesus.
And that's exactly what Mary did: 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." Now Jesus wasn't as harsh with his mother as it first seems. "Woman" was a respectful title. But there was a certain distance here. He didn't answer Mary the way she maybe expected. She went expecting him to act as her obedient son. But Jesus straightened things out. He told her, "My time has not yet come." He didn't refuse to act, just made it clear that his ministry wasn't subject to his mother. But note those two words, "not yet." Mary did, and she clung to them. "Not yet" didn't mean "no." It just meant "be patient." And trusting Jesus to do what was right in his own time and in his own way, his mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
And this answers our question: "If Jesus has the power to help in every need and if Jesus has the desire to help in every need, both big and small, why doesn't he always answer the way we want?" Well, simply put, "His time has not yet come."
Sometimes we go to Jesus like Mary did and want Jesus to fix our problems in our way and in our time. We say, "Jesus here's my problem: My health isn't great. My parents just don't understand me. The kids just won't behave. The paycheck isn't covering it all. My marriage is in trouble. Now, Jesus, what are you going to do about it? Fix it. Fix it my way. And fix it right now." But sometimes we're met with silence as Jesus says to us, "Not yet." "Be patient." He may not help us exactly when we want him to. He may not help us in the way we want him to. But he will help us.
Jesus might deliver you from your suffering and pain only in death when he takes you to glory. In which case, he says to you, "Be patient. I'll deliver you. But my time has not yet come. Not yet." He may have work for you to do still. So he won't deliver you yet. He may create opportunities for you to witness to others through the loss of your job, of your property, of your relationships, of your health. He may ask you to suffer for a while, but he will help you. Only sometimes he says, not yet. So, in spite of the pain and struggles you face, you can trust in Jesus to help you in every need…
III. So Trust Him to Help in Every Need
What's the greatest miracle Jesus performed that day in Cana? Was it turning 150 gallons of water into 150 gallons of wine? Not really. Water turns into wine every day. The rain falls, is absorbed by roots, grown into grapes, crushed, fermented, and so on. Not to downplay a miracle of Jesus, but all he really did was accelerate the process. The really great miracle of that day is found in verse 11 of our text: "This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him."
Note the word John uses for what Jesus did. He doesn't use the word "wonder" or "marvel" like Matthew, Mark and Luke use. Instead, when he's describing a miracle he uses the word "sign." A sign is something that points to something else. This miracle wasn't great just for the sake of the miracle. After all, what does it really matter today that Jesus turned water into wine? We never got to drink any of it. But it is important to us! It does matter, because in that event Jesus revealed who he was. He revealed his glory! That's really why he did it.
And it worked. John reports that "his disciples put their faith in him." They saw the miracle. And their faith was deepened. Jesus was the Messiah. That they knew. But now they knew he was also the Son of God with both the power and the desire to help them. They put their faith—their trust—in him. And I can't help but think that this miracle had a similar impact on Mary, on the newlyweds (once they found out what Jesus had done for them), and on more than a few of their guests. The more they learned about Jesus the more they put their trust in him.
And the more we learn about Jesus, reading of these same miracles recorded for us in the Bible, the more our faith is strengthened and the more we trust him to help us in every need. We see this miracle and know that he has the power and desire to help us in every need. We read the rest of the Gospels and learn of his greater power and desire to help us. His desire to help us was so great it led him to willingly suffer hell on a cross to pay for our sins. His power was so great he was able to not only turn water into wine, but to turn his perfect life into a robe of righteousness for us to wear, to turn his suffering and death into victory and life for us when he rose again.