Monday, May 28, 2012

Good morning! It is my pleasure again to proclaim the Word of God to you from the Gospel of John. In our previous visit, we saw Jesus’ first disciples come to Jesus.

In the prologue, John the author of this gospel told us about how God revealed himself in his Son, the Word of God who was in the beginning, was intimate with God, and indeed was God. He created all things. But when he came to his own people, they did not receive him. But, some people, both Jews and Gentiles, did receive him and have the right to become Children of God. One key verse I want you to recall is verse 6 “For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” John 1:16, NAS95.

We learned that it’s not really “grace upon grace”, but “grace instead of grace”. The grace of the gospel replacing the grace of the Old Testament. The Law was of grace because it pointed to Jesus. But the gospel is the fulfillment of the Law in Jesus.

Let’s keep that in mind as we look at today’s section as  we look at Jesus’ first sign. John doesn’t use the word miracle in his gospel, he uses sign. This is because Jesus doesn’t do miracles just because he can, but so that witnesses would turn to him for salvation. Each time, we have recalled that at the end of this gospel, John tells us what the purpose of it is:

“Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” John 20:30, 31, NAS95.

Today, we will look at Jesus’ first sign, a sign that was performed at a wedding.

Weddings are joyous occasions in most cultures. In Japan, outside of the church, wedding ceremonies usually last 20 minutes. The reception may last 2 hours. And, quite frequently there may be a post-reception party or two. If you are one of the people who attends the ceremonies and all the parties, you will probably be very tired at the end of the day. But, imagine if the wedding celebrations last a whole week!

2.1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there

Often, when we read the Bible, we sometimes miss important information because we are impatient and don’t reflect and meditate. We read here that this wedding happened on the third day. Why is that important? One reason we have to think this is important is that this is the only part of John’s gospel where he gives a series of days.

On the third day…
So, this wedding was on the third day. Usually when we hear “third day” we think of Jesus’ resurrection. But, we have a clue to why John points out the third day by looking at the timeline in John 1. Day 1 in the Gospel of John is when the delegation from the priests and Levites come to question John the Baptist. Day 2 is when John points out to his disciples Jesus as the Lamb of God. Day 3 is when John again points of Jesus as the Lamb and two of his disciples leave him to follow Jesus. Day 4 is when Andrew finds Philip and Philip finds Nathanael. Three days later is what day? Day 7. Put this together with what we learned from John 1. In chapter 1, John shows the connection between the Word of God and creation. And in Genesis, creation takes place over seven days. And what did God do on the seventh day of creation? He rested. Keep that in mind as we look at what Jesus does at the wedding.

there was a wedding…
As we heard earlier, weddings in Jesus day were big events. They could last a week. And, for poor people, it may be the biggest public event in their lives. The new couple were treated like royalty and even wore crowns. The responsibility to ensure that the food and drinks were plentiful for the guests belonged to the groom. It would be shameful for these items to run out. And this was a shame culture.

in Cana of Galilee…
Jesus first disciples were from Cana and in the previous verses, Jesus met Philip and Nathanael in Cana. So, it seems that they stayed in Cana over those three days and now there is a wedding.

and the mother of Jesus was there.
Jesus’ mother is never named in John’s gospel. Probably this is to avoid confusion with the other Marys. John also never names himself or his brother James. We are not told, but Jesus’ mother may have been involved with the planning or serving at this wedding.

2.2 and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.

We aren’t told who the disciples are, but most likely they included Andrew, Peter, Philip, Nathanael and the unnamed disciple since this weddings is days after they began following Jesus. Most likely the unnamed disciple is John, the author of this gospel.

2.3 “When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”

When the wine ran out…
This is a crisis. Wine was the symbol of joy and celebration. To run out of wine at a wedding would bring great shame on the groom.

they have no wine.
By telling Jesus that there was no wine, the mother of Jesus shows that this issue concerned her. She goes and tells her firstborn son. There is no reason to believe that she had seen him do a miracle before. But, in her experience, since it seems that Joseph had died years before, she had learned to trust her son with the family problems.

2.4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.”

When we read that Jesus called her woman, it seems strange to us. On the one hand, this use of the word is not as rude as it sounds in English. In fact, when on the cross, Jesus calls her by this same word when he arranges for John to take care of her. Probably it is close to “ma’am”. But, this word is also not intimate. It’s not the word we would expect from a son to his mother. We will see why he addresses her this way in a moment.

what does that have to do with us?
Again, Jesus language here seems abrupt. Jesus here is rebuking her. It is a mild rebuke, but it is a rebuke nonetheless.

My hour has not yet come.
Here we learn the reason for Jesus’ rebuke. It is not yet his time. But, what does that mean? We will need to “cheat” a little here and look ahead to how Jesus uses this explanation in John. The first time Jesus tells us that his hour has come is in chapter 12 when Gentiles come looking for him. And he tells us that his time is the time of his glorification, which happens on the cross.

“And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:23, 24, NAS95.

So, the mother of Jesus is asking Jesus to show his glory, but it is not the time to do so. This doesn’t mean that Jesus won’t help. It just won’t be the time to reveal his glory. Perhaps the mother of Jesus thought it was time because he now has disciples.

One things we can learn from this exchange is that Jesus is making it clear that now that his ministry has begun, his family has no special claim to him. Mary is a sinner like everyone else and must learn to come to him in the same way as anyone else. We learned in chapter one how one does that:

“He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:11-13, NAS95.

We must be careful to avoid the same problem. We are not God’s children because of who are parents are or because of anything found in us. If we receive Jesus, if we believe in his name, then we are given the right to become his children.

2.5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”

I love this response from Mary. She could have felt hurt that her son had rebuked her. She could have been angry or disappointed. Instead, she acts in faith that he will do the right thing and encourages others to trust and obey him also.

2.6 Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each.

stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification…
These waterpots were for serious Jews to wash their hands for ceremonial purposes. These ceremonial practices were not part of the Law of God. They were added to remind devout Jews of the importance of purity. But, as with all human rules, they became more important than both the letter and spirit of the Law of God.

six stone waterpots containing twenty or thirty gallons each.
These waterpots could hold …………

2.7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim.
The servants do not know why Jesus gives these instructions, but the obey him as the mother of Jesus had told them to. They are completely full.

2.8 And He said to them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it to him.

Draw some out now…
So, Jesus turned the water in the pots into wine and has the servants take some of this wine to the headwaiter. And now the groom would have up to 180 gallons of wine for the wedding and for future use or to sell. Right? Wrong. Has anyone here ever heard a different explanation?

The problem is that word for “drawing” water here refers to the action of drawing from a well. Jesus had them fill the pots with water and then draw more water for the wine. The waterpots symbolize the old covenant. The wine shows the new covenant. And in the same way that old wine cannot be held in new wineskins, the waterpots cannot hold the new wine. And even though 180 gallons is a lot of water, the well is an unlimited, replenishing supply. Jesus gives the Spirit without measure.

take it to the headwaiter…
This is the chief steward hired to manage the distribution of food and drink at the wedding.

So they took it to him.
Again, the servants obey.

2.9 When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.”

the headwaiter called the bridegroom…

Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.
This is pretty funny. It makes sense that the best wine is served first when people’s senses are sharper. The main point here is that the quality of the wine that Jesus has created here is superior. The new wine of the covenant is of the highest quality and never runs out.

2.11 This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.
This brings us back to the main theme of John. The reason Jesus performs this sign is so that his disciples will witness it, believe in him, and have eternal life in him. You and I did not witness this sign in person. But, by reading the witness of John we are brought to the wedding and can see what Jesus did if we are willing. And the choice is set before us. Will we believe the witness? Will we believe in Jesus? Will we have eternal life? I pray that you will. Come to the wine that gives joy. The wine that gives eternal life. Come, and drink freely.