The Day Jesus Saved A Wedding
I wish to read for you these verses from John, chapter two. This is the word of God.
“On the third day, a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there and Jesus and His disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, ‘They have no more wine.’ ‘Dear woman, why do you involve me?’ Jesus replied. ‘My time has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever He tells you.’
“Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from 20 to 30 gallons. Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the Jars with water.’ So they filled them to the brim. Then He told them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.’ They did so 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. But then He called the bridegroom aside 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 until now.’
“This, the first of His miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed His glory. And His disciples put their faith in Him.”
May God bless to us the reading and the hearing of this portion of His Holy Word.
Pray with me please. Give me Jesus, Lord. Give me Jesus. You can have all the rest. Just give me Jesus. Amen.
I wonder if perhaps you’ve heard the story about the wife who became desperately concerned about her husband’s health. Physically, he was a wreck. He was weak, pale, flabby, stressed out, constantly tired. Finally, she decided to take him to the doctor for a checkup. After the examination, the doctor went out into the waiting room, walked over to the wife, and said to her, “Thelma, I just don’t like the way your husband looks.” She replied, “Neither do I, but he’s good to the children.”
Well, believe it or not, that story actually has a point here. And here it is. One of the most important things that I believe we can say about our God is that God is good to His children. And who are His children? We are. You and I are the children of God. More significant than any title or honor or position or possession which may be ours in life, more significant than any or all of that is the fact that you and I are the children of God. And therefore, it stands to reason that what is important to us is important to God. And what matters to us matters to God.
Now I am willing to suggest that that is precisely the message delivered to us in the very first miracle Jesus ever performed, the miracle at the wedding at Cana. Now I believe we can logically assume that this wedding was the wedding of someone who was a relative of Jesus and His family. In the first place, Cana was actually just a stone’s throw from Nazareth. Also, Jesus was invited, His mother was invited, even Jesus’ disciples were invited. But really, for me, the critical point is this, that at one point in the story, we are told that Mary, the mother of Jesus, assumed to herself an authority which usually was reserved only for members of the family. That is, she began to direct the servants in what they were to do. So, I am convinced that this was in fact the wedding of someone who was a part of the extended family of Mary and Jesus.
Now, here’s what I want you to see. In what happened at the wedding, we see a tender, loving, caring Jesus actually lay aside the plan of heaven in order to bring to a loved one comfort in the midst of what could have been socially embarrassing. I find it absolutely fascinating to realize that the very first miracle Jesus performed was not designed to deliver the power, the wonder, and the wisdom of God to the whole world. No. The first miracle Jesus performed was designed to make the point that God is willing to move heaven and earth in order to demonstrate how much he cares for us.
What matters to us, matters to God. I believe that’s the message of this incident at the wedding at Cana.
Now, I want us to look closely at this wedding. I want us to look closely at what happened there. I want us also to look at the problems with the story. And then I want to look at the promises contained in the story. First the problems. You and I are living—God help us—in a time when even biblical scholars, in many instances, are seeking to undermine the authority of the Bible. I can tell you that even though there are people, even in the church, people who are seeking to devalue and diminish the power of the gospel stories, I am not one of them. As long as God gives me the grace to preach, I shall exalt my Christ. And I shall attempt to demonstrate the unassailable truth of this book, this Bible, this word of God. That is my intent today.
You see, some biblical scholars point to four problems in this particular incident, problems which they say indicate that the story is not true. I disagree. And now, I am going to quite eagerly seek to rebut their arguments one by one.
Problem number one.
Some scholars suggest that when Mary came to Jesus, sharing with Him that they had run out of wine, that Jesus responded to her in a way so harsh and insensitive that it actually calls into question the veracity of the whole story. I don’t believe that for a moment. Let me remind you that hospitality in the Middle East, then and is true now, hospitality in the Middle East is regarded as a sacred duty. And therefore, to run out of wine on any occasion, but particularly on the occasion of a wedding, well, that would have plunged the whole family into absolute, total humiliation, a humiliation so profound they might never have recovered from it. But when Mary realized what had happened, she turned to Jesus and said, “They have no more wine.” And Jesus immediately responded in—some scholars say—in a harsh manner, a way not in character for Him at all. He responded to her by saying, “Woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come.”
Well, let me remind you that we do have the words of Jesus. However, we do not know the tone of His voice or the expression on His face. But we do know that that question, “Why do you involve me?” at least in that day and time was a proverbial way of saying, “Our concerns are not the same.” You see, Jesus was saying that Mary’s concern was the social embarrassment of a loved one, while Jesus’ concern was the work of salvation and redemption for the whole world. And so Jesus was very gently, not harshly, very gently reminding Mary that He was about His Father’s business.
It’s not at all unlike the incident you remember that happened years before when Jesus was 12 years of age and Mary found Him in the temple. Do you remember what Jesus said to her? He said, “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” You see here, Jesus was very gently acknowledging that for Him, God’s will always comes first.
Now, problem two.
Some scholars say that the fact that He addressed as, “Woman,” why didn’t He address her as His mother? Why just “woman”? Where is the gentleness and the godliness in that? Well, I must tell you that up to a point, at least, I can understand that objection. Because I have a great, king-sized picture in my mind of what would have happened if I had ever responded to my mother by saying, “Woman.” I can tell you that fiery, red-headed mother of mine would have decked me right on the spot! But what I want you to understand is that in that day and time—and interestingly enough, increasingly in our own time—the word “woman” denotes respect, devotion, exaltation. You do remember, don’t you, in John 19, when Jesus was dying on the cross, among His last thoughts there was a thought of deep concern for His mother’s welfare. And you remember how He then very tenderly, very lovingly entrusted her into the care and keeping of His disciple John. And He said to His mother, very affectionately, “Woman, behold your Son.” You see, that word “woman” was not a term of disparagement or disrespect at all. In fact, quite the opposite was true.
Now, problem number three.
Some scholars declare that this miracle could not have occurred because the miracle was meaningless. All Jesus did was turn some water into wine, for heaven’s sake. Well, in my view, they miss the whole point. You see, what I want you to understand is that Jesus here at this wedding was concerned about the people He loved. I want you to remember that. That here, He was willing to temporarily lay aside the work of salvation in order to make some people happy.
I want you to realize that that—our happiness—is a concern of our Christ. Oh, it’s not the first concern. It’s not His primary concern. He did not come to this earth to die on the cross and be raised from the dead just to make people happy. No, no, no. But the fact of the matter is, our happiness has never been a matter of indifference to our Christ. And so right here, at the beginning of His ministry, he sets aside the work of salvation just long enough to bring relief to a loved one facing social embarrassment. I want you to see that Jesus never, ever equates saintliness with sourness. Jesus never equates godliness with gloom. Jesus is in fact the brightest, happiest, sunniest soul who ever lived. Jesus would have regarded the phrase “Joyless Christian” as an oxymoron. Christianity always marches in step with the exuberant spirit. And so, if Jesus decided to use his first miracle to bring happiness to someone else, I say, “So be it. Thank God our Christ is concerned about all of life, not just a part of it.”
Problem number four.
Some scholars decry this miracle because of its excess. They say there is this over-abundance of wine. “Well, that was exaggerated,” they say. And so therefore, the exaggeration renders, basically, the truth of this story up for grabs. Well, I want us to look at what Jesus did. Remember Jesus pointed to the servants and said, “Over there are six large stone water jugs holding 20 to 30 gallons each. Fill them with water.” They did. Jesus said to them, “Draw some water out. Take it to the master of the banquet. Let him taste it.” They did. He tasted it. He was astonished. It was wine. Not just ordinary wine. Very, very good wine.
Furthermore, suddenly it dawned on him that no longer did they have no wine. Now, they had an over-abundance of wine. They had more than enough, way more than enough. Well, what I want you to understand is that I believe that this miracle actually declares that that’s the way Jesus works in life. More than enough. He’s always giving us more than enough. You remember, don’t you, when He fed the multitude of people by multiplying the loaves and the fishes. What happened? They wound up with more than enough, way more than enough. They had 12 baskets of leftovers. Jesus always gives more than enough. He said it Himself. He said, “I have come that you may have life, and have it abundantly.” Oh, dear friends, I thank God for this abundant, extravagant Christ of ours, who always, always gives us more than enough.
And so, contradicting the teachings of some biblical scholars, I want to contend with you that every single element of this story has about it the ring of truth. I contend that this is, in fact, an authentic miracle of Jesus Christ. And furthermore, I contend that to see it otherwise is to display an ignorance of both the scriptures and the Christ.
All right, now, let’s look at the promises. This story promises us that in Jesus our lives are transformed. What happened in this miracle is symbolic of what happens in the life of anyone who comes to believe in Jesus Christ. When we come to Christ in faith, our lives are transformed exactly the way the water was transformed into wine. I think it’s important for us to understand what was happening here. Once again, let me ask you to look at what Jesus did and what it meant. You remember, He said to the servants, “Look at those six huge stone water jugs.” In the first place, those water jugs were there by requirement of the Jewish law. The Jewish law required people to engage constantly in rituals of purification and cleansing. And the water was what was used. They were instructed by the law to wash themselves, wash themselves constantly. Wash their head, wash their hands, wash their feet, wash all over. They were forever washing, washing, washing, and washing. And yet all of that ritualistic purification hadn’t accomplished the goal. It hadn’t made the people into what God wanted them to be. Furthermore, I ask you to notice there were six water jugs. The number six is, in the Bible, the number which represents imperfection. Because six is one number lower than the perfect number seven.
And so Jesus was delivering a very powerful message in what He said. He, in essence, was declaring that the old laws, the old ways of doing things, were imperfect. They were not working. What was needed was the transforming power of Jesus Christ to give to people the salvation they needed, full, plenty, and overflowing to give people who believed in Him the salvation that they required.
Now, I believe that when Mary turned to Jesus and said they have no more wine, she was trying to remind Him of the plight of the wedding host. But I believe that Jesus then saw in His own mind the plight of people who needed more than just the law. They needed grace. They needed the gospel. They needed the transforming power of Jesus Christ. They needed the salvation which only Jesus can give. All of that, I believe, all of it, is wrapped up in this incredible little incident. And then this story promises us that in Jesus obedience leads to joy.
You know, our spiritual lives, if we neglect them, can become as weak as water. I don’t know if you saw this or not. Did you read about the lady down in Galveston? It was in the paper. She was cleaning out her parakeet’s cage. And she was using her vacuum cleaner to do it, the hose and nozzle. She was cleaning out the cage. Suddenly, the phone rang and she reached over to pick up the phone and as she did, inadvertently, the nozzle on the vacuum cleaner got too close to this happy, singing little bird, sucked the bird right down into the vacuum cleaner. The woman panicked. She threw down the phone. She opened the vacuum cleaner, ripped the bag wide apart, and pulled out this now dust-covered little bird. She rushed the bird to the vet.
Fortunately, the bird survived the ordeal. However, later on, the lady said, “There was a profound change in this bird. He no longer sings. He just sits and stares.” Little wonder. Yikes!
Dear friends, let me tell you, you know that I believe that our faith is a singing faith. Well let me tell you, you can lose the song of your faith if you neglect your spiritual life. If you do not let Christ work in your life every single day, you can lose the song of your faith. But if that happens, how can you get it back?
Interestingly enough, the answer is right here in this story. Mary, who I believe at this point at least, did not begin to understand all there was to understand about her Son, Jesus. But she did have confidence in her Son. And so Mary said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you to do.” That’s it. That’s the way you regain and reclaim your faith. Plain and simple obedience to Jesus Christ. Do what he tells you to do.
And then, this story promises us that in Jesus, the best is yet to come. I love it in this story where the master of the banquet says to the host, “Most people give the good wine first, and then later on, they bring out the poor wine. You have saved the best for last.” Latch on to that right now. You have saved the best for last. Do you wonder why it is that so many Christians live their lives on tip-toe? Do you wonder why it is that so many Christians have a hope that is unconquerable, indomitable, unshakable, and invincible? Do you know why it is that Christians look to the future with such power and optimism? It is because Christians understand that no matter what happens in our lives, no matter what happens in the world around us, the best is still yet to come. We know beyond any shadow of a doubt that everything is going to get better. Our faith is a faith that always looks forward. You have saved the best for last. For us, as believers in Christ, as children of God, the best is yet to come.
So, in Sweden, there is a particular church, which has a traditional crucifix hanging above the altar. But in this church, there is also a second crucifix. It is affixed to a pillar and it directly faces the pulpit. This goes back to the year 1716, when King Charles XII of Sweden one Sunday unexpectedly joined the worshipers in that church. The pastor was so overwhelmed by the presence of the royal visitor that the pastor set aside his intended sermon for the day, and instead used the time to heap praise on the royal family. Not long thereafter, the pastor received a gift from the king. It was this second crucifix. And with the gift, there was a note. The notu read, “This crucifix is to be affixed to the pillar where it faces the pulpit so that anyone who stands in that pulpit to preach will be reminded of his proper subject.”
Oh, my beloved people, believe you me, I know my proper subject. For as long as God gives me the grace to preach, I shall exalt my Christ, and I shall demonstrate the unassailable truth of this Bible. That, and that alone, has been my intent today. And so I pray that God may bless this simple witness, which I have offered to you, in His name.
Soli Deo Gloria. To God alone be the glory. Amen and amen.