This is post 1 of 4 in the series “THE ... OF JESUS”
- The Tenderness Of Jesus: What Matters To You Matters To God
- The Target Of Jesus: What You Fear Most, Christ Handles Best
- The Tactic Of Jesus: What You Count Lowly, Christ Counts Holy
- The Tears Of Jesus: What You Cry About Is What You Care About
What Matters To You Matters To God
Have you heard the story about the wife who became concerned about her husband’s health? He was a physical wreck—weak, pale, flabby, stressed out, constantly tired. She took him to the doctor for a checkup. When the examination was completed the doctor came out to the waiting room, and he said to the wife, “Thelma, I just don’t like the way your husband looks.” She replied, “Neither do I, but he’s good to the children!”
Now, believe it or not, there is a point to that story, and here it is. One of the most important things we can say about God is that He is good to His children, and who are His children? We are. More significant than any title, or honor, or position, or possession which may be ours in life is the simple fact that we are God’s children. As a result, if something is important to you, it’s important to God. Does that make sense? If you’re a child of God, then what matters to you matters to God. I think that the very first miracle Jesus performed, once and forever, makes that point. I refer to the miracle He performed at the wedding at Cana, a story recorded for us in John chapter 2.
We can logically assume that the wedding in the story was a wedding for a close friend or relative of Jesus and His family. When you read the story, you begin to see that Mary, the mother of Jesus, took authority usually reserved only for family members, as she began to direct the servants in what they were supposed to do. Be that as it may, we know that she was there at the wedding, and Jesus was also there. Now in what happened at this wedding, we see the tenderness of our Lord when he altered the plan of heaven in order to save some people He loved from social embarrassment. You see, Jesus’ very first miracle didn’t reveal the power, or wonder, or wisdom, or power of God for the world. No, instead it declared that God will move heaven and earth to show you how much He cares about you. What matters to you, matters to Him. So let’s look together today at Jesus’ first miracle, both its problems and its proclamations.
First, look with me at the problems.
We are living in a time when, God help us, even some Biblical scholars seem intent on undermining the authority of the Bible. Now let me say, that while there may be those in the church who are out to diminish the power of the Gospel stories, this pulpit never will. As long as God gives me the grace to preach, I shall exalt my Christ and I shall demonstrate to you the unassailable truth of this Bible. The miracle at the wedding at Cana is a case in point. Scholars traditionally point to four problems in the story which, they say, render the story untrue. I shall now rebut their arguments.
Problem 1: Some scholars point to the response of Jesus to His mother when she came telling Him about the embarrassed plight of the wedding host who had run out of wine. Now keep in mind, please, the hospitality in the Middle East then, as now, was a sacred duty. To run out of wine would be an absolute total humiliation. So when Mary realized what had happened, she then said to Jesus, “They have no wine.” Jesus then responded in a way which sounds rather harsh and out of character for Him. Jesus said, “Woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come.” Well, we, of course, have the words but we do not have the tone of voice or the expression of face. Indeed in those days that question, “Why do you involve me?” was a proverbial way of saying, “My concerns are not the same as yours.” Mary’s concern, of course, was for the individual embarrassment of a loved one, while Jesus was concerned about the cosmic work of salvation and redemption. Jesus’ ministry had to do with God’s great plan for the world and was orchestrated by God’s schedule. So the saying is not really as harsh as it sounds. It was more like a gentle reminder to Mary that He was about His Father’s business. It’s really rather like what He had said to her years earlier when she found Him in the temple. It’s a reminder that, for Jesus, God’s will always comes first.
Problem 2: Why did Jesus call her “woman”? Why didn’t He address her as His mother? Why just “woman”? Where’s the gentleness and Godliness in that? I can tell you I have a king-size picture of my ever responding to my mother and saying, “Woman!” That fiery, redheaded mother of mine would have decked me! But in reality, in that time—and now increasingly in our own time—the word “woman” denoted great respect, devotion, and exaltation. Remember in John 19 in that tender moment when Jesus was dying on the cross, one of His last thoughts concerned His mother’s welfare—and you remember how so lovingly and tenderly He entrusted her into John’s care, saying to her with great affection, “Woman, behold your son.” So the term “woman” was not a term of disparagement or disrespect, exactly the opposite.
Problem 3: Some scholars decry this story as a meaningless miracle. All Jesus did, they say, was to turn some water into wine. They missed the point. It is true that what Jesus did in this miracle was to make some people happy. You see, that is always a concern of our Christ. It is not His primary concern—He did not come and die on the cross and rise again just to make us happy—but our happiness has never been a matter of indifference to Him. So right here at the beginning of His ministry, He temporarily laid aside His work of salvation in order to bring happiness out of potential embarrassment. What mattered to the wedding host mattered to Jesus. You see, Jesus never equated sourness with saintliness. He never equated gloom with Godliness. He was the happiest, brightest, sunniest soul who ever lived. He regarded the phrase “joyless Christian” as being an oxymoron. Christianity always marches in step with the exuberant spirit. If, through this miracle then, Jesus could bring happiness to someone else, so be it. Isn’t it wonderful that our Christ is concerned with all of life, not just a part of it?
Problem 4: Some scholars have problems with this story because of its excess. Why this overabundance of wine? Jesus says to the servants, “See those six 30-gallon stone pots? Fill them with water.” They did. Then Jesus said, “Now, take a sample to the master of the banquet.” They did. He tasted it. It was wine, good wine, the very best wine. They did their multiplication, and said, “We have 180 gallons of wine—more than enough!” Now that’s the way Jesus always works—more than enough. John the Baptist said of Jesus, “Of His fullness, we have all received grace upon grace.” Not just a little—a lot! Jesus fed the multitude by multiplying the loaves and fishes. They had too much. In fact they had 12 baskets of the leftovers! Jesus said Himself, “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly!” Well, thank God for this abundant, extravagant Christ of ours. He always gives us “more than enough.” Yes, what matters to us matters to Him.
Now let me focus on the proclamations.
In the first place, this story is telling us that, in Jesus, our lives are transformed. What happened at the wedding is a symbol of what happens in the life of anyone who has faith in Christ. If we come to Jesus Christ in faith, our lives are by His power just as that water was transformed into wine. Look at what He did, and look at what it meant. He pointed to those six stone water jars. Now they were there by requirement of the Jewish Law. The water in them was used for purification, for cleansing. The people were forever washing themselves—washing their hands, washing their feet, washing, washing, washing—and yet all this ritualistic cleansing had still not made them what God wanted them to be. And we are told that there were six pots. Six is the number representing imperfection in the Bible because it is one short of the perfect number, seven. So the symbol is clear. The old Laws, the old ways of doing things are imperfect, but the transforming power of Jesus by producing wine from the water is declaring that in Him there is salvation full and plenty for all who believe. When Mary said to Him, “They have no wine,” it reminded Jesus of the plight of the people who needed more than just the Law. They needed grace. They needed the Gospel. They needed the salvation which only Jesus Christ can give. All of that is wrapped up in this wonderful story.
The story also reminds us that in Jesus, obedience leads to true joy. Our spiritual lives, if neglected, can become as weak as water. Did you read about the lady from Galveston, Texas—it was in the paper—who was cleaning out her parakeet’s cage using the hose on her vacuum cleaner? The phone rang. As she reached for it, the nozzle of the vacuum cleaner got too close to this happy singing little bird and the bird was sucked into the vacuum. Panicked the woman threw down the phone, opened the vacuum, ripped the bag and pulled out the dust-covered little bird. She rushed the bird to the vet and the bird survived the ordeal. Later, the woman said, “There is a profound change in him. He no longer sings. He just sits there and stares!” Well dear friends, let me tell you. You can lose your song in life. When you ought to be singing your way through the life of faith, if you don’t let Christ continue to work in your life, you can lose that song. If that’s what’s happened to you, how do you get it back? How do you find the vibrancy of your faith again? Well, Mary had the answer. At that point, she didn’t understand all that Jesus was about, but she had tremendous faith in her Son. So she said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” That’s it. That’s how you regain and reclaim your faith—plain and simple obedience to Jesus Christ. “Do what He tells you to do.”
Then, best of all, the story reminds us that, in Jesus, the best is yet to come.
The story concludes with the master of the banquet saying to the host, “Usually people serve the best wine first, and then later on they bring out the poor wine, but you have saved the best for last.” My friends, do you want to know why most Christians live life on tiptoe? Do you want to know why most Christians have an indomitable hope? Do you want to know why a Christian’s life is never flat and lifeless? It’s because we know that it’s going to get better. We know that the best is yet to come. We know that the best wine has been saved until last. It’s always going to get better. Ours is a religion that looks forward. “You have saved the best for last.” Believe me, in a world like this, that’s worth remembering.
Well . . .
In Sweden, there is a church where you will find not only the traditional crucifix above the altar, but also another crucifix on a pillar directly opposite the pulpit. This goes back to the year 1716 when Sweden’s King Charles XII unexpectedly showed up among the worshipers one Sunday. The pastor in that church was so overcome by the royal visitor that he put aside his intended sermon and instead spent the time heaping praise upon the royal family. Later the King sent the pastor a gift. It was this second crucifix—and with it came a note which read, “This is to be placed opposite the pulpit so that all who stand there to preach will be reminded of their proper subject.” I love that story, because you see, my beloved people, I know my proper subject. There may be those today who seek to diminish the Gospel message. I am not one of them. As long as God gives me the grace to preach, I shall exalt my Christ, and I shall demonstrate to you the unassailable truth of this Bible. That has been my intent today. May God bless my simple witness offered to you in His Name.