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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 10:45 am service, 2007-05-27

Text: John 2:1-11

In March this year we embarked on a study of the Gospel according to John. Thus far in our study of John's Gospel we have completed chapter 1 where the main emphasis was on identifying Jesus. We have seen Christ identified in several ways: as the Word in the first verse of the book (1:1), as the Lamb of God by John the Baptist (1:29, 36). In 1:41 Andrew identified Him as the Messiah. In 1:49 Nathaniel further acknowledged Him to be the Son of God, and the King of Israel. 

In our passage for this morning we will see how the Lord Jesus Christ begins to prove that all these descriptions and designations about Him are indeed true. This we shall see, was the actual purpose for all His miracles: They were not designed primarily to meet the needs of the sick, the blind and the physically handicapped people of His time, but rather to demonstrate that He is truly the only begotten Son of God. And our response to the miracles of Jesus is that we should trust Him fully and give Him the rightful place He deserves as the supreme Lord of our lives. It is my prayer that this whole series of messages from John's Gospel will lead all of us to a better understanding of what Jesus should be to us, and all the implications that this should have on our lives. Let us read John 2:1-11 (Read).

We shall first summarize briefly what happened in this passage. This miracle took place in a little village in the hills of Galilee called Cana, which was just about 14 km north of Nazareth, the place where Jesus had grown up. The occasion for this miracle was a wedding that He and His disciples were invited to attend. What happened was that the wedding host unexpectedly ran out of wine during the wedding reception. This means that the guests would have nothing to drink. The host the reception had either overestimated the supply of wine, or underestimated the drinking capacity of the invited guests. To them, as also to us today, this would be a source of great embarrassment to the host of the wedding. In a rural village like Cana where a wedding would probably involve the entire community, failure to provide adequate refreshments for the wedding guests would be a major social disaster! But when this problem was brought to Christ's attention He solved it quietly by providing an abundant supply of the best quality wine. 

The important thing about this miracle is that it was the very first one that Christ performed. Verse 11 makes this very clear, as it says, 'This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth His glory; and his disciples believed on Him.' This verse puts to rest once and for all, all claims and speculations that Jesus had performed some miracles during His childhood years in Nazareth. 

Many fanciful but false legends have sprung up about the early years of Jesus (found in the 'Infancy Gospel of Thomas'), because the four gospels are silent on these childhood years, except for the episode of how He was inadvertently left behind at Jerusalem by His parents when he was twelve. It is alleged that even when He was a 5-year old boy Jesus was already performing the most fantastic miracles. In one legend Jesus is said to have made 12 sparrows out of clay, and then turned them into real flying sparrows (and Joseph, His father allegedly rebuked Him for doing this on a Sabbath day!). 

In another legend, Jesus was playing on the flat roof of a house with some other boys, when a boy named Zeno accidentally fell from the roof to the ground and died. Jesus allegedly jumped off the roof to where Zeno's dead body was lying and miraculously raised him back to life. Another interesting legend describes that when Jesus helped Joseph in the carpenter's workshop, and Joseph was frustrated because he had cut one piece of wood in a pair too short to make a bed, Jesus was able to miraculously stretch the short piece of wood until it was the same size as the other!

Now, what should we make of all these fanciful legends? Well, according to verse 11 of our passage we ought to disregard them because none of them ever took place. Christ did not work a single miracle in His life until this very first one recorded in John 2:1-11. It was therefore the first miracle of Christ because it marked the beginning of His public ministry as the Messiah. You could say that this act of turning water into wine really was really the inaugural miracle of our Lord Jesus. This brings us to the first point of this morning's message:

I. The Occasion for Revealing His Glory (vv.1-4)

The passage begins with v.1 'And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee.' This provides the setting for the time when Christ began to manifest His glory on earth. It is significant that our Lord should choose a wedding to be the occasion for His first miracle. Jesus could easily have chosen a different situation. Why did He not choose for instance, a great miracle of healing, or of resurrecting the dead to life? Why did He choose a wedding? One possible reason is that a wedding is a time of rejoicing, and not of pain and sorrow. By choosing a joyful occasion to manifest His glory, Christ would show that His mission as the Messiah of Israel was destined to bring unspeakable joy into the lives of men, through the salvation He brings.

But His deliberate choice of a wedding for His first miracle had a far greater purpose than this. It showed His approval and blessing on the institution of marriage. Now, marriage is actually the oldest institution given by God to man. God Himself performed the very first wedding in the Garden of Eden. This divine origin of marriage is something that needs to be emphasized very strongly today in a world where marriage is no longer held to be as important and binding as before. The marriage institution has certainly fallen on very hard times. Some regard it merely as an option that can be dispensed by cohabiting couples. Others take marriage as a passing fancy to play with. Just 3 years ago the pop superstar Britney Spears made a terrible mockery of marriage by filing for annulment just 2 days after she married her childhood friend. 

To me, the saddest day for marriage as an institution was when homosexual marriage was made legal in Holland just 6 years ago. Since then thousands of same-sex couples have tied the knot, 6 more countries have legalized homosexual marriage, and 19 countries have recognized what they call same sex civil unions, which are really no different from marriage! 

We pray that this will never happen here in Singapore despite the increasing pressure to move towards it. Only one week ago a Mediacorp survey of 300 heartland Singaporeans that was published in the newspaper showed that 11% of them agree that homosexuality should now be made legal in Singapore. You may think this represents only a small segment of society, but it is certainly a growing one. And this should be a matter of concern for us. The day may come when because of our goal to achieve economic progress, because of increased popular demand and the quest for more creativity and talent, our nation may follow the rest of the world. This may happen in our generation or in our children's generation. When it happens, family life and moral values as we know them will change.

Change is not necessarily a bad thing, but there are some things that should never be changed for they stand at the very foundations of life itself. Marriage is clearly one of them. God has ordained marriage to be a covenant union between one man and one woman who must remain faithful and committed to each other for the rest of their lives. God has defined the husband's leadership role as well as the wife's submissive role. He gave the first couple a divine mandate to be fruitful and multiply. He designed marriage to be a blessing to mankind, to meet our basic human need for companionship, and to be a remedy against immorality and sexual sin. And God blesses every Christian couple who is committed to obey all the instructions that He gave in the Bible concerning marriage.

The Lord Jesus came to the wedding at Cana for the same purpose. He blessed the marriage instution forever by manifesting His glory there. I believe that as the omniscient God, Jesus had already foreseen the hard times on which this institution would fall in our time. His first miracle at that wedding in Cana stands therefore as a clear signal for all time, that God's people must uphold and honour biblical marriage! If you are married you must keep your marriage vows well and be faithful to your spouse. If you are a husband you must exercise loving leadership to your wife. If you are a wife, you must be submissive to your husband's leadership. If you are not married, you ought to pray about the will of God concerning marriage - Does He want you to marry? If he does, then whom should you marry and how should you marry? And when you do marry according to God's instructions, you can be greatly blessed by the thought that Jesus is present at your wedding and giving His divine approval on you, just as He had shown His approval at this wedding in Cana by supplying the wine that was lacking.

Let us continue now with our study and read what happened in v.3 'And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto Him, They have no wine.' Please notice now how Jesus responded to her in v.4. He said, 'Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.' Was Jesus unhappy that His mother had brought up this need to Him? Was He saying 'No' to her? Did He perform the miracle reluctantly just to please her? Not at all. Please note that addressing one's mother as 'Woman' in those days was not rude or unkind. In Jewish culture this was actually a respectful and polite form of address. In fact, Jesus used the same term to address His mother when He spoke to her from the cross, 'Woman, behold Thy Son.' (John 19:26)

What then do the words, 'What have I to do with thee' mean? The best way to understand them is this: 'Your concerns and Mine are not the same.' He was reminding Mary that the purpose of His coming to earth was not primarily to work great miracles to help people. He did not want Mary to have the idea that if He did as she had asked, she could keep on asking Him to do things like this for her. Think of how convenient it is to have a son who could solve any problem in the house by supernatural means! The reply of Jesus to Mary made it very clear to her that whatever He did as the Messiah was independent of Her will. No one, not even His own mother, can dictate when and how He should use His divine power.

Now, another phrase in verse 4 which shows this is the phrase: 'Mine hour is not yet come.' That hour is the hour when He would finally accomplish the purpose of His whole ministry on earth: to die on the cross for sinners. The word 'hour' here cannot be referring to the time when He would begin to perform miracles, since He went on to perform His first miracle just after He said it. But later on, when He was just about to be crucified Jesus prayed, 'Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son may also glorify Thee:' (John 17:1)

The reply of our Lord to Mary teaches us that no person on earth, not even those who are closest to Him, can dictate what or how or when He should act in accomplishing His work of God's Kingdom. He alone must do this. Here, He was about to work this miracle not under Mary's authority, but under His own authority. 

This passage can be useful if you have friends and loved ones who are Catholics. The Catholic Church encourages its followers to bring their petitions and requests to Mary instead of Jesus, because she is supposedly more gentle and tender-hearted than Him. Being the mother of Jesus, 'Mother Mary' is thought to have a rather strong influence over Him. It is reasoned that because of filial piety, a good son can never say 'no' to his own mother, and Jesus will have to do whatever she asks of him, even if he has to do it reluctantly.

But the words that Jesus replied here in v.4 reveal that the very opposite is true. Jesus was stating that what He was about to do had nothing at all to do with her request. He turned water into wine not to please her but to manifest His own glory as the Son of God so that His disciples may believe in Him. On His own He had already determined beforehand that He would work this great miracle at that wedding. It was the first of the 'greater things' that he had promised to Nathaniel in John 1:50. The next few verses now go on to demonstrate:

II. The Power of His Glory Revealed (vv.5-8)

There are some interesting observations about the way Christ worked this miracle. First of all you will notice that all that was needed was a spoken word from Him. In v.7 He said, 'Fill the waterpots with water.' and then in v.8 He said, 'Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast.' That was sufficient to turn the water into wine! No man on earth can do any thing like that. It reminds us of the way that God created the heavens and the earth: He did it entirely by His spoken word alone: 'Let there be light...and there was light.' (Genesis 1:3) This at once reveals that the power of Christ is nothing less than the power of the omnipotent God Himself. One writer described this miracle in a rather poetic manner: He said that the water in the pots beheld their Creator and then blushed!

Another observation about this miracle is that Jesus used the most common objects in the house to do it: Six ordinary stone waterpots filled with water. In those days when houses had no piped water supply, water had to be drawn from a well or spring and stored in large vessels at each house. And since the Jews, according to their purification laws, used plenty of water to wash their hands, feet and utensils everyday, they needed to keep many vessels in each house for storing water.

These humble stone vessels were chosen by Jesus used as His means to manifest His glory. There is an interesting biblical principle for us here. We believers are referred to in the New Testament as vessels used by God (see 2 Corinthians 4:6,7 and 2 Timothy 2:20,21). Although we may only be humble earthen vessels, we are blessed when we let Christ fill us with the water of God's Word. For when it is poured out from us, it becomes the sweet wine of the Spirit which brings blessings upon the lives of those around us! Dearly beloved, if you really want to be a blessing to others, please take time to fill your mind with the Word of God. Read it daily, meditate on it and memorise it well. You will soon be able to bear much fruit for God's glory.

Another interesting observation about this miracle was the scale in which it was done. According to v.6, the waterpots each contained 2 or 3 firkins, which is about 100 litres. Six of them would therefore contain about 600 litres of water. Now, that's a lot of water - enough to fill up about 80 pails or 300 large bottles! When all this water was turned into wine, it would be much, much more than enough for all the guests for the rest of the wedding feast. The newly married couple would be able to sell whatever surplus wine they had at a good price, and use it to start their married life well with God's blessings!

The large scale of this miracle shows that there is really no naturalistic way to explain how it happened. God's power was definitely involved in it. We know that good wine takes months to produce by any human effort. The grapes have to be picked by hand from the vine at the right time, crushed in a winepress to yield its juice, and then processed and carefully stored away in special containers to keep it from going bad. If you were to make just one wrong step in the process, you could end up with vinegar instead of wine! And yet our Lord Jesus Christ produced about 600 litres of the best quality wine in just a moment, in a twinkling of an eye! 

Now one question that you may want to ask is why did Jesus need to have the 6 waterpots filled with water? Could He not instantly create all the wine out of nothing by the word of His power as He had done in creating the heavens and the earth? Yes, He certainly could. But if He had done that here, the servants at the wedding would have had no opportunity to learn what it means to have faith in Him and obey Him. These servants were the ones who served wine to the guests and so they were the first to know about the urgent need for more wine. But where could they get more wine at such short notice? According to v.5 they were told to obey Jesus: 'Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it.' 

And Jesus then told them to do something that they would usually do as servants - Fill the waterpots with water. Obeying this instruction probably meant making many trips back and forth between the nearest spring or well and the house with pails of water. It would have taken them quite a while to get 600 litres of water. And while they worked at this they may have wondered how this would solve the wine shortage at the wedding. Were the wedding guests supposed to drink only water for the rest of the feast? What a disappointment that would be! In those days it was actually preferable to drink wine rather than water, for health reasons (cf. 1 Timothy 5:23 'Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities.')

We can only imagine the servants' amazement when they suddenly discovered that all the water they had used to fill up the 6 waterpots had turned into sweet tasting, thirst quenching wine! And since there was now more than enough wine for everyone, these humble servants would also get to enjoy drinking it, thankful that they had obeyed the word of Jesus. From now on, there is no doubt at all that they would do anything that He told them to do. 

Dearly beloved, the lesson you can learn from this comes from the instructions that Mary gave to the servants: 'Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it.' This is the very best way for you to handle any problem that you face in life. We must be like those servants - ready to do whatever our Master says to us without any hesitation or delay! Why? Because this will show that you trust completely in His Power to solve the problem. And this is the same power that worked this first miracle of His. But that is not all that this miracle revealed. We shall now go on to see:

III. The Excellence of His Glory Revealed (vv.8-11)

In v. 9 we see that the governor of the wedding feast testified to the excellent quality of the wine. When the wine was brought to him and he tasted it, he was puzzled as to why it had not been served first. According to custom, guests would always be served the best wine first, since after they had taken that and their senses had been dulled, they could be served a poorer quality wine without really noticing the difference.

The passage does not tell us whether the governor of the feast ever knew where the wine he tasted had come from and what had really happened. This miracle had been done quietly behind the scenes during the festivities. Perhaps it might not have been known at all, if it were not for the testimony of the servants who had filled the water pots and drawn out the wine.

But what is most important to us here is the thought that Jesus did not just fulfill the barest minimum requirement in this miracle. He did not just produce plain ordinary wine, but very good quality wine, the best wine. We can be assured that whatever Jesus does will always be nothing less than the best. Fanny Crosby put it very well in her hymn, 'All The Way My Savior Leads Me.' In the last part of the first stanza she wrote, 'For I know whatever befall me, Jesus doeth all things well.'

Doesn't it bring you the greatest assurance and comfort to know that if Jesus can be depended on for the best quality work in solving a domestic problem, surely He can be depended on for the best quality work in saving you from sin and preserving your soul to the uttermost? If Jesus can supply so well for a momentary need of a wedding reception, can He not supply well for your present needs to sustain your spiritual life, your love and your service to Him?

There are times when we are beset by many seemingly impossible problems and trials in life, and we lose our sense of confidence and assurance. And we ask, 'Will Christ really be able to keep me through this? What if He cannot?' When such thoughts beset you, look at the Scriptures and be admonished from it: Jesus doeth all things well! He will never fail! His love has no limit; His grace has no measure. His power has no boundary known unto men! Surely He will keep you to the very end. And now you must respond to this by putting your full confidence in Him - the confidence to do all things well!

There is one more response to knowing that Jesus does His best for you. That is to ask yourself: Are you doing your best for Him? If Christ strives for excellence for you, is it too much to ask that you would also do the same for Him? Doesn't He deserve your very best? And yet what do you give Him? Are you giving Him only the leftovers of your time, talents and treasures? Is that the best you can give? Let us not treat our Saviour in this way. But let us resolve to do whatever He tells us to do, and do it with the very best efforts we can give.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11