Sermon February 28, 2016
John 2, Jesus & Guest
Introduction – a wedding is a complex mix of sacred ceremony and crazy party. It is a fitting atmosphere for Jesus’ first miracle.
We do a lot of weddings at Cornerstone and I have observed that there is a very strange splicing together of a sacred very formal ceremony and a crazy unrestrained party. Sometimes you can see that there are “ceremony people” and “party people.” There are people that love the ceremony, feel at home in church, welcome that chance to hear vows and participate in worship. But they are uncomfortable at the party. This is not their crowd and drinking and dancing is not how they spend their time. On the other hand there are party people who can’t wait to celebrate but who feel out of place at the church. They don’t know what is happening next and keep posture of respectful distance until they can get to more familiar ground.
Perhaps this is why Jesus chose to began to reveal himself at a wedding. He had been invited to the wedding along with his disciples but as the event unfolded he used it as an opportunity to point beyond himself.
Transition: what we see when we look at this narrative closer is that there are several clues that something much bigger than wedding cuisine was the focus of that amazing moment. Clearly Jesus was concerned about the people at the wedding, but, as significant as a wedding banquet is, Jesus is pointing us toward something even more significant.
First, john uses the phrase “on the third day,” which alerts is that something new is happening.
2 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 “Woman,[a] why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
John plots out a week in the life of Jesus – seven days coming after an introduction that starts “in the beginning.” The wedding is either the sixth or seventh day in this week and it points to something new, some new creation that Jesus is involved in when he turns water into wine.
Whether it is a symbolic week or just a few days later, John must have known that the words “on the third day” would ring in our ears. Remember, the message of Jesus was shared person to person for many years before it was written down. So everyone knew that “on the third day he rose again.” But here at the first narrative revealing Jesus’ identity he starts with a phrase that would connect this to the crucifixion and resurrection and cause us to expect something special at this wedding.
Graduate School:– I once studied this passage in a cohort class in graduate school: four pastors from three different cultures. Each culture has its own issue with this passage. For the Southern Baptist he knew his congregation would be uncomfortable with Jesus making wine. But as much as some might hope that Jesus made non-alcoholic wine, we have no evidence for that. And while the wine of Jesus’ day was less potent than what many drink today this supernatural beverage was not watered down. In was considered the best of the night.
The next hint that something is going on is Jesus’ interaction with his mother Mary and how it starts the clock of revelation.
Two of the pastors in my cohort were Chinese and for them this scene between Jesus and Mary is the most difficult in the narrative. They would never imagine talking to their mothers that way and their congregations will want to know why Jesus is so rude. So we need to say that Jesus is not rude but formal. This phrase would be akin to calling his mother “ma’am,” or “dear lady.”
For people in the East Coast the contentious issue is whether Mary has power over Jesus. Does she order him to take care of the problem thereby revealing that she is his equal in the Kingdom of God? What is happening here? I used to think that Mary was just asking for help and Jesus rebuked her. But it is obvious that after the conversation he did what she asked. How do we reconcile all this?
Mary, more than anyone else, knew who Jesus was and John makes it clear that this is the moment when Jesus begins to reveal his glory. Perhaps this moment was something Mary and Jesus had talked about together, specifically that when he began to reveal who he was it would be the end of his special relationship with her. When she asks him to do something, he responds to her formally because that is how it would be once he began his mission. Jesus reminds her that “my hour” has not come. That phrase usually points toward Jesus’ suffering and death. It was not time for him to go to the cross, but once he started to reveal himself that journey would begin. Perhaps what is happening between Jesus and Mary is an acknowledgement that it was time for him to reveal himself. Mary was allowing him to do this knowing that it would lead to a change for her, the cross for him and a sword that would pierce her own soul as well.
Jesus addressed the problem but he wanted to point to something larger.
The immediate crisis was that the wine had run out. This was a major crisis in that it may have signaled the end of the wedding. That is the problem with parties right? They always end. If we are trying to make our way through life by going from party to party we will be disappointed because the party always ends. When Mary says that they have no wine she spoke a bigger truth than she knew. The wine had run out at this wedding producing a temporary crisis, but in a larger sense the wine always runs out on all human endeavors. We face a fun celebration, a good time that occupies our minds and helps us forget the mundane nature of life. But all earthly celebrations end. Worse than that, participating in them does not change us as people. We are moved, motivated, inspired. But in the end we are the same old people we were before the party started.Drink all the wine you can and hope it doesn’t run out. Keep the party going so that you don’t have to face yourself or the emptiness of your life. All addictions and all indulgences follow this pattern. This is also the main strategy of Americans dealing with life. Unfortunately it rarely works.
A few years ago when the Yankees lost in the post-season and half the world was upset and the other half were rejoicing. Everyone was spending their time speculating on what the Yankees will do now. Will the manager get fired, will they let some of their star players leave? In the midst of this, one of the pitchers for the Yankees, Corey Lidle, made some comments about the manager that people took as particularly critical. He was forced to call into one of the radio talk shows on the day after the Yankees were eliminated and defend his comments. Such fun: so much time talking about the future of this great baseball team; so much fun dissecting the movements of the players and managers. The wine was flowing freely; we all had fun pretending that this stuff mattered and it kept us from worrying about life, death, holiness, God, or life’s ultimate purpose. Then Corey Lidle a pitcher for the New York Yankees but also an amateur pilot, crashed his plane into a building on the upper side of Manhattan and died. The wine had run out. For a little while it didn’t make sense to criticize him for his comments or to talk about the changes the team had to make. Lidle is dead and everything else seems pretty petty.
Jesus saves the celebration and fills the empty water of religion with the wine of transformation.
6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.[b]
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 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
12 After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.
Two points –
The wine that Jesus provided was the best. Literally the best had not come until Jesus came. In this wine Jesus pointed to something new. In the amount of wine he made he pointed to a super abundance of new life. It is important to note that the water jars were ceremonial jars, meant for washings that fulfilled the Mosaic Law. These large stone jars represented the human need to clean ourselves off, the outward washings and ceremonies we use to try to wash away the impurities of life.
Now they can’t be used
The jars represent the other alternative to the party life: dive into the ceremonial water. After all, the water was there to help people stay ceremonially clean. In the course of life people become defiled and they need to be washed. There is a lot of water in those jugs because this is a continuous process. Religion is like that. You have to keep on working at it, keep on making yourself presentable and acceptable to God. These large stone jars represented the human need to clean ourselves off, the outward washings and ceremonies we use to try to wash away the impurities of life. In many ways, the religious person is doing the same thing as the party goer. He is changing the outside, when the real problem is inside. No amount of water can change a person on the inside.
Jesus saw these large stone jars and he used them to reveal to his disciples what he had come to do. He was concerned about the wedding banquet, but he wanted to do more than just keep the party going. He did not turn water into wine just so that people could stay fuzzy headed and go through life without thinking about anything. On the other hand, in turning water into wine he took away all the water that would have been used for purification. So he made it impossible for people to be religious in the same old way.
But Jesus didn’t just empty out the water and say we must not do religion the same old way. And he did not just go out and buy a few more kegs to add to the party. He took the ceremonial water of religion and changed it into wine. He has come to bring transformation. He has come to change people on the inside. He has come to invite people to a wedding feast that will last for eternity. He has come to change the water of outward religion into the wine of new life. He has also come to turn the empty, temporary parties of this life into an eternal celebration.
So which of these are you likely to fall into?
Do you work and work at religion but miss the savior who wants to change you on the inside? Are you concerned with ceremony and outward appearances rather than transformation? Check yourself: are you more concerned with your behavior in secret, the thoughts inside your head or are you concerned about what people think of you, or getting caught?
Are you trying to keep so busy, so entertained that you never face the meaninglessness of your own life? Are you addicted to noise, to busyness, to entertainment, to alcohol, to gambling, to anything? Are you desperately hoping that the wine never runs out even though you know it will? Check yourself: do you become irritable if your amusements are taken away, when you can’t get your latte, when your favorite TV show is preempted by a presidential speech or you miss your team’s big game? Are you capable of driving or walking in silence?
Jesus has come to save us from both of these extremes. He is the life that we have been looking for.