First Mennonite Church
March 6, 2022
Helpers Making Abundant New Wine
Text: John 1:1-11
Before we go into the text this morning, if you are married or was married, what memories you still have about your big day? It likely might not be about the delicious food or the number of guests that attended, but among them would be something that went wrong.
Weddings seem to be one of the festive occasions where, despite all the preparations made for them, something still goes wrong.
When Lilian and I got married, we did just as everyone does there: we took care of everything. We don’t have wedding planners, at least where we live. Our families and the two of us look after of everything involved in our wedding. Besides being in charge of some other things, I took the responsibility of printing the program and getting it to the church. When the time came, Lilian arrived at church first, so she stayed inside the car. I got there shortly after, but the service couldn’t start because I forgot to get the program in the hands of those leading the service. It was the end of March, and by this time in Belize, the summer heat was pretty much in place. Poor Lilian, she was dehydrating inside the car.
Did something go wrong on the day of your wedding? If not, you are indeed among the few exceptions!
In John’s gospel, Jesus’ began to reveal his identity at a wedding he attended in Cana of Galilee. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus inaugurates his ministry with preaching. In Matthew, the first miracle Jesus performed was the healing of the leper in chapter eight. In Mark and Luke, it is the healing of the man with an unclean spirit (Mark 1:21 ff; Luke 4:31 ff). Another difference between John and the other Gospels is that Jesus’ deeds of power in John are not called “miracles,” but signs–semeion. And there are at least eight miracles, called signs in John that lead both Jews and Gentiles to recognize something unique about Jesus. He was more than mere a human being. These are miracles called “signs”:
- The changing of water into wine (2:1-12)
- The cleansing of the Temple (2:13-25)
- Two healings—the Galilean official’s son (4:46-54)
- The man by the pool (5:1-9)
- The feeding of the 5,000 (6:1-14)
- Walking on the sea (6:16-21, see v. 26)
- The healing of a blind man (9:1-12)
- The raising of Lazarus from the dead (11:1-44; see 12:17, 18).
John’s account of this story is very lean. When: on the third day. Where: at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Who: Jesus, his disciples, and his mother. What happened: the wine run out and Jesus turned water into wine.
On the third day refers to the day Jesus decided to go to Galilee after he had called Philip and the other disciples (1:43). We are not told who invited Jesus and his disciples to their wedding. We are simply told “there was a wedding and Jesus, his disciples and his mother were invited.” The mother of Jesus noticed the problem. (Please take notice that in John’s gospel, Mary is never mentioned by her name, but only as “the mother of Jesus.” And so, she tells Jesus, “They have no wine.” It seems that although she did not make any request, it was implied that she expected Jesus to do something about it. However, Jesus’ response sounds disengaging to the situation and even a bit rude to our ears. “Woman, what concern is that to you and me?” Jesus replied to his mother. In our way of saying things, it would sound something like, “I don’t have anything to do with that.” Or “That is not my problem.” Jesus addressed his mother as if she was not related to him in any way. “Woman” is also the way Jesus addressed his mother when he was on the cross. There he wanted John to receive Mary as his mother and Mary, John as her son. We also need to remember that on occasions, Jesus addressed to other women with “Woman!” To the Samaritan woman, “Woman, believe me that the hour is coming . . . (John 4:21). To the one caught in adultery, “Woman, where are those who accuse you?” (John 8:10). After Jesus was resurrected, he asked Mary, who was crying, “Woman, why are you weeping?” (John 20:15). And in Matthew, Jesus said, “Woman, great is your faith.” (15:28).
I do not think I can address my mother that way, “Woman, what are you doing?” I call her “Doña Donnie, what are you doing?”
Although Jesus sounding disengaging about the situation, Mary was not deterred. She told the servants to do as Jesus instructed them to do. It makes us wonder, what may have Mary seen in her son that she was so confident, not only to bring the problem to his attention, but to also so confidently tell the servants to do what Jesus would tell them? We do not know. But obviously she must have had her reasons.
It is clear that neither the groom nor not even the master of the banquet/steward had any idea there was a big problem. We should remember that Jewish weddings go for a whole week of celebration and if either the food or the wine would run out, it would have been seen as a bad omen for the couple at the very start of their new life together. Only the servants knew what was happening. And they were the only ones, according to our story, who saw with their own eyes what Jesus did. They followed Jesus’ instruction and filled the six stone jars, each holding twenty or thirty gallons of water. Then, Jesus told them to draw from it and take it to the master of the banquet. It was the best wine. Usually, the best wine was served first, so that when the guests are drunk, they are served the cheap kind at which point the guests either don’t notice or don’t care about the quality anymore. However, the steward was impressed that still to the very end the best wine had been reserved.
How do you like it that the first miracle of Jesus, according to John, is to turn water into wine? He would have found lots of winemakers (vintners) friends here in Paso Robles. Or maybe not, because he only used water to make it!
John concludes this account by telling us what happened as a result of this miracle. Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
There are two words of great significance in the gospel of John that appear in this passage. First, is Jesus’ use of the word “hour.” Although, sometimes Jesus used the word hour to indicate the passing of time as in (1:39), he also used it as the fulfillment of God’s plan. For example, “The hour will come and has come when the true worshippers . . ..” (4:23). Or when Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (5:25). But there is yet a third way in which Jesus used the word hour. He talked about the hour of “his glorification,” which refers to his death, resurrection, and ascension (7:30, 8:20, 12:23, 13:1; 17:1). Therefore, when Jesus objected to do something about the wine that had run out because his hour has not arrived, he was referring to his glorification. Nonetheless, after he performed the miracle, he revealed his glory and his disciples believed in him.
The second word of great significance in the gospel according to John is the word “sign.” Jesus’ works of power are called signs in John. The word “miracle” appears in this gospel only once. But the signs are intended to point to the glory of Jesus as “the glory of the father’s only son, full of grace and truth (1:14). Therefore, when the disciples saw what Jesus did, converting water into wine, his disciples believed in him. That reminds us of what Jesus told Nathanael when he said, “You will see greater things than these. . . Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
The miracles of Jesus in John are intended to point to Jesus as the one whom God the Father has sent. The miracles of Jesus in John are not merely for the benefit of the receivers, in this case to save an embarrassment to the bridegroom, but to reveal who Jesus is.
For the modern reader, living in a rational and scientific age, the idea of miracles might seem puzzling at best and embarrassing and offensive at worst. Therefore, for us, and particularly for me as the one who is preaching about this miracle, any attempt at explaining how it happened or apologizing for the worldview from where it comes should be rejected. That is what the steward of the banquet did. He explained the miracle within the categories of extraordinary hospitality, of keeping the best wine even to the end of the party. But for the disciples, the servants and for us, we see it as the sign the inbreaking of God’s power, presence, and abundance in the person of his Son. The bounteous gallons of good, rich wine are a miracle of abundance, of extravagance, of transformation, and of new possibilities come through Jesus. It is a call to believe that in Jesus there are possibilities that overcome the limits of convention. Just as the resurrection of Jesus proved to be, that the unexpected can happen, so it is where God’s grace abounds. And this is possible when Jesus is present. The impossible becomes possible for those who “do as Jesus commands them to do.” People’s heart can change. Abundance is possible in the midst of scarcity. Trust in God is possible despite all odds. And love can flourish in the midst of hatred. All because, “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace,” (John1:16).
This passage calls us to be like the servants, with one possible difference. It could be that they never tasted the rich abundant wine they served other, yet they saw where it came from. The call we have is the instruction Mary gave the servants, “Do everything he commands you to do.” By doing so, they assisted Jesus to solve a big problem, not the servants’, but somebody else’s problem. By obeying Jesus, others were able to see the glory of Jesus and to believe in him. By obeying Jesus, they became co-workers with God in the revelation of God’s only Son, full of glory and truth. That is our call. When we obey, others benefit from God’s grace and abundance. When we obey the words of Jesus, he is revealed to the world. When we obey, the signs of God’s presence become real. Therefore, let us help Jesus turn water into wine, scarcity into abundance, hatred into love, and darkness into light. Amen!