Below is the text of the sermon today at MacAlpine Presbyterian Church in Buffalo, New York. The sermon is on John 2:1-11, though I probably should’ve included verse 12, about Jesus–the life of the party–and how He turned all of that water into wine. Today is World Communion Sunday, which fits perfectly with this theme. Next Sunday I’m planning to expand upon this message to bring in a couple verses of Revelation 19. The line with the strike-through was the point developed but the line wasn’t read.
Jesus knows how to party. When He turned water into wine He made somewhere between 120 and 180 gallons of the good stuff. The abundance of this wine is surely on purpose. It is not to encourage drunkenness but it is to encourage a lot of people having a good time, full of joy, for a long time. Jesus was the kind of person who was always welcome where people were having a good time. Religious types held this against Him. It was one of the major criticisms of Jesus by the boring Pharisees that Jesus and His disciples went to parties and that they would eat and drink rather than fasting regularly. And Jesus and His disciples would often go to dinner parties with those that the religious leaders considered unsavory characters. We Christians should be the kind of people who know how to have fun. And I’m not suggesting that we go out and simply imitate what the world considers fun. And yet we have a far surpassing joy than the world does because of the surpassing glory of Jesus. But I am suggesting that we forget the rules about how religious people are supposed to be boring and instead that we rejoice together in faith and especially that we party with the Father when His lost children come home.
- This story is more than just about wine at a wedding because Israel had run out of wine and new wine would only be poured out according to God’s timing.
- The story is about a wedding at Cana in Galilee – a wedding where the mother of Jesus appears to have been a prominent figure. It was probably the wedding of a close family member because Jesus and His disciples were also invited to come and because she was in a place to know what she did about the wine. In that culture, to run out of wine at a wedding feast would have brought great shame on the host and knowing that this has just happened but clearly before most guests were aware of it the mother of Jesus tells Him, “They have no wine.” She expects Him to do something. What that something might be she does not say. Thus Jesus responds with a cryptic answer, which she is probably used to it at this point, saying among other things, “my hour has not yet come.” His answer was a gentle rebuke – He will not be beholden to her urgent demands, now He must act on God’s timing. And when it is time, then He will begin showing His glory. And actively waiting in faith she tells the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” And obeying Him they take these large stone water jars for purification rites and fill them with water and when Jesus tells them “now” to do so they took some to the master of the feast to taste. And not knowing what has happened, the master of the feast testifies that this is the good wine compared to what they had been drinking before. And so this is a story about wine at a wedding.
- But there are hints that this story is about something far more than wine at a wedding, indeed that it is about how Israel has run out of wine and new wine would only be poured out according to God’s timing. One way the story hints at this is Jesus’ cryptic answer: “My hour has not yet come.” You are meant to wonder, “What does He mean by that?” Then later in the Gospel of John when you see similar phrases repeatedly concerning the timing of the death of Christ you will remember Jesus’ words to His mother. He was saying that it was not yet time for Him to die, which is when God would pour out the good wine. The apostle John wants us to see more than one layer to this story. And at this deeper layer Israel has run out of wine, her religion has lost all of its joy in God and instead of being in relationship with God by faith it has become all about keeping rules in order to be right with God, and not even the mother of Jesus can hurry along the coming salvation. They would all have to wait on God’s timing for the new wine. Indeed, the question we might wonder is what will happen if this new wine is poured into old wineskins. (But I digress, still we can say more.)
- The good wine foreshadows the blood of Jesus – the blood of the new and better covenant.
- The good wine foreshadows the blood of Jesus because turning the water into wine was a prophetic sign. It was a sign that Jesus is the life-blood of the end-times party. The good wine of this party is His own blood. Jesus is the good wine that had been held back. It was a sign that Jesus would one day be the bridegroom for His church. And then the good wine that had been held back would be poured out. The other part of His cryptic answer to His mother was, ‘What is this to me?’ He is telling His mother that it was not His wedding feast, it was not yet time for that. It was a prophetic sign that the Messianic age—the end-times age of the Christ—was dawning, an age which the Prophets had described as having an abundance of wine. Thus the disciples get to see His Messianic glory when He turns the water into wine. Or yet another way we can put it is to say that it was a prophetic sign that the old covenant order would be replaced by a new and better covenant.
- So wrapped up in this story about a wedding is a summary of the story of this redemptive-historical transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. The Old Covenant had been joyful, it too had wine, but the people of Israel had run out of wine. It is fitting that there were large stone jars there for the Jewish rites of purification – a religious ceremony of washing with water. And Jesus transforms everything by having those jars reminding us of Israel not having any wine – practicing a religion from which they had removed all the joy – and then having those jars filled with water He turned it into wine. And this was not just any wine. The wine of the Old Covenant would be replaced with the surpassing glory of the wine of the New Covenant. (All of this just to say,)
- The good wine shows forth the glory of Christ and leads His disciples to believe in Him.
- The sign of turning water into wine did so then, and it still does so today.
- Verse 11 tells us that Jesus Christ revealed His glory to His disciples by turning the water into the best of wines and this led them to put their faith in Him. The apostle said in the introduction of this gospel: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). When the disciples saw Jesus turn water into wine it was the first time that they saw His glory. And throughout the Gospel the pattern is one of Christ showing His glory and His disciples believing in Him, which is exactly what they did.
- And the apostle wrote these things down so that in hearing about Christ manifesting His glory in this way, you too might believe. Near the end of John’s Gospel he says that Jesus did other signs in the presence of Jesus’ disciples that he did not write down, “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31). Thus John tells us about the sign of Jesus turning water into wine, showing forth the glory of the Christ and leading His disciples to believe in Him (John 2:11), so that we too might believe and believing have eternal life.
- And the sign of the blood of the new covenant in the Lord’s Supper continues to do this today. His blood is the good wine that shows His glory among us and leads His disciples to greater faith. We come to the feast of glory and through the signs of the bread and the cup God strengthens our faith and nourishes us unto eternal life. It is a meal that encourages us as we wait for the hour of Christ’s return, which has not yet come. The Lord’s Supper is a party, it is a wedding feast, and Jesus is the life of that party. Thus rather than being boring and bland we are free now to be full of life as followers of Christ. Thanks be to God.
- The sign of turning water into wine did so then, and it still does so today.