Week 23 The Story
The Transforming Power
I have officiated at my share of weddings. Of course, at these weddings I always have a front row seat and I get to see things that are hidden to most people – like those universally nervous hands, sometimes barely able to manage the ring. Even better, I am just a few inches away from what the Scriptures teach is a sacred transaction. It is a privilege to be involved in weddings.
A wedding day is typically a nervous event brimming with potential confusion. The same emotions clearly applied to the little wedding in Cana of Galilee in John 2, especially in light of the Hebrew inclination toward drama and excitement. The wedding celebration was considered to be the most grand event in life, especially among the poor. Typically the Hebrew wedding ceremony took place late in the evening following a feast. After the ceremony, the bride and groom were taken to their home in a torchlight parade complete with a canopy held over their heads. They were considered to be king and queen and actually wore crowns and dressed in bridal robes, and their word was considered to be law. In lives that contained much poverty and difficulty, this was considered the supreme occasion. Many would plod all the way through life without ever again having a celebration like this. With this background in mind our text comes alive.
I do not think we can overemphasize the distress in Mary’s words in verse 3: “They have no more wine.” In the Jewish wedding feast, wine was essential, not so the guests could drink to excess, but because it was a symbol of exhilaration and celebration. It was of such great importance that a lawsuit could be instituted if no wine was provided! Those who were behind the scenes at that little wedding in Cana were shattered by this breakdown in hospitality. Childhood dreams of the ideal weeding were about to dissolve in a nightmare. The drama of our text is very real.
This moment provides the setting for our Lord’s first miracle, and it is full of spiritual meaning. Verse 11 tells us this was the beginning of Jesus’ “miraculous signs.” When John uses the word “sign,” he always uses it with the idea of a miracle that conveys deepest teaching, and that is certainly true here. We not only see Christ showing his glory in his power to change the physical elements from water to wine, but in his power to change a life. This is what this is really all about. This is a bounding, joyous, leaping story of what Christ can do for us.
“When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, ‘They have no more wine.’ ‘Dear Woman, why do you involve me?’ Jesus replied. ‘My time has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you’” (vv. 3-5)
Jesus had brought five disciples with him, and I think their presence caused Mary to speculate that it was time for his ministry to begin. Hence the statement, “They have no more wine.” Volumes have been written on of Jesus’ response. Although it sounds harsh to our ear, he was actually making a courteous remark. He addressed her as “woman” again when he was on the cross and was tenderly giving Mary to John’s care. At any rate, the miracle is now set in motion. With the six waterpots of wine we are talking about 180 gallons of wine! What a great wedding gift to the couple! That gift would provide them with money for quite a long time. The message to Jesus’ Jewish listeners was particularly pointed, for we know from the Dead Sea Scrolls that such pots were used for ritual purification, confirming verse 6 (“ceremonial washing”). By performing his miracle in those stone urns, our Savior was testifying that the old religious rituals were dead and that he was filling the urns with new life. F.F. Bruce says, “Christ (is) changing the water of Jewish purification into the wine of the new age.”
Jesus was saying that he brings joy to life, and the joy he gives is abundant and overflowing, with the best coming last! That teaching is for all of us! At the very beginning of his ministry the Lord Jesus provided that great joy! Galatians 5:22 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . joy.” Later in his life on earth, just a few hours before his death, our Lord said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). The Lord does not take away the natural joy of life but lifts them up and ennobles them and makes them far more enjoyable. That is exactly what is suggested by the broadest picture in our story. We have here a wedding – something of the earth, primal, basic. But what does Jesus do? He attends the wedding, participates in the happiness, averts disaster, and then supplies the joy! Admittedly, life has its sorrows. The Scriptures say our Savior was “a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3). He knew all about sorrows. There will be times when the grace of God will seem distant, but overall our lives can be lives of joy. Ephesians 5:18-19 says, “Do not get drunk with wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.” That is joy! That is the way life is meant to be!
John here implies that life gets better as it goes on (see v. 10). I think the master of the banquet made his statement jokingly: “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.” Although the natural wines of life tend to lose their sparkle, the wine Christ gives – the joy we find in him – increases as life goes on. I have found this to be true. He is serving delicacies at my table now that I knew nothing of in my early years of Christian life. Jesus is always giving us something better, and our taste is constantly being refined. This is a promise of growth.
The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a
cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in
the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age; they will
stay fresh and green” (Psalm 92:12, 14).
Do you know anyone like that? Do you know someone who, as life has gone on, has become more joyous, more vigorous and effervescent? Full of Christ’s wine? I do. What a positive outlook on life! Teenagers can have joy. For those going on through midlife, life can effervesce on into their final years on earth and on into eternity – always increasing – saving the best for last. Get all you can out of life! Live it with gusto! But do it God’s way.
We must not overlook the context of all this. It was a wedding. By implication, we see that all these joys come through the blessing of betrothal to Christ. We must understand that the wine of carnal life does run out, or perhaps has already. The sensual, visual, and intellectual joys of life will not endure. But Christ can change everything. Isaiah says our Lord gives “a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning” (61:3).
How do you think the people reacted to Christ’s miracle at that wedding? Do you think they were blasé? I doubt it. There was probably a lot of jumping and hollering – Jewish style. They were having a great time! Can you see it? The bride and groom with their crowns in place – a torchlight parade – all of the celebration complete with overflowing joy of Christ! Consider in this regard these words recorded by the Apostle John in Revelation:
Then the angel said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are
invited to the wedding supper of the lamb.’” And he added,
“These are the true words of God” (19:9).
This blog is written in honor of Rachael Dozier’s wedding on this March 1, 2014. Best wishes and God’s blessings to you and your family."