Second Reformed Church

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"Top Shelf" Sermon: John 2:1-12

“Top Shelf”

[John 2:1-12]

April 19, 2015 Second Reformed Church

            If God brought a bottle of wine to a wedding, do you think it would be good wine?

            As we continue our look at John’s Gospel, we see that half-way through Jesus’ calling of His twelve disciples; He had a wedding to go to.  John tells us, three days after calling Nathanael to be His disciple; there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee.

            Now, in Jesus’ day, the most important thing a person could give the bride and groom was his attendance and celebration at the wedding.  It was much more important to have a huge gathering of every family member and friend and friend’s friend, than it was to have an expensive wedding or to have expensive gifts.  Of course weddings were an expense and a feast, but they didn’t cut the guest list short in order to have better food or have the wedding in a better location.  It was all about the blessing that the people at the wedding were to the couple being married.

            The first thing we should notice this morning is that Jesus honors – blesses – marriage.

“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.  Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.”

Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God Who came to earth to live a perfect life under God’s Law, die for the sins of His people, and physically rise victorious from the dead, glorifying God and making His people right with God, saw the wedding of this couple to be important enough to be in attendance to say, “Yes, this is right, this is blessed of God.”

We remember that God instituted the rite of marriage between the first man and the first woman:  “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, ESV).

Marriage is a God-ordained rite in which a man and a woman are not merely physically united, but spiritually united.  God created this union and blesses this union, and Jesus went to bless this wedding, to celebrate with the couple, and to enjoy the celebration and the coming together of a man and a woman as God normally intends it.

Second, we see that the mother of Jesus humbled herself to the Will of her Lord.

“When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’  And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does this have to do with me?  My hour has not yet come.’  His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’”

Did you notice, in this text, the mother of Jesus is not named; she is just called “the mother of Jesus”?  That is not because John did not know who she was – he knew who Mary was.

The point that is being made here is that although Mary would always be Jesus’ mother, and although Jesus always owes His mother honor, Jesus, Mary’s Son, is also God the Savior, her Lord, and she had to learn to submit herself to His Will.  The Center of the Gospel, the center of the Scripture, the Center of this text, is Jesus, Who He is, and what He came to do.  Everything else, including His mother, had to submit to His Divine Will.

At this point, John tells us that Jesus had not done any miracles – and we remember the point of miracles is to show Jesus to be God the Savior.  Miracles are signs that point to Jesus.  They do not exist for themselves or merely for any lesser reason.

So, Jesus and His mother and His disciples were at this wedding – it had gone on for some time – they were eating and drinking and enjoying themselves – and then the mother of Jesus noticed that they ran out of wine – which would have been an embarrassment to the couple, so she told Jesus what she observed.

What did she expect Jesus to do? 

Perhaps as an up-and-coming rabbi, she expected Him to say some kind and soothing words before the guests became upset about the wine running out.

Perhaps she thought of what the angel told her that she always pondered in her heart:  “[Jesus] will be great and be called the Son of the Most High.  And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32-33, ESV).  Perhaps she though there was something more He could do given His prophetic pedigree.

We’re no told what she really had in mind.

Jesus responded with what seems like a harsh rebuke of His mother:  “Woman, what does this have to do with me?  My hour has not yet come.”

The commentators assure us that the comment is not harsh, but respectful, though it is given to remind Jesus’ mother that Jesus had a time-line for His plan, and both He and she had to submit to the Will of God and follow it – so she had to submit to Him as He submitted to the Will of the Father.  She had to understand that miracles occurred in accordance with the Divine Will, not any human will.  Jesus did honor His mother, but He was not going to go against the Divine Will even if she asked Him to as His mother.

            The mother of Jesus understood what He was saying and submitted to His Will, telling the servants to do whatever Jesus said.

            How are we at submitting to the Will, the Plan, and the Promises of God?

            Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount to thank and trust God because He will provide us with whatever we need.  Do we follow after the Will of God and trust that no matter how things look, God will provide for our every need?  Do we strive to be faithful and obedient to God and to work hard with the gifts and abilities that God has given us and believe that God will provide us with what we need?  Do we believe that we will always have – at the right time – what we need for that time?  Do we place our hope in God’s Will being done on earth as it is in Heaven – or are we hypocrites?

            Here we are called to pray that God would do whatever He knows is best – His Will – and that we would be thankful and glorify God for what He does.

            “Do whatever He tells you.”

            At this point, Jesus acts, and we wonder why:  didn’t He just tell His mother this was not His problem and it was not His time?  Why does Jesus now solve the problem?

            Was the rebuke merely to show His mother that she had to submit to His Divine Will?  Or did His human will just not know that it was time for Him to perform His first miracle?  Or is something else going on here?
             What we can conclude is, third, Jesus gives lavishly.

“Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.  Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water.’  And he said to them, ‘Now draw some and take it to the master of the feast.’  So they took it.  When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, then the poor wine.  But you have kept the good wine until now.’”

Jesus told the servants to fill the six empty stone purification jars with water.  These jars would have been filled with water for the ceremonial washing of hands and other such rituals.  And they were very large – twenty to thirty gallons a piece – some 180 gallons in total.

Jesus told the servants – surely not more than six – probably closer to two – to fill the jars with water.  The servants would not have been used to being told what to do by the guests, but they respected Jesus and His mother – perhaps they knew of Him – perhaps they simply respected His mother as their elder – and they filled the jars will water.

Once they had filled the jars, Jesus told them to take some of the water which was now changed to wine to the master of the feast – the caterer – perhaps a family member who was footing the bill.  And he tasted the wine, and he couldn’t believe it, so he called the groom to him – this wine was top shelf!

And he states the obvious to the groom – though neither of them knew what happened or how:  when you have a big party, you start out with the best wine you have, and then, after people have been drinking for a while and their senses aren’t as keen, you start serving the table wine, and eventually, you serve them the really cheap stuff – but this wine that they brought out at the end of the feast was the best wine he had ever tasted!

And Jesus had not just caused a bottle of wine to be made.  He had not caused a gallon of wine to be made.  He caused around 180 gallons of the best wine anyone had every tasted to be made!  When God gives, He gives lavishly!  It is inconceivable that there would be enough people to drink 180 gallons of wine, especially after all the drinking that they had done, but God changed an enormous amount of water into wine to provide for the wedding and for the future.

God gives the best and God gives lavishly.

Consider, do you have enough of everything for this moment?  Do you have more than you need for this moment?  Seriously, do you have more than you need to exist and be doing exactly what you are doing right this moment?

Just consider the basic principle of the tithe – that we are to give back to God ten percent of our gross income.  That means God has given us at least ten percent more than what we need.

Here what Paul writes, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Ephesians 4:28, ESV).

Did you hear the principle of lavish receipts – if you have been stealing, stop stealing and work an honest job, so you can support yourself – and have plenty to give away.  We don’t merely work and earn income to support ourselves and our families, but so we will have enough to give to God and to those in need.  This is what God wants, and He provides it for us.  So, even minimally, God provides lavishly, because we have more than we ever need.

That being the case, what sort of thankful people ought we be for all the things God has given us – including the lavish gift of His Son for the sake of our salvation?

Fourth, we are told that Jesus “manifested his glory” in changing the water into wine.

“This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory.  And his disciples believed in him.’

“After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.”

When we talk about Jesus manifesting His Glory – we are talking about the same thing as when we talk about an epiphany of Jesus – we are saying that this event showed Jesus to be Who He truly is – it pointed to Him as the Savior God promised to send.

Jesus was revealed in turning the 180 gallons of water into the best top shelf wine they had ever tasted.  They understood that Jesus was not merely a man – He is more – He is Divine.

As we have noted, this is the point of John’s Gospel, as well as the whole Scripture:  “Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; 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 20:20-31, ESV).

Now, how many people knew that Jesus turned the water into wine?

Jesus’ mother, the six disciples, and maybe as many as six servants.  That’s it.  All the rest of the people at the wedding had no idea what Jesus did.  At that moment – the performance of His first miracle – was for His mother, the disciples, and the servants of the household at the wedding in Cana.  This miracle was to show this small group Who He is.

And we might be thinking, “Well, didn’t someone say, ‘Jesus turned the water into wine’?”  We are not told that any such thing like that happened.  The text reads as though no one else knew, and the servants didn’t explain where the wine came from.

And we might say, “Well, wouldn’t Jesus want everyone to know, so they would all see Who He is?”

And here we face the problem that came up when the wine ran out – the mother of Jesus said, “Do something.”  And now we look at the account and think, “Jesus, take credit for the miracle – reveal Yourself.”

But it wasn’t time.  It wasn’t according to plan.  It wasn’t God’s Will.

I suspect we all have had times when we wanted to tell God a better way to do something – as we read the Scripture and shake our heads thinking, “Oh, no, Lord, if You don’t let people take part in their salvation, they aren’t going to be willing to believe.  Let’s make salvation equal what You did plus all the good things we do.” 

Or, perhaps, “I’m thankful for how You have provided for me, but I didn’t get that promotion, and You know if I got that promotion, I would have more access to people to tell them about You, so change my boss’ mind, ok?”

We think we’re so smart, but “[God] who sits in the heavens laughs; and the Lord holds them in derision,” (Psalm 2:4, ESV).

Shall we stop being arrogant and submit to the Will of God, rejoice and give thanks in the lavish gifts that God gives us, trusting Him for all of our needs?

Shall we see all that God has done for us and recognize that all God has done – according to His Plan and in His time – show Him to be exactly Who He has always claimed to be?

Shall we humble ourselves before our God and Savior Who created the best wine ever tasted and invites us to receive the bread and the wine, proclaiming His death and resurrection until He returns, when He will share in the fruit of the vine with us at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb?

Let us pray:

Almighty God, we thank You for the blessed rite of marriage and for those You call to union in it.  We ask that we would hold marriage in high esteem as a holy ordinance of Your creation.  We ask that You would help us to listen and hear You and follow after Your Will, giving thanks for Your lavish gifts and for the provision for our every need every day.  We thank You that You have chosen to reveal Yourself to us and make us Your children.  And we ask that You would lead us in the Power and the Wisdom of God the Holy Spirit.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

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