Water into Wine

I want to bring out three ways Jesus brought blessing to a couple on their special day, three ways in which I believe he longs to bless each of us today also.

The Blessing Of Jesus’ Presence : (John 2:1-2)

Jesus and his disciples had been invited to a wedding. In Israel they do things properly.  The wedding reception lasts a week. Everything stops in the community and everyone joins in. When you think of Jesus what do you imagine His schedule looked like?    Can you imagine Jesus relaxed, laughing and enjoying himself at a wedding reception surrounded by people in festive mood, for a whole week?  No watch, no mobile phone, no emails, no post, no distractions, just a week of eating and drinking good food and wine celebrating the shared joy of a new marriage in the community. Can you?

If not then you need to re-read the New Testament and revise your image of Jesus.  On many occasions we encounter Jesus sitting with all kinds of people, eating and drinking as if he had all the time in the world.   And he did – all the time in the world to do God’s perfect will. One of the often repeated sentences in the gospels is “at the right time”.

Cana was just a tiny village on the road between Nazareth and Lake Galilee. There were probably only 40-50 families in 1stCentury Nazareth itself so Cana must have been even smaller. We don’t know the names of this happy couple, but everyone knew everyone else. Mary, the mother of Jesus is mentioned first, so by implication it seems the Bride or Groom’s family knew her and had invited her, and the invitation had then been extended to Jesus and his disciples.

What do we learn from this? Jesus was interested in ordinary people – probably very distant relatives or friends of the family, interested in their joys and sorrows, their hopes and fears and that is why he accepted an invitation made via his mother. It’s the same today.

You may feel that Jesus is rather distant, even in this lovely Church, yet I can assure you, Jesus is willing to grace these marriage celebrations; grace your marriage; grace your relationships; your life – and bring the blessing of his presence – but – and its a big but – he won’t impose himself (at least not yet). He needs a personal invitation. So have you? Have you invited Jesus to bless your life with his presence? It is the first and most profound observation we can make from this story. The Blessing of Jesus’ Presence (2:1-2) The second observation we can make?

The Blessing of Jesus’ Provision (John 2:3-10)

Sometime during the celebrations, the wine ran out and Mary having spotted the embarrassment before the other guests, nudges Jesus, and simply says “they have no more wine”. She merely points out to Jesus that the wine had run out. That’s all. Was she asking him to help? His gentle words imply that it was not for her to dictate his actions but the assumption is he knew what his mother was thinking. That’s intuition when a son can figure out what his mother is thinking. Technically Jesus hadn’t begun his public ministry but perhaps Mary knew what her son could do based on her experience during those 30 years of knowing him.  We may however understand something of the close relationship Mary had with Jesus by the way she speaks to the servants, even though Jesus has given no indication, at least not verbally, that he is going to help. With child-like trust she urges them to do what ever Jesus tells them. Not knowing what Jesus would do, she is confident he will nevertheless do something. Perhaps she felt partly responsible bringing 13 additional guests to the reception.

Offering hospitality is central to Middle Eastern culture and the greatest insult would have resulted from not providing for the invited guests. I’ve stayed in a poor Palestinian home and been given not only the parents bed but offered all the food they had for my breakfast and they watched me eat it. Had the guests learnt that the wine had run out, the family would have been shamed in their community. For years to come the wedding would have been remembered for the embarrassment of the festivities running dry.   Not only does Jesus choose to spend up to a week with an insignificant family from a tiny village in the middle of no where but he cares for this family in what would have been a very embarrassing situation, anonymously.

No grand gesture to draw attention away from the couple to himself.  No – Jesus is sensitive. Jesus chose to help in a way that would display the abundant generosity of God’s grace, but to only a handful of people, in order not to shame the family, indeed in such a way as to allow others to gain the credit.  The water jars which Jesus told them to fill, would each hold 20-30 gallons. That gives you some idea of the extent of Jesus blessing and perhaps even something of His sense of humour.

“Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so,  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.” (John 2:7-10)

Notice first that Jesus blessed them with quantity. There was no scrimping.  Work it out. Let’s be conservative and take the lower figure 6 x 20 gallons. That’s how much?  120 gallons. How many litres is that? 528 litres of wine. How many standard 70 centilitre bottles is that? The equivalent of 754 bottles. Some party.But secondly, notice also that Jesus blessed them with quality. The Master of the Banquet who presumably oversaw weddings and wakes in the area was well used to the tricks of the trade –  start out with the best wine and then bring out the cheaper wine later on when no one will notice or care. No Jesus does the reverse. However good the wine had been, what Jesus provided was vintage. I wonder what it tasted like? Jesus only provides the very best.  Here in the Makers Instructions, Jesus has provided the very best principles on which to build your marriage, to build your life.

He not only wishes to bless you by His presence, though you must invite Him, He wishes to bless you in abundance with His provision, but you must ask Him – how foolish and short sighted to only ask for his help when we are desperate.  Every day can be God’s very best because that is God’s will for you. Jesus said on another occasion “I have come that you may have life, and life in abundance, life in all its fullness (John 10:10). So let me ask you – are you living life to the full (and I don’t mean burning the candle at both ends). I mean is life fulfilling, deep, deep down inside could it be better?  Then acknowledge your need, as Mary did on behalf of this couple.  The Blessing of Jesus’ Presence, the Blessing of Jesus’ Provision.  The third principle we can draw from this story?

The Blessing of Jesus’ Power (John 2:11)

Tucked away in the last verse of the story is the clue as to why John has included this event in his biography of Jesus. Of all the events John could have included alongside the walking on water and the feeding of the 5000, why start with wine making at a country wedding?  Because this was nothing less than a miracle, indeed the first recorded miracle, the first public miracle Jesus performed.  If you were planning your grand entrance on earth would you choose this way?

The miracle revealed who Jesus really was, to a select band of people who had seen what had happened and knew where the wine had come from.  You see God is making millions of litres of wine every day but usually uses natural means over years to grow the vines, to sun ripen the grapes and ferment them over months before revealing the miracle of turning water into wine. But in order that people recognise Jesus was indeed the Son of God, he was able to do what God the father does, but in an instant, in the time it takes to fill 6 jars with 120-150 gallons of water and then taste it. That is why John reveals that his disciples, those who had just begun to know Jesus, like his mother, put their trust in Him.   Its curious to wonder about the bride and groom. When the master of the banquet came to praise them for their generosity in holding back the best wine till last, I wonder if they realised or admitted it came from Jesus. Certainly they knew there was no natural explanation.  I wonder whether they too became followers of Jesus. At least after the honeymoon of course… Jesus brought power to their wedding day.  God was concerned enough to save a family from embarrassment. But the miracle tells us much, much more.  For Jesus started as he meant to go on, and the rest of His earthly ministry could be summarised by that first miracle.  He came to transform our lives, miraculously by His presence, by His provision, and above all by His power. It cost Him everything to do it, even a shameful death on the cross.

We began our service this afternoon with the words. “Jesus was Himself a guest at a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and by His Spirit He is with us now.“  He is indeed here.   I don’t expect He will perform the same miracle for you this afternoon during the reception.  But I do promise that in your marriage together, (and in all our lives) what ever you are willing to bring to Him, however unimportant or mundane, he will transform and multiply by His power, because He loves you.

The Blessing of Jesus’ presence. The Blessing of Jesus’ provision.   The Blessing of Jesus’ power, are all yours. But he needs to be invited, He longs to be asked. He urges you to put your trust in him too.  May God bless you.