OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW
Most of you are probably familiar with the three Back to the Future movies. If not, here is some background: The franchise follows the adventures of a high school student, Marty McFly, played by Michael J. Fox, and an eccentric scientist, Dr. Emmett L. Brown, played by Christopher Lloyd, as they use a DeLorean time machine to time travel to different periods in the history of Hill Valley, California.
The interesting thing about these movies were the futuristic inventions that we saw. When the second Back to the Future movie came out in 1989 it took Marty into the future to 2015 and showed off many new-fangled gadgets that we were all hoping to see one day. The first gadget was finger-print-recognition. Throughout ‘Back To the Future,’ fingerprint recognition is used in multiple ways. One of the ways was to unlock the doors to a house. In recent years, we’ve also been using it for a variety of reasons. Locking access to confidential rooms is one, but a more common one is to unlock our phones. Fingerprint scanners are no longer seen as ‘amazing’ by many, but it’s certainly amazing that Back to the Future predicted them!
Another gadget was Hands-Free Gaming. There’s a scene in the film series where Marty McFly plays an arcade game. Others watch on and make sarcastic comments about the need to actually use your hands to play. While gaming hasn’t become totally hands-free, this type of technology has been implemented. Microsoft’s Kinect is particularly notable, offering games that only need motion detection to function. With the rise of virtual reality in recent times, who knows how long it’ll be before we don’t have to use our hands at all.
Another was drones. While we might not have reached the point of having personal drones on a wide scale, that time will surely come. ‘Back To the Future’ predicted that we’d be using drones for a number of reasons, including capturing images. Well, that latter part has definitely come true, as YouTube videos are populated with drone captures. Drones are still in their infancy, and their potential is far from been realized to this day.
Lastly is Video Phones. There’s a scene in the movie where Marty McFly gets fired from the comfort of his own home. This happens via a video conference system that connects multiple people to a video chat. While today’s technology isn’t exactly as it was imagined back then, it’s actually much better! The rise of Skype, Facebook Live and much more has given birth to a wealth of possibilities. We take the ability to talk on Facetime for granted, but it’s an incredible luxury and blessing for us to enjoy.
Why did this movie and its inventions fascinate us? Maybe it was because those things were too good to be true. But I also think they fascinated us because we could imagine the benefit and the blessing it would be to our lives in using them. I personally think about skype and Facetime. I actually used skype a few years ago for a youth leader cohort I was in. We would all get together once a month and talk about different trends in youth ministry and help each other answer the hard questions we were wrestling with. People in the group were from all over the United States. I was from PA, one was from TN, another was from KY and the person leading the cohort was from California. This was a great benefit and blessing to me because I didn’t have to travel to a central location possibly hundreds miles away to meet with the cohort every month.
I think about some other inventions that have arisen in my lifetime that could be a blessing to me if I was willing to use it. One is the self-checkout scanner at Giant. For some reason, I am hesitant to use it. I know it will be faster and I won’t have to stand in those long lines at the regular checkout lanes but I still refuse to do it. I believe that I will mess it up and cause more problems and take up more time than if I just went through the regular checkout lanes. Until I overcome the hesitancy the use it I will never believe in its blessings and benefits.
I wonder what are some of the new-fangled inventions and innovations you have purchased over the years to replace the old versions you had in your home before? Maybe you were skeptical to use them at first, as well. Raise your hand if you had a black and white TV back in the day. Now keep your hands raised if you then replaced that black and white model with a color TV? Nowadays some of you may gone from the old color TV to a new smart TV and of course now we can even watch TV on our cell phones.
That brings me to the next invention and innovation, the phone. How many remember using a rotary phone? How many then replaced that rotary phone with a push button model? Of course, even though it was a new innovation, it still had a cord attached to it. Then we had the phones that could be carried all over the house as long as you didn’t get too far away from the base. Now we have cell phones that we can carry in our pocket and take anywhere our lives take us. To Alexander Graham Bell today’s cell phone would be nothing less than a miracle. But imagine that you decided to live without a cell phone. You continued to use the old rotary phone or push button phone that kept you tethered to a wall in your house. You would never believe that there would be so many benefits and that you could be so blessed by having a device that you could use to call your family or AAA if you broke down hundreds of miles away from home. It almost takes an obedience to our culture to use such devices as a cell phone or the self-checkout at Giant before we can be blessed by it and come to believe that they can be used for our own good. Over our lifetimes it has been “out with the old and in with the new” when it has come to our tv’s, phones, radios and many other inventions and innovations. Most of these innovations if we are willing to believe in them and use them will bless our lives and make them better.
Today, we are going to look at a familiar story in John 2:1-11. In this story, Jesus goes to a wedding with his family and his disciples. While they are there a problem arises in which Jesus saves the day by doing a behind the scenes miracle that shows his love for people and his abundant grace. On the surface it is Jesus’ first miracle. It isn’t flashy or really a seemingly important miracle such as later on when he raises Lazarus from the dead but below the surface John relates some important principles that he wants us to take to heart from this simple story. One such principle from this story this morning is our big idea which is that “our obedience brings blessing that leads to belief.”
Before we dive into our scripture today let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that you would pour out your Holy Spirit on us this morning as we dive into your Word. Help us to glean from it your principles and your truths. Help us to hear your words, help us to discern what you want each of us to learn, and help us to share what you teach us through your word this morning with those we come in contact with this week. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
If you want to follow along, we are in John 2:1-11. Starting with verses 1 and 2, this is what God’s Word says: On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.
These verses set the scene for our story this morning. The first thing we see is that John is keeping track of time. If you remember last week Pastor Stuart showed us John keeping track of time in chapter 1, verses 35 and 43 with “the next day.” Here we see “on the third day.” In the Bible, “on the third day”, always means “the day after tomorrow.” So this wedding took place “two days after” the call of Nathanael. Last week Pastor Stuart talked about the call of Nathanael by Jesus. In John 1:49, Nathanael confessed that Jesus was the “Son of God, the King of Israel.” Jesus then in John 1:50 told Nathanael, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” This promise made to Nathanael of “greater things” begins to find fulfillment immediately in this passage as the glory of Jesus will be revealed to his disciples. What is important about the time frame in this passage is that less than a week has gone by from the time Jesus appears in the desert where John the Baptist declares that Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” and the wedding at Cana. It is like John wants his readers to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is a real historical figure, God incarnate, and relates to them and to us a “week in the life of Jesus” to help us believe it.
Cana of Galilee was eight or nine miles north of Nazareth. It is also where Nathanael was from, which gives us another link with the immediately preceding verses in chapter 1. We are told that a wedding takes place there. Cana was a small village and so the wedding was probably a community-wide event. We are also told that Jesus’ mother was at the wedding and that Jesus and his disciples had been invited to the wedding. We can also gather from later on in verse 12 that at least Jesus’ brothers and maybe his sisters were at the feast as well. This may have meant that the wedding involved relatives or friends of the family. The Coptic gospels that did not make it into the Holy Bible tells us that tradition is that Mary was a sister of the groom’s mother. Another of these gospels says the groom is actually John the Evangelist whose mother was Salome, a sister of Mary. We do not know for sure who the groom is but this story is definitely an eyewitness account. It is important to note that the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry takes place in a very natural setting, one of the timeless celebrations in human history, a wedding. Jesus didn’t shy away from social events and interaction with society.
A village wedding feast in first century Palestine was a really notable occasion and a major social event. Unlike modern weddings, which are traditionally paid for by the bride’s family, the groom was responsible for the expenses of the celebration. The wedding festivities lasted a lot longer than one day and usually as long as a week. After the feast the wedding ceremony would take place and then they would be conducted to their new home by the light of flaming torches, as it would be dark by this time, and with a canopy over their heads. They were taken the long way around so as many people could see them as possible and wish them well. Once home they did not go away on a honeymoon but stayed at home and had open house for a week. They wore crowns and were treated like kings and queens. In this life of poverty this festivity and joy was one of the supreme occasions in their lives. It was in a happy time like this that Jesus shared.
So that is our scene this morning, follow along as I read verses 3-5 which will give us the situation that arises in our story. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” 4 “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
It seems that Mary was more than just a guest at the wedding and that she possibly held a special place at the feast. This would make sense if she was the aunt of the groom. It is possible that she had something to do with the arrangements because she was worried when the wine ran out and took initiative to solve the problem.
Why would this be such a problem? For a Jewish feast wine was essential. The Rabbi said, “without wine there is no joy.” Usually at these feasts people did not get drunk as that would have been disgraceful but hospitality was a sacred duty. Wine was a symbol. Its absence would mar such a joyous occasion as a wedding feast. The wine supply would be a major consideration since the wedding celebrations sometimes lasted nearly a week.
Running out of wine would have been shameful for the bride and groom. They would have been humiliated. It represented a social disaster in the first century. There were even known to have been lawsuits by the bride’s family and or the guests in these circumstances. Disgrace, humiliation, insult, dishonor and more would be brought upon the family with such carelessness as to allow this to happen.
So when the wine runs out Mary turns to Jesus to help her with this dilemma. That is when we often turn to God as well. This is a helpful model of intercessory prayer. We often turn to God when we or someone we know runs out of something such as strength, money or options. We turn to God when we run out of patience, joy or hope. We turn to God when we are feeling beat-up, burned out and when our sin has found us out and we realize we need help. When we have a need or know of someone else who has a need we should take it to God in prayer laying the need before him and trusting him to respond according to his sovereignty. The good news of the gospel is that God meets us in the very place of our need even if the need is something as seemingly unimportant as running out of wine at a wedding. This brings us to our first principle that I want us to remember from this story this morning. That is that God cares about every detail of our lives. This also brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card. My next step is to bring to God in prayer every need we or others in our lives have no matter how big or small and trust him to take care of them.
In verse 4 we see Jesus’ response to his mother, “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus’ reply has been taken as discourteous by some but in that culture it wouldn’t have been. It was a common conversational phrase that when spoken gently would have been a term of endearment. His response though has been confusing to commentators. Was he rebuking Mary for her implied request? Was he relieving her of responsibility by implying “I will take care of it?” or was he responding with a “What would you like me to do?”
“Why do you involve me?” seems to contain a note of correction. The Greek literally reads, “What to me and to you, woman?” This question asks rhetorically what the two parties have in common, and has the effect of distancing them. What they had in common was their relationship as mother and son. Perhaps Jesus wanted to emphasize to Mary that with her remark they had come into a new relationship. Think about what Mary must have gone through the last thirty years. In Luke 2:19, it says, “But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” Ever since the angel came to her and told her she was to be the mother of the Messiah until now she had wondered about her son and it may have been natural for Mary to want some public revelation that her son was the Messiah. Jesus seems to be saying, however,” What you expect out of this will not occur. I am on a divine timetable and the revelation of my purpose will not happen today. In John when Jesus talked about “his hour” it was referring to his crucifixion on the cross and that was not to happen at that specific time and place. “My hour has not yet come” carries a double meaning: It is not time to intervene yet and it is not yet time for showing my glory, but God’s timetable did allow for Jesus to begin giving evidence of his calling by performing this local miracle. So while the hour of his sacrifice on the cross is “not yet come” it was already putting demands upon him. This would be Jesus’ first opportunity to work under the heavenly Father’s authority and through the Holy Spirit’s power to produce a miraculous sign.
What Mary and Jesus had in common in their relationship was no longer to be what it had been. This exchange seems to mark a change in the relationship between Jesus and his mother. It was still a very special relationship but is now seen in light of his Father’s mission and the shadow of the cross. Jesus cannot act under her authority as a son but must instead follow the course that has been determined for him by God. I wonder if Jesus’ reply was something akin to “you know if I do this miracle everything changes” because once I perform a miracle in public people will be forced to decide “what will you do with the Christ?” and that would include his mother. The relationship that was mother and son would now be changed to a relationship of Christ-follower and the Christ.
In verse 5 we see that Mary is undeterred by the mild rebuke, and aware that Jesus was not saying no to her request and that he would take whatever action was necessary. She tells the servants to “do whatever he tells you.” Mary comes to Jesus as his mother, and is reproached, but then she responds as a believer, and her faith is honored.
“Do whatever he tells you” is a timeless spiritual principle that lives on through the last 2000 years of church history. Mary’s faith stood strong and she was confident in Jesus as she told the servants to do whatever he said. Mary knew that Jesus could do whatever was necessary as long as the servants obeyed. This is true of us today. If we as servants of Christ obey and trust the power of Jesus, God is capable of any results. Doing whatever Jesus commands is for John the Evangelist the essence of discipleship. Which brings us to our second next step on the back of your communication card. My next step is to do whatever God tells me to do and to trust in his power. Mary having the authority to order the servants to do whatever Jesus told them to is again some proof that she had an important role in this wedding feast.
Now that we have set the scene and have assessed the situation, next we will see how Jesus was going to supply the need of more wine. Follow along as I read verses 6-10: 6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, 9 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.”
We see that nearby, probably at the door to the home, were six stone water jars each holding from twenty to thirty gallons for a total of anywhere from 120 to 180 gallons of water. These stone water pots would have been used for two purposes. One, to cleanse the feet upon entering the house and two, for the washing of hands. John, explains for the Greeks, that these jars were to provide water for the purifying ceremonies of the Jews. Jewish law required that hands be ceremonially washed before a meal and between each course. If the Jewish law was not heeded to in this way then the hands were technically unclean.
Up to this point I doubt that either the servants, Mary, or Jesus’ newly-acquired disciples have a clue as to what Jesus is about to do. Jesus tells the servants to fill the six stone water pots to the brim. Probably to show that nothing else but water went into them and that what followed was indeed a miracle of transformation. When the six stone pots are filled, Jesus instructs the servants to draw out some of the “water” from one of the pots and to serve it to the master of the banquet. The master of the banquet was kind of a head waiter whose job would have been to run the feast correctly, seat people and taste the food and drink. Now, here is where Mary’s words to the servants are put to the test.
I am not sure we can fully understand just how difficult an assignment this was for these servants. It was one thing to fill the stone waterpots, which was probably a part of their responsibilities. But who would ever think of someone drinking this “water?” Imagine working for a caterer who is serving a very large group of people at a banquet. In the kitchen, one of the large cooking pots falls to the floor, and half of the gravy spills out onto the floor. One of the employees manages to scoop up most of the gravy from the floor, which he then pours into the serving pitchers. Would you let a waiter pour it on your potatoes if you knew where that “gravy” had been? I don’t think so.
Those of you who are campers have probably stayed in a remote campsite where the water comes from a well, but is not pure enough to drink. You look for signs there that clearly differentiate “potable” water from that which is not. You would not think of drinking water that is not entirely pure. You may wash your hands with it, but you would certainly not drink it. This ceremonial cleansing “water” may not have been considered suitable for drinking which was why wine was to be drunk at such times. I doubt that any devout Jew would have considered drinking water from one of those six stone pots.
With this in mind one can better imagine what it must have been like for the servants when they finished filling the stone waterpots and returned to Jesus for further instructions. Not one of them could have ever imagined that Jesus would tell them to now take that water to the master of the banquet for him to taste. In absolute unbelief they must have thought, “I know Mary said to do whatever Jesus said, but surely He can’t be serious! We are to serve this “water” to the master of the banquet? When he finds out it is only water, and not wine, he’ll have our jobs. And if he finds out where this water came from, we’re really in big trouble.”
Jesus does not wave his arms over the waterpots, commanding the water to become wine. It appears that He never even touched the water or the pots. Jesus does not even tell them that the water has become wine, or that it is about to do so. As far as they know, Jesus is instructing them to serve water, ceremonial cleansing water, to the master of the banquet no less! This must have been horrifying to them!
As far as we know, the servants immediately obey Jesus. We read of no hesitation, no words of protest. The servants would have known they were handling water when they began to serve the wine, starting with the master of the banquet. The suspense of those moments between the time the master of the banquet drinks the wine and the time he responds must have been sheer torture for the servants. He sniffs the cup, and then sips. He then calls for the bridegroom—what is he about to say? The scenarios which played in the heads of the servants would have made interesting reading.
We have to conclude that the water became wine somewhere between the kitchen and the head table at the banquet. This demonstrates great faith and obedience on the part of the servants. Imagine who would have been blamed if it was just water that the servants brought out? This again reminds us of our big idea that “our obedience brings blessing that leads to belief.”
The master of the banquet is astonished when he tastes the water which had become wine. He called the groom over since it was his parents who were responsible for the feast and tells him he is surprised the best wine came last. It was normal in that day to serve the better wine first and when the palates were dulled serve inferior wine when the guests wouldn’t have been able to tell. I like how MacArthur sums up the water turned into wine by Jesus: This was probably the sweetest and freshest wine ever tasted. It did not come from the normal process of fermentation but Jesus brought it into existence from nothing. Truly this was evidence that Jesus was the Creator as we saw in John 1:3, “In him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”
This was not just a sensational miracle designed to amaze his audience with his power. All of Jesus’ miracles met specific needs such as opening the eyes of the blind, or feeding hungry people. This miracle met the genuine need of the family who otherwise faced a social catastrophe.
By attending a wedding and performing his first miracle there, Jesus sanctified both the institution of marriage and the ceremony itself. That Jesus attended the celebration reveals his ministry to be markedly different from John the Baptist. Instead of being a voice in the wilderness, Jesus had the more difficult task of mingling socially with the people and ministering to them in their daily lives.
The quantity of wine in these stone jars would have certainly been enough to supply a large number of people for several days. Tenney says that in quality and quantity the new made wine more than satisfied the needs and taste of those who attended the feast and the leftover wine also provided the bride and the groom with a generous wedding present. That brings us to a second principle we can take away from our story this morning that Christ abundantly supplies all the needs of his people.
In verse 11 we see the significance of this miracle. Follow along as I read that verse. 11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
This was the first of seven miracles in the first twenty chapters of John. John’s word for miracles is “signs’ which is defined as a wonder with a meaning behind it. For John these “signs” are special actions by Jesus which reveal his glory to those who believe in him and which confront others with the need to decide “who is this Jesus?” John is concerned with Jesus and his significance and the significance behind these signs. These signs unveil that God is at work in Jesus and indeed is present in him.
We see two results of Jesus’ first miracle? One, Jesus revealed his glory, which means he puts his deity on display, by this miraculous sign. John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only son, who came from the father, full of grace and truth.” Two, his disciples believed in him. Now they certainly had some faith before but now it was strengthened, solidified and stabilized. Now they were ready to follow him anywhere. Belief in Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the world is a major theme in the Gospel of John. In the chapter 1, verse 12 John writes, “to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” and near the end of his gospel, John in chapter 20, verse 31 states that the purpose of the gospel, the reason it was written, was that “you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
Those were the outward manifestations of the miracle but what about the underlying meaning that John wants us to get from this story this morning. I think we see the principle of “out with the old and in with the new” here. The ceremonial washing of hands for which these jars had always been used was put aside and replaced with something new. Jesus came to fulfill the Mosaic Law and to exchange it for a higher law, the law of grace. Jesus would fulfill ceremonial cleansing with complete, spiritual, and eternal cleansing of his own blood on the cross. You could say that Jesus changed the old water of the law into the new wine of grace. This reflects the words of John the Evangelist in chapter 1 verse 17: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
The continual need for cleansing water reminded the Israelites that they were constantly unclean. But Jesus would offer his cleansing blood as the wine that would satisfy forever. Contrast that for us today in that we accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sins as atonement once for all. Hebrews 10:10-14 says, 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest (talking about Jesus) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
We do not need to continually wash ourselves because Jesus did it for us on the cross. We need to only believe and be saved.
I wonder if when Jesus held the cup of wine at the Last Supper and talked about the new covenant poured out for them, did those disciples remember the wedding in Cana where old covenant water became new covenant wine.