The Messiah’s Wedding Gift
23 November 2014
A study in the series on the Gospel of John by John Dugas
Grace Bible Church, Tulsa
Full Audio Message
Messiah’s Wedding Gift
Weddings in first century Israel were festive. They would celebrate for a whole week! It would begin with the groom and his attendants making a procession to the bride’s house. Then the groom would make an even happier procession, taking his bride to his house for the festivities. He would be accompanied by his attendants, her attendants and loads of family and friends. It was most beautiful when the procession occurred at night so that the many lamps would light up the darkness. In a small village, the whole community might attend.
Once they arrived, everyone would enjoy food and drink provided by the groom. He had to make sure that there was plenty so the joy wouldn’t run out. If the groom didn’t provide enough, he could actually be sued. Just think of how the bride’s family could become angry that their daughter had to suffer such shame. Such disgrace could follow the young couple into their new marriage.
If we don’t understand the real purpose of our lives, such mishaps can be disastrous. Life isn’t fair. Things often don’t work they way they are supposed to. There is so much that isn’t right. “So what if someone blew it and we run out of food or drink?” But for everyone who thinks that way, there are many more who will say that it was a disgrace that you can never overcome.
Following Jesus doesn’t promise that everything will always work out OK. Sometimes it seems that following Jesus brings even more trials. But difficult events and relationships are put into perspective when a person follows Jesus and understands who Jesus is. That doesn’t mean that we’ll always understand His ways. Like Job, we often don’t understand God’s ways. But we can maintain a steadfast trust in Jesus because all of those hard events and impossible relationships fall in line behind Jesus. We come to understand that they are all part of His larger plan. Everyday life is part of His plan. And every day in life is part of His plan. Paul assures us in Eph 1:11 that all things happen “according to His purpose.” Why? Because He “works all things after the counsel of His will.”
But not everyone can or will believe this. Such understanding is only for those who have faith in Jesus as God’s Messiah. So how does THAT happen? Let’s find out.
Jesus’ first miracle has a small audience: His mother, disciples and a few servants. John hand picks signs to help his readers see that Jesus is the Messiah. This begins “the Book of Signs” (John. 2-12).
I. A wedding feast nearly becomes a disaster (John 2:1-5).
We pick up the story on the third day after Philip and Nathanael followed Jesus. Nathanael returns to his hometown, Cana in the region of Galilee. Nazareth isn’t far away, so Jesus’ mother is there too. Possibly a relative of Mary and Jesus is getting married. Both are invited, along with Jesus’ newly picked disciples: Andrew and Peter, Philip and Nathanael, and probably John and James.
John never tells us the name of Jesus’ mother. She’s already well known, so it’s not necessary. Tradition says that Mary was a widow by this time. She probably had come to depend heavily upon Jesus, her eldest son, for the family’s livelihood. It would be natural for her to turn to Him for help.
Now as we just read, things took a turn for the worse: the wine gave out. Mary may have been asked to help with the catering, especially if she was related to the groom. So naturally she went to Jesus to see if He could do something. It’s hard to know whether she expected Him to do a miracle at this point because Jesus hadn’t done any miracles yet. She may have just wanted Him to go to the market and buy some more. How He responded to her seems odd to us.
To us, Jesus calling His mother “Woman” sounds strange. However, in their culture it was a very polite and kind way of speaking to a woman. Still, it wasn’t common for someone to address their mother this way. What may be happening is that Jesus is now reflecting the new relationship between them. While He will honor her until the end of His life, their relationship has changed now that He has begun His earthly ministry. It is no longer mother and son but disciple and Lord.
But what about Jesus comment to His mother: “What do I have to do with you?” That doesn’t sound good either! This also sounds disrespectful but it wasn’t. The idea is “What does this problem have to do with us?” I think He’s saying something like: “While I will honor and provide for you, I’m no longer the guy you send on errands.” As we’ll see next time, Jesus has now taken up the role of Messiah, which means that He is operating according to His heavenly Father’s schedule and as such has a new realm of responsibility. And while He will meet this immediate need, it’s for a higher purpose.
And so Jesus points out to His mother that His hour has not yet come. While Mary may not be expecting a miracle, she may have OT passages in mind that describe the Messianic Age as flowing freely with wine (Jer 31:12; Hos 14:7; Amos 9:13-14). She knows He is Messiah. Maybe now is the time to bring in the great Messianic Age. She likely doesn’t understand at this point that He has to be glorified by dying on the cross BEFORE the glory days of Messiah happen. But Jesus DOES know that and He points to that hour when He will be glorified in His death (see Jn 13:1; 17:1).
Because His words weren’t rebukes to His mother, she is encouraged and tells the servants to do whatever Jesus says. She seems to accept their new relationship. Next,
II. Jesus responds with a lavish gift to the couple (John 2:6-10).
Jesus instructs the servants to fill the six stone water pots that were used for the Jewish custom of purification. You see, whenever the guests were preparing to eat, they would have some of this water poured over their hands to make them ceremonially clean. It was a religious ritual. John has already told us that Jesus brought something far greater than what Moses gave the Jews (John 1:17). I think he hints at that here. Jesus’ miracle will make the purification water unavailable. He replaced the water in all six pots with wine! There is an implied contrast between the old and the new ways.
Jesus then instructs the servants to draw out some of the contents of those water pots and take it to the headwaiter. That was the person who oversaw the distribution of food and drink. He was unaware of the source of this wine. After tasting it, he is impressed! He goes to the groom and compliments him on the excellent quality of this wine. However, he’s surprised that the groom apparently has gone contrary to custom. Usually, the host would serve the good wine first, then when his guests’ tastes had been dulled, he would bring out the cheap stuff.
What a gift for this young couple—the best wine for the joy of their guests! What Jesus created was superior! Again, there are hints here of the superiority of the New Covenant to the Old Covenant (Jer 31:32; Heb 8:6-13). Moses turned water into undrinkable blood (Ex 7:14-24). Jesus turned water into very drinkable wine! And Jesus made at least 120 gallons! Jesus is never stingy in His goodness!
I need to make a side comment here. When we studied this passage in Greek class, one student resisted the idea that “Jesus created something that has ruined so many families.” I understand that, having seen that first hand while growing up. But as the professor responded, the Greek word here means “wine” and not “grape juice.” And, more to the point, what Jesus created was capable of making men intoxicated. The verb here drunk freely is literally, “they have become drunk”. While John isn’t saying that the guests here are drunk, the headwaiter is saying that this is genuine wine. Families are ruined by the sinful misuse of God’s gifts. Well, Jesus’ giving didn’t stop there.
III. Jesus’ miracle became a greater gift for His disciples (John 2:11).
This is the first of 35 recorded miracles by Jesus and the first of seven signs that John records. Why does John call them signs instead of miracles? A sign points away from itself to something more important. These seven signs are designed to get our attention, then point us to Jesus as the Messiah. In fact, that’s exactly what John will explain in John 20:30-31 “Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”
How do these signs point to Jesus? First, they show that Jesus came with divine authority and working by God’s power (John 3:2). They show God at work. Second, and more to the point here, they show that Jesus Himself is God at work. John tells us that in turning water into wine, Jesus manifested His glory. Jesus showed His disciples that He came with glory, “glory as the unique Son of the Father” (John 1:14). This first sign confirms what John already told us in John 1:3 that Jesus is the Creator. As Creator He created the process by which wine has been made throughout history. Jesus’ glory is revealed by making wine instantly and without grapes!
Jesus’ first miracle was about transformation. As Creator, Jesus has transforming power. Here it is water into wine. But Jesus has a much more profound transformation in store for those who will follow Him: sinners into saints. He will give them new lives (Jn 3). Paul will also refer to the believer as “a new creation” (2 Cor 5:17). And we see that this sign did its job…
His disciples believed in Him. They had interviewed Jesus and were thinking that this just might be the Messiah. Now they’ve seen it with their own eyes. But signs are useless without faith. God had to give them faith first (Eph 2:8) and with that faith they believed that Jesus was who He said He was. They now have life in His name. Wine was given abundantly and so will life in Christ.
Message: Jesus’ lavish solution to a problem revealed His glory, helping His disciples believe in Him. The groom in this story was unable to prevent disgrace for himself and his new bride. But Jesus demonstrated that He is able to provide for His bride—believers who follow Him. He is Creator. He can recreate sinners into saints as easily as water into wine. Has Jesus transformed you yet? If He has, do you still trust Him to use disappointments and hardships to make you more like Him?