Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Sign 1 – Jesus turning water into wine (John 2:1-11)

On Friday at our Youth group, I got to kick off the teaching series on Seven Signs of Jesus from The Gospel of John. In this talk, I tried to frame or set up a broader picture of the Gospel of John while also trying to stick with the passage at hand.

The talk was a bit long, even with me cutting the bits in the [[double brackets]], which means I could have spent more time refinding the point to be clearer. Below is close to what I said.

This term we are looking at the seven signs[1] of Jesus from the Gospel of John.


Signs point to things beyond themselves.

<have some funny signs on the screen> Some are clear and helpful, others are warnings and sometimes there are signs or multiple signs that make things even more confusing.

The Gospel of John can be broken up into two books: The first 11 chapters of John has been called the Book of Signs and the last half is the Book of Glory. John prefers to use the word “signs” than “miracles”[2] because signs point beyond themselves. We aren’t just to think of Jesus as a magician, but something more than that. The idea is that in these signs we look beyond what is done to the doer[3].

Tonight, we are looking at the first sign of Jesus in the Gospel of John. Some of you may have heard this before, but I hope you can still appreciate the many surprising things going on in this story. Tonight, in our small groups afterwards we are going to try and think about what this sign is pointing to and what that means for us.

A wedding

Each sign in John takes place in a different context, today our one takes place at a wedding.

Ever been to a wedding? There is the service with some songs, then a gap for the couple to get photos taken and then a reception afterwards. But, our weddings today aren’t really like the ones Jesus attended. Their weddings could last up to a week and it involved the whole neighbourhood, the whole town.

[[At this wedding - and notice in this passage we aren’t told who the lucky couple is, they are not named, as they are not the point - at this wedding, Jesus and his new disciples get invited. At this point in time, Jesus has five disciples. In the previous chapter, you can read about how they were called to follow Jesus. They were all from the same area, and so pretty much they were all invited to this wedding.]]

There is a possibility that Jesus was related to the wedding couple. Jesus’ mom may have been involved in the wedding somehow as she seems to be allowed to instruct the helpers of the event. And it is Jesus mum who told Jesus about a problem at this wedding.

The wine has run out

The problem was that they had run out of wine. We aren’t told the reason for this. Maybe people over drank too much too quickly, maybe the host family wasn’t that rich so bought what they could afford and hoped for the best. But this was a serious problem. It is an embarrassment[4] to the groom and that doesn’t fly well in their honour/shame culture. And what is worst, there was even possible that you could be sued for something like this[5]. Imagine going to a wedding and not being happy with the drinks and suing the wedding couple. Crazy.

Wine was a thing for joy[6], and at this wedding, they had run out. This was a problem and Jesus’ mum tells Him about this problem. In the passage, she doesn’t ask Jesus to do anything about it, but she probably told him so that he could help.

Surprising response by Jesus

I think Jesus’ response is surprising, not because of what He did say, although a little confusing, but because of what He did not say.

At my wedding, we didn’t have any wine or alcohol whatsoever. I grew up a Baptist and one minor thing they do is not drink alcohol. There are warnings in the Bible about not getting drunk, so one thing they do is not drink at all. That avoids the whole temptation of getting drunk in the first place. So, I grew up in a household like that, and since half the wedding was my side of the family, we didn’t have any beer or wine. (It’s also much cheaper to have a wedding where you don’t have to pay for alcohol.)

Some people take this idea a whole step further. They see drinking itself as a sin, not the drunkenness. I think sometimes our culture sees Jesus as a killjoy, as someone who goes about telling them to stop doing all the cool things. In this case, here was a perfect opportunity for Jesus to scold everyone for over-drinking, to make this be a lesson about abusing alcohol and telling everyone to drink in moderation[7]. But he doesn’t do that at all.

Jesus goes on and makes a truckload of wine and good wine at that.

As a little aside, the passage isn’t about this, but perhaps I should mention it. Underage drinking in our country is such a problem that we have to run ads telling teenagers not to drink. Have you seen the “I need you to say no” ads recently with teenagers asking their parents to help them not to drink alcohol? We are to obey the laws of our country and one of those laws is that you must be over 18 to drink. Please obey those laws, they have your best interest in mind.

[[So anyway, in our story, Jesus initially pushes back against his mum’s bringing this problem up with Him. We may take his address to her as “woman” as offensive, but this was how Jesus greeted the woman at the well in John 4(:21) and also again when he spoke to his mother from the cross in John 19(:26). This greeting wasn’t as cold as our ears today make it out to sound[8].]]

So anyway, in our story Jesus’ protests to his mum that His hour had not come. He wasn’t ready for something. Throughout the rest of John, this “hour” is referenced. It is a theme of the whole book. In chapter 7(:30) the hour had not yet come for Jesus to be captured, and again in chapter 8(:20. When we get to chapter 12(:23), at the start of the Book of Glory, after the signs we are looking at have happened, we read the hour has come, and again in John 13 (:1) and 17(:1). The hour has now come. And for what? We read for the Son of Man to be glorified.

To give something glory is to make much of. For someone to be glorified you are giving them praise, shining the spotlight on them. You are making them seem big. It could be a public Facebook post thanking someone for doing something, it could be when you are chatting about a sporting team and their achievements. This is giving them positive attention. Glory.

Jesus didn’t want this type of attention right now. His mum may have asked Jesus to help because he was a resourceful and a talented guy[9]. I don’t think she had a miracle in mind[10]. And for one of Jesus first public miracles, it is very non-public one as only a few people really know what happened[11]. It is done in the background.

Jesus gets the servants to fill up six of the large jars with water. These would have been used for cleaning hands and utensils. Would you drink this water after everyone in a wedding has washed their hands and the plats have been cleaned in this? And then, without a prayer, or touching the water, in a very quiet way, somehow this cleaning water turns into wine and good wine at that. Even the organiser of the banquet was impressed with the quality of the wine. Normally the best was served first, but here we have good wine coming later.

And loads of wine. It is estimated that Jesus made between 500-750 litters[12] of good wine from dirty water.

This was a miracle. John calls it a sign. But what does it mean?

What does this mean?

We are told what it means. Verse 11. Check it out.
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.
From this sign, Jesus’ glory is revealed and from this His disciples believe in him. The disciples see what is done and look to the doer. From seeing the water turn to wine they believe in him. This is exactly why John wrote his gospels for us. John states his purpose or agenda of this book near the her. From John 20:
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-21)
The disciples saw Jesus miracle and they believed in Him. John wants us to do the same. To see what Jesus does and to believe in Him. And in believing Jesus we will have life.

In this miracle, we see a bit of Jesus’ glory. He is showing us a little of Himself. We see He is bigger than we think.

Jesus, in showing some much of Himself, we see the abundance and the higher quality of what Jesus offers.

There was the old Jewish system, but Jesus uses that to make something better.

Jesus turns dirty ritual water into good wine, the best wine. Jesus replaced the Jewish ritual with something better[13].

Jesus can take something that is dirty and ordinary and make it good and of high quality.

When His hour finally comes, Jesus is lifted in glory (John 3:14-15; 8:28; 12:32-36), but not in how we might think. He is put on a cross and dies for our sins.

It is another red liquid that brings us joy. It is by His blood, that makes us clean from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9), from all sin. We get brought back to God and we rejoice.

This term we will see more and more of Jesus’ glory and after seeing Jesus and who He is and what He has done, the question to ask yourself is, do you believe in Him? We will talk more about Him in our groups.

[1] There is debate over if there really are symbolically seven signs in John and what constitutes a sign. I am going with the traditional list, so the cleaning of the temple isn’t a sign, the feeding of the 5,000 and Jesus walking on the water are two different signs, and Jesus’ resurrection isn’t counted (as that takes place in the Book of Glory). I am not sure if John was really at pains to have seven signs, just that he wrote about some signs of Jesus.

[2] D. A. Carson (1991), The Gospel According to John (Pillar New Testament Commentary)

[3] Hendriksen, William (1954), The Gospel of John, p117

[4] R. C. Sproul (2009), John (St Andrew’s Expositional Commentary)

[5] R. C. Sproul (2009), John (St Andrew’s Expositional Commentary); D. A. Carson (1991), The Gospel According to John (Pillar New Testament Commentary); Köstenberger, Andreas J. (2004), John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)

[6] Ps 104:15, Pesah 109a

[7] R. C. Sproul (2009), John (St Andrew’s Expositional Commentary)

[8] R. C. Sproul (2009), John (St Andrew’s Expositional Commentary)

[9] D. A. Carson (1991), The Gospel According to John (Pillar New Testament Commentary); Köstenberger, Andreas J. (2004), John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)

[10] D. A. Carson (1991), The Gospel According to John (Pillar New Testament Commentary); Köstenberger, Andreas J. (2004), John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)

[11] D. A. Carson (1991), The Gospel According to John (Pillar New Testament Commentary)

[12] D. A. Carson (1991), The Gospel According to John (Pillar New Testament Commentary)

[13] D. A. Carson (1991), The Gospel According to John (Pillar New Testament Commentary)

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