************ Sermon on John 2:11 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 17, 2005
"Jesus' First Sign"
I The Sign at Cana
A One day a wedding takes place at Cana. Jesus' mother is there, and Jesus and His disciples have also been invited. John does not disclose the names of the happy couple but probably they are either close friends or family of Mary and Jesus.
At the time of Jesus, marriage was preceded by a betrothal ceremony – something like our engagement, but much more serious. In the betrothal a couple pledged themselves to each other for life. This betrothal pledge was so binding that it took divorce proceedings to sever the relationship. At the conclusion of the betrothal period, usually about a year, the wedding ceremony took place. According to Jewish customs at that time, the wedding would take place on a Wednesday if the bride was a virgin and on a Thursday if she was a widow. The bridegroom and his friends would parade to the bride's house where they would be met by the bride and her friends. Usually this was done at night so there could be a spectacular display of torchlight. Then the whole group would go in procession to the groom's house where the wedding and wedding banquet was to be held.
In the story in front of us all the wine is used up before the feast ends. The rabbis said, "There is no rejoicing save with wine." Though the rabbis severely disapproved of all carousing and drunkenness they, like the psalmist, saw wine as a gift from God to gladden the heart of man (Ps 104:15). So, the lack of wine threatens to disrupt the wedding celebration. The lack of wine also makes the groom and his family look cheap and ill-prepared and insults the bride and her family.
Mary informs Jesus about the lack of wine. She appears to expect Jesus to do something about this. And He does! He orders the servants to fill with water 6 stone jars used by the Jews for ceremonial washing. This they do, "to the brim." The words, "to the brim," indicate there is nothing but water in the jars and there is no room for anything else to be added. Jesus' next command is to "draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet."
John does not tell us how or when the miracle takes place. All that he says is that "the water turned into wine." Jesus turns 120+ gallons of water into 120+ gallons of wine. This miracle allows the wedding celebration to continue. And, it saves the groom and his family from an embarrassing situation.
It is the master of the banquet who confirms the reality of the miracle. He tastes the water that has been turned into wine. He does not realize where it has come from, but he does recognize its quality. He calls the bridegroom aside and says,
(Jn 2:10) "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."
B It has often been suggested that this miracle didn't really happen, that it is just a story and not fact. According to those who talk this way, the real story is that when the wine ran out, Jesus commands water to be used. The "master of the banquet" plays along with this joke by saying that this is the best wine. Others think that the Gospel writer, John, has taken over a heathen legend and applies it to Christ. And, still others deny this miracle because they are embarrassed that our Lord has anything to do with alcohol.
We can't go along with any suggestions which either deny or take away from this miracle. Scripture tells us that water is turned into wine so that is what we have to believe. To deny this is to deny Scripture; and, to deny Scripture here means not a single part of our faith can be certain anymore.
C Our text tells us that this is "the first of his miraculous signs." Of the 7 miracles of Jesus that John records, this is the first one.
This first miracle is a "sign." In John's Gospel a "sign" points to Jesus' special relationship with God. In His conversation with Jesus, Nicodemus says,
(Jn 3:2) "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him." The same point is raised after Jesus, on the Sabbath, heals a man born blind:
(Jn 9:16) Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath." But others asked, "How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?" So they were divided.
All 7 miracles recorded by John are signs. They point to Jesus' special relationship to and with God. They are a statement that He is from God, of God, and with God – in other words, that He is the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God, the King of Israel (cf John 1:41,45,49).
Our text tells us two things about the sign in front of us. First, the miraculous transformation of the water into wine reveals Christ's glory and, second, it arouses faith.
II The Sign Reveals Christ's Glory
A According to our text, the changing of the water into wine reveals Christ's glory. What does the Holy Spirit mean by this? In mind here is Christ's glory as the Messiah.
One of John's dominant themes in chapters 2-10 is the replacement and fulfillment of Jewish institutions and rituals in and by and through Messiah Jesus. For example, Jesus, not Jacob's well, is the source of living water (John 4:1-14). Jesus, not the building in Jerusalem, is the real temple. Jesus replaces temple worship at Jerusalem or Gerizim with worship in the Spirit (John 4:21ff). Jesus' flesh and blood gives life in a way that the manna of the wilderness did not (John 6:25ff). Jesus, not the temple torches, is the light that lights up men's lives. Not the temple altar, but Jesus Himself is consecrated to God.
In all of this replacement theology the message is clear: Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God, the King of Israel.
In our Scripture passage we have this same theme of Messianic replacement. We are told about six stone water jars, "the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing." According to Jewish ritual and practice, people and things must be ceremonially cleansed before coming to God in worship. The water of purification used by the Jews for washing hands and vessels is replaced by the choicest of wines. This replacement is a sign of Who Jesus is. No longer is there a need for the Jewish purification rites and ceremonies as a means to get to God. They have been replaced by Jesus. As Jesus puts it,
(Jn 14:6) "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."All previous religious institutions, customs, and feasts lose their meaning and relevance in His presence. Jesus is now the only way to the Father. He is the Messiah.
It is important that this sign at Cana was performed during a wedding banquet. In the Old Testament, the wedding banquet is a symbol for the days of the Messiah (Is 54:4-10; 62:1-5). And, it is equally important that Jesus made such an abundance of wine, 120+ gallons of the stuff. In the Old Testament much wine symbolizes the joy of the Messianic days (Amos 9:13,14; cf 2 Baruch 29:5). The message here is plain and easy to understand: Jesus is the Messiah.
B Verse 4 begins to make sense only when we realize the sign at Cana reveals Christ's glory as Messiah. In reply to Mary's statement, "They have no more wine," Jesus said, "Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come."
"My time has not yet come." There is no doubt that Jesus is the Messiah. However, the time for the full revelation of His glory as Messiah has not yet come. This too is a recurring theme in John's Gospel (cf 7:6,8,30; 8:20). It is only when the cross is an immediate prospect that Jesus says, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified" (John 12:23; cf John 12:27,28a). And, "Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you" (John 17:1).
"My time has not yet come." The full revelation of Jesus' glory as Messiah awaits the cross and the grave. Nevertheless, the message of the first sign at Cana is so very clear: Jesus is the Messiah, the way to the Father.
III The Sign Arouses Faith
A According to our text, the changing of the water into wine not only reveals Christ's glory as Messiah, but it also arouses faith.
This is what happened at Cana. The disciples, we are told, see Jesus do the sign and they "put their faith in him." The same thing happened in Jerusalem. "Many people saw the miraculous signs (Jesus) was doing and believed in his name" (John 2:23).
At the end of the book John tells us the purpose of all miraculous signs and why he included them in his Gospel:
(Jn 20:30-31) Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. (31) But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
The purpose of the sign at Cana, the purpose of all Jesus' signs, is to lead us to faith and belief. Like Nicodemus, we are to confess that Jesus comes from God. "For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him" (John 3:2).
Even the Pharisees and chief priests see that Jesus' signs lead to faith. They call a meeting of the Sanhedrin and complain,
(Jn 11:47-48) "What are we accomplishing?" they asked. "Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. (48) If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him ..."
B Everyone who sees the signs done by Jesus should believe. Yet, as John himself tells us, not everyone who saw the signs believed. The Scribes and Pharisees were that way. With an incredulous tone to his voice John says,
(Jn 12:37) Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. John has a hard time understanding how anyone can witness Jesus' signs and still not believe in Him as the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God, the King of Israel.
John realizes that the unbelief of the Jews fulfills the words of the Old Testament Scriptures. They could not believe, because, as Isaiah says,
(Jn 12:40) "He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn--and I would heal them."
A Sunday School teacher was giving a lesson on this once. He explained to the boys and girls that every time you say "No" to Jesus, your heart gets a little harder, and if you keep on saying "No," the heart gets harder and harder until eventually God calls it a heart of stone. Those who die with a heart of stone end up in the fires of hell.
A little five year old girl in this teacher's class was thinking of her father as the teacher talked of a heart of stone. You see, this little girl's dad always said "No" to Jesus and never came to church. When she got home she darted into her father's arms, and said, "Daddy, Daddy, feel your heart! Is it getting like stone?" He said, "What are you talking about?" She said, "The man at Sunday School said if you say 'No' to Jesus you are going to get a stone inside. Oh, Daddy, I hope you haven't, for if you have, you can't be saved."We all need to feel our heart. What do you feel there? Do you feel a heart of stone, a heart that keeps saying "No" to Jesus? Or, have you said "Yes" to Christ?
The father said angrily to the mother, "What nonsense have they been teaching this child?" Then the mother explained.
The man saw the tears in his wife's eyes. He felt the arms of his little girl about his neck; he heard her saying, "Daddy, Daddy, feel your heart. Don't say 'No' to Jesus anymore." He looked up and said, "It's time to settle this. Right then and there he got down on his knees and yielded his life to Christ.
C It starts off with Scripture. It always starts off with Scripture. So, I urge you, congregation, to go to Scripture. Read about the sign at Cana; read about the healing of the official's son (John 4:43ff); read about the cure of the man at Bethesda pool (John 5:1ff); read of the multiplication of the fish and loaves and the feeding of the 5000 (John 6:1ff); read how Jesus walked on water (John 6:16ff); read how Jesus gave sight to a man born blind (John 9:1ff); read how He raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1ff). Read all of this and believe; believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the way to the Father. Look at the signs and have faith; have faith that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Don't forget,
(Jn 20:31) (all) these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
I urge you, congregation, to believe. Jesus changed water into wine, so believe in Him. He showed Himself to be the only way to the Father, so believe in Him. He showed Himself to be the Messiah, so believe in Him. Believe, and have life in His name.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page