A family was riding home from church one Sunday, and the mom asked her second-grade daughter about her Sunday school lesson for the day. The little girl said, “We learned the story about Jesus turning the water into wine at Cana.” Then she enthusiastically told the whole story.
When she was finished, her mom asked, “So what did you learn from the story?”
The little girl thought for a moment and said, “Well, if you’re going to have a party, make sure you invite Jesus!”
She’s right, you know. Today’s Gospel text affirms it. Let’s take a quick look at the story.
It begins with these words: “On the third day . . .” connecting it to the story before it. Jesus promised Nathaniel that if he were to come with Him, he would see greater things – heaven and earth intersecting with angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man, Jesus. This is exactly what Nathaniel and the others will start seeing at Cana, and at a wedding party of all things!
I love the fact that Jesus went to wedding parties. I love the image of Him being with people, celebrating with them in the joy, dancing, and joking around. It is a great picture!
I’m reminded of a statement made by Rick Christian, “Christianity isn’t for deadheads. At least not if you take Christ as the model. He was not so much a ‘man of sorrows’ (Isaiah 53:3) as a man of joy. We know he didn’t stifle his tears – but he also didn’t cover up his laughter and joy. He liked parties and fun and swarms of kids . . . The stories Jesus told were often of joyous feasts and celebrations. He likened the Kingdom of God not to a convention of blurry-eyed librarians but to a rollicking banquet and a wedding feast – tremendous times of joy. Joy was indeed ‘serious business’ with Jesus Christ.”
Christ was enjoying this wedding in Cana, but the party was sinking fast. It was headed toward a failure, for they had run out of wine. It was on the brink of being a social disaster, an embarrassment for the bridegroom and the families. It could even have been considered a bad omen by the newlyweds. Obviously, someone – perhaps the bridegroom himself – had miscalculated how much wine would be needed for this party, which would last four to seven days. Wine was the sign of joy. This party needed rescuing.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, must have had some connection with the host families for the celebration, for she knew the seriousness of the situation at hand. She turned to Jesus with the problem interceding on their behalf. “They’ve run out of wine.”
He answered, “Dear woman, what does that have to do with you and me? My hour has not yet come.”
Still believing in Jesus, Mary left the whole matter in His hands instructing the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” She was showing faith in her Son, which shouldn’t surprise us. After all, she had heard from the angel Gabriel thirty years earlier that the child she would bear and raise would be special. He would be called the Son of God.
So Mary not only asked Jesus for help, but she also instructed the servant to “do whatever He tells you.” She left it with Jesus. It was almost as if she was yielding her request to His will. That, my friend, is faith.
Jesus compassionately came to the rescue. He told the servants to fill six ceremonial jars used for the Jewish rite of purification – each holding 20 – 30 gallons of water. Then He had them draw some of it out and take it to the chief steward of the feast. When the chief steward tasted the water that had become wine, he didn’t know where it had come from, though the servants knew. He went to the bridegroom and said, You know, usually the best wine is served first and then the inferior wine when the guests have become drunk and don’t know the difference. But you, my friend, have done just the opposite. This is fantastic wine! Interesting isn’t it? The One who later would call Himself the bridegroom saved a bridegroom that day with His presence and power.
John editorializes at the end of the narrative. He says, “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.”
Notice, John refers to this miracle as a sign, the first of Jesus’ signs that would reveal His glory, who He is – heaven meeting earth. It was the heavenly reality of John 1:1, 14: “The Word was with God, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
This sign reveals not only who Jesus is, but also what He brings to a life: rescue. He rescued a wedding party that day. How compassionate of Jesus. He stepped in to help, even with the little things.
This sign points to the last sign where His glory would really be revealed. When Jesus told His mother, “My hour has not yet come,” He was talking about the cross where the ultimate sign happened. The glory of God would shine as heaven and earth intersected a cross. He will be the sacrifice that takes away the sins of the world. The greatest sign of God’s love and compassion for sinful humanity – you and me – who stand as sinful and helpless before a holy God. He rescued us. God will raise Him up on Easter affirming Him and His sacrifice offering us forgiveness.
We also see Jesus has the power to transform. He brings transformation, a new quality to life. One hundred eighty gallons of wine is quite an abundance of wine, which is something the Old Testament prophecies predicted – abundance would come with the messianic age, when Messiah comes.
In this story we find not only quantity but also quality. The steward said, “You’ve served the best wine last!” I am reminded of John’s statement about Jesus, “From his (Christ’s) fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:16-17).
Could it be that those purification jars represented the ritualism of the law of Moses where people would need cleansing again and again, and this was a sign that they were being replaced with the new wine of the Gospel of grace and truth in Jesus Christ? This new wine of Jesus is for the relief of the guilty conscience burdened by failures. Soon Christ’s once-and-for-all sacrifice at the cross will once and for all save and completely cleanse those who come to God through Jesus Christ.
Jesus not only has the power to forgive our sins then, but to also change us. He cleanses us and changes us, making us new creations. Just as the Old Testament prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel dreamed of a new day, a new heart, a new spirit, a new covenant with God’s law written on people’s hearts, we are now empowered to walk obediently with God. Christ gives new life, new future, and new power.
I love the testimony of an ex-convict, Harold Morris, who speaks of his liberating new life in Christ. He writes, “The promise of 2 Corinthians 5:17 is that a person in Christ becomes a new creature. That included Convict 62345. Old habits and attitudes were replaced as the Spirit of God worked in my life. The vengeance that I had nourished for five years and the rebellious spirit that had been a driving force in my life relaxed their grip when Christ took control. Little by little he replaced my hatred by his love. Sometimes I lay in the prison yard looking at the sky and relishing the joy and peace that I’d found in Christ. The bars and fences were still there, as were the guards with their high-powered rifles. But I had an inner strength I’d never known before – the very presence of Christ.”
An event like this rescue party in Cana also points us to another moment to come, an eternal moment. The wedding is a foretaste of the great heavenly feast in store for God’s forgiven people, according to John’s heavenly vision in Revelation 21. Listen to these words:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a voice from the throne saying,
“. . . and God will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, . . . he will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death shall be no more; neither shall there be morning nor crying no pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
Jesus provides not only a new life in the here-and-now, but also an eternal life with Him in His heaven.
This story, then, is saved and written in the power of the Spirit to be a sign for readers like you and me. It points us to the truth that, in Jesus Christ, heaven intersects earth. He has come to be our heavenly rescuer – the Word became flesh – to be a transformer of our lives.
Jesus also said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (to the full)” John 10:10. People have been discovering the truth of this statement from Jesus for centuries since. They have discovered that Jesus was and still is the life of the party, the one you want to invite.
So I ask, why would a person not invite Him to their party and to their life? Why not believe in Him as His disciples did at the end of our story for today? Why not trust Him with your life here and now, and for eternity? Furthermore, why not put ourselves in the position of the servants acting on Mary’s instructions to do whatever He says? Obey His word, for He speaks to us from Scripture about how life works best for His followers as we follow His word?
Why not bring Him our petitions, our predicaments, and our problems, fully yielding ourselves, surrendering ourselves to His good and perfect will in faith. For He who was in the beginning creating the world, creating humanity, surely He would know what makes life work best for us. And He who laid down His life for us at a cross to redeem us and rose from the grave, wouldn’t He have our best interests in mind? Of course He would!
This is our appeal from God’s holy word today. Jesus Christ – heaven intersecting earth. Invite Him to your party, into your life. Experience for yourself heaven intersecting with your life. Experience His nearness, His faithfulness, His forgiveness, His grace, His compassion, and His joy as you trust and obey Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
If you’re going to have a party, you’d better invite Jesus. This is our message for today. Amen.
Pastor Steve Kramer