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Feb 16, 2020

A Party Miracle

Passage: John 2:1-11

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Miracles in John

Keywords: jesus, marriage, joy, miracles, wedding, traditions

Summary:

Sometimes we need miracles even when life is good...and when we may be totally unaware of the problems about to devastate us. John introduces us to 7 miracles of Jesus with a wedding celebration. You'll be surprised what each person connected to this miracle can teach you about Jesus and what He is waiting to do with you.

Detail:

A Party Miracle

John 2:1-12

February 16, 2020

 

Starting a new 7-week series leading up to Easter:  Miracles of Jesus in the Gospel of John

John’s Gospel is highly symbolic in the way it presents facts about the Lord and His ministry. John made no attempt to portray events in their chronological order. He chose only 7 miracles, followed by 7 discourses and 7 “I am” statements:

  • I am the Bread of Life … 6:35,
  • I am the Light of the World … 8:12,
  • I am the Gate … 10:7,
  • I am the Good Shepherd … 10:11,
  • I am the Resurrection and the Life … 11:25,
  • I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life … 14:6, and
  • I am the Vine … 15:1.

His entire gospel covers only about 21 days out of 3 1/2 years of Jesus’ life. 

John devotes 10 chapters to just one week and nearly 1/3 (237 vss.) of the 879 verses of John’s Gospel describe just one day.

What is a miracle?

Wayne Grudem-- "A miracle is a less common kind of God's activity in which he arouses people's awe and wonder and bears witness to himself.”

Why are they important?

Text:  John 2:1-11

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”

 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”

 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.

 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 

When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 

11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

A little background and context about this story:

Jewish wedding feasts lasted for 7 days, and to run out of wine so early would have been not just embarrassing to say the least. It could have meant a law-suit from your new in-laws. 

So this may be one good reason why Mary asked Jesus to get involved in something that was really not his concern.  This beverage shortage could have really thrown a monkey wrench into this poor couple’s marriage and possibly a whole lot of relatives.

Cana was probably about 8-9 miles from Nazareth, where Jesus grew up. We don’t know the social connection, but apparently Mary and Jesus knew the family (Joseph may have been dead by this time; but, see 6:42). John never uses Mary’s name, but refers to her as “the mother of Jesus.”

The disciples at this point would probably be just the five men mentioned in chapter 1. John doesn’t mention “the twelve” until 6:67; he never tells us how the other seven came to be disciples.

Jewish weddings had three stages. First was betrothal, which took place at least a year before the wedding celebration. This could not be broken except by divorce. When Joseph first learned that Mary was pregnant with Jesus, they were betrothed and so he sought to divorce her for unchastity (Matt. 1:18-19). The second phase was the procession, where the groom and his friends would go to the bride’s house and joyously lead her and her friends back to his house.

The third stage, which is described in our text, was the wedding feast, which could last for as long as a week. It was a major social event for the community.

The stone jars:  6 was the ‘number of man,’ the number associated most frequently in Hebrew culture with mankind and human effort. 

Held 20-30 gallons each…from 120-180 gallons of water (2,000-3,000 cups of wine) total.

These jars held water normally used only for ceremonial washing, a symbolic act of cleansing from sin, not for cleaning off the dust of the road or other dirt. They were placed at the door so a person would not enter a friend’s house in a ceremonially “unclean” state and contaminate the house. By dipping their fingers into the water and wiping them dry, a person would symbolically “wash away their sins” and be ceremonially clean.   Some believe that this water would also have contained a sprinkling of ashes from a red heifer, in case anyone had inadvertently touched something dead (see Numbers 19).

The Jewish purification rituals were extensive. The last book of the Mishnah (the first major written collection of the Jewish oral traditions known as the "Oral Torah". It is also the first major work of rabbinic literature) contained 126 chapters with 1,001 separate items of purification. There are two special sections with instructions about purifying hands and vessels, the latter containing over 30 chapters! The “vessel” purification consisted of 30+ chapters while purifying “hands” took up 3 chapters! (I’ll bet that was exciting reading! J) [Alfred Edersheim, The Life & Times of Jesus the Messiah, book III, p. 357.]

 Judaism had become a religion that emphasized external cleansing and rituals while neglecting the state of their hearts…which were often far from God (Mark 7:6-8). 

Jesus’ miracle seems to point to more than just an abundance of wine.  He’s probably indicating that He replacing the Old Covenant tedious regulations of washing with the New Covenant wine of joy in abundance.  Wine was to symbolize the abundance of the new age (cf. Jer. 31:12; Hos. 2:22; 14:7; Joel 3:18; Amos 9:12-14).

When it comes to narrative literature (which the Gospels are), one of the ways to look at a passage is through the eyes of the various people involved. 

And it is valuable to ask ourselves, “Who in this story can I relate to most right now?”  “Whose position or need or role or relationship can I most identify with right now?” 

So, let’s identify the participants/players in this wedding feast story.  And let’s talk a bit about what we need to know about them in order to understand what is really going on in this miracle?  Listen carefully because I’m going to ask you to put yourself in their sandals and try to think or feel what they are thinking and feeling.

Let’s take them in the order in which they come in the story.

  1. Jesus—this is prior to performing any miracle. Had just chosen 5 of the 12 disciples.  He’s just beginning His public ministry.

CHARACTER GROUP 1

  1. Some disciples of Jesus: 2--“Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.” Was probably there with 5 of his 12 already mentioned:  Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip, Nathanael and John (the ‘unnamed disciple’ of 1:35).
  2. The mother of Jesus, Mary, who (by the way) is never referred to as Mary by John in this Gospel, perhaps to keep her from being confused with the other Marys in the Gospels (Jn. 19:25). “Jesus’ mother was there…”—probably helping out with the party. Looks from vs. 3 like she had something to do with the catering arrangements.
  • It also suggests that either the bride or groom may have been a relative of Mary and Jesus for them both to be there.
  • What does her request reveal about her relationship with his mother and hers to him? Remember, Jesus was the eldest of a number of siblings (Mt. 12:46-50; Mk. 3:31-34; Lk. 8:19-21) and probably man of the house. 
  • Jesus doesn’t use an especially endearing term (gynai) when he responds to Mary’s statement. He could have, but didn’t.  He wasn’t being disrespectful.  He was courteous but certainly not cordial or warmly sentimental.  “Ma’am” as used in the south perhaps comes closest to the sense. 
  • Jesus follow-up statement isn’t a warm, fuzzy one either: “Why do you involve me.” Literally, “What to me and to you?”  It’s a rather abrupt tone.  Greek scholar D. A. Carson says it is a rather common Jewish idiom that “always distances the two parties” when used (Jdg. 11:12; 2 Sam. 16:10) and has a “tone… [with] some degree of reproach.”  [D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, p. 170.] 

CHARACTER GROUP 2

  1. Servants: Don’t read back into this story what you already know, i.e. the ending of a miraculous provision of wine.  Put yourself in their sandals, their role, their work, their social position, etc.  Walk through every step of the events from their perspective of being in the dark about what is unfolding but also being on the inside, closest to the action. 

CHARACTER GROUP 3

  1. The “master of the banquet”, probably a sort of master of ceremonies in our modern context.
  2. The wedding couple: To run out of wine at a wedding was a major social blunder that would have been very embarrassing and even could have led to legal action against the groom’s family, which had failed to provide the proper wedding gift (Morris, p. 179). It may mean that they were poor. But in a shame-based culture, this social mishap would have been hard to live down.
  3. The invited guests:

Each of them had a very unique experience with Jesus at this wedding and a very unique encounter with this miracle Jesus performed. 

Discussion Groups:  Now, I’d like you to group up into bunches of 3-5 people and for 10 minutes look at this story through the eyes of ONE of the participant players.  Ask questions like,

  • WHO was this person/persons? Describe them as fully as possible.
  • How were they probably perceived or viewed by others around them?
  • What might they have been thinking as this story unfolded?
  • What were they probably feeling?
  • What did they DO in this story? In what ways was their participation in this story significant or important?

Then ask, “What did their encounter with Jesus reveal to them about himself?  What would that person have said they learned about Jesus through this event and miracle?   Since He is God, what does that tell us about God?” 

Now let’s look at these people one at a time and see what God might want to be teaching us through them and His interaction with them. 

LESSONS & PRINCIPLES for US?

DISCIPLES:

  1. Jesus doesn’t need us and doesn’t always use us to do his greatest miracles. We are not indispensable.  Sometimes He just wants us to be still, watch and enjoy.
  2. Sometimes we’re going to have to establish boundaries with those we love most in order to do what God wants WHEN He wants it. We’ll sometimes have to disappoint our closest friends and family in order to please God.
  3. When we catch glimpses of Christ at work, it should always lead us to deeper/greater belief in Him.
  4. Jesus will reveal His glory/His power/His provision in the ebb and flow of life.
  5. Our need is Jesus’ opportunity to reveal His glory.
  6. When you walk with Jesus, you have no idea what an average day may hold.

MARY: 

  1. If anything, Jesus is showing us that God doesn’t play “family favorites.” In fact, everywhere you find Mary, the mother of Jesus, popping up in the Gospels, you will find that Jesus is taking pains to put distance between him and her rather than establish her as some mediator between people and himself.  (See “Who is my true mother, brother, etc.” passages:  12:46-50; Mk. 3:31-34; Lk. 8:19-21 & Jn 19:25-29.)
  2. But here is the other side of this deal. While Jesus initially rebuffs and even perhaps rebukes his mother, she doesn’t get offended or give up.  She doesn’t lose faith in Jesus.  She doesn’t go off in a corner and cry or pout because Jesus isn’t doing something the way she may have wanted it done. 
  3. Here is a woman who models what she tells others to do: do what Jesus says to do!  She kept on believing that Jesus was probably going to do something that may have remedied the situation.  She didn’t know what that would be.  She just knew that her Jesus, her and the world’s Savior, knew how to handle crisis situations and that he usually involved other people in the process.  She let him know there was a need she couldn’t meet but she believed he could, if necessary. 
  4. Jesus knows the right timing for everything; we think the moment of our need…our timing…is always best and right.
  5. Jesus not only hears our requests; he’s often waiting for us to ask him.
  6. Jesus doesn’t usually tell us how or when he’s going to answer our requests…but He will.

SERVANTS:

  1. Jesus likes to work behind the scenes, in ways that are sometimes visible to just a few.
  2. Jesus if far more interested in bringing joy than keeping traditions, in blessing needy people than satisfying stuffy religionists.
  3. Jesus has POWER! He has creative power no one else has.
  4. Jesus does things in a quality way.
  5. Jesus is generous and super-abundant.
  6. Jesus will seriously test your faith and obedience.
  7. Don’t expect Jesus to answer your need the way you envision.
  8. Jesus will sometimes require really hard work from us before he gives a miracle from him.
  9. Jesus often uses/employs/taps/calls upon the least-likely people to do His most amazing work. (Didn’t chose the disciples.)
  10. Your position in life/family/society doesn’t limit in the least what God wants to do through you to bless others.
  11. Jesus will sometimes put you in situations where you will really be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.

The Master of the Banquet

  1. Jesus does things no one will expect.
  2. Jesus saves the best for the last.
  3. He cares about poor people and their special occasions.
  4. He cares about weddings…and marriages.
  5. Religious traditions mean little to Him; abundant joy means much more.
  6. He knows how to create a really good time; how to throw a really great party.
  7. Jesus does some of his best work behind the scenes and unnoticed by the crowd.
  8. Christ is humble about what He does, not demanding that everyone take notice.

THE GROOM/COUPLE

Here is God himself, in disguise, in human flesh, the very Being who created marriage itself as a human picture of the love God enjoys in himself in the Trinity, watching this poor, nervous, unprepared groom just about have a social melt-down of horrific proportions. 

  1. Jesus blesses us even before we know we’ve got needs. He frequently spares us from disasters (even social ones) we may not even know were threatening us with defeat. 
  2. Jesus cares about the sometimes complex extended family relationships we find ourselves in.
  3. Jesus loves to step in where we have run out.
  4. Jesus care far more about our needs than other’s religious demands.

Jesus loves to make weddings that bless people.  If He did this on the spur of the moment, imagine what He’s been planning for His own wedding to US, the church, in heaven!

APP: 

  • What need or even crisis are you facing right now?
  • Where is Jesus in all of it?
  • If you were to ask Him to help you out, what would you ask?
  • Would you be okay with an answer that was different from your idea of a preferred solution?
  • Which person in this story can you most relate to right now?