January 17, 2016 - John 2.1-11

“What Does the Sign Say?

John 2:1-11

January 17, 2016


On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.


What is John trying to tell us in this story?  Is he trying to convince us of something, using 150 gallons of wine that magically appear, about Jesus?


People today have a hard time believing in miracles.  We have programmed our selves to understand everything in a rational, scientific manner.  We are taught the laws of biology and physics, and are assured that they are for the most part constant...except for bumblebees not possessing the proper wing size to fly...and dolphins not being physically able to jump as high as they actually do...things like that.  People today don’t believe in miracles because we don’t want to.  We can break things down to a chemical reaction and a predictability factor, but why does water expand when it freezes, when everything else in the universe contracts?  Why does the human body posses an ability to heal itself...we can predict it, but can we explain it? 


Let us look at this story for a moment.  Were we to strip away the context of this story, forget that it was Jesus doing this, forget the Jewish rituals involved in marriage and purification, and just look at it as 6 big jars of water being turned into wine, what would we do?  Honestly, an appropriate response might be to clap and say, “Cool...do another one.”  The miracle here is not grand in scope, but it is deep in meaning, and it is the meaning that makes it a miracle.  In fact, John does not call it a miracle.  He calls it a sign.


The miracle reveals God in what is done and confirms the disciples’ faith.  It is a breaking into normal time and reality of God’s love and generosity.  The sign is a window through which a glimpse of God is revealed. 


Since John does not call his miracles “miracles”, but signs, that tells us something.  The significance of this act does not reside in the deed, but in the doer.  Not in the act itself, but in the one that did the action.  Not in the miracle, but in that to which the miracle points.  Jesus is the Son of God.


Eugene Lowry states that there are two kinds of knowing something.  One is the way when you work on some sort of mathematical equation or a crossword puzzle and say, when you solve it, “I got it.”  The other kind of knowing is when you attend some really good play or movie, or read a great work of literature, and you emerge from the experience changed, gripped by what you witnessed, different because of what you have seen.  You don’t say, “I got it.”  What you say is, “It got me.”  That’s what happened to the disciples today in our scripture.  Jesus gives them all a sign and some of them see it for what it was.  They are changed. They see God’s glory.  It got them.


We are prisoners of our conceptions when it comes to looking at miracles.  We perceive things in predictable patterns.  We try to make everything we see fit those patterns.  The steward in this text does the same thing. He assumes that the host has kept the best wine in secret.  150 gallons of it.  He does not allow for the possibility that there might be something bigger going on.  The disciples on the other hand, allowed their conceptions to be re-shaped by this transformation, and it got them.


At the men’s breakfast one day, we talked about the story of John Wimber.  John Wimber is the founder of the Vineyard Church, which is now a worldwide denomination.  John has lived a rather interesting life.  He was a rock musician, a rowdy fellow, dabbled in drugs, that sort of thing.  Then, in a dramatic conversion, he came to know God and gave his life to Jesus Christ.  Since he was now a Christian, he went to a church service.  On the way out, when he got to the pastor, he asked, “So when do you do all those exorcisms and miracles and healings and stuff?”  He had read about them in his Bible and wanted to see them.  The pastor replied, “Oh we believe in those things, but we don’t do them at church.”  Wimber said to him, “You mean to tell me that I gave up drugs for this?”  People want to see the power of God in action.  As Christians, we need to be able to recognize a miracle when we see it.


My wife was diagnosed with cancer – in 1986.  She’s still here 27 years later.  I think that’s a miracle.  I have had pneumonia twice in the last 3 years – and almost got it this month, but I am still here thanks to antibiotics.  I think that’s a miracle.  How many people do you know that have had heart by-pass procedures?  I think those are miracles.  I know of man in Iowa that lived a life that was so torn up by violence and self-destruction that he was kicked of his submarine, kicked out of the navy because he was too violent and they told him he would be dead by the time he was 30.  He later fell off a second story ledge, landed on his head on a block of concrete, and fractured his neck in several places.  The doctors told him that he should have been a quadriplegic.  Now, in his 40s, his neck is healed, he has no physical limitations, one of the kindest and gentlest people I know, he is married with two beautiful daughters, owns his own business and is a part time youth minister at his church.  I think that is a miracle.  You and I are sinners that have no chance for salvation on our own merit, but can be saved because God loves us so much.  THAT is a miracle.


C.S. Lewis – God In The Dock – the speed of things.  Water to wine.

Signs of God are all around us.  It is time we opened our eyes to see them. 


One of the biggest keys to understanding this sign is to look at all the symbolic meaning of all the elements of this text.  It is at a wedding.  The Bible speaks of the Messiah coming to take up God’s people like “a bridegroom coming for his bride.”  Jesus uses the empty jars in his sign.  These jars were used for Jewish purification rituals.  Jesus’ ministry is about purifying all of us in the eyes of God, so that we might be saved.  By using these jars, Jesus gives new meaning to the old purification rituals and breaks the established patterns in favor of something newer, better and bolder!  Jesus later says regarding a cup of wine, that it is his blood of the new covenant, shed for us.  Here we have a foreshadowing of that.


The Christian faith is faith in a person, a conviction that God gets personal, that God comes close to us. Christianity is more than a set of cold, abstract, theological principles. Christianity is a human reaction to a God who is with us. So St. Paul says, "I know in whom I have believed." Paul does not say, "I know what I believe," as if he believed in a system of ideas. Nor does he say, "I know that I believe," as if his belief were a free- floating belief in belief. Paul's belief is personal trust in an engaging person - Jesus Christ.


This is a miracle of extravagance, abundance, of transformation and new possibilities.  Not just about wine or a party.  It is about Jesus doing something new and grand that is outside our normal expectations.

It is an example of the in-breaking of God.  Is God waiting for the chance to change your water into wine?  Is Jesus waiting to transform your life in such a dramatic fashion as this?  This is just a sign, MERELY a sign, that points to Jesus and says “Great and glorious things are about to happen!”  Jesus has shown that God is extraordinarily generous.  What gifts of abundance, of extravagance are awaiting you?  What new possibilities await us all if we will give ourselves up to God’s will?


God’s glory is revealed in this sign.  May his glory be revealed in us all.  Amen.

  April 2018  
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