When Voices Of Hope Evangelistic Team is ministering in Word and Song, their Fire Choir will sing several songs and then lead the Congregation in singing. Since that isn't possible, please click here and may you be blessed by singing along with "Welcome Holy Spirit."
Water Into Wine
Take your Bible and turn to the Gospel of John chapter two and hold that place as we’ll get to it in a few moments. In the meantime listen as I read from John 20 and 21.
In John 20:30-31, the Apostle John tells us that: 30. . . truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
John 21:25 tells us that "there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written."
Jesus did an astounding number of miracles while He was here on earth. Counting the Lord's resurrection, there are 39 separate miracles of Jesus mentioned in the four Gospels. John's Gospel includes only 11 of these miracles and 8 of those are found only in John.
I believe the story of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana contains one of the most powerful messages in all of Scripture. But it seems that a lot of times, people get snagged on one or more of the details and end up missing the joy of the message. There are several ways in which people get hung up on this story and end up missing the point, so before the message I want to start off by getting those out of the way.
The first stumbling block tends to be issues surrounding alcohol. Alcohol is often a deadly
and destructive force in today’s world as anyone who has lived with an alcoholic or has faced that
addiction themselves can tell you. As a result, there are some whose only commentary on this
story is an attempt to prove that Jesus turned water into grape juice. Don’t get stuck there. This
is not a story about moral teaching.
You might find it uncomfortable and difficult to explain to your children, but the facts of the story are that Jesus was at a wedding party where the guests were already soused. Then, when the wine ran out, instead of saying "Good, now go home and sober up," Jesus provided about 150 gallons more of the best wine around.
All of that is not to say that there aren’t some very good, very Christian reasons for abstinence from alcohol. If you don’t drink, don’t start now. It is just to say that this story is not about that, and if you get too worried about that, you’re going to miss the point.
The second thing that hangs people up in this story is the way that Jesus talks to His mother. No matter that Jesus is 30 years old, most people feel like Jesus is at least a little bit rude to His mother here. So they go off on tangents about obedience, cutting apron strings, and the fact that Jesus gives in and does it anyway. Often I’ve heard Mary’s faith examined, how even though Jesus says "No way, Mom," she goes and puts the servants on stand-by anyway.
Those discussions happen, but I don’t think they’re the reason John put the story in his gospel.
Which brings me to the third stumbling block for this story, and that is the Gospel of John itself. If you have ever read the four Gospels, the four accounts of the life of Jesus that we have in the Bible and read them one after another, you will notice that John is VERY different from the other three.
The other three Gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke all focus on telling the story of Jesus in a pretty straightforward manner. Each one was designed for a different audience, so each one includes and explains slightly different things. But all three of them want to make sure that their readers get the facts of the story. This is what happened to Jesus, this is who we believe Jesus is, and this is what Jesus taught.
But John is different. John was not written to get the facts out there. John was written with the assumption that people already knew the facts about Jesus’ life; it has even been suggested that John was written as a commentary on the other three Gospels. John is not looking to tell his readers what happened in Jesus’ life. John wants to tell his readers what the life of Jesus means, what the core message is really all about.
To enter the Gospel of John is to enter a world of symbols and verses that have at least two or three levels of meaning. Do not use speed reading techniques when reading John. The only way you will ever know what is going on in John is if you STUDY John.
Don’t start new Christians in John. John is a beautiful statement of faith, but it doesn’t mean a flip to someone who hasn’t already absorbed Matthew, Mark, and Luke. John is not for beginners.
John is highly selective about the material that he includes, but because people don’t realize that John is talking in symbols and philosophy and even metaphors, they allow themselves to get
caught up in details...like was it really wine or how dare Jesus talk to his mother that way. At best they end up saying that this is a story about empathy.
Jesus sees people who are embarrassed because they can’t provide for their guests; Jesus feels their pain and helps out. Good sermons can come from all of that, but all of those things stay on the surface. The only way to get at John is to start out with the assumption that the message John wants to convey is below the surface and the details of the story are just a means to that end.
So, let’s go to the story with that in mind. Let’s assume that this is not primarily a story about a wedding, about drinking, or about who scurried around to do what for whom. It’s in John, so it must be something more than that. The first thing to notice is that John does not call it a miracle. In fact, John does not call anything a miracle in his Gospel. Instead, John calls them signs.
He records seven "signs" in his Gospel and changing the water into wine is the first. I believe all that is intentional. This was a sign for people, something that would inform people about what they might expect from this Nazarene, something that would point them toward a deeper meaning.
None of the other Gospel writers saw the miracle at Cana as something worth recording. They were much more impressed with the healings and exorcisms. But John remembered Cana. John saw in Cana a sign that served to define the very purpose for which Christ had come into the world. The servants at the wedding saw water turned into the finest wine. John saw a man who in this first sign declared Himself as an agent of transformation.
Remember, it is only in the Gospel of John that Jesus is recorded as saying, "I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly." This statement, I believe, is what the “sign” at Cana is all about. Water, the basic necessity of life, is changed into wine; the symbol not just of life, but of abundant, joyous, and celebrative life.
If we go into this thinking wine is evil, we miss the boat completely. Wine in Scripture is a symbol of joy and warmth and celebration and abundance. In changing the water into wine and allowing the wedding celebration to continue, Jesus is clueing people in on His mission. Jesus has come to transform the world.
We often think of transformation in terms of opposites. We think of the ugly turned beautiful as in Beauty and the Beast or the kind Dr. Jekyll transformed into the cruel Mr. Hyde. Or we think of change to something unrecognizable like the caterpillar transformed into a butterfly or the transformer toys where a boat becomes a robot.
And it is true that God can and does transform people in those ways. God does take mean, ugly lives and transforms them into beautiful angels of mercy. God does take us when we are crawling along on our bellies and gives us wings to fly. God does take us when we are broken and make us whole.
But there is another type of transformation that is modeled at Cana. At Cana, the object of transformation is something that is already good and pure and necessary. There is nothing that
needs fixing in the water. Water is good. The message of transformation at Cana is not about
making the bad good, but about making the good even better.
It is a message about the Law and Judaism. The jugs that Jesus had filled with water were the water jugs used for ritual purification and washing. They were there so that the wedding guests could comply with Jewish law. Jesus takes that ritual water and turns it into something that wouldn’t satisfy the law. Washing your hands and feet in wine wouldn’t count.
Jesus is making a statement about the Law. The Law is life giving, necessary, good, and pure. But Jesus came to transform the Law into something that was not just necessary, but joyful. It wasn’t that the Law was ugly or evil or impure, what they had was good, but it was just the basics.
Wine often represents the Holy Spirit, Jesus came to transform the Law through Grace, put God back into it, put love into it, make it more than plain water (law), make it wine. Give it texture, taste, let it warm you as the glow spreads through your veins, let it free you to love and laugh. Jesus came to take the wholesome duty of the Law and make it giddy with joy.
And that message that Jesus gave to the Jews at Cana He also gives to us. This is not the message about the transformation of the sinner. John gives us that in the next chapter when He tells Nicodemus that he must be born again. This is the promise for those whose lives are really pretty good. The transformation at Cana is the promise for those who are pretty much on the right track, those with a basic level of faith in God, who treat their neighbor with respect and mercy, who live a life of basic moderation, gentleness and self-control.
This is the message for those whose life is like water, good, nourishing, and life-sustaining.
And the message is, "lighten up." It is not God’s desire that we live our lives with only a sense of duty and resignation. It is good that we obey the commandments, but there’s more to life with Christ than strict legal obedience. "I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly." Not just life, but abundant life, joyous life, life lived in freedom.
This doesn’t mean God promises us material wealth. It doesn’t mean we are promised a life free from pain and suffering. It doesn’t mean we’ll never do another task we don’t enjoy. But, it does mean, that when the water (law) of our lives becomes wine (spirit) through the touch of Jesus Christ that even the worst circumstances that life can offer have a richness and depth that they never had before.
So many times I talk with people who only know the God of living water. That’s good. That brings life. That makes the wounded whole. But that’s not the whole picture.
Those who only know the God of living water often come feeling guilty about enjoying life. They know that their faith is important and necessary, but it is so deadly dull and hard and tedious and they feel guilty for thinking that. I remember a lady years ago struggling with a call to the ministry. She felt a strong sense of call. "I’m having a hard time," she said, "because I want it so much, I
can’t tell if it’s really God calling me."
The basic problem was that she had a hard time believing God would call her to something
she would actually enjoy. She was ready for resigned obedience, but not for joy. Psalm 37:4, "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart".
God wanted her, and us, to do more than dutifully drink water to sustain her. God wanted to give her wine, and to make her wine for others. She had gone to the ritual water jugs to do her duty, and it seemed almost scandal that wine poured out instead.
Let’s take a closer look. Verses 1-2 remind us that God wants to have a close, personal relationship with us:
1. On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.
One of the great lessons from this wedding is that the Lord wants to be close to us. We might think that with all of the important things Jesus had to do, He would be way too busy to take time out for a wedding. But Jesus took the time to go to this wedding because He truly cares for people. In fact, He wants to be our constant companion.
Jesus wants to be close to us every moment of every day. It's a great thing to be here at church but this story reminds us that God doesn't just want to meet with us at church. Jesus wasn't at the Temple in these verses. He was at someone's home for a wedding.
There’s a story told about a little boy who had a Sunday School lesson on this wedding miracle. After class that day, his daddy asked, "Well, what did you learn from that story?" The little boy thought for a moment and replied, "If you're having a wedding, make sure that Jesus is there." That was a great answer! Jesus Christ should be invited to every wedding.
It's good to notice that this was a happy occasion. Talking about the miraculous signs in this Gospel, someone noted that the first sign was at a wedding, one of life's gladdest hours. And in John 11, one of the Lord's last miracles was at Lazarus' grave, one of life's saddest hours.
This fact reminds us that in good times or bad, happy or sad, Jesus wants to be close to us. The Lord wants to be close to us on our Mondays, Tuesdays, and every day of our lives.
Jesus doesn't just drop in for the special occasions. He has a personal interest in our day-to-day lives. He is a full-time God, so He wants to have a full-time relationship with us. And if Jesus is our Lord and Savior, He is always near living in our hearts.
In verse 2 Jesus was "invited" or "called" to the wedding. The Lord wasn't at this wedding as a preacher to perform the ceremony. He was there as a friend and invited guest.
Friends are a wonderful gift from God, people we can trust, people who are there for us, stand by us, help us every way they can, and simply enjoy being with us. Thank God for the good friends He has given to us. But we also need to know that one reason why God gives us earthly friends is to help us understand the kind of relationship He wants to have with us.
Friendship with God is a key part of Christian life. Proverbs 18:24 tells us that there is a Friend who sticks closer than a brother, and that is Jesus Christ! He wants to be our Best Friend! As Jesus said in John 15:13, "Greater love has no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends."
Jesus Christ wants to be our best friend. But it's crucial to understand that the Lord comes into our lives through our invitation. Jesus Christ isn't a wedding crasher. In verse. 2 Jesus was "invited" or "called" to the wedding.
And yes, Jesus should be invited to every wedding! But that's not all. Jesus should be invited to be in on every part of our lives. The Lord surely wants to have a close relationship with everyone, but He won't force His way in.
Jesus put it this way in Revelation 3:20: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." In the New Living Translation, Jesus says, "I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends."
Jesus wants to be our best friend, but we have to open the door and invite Him into our lives. We also have to draw closer to Him. Thank God we can get closer to God! James 4:8 gives this promise to us as Christians: "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you."
Also the Lord wants us to be fully confident that He loves us enough to meet all our needs in life. Verse 3 says: "And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, 'They have no wine.'''
That reminds us of one of our big problems: We run out. We are always running out of stuff. We run out of strength, or money, or health. We run out of ideas, patience and time.
They ran out of wine at this wedding, but Jesus met their need, and He wants to meet our needs too! That's why in Philippians 4:19, Paul could say, "My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
Sometimes it may seem like the Lord doesn't really care about us. At first glance, it doesn't seem like Jesus cared when they ran out of wine. Verses 3-4 say: 3. And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine.''4. Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.''
One thing to understand is that in those days, calling your mother "woman" was not at all disrespectful as it sometimes is today. Today's equivalent would be to call her "Lady."
On top of that, one of the Ten Commandments is "Honor thy father and thy mother," and nobody ever kept the Commandments better than Jesus Christ! In fact, Jesus is the only person who ever kept them all, so we know He wasn't being disrespectful to His mother.
Jesus also knew He was going to meet the need for wine at the right time, in the right way. And that's what the Lord always does. He always meets our needs at the right time, in the right way, and we can always trust in the Lord.
Years ago, Billy Graham's wife Ruth had a very bad fall. The accident gave her a concussion that resulted in some major memory loss. And the hardest thing for Ruth was not being able to remember her favorite Bible verses. She had spent a life-time memorizing God's Word, and all of the verses that brought her comfort and strength were gone.
Ruth prayed and begged God to restore her memory of the Bible, and as she prayed, she first recalled just a single verse. It was Jeremiah 31:3, where the LORD said: "I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." That one verse gave Ruth great comfort over the next months as she began the work to rebuild her memory: "I have loved thee with an everlasting love."
God cared for Ruth Graham, and He surely cares for us! The Lord even cares about the small matters in life. Running out of refreshments at a wedding was certainly embarrassing, and a lot more serious in Jesus' day. But it was definitely not a matter of life and death. Even so, Jesus cared. He turned water into wine. And we can always be confident in His care.
God also wants us to do exactly what the Lord's mother did in vs. 3-5: 3. And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine.''4. Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.''5. His mother said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it.''
Mary urged those servants to obey the Lord. "Whatever He says to you, do it." That is the best advice anyone can ever give to anyone else! Whatever Jesus Christ tells you to do, DO IT!
It's the best advice, because if Jesus tells us to do something, it is always the best thing to do, even when it doesn't seem to make sense. "What? Fill these pots up with water? How in the world is that going to get us more wine?" But even if it doesn't make sense at first, if you are sure that the Lord wants you to do something, then do it, because God will never steer us wrong.
That's what we want other people to know, but how can we encourage more people to obey God? How can we point more people to Jesus?
First, we have to talk to God about people. That's what Mary did in verse. 3: "When they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, 'They have no wine.''' Before Mary talked to people about Jesus, she talked to Jesus about people.
And at first, it didn't seem like Mary was getting too far in her prayers. Sometimes it may seem like that to us also. But Mary didn't give up, and neither should we!
Again in verse 5, Mary told the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it.'' Now we need to basically say the same thing. We need to tell people to turn to the Lord, listen to Him, put their trust in Him and follow Him fully.
We need to tell people to trust in Jesus Christ, because He loves them more than we can measure. Jesus loves us so much that He was willing to die on the cross for all of our sins. We also need to tell them that Jesus rose again from the dead, so He can give us everlasting life. And we should give our total devotion to Him.
Mary told those servants to go to Jesus for the help they needed, and it was a brave thing to do, because verse 11 tells us this was the first miracle Jesus ever performed.
It can still be hard to talk to other people about Jesus, especially people we know. In fact, they can be the hardest people to talk to, partly because they know us better than most. They've seen us, warts and all, and sadly, we're not always as spiritual as we should be, but at the right time in the right way, we surely must do it. We may be the only people able and willing to speak to them about Jesus. And God will give us all the courage we need.
This is the lesson for us, starting in vs. 6: 6. Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece.7. Jesus said to them, "Fill the waterpots with water.'' And they filled them up to the brim. 8. And He said to them, "Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.'' And they took it. 9. When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. 10. And he said to him, "Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then that which is inferior; but you have kept the good wine until now.''
Mary said: "Whatever Jesus tells you to do, do it." And yes, that's the greatest advice of all, but it doesn't do us any good if we don't follow it. Those servants heard what they needed to hear, but it wouldn't have done the wedding a bit of good if they hadn't followed the Lord's instructions.
To their great credit, those servants did follow the Lord's instructions to the fullest. Again in verses 7-8, 7. Jesus said to them, "Fill the waterpots with water.'' And they filled them up to the brim. 8. And He said to them, "Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.'' And they took it.
Notice that they obeyed the Lord as much as they possibly could. Jesus told them to "fill the water pots with water,'' and they filled them up to the brim.
They obeyed the Lord as much as possible, and as soon as possible. In verse 8, Jesus told them to "draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast." And they did it without delay. That's why they saw the Hand of God at work in a wonderful way, and so will we.
When Jesus says, "Go," we need to go. When Jesus says, "Take up your cross," we need to take up our cross. When He tells us to love, we need to love. When He says, "Trust me," we need to trust in the Lord with all our hearts.
And when we follow the Lord to the fullest, we will see God's best for our lives. The miraculous wine Jesus gave here was the best wine. The new life He gives us is the best life. And the more we follow Him, the better our lives will be.
What I am trying to say is that there is a part of the Gospel that is about divine extravagance. Not in terms of material possessions or getting our way all the time. Christian joy does not spring from the same source as the happiness of the world. Christian joy springs from realizing that once we have made the decision to drink of the living water of Christ, that water becomes wine as it touches our lips. That we serve a God whose name is not duty but Love. It brings not just life but abundant life.
It’s the shock of St. Augustine’s words, "Love God and do as you please." Joy, freedom, celebration. Not just water (law), but wine (Holy Spirit).
What do people see when they look at our life? Do they see that we have access to living water? That is good, and those who are thirsty will be drawn to the source of that water.
But there are many who don’t feel thirsty. They are living decent lives and are relatively happy
with their lot. Is there any indication in our life that we serve a God who turns water into wine?
And if you remember the story, it’s not just cheap wine, it’s the good stuff. Do people see our life, our religion as something that turns water into wine or does it look more like turning wine into water? Does our life reflect the miracle at Cana? What would our lives look like, what would our church look like, if we let Jesus turn our water into wine?
To listen to Pastor T's Sunday morning, March 21, 2021, sermon, click here or
read it below.