1 Kings 17:8-16; John 2:1-11
As I was working on this passage from John chapter 2, I couldn’t help but think of the old story about the Irish priest who was driving down the interstate and got stopped for speeding. The state trooper smelled alcohol on the priest’s breath and then saw an empty wine bottle on the floor of the car. He asked, “Father, have you been drinking?” “Just water,” says the priest. The trooper said, “Then why do I smell wine?” The priest looks at the bottle and says, “Well there you are! He’s done it again!” I don’t believe Jesus did it again, but I do believe the Lord performed a miracle in John chapter 2 when He turned the water into wine.
There are approximately thirty-six recorded miracles of Jesus given in the four gospels. Jesus performed obviously more miracles than this but in those four gospels there are thirty-six of them recorded. When you come to the gospel of John you will find that there are seven miracles Jesus performed given to us in his book.
While omitting many of the miracles reported in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), John chose seven, apparently to help show that Jesus is the Messiah. Please look at John 20:30-31 to know why John carefully chose these seven miracles. The seven miracles in John are: 1. Changing water to wine (2:1-11); 2. Healing the nobleman’s son (4:46-54); 3. Healing the lame man at Bethesda (5:1-18); 4. Feeding 5,000 (6:5-14); 5. Walking on water (6:16-21); 6. Healing the blind man (9:1-7); and 7. Raising Lazarus (11:1-45).
These miracles, as I mentioned, were selected for a specific purpose. You remember John said, “These have I written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you might have life through His name.” And so John had a spiritual purpose in mind when he included the particular miracles that Jesus did. That’s why in the eleventh verse, at the climax of this miracle, John adds, “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” You see, the signs accomplished exactly what John said the signs were intended to do.
Miracles or Signs?
John never calls those miracles “miracles” but “signs.” The thing about “a sign” is that you need to be able to read it … you need to be able to understand what it means or what it’s pointing to. The thing about “a sign” is that it points to something beyond itself. When Jesus does a miracle, there’s something more going on than just a power display. It’s not just to show that Jesus is a real powerful guy, even a real powerful guy sent from God -- although it does tell us at least that much. The “signs” tell us even more about who Jesus is, His identity, His mission, the purpose of His life, death, and resurrection.
They’re kind of like pointers, they point from themselves to a deeper, more spiritual meaning. Through these signs, John is showing us that what Jesus did in the physical realm He is also able to do in the spiritual realm. Far more important than miracles in the realm of nature are miracles in the realm of the spiritual. It is a miracle indeed when God created the world; it is a far greater miracle when God creates a new life in a human heart. John is more than a story-teller—John had a theological motive behind everything he said!
The Wedding at Cana
So, what happened in our story “sign”? Jesus is going to a wedding. It’s at Cana in Galilee, not that far from Nazareth, where Jesus grew up “about 4 miles away”, or from Capernaum, where now Jesus was making His headquarters. How He got invited to the wedding is not directly stated, but it may have been because his mother was a friend of the family. So, Mary is there, Jesus is there, and Jesus brings along his disciples.
Mary finds out that the big wedding celebration, which, by the way, would last for days–she finds out that they have run out of wine. That’s not good. That would be a disaster, an embarrassment, and would really put a damper on things. So she goes to her son, Jesus, and asks Him if he can do anything about this. Apparently, she realizes that her son has the authority and the power, from God, to do some pretty amazing things. And she trusts her son to do the right thing in this situation. So she tells the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” That is faith speaking. “Do whatever he tells you”–that’s pretty good. So Jesus addresses the situation of the need for more wine at the party, and–poof! – there, He makes some! So Jesus turns water into wine, and, there you go, no more wine shortage. What we see is that Jesus clearly has power from heaven to do this mighty miracle. No one else could do this.
This first sign is loaded with lessons that are so relevant to our lives today and speak powerfully to our circumstances. Let me very briefly highlight just one lesson today and I will say more next Sunday.
First: When Your Supplies Run Out, Invite Jesus
We often turn to God, when our supplies run out. We turn to God when we run out of strength, when we run out of money, when we run out of options. We turn to God when we run out of passion, when we run out of patience, when we run out of perseverance. We turn to God when we run out of hope or run out of joy. We turn to God when we’re feeling beat-up and burned out. We turn to God when the game is up, when our sin has found us out, when we realize that we need help. We turn to God when the gauge of our emotional or psychological tank is way past the red line marked “E” for “empty.” We turn to God when we hit rock bottom. We turn to God when we run out of something. The good news of the gospel is that God meets us where we have run out, that God meets us in the place of our need.
In the sign of Jesus’ changing water into wine we see that God meets us in that place where we have run out. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had over the years with people outside of church who, when they find out that I’m a Minister (which sometimes immediately kills the conversation J), make a comments like, “Yeah, I really should get back to church, but there are things in my life I need to fix first” or “I haven’t been to church in so long... I’m sure God’s not very impressed with me” or “I’m not exactly the kind of person you want at church.” At times I would guess you and I may share these same sentiments. And yet it is exactly people like us who should feel welcomed to church because Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, to restore the broken, to give His life in order to bring us back to God. Christ meets us in that place where we have run out. I will stop here today and see more on the same sign next Sunday. To God be the glory. Amen!
First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, September 15, 2019)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor