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John 2
1 The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. 3 The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.”
4 “Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”
5 But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” When the jars had been filled, 8 he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions.
9 When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. 10 “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!”
11 This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

So here’s Mary, she’s the guest at a wedding in Cana. It’s probably a wedding for some of her kin. John says that Jesus is “also there.” It means that Jesus’ eclectic band of disciples is there too. Some of them are probably just in their teens. They’ve chosen to follow this Jesus because they think he might be the Messiah. Probably the last thing they are concerned about is attending a wedding.

We might think that it’s a bit embarrassing for Mary to play den mother to Jesus’ crew, but that’s not the case. What’s potentially embarrassing to Mary is the news that the host and bridegroom have run short on wine. Jesus of course wonders, “Why is that such a problem?” And we might be inclined to ask the same thing – what’s the big deal? Just tell folks the wine is gone.

Well, here’s the big deal. In that culture, wine was about more than partying. It was very ceremonial and even sort of religious. These people aren’t having a keg party and don’t want their minister to know about it – all the religious leaders and honorable people of the community are there. The focus is not on the bride and her family. The bridegroom is the central figure and he needs to bring honor to his family. This is his opportunity to be blessed and show his respect to the community. Wine is an essential sign and element of the blessing.

Certain toasts and blessings had to be made and hospitality demanding that good wine should be served. Running out of wine means that the bridegroom is cheap. He got skimpy and stingy. He’s irresponsible and not ready to wed. If you don’t have the proper wine for the celebrations, well that would be like us running out of matzos and Welch’s this morning – “How would we have communion?” It’s more than awkward, it’s doesn’t bode well and can get sort of shameful. Everyone will remember how awkward it was and they’ll all talk about the wedding when the wine ran dry. That’s a bad sign.

But Mary knows that Jesus can do something about it. She’s witnessed enough by now. Despite Jesus’ protests, Mary tells the servants five words that set the stage for the entire gospel: “Do whatever he tells you.”

Jesus could have responded any number of ways. He could’ve refreshed the supply of wine without bothering the servants. He could have taken a wineskin and told everyone to line up and an endless supply of wine would’ve been available. He could’ve touched everyone’s cups and they would’ve been miraculously full. But he doesn’t do that. He just speaks. He gives instructions.

“Go fill the jars with water.”
“Take some and give it to the master of ceremonies.”

That’s all. Jesus just directs this miracle and doesn’t star in it. He steps back – but he does instruct and the servants follow Mary’s advice and they do whatever he says.

The reviews come in and they are glowing. But look who gets the credit – the bridegroom! Master of Ceremonies tastes the wine and walks up alongside this sweating, nervous bridegroom. “Most people serve up the best wine, then when everyone has had enough and not really paying attention they bring out the cheap stuff. But you’ve saved the best for last.” He’s telling the bridegroom. Congratulations, brother! You impressed us. This is a good sign.

It’s also a sign for disciples. It’s a sign for those who heed Mary’s advice and “do whatever he tells you.”

The sign of the wine is this: When we do whatever he tells us ...

  1. There’s an abundance of goodness. Jesus isn’t stingy. Six jars would have made about 150 gallons.
  2. Shame is cast out. There’s no embarrassment or tension. There’s honor and praise.
  3. There’s celebration. Doing what Jesus says promotes festivity. This is jubilee and thanksgiving. The bridegroom may not even realize who gets the glory, but he participates in the festivities. The servants know, and the disciples believe.

How do we view this Lord’s Supper? How do we regard our worship?

Do whatever Jesus says and he says “Do this in remembrance of me.” Not just remember what he did, but it means we acknowledge his presence among us. At this festival, Jesus is the bridegroom and he always saves the best for last. That’s the sign of the wine.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 11 January 2009

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