Pastor Edward Brouwer 2-25-2018 Traveling with Jesus: to Cana of Galilee John 2:1-12
Traveling with Jesus: To Cana of Galilee
A few years back Glenda and I had the privilege of visiting Paris and went to the Louvre. The main attraction there is the Mona Lisa, and crowds gather to catch a glimpse of the beautiful lady by Leonardo da Vinci. But in the same large hall, is another painting, one by Paulo Veronese, and it depicts the Wedding Feast at Cana. I must admit I was so caught up in the Mona Lisa that I missed the wedding! But my wife Glenda was drawn to it and she noted to me, a most remarkable and touching point–to the side is the servant offering a goblet to the Master of Ceremonies. Imagine what a surprise is in store!
Read John 2:1-11
What is Jesus doing at a wedding? And why, when Mary his mother asks him to help out does he say “How is this our concern? For it is not yet my time.” The occasion for these questions are a wedding celebration in the town of Cana in Galilee just a short distance from their home town of Nazareth. Mary has been invited to a wedding, most likely of relatives or friends and Jesus comes along with his disciples. Mary and Jesus are salt of the earth people and Jesus is where he clearly loves to be—with people in the ordinary rhythms of life—at weddings and funerals and all the things people do in the regular courses of their lives. Jesus’ presence at a wedding should not surprise us and the fact that he takes his disciples along with him speaks of the earthy and organic nature of his discipleship model. His disciples then and now go into the highways and byways with him (and each other)—and he is inviting us to go with him wherever people are—in our joys and our sorrows—in the ordinary circumstances of life, in our work and homes.
In doing this, Jesus is going about His Father’s business. Healing sick people for example, on the day of rest no less, on the Sabbath. He said as much in John when asked about his work in John 5:17 “My Father is always working and I join Him in His work.” So this wedding was a place where God was at work, and Jesus is invited and we are invited too—to put ourselves in the place where He wants to make all the difference, ready to leverage every opportunity for His glory and our good—because in this wedding Jesus reveals his glory and this leads to faith in HIM: the disciples believe.
Jesus’ presence at this wedding shows the importance that God places on the covenant of marriage, between one man and one woman, just as in the Garden of Eden where God said of Adam “it is not good for the man to be alone, so I will give him a help-meet” (Genesis 2:18). So everything is good here right? But here comes the tension in the story—everything is patently NOT good, because the wine has run out! And at a wedding that is a big problem.
In those days a wedding feast was a multiple day celebration. People would travel distances and the party lasted sometimes up to a week. It was a time of family and friends getting together to catch up and celebrate a big event. And no celebration or party is complete without lots of great food and good wine. So it was no doubt an embarrassment, a social faux pas for the family of the bridal couple to run out of wine.
Enter Mary. She is made aware of the problem and naturally wants to help. So she approaches her son. But Jesus says essentially “how is this our concern? Woman it is not yet my time”. This is a baffling and somewhat confusing response and, well, frankly unexpected. Doesn’t Jesus care? Oh but he does care, and he uses this opportunity to teach his mother, his disciples and us today, that every problem is an opportunity for faith building. This reminds me of another time in the gospels recorded in Mark 4:35-41, when the disciples thought Jesus didn’t care. Do you recall the time they crossed the Sea of Galilee and a squall kicks up and the disciples are in fear of their lives? The boat is going to capsize, the boat is filling with water and they might drown! And what is Jesus doing? Of all things he is asleep in the back of the boat comfortably resting his head on a cushion no less! His disciples wake him up frantically saying “Teacher don’t you even care that we are all about to drown?” And Jesus teaches them in this moment that in the storms of life he does care and demonstrates his authority over all of nature by rebuking the storm and there is immediate calm. Then and now Jesus says “Peace, be still!”
Are you in a place in your life where you wonder if Jesus cares? Does he even hear your frantic prayers? In the midst of your storms, your suffering, your pain, your doubts—you hold on but are wondering to yourself “I know Jesus can fix this so why doesn’t he act?”
But Jesus does act, and when he does act it is so much more than just meeting our immediate needs. Jesus gives us what we would have asked for if we knew everything He knows. Jesus answers our petitions (just like he did for Mary) in ways that surprise us. Like turning water into wine. Or turning our trials into mercies, our tears into healing water.
Recently I have been listening to Christian radio and there is a song called Blessings by Laura Story…listen to these lyrics from her own place of confusion and pain…
We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things
‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?
What if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?
We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
And all the while You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe
When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst
This world can’t satisfy?
And what if trials of this life….
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise?
Jesus does hear our prayers and he does act. Come back with me to the scene in Cana and take what happened to Mary. She was full of faith in God and knew Jesus probably better than anyone alive and she believed He would act—after taking Jesus’ words in stride, she simply said to the servants “do whatever he tells you to do!”
Jesus instructs the servants to fill several 20-30 gallon stone jars with water. Do these servants even realize what is about to happen? Miraculously this water, this simple liquid of life becomes sparkling, delicious wine. Jesus the Creator of the Universe, by whose word the stars where created and the world formed and all it’s teaming life: he speaks and the water turns to wine. Jesus demonstrates his power and authority over nature. Is anything too difficult for God?
These servants bring a goblet to the master of ceremonies, who doesn’t know where the wine came from (but the servants knew). Let’s stop here for a moment. These servants were simply obeying the Lord and doing their work. And a miracle happens. Jesus is asking us the same today: serve in your ordinary work and he will take our work and our obedience and turn it into something beautiful. Are you serving by faith? As a teacher or veterinarian? In the big and small things of your life are you acting by the Lord’s direction? And leaving the rest to him? As a homemaker or grandmother or grandfather do you see your service for Jesus first? Ecclesiastes 9:10 says “whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might”—in other words “fill it to the brim” give it everything you got—and God will take your obedience and service and He will display his glory, just like in this story…..
The Master of Ceremonies tastes the water now turned to wine—he is clueless that Jesus has done this miracle and he approaches to the bridegroom and says “how utterly amazing! How unexpected, how out of the ordinary, how upside down! Most people serve the best first but you have kept the best for last!”
And that is the Jesus way—keeping the best for last. Because, nearly 1500 hundred years after Moses received the old covenant, Jesus came to inaugurate the New Covenant. That Old Covenant, with its’ ceremonial washings, represented here in the big stone jars, points to the old way of doing things. All the Jewish Feasts, the ceremonial laws, the entire sacrificial system—all of these were pointing to the new and better fulfillment in Jesus Christ. All of these laws were, in the words of the Paul in Colossians 2:17 “a shadow of the things to come—but the substance, the reality is found in Christ”. The Old Testament system all pointed to the New Covenant. This first miracle recorded here is the sign that the KING has come and that the old wine skins of the old covenant can’t contain the new wine that Jesus represents. The new wine is the new covenant: Jesus explained that at the table with the disciples the night before he gave his life as a ransom for many. He said “this is the cup that represents my blood that brings redemption through faith”.
Jesus does this amazing impossible thing, John writes, “in order to display His glory” and what is the response of the disciples? They believe! They believe that Jesus is the Messiah. And John records this miracle so we too, who were not there, can believe. But so often I feel like the dad asking Jesus for help for his child, who said “I do believe Lord, help me overcome my unbelief”.
And why is faith so hard sometimes? Because now we see through a glass darkly, in this life our faith is easily challenged and we may question whether this is true. And that is the challenge and will be until Jesus calls us home. But again in our own journey of faith Jesus is keeping the best for last. Because this wedding feast points to another wedding feast: The Marriage Feast of the Lamb. When our journey is over every believer will gather at the feast, the great celebration, where we, the Bride of Christ are received by the groom, Jesus himself. And our faith shall be sight and Christ will take the cup and say “All Glory to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit: and welcome to the table, thou good a faithful servant”. And he will remove every doubt, and wipe away every tear. And our mourning will be turned to dancing as is fitting at a wedding—So just like the disciples at the wedding at Cana, believe the goodnews. Jesus, the WORD become flesh is making all things new.