Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. In our Gospel Reading for this morning, we hear the account of Jesus’ first public miracle. It’s worth noting, though, that John prefers to use the term “sign” rather than the term “miracle.” At the end of the account, John tells us that when Jesus turns water into wine at the wedding of Cana, it is not only the first or beginning of Jesus’ signs, but the Greek term that John uses indicates that it is the chief or ruling sign, by which all future signs will be measured. John is essentially telling us that this is the archetype of all Jesus’ signs. As John will later make clear in his Gospel, Jesus’ signs are meant to declare the glory of the crucified Word and are intended to elicit faith. In other words, the point of this sign is the point of all the rest of Jesus’ signs. This raises the question, what is the point of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding of Cana?
2. Well, we already know what happens in the story—Jesus is at a wedding where they ran out of wine, so he makes more by turning water into wine. We already know what happens in the story, so let’s take a closer look at how the story ends, which will help us to know how to understand the rest of the story. We are told that the master of the feast, who is the guy who is essentially in charge of the catering for the feast, takes a sip of the water which Jesus had turned into wine. As soon as he did so, he called the poor, clueless bridegroom and said to him in verse 10: “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Let me offer my own paraphrastic translation of this: “What were you thinking saving the good wine until now?! Everyone has had enough to drink so that they can’t appreciate the good stuff anymore! Everyone knows to lead with the good wine, you numbskull!” The point is, this guy who is essentially in charge of the catering is not impressed with what has happened. In fact, even though he doesn’t know where the wine came from, he seems to think that what Jesus has done is wasteful and unnecessary at best, which is precisely the point.
3. Let’s start over at the beginning, and we’ll see how this all ties together. As our text begins, we read: On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee (John 2:1). This, of course, raises the question, the third day since what? Well, if you back up to the end of the previous chapter, you see that Jesus has just finished an interaction with Nathanael in which he has told him, “You will see greater things than these” (John 1:50). And on the third day, he did see something greater than Jesus knowing where he had been sitting. Nathanael is about to see a sign of extraordinary measure on the third day at the wedding of Cana. This should immediately cause us to think of another sign of extraordinary measure which will occur on the third day. And so, this sign at the wedding of Cana is meant to point to Jesus’ crucifixion where the Spirit will be poured out in abundance on a world that thinks it is foolishness. This sign at the wedding of Cana is tied closely with the death and resurrection of Jesus.
4. Back to the text. We read: On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” (John 2:1-3). So, you have Jesus and his mother and his disciples all at this wedding feast. All of the sudden they realize that the wine has run out. And so, Mary, being the gentle, motherly type, immediately sees the problem and wants to do something about it subtly so that no undue embarrassment or inconvenience is caused. And so, as women have a tendency of doing, she says something to Jesus but doesn’t actually say what she means because she assumes he’ll pick up on what she means: “They have no wine.” Now, Jesus is not like other men in that he realizes right away what Mary means. She means, “They’re out of wine—do something about it!” Again, knowing this is what she meant, Jesus replied: “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4). This is an interesting response for a couple of reasons. First, Jesus doesn’t address his mother with a term of endearment, like you might expect. When I talk to my mother, I address her as, “Mom.” Jesus does do that. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not being disrespectful either. But there is some sort of relational distance between Jesus and his mother here. Then Jesus asks rhetorically, “What does this have to do with me?” That is to say, this really isn’t my problem because “my hour has not yet come.” Yet, ironically, two verses later, Jesus will do something. So, we see that in this sign of turning water into wine the “not yet” of God’s kingdom begins to invade the “now.” As the interaction between Jesus and his mother wraps up, we read: His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5). Mary doesn’t seem to know what’s going to happen next. Maybe Jesus isn’t going to give the servants any instructions. Maybe he will. But either way, Mary demonstrates an incredible trust in Jesus here.
5. Now, the miracle begins: Now there were six stone jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So, they took it” (John 2:6-8). The first thing to notice is the size of these jars. Each jar holds 20-30 gallons of water, or, as was the case when Jesus was done with them, 20-30 gallons of wine. To put that in terms we are familiar with, the normal wine bottle today holds 750 milliliters of wine, or 1/5 of a gallon. So, after Jesus had turned the water into wine, each jar was holding the equivalent of 100-150 bottles of wine. Don’t forget that there were 6 jars in total. So, we’re talking about somewhere between 120-180 gallons of wine, or 600-900 bottles of wine. I think this is fairly self-evident, but I’m going to say it anyway: that’s a lot of wine! We don’t know exactly how many people were at the wedding celebration, but I think it’s safe to say that this is significantly more wine than the people present would have been able to drink. The amount of wine that Jesus made from water is so excessive and extravagant that it is borderline wasteful and unnecessary, which, again, is precisely the point. Jesus’ glory is in giving stuff to people who don’t deserve it.
6. Our text concludes in this way: When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him (John 2:9-11). We have already discussed the master of the feast’s frustration at how wasteful and unnecessary this is. And we’ve also discussed how this sign is meant to serve as the archetype of all Jesus’ signs. So, it’s time to answer the question, what is the point of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding of Cana? Here’s the simple answer: Jesus pours out extravagant grace upon people who absolutely don’t deserve it and can’t appreciate it. He does this at the wedding of Cana by creating so much wine that there is no way the people could enjoy or appreciate it. Many of them were likely already border-line intoxicated and certainly didn’t need or deserve more wine. Yet, Jesus provides an extravagant abundance that these people did not deserve and could not appreciate. In the same way Jesus went to the cross to die on behalf of sinners like you and me who do not deserve his grace and cannot fully appreciate it. Even we Christians are not capable on this side of glory of fully appreciating the goodness of the Gospel and of Jesus’ grace. But Jesus continues to pour out extravagant grace upon people who absolutely don’t deserve it and can’t appreciate it.
7. The thing is, the world around us doesn’t understand Jesus’ extravagant grace. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is wasteful if it is judged by the reason of men. The world can’t understand it. And because they don’t understand it, they hate it. Just like the master of the feast looked at the bridegroom in frustration, so too does the world look at us as stupid and ignorant. The world cannot understand our hope. We have the hope of a better future. We have the hope of the life of the world to come. The world cannot understand why we don’t live for the now. The world cannot understand why we would come together in a gathering like this when there is an ultra-contagious virus raging around us. The world cannot understand our hope of eternal life. It looks like foolishness. And so, we’re hated for it. The world also can’t understand our Christian morality. They don’t understand why we value forgiveness and patience in a “Cancel Culture.” They don’t understand why we place such a high value on life from conception, marriage between one man and one woman, or traditional gender roles. The world cannot understand Christian morality. It looks like foolishness. And so, we’re hated for it. We have become fools for Christ. The world hates Jesus’ extravagant grace because they don’t understand it.
8. Notice how in our text Jesus doesn’t do exactly what Mary wanted him to do from the beginning. She wants to save face and solve the problem subtly so that no undue embarrassment or inconvenience was caused. But Jesus goes overboard and it ends with the bridegroom getting yelled at. But this is how Jesus’ grace works. Jesus makes people stick out. He pours out his grace so extravagantly on his people that the world can’t help but notice. And so, the question that this text leaves us with this this: how will you respond to Jesus’ extravagant grace in your life? Do you want to just fit in with the world? Or are you willing to stick out in this world and find contentment in the extravagant grace of Jesus, which he continues to pour out on us?
In the name of Jesus. Amen.