Sermon for the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany - John 2:1-11
Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee. He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him. You are not Jesus. I want to make that clear so let me say it again. It might seem like an easy truth, but you are not Jesus Christ. And that is a good thing. It is a good thing because it makes it more joyous when we come to the miracles of Christ and realize they are his works, done in his way, for a reason. No worries for you to try to live up to the water-to-wine Jesus example. Because John actually does not use the word “miracles”, nor “wonders”. He uses the word “signs”. He wants us to see a sign pointing to Jesus. To create faith in him. To believe in who He is for you. To trust in this One who takes you, the ordinary sinner, and makes you new.
Christ comes to the wedding feast, which would have lasted for a whole week. It would have been an open house-type atmosphere so there wouldn’t exactly be a guest list. People would come and go. Celebrating, drinking and eating together. While Jesus is there, it is learned that they are running out of wine. It could be that the wine was over served to guests. Not diluted enough. It could be that the family was poor and so could not afford as much. It could be that the family really had no clue how much they needed, how many folks would attend, and miscalculated the totals. Either way it wasn’t enough.
Mary has a conversation with her son, and Jesus then does this interesting thing that we often see as a parlor trick. “Hey, servants, see the sinks over there? Yeah, the stone ones we use to wash our feet and hands and dishes? Fill ‘em up.” The servers do that. Filling them to the top. He says, “Take some to the chief steward.” They do that too. He tastes it. It’s wine, and not only wine, but great wine. The best wine. So much so that the steward says to the groom, “Dude. Where was this in the wine cellar? You should have served this first. All these degenerates aren’t going to appreciate it now.” It concludes with, as I said before - Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee. He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him. He does what we see as magic, and somehow it is glorifying to him so much that his disciples who were there at the party believe in him. Place their trust in him as the Messiah, the Son of God.
You must know today that this was not a trick. The wine from water deals with something that runs much deeper than just a beverage shortage or fixing a bummer of a party. The word used to describe their dilemma is hystereo. It is a word that means a lot of things – to miss out, to fail to reach, something in short supply, lacking something, to be in need, to be poor or needy, be less than, be inferior to, lower in status, to experience a deficiency, to go without, to come short of. See, the funny thing is that it is the same word used in Romans 3:23 – For all have sinned and…fall short of the glory of God. The symbol used by John here is Christ stepping into the places where we fall short. Where our calculations never suffice. Where our religion, or lack thereof, can’t do what we want it to do. He takes those jars used by the people to try and make themselves clean and he says – I am going to do a new thing here.
Those stone water jars were common place in houses. Living back then you would be wearing sandals everywhere. If it was a dry day your feet would be covered in dust. A wet day? Covered in mud. The water jars, which would hold 20-30 gallons, were there for you to have your feet washed. Cleansed from the journey. The Palestinian equivalent to taking off your shoes at someone’s house. You would also wash your hands before meals and during them. Running water over them. The water being used for purification. To make sure you were clean while doing an everyday thing. So, Christ takes the everyday things, the things we think make us clean, make us good, and he uses them for his good. His glory. God stepping into all our attempts to try to reach our own righteousness, and he takes that away from us and uses them for his. He takes the jars we have of our lives that we think can save us and uses them for his purposes. To turn you to him. To realize that all the things we do to be clean and perfect and pure are nothing. That actually we have to reach that point of necessity, of falling short, to realize the work Christ has done. Charles Spurgeon, in his comments on this passage says this – It is good to run short that we may be driven to the Lord by necessity, for he will more than supply it.
When we walk the roads of life, getting our feet all dirty and thinking that’s fine. That’s normal. No problem, I will just wash them and be clean. Christ comes to me and says – That isn’t enough. It will never be enough. Every day you wash your feet. Wash your hands. Eat and drink. Try to be good. Try to avoid sin. But then you go for a walk, go through another day of your life and you are dirty again. So Christ tells you, stand back in your emptiness, your falling short, your need, and let me do my work. Let me handle your miscalculation. A moment for us to place our lives, our souls in his hands. And not just at some special ceremony or church service, but everyday parts of our lives. In our homes, in our marriages, in our families. Then knowing we have nothing, deserve nothing, we begin to see others around us as more important. With our emptiness being filled by Christ, then all our energy to purify ourselves rests in him and can be used for his glory to serve our neighbor in his love.
Another interesting part of this narrative also is that the word used for drawing the water, for dipping out the water, is the word used for drawing from a well, not from another jar. Drawing from the source of where the water comes from. It gives this dueling picture of two possibilities. If Christ has the men fill up the stone jars that were used for purification purposes, and then draw from them for the water that was changed to wine, we have this picture of Christ being the one who covers for our impurity. For our sin. Filling up the things the old way of life lack. How the old law, the old ceremonies, the old religion are not enough for us and God, so God intervenes and provides for you. Purification, perfection filled in by Jesus.
But if the episode at Cana actually has the men filling up the jars, and then he tells them to go draw some more form the well (which is what the Greek word can intend) and bring it to the steward, and that is what has changed, the water directly from the well, we have the Creator of the universe stepping in with his new creation transforming the very source of life itself for you. I think of Jesus in Matthew 9:16-17 where he is asked why his disciples don’t fast like the Pharisees and he responds – You can’t put new wine in old wine skins because they will burst. You must put new wine in new wineskins, meaning, you must make a new creature. Do a new creation. Christ not only fulfilling the needs of purity for us in this life, but him remaking the entire source of your life. Where you find everything about yourself coming from Jesus.
Think of John 4 and the woman at the well –
Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would ask him, and he would give you living water.”
“Sir,” said the woman, “you don’t even have a bucket, and the well is deep. So where do you get this ‘living water’?...”
Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again. In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up in him for eternal life.”
Christ becoming something more for you. Something essential for you. Something beyond a buddy, or a nice guy. No tricks, just Him. A Savior forgiving your miscalculation. Forgiving your short comings. Filling in for you in that whole purification act. All for you. Always. No more religion, only faith in the Son of God who gives himself up for you. Thanks be to God. Amen.