A Sign of the Times”
Epiphany 2, January 17, 2016 #1178
A Sign of the Times
Text: John 2:1–11
Today we are going to talk about weddings. I do not know if you are aware of this, but different places have different customs for weddings. One example is in the West; brides wear white as a sign of purity. In some place in Asia, brides wear red. It has also been my observation that here in Oklahoma, especially when I was in Pryor, weddings are simpler affairs with the ceremony, and a reception that has cake, and maybe finger food. In Wisconsin, where I am from, weddings include the service, a full dinner for all at the reception, and most importantly, an open bar.
Today the focus is wine and weddings. In weddings in Bible times, wine is more than just a festive beverage. It’s a sign. In the Old Testament, the wine was a sign, a symbol, of God’s grace—of joy and abundant blessings and even hope for the future. Wine, like marriage, takes time, loving care, patience, and the payoff is down the line, something to enjoy to the fullest a little later.
In our text this morning, Jesus goes to a wedding, and you know what happens. The wine runs out. Jesus is going to take care of that. But in doing so, He’s going to give more than wine: At the Wedding at Cana, Jesus Gives Us Signs of Things to Come.
The famous wedding at Cana was one that wasn’t well-planned for whatever reason (vs 1–3). Relatives had come from all over the region to celebrate with a couple whose names we don’t know. Jesus and His apostles were there too. Apparently, Jesus was part of the family. And we know this wedding had problems just a short time into the celebration. Mary alerted her Son, Jesus, by saying, “They have no wine.”
As you may know, wedding celebrations in Jesus’ time went on for seven days, so enough food and drink was to be set aside. For the average person, your wedding week was the only time in your life that you did not work, that you got a week off. You and your bride were waited on for that week, and that was the only break you got in your life. The bride’s family had the obligation to provide enough food and drink for everyone for that week. Running out would have left the family, and the newlyweds embarrassed for years to come. It showed poor planning that the father of the bride let this happen, but even as it is in modern weddings, things happen beyond one’s control.
I know all about this. Twenty years ago when Erica and I got married, we planned out every detail. One of which was when we met with the baker, I picked out a grooms cake that was shaped like a football, and it would be chocolate chocolate chocolate. I was really looking forward to having a piece of that bad boy.
On the day of our wedding, the ceremony went fine, we cut the big cake (not the cheese), and then the photographer wanted to take pictures of everyone back in the sanctuary. He took pictures. He took more pictures. He took, even more, pictures. And by the time he was done, all the food and cake was eaten, and all the guests had left. Erica and I basically missed our wedding reception. I think we all know how stuff happens at weddings.
After they had run out of wine at this wedding two thousand years ago, nearby were six stone jars, and those jars were there to hold water for ceremonial washing (v 6). Now you should know something about what John is telling us here. First of all, John often referred to the miracles Jesus did as “signs,” signs Jesus is who He says He is, signs He is the Savior. Also, when we study the Gospel of John, it’s clear that the Holy Spirit often inspired John to use symbols as signs of deeper meanings. Those stone jars seem to be such a symbol. They appear to be a sign of the old covenant between God and His people Israel. At this point in the Gospel narrative, they are empty, perhaps declaring just how empty the old covenant would be without the Messiah!
Mary tells the servants to do whatever Jesus says, and He gives the command to fill those jars with water. (vs 7–8). (By the way, this is more evidence that whoever got married that day was family to Jesus. The servants would not have listened to Mary if she was just some bossy guest.) Filling those jars probably took a while, depending on how far the well was from that place. (150 gallons, 750 bottles of wine here.) But the servants filled them “to the brim.” The Gospel wasn’t shortchanged on anyone this day! What was once used for ritual washing is now turned into the new wine of the Kingdom. The Old Covenant of ritual sacrifice and such is done. Jesus, when He is doing miracles like this, points to Himself as the author of the New Covenant, that salvation is found in Him, the Lamb of God, who died and rose again to save us from our sins.
That is an awesome sign Jesus gives with those six simple stone jars: the old covenant coming to fulfillment in the new! Now in the miracle itself, changing water into wine was a sign that the coming Messiah had arrived. Remember, only God can calm a storm, only can walk on water, only God can raise the dead, only God can change water into wine.
After they had filled up those jars, and after Jesus has changed that water to wine, the servants take a sample from the water jars to the master of the feast (vs 9–10). The master of the banquet sees the new wine, tastes it, and finds it better than what they had before. (That doesn’t surprise anybody here, does it? God makes wine, and it is good!) One hundred twenty to one hundred eighty gallons of the “good stuff”! And the feast could continue without embarrassment. The servants are the only ones who knew what happened.
As with all of Jesus’ miracles, though, there was something bigger going on here than just wine. Jesus takes a bad situation and makes it a “teaching moment” for His disciples (v 11). This first miracle, Jesus’ first “sign,” John calls it, brings them to belief in Jesus. At that moment, The Messiah the world had been waiting for was here! Even at this early moment in Jesus’ ministry, we see the Savior revealed in the sign of wine. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Every time we come to the Lord’s Table, He comes personally to us with His body and blood under the sign of bread and wine, forgiving our sins and assuring us of eternal life in heaven.
John wants you to know that this is what Jesus is all about—your life, your marriage, your joy and abundant blessings, your future hope. Every good gift is ours because Jesus’ death on the cross and His rising again has made things right between the Father and us, brought us back together with the Giver.
So what does this mean? What does all this mean? When Jesus changed water into wine at the wedding at Cana, He did more than save a family from embarrassment, He did more than rescue a party. It’s a sign of the time, the hour. Jesus was letting the world know that He is the Messiah. He is the Savior. That He would save all of us—save us from our old sinful lives, save us for new lives of love and marriage and caring and serving, save us for life eternal. And save us for the feast in Heaven where the wine never runs out.