Imagine the conversation between a father and his son, Dutiful Derek. The father says “One day son, you’re going to meet a girl who’ll steal your heart and you’ll fall in love.” Dutiful Derek says, “Do I have to fall in love?” The father says, “What an odd question. It’s not so much a case of ‘have to’, but when you meet the right person you will fall in love.” Dutiful Derek sighs and says, “Alright, I’ll try my best to fall in love.”
Later his father says to Dutiful Derek, “We’re going on holiday to Switzerland. And we’re going to watch the sun rise over the snow-capped Alps. And we will be awe-struck.” Dutiful Derek says “Do I have to be awe-struck?” The father says, “What an odd question. It’s not so much a case of ‘have to’, but when you see the view you will be awe-struck.” Derek sighs deeply and says, “Alright, I’ll try my best to be awe-struck.”
Again the father comes to his son, “We’re going to read the bible together, and we’re going to see the glory of Jesus, and we will put our faith in Him.” Dutiful Derek says “Do I have to put my faith in Him?” The father says “What an odd question. I guess in one sense: Yes. But it’s not so much a case of ‘have to’, but when you see His glory you will trust in Him.” Dutiful Derek sighs once more, “Alright,” he says, “I’ll try my best to trust in Jesus.”
Well Dutiful Derek grows up. And when he sees sunrise over the Swiss Alps he just IS awe-struck. And when he meets the right girl he just DOES fall in love. But as he sits in church Sunday by Sunday he feels like he has to trust Christ. And he tries his best to be a dutiful believer in Jesus.
Derek still hasn’t learnt that the beautiful woman, the beautiful view and the beautiful Saviour are all alike. They are beautiful and if our response is simply dutiful we’ve lost the plot. When they are beautiful and we are dutiful we must be blind.
The beautiful woman doesn’t want her husband to dutifully admire her.
“You look lovely” – he said
“Thank you” – she said – “what made you say that?”
“Oh, I thought I ought to compliment you.”
“Flowers, why did you buy me flowers?”
“I felt it was my duty,” he replies.
“Kiss me” – she says
“Do I have to?” he asks.
Not now he doesn’t. He won’t be getting a kiss for a very long time!
When she is simply beautiful and her husband is simply dutiful he has lost the plot. He must be blind.
And likewise, when someone says “You MUST see sunrise over the Alps” they don’t mean for you to dutifully traipse across Europe and stare at the view as a demonstration of will-power. No when the Alps are simply beautiful and you are simply dutiful you have lost the plot. You must be blind.
But here’s the thing. Churches are full of people like Derek – people who are simply dutiful when Jesus is simply beautiful. In fact it’s a big temptation for all of us. It’s a trap I fall into, and I wonder if you do too. It’s so easy to think of Christianity as my duty – trusting Jesus as something I’ve got to summon up by my will-power. But John’s Gospel was written to tell us – if we are simply dutiful when Jesus is simply beautiful, we’ve lost the plot. We must be blind.
And this miraculous sign before us has been written down to open our eyes to the wondrous glory of Jesus.
Do you see what verse 11 says. After reading about the miracle, this is the summary of it:
This, the first of His miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed His glory, and His disciples put their faith in Him.
Jesus reveals His glory in these signs and His disciples put their faith in Him.
That’s what Jesus is doing in all these signs: revealing His glory – He is making plain what kind of beautiful Saviour He is. The disciples see that and they put their trust in Him. They don’t sit back and consider the evidence for and against and then decide on balance that they will choose to believe in Jesus. That’s not how it works. These disciples are swept off their feet by seeing the glory of Jesus. That is how faith comes. Faith comes when you see the glory of Jesus.
And the whole of John’s Gospel was written so that you and I might believe in Jesus. Turn on to John chapter 20 and verse 30.
30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these [miraculous signs] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)
John could have written about countless other miracles. Instead he chooses these 7 or 8 – why? Well they are SIGNS. They are whacking great signposts with a big arrow on them and the arrow is pointed to Jesus. Every sign says – Look at the glory of Jesus, see how He really is the Christ, the Son of God. And the expectation is – SEEING IS BELIEVING. When you see His GLORY you will trust Him. Just like when the young man sees His beautiful young bride or the nature lover sees the beautiful scenery – your heart is won by the glory of it. When you see Jesus you will believe in Him and find life in His name.
The bible is VERY clear – you must believe in Jesus. Life – true life, eternal life – is found ONLY by trusting in Jesus. Jesus Himself will say in John 3:18 – “whoever does not believe stands condemned.” We must believe in Jesus.
But how will we believe in Jesus then? Like Dutiful Derek? Summoning up the will-power to trust in Jesus? No! We’ll do what John wants us to do. Look at the signs and allow the signs to point us to Glorious Jesus. And when we see the glory of Jesus we simply will trust Him. That’s the kind of response John is going for.
Well then let’s look at this first sign and see how it points to the glory of Jesus.
Verse 1 says:
On the third day, a wedding…
On the third day – a wedding. This should immediately tell us that something symbolic is going on. The third day is the day of resurrection and new life in the bible. We’re going to see life from the dead in this sign. And it happens at a wedding. Weddings are huge in the bible. The bible begins with a married couple – Adam and Eve. It finishes with the ultimate happy ending – a wedding feast when Jesus the Great Heavenly Husband is united to His people.
All our fairy tales end with a wedding, because one day the ultimate happy ending will be written. When Jesus comes back to defeat all His enemies and set the world to rights, He will marry His bride (His people), and there will be an Almighty Feast. That’s the ultimate marriage to which all other marriages point. The ultimate happy ending is a wedding banquet.
And here in tiny little Cana of Galilee we see an earthly copy of that future hope.
Verse 2, the invitation must have said Jesus +12 because His disciples are with Him. But He’s there incognito. He’s doing what all engaged couples do when they go to other people’s weddings. You know what engaged couples do at weddings? They sit there quietly saying “I wouldn’t have done it like that, I hope that doesn’t happen on our day.”
Jesus must have been thinking ahead to His own Cosmic Wedding Feast where He would be the Bridegroom and the Host. He must have been smiling looking at v8 – this master of the banquet. One day that role will be His. And as He watched the happiness of the bridegroom He was seeing a little foretaste of His own future glory.
But there’s a problem. Verse 3, this little wedding feast is about to go down the pan. The wine’s gone. And if you think wine is important for modern-day weddings it was crucial for weddings in the bible. And who’s fault is it? Well from verses 8 and 9 it seems like the responsibility lies with the master of the banquet and the bridegroom. The two people who are kind of play-acting Jesus’ role are hopeless. And this feast is about to come to a crashing halt. So I guess they need to turn to Jesus.
Do you ever notice how people only really turn to Jesus when the wine runs out? There’s a whole sermon in that. But while-ever our little parties have some life in them, while-ever we’re keeping our little shows on the road, we don’t bother with Jesus. When the wine runs out – when the party’s over, that’s when we turn to Him. There’s a sermon in that I’m sure.
But anyway, Mary has an idea. She gets wind of the crisis and she doesn’t go to Oddbins or Tescos, she goes to her son, the carpenter. She knows that He can do a much better job than this master and this bridegroom. So Mary comes to Jesus, but verse 4 – Jesus does not want to get involved.
“Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come.”
Jesus doesn’t want to be drawn into this. If you imagine Jesus parked at the top of a steep hill and the car is pointed down the hill and Mary is asking Jesus to take off the handbrake. “Jesus reveal your glory.”
And Jesus knows as soon as He performs this miracle, life can never be the same again. Through these signs, Jesus’ glory will shine out like a spotlight and the people will be moths and bats. The moths will flock to Him and the bats will flee shrieking. And as He shines brighter and brighter His enemies will hate Him more and more until He gets to the bottom of the hill and His time will come.
What does that mean – His TIME.
Well it’s very solemn. It’s literally the word “hour”. And all throughout John, Jesus keeps speaking about His hour. His hour is coming. His hour is coming. Until in John chapter 12 Jesus says this
23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
Finally the hour. And there’s the word “glory” as well. Jesus’ HOUR is when He would be GLORIFIED. And what is His glory? Jesus will tell them – He will die on the cross, lifted up from the earth to endure the judgement of heaven. And when He is lifted up, He will draw all people to Himself.
That’s what He says in John 12. Jesus’ hour is the hour of His death – and that’s His true glory. It’s the glory of utter self-giving love – the glory of the Bridegroom protecting His bride from danger. Taking their judgement for them. Spreading His arms to all people to draw them to Himself. You see the only way you or I can be invited to Jesus’s Cosmic Wedding Banquet, the ONLY way, is for Jesus to die for His bride.
All the love songs speak of how much the singer is going to do for his girl. I’d swim every ocean, I’d climb every mountain, Baby I’d die for you. And of course in real life the singer can’t hold down a relationship for more than 6 months. But Jesus actually did it for His bride. He actually shed His own blood and suffered godforsaken hell on the cross to win His beloved – you and me. That is His glory and that was His hour.
Here in John chapter 2, Jesus knows that as soon as He performs this first sign of His glory, He’s letting off the hand-brake. And at the bottom of the hill is the cross.
Verse 4: “Dear Woman, why do you involve me, my time has not yet come.”
The question is: Would Jesus release the hand-brake and head towards His death? Would He reveal His glory – the glory of the Bridegroom who will die for His bride. Yes.
So, verse 7 – He commands the servants to fill the six jars to the brim. 150 gallons of water.
And then, v8, all He does is ask them to draw it out again. Jesus doesn’t touch the water, He doesn’t wave a wand, He doesn’t cast a spell, He doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t even pray. He’s not invoking some higher power – He IS the Higher Power. He wills the water to change into wine – and it happens. He’s the true Bridegroom, the true Master of the Banquet.
He produces 560 litres of wine. That would be 750 bottles of wine He simply wills into existence. And this isn’t your £3 bottle of cheap plonk either. Verse 10 – this is choice wine. The best wine. And far more than this wedding could possibly need or use. Jesus is not just trying to get this party back on track, He’s making a statement. And for those who knew their Old Testament they would know what this statement was this:
I am the true Bridegroom. And I’m bringing in the feast.
The Old Testament pictured the end of history as a happily ever-after with the world set to rights and the Messiah holding Cosmic feast. Look at these verses from Isaiah 25
6 On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine–the best of meats and the finest of wines. 7 On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; 8 he will swallow up death for ever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken.
Can you picture this feast? It’s an incredible celebration. And what’s the occasion? Death itself has been swallowed up! All tears are being wiped away! Have you shed tears this week? This year? All tears WILL be wiped away by the Sovereign LORD Jesus Himself. On that day we will wish we had cried more when He wipes away our tears.
All shame and disgrace removed – do you feel ashamed for things that you’ve done? All shame and disgrace removed. The LORD has spoken! And to celebrate, it will be feasting, a banquet of the best meats and the finest of wines. That’s the future.
And Jesus shows up in little Cana of Galilee and says “I’m the great Host of the feast and I’m bringing it in now.”
Our first reading picked up the same theme. Amos 9 says this:
13 “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed”
That means the farmers are still trying to bring in the harvest from last year when it’s time to plant for this year. It’s a picture of super-abundance. But it’s not just a super-abundance of staple foods. There’s a super-abundance of luxuries too. Verse 13 continues:
“the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.
In the Old Testament, the promised land was a land flowing with milk and honey. Well the new creation future will be a land flowing with wine. The Messiah Jesus will bring in a time of eternal festivities, of glad hearts, of joy in community, of abundant life.
And Jesus turns up to little Cana in Galilee and says: “I am the true Host of this feast. And I’m bringing it in.”
“Without me, you’ve been making do with water. With me, you have a banquet. A superabundance of the best wine.”
Do you see how Jesus was revealing His glory? Here is the true Master of the Banquet. Here is the One who will bring about the ultimate Feast – the one that celebrates the death of death, the defeat of all evil, the righting of all wrongs. The next time you see Jesus at a wedding, you’ll be drinking wine that is out of this world, and toasting a renewed creation set to rights under glorious King Jesus.
Do you see His glory? Are you trusting Him?
Let me give you one more reason to trust Him as I close. Let me show you just one more aspect of His glory.
Did you notice that detail in verse 6:
Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing
Have you ever thought about the water that Jesus uses? It’s not just any water. It’s usually used for ceremonial washing. The people used it to cleanse them outwardly. It was a tradition, it wasn’t commanded in the bible but it made religious people feel better to have a ceremonial washing. So before the feasted, they washed.
And you can understand why this might have been popular. We know that we aren’t spiritually clean. We know that we’re not fit for God’s great Banquet. And so we want some way to cleanse ourselves.
I remember the words of a man who’d ruined his life with a series of poor decisions. He’d sinned against his wife and family and business partner in terrible ways. He said “I just wish I could take my whole life and put it in a washing machine and set in on the hottest wash, until all the dirt and grime is gone.” We want cleansing.
And in Cana it was obviously popular to do this ceremonial cleansing. They had to have 6 big stone jars for it.
But Jesus overturns this religious pretension. He turns ceremonial water into blood-red wine.
Right from Genesis, the bible describes wine as the blood of the grape. And of course at Jesus’ Last Supper He picks up the wine and says “This is my blood, which is poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
It’s not ceremonial washing that we need. That’s not going to make us ready for the Banquet. There’s only one thing that can cleanse you from your sin and make you fit for the Wedding Feast – the blood of Jesus.
All the water in the world won’t wash away your sin. All the prayers, all the good works, all the religious rituals won’t make the slightest difference. But this is the glory of Jesus. He is the Bridegroom who ran headlong into His hour of destiny – He, the LORD Almighty, shed His own heart’s blood on the cross to cleanse you and me. Do you trust Him? Then He has made you fit for His feast.
This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.
This week we will face sufferings and sins. Call to mind some of the sufferings you’ve been struggling with. Call to mind, some of the sins. This week – will we trust Jesus with our sufferings and our sins?
And not like Dutiful Derek, summoning up the will-power to do our bit. Will we confront ourselves with the glory of Jesus so that we find ourselves trusting Him.
In the midst of sufferings, will we remind ourselves of the Master of the Ultimate Feast? Remember Isaiah 25 – death swallowed up, all tears wiped away, all disgrace removed. Remember Amos 9 – the hills dripping with wine – an abundance of feasting and joy. Jesus WILL bring that in. One day we will toast King Jesus who has put the whole world to rights. Now – just like He descended down to the depths before He rose to the heights, we’re going to have to go through our own suffering. But listen – Jesus thought it was worth it. He thought it was worth the cross, to get to the feast. That was His assessment. Even HIS cross was worth it to get to the feast. Whatever cross we are bearing, we can know for certain – the feast will make it worth our while. Verse 10 is really true of Jesus – He saves the BEST until last. One day Jesus will wipe away every tear. Will we trust Him in our sufferings?
And will we trust Him with our sins? There is only one place of cleansing for sin, time doesn’t cleanse you from your sins, tears don’t cleanse you from your sins, religious rituals don’t cleanse you from your sins. But hear the word of God: 1 John 1:7: The blood of Jesus purifies us from every sin. By His death, Jesus has cleansed us and made us ready for the feast. Don’t dwell on your sins. Dwell on Jesus.
This week look again to the glory of Jesus. When He is simply beautiful – how can we be simply dutiful. No, we trust Him. How do we do that? We keep presenting glorious Jesus to ourselves that He might win our hearts again. He is the true Master of the Feast and our Heavenly Bridegroom.