Thoughts to chase through….
- They ran out of wine, despite all the planning that must have happened for a wedding, they ran out.
- Mary’s advice to the servants was, ‘do whatever he tells you to do’. This is the best way to live your life as a life of abundance in Jesus.
- The master of the banquet did not realise where the wine had come from.
Other points to note, but I won’t be following them through:
- Do I visit/tackle the alcohol/teetotal argument which we often see between Christians today? We have met people who refuse to drink any form of alcohol because they believe that drinking alcohol is not ‘Christian’ (whatever that means) and that someone who calls themselves a Christian and drinks alcohol is actually not a ‘real Christian’. It seems to me that whether or not we should drink alcohol, as a Christian, is a cultural rather than a biblical issue. It is much more acceptable in Europe than elsewhere in the world, where it can be a problem. Disapproval is noticeable in other parts of the world: India, Uganda, Korea, Australia and the USA are all countries I’ve visited where Christians frown on consumption of alcohol if you are a Christian. This can be a particularly controversial subject amongst Christians, and it is important to get to grips with it. BUT, does this particular passage speak to it? I don’t believe so. I don’t believe John is making any comment at all on the ‘rightness’ or otherwise of alcohol in this passage, so other than what I’ve already said, I’m not going to say anything more about it.
- Jesus makes a comment about his time not yet coming. There are a few places where he speaks of this. When questioned about his disciples not fasting, he makes a statement about how they will fast when the bridegroom has come. On more than one occasion, the gospel writers record Jesus withdrawing or revisiting something because his ‘time had not yet come’. Don’t forget that Ecclesiastes 3 says, ‘there is a time for everything’. Many people over the years I’ve pastored have felt that they’ve been waiting and praying and praying and waiting, and it feels like forever, that it’s never going to happen. We must try hard to understand that there is a place for understanding that God’s timing is perfect, and try hard to trust in Him.
OK, so what do think we need to unpack this morning?
John 2:3—They ran out of wine
This was a wedding! Weddings mean celebration and despite all the planning that must have happened for a wedding, they ran out. We don’t know why they ran out, but they ran out. Jewish weddings were quite long affairs, apparently celebrations which lasted a week were quite common, and the expectation was that the groom would provide for everything. To run out would have been a problem, it would have been a source of shame. It would have brought into question the groom’s ability to provide, his ability to plan and care for his new wife. Everyone would have known about it, and his reputation would almost certainly have suffered as a result. Cana was a small village.
It is important to plan—there is a reason the following are sayings:
- failing to plan is planning to fail.
- proper planning prevents poor performance.
We must, however, recognise that sometimes there comes a time when despite your best efforts and planning, you fall short. You run out. What you have done, or the plans you have made, don’t cut the mustard and you come up short. Despite all your care and preparations, you fall short, you run out of your resources.
Jesus has the solution to our shortfall.
Jesus warns us to ‘count the cost’ of being a disciple (Luke 14:28-33 📖):
‘Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and cannot finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
‘Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
Remember : The best planning integrates a level of contingency, planning for unexpected things, but it is impossible to plan for everything. Ecclesiastes 8:7 says this: ‘Since no one knows the future, who can tell someone else what is to come?’. Sometimes things just can’t be planned for.
What, then, do we do when it feels like we’ve run out? When we just don’t have what we need to finish? We could run out of all sorts of things …
- Material Resources (may include Money, but not necessarily)?
- Energy / Enthusiasm?
I am told that marathon runners reach a point in their race where they reach what they call a ‘wall’. It is there no matter how much they have trained, and at that point, it is only those who have the resources to push through the wall who can complete the course. I want to suggest that many Christians also hit a wall.
Perhaps you’ve been working for years and years and years and you are getting older. Bits are starting to drop off, and you are just plain ‘dog-tired’, you’ve run out of oomph, yet the hopes and dreams you had when you were young just haven’t happened. You’ve run out of steam.
Perhaps you made a mistake in your preparation, or you didn’t prepare quite thoroughly enough, and something has caught you by surprise, something you just can’t cope with. Perhaps despite your best efforts, something has happened that didn’t figure in your planning and you’re caught wanting. You are right on the verge of giving up
Ever felt any of the following?
- What’s the point?
- Why bother?
- Everything I do fails, I just don’t have it in me
I believe everyone gets to this point at some stage in their life, where we just have nothing left in us to cope. If you are there, this is good news, because we can find in God all the strength we need to cope.
Psalm 73:26, ‘my flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever’.
Peter had nothing at the gate called beautiful when he was going to pray, and a lame man was begging. Peter does not have the resources to help, but he knows where to find them—listen to what he says in Acts 3:6 ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk’.
2 Corinthians 1:20 tells us that all of God’s promises are ‘yes’ in Christ Jesus!
- The promise of eternal life is ‘yes’ in Christ Jesus,
- The promise of freedom from sin is ‘yes’ in Christ Jesus,
- The promise of a relationship with God is ‘yes’ in Christ Jesus.
- The promise of God’s presence in the midst of everything the world would throw at us is ‘yes’ in Christ Jesus!
This is good news! But there’s more!!
Not only that, but Jesus can restore to us that which we’ve lost. He not only made up the shortfall in the wine at the wedding, He went above and beyond—He filled the pitchers with the best wine!
We read in Scripture that Jesus can do ‘ immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us’ (Ephesians 3:20). Luke 6:38 records that Jesus says ‘give and it will be given to you (and listen to this) a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and overflowing will be poured into your lap’. Neither of these invoke an image of someone who has run out and is now living in poverty.
God promises us that when we are his people there will come a day when He will ‘restore the years the locusts have eaten’ (Joel 2:25-32), and that ‘The glory of the latter house will be greater than the glory of the former house’ (Haggai 2:9).
At this time when we have come face to face with the limitations of our society, the limitations of science and government which is struggling to cope and struggling to bring hope and peace to people, if you feel right at the end of your rope, I want to encourage you that there is hope available for you – if you will reach out and accept it!
John 2v5—Do whatever He tells you to do
Mary’s advice to the servants was, ‘do whatever He tells you to do’. This is the best way to live your life as a life of abundance in Jesus.
There is an account of someone in 2 Kings 5:9-14, a general called Naaman. Naaman has leprosy and sends his servants to Elisha to ask for healing. When Elisha sends back a message to go and wash in the Jordan, Naaman gets grumpy — he is irritated about what he’s told to do. He was expecting something else. He was expecting the man of God to come in person and to miraculously heal him, and he’s told to wash in the Jordan. He even expresses an opinion that the rivers in his homeland are greater than any in Israel. He thinks his natural resources are superior to the thing the man of God told him to use: ‘But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage’ (2 Kings 5:11-12).
The gospels record an encounter between Jesus and a young man who was very rich. The account in Matthew 19:16-29 records the man saying to Jesus, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus says, ‘keep the commandments’. The man’s response is, ‘I’ve done this since I was a young man’. It seems to me that, like Naaman, he was dissatisfied with the response… surely I have to DO something more? Jesus gave him his desire and gave him something else to do (give away all his wealth)!
I wonder how many of us sense God telling us to take some form of action, or even we read in the Bible about things that Christians should do, and we are expecting something significant to do, and Jesus simply says ‘follow me’. Being a Christian is simple:—all we have to DO is to obey Jesus.
- ‘Why do you call me Lord, Lord yet don’t do what I say?’ (Luke 6:46)
- (Luke 11:28) ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’
- 1 John 1v6,7 tells us that if we don’t walk in the light (i.e. our lives don’t actually line up with our confessions) we are not walking ‘in the truth’ (a great definition of hypocrisy)
Remember, the Bible teaches us that if we miss on one point of the law, we miss on all of it! ‘For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it’. (James 2:10)
We do not need to look beyond this to some other activity to prove our faith or gain eternal life. Put your trust in Jesus, and do what He commands you to do. You will find all you need in the pages of this book, or rather these books, which we call The Bible. I would suggest any church which adds to this has deviated from the gospel.
John 2:9—The master did not realise.
The last point comes from the fact that the master of the banquet did not realise where the wine had come from (2:9).
Last week we looked at the account in Luke 24 of the encounter between two disciples meeting the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus, yet they didn’t recognise him. It wasn’t until after Jesus broke bread with them, and revealed himself to them, that they recognised him. So I covered this then as well. It seemed to me that I might sound like a broken record, but it is a point this particular passage makes, so I think it is important enough to repeat it. Perhaps either here now, or online, there is someone who really needs to hear this truth. At the very least, if something is worth saying, it’s worth saying more than once!
So, the master of the banquet had an expectation that the best wine would already have been served, and is surprised that the wine he is served at the end is better (v9,10). He does not know that this is wine, which has come about as a result of the miraculous intervention of Jesus.
Note also that the servants, we are told, DID know the truth of what had happened John 2:9 the master of the banquet ‘did not realise where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.’
Not every one will see the hand of Jesus working in your life, which can mean two things:
- Jesus might work in your life and you might not see it!
- Jesus may work in your life, and you might be the only who sees it.
We might not recognise it
Sometimes, I’d go so far as to say often, when God works in us, we are the last people to recognise it. In Genesis 28, Jacob had a dream and saw a stairway reaching into heaven itself, where he saw the angels of God ascending and descending. When he woke up, he said this: ‘Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it’ (Genesis 28:16).
There is an account in John 9 of Jesus healing a blind man. He starts just being blind (and invisible). He was seen only as a pawn in a religious discussion. Jesus heals him. As we read through the narrative, we see his description of Jesus develops as his understanding grows:
- No knowledge at all about him. Jesus saw him, he didn’t see Jesus – he was blind (from birth).
- Man: ‘the man they call Jesus’ (John 9:11).
- Prophet: ‘He is a prophet’ (John 9:17).
- From God (implied): ‘If this man were not from God, he could do nothing’ (John 9:33).
- Lord ‘Lord I believe’ (John 9:38).
- God ‘and he worshipped him’ (John 9:38 – note 1st Commandment).
At what point did the man realise God had been working in his life? Sometimes our understanding of what God is doing – or even if He’s acting at all, develops as we look back on events that have already happened.
The good news in this is that you might be praying for something to happen, you might be thinking that God is silent, that He hasn’t answered your prayers and that He just doesn’t care. Consider this: It is at least possible that God has indeed heard your prayers and He is acting, ant that you haven’t yet recognised it. It isn’t that He isn’t working, you just cannot yet SEE His hand at work. It might even be your fault, you might be looking for the wrong thing to happen, you might not be looking in the right place, perhaps you are hurting too much, or you have spent a lifetime apart from Him and you wouldn’t even recognise His voice. But it does not mean He’s not working and/or that He’s not sovereign.
Others might not recognise it.
This can be really frustrating for some of us, Jesus works in our lives, and we can see plain as day the hand of God all around us, and people attribute it to other things. In the Gospels, there are a number of occasions where Jesus says, DON’T tell anyone…
Remember, Jesus told the synagogue ruler Jairus not to tell anyone about the healing of his daughter (Luke 5:43). He did the same when:
- He healed a man of leprosy (Matthew 8:4),
- He restored a man’s sight (Matthew 9:30),
- He healed many people (Matthew 12:15),
- He restored the hearing of a deaf man (Luke 7:36).
On all of these occasions, Jesus told people not to say anything. The point being, Jesus felt no need to be advertised all around the region. In contrast to the pharisees, who, in Matthew 6:5, Jesus says ‘love to be seen by men’. Again in Matthew 23:5, Jesus says that ‘everything they do is done for people to see’ and it is not seen as a good thing..
It is not necessary for everyone (or in fact anyone) to see your acts of righteousness – in fact, Jesus says we should be careful to try to ensure they don’t! Matthew 6:1 says: ‘Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them’. I am aware, though, that there is a tension here with the passage in which Jesus says ‘In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven’ (Matthew 5:16)….
I am not going to specifically tackle this tension this morning, but might perhaps look at it at some other point, the only comment I would make is this : I believe the answer to this tension lies not in the action itself, but the motivation which lies behind it…
Allow Jesus to work in your life. Not everyone will notice it – or at least they might notice the change, but they won’t attribute that to your faith or to the working of Jesus in your life. But just as in this account, almost always some will know the truth. In Cana, the master didn’t know the truth, but
- Jesus knew the truth
- Jesus’ mother knew the truth, and
- The servants knew the truth
Do not allow your assessment of whether God has worked in your life, or the importance or significance of your actions, to stand or fall on whether someone notices it or not. Allow God to be God, allow Jesus the honour of understanding that He is working in you and through you even when you don’t see it (or, perhaps, ESPECIALLY if you don’t see it).
We are told in v11 three things…
John 2:11 ‘What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him’.
- This was the first of the signs. The first thing to note is that the purpose of a sign is to point to something. Matthew 12 shows that people ask for signs, in John 3, Nicodemus shows his understanding that signs validate Jesus’ origin, ‘we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him’. In John 4:48 Jesus says to an official in Capernaum: ‘Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe’. But also note in John 12:37: ‘Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him’.
- The signs are one of the mechanisms John says Jesus uses to reveal his glory. Jesus is not just another man, he reveals who he is through the miracles he performs. One of the biggest mistakes people have made throughout the ages is to relegate our understanding of who Jesus is to just a man. Jesus was a man – he had to be descended from Adam, he had to be human or he could not be our representative (just as we are), nor could he be a kinsman redeemer for us. Jesus is fully human. BUT do not believe for one moment that is all He is! If your belief about who Jesus is, stops there—you are not a Christian.
- His disciples believed in him. There is a real parallel with 2v11 and Exodus 14:31 which says: ‘And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant’).
The point of the miracles for John is to show us who Jesus is so that we might believe: John 20:30-31, ‘Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name’.
What about you?
All you have to do to move from a place of coming up short, feeling like nothing really can satisfy and that you have just about used up your own resources is to come to Jesus, to ask him to fill your empty vessel and you too can know the fullness of a life which exceeds the old life in every way. Everyone else gives their best first, but when you allow Jesus to work in you and through you, you can know that the best you gave pales into insignificance when measured up against the New Wine he can pour into you.
What will you do?
Will you trust Him, will you ‘do whatever He says’? Or will you let life pass you by and fade once again into mediocrity? We are told in this account that Jesus revealed his glory and the disciples believed in Him. At the end of John’s gospel, we read that the whole gospel is written that ‘you may believe that Jesus is the messiah, the son of god, and that by believing you may have life in his name’
The choice is yours
Joshua 24:15 ‘choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD’.