Water into Wine John 2 v1-11
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How many of you have watched ‘This is your Life’ either presented by Michael Aspel, or those old enough, ……? Eammon Andrews. Normally the book is presented to someone famous or heroic. Someone who has made an impact or influenced the life of others, either in the arts or by their good deeds. All friends and relations are researched and secretly interviewed and invited to appear on T.V. to give praise to the person being honoured.
Can you imagine being asked to appear on the programme, perhaps for the first time to testify about someone. However could you keep it a secret from anyone, let alone a person close to you. We are not very good normally at keeping secrets are we. Even if someone tells us in strict confidence, there is always a temptation to just tell perhaps one person in strict confidence, especially if scandal is involved. Some thing we Christians really must watch, especially if privileged to be in the healing ministry.
Can you imagine how Mary the mother of Jesus must have felt. She had been told quite clearly by the Angel Gabriel and by the experience of the Virgin Birth that her son was the Messiah, the very son of God. We can get a taste of Mary’s delight from the Hymn ‘Tell out my Soul’ based on Mary’s words recorded in Luke 1 v46-55, she was ecstatic, even though she was yet to marry Joseph, a very serious offence in those times. Jesus was sent to earth by God on a mission. The greatest mission ever, forget the Apollo Space Missions, they fade into insignificance in comparison. His mission was to save all of mankind, the whole world, to bring us back into line with God’s plan and purpose and to make a way for us to be able to repent and be forgiven resulting in our life being everlasting. Jesus was to, and did make the greatest impact and influence the world has seen. The vast majority of the world will be celebrating the millennium soon which is based on his birth date, even if it may be a nudge out.
Certain if I were the producer of ‘This is your Life’ Jesus would well and truly qualify for an appearance, there would be no shortage of witnesses wishing to contribute. Even at our own testimony service we ran out of broadcasting time!
Yet Mary we are told in Luke Ch.2 v19 kept the secret until the time was right. Although I do not believe in is right to give praise and honour to Mary to the degree of Jesus himself, what a remarkable woman. I think sometimes non Catholics may lose sight of this fact.
It seems natural for parents to be proud of their children. How often do we boast how well our children excel at something, regardless of their age. Proud parents often attend graduation ceremonies and stand there proud as peacock especially if their child achieved honours. It must have been a great temptation, throughout the life of Jesus before his ministry began at the age of 30, for Mary to either boast about his forth coming mission or to ask him to intervene in times of need. But no, things were to be done according to the will and timing of his heavenly parent, Father God. There’s a lesson for us all. I could stop there, but I won’t as the comedian Jimmy Cricket says “And there’s more”
Our reading today was about Jesus first miracle, changing water into wine. The first time people including Mary were to see a supernatural act performed by Jesus. Jesus had recently been baptised by John the Baptist, I just want to make it clear not the John who wrote our reading the Gospel of John. Jesus himself was anointed at the same time with the Holy Spirit. Immediately he went off into the desert for 40 days of preparation for his ministry praying, fasting and yes being tempted and tested by the devil. And who says theological college is hard! We are told in Luke 4 v14 he returned full of power by the Holy Spirit. You see neither Jesus, or you and me can do nothing for God in our own strength, we often think we can, but to be effective we need the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
So there was Jesus fully equipped and ready to start the greatest mission ever undertaken by man. He had chosen a team to help, the disciples, he was at battle stations so to speak, and what does he do?… He goes off to a party!
When I became a Christian 14 years ago, some of my friends didn’t know what to expect of the new me. They thought like I did pre conversion, that it meant you had to stop enjoying life, and become boring and straight laced. Sadly some do take that course. My friends struggled with the fact that I could still enjoy life, yes and even have a drink! The Jesus I know and read about mixed with people, he socialised, he was able to laugh with them as well as to cry with them. I think some of us need to practice relaxing in his presence. I believe that we too must be willing to mix, to socialise if we are to be effective in our mission for God. It was interesting that in my previous church a guest speaker from the diocese when speaking about the millennium celebrations said the last thing the Diocese wanted was all Christians to meet together in a holy huddle at the dawning of a new millennium. Yes it’s right to celebrate, but some of us needed to be with friends and neighbours not necessarily bashing them over the head with our bibles, but reminding and letting them see what an important event we are celebrating, and that we aren’t aliens from another planet. Remember that once you have invited Jesus into your life he is there all the time, at work and at play!
We too can, like Jesus was, be used at parties. Although we must be very careful not to abuse the freedom we have in Christ, and I’m not preaching an open invitation to get drunk. Certainly I know only too well the dangers of alcohol abuse, both personally and whilst working as an ambulance man and policeman. Alcohol can lower the threshold where temptation can turn into actual sin. If it must be used, use it wisely and be aware of what scripture tells us.
Now back to the wedding feast. In the time of Jesus, wedding parties were normally large elaborate occasions, lasting a least a whole weekend if not the week. Now ladies you probably wont like what I’m about to say, but I did’nt make the rules. In those days only men were invited to the actual meal. Although we are told that Mary was there, this was probably because she was well known by the family and was helping out with the arrangements. And what went wrong with the arrangements?…The wine ran out.
Now although Mary would not have been involved in the supplying of the wine, that traditionally was the responsibility of the bridegroom, she must have really felt for the family. To have run out of wine would have been very embarrassing, it broke the strong unwritten laws of hospitality of the time. So Mary asked Jesus to help. On first hearing the words of Jesus “You must not tell me what to do, woman, my time is yet to come” it sounds like a rebuke, you don’t call your mum or wife woman in normal circumstances do you, unless you say something like ‘Stupid woman’
What Jesus meant was that he could only act when his heavenly parent Father God told him to. He couldn’t just act to get Mary’s friend out of a tight spot. Certainly Jesus didn’t want to show favour because of special friends, his miracles, his saving power is for all. In things of God we too must never show partiality.
But Mary even after the rebuke was still expectant, she expected something to happen. She told the servants “Do whatever he tells you”…. Are we expectant, are we prepared to do whatever Jesus tells us even if it seems ridiculous, or costly?
Although Jesus had already said “My time has not yet come” God saw and acted on Mary’s plight and brought forward and seized the opportunity for the time to come. That is the time for Jesus to publicly do his first miracle. You see the human resources were all used up, no wine left. Often God will make us wait until our human resources have dried up, no hope left, before he seizes the opportunity. Those who know of my testimony know I speak from personal testimony.
Back to the wedding! God didn’t intervene just to save the embarrassment of the bridegroom. Jesus realised that by doing this act, his recently acquired disciples, who we are told were with him, would have their faith confirmed. They would see that this was no ordinary religious leader they were following but the Son of God. A son who was so in tune with his heavenly father, he without hesitation reversed his own decision when instructed to.
Miracles are demonstrations of God’s power. Almost every miracle of Jesus was a renewal of Godâ’s fallen creation. For example, restoring sight, lame to walk, restoring life to death. We must not believe in Jesus because he is superhuman, although he is, but because he is God continuing his creation. Have you got that? I’ll say it again, Jesus is continuing his creation. He cares for all of us and ever part of his creation, and longs to restore it. God performs miracles for his plan and purpose to be fulfilled. Let us never forget that when we look back into the Old Testament the period before Jesus came to earth, miracles took place. The plagues to free the people from captivity, the parting of the Red or Reed Sea. The miracles that Elijah and Elisha two of many great men of God who were used supernaturally.
It is not my intention to use these example to minimise the importance of Jesus’ miracles. The point I want to make is that they only happen when God takes over, when he intervenes, when his will is done. Certainly magicians in both the Old and New Testament tried to imitate some of God’s power in miracles and failed miserably!
On this particular occasion God’s plan was the start of making it explicitly clear who Jesus was. To show His glorious qualities. It was also time for Mary to understand that their former relationship was at an end. It seems apparent that Joseph had by this time died and Mary had the sole responsibility of parenthood. But now she must no longer intervene or influence his mission, even if she was fearful.
There is a great significance what was to be his first miracle. The water took a new form, showing Jesus power over nature. Matthew Henry in his commentary says this “The beginning of Christ’s miracles was turning water into wine, the blessing of the Gospel (the good news of Jesus) turns water into wine, With this Christ showed that his errard (which means mission as I found out) into the world was to heighten and improve creature comforts to all believers, and to make them comforts indeed”. Jesus wants to enrich our lives and transform us.
The water jars which were used were intended for water for ritual purification as was then the Jewish Law. Although I wasnât around then, I have it on good authority that a common saying in those days was ‘He who uses much water in washing will gain much wealth in this world’ However I don’t want you too go around sniffing under peoples arm pits to see if they had a bath before they came out so you know who to approach for a loan.
The gift of Jesus from God allowed us to do away with the old Jewish laws and regulations of sacrifice and water purification. Like the empty water jars , Judaism was deficient. Christianity is an extension of Judaism, we sometimes forget that Jesus our King, was not an Anglican or Baptist, he was King of The Jews. Therefore Jesus is now the ultimate sacrifice and the purification of our sins. This must be a great comfort to the homeless or those living in drought conditions. Although I acknowledge and agree with the importance of believer baptism, no amount of water could make us cleaner than the blood that Christ shed on the cross on our behalf, so that all that trust in him and sincerely turn away from sin and ask forgiveness receive it. That’s why most Christian Churches have a time of confession and repentance during the service. No water jars or soap.
The jars that were used at the wedding would have been really large, it is estimated that the six would have held at least 160 gallons. Certainly more than was needed for the occasion even if I had been invited , they were filled to the brim. Yet there was no suggestion that there was any drunkenness or disorder. They used God’s gift wisely, as we must also. Some theologians, especially those who find it hard to accept that even Jesus had the odd tipple (See Matt 11 v18-19) and preach abstinence, will tell you it wasn’t real wine. Rubbish! Make no mistake this really was wine, no tricks. The man in charge of the feast, probably a professional caterer tested it! He knew the difference between a plonk and a Penfolds. He was well pleased with the vintage and bouquet, the very best in his words. When Jesus intervenes and takes control everything is of the highest quality.
As I studied and prepared this talk I was amazed how many important points it contains, alas time permits me not to go into more detail. But let me summarise.
I am sure that Mary’s request came out of concern for her friends, certainly she had expectation and confidence in Christ. She was able to control her parental instinct and keep the secret of her son’s greatness. There is a time for speaking and a time for silence. Isaiah said in Ch. 62 “I will speak out to encourage Jerusalem; I will not be silent until she is saved” May we let God control our tongues.
We like Jesus must submit to the will and timing of God. Do we believe that Jesus can still supply in abundant measure?
So friends whether you already have a love relationship with Jesus, or you are still seeking and working on such a relationship, as we all need to do at times, here is food for thought, or should I say wine for thought!
Is it time that we really invite Christ Jesus into our hearts, instead of just going through the motions, are our hearts like the empty jars that need filling? Do we have a concern for our friends and relations? Do we want them to be nourished, enriched and receive eternal life, which can only come through the redeeming act of Christ. Have we invited them to meet with, and to share in the cup of Christ’s blood which is symbolised with wine in the communion service.
If we were asked, like those appearing on ‘This is your Life’ to mention what influence has Christ made on your life, what could you say? How easy do you find it to stand up in this church let alone on T.V. and give praise to him who richly deserves praise, more than anyone who has ever existed.
You know one day all of us will meet face to face with God. In Revelations Ch.20 the last book in the Bible we are told that each person will be the subject, not the witness of the ‘Book of This is Your Life’. The dead will be judged according to what they had done with their time on earth, as recorded by God in the book of life. Those who choose not to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour will not even be entered in the book and will be thrown into the lake of fire.
Friends I say to you “This is your Life” what are you going to do with it?…..
Let us pray: You might like to either silently or out aloud repeat this prayer line by line after me.
Father thank you that you promise everlasting life in all it’s fullness for those who know and trust Christ…… Forgive me when I have not allowed you to fill me to overflowing with you love and power of the Holy Spirit……Forgive me when I have not allowed you to have control of my tongue and my actions….. Come Lord Jesus fill me anew, wash me again in your blood…….. Make me a true witnessing and worshipping disciple in the name of Christ Amen.