The reason we are looking at John is to learn what it means to meet the Lord Jesus on his terms. John is a little different than the other apostles who helped us meet Jesus in that John is writing many decades after the earlier gospels. So what John is doing is not just looking at the facts again but helping us understand what they mean. What would it mean to meet this Jesus? So John begins to put the facts together in such a way, with some perspective now of time, helping us know this is who he is, this is what he plans to do. You'll see that even in the words of the apostle as he begins to unfold, the meaning of this event of changing water into wine at a wedding in Cana.
I want you to notice the first and the last verses. First words: On the third day. If you look at the 11th verse and its conclusion you see that Jesus did this miracle in Cana of Galilee and manifested his glory.
I'm going to put us in the position of John as he is writing. The first thing that happened was John the Baptist declared Jesus to be the Lamb of God, the one who would be sacrificed. Then John says three days later he manifested his glory. What is John reminding us of? The resurrection, where Jesus was the Lamb sacrificed for our sin and three days later he manifested his glory. What you have writ small in John chapter two is the message of salvation that will soon be writ large.
You've got to admit this is an unlikely place for the Son of God to begin. I mean, if he's going to do a miracle, what you expect is lightning, earthquakes on cue, something that says, I am the great and powerful … or something like that. Can't you at least take a couple of fish and feed 5,000? Well, all in good time.
But for right now, the place he begins is helping his mom keep a wedding from getting embarrassing. Why that? It is the gospel writ small. After all, if you were meeting somebody, after the introduction what would we do in a business setting? We would exchange business cards. The little thing that says who you are, what your product is, what your purpose is. It's not the full picture, but it is representative of what you will do and who you really are. That's what the wedding feast at Cana is all about—Jesus is ultimately declaring his business. What is Jesus' business? He is saying first of all, I'm in the grace business. I am providing for people what they cannot provide for themselves. Many of you will recognize this miracle of turning water into wine is not so great but it surely is a good beginning because Jesus is saying, I'm going to rescue people. Now, the situation it's a big, fat, Jewish wedding. And in a big, fat, Jewish wedding— unlike our weddings which might go an hour or two with the reception, maybe 6 or 8. This is going to go 3 to 6 days. At some point in that situation, the wine runs out, which in a culture of hospitality isn't a little thing. This is a huge embarrassment. We don't really know the reasons for the wine running out. Is it uninvited guests? Is it somebody didn't calculate right? Did the delivery truck not arrive on time? We don't know the reason. But we do know the consequence, a whole family is going to be ashamed. What's the solution? Ask Jesus. That should work. Ask Jesus. We're out of wine. Jesus, would you help us out? The fact that he does is saying to us very simple things. He comes to rescue people from their guilt, even the guilt of miscalculation. From their shame of things going wrong, whether their responsibility or not. He comes to rescue people from guilt and from shame.
Now, that's the simple story but it's not a story without concerns, right? One of our early concerns is the way Jesus talks to His mother. Remember verse three: "When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, 'They have no wine,' and Jesus said to her, 'Woman, what does this have to do with me?'" Well, Jesus, you're supposed to bring good will to everybody and we need some good will right now and some good wine too. We're troubled because of how he speaks to his mother. If he's so full of compassion, why does he address her so formally? Woman. We expect whatever is the equivalent of Abba—"Mom." He addresses her formally and though you will sometimes see commentators who don't like him addressing her that way, it's not disrespectful. We know that Jesus is not being unkind to his mother. First, she is a Jewish mother and if she knew he was being unkind she would say, "How dare you speak to your mother that way." Second, it's not the only time he says it. There is a different time that Jesus speaks to Mary precisely this way. It is when he is hanging on the cross knowing he will die and he sees Mary, his mother, with John, the writer of this gospel. Do you remember what he says? Woman, behold your son, and son, you take care of my mother. There is this key understanding that at his most tender and compassionate moment he still speaks to his mother with this formality.
It's really the next phrase that bothers us so much. What has this to do with me? You, my mother, are asking me to take care of this little earthly matter. What has this to do with me? You'll be more troubled if I tell you where that phrase is repeated in the Gospels. It's a very short and cryptic Greek phrase, literally: "What to me am to you?" That's all it says. As if to say, "What is this to me because to you we're not in connection?" The only other persons who say these words in the Gospels are demons when they are addressing Jesus. What do we have to do with you? Which is to say, We are from different realms. We are in whole different kingdom and now when Jesus says to his mother, "Woman, what does this have to do with me?" what Jesus is doing is not just addressing his mother formally but distancing himself from earthly obligations because he has other obligations. They are heavenly ones.
"My hour has not yet come." That phrase occurs frequently in the gospel of John as well. John 7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27; and 13:1. Each time when Jesus refers to my hour, what is he talking about? His death. His death by crucifixion. And when he says to his mother, What does this have to do with me, I'm not obligated to earthly obligations right now, my hour is not yet come, he is not speaking about his concern for his mother. He is actually speaking about his concern for his Father. I have a mission to complete and if I bring the earthquake, if I make it too well known what is going to happen, then they will come after me and I will not be able to do my Father's business.
There is somebody in this very chapter that Jesus does address with parental endearment. Go to verse 16. Jesus has gone from Cana to the place where there are people who are now exchanging money and charging God's people extravagantly, in the temple. Jesus in verse 16 speaks to them and he told those who sold the pigeons: "Take these things away. Do not make my Father's house a house of trade." Mother, I'm not in your realm. I have to be about my Father's business now.
It's not the first time many of you have heard that phrase is it? Remember Jesus said these words earlier too. He was twelve years old, his parents had gone to Jerusalem, and he had gone with them. They go home and in the busyness—I know you've never left anybody at the gas station but somehow the caravan gets going and Jesus is left behind. They don't recognize it until they're away. They go back and find him speaking to the scribes in the temple and saying, "Why didn't you come?" And he said, "Why are you surprised that I am about my Father's business?" Already there was the understanding—there is a loyalty that trumps earthly loyalties. I have to be about my Father's business. It is a statement of endearment that we begin to understand as a statement about mission. My hour is not yet come. I must fulfill all righteousness. I must do what is necessary to live that perfect life that would be the perfect sacrifice for those who are guilty of sin and shame. They, I must provide for. I cannot do that yet, that would undermine the mission of my Father, which is the main thing that I am here about. It is really saying that I must do the most important things.
And what you must understand is that Mary gets it. She does not argue with him. She says to the servants: "Do whatever he tells you."
We must yield everything
Now, what we should not do is import the conversations from our households to Jesus' household. No, this is the son of God. And as the son of God, he is dealing with the mother who heard the angels and knows who he is. And when Jesus says, "I must be about my Father's business," Mary does not question it. She says to the servants, "Do whatever he says." She is willing to ask anything but yield everything. I'll ask for what I want, but I yield to Jesus what he knows is best and right. Recognize that what Jesus knows is best and right is in exact proportion of what is needed. They need some wine but when he does this miracle it's virtually in secret. The master of the feast, the emcee of ceremonies, when he has brought the wine that Jesus changed, it says explicitly: "did not know what Jesus had done." And apparently the guests do not know. Who are the only ones that know? The servants and the disciples. And as a result the disciples who now must fulfill what they are called to do, they believe in him. But if you will, the business card is all that is exchanged at this point as Jesus is saying to later readers: I am he who was prophesied to come and I will do my Father's business.
What would it mean for us today if we were willing to ask anything but yield everything? Our temptation is to say if we are dealing with the Son of God who can bring down the lightning and can create the earthquakes on demand, then we better not trouble him with the little stuff. But even the Apostle Paul says to us "In everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make your requests known unto God." In everything. Now, as you do so it is always with the yielding we would even see in Christ Jesus. "Yet, Lord, not my will but your will be done." So that what we do is be faithful as believers. He is not saying there are things too small for Jesus. We bring to him a wedding embarrassment. We bring to him family embarrassments and weakness and pain and trouble and things that we think are beneath him because they are due to our guilt and our shame and he says, Ask me anything but as you do so yield everything, acknowledge that it's my will not yours, my proportionality not yours, my timing not yours. It's the King of heaven who will now take things over. If we put it into his hands, we have to let his hands work.
Kathy and I saw this in ways we were not expecting last Sunday. We had a visit from our married kids and old friends from church almost 30 years ago. And it was really a sweet time as we sat around a picnic table and began to talk. One of the things that came up as we have raised our children was the couple we were with at that time also have had wonderful children and yet one son has struggled with mental illness much of his life. And as we were talking, the mother of that one who has struggled with mental illness was talking to me a little bit about a book that she is writing and she wants me to look it over from time to time. It's about what it means to be a believing family raising a child with mental illness. She told me about an event that happened a few weeks earlier.
One morning she just had time and she was just typing furiously away on this book, and everything she wanted to say was just coming out. And then she said at some point she did something, and it disappeared on the computer. It was just gone. And not only what she had written at that point, but some of what she had written in previous days. She said she called her husband at work just devastated and in tears. It was so awful. There was so much that she wanted to say, so much that she had put together. She had poured her heart out and now it was gone. They tried to get help from an expert and the expert couldn't retrieve it. And later that day when the husband came home from work having just tried to comfort his wife in her devastation, he came home and she was just buoyant. "Hello, Honey, how are you?" And he said, "What happened between 'boo hoo hoo,' and 'hello,' Honey?" . This is what she said: "The way that we have made it through and helped others is by yielding everything to the Lord, and by being satisfied in him no matter what. We know that he could heal our son, and we have prayed for that, but he has taught us to rest in Him. We have found deep happiness and contentment, not in endlessly wrestling to change our circumstances but in trusting the one who loved us enough to send Jesus." She said, "When I was writing so furiously, I wasn't writing about Jesus. it was all about me, my pain, my anger, my struggle. There was a little voice of conscience on my shoulder who was saying, 'is that really what you're supposed to be?'I kept brushing him away. And finally the Lord said, 'No more of this, and the Lord hit the delete button.'"If you knew the pain, if you knew the years of struggle and prison and difficulty and alcohol and drugs and all that has gone into that young man's struggle, and to have someone say, I was able to rest in Jesus.
We were around the table, and not only this couple but all our adult children with their spouses, and we're just blinking back tears. Not just because we know the situation but because we are so thankful for our children to be hearing this. Our children have struggled deeply with health and infertility issues, what would it mean for them truly to understand what it means to ask anything and yield everything. It was such a blessed moment. If you are like us, we over and over again have the boo hoo hoo and are looking for the "hello, Honey." Being able to say if Jesus loved us enough to die for us, then we need to turn this over to him. And while it may not be the circumstances we expected, he will in timing and proportion do what is best. We put it into his hands and then we trust his hands. Why would we do that? Because he's not just in the grace business, he is in the joy business.
We've been perfectly provided for
Many of you in this room know this story well. Jesus provides a great quantity of wine. You recognize there are these six stone jars in verse six. They were for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding 20 or 30 gallons. And what we learn is; Jesus just gives a lot of what's needed. But it's not just the quantity of wine that's there, it's the quality of it that is so emphasized here. There are a couple of reasons for this. One of the reasons is because in Jewish custom the provision of wine was the provision of blessing.
Now, the focus for many of us is the wine steward, the master of the feast is saying, "Usually when people have had too much to drink they don't care anymore that the bad wine comes out. But this is the best wine and you're serving it last." I think what we need to see is not just how good the wine is but where it's coming from. What were the jars used for? Purification. And Jesus in this business card event is saying you have used water for external cleansing but I am going to give you something that is internal. There will be a night that he will say, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, all of you drink of it." Why? Because you will be purified by what I ultimately provide—my blood for your souls. It is the internal purification that is being signaled and signified so that God's people would not be hoping for just something external. We are hoping for something more internal and changing and lasting where a hard world and a fallen world can be addressed and we can have hope in it because we're not just depending on the externals; we are depending on something internal that is to happen that is far more significant.
Even in a fallen world, God's business is joy. Why would you trust him to do that business for you? Because ultimately he is in the wedding business. Not just the grace business, not just the joy business. This Jesus is in the wedding business, and that's what the business card is saying. You recognize of course the wedding business, just because this was the first of his miracles that he did at the wedding of Cana of Galilee. What you may not recognize is what John is doing for the Jews who will be reading his gospel later on. Jesus is providing very fine wine.
Now, you're not Jewish, so the reference doesn't hit you but Isaiah would be echoing in the ears of the Jews. In Isaiah 25 the prophet is talking about a great hardship that is coming upon the people of God due to their rebellion against him. But then he says, God will rescue you. There will be a Messiah. What will mark him? Isaiah 25:6, "On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well aged wine. Of rich food full of marrow and of aged wine well refined." What was the kind of wine that Jesus made at the feast? The very best.
But that's not all that Isaiah says. He doesn't just talk about one who will come and provide wine. Verse seven of Isaiah 25: "And he will swallow up this mountain, the covering that is cast over all peoples." He's not just coming to bring a rich feast with a lot of good wine; he is coming to remove the covering—that's the death shroud—that is upon the people. He is going to swallow up death for all people. But when John described Cana he's not talking about Jesus taking away death. Go back to John's gospel in the fourth chapter and the 46th verse, just a little bit later we read these words in John 4:46: "So Jesus came again to Cana in Galilee." He goes back there again. "He came again to Cana in Galilee where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill." Verse 50, "Jesus said to this official, 'Go, your son will live.'" The official goes on his trip back to his own town, meets his servants as they were coming to get him, and the servants say: "Your son has been healed." The official asks when this happened. They gave the hour and it was exactly the hour that Jesus told him that his son would be healed. He was given life again.
But that's not all that Isaiah spoke about. He doesn't just say that this one who comes will give much good wine and life. It says he will give life to all people. Who was this official? He was not a Jewish official whose son was ill. He was a Roman centurion, as the gospel was extended to all peoples. But that's not all that Isaiah says. "He will swallow up death forever and the Lord God will wipe away tears from their faces."
Well, John still hasn't finished the story, has he? John will finish the story in the book of Revelation, in which he will say at the great consummation as all the peoples who have trusted in Jesus come together, there will be a great what kind of feast before the Lamb. A great wedding feast of the Lamb. And at the great wedding feast what will happen? The people of God, the new Jerusalem will come down from heaven adorned as a bride and at that point God will wipe away "All tears from their eyes."
This Jesus is in the wedding business and what he is saying to you and to me in this earliest of miracles which is to show who he really is and what he will really do is if you will ask anything of me then my intention is to provide everything that you need in this life to be rid of sin and shame so that you could be wed to me forever. And in that wedding of one so dear, one so close, one so powerful there could be an eternal life with him so that when the things of this earth grow strangely dim, as hard as they have been, our hearts continue to rejoice because we recognize the one who has vowed to us as the one who is in the wedding business—whether in sickness or in health, plenty or in want, sin or shame—you are mine, both now and forever.
And that knowledge is what enables us to yield anything to him because we recognize the one who secures eternity for us.
Bryan Chapell is the senior pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria, Illinois.