Monday, February 11, 2013

The Wine of Choice

Well, I was getting ready to teach my Sunday School class (10-12 year-olds) again this Sunday. I had a couple of new students and was explaining how I like to do things. My plan was to teach on Adam and Eve and explain the curses and promises God pronounced, but before I start teaching, I like to do a little Bible Trivia. I was explaining to the new students that I like it as a starting activity, and it helps me see what kind of things they know and don't know. I told them that sometimes, if I think it's just too ridiculous that they don't know something, I will change my plan and teach on the question they don't know.

So, I took out a trivia card, and I picked the easiest (I thought) question there: What did Jesus turn water into at a wedding ceremony?
. . . In a class of eight, two thought they knew. One thought that it was blood, which at least happened in Genesis with Moses, but really. . .

So I taught on Jesus' first miracle.

It's found in John 2. I'll include it here in the New Living Translation. (

John 2
New Living Translation (NLT)

The Wedding at Cana

2 The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. 3 The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.”
4 “Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”
5 But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” When the jars had been filled, 8 he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions.
9 When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. 10 “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!”

11 This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

12 After the wedding he went to Capernaum for a few days with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples.

There are a few things I want to point out about this passage.

First, it clearly states that this is the FIRST miracle Jesus performed. "This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory."

Up to this point in Jesus' life, he was the son of Mary. We can tell by the lack of mention of Joseph during all of the accounts of Jesus' ministry that Joseph must have died in the years before. And based on what we know of Jewish tradition and culture, we know that Jesus, as the oldest son, would have been the provider for Mary and would have continued Joseph's work.

When we see Jesus in the book of John, He is roughly thirty years old. Presumably, He has turned over the carpentry business to one of the other sons, but in chapter 1, Jesus is baptised by John the Baptist, and the Spirit of God comes down, and God's voice can be heard to say the Jesus is God's "beloved Son, in whom [God] is well pleased."

This marks the point where Jesus officially takes on the role of the Son of God/Messiah. This is where He begins His ministry. It is right after this that He begins to call His first disciples--some of whom witnessed the baptism; some did not.

And then, in chapter 2, it says "The next day. . ." The next day after He starts His ministry and His new role. . .

Mary was invited to a wedding--Weddings were huge community events that usually involved inviting most of the people in their villages or towns--so, Jesus was invited too, and so were His disciples. What follows is a great testimony to the character of Jesus that I think most people overlook.

When the hosts ran out of wine, they told Mary, and she told Jesus. . . Most of us would naturally think that this made sense, after all, don't we go to Jesus when we need something? But remember this: Up to this point, Jesus had never performed a miracle. . . (Let that sink in)

Mary turned to Jesus and told Him what the problem was. Jesus, knowing that they weren't responsible for the wedding, and fully aware that His purpose was now to First be God's chosen man and Secondly to be the son of Mary responded, “Dear woman, that’s not our problem. My time has not yet come.”

Jesus knows that providing wine for people was not what He was "there for."

But here's where the testimony comes in. Mary turns to the servants and tells them to do whatever Jesus tells them to do. She totally ignores Jesus' comment that this wasn't their problem and then puts it all on the line TRUSTING THAT HE CAN TAKE CARE OF IT.

Now if Jesus hasn't been performing miracles His whole life, Mary's trust here indicates that when Jesus was put in charge of something--no matter what--it was taken care of. Mary had no reason to believe that Jesus was going to work a miracle, but she apparently had every reason to believe that it didn't matter--without miracles, Jesus was the kind of man that could be depended on.

This is so important! So many of us are quick to dismiss Jesus as a life example where day-to-day living is concerned because "well, He's Jesus; He can do anything." Well, for thirty years He did it the same way we do. . . Kind of takes the wind out of that argument, doesn't it?
This means that for thirty years, Jesus did it the hard way, and He only had the miracles for three years. He spent 90% of His life doing things the same way we do. . . or SHOULD do.

Anyway (I hadn't actually meant to go there; it just sort of came out).

So Mary put Jesus on the spot, and what did Jesus do? He told the servants to go fill the jars for the ceremonial washing jars with water and serve the master of ceremonies. And turned the water into wine.

The question I asked my Sunday School students was this: "Why?"

Why, after telling His mother that this wasn't why He was here, that it wasn't their problem, Why did He go ahead and do it?

The first answer, I'm proud to say, the students came up with after discussing it: He was honoring His mother--she trusted Him, and He took care of her.

The second goes a bit deeper. Remember: Jesus has been baptised into His official ministry; He's entered the period where He "does what the Father does and says what the Father says."

So what does this miracle say about the Father who made it come true? Remember also, that Jesus has been a businessman for years, and in a way that left His mother without any doubt that He could take care of things. Jesus COULD have made arrangements for a local dealer of wine to deliver more wine, or He could have done it any number of ordinary ways, but He didn't. God stepped in and showed Jesus' glory. . . WHY?

Well, what was accomplished?

The most obvious thing that was accomplished was what the scripture comes right out and says in verse 11: "And His disciples believed in Him." This could have been just about encouraging the disciples to really believe what they were suspecting about this strange and fascinating man.

But that could have waited. . . why THIS?

So we look closely. This is the first miracle, but it's not a healing, no one was raised from the dead, nothing profound was taught. . . He just save someone from embarrassment and helped people in a celebration.

Stop and consider that for a moment though. How often do we think of God as someone who can step in when things are too bad for us to handle? God is the God who can make a way when there is no way. Amen.

But how often do we think about God as someone who cares if we're embarrassed? Or that He would do something just to make a party better? Just so we'd have a good time. Remember: The wine wasn't just wine; it was the best wine.

So why did God choose to step in here? He cares about people. He cares enough that He'll step in even when the world isn't at stake. He could have done anything He wanted to "first reveal Christ's glory," but what did He do? He chose to join a party and do an act of personal kindness.

Why was the wine the best wine? Because "only the best" for the ones God loves.

Drink deeply.