Grace Lavished Upon Us

Good morning Grace Church. I’m glad you made it this morning. It is always good to be with you, especially on Sundays for gathered worship. And it’s an incredible honor anytime I get to preach God’s word. My name is Mike Maruska and I’m a member here. If you are new to Grace, we are excited you are here and would love for you to stick around a few minutes after service so we can meet you. It gives us a chance to learn more about you, how you found your way here today and answer any questions you might have about Grace church.

This text is probably very familiar to many, if not all, of us. It’s an incredible passage with loads of glory, but there’s a danger that we simply assume we already know it. It can be tempting to skate ahead and not think about how amazing this text is. We hear about a miracle Jesus performs, nod or heads in agreement and quickly explain it away. It’s Jesus, of course he can do that. Kids, have you ever seen your mom or dad turn water into wine? Ask them to try when you get home today. This doesn’t happen very often. so please pray with me. Pray that I would faithfully reveal the truth in this text and it would hit us all freshly.

This morning we are obviously taking a break from Hosea. In the few times I’ve been able to preach here at Grace I’ve tried to pick a text that strikes a balance to wherever Pastor Dave preaches from. So I wanted to go to the New Testament, and find a text where Jesus would amaze us. As I searched and studied and prayed, it was hard for me to get beyond John’s gospel. Why John? As many of you know I love Biblical theology, which is simply a way of seeing how all of the threads of scripture run through the whole story of redemption. And in the book of John we find these kinds of threads all over the place. Biblical theology can also simply look at the themes within one book, which John does really well.

To give a picture of what Biblical theology, and specifically John’s gospel is like, here’s an illustration: Kids, imagine it’s the morning of your birthday. As you get up, you notice there’s a small gift and a string tied to your door knob leading down the hallway. You open the first gift and it’s a bell. So you follow the string to the next room where there’s a slightly bigger gift. Inside is a helmet. And as you keep following the string and find more presents until you reach the end of the string and sitting there with a big bow on it is a new bike! All the other gifts were clues that built to this final, glorious gift.

That’s what John’s Gospel is about. When we start pulling on the string, John is going to lead us to the glory of Christ in increasing amounts. He builds his book around a series of miracles that John calls signs. And John isn’t hiding anything either. He makes his point clear at the end of his book.

20:30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Keep this idea in the back of your mind as we go through our text. The entire purpose of John’s book is for us to believe in the Son and gain eternal life.

John could have chosen a number of other stories, but he arranged his book to include these signs. We will look at the first of those miracles in our text, but it’s important to remember that all the signs are connected.

The main point of our text is this: Jesus abundantly satisfies our greatest needs. And there’s more to come.

And to be clear, our needs are not based on what we think we need most. If we defined what we need, we’d settle for far less than what Jesus, the Creator of the universe knows we need.

The text is is composed of three interconnected scenes: The Deeper Problem, The Satisfying Solution and the Glorious Result.

I. The Deeper Problem (v 1-5)
First, a little background: Jesus lived in Nazareth, a small town in the region of Galilee. He grew up with his mother and brothers. It is likely that his father, Joseph, died sometime before his public ministry. It was in this same region that Cana was located. This story is connected to the previous chapter where Jesus calls his disciples. That was another possible connection to this wedding. We don’t know who was getting married, but it was likely that Jesus was invited because it was either family or a friend. Notice also that verse one says Jesus’ mother was there. And then that Jesus was invited. Some scholars note this to say that Jesus’ mother was there to help with the wedding in some capacity like serving or preparing the feast. This could also explain why she knew that the wine had run out.

However Jesus’ mother found out, she comes to her son and says, “they have run out of wine.” So of all the problems that John could highlight, he chooses this to include in his gospel? Of all of the miracles we see Jesus perform in the New Testament, this makes the list of Jesus’ greatest concerns? No one is sick or dying. No one is starving or blind. There is no pressing problem where Jesus must intervene. But of course there is more going on here.

First, weddings at that time were week-long feasts and the groom, rather than the bride’s family, was responsible for paying for it. If the wine ran out, it was considered a great embarrassment in that culture. It’s not clear exactly what Jesus’ mother expected, but this is probably what concerned her. She sees the tangible problem and wants to take care of it. Isn’t that where we often go? Our bank account is low and our bills are high. My kids won’t behave me. My boss keeps interfering with my work. I”m tired of this weather. I only got ten likes on my Instagram post. That’s not to say God doesn’t care about these kind of worries. Of course he does. It’s just that Jesus might have something else in mind that he wants you to see. Something deeper. And if we have that deeper need satisfied, our temporal concerns might find their proper place.

Second, a few notes on wine in the Bible.

The Bible is talking about real wine, not grape juice. It was fermented and had alcohol in it. I realize people have a range of associations with wine and drinking and I want to be sensitive to that. Some struggle with drinking wine because of overindulgence, some abstain because they know of these tendencies. Others either drink in moderation or abstain on principle. Some just have no taste for wine or alcohol. And that’s not the point of this text or this sermon. I just want to make sure that we are not distracted from the idea in this passage by something like actually drinking wine. I am primarily addressing what the image of wine stands for in this passage and in scripture.

There are several ways that scripture uses wine. It is used as a drink offering by the priests in Israel. Proverbs warns about abusing wine. It is used in celebrations to represent joy and blessing.. And several times prophets like Isaiah, Joel and Amos warn about the impending doom as a result of their disobedience. Isaiah, after warning specific nations of God’s wrath, now warns all nations of judgment. Chapter 24 describes the situation like this:

5 The earth lies defiled
under its inhabitants;
for they have transgressed the laws,
violated the statutes,
broken the everlasting covenant.
6 Therefore a curse devours the earth,
and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt;
therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched,
and few men are left.

11 There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine;
all joy has grown dark;
the gladness of the earth is banished.

The party is over. Isaiah is describing a party where the wine has run out. Judgment is coming on account of man’s sin and rebellion. Hearing about God’s wrath should sober all of us up. It’s what every person ever created deserves. And yet, the major hope in the prophets is the promise of a future Messiah. And now in our text we are at a feast, and the Messiah is present.

Look at Jesus’ response in verse 4: Woman, what does this have to do with me? It doesn’t hit our ears right, does it? It sounds harsh. In our culture, saying ‘Woman’ sharply sounds chauvinistic. But that can’t be the tone of Jesus here. Indeed he uses this same address several times in John’s gospel. He speaks gently to the Samaritan woman in chapter 4:21 “Woman, believe me…” Later when Jesus is nailed to the cross he cries out to his mother, “woman, behold, your son.” And when the tomb was rolled away after his mighty resurrection, he speaks to Mary Magdalene, ‘Woman, why are weeping?”

Taken with that broader context, it is easier to understand how Jesus was not being harsh with his mother. But the address is a softened rebuke. Listen to both parts of his answer:

“What does this have to do with me?” This it reveals a crucial detail: He is not calling her mother, but woman. It’s impersonal and helps make a distinction. He is accountable to a higher power than even his own earthly mother. He ultimately must obey his heavenly Father. Put another way as John does in chapter 5, “I can do nothing on my own. I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” this is made even clearer with the second half of his response.

My hour has not yet come. The Father’s will is to send Jesus to die. Jesus’ time or hour would come at Calvary. Again John uses a phrase like this and pulls the string all the way to the cross. Jesus escapes the Pharisees multiple times. Why? Because his time had not yet come. By the time Jesus celebrates Passover with his disciples in the upper room, his hour had come. And he did indeed go to the cross in order to bear the wrath of the Father, die a real human death and pay the price for sin. Remember John’s purpose for his gospel? He wrote so that all who would believe would have eternal life. After this took place, Paul looks back at the cross and notes, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” In other words, God timed everything to happen at just the right time. And this story occurs before that time.

II. The Satisfying Solution (v 6-8)
After addressing her son, Jesus’ mother turns to the servants and say, “do whatever he tells you.” In other words, obey Jesus. That’s the drum beat of the entire Bible: Obey and find blessing. Disobey and be cursed. Now as we’ll see in a minute, we can’t lose sight of the proper place of obedience. We don’t obey to gain God’s favor. That alone comes from God. But we are saved in order to do good works in the power of the Holy Spirit. We respond to God’s gracious salvation by living lives of obedience.

Whether Jesus’ mother fully understood who her son was, she’s seen enough by this point to know that he has a unique authority. Think about all that she witnessed as Jesus’ mother. From the conception and birth to teaching with authority in the temple as a boy, Jesus was unique. Further, he was the only child in the family who never sinned. Can you imagine how that must have stood out in their home? We are so used to living in a fallen world that it doesn’t surprise us when someone sins. Rather it’s a bigger deal when someone actually obeys. Parents, imagine if just one of your kids obeyed every single second of their life. It would be such a stark contrast to the rest of us who are soaked in sin.

Further, Jesus’ mother may not have known, but as people who can look back on the cross and have the entire story we also know that Jesus has authority because he is Creator. John 1:3
So because Jesus is the sinless Creator, he has authority. If he commands anything, which is everything that the Bible commands, we should do it. As you read through scripture in your quiet times, at family devotions or together in discipleship groups, pay attention to what scripture commands you to do. Then do it.

Does it seem strange that right after rebuking his mother, Jesus still does something? While Jesus says his time has not yet come, he does use this opportunity to reveal his glory. It’s not to the full degree of glory that we see at the cross, but it’s glorious. It’s a semi-public announcement that the Messiah has come. So he does act.

Now there were 6 stone water jars. These jars were part of the purification custom in Jewish culture. They were stone because water in earthenware jars were unclean according to Leviticus. They were used for handwashing, so at a wedding feast like this, the people would need to wash their hands.

What John is highlighting here is that the stone jars were part of the Old Covenant. The Law can’t save us. Ritual cleansing can’t clean our filth. While we can wash our hands and be temporarily clean, it can’t truly make us clean before God. And it’s because our hearts are filthy, not our hands.Our problem is much deeper. It’s on the inside. We want control and seek our own glory. We try to take what rightfully belongs to our Creator. And we can’t fix it through simply trying harder or obeying well enough. We don’t simply turn a dial and make small adjustments. We need transformation.

This is what Jesus is getting at. It’s a deeper need than his mother understood and just as promised the Messiah has come to transform us.

Fill the jars with water. Jesus tells the servants what to do and they obey in faith. They trusted that Jesus was going to do something. Now if they brought a cup of water to the wedding party, the embarrassment would be on the servants. They obey Jesus before the water is turned into wine. They may not have known exactly what Jesus would do but they heard his mother’s words and in faith, they obeyed.

And as a result of their faith, the servants got to witness Christ’s glory. The same is true for us. If you want to see Jesus work in your life, trust him. And then do whatever he tells you.

III. The Glorious Result (v 9-11)
Here’s where we see the transformation. Jesus turns water into wine. He shows he’s the Messiah who transforms curse into blessing. God had Moses turn the Nile to blood as a curse. Jesus turned water to wine as a blessing.

Jesus produced gallons upon gallons of the best wine around. 180 gallons for a wedding feast. I worked out the math and it would have been over 900 bottles of wine! What could you possibly do with all of that wine?

Let’s go back to our birthday example. You have a bunch of family and friends over for your birthday party. You are eating a store bought cake, but you run out of pieces. Someone at the party says, hey, we have some rice cakes. But then a visitor pulls up and their pickup is loaded with the largest birthday cake you’ve ever seen. And it’s moist and delicious and just the right amount of sweetness. You could never eat that much cake. Or maybe you’ve run out of Legos to play with your friends. Your cousin finds some popsicle sticks to build with. But then your uncle comes and backs a dump truck of Legos up to your house. How could you possibly play with all of those Legos?!

That’s the abundance of grace that we have in Christ. We get what we don’t deserve because Jesus took what we deserved. When we find ourselves focused on lesser things, there is grace.

We all have particular sins that we keep falling into. Sometimes we can doubt whether God will keep forgiving us. Maybe he will lose his patience with us. It’s not a tiny bit of grace, or barely enough, but an absurd amount of grace. A dump truck full. But that abundance of grace means no matter how many times we sin and make a mess, there’s more grace waiting for us. As John 1:16 says, “For from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.

Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine.

I think this idea is clear. Start with the fine vintage, let people know what a great feast it is, and then as people got drunk and wouldn’t know the difference, out comes the cheapo, boxed wine. Jesus flips that so that the best comes at the end.

With Jesus there is always something better to come. He not only gives us more than we deserve, he gives us increasingly great gifts. Let’s tug on the string that John set out for us. Look at his series of signs:

  • He turns water into wine. Pretty cool.
  • Then he heals an official’s son, from long distance no less. That’s a little better.
  • He heals a man who was invalid for 38 years. Get up and walk.
  • Then he feeds the five thousand and shortly after walks on water.
  • Later in chapter 9 he heals a blind man.
  • then he raises Lazarus from the dead. Now that doesn’t happen very often.
  • Finally, to top even that, he raises himself from the dead.

In each of these stories it leads to belief. That was John’s purpose. Remember the equation? We see it here in verse 11. First Jesus’ sign reveals his glory. In other words, Jesus is proving he is the Son of God. People, in this case his disciples, believe. And belief in Jesus results in eternal life. And this is where we begin to see beyond our temporary troubles. Because Jesus still has more glory to come.
Even after all of the signs in John’s gospel there’s more. Jesus has promised to return in glory for his people. He is coming back to set everything right. We will no longer struggle with sin or dulled affections. Our focus will be perfectly set on him.

And then we’ll have a huge wedding feast with Christ as the bridegroom. In Revelation 19 this is what John saw:

7 Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

Christ will be there as the bridegroom. And just like the bridegroom in our story, he will be responsible for all of his guests to eat and drink. And he will again provide an everlasting supply of wine. The Old Testament prophets wrote about that day:

Isaiah 55:1 “Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.

Amos 9:13 “the mountains shall drip sweet wine,
and all the hills shall flow with it.

When you go to a wedding, do you expect to pay for food and drink? Not if it’s a decent wedding. And the ultimate wedding between Christ and his church will see no end to the supply of food and drink. Abundant grace.

Here is the remedy for our temporal desires. A wedding feast that will usher us into eternity with Jesus Christ as our groom. That’s what is promised to all believers. We will enter into his presence for eternity. Like any wedding, the supper of the lamb will be the beginning, not the end. And it will not be harps and clouds and formless bodies. It will be a tangible place where our sin and our failing bodies won’t hold us back. I encourage you to start imagining what this will be like and put your hope and attention towards that eternal reality.

So John asks, Are you invited? And the answer is yes. That’s the gospel call: Believe that Jesus Christ lived a perfect life and died on the cross as a substitute for you. He took your sins and gave you his righteousness. And all who repent of their sins and believe in Jesus will be saved and seated at the wedding. Have you responded to the invitation?

Jesus abundantly satisfies our deepest needs. And Grace church, there is more to come.