Sermon on John 2:1-11
2nd Sunday after Epiphany
Real Power Gives Real Proof
Text: John 2:1-11
What’s that one thing everyone wants, but no one can attain? What is that one thing that everyone strives for, but no one will ever achieve? What is that one thing that so many think they have but really they never had at all? Power. Our world, and especially our country, seems to have an obsession with power.
Some seek after fame and fortune. Others pursue recognition and glory. Some try to build up a business empire. Others attempt to become the top of their profession. But doesn’t it all really come down to one thing—power?
Power is the reason Forbes creates lists—so that we can know Bill Gates is still the richest American with a net worth of $50 billion and that Oprah is the richest celebrity with a yearly net of about $250 million. Power is why athletes and celebrities get shot, or why they overdose when they can’t achieve it. Power is why many run for office. Power is why countries go to war.
It would seem as though power—either by fame, by fortune, or by position—is the single most important thing in the world. Everyone wants it. Everyone tries to get it. Everyone wants to prove they have it (whether they do have it or not!).
Isn’t it easy to be caught up in the quest for power? Maybe we see what celebrities and athletes have and we think we too need to wear those Prada shoes, or drive that BMW, or have those toys and tools. Maybe we get so into politics that we think certain elections or policies are the be all and end all. Or maybe we just feel like nothings—insignificant little peons that get trampled on by the high class mucky-mucks of society.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we had power? Wouldn’t it be nice if we had some glory? And it wouldn’t it be nice if we had proof of that power, too? Well we do! His name is Jesus Christ. Today in John 2 we see Real Power That Gives Real Proof.
If you have ever been married before, if you have ever been to a wedding before, then surely you know how important wine can be. Wine is consumed as a symbol of celebration. Wine is used when toasting the newlyweds. Sometimes the bride just needs a sip to calm her nerves a bit. Wine is an important drink of choice at weddings. It is now, and it was back in Jesus’ day, too.
We can understand then the consternation of Jesus’ mother Mary, and likely many of the other guests, when they found out there was no more wine at a wedding that took place in the village of Cana. In those days, the wedding festivities lasted a whole week (Imagine that! Bridezilla for seven whole days!) In addition, the people of Israel drank wine all the time. This is not to say they were all drunkards. But this was a culture where wine was consumed regularly at meals and throughout the day. They didn’t always have clean water, and they surely had plenty of grapes lying around. So wine, usually watered down, was often the drink of choice.
With wine being so important and wedding feasts lasting so long, running out of wine was certainly on the bride’s checklist of “Don’t ever let this happen!” Running out of wine back then would be like having a wedding in Milwaukee, WI and running out of Miller Lite. How could that happen? That’s where Miller Lite is made! The brewery is just around the corner!
Perhaps there are two viable options. It could be that the families hosting the wedding were rather poor and simply could not afford the amount of wine necessary to entertain guests for seven days. Then again, it could be that this was really a party and they would have had plenty of wine, but everyone had been drinking way too much way too fast. We aren’t sure. All we know is that they ran out.
So Mary approaches her son and informs him, “They have no more wine.” The English translation before us doesn’t quite capture Jesus response. “Why do you involve me,” is the translation, but a better translation would be, “What does this matter between you and me?” He then states, “My time has not yet come.” It would appear that Mary was looking for some sort of miracle and Jesus knew it. So he seems to respond, “Why do you want a miracle from me now? I’ll have plenty of miracles to show with my death and resurrection.”
Regardless, Jesus helps out. He tells the servants to fill six large stone jars with water. The picture on the cover of your service folder doesn’t quite do justice. These were large jars that could hold 20-30 gallons each. They were used to hold water for washing hands and feet. So when they filled them to the brim, there was about 120-180 total gallons of water. That’s a lot of water! And it became a lot of wine! Not just wine, but good wine!
The head steward tasted it and was impressed. Usually, people would serve some good wine first. But then after the taste buds had been numbed, they would pull a quick one on the crowd and bring out the cheap and tasteless wine. This is done at weddings today, too. First the top shelf is offered, then the grocery store brand. Or first the premium lager, then the Budweiser. But not this wine. This was the good stuff. This was choice wine. The best had been saved for last.
What a story! It kind of makes you smile and gives you a warm feeling of, “Oh that’s nice” on the inside. But this is more than just a story. And it isn’t a myth or a fairytale either. This is a true story. Obviously it would be impossible to lie about water turning into wine when Mary, the disciples, and the servants knew what Jesus did and likely several dozen (or several hundred?) wedding guests knew they were out of wine, too. This is a true story. But it is also more than just a nice heart-warming story. The real point of the lesson comes in the last verse: “This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.”
Jesus performed this first miracle for the same reason he performed all of his miracles. Sure, he was showing us that it’s good to have compassion or that we should help the poor and the sick and weak. But that’s not why Jesus performed miracles. Jesus performed miracles to back up his message. Jesus performed miracles to prove who he was. Jesus performed miracles to authenticate his claims to be the promised Messiah and the Son of God. Jesus performed miracles with Real Power That Gives Real Proof that he truly is our God and our Savior.
We all know what it’s like to feel like Mary did at this wedding. She seems to be so consumed by the physical need for wine at this wedding that she apparently lost track of the real reason Jesus had come. It’s interesting that no one asked Jesus to officiate at this wedding. We don’t hear of anyone asking him to say a prayer or give a blessing. We don’t hear about Jesus delivering a message of encouragement from Scripture to the newlyweds. It would appear that Jesus was simply asked to attend as a friend. But then when they ran out of wine (oh no, end of the world), then they sought out Jesus and his divine help.
We’ve been there before. We get so busy. Work, work, work. Then after work it’s family, family, family. We have places to go, people to see, things to do. There are so many responsibilities for work and family and otherwise that our calendars don’t even have room for more scribbles on them. If there were 30 hours in a day, we still wouldn’t have enough time.
Then we get sick. Then our relative gets cancer. Then we find ourselves in dire financial straights. So we turn to Jesus. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with looking to Jesus for help with the problems we face in this world. But why do we so often only remember Jesus when we really need him? Why do we so often only have time for Jesus when we want something from him? If I had a nickel for every time on my visits someone has told me, “Well things are going well right now, I don’t really need church,” or “I’m pretty busy and don’t have time for church right now,” or on the flipside, “Yeah, life has been tough. I really need Jesus in my life right now” . . . if I had a nickel for each time I heard something like that, I don’t think we would need to worry too much about paying for this new building!
Yet that’s why Jesus came in the first place. He came because we are sinners who constantly sin and disobey him. He came because we have fallen short of his glory. He came because we often let other things become more important in our lives. He came because we needed him to save us.
How reassuring, then, is the Gospel today! Today we see Jesus show real power—and he did so with plenty of witnesses to back up the story, so we know it is true! If Jesus has that kind of power, to turn water into wine, then Jesus certainly has complete divine power. And if Jesus has absolute power and proves that he is God, then suddenly his death has so much more meaning! This wasn’t some nice guy who made a nice gesture by dying on a cross. That was God on the cross. That was God who came to rescue his people from their sins. That was God who came to crush Satan and destroy death. And if God died on that cross, then surely he was able to carry our sins. Then surely his death grants forgiveness and salvation. Then surely his promise of eternal life will come true.
At the wedding at Cana we see a loving Jesus who was willing to help out with a worldly need by providing some wine. But more importantly, we see Jesus show Real Power That Gives Real Proof that he truly is our God and our Savior.
This wedding at Cana has even more meaning for us today. By proving his power as God and Savior, Jesus also proved that he has the power to help us in our everyday lives. (No, I’m not saying that if you run out of drinks during your Super Bowl party you should pray really hard and then Jesus will turn your water into Pepsi and Coors Lite or some stones into chips and chicken wings.)
But Jesus does and will listen to things you ask for according to his will. Jesus promised, “I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” So if you want stronger faith, if you want wisdom, if you want a better understanding of the Bible, if you want more patience, if you want to be filled with more love—Jesus will give you those things. When you are in constant contact with him and his Word, Jesus has shown he has the power to give you those very things. He has the power to help. He has the power to heal. He has the power to give strength and courage. Today we see Jesus show Real Power That Gives Real Proof that he can help us with any and every need in our lives.
“The proof is in the pudding.” Maybe you have heard that expression before. (It’s actually a misquote, but we’ll leave that for a different discussion!) We take that misquoted phrase to mean that the proof is in the results or the product.
Today we have proof—not in the number of zeroes in a bank account, not in the number of bills in a wallet, not in fast cars, not in record deals, not in super bowl rings, not in fancy houses, not in diamond rings. No, the proof is in the wine. Like all the other miracles, by changing water into wine Jesus gave Real Proof He Has Real Power—the power as true God, the power to help us, the power to save us. All praise be to our omnipotent, all-powerful Savior!
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