Well, Hannah and I just made it back last night from an enjoyable and sunny time in Fort Myers, Florida. We spent the last week walking the beach, searching for birds, and cruising through resort towns. It was a good time, and we enjoyed having our first proper vacation as a couple since our honeymoon. With the baby on the way, we figured it was now or never. Our next vacation will probably be a family road trip. Since we left early last Monday morning, I never got to post my message notes from the 17th. Here are a few notes from my message on John 2:1-11, where Jesus turns water into wine.
The story of Jesus turning water into wine has always been a fascinating one for me. In John's gospel, this is his first recorded miracle, and it is a sign that leads to belief in Jesus. In the story, Jesus and his disciples are invited to a wedding in Cana where the wine runs out during the party. Jesus is probably invited to the wedding as a friend of the family since Cana would have been close to Nazareth, or as an acquaintance of Nathanael's, who was from Cana (Jn. 21:2). While there, Jesus' mother, Mary, brings the situation to his attention. At first he seems reluctant to do anything, but later changes his mind. He takes 6 stone waterpots usually used for purification rituals and fills them up with miraculous wine. In total he makes about 120-180 gallons of wine or, to put it in different terms, about 600-900 bottles of wine (a standard bottle of wine is 750 mL which is 0.1981 US gallons). That's a lot. And not only does he make a lot of wine, it is some of the best wine these people have ever tasted. The headwaiter, after tasting the wine, chastises the groom for saving the best wine for last. Why would Jesus choose this act, turning water into wine, as his first miracle and as a sign of his Messianic identity? In order to answer that question, we need to have a holistic view of the image of wine in the Bible.
Some important things the Bible teaches about wine (with references):
1. Wine is given by God for man's enjoyment and good wine is a sign of God's blessing. Wine is not inherently sinful, as some Christians might argue (Gen. 27:28; Dt 7:12-16; Dt. 11:13-17; Dt. 33:28; Ps. 104:15; Prov. 3:10).
2. While good wine is a sign of God's blessing, bad wine is a sign of disobedience. Whenever the Israelites were disobedient to God, their vineyards would suffer the consequences (Dt. 28:38-44; Ps. 60:3; Isa. 16:10; Isa. 24:7-11).
3. As the people of God, we are meant to be good wine before the Lord. God desires his people to be like a vineyard that bears good fruit and makes good wine (Isa. 5:1-7; Jn. 15:1-11)
4. Although wine is given for our enjoyment and is a sign of God's blessing, drunkenness is both sinful and foolish. Wine is not sinful in itself, however, the way we use wine can be either good or bad (Gen. 9:20-29; Gen. 19:30-38; Prov. 20:1; Eph. 5:18).
5. Wine is meant to be enjoyed in moderation, a concept foreign to many Americans who like too much of everything--chocolate, food, sugar, coffee, television, etc. Wine shouldn't be the central focus of our lives and shouldn't control us. Our existence shouldn't amount to drinking (Prov. 23:20-21; Prov. 23:29-35; Isa. 5:11-12; Isa. 5:22-23; I Tim. 3:3,8; 5:28; Titus 2:3).
6. However, certain callings may require abstinence from wine or strong drink. Although we are allowed to enjoy wine in moderation, God may call particular people to abstain from drinking. We have to be willing to give it up if God asks us to (priests in Lev. 10:8-11; kings in Prov. 31:4-5; Nazarites in Num. 6:1-4).
7. Furthermore, our Christian freedoms are not meant to become a stumbling block for fellow believers. We may have to make sacrifices for the benefit of others. This may include abstaining from wine if we know it will harm the faith of a brother or sister (Rom. 14:13-23).
8. There is a joy and gladness that comes from the Lord that exceeds that of wine. The joy of wine is, therefore, a sign to point us to the ultimate joy found in God. When we drink a good glass of wine, it should cause us to remember the true goodness of the Lord. This is why people that are filled with the Spirit of God appear as drunkards to observers (I Sam. 1:12-18; Acts 2:13; Eph. 5:18-21; Ps. 4:7).
9. Lastly, Christ has prepared a table for us with the choicest wine and invites us to feast with him (Gen. 14:17ff; Prov. 9:1-6; Isa. 25:6-8). The question for us: Are we interested in dining at the banquet table of the Lord?
So what can these 9 points teach us about this passage from John's gospel?
1. In the miracle of turning water into wine, Jesus is showing himself to be God. Throughout the Scriptures good wine comes from God. In this story Jesus miraculously provides good wine. Therefore, Jesus is God.
2. Jesus reveals God's blessing of marriage. Since good wine is a sign of God's blessing, Jesus is manifesting God's blessing of this couple's new union.
3. Jesus is the giver of the choicest wine, which is himself. Later in John's gospel Jesus tells a Samaritan woman to drink of him. After feeding the 5000, Jesus tells the people to eat his flesh and drink his blood (Jn. 6:54). This passage teaches us that Jesus is giving himself to us as choice wine. If we drink of Christ, we will receive joy unspeakable and life everlasting.
4. The wedding feast in Cana points us to the wedding feast at the end of the ages. The Bible teaches us that Christ is the Bridegroom and the Church is his Bride. He will be married to her at the end of all things and there will be a great celebration. We are invited to the feast if we want to come.