Weddings are always a special day in our own culture, and Jesus’ first ever miracle being at a wedding shows how special he regards marriage between a man & woman... However the way a Jewish wedding at this time was done was very different to weddings we’ve been at. The wedding celebrations could last up to a week. It was one big party... The responsibility for organising everything lay with the groom, so every wedding was like ‘Don’t Tell the Bride’ minus the €10,000. In our culture it’s generally the woman who is left to do most things.
To run out of wine was very embarrassing for the groom, almost unforgivable in fact. It may even have opened him to a potential lawsuit from the relatives of the bride. Getting sued by the in-laws is not a good start to married life. So this is potentially a pretty embarrassing time for this groom and his family.
So what happens? Jesus’ mum, Mary, puts him on the spot. It’s says in verse 3 of the story; “The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.” “Dear woman that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” Jesus almost seems a bit moody in how he respond’s, I mean none of us would ever talk to our mum’s like that, right? However Jesus words don’t sound as blunt in the language the NT was originally written in as they do in our English translations. Jesus was not being rude, but while he was not being rude he was nevertheless making something clear. He had a very specific mission from his Father & Jesus was making it clear that he would be entering into that mission, a mission that would take him all the way to the cross... From now on Mary needed to recognise him not so much as the son she had raised but as the Son of God who had come to do his will alone. How we view Jesus is important...
While Mary needed to learn that her relationship with Jesus had to change because of Christ’s unique identity & purpose, we still need to acknowledge she showed thoughtfulness towards these poor people & as well as remarkable faith in Jesus’ ability to turn the situation around...
Verse 11 teaches us this was the first miracle Jesus ever did. This means he never performed any miracles during his childhood or in his early adulthood... It also means that up until this point his mum had never seen him do a miracle. So it’s not like she had seen him do miracles all the time... If this had have been later in his ministry then she would have seen him do lots of miracles, but it wasn’t – this was his first ever miracle (in human flesh anyway). So it took remarkable faith in Jesus for his mum to believe he could turn this disaster of a wedding party around.
It’s the same for us, if we are going to see the power of Jesus displayed then we have to feel compassion towards other people’s situations & exercise the same faith in Jesus to turn things around... We need to continually turn to Jesus & expect him to bring about the needed changes in our lives & the lives of others. Our hope is that he can make the difference.
It’s not what we have to say that will change people’s circumstances, it’s not our advice; it’s what Jesus has to say! It’s not our involvement in people’s lives that will bring the needed change, it is Jesus’ involvement. Sometimes we make it too much about us & our involvement. If fact perhaps some of us need to invite Jesus to deal with our own issues instead of trying to get involved in fixing everybody else’s. We are not the fixer of our own lives never mind anybody else’s, Jesus is! Sometimes we just need to get out of the way & hand things over to Jesus like Mary did here. Mary saw the problem but she happily handed the responsibility for solving it over to Jesus. After this she’s not mentioned again in the story. She didn’t desire to be the centre of attention, or to be the hub that everything revolved around, she was happy exalting Jesus as the One to listen to. It’s not our responsibility to fix people’s messes, it’s our responsibility to highlight that Jesus is present & then let him speak...
This is why Mary says to the servants in V5; “Do whatever he tells you”. She understands she doesn’t have the solution to this family’s wine problem, but she knows the One who can make the difference. She seems to take Jesus’ point about him following God’s will; but she still expects him to do something. She realised it’s not for her, or the servants, or anyone to give Jesus orders. It’s not for them (or us) to tell Jesus what to do or when to do it. It’s for him to tell us what to do & when to do it. He sets the agenda, not anybody else! We exist to serve his purpose, not the other way around. However we can be confident that our salvation—our good—is wrapped up in his purpose. In fact we will not find the true purpose of our lives until we learn to “Do whatever he tells [us].”
Jesus’ mum basically entrusts the situation into Jesus hands, she puts him in control of the circumstances & expects Jesus to fix the wine problem. She gives the problem to Jesus. We need to do the same, to put Jesus in control of the circumstances, to hand the problems we find ourselves & others in to him & then trust him to do whatever needs done.
Jesus tells the servants to fill the six water jars. Remember at this point no one has seen Jesus do any miracles yet, so this must have seemed very, very strange & random... Sometimes Jesus will ask you to do strange & random things... (It didn’t make any sense at the time, but it made perfect sense in the end...) These stone water jars that Jesus told the servants to fill to the brim were used for religious washing ceremonies. When they had filled them to the brim as Jesus asked he said to them;
V8-10 “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions. 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. “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!”
Let me point a few things out from these verses. Firstly, the MC noted that the normal way of doing things was to serve the best wine first then the poor wine. Jesus broke with the normal custom, as he often did. Jesus often does things in the opposite way the world does... He didn’t come to follow the pattern of this world, or the pattern of a religious system or a particular culture in this world; he came to lead us in a new direction altogether according to his pattern... (He didn’t come to follow...)
Secondly, often the way of the world is to offer you its best first in order to lure you in, but then in the end it leaves a bad taste in your mouth... However with Jesus the best is always still to come...
Knowing this fills our lives to the brim with hope and gives us strength to keep living for Jesus. He keeps the best wine until last.
Thirdly, when Jesus provided for the grooms need by turning the water into wine he saved him from the embarrassment that came with his lack... Likewise when Jesus went to the cross he did so to save you from the embarrassment of coming short of the standard of a holy God on judgement day. He provided for our greatest need & saved us from our lack of righteousness...
Fourthly, Jesus didn’t come to do only what was necessary to save us from embarrassment and judgement. He came that we might know and enjoy the favour of God abundantly and eternally. That’s why he saves us! In the story he didn’t only provide what was needed, he went over & above. Wine represents joy and blessing in the Bible. Ecclesiastes 10:19 says; “A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes merry.” Psalm 104:14-15 says; “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man.” The Bible warns very clearly about the dangers of alcohol, how it can get a grip on your life (Prov. 20:1; 23:29-35). The Bible also teaches drunkenness is sin (Gal 5:2; 1 Pet. 4:3). However wine in and of itself is not evil. It’s how it is used that is either good or evil. In Judaism wine was part of feasting & represented the provision and blessing of God, which of course brought great joy to his people’s hearts.
The wedding party running out of wine can be seen then as symbolising the spiritual emptiness of the people’s religion. The religion of their day did not lead to joy; quite the opposite in fact, it was a heavy burden on people enforcing endless rules & robbing them of joy. Some reacted against this by forsaking religion altogether & rebelling... However both empty religion and rebellion leave people empty & both rob people of joy in the end. Only Jesus can fill people with lasting joy because only Jesus can cause God’s blessing and favour to remain on people forever. The answer to emptiness is not religion or rebellion, it’s Jesus. Following Jesus is not meant to make people miserable or glum, it is meant to lead to real joy and happiness... Jesus comes to fill our lives with joy and gladness.
Lastly, note that Jesus asked them to fill the water jars to the “brim” (NIV,ESV), and when the jars were filled the change from water into wine just happened. Jesus didn’t say or do anything. It just seemed to happen...
Here’s the thing, in the gospel of John water is seen as symbolic of the Holy Spirit (John 4:14; 7:37-39) and it is seen as a fulfilment of many OT promises of transformation (Jer. 31:29-34; Ezk. 36:25-27; Joel 2:28-32). So it’s very possible this first sign (as John calls) it is pointing to the reality that their religion will not see change and transformation until it is filled with the Holy Spirit. Likewise, churches & people today (including you and me) will not be transformed until we are filled to the brim with the Holy Spirit. And we need him to come & bring such change every day.
As churches & individuals are filled over and over again with the Holy Spirit change just happens, that’s the power of the gospel—that’s what you and I need today more than anything. Change just happens when we are filled with the Spirit of Jesus. He turns the water into wine! Jesus, when he ascended, didn't leave us a religious system to keep us in line, he sent his Spirit to make us fully alive! He did this because what we need most is not a rule book that stops us misbehaving too much, but his Spirit to change our hearts.