This morning I want to return to a text from which I preached only 2½ years ago. That was a textual message presented with the intention of bring glory to the Lord Jesus Christ. We looked at Christ’s creative power, His sympathetic heart, and His undeniable glory. That was not the way I worded my outline, but it should have been – it’s an improvement.
In asking the Lord for a message to share with you today, my mind came back to this scripture but from a different angle. In 2017 my desire was to uplift the deity of the Lord Jesus. But today I’d like to emphasize one aspect of His humanity. Of course, it is impossible to look at Jesus and not to see in His DIVINE glory, but this morning, I’d like us to think more about His sociability. And my reason? With Jesus that day were at least five of His disciples – people like you and me. We are social creatures, but as Christians we have spiritual responsibilities toward our social contacts.
I’d first like to expound this paragraph verse by verse. And then I’ll try to go through it a second time trying to make more of a application to us as Christians.
Paraphrasing verse 11 – This was the first of Jesus’ miracles.
Please notice that Christ’s first miracle took place in a social setting, not a religious one. This was not in a church service; there was no preaching; the Lord was not directly in charge. Many, if not most, of Jesus’ miracles took place in non-religious settings.
This particular miracle was on one of any number of “third days.” It might have been the third day of the week – Tuesday, because according to some experts, Jewish weddings couldn’t take place on just any day. It might have been the third day that Christ was back in Galilee after His recent visit to Judea. It could have been the third day that John pointed to Christ and said, “Behold the Lamb of God.” Or it could have been the day #3 in the lives of Jesus’ first disciples – Andrew, Peter, Philip, Nathanael and probably John. However it was measured, things were moving rapidly in Jesus’ ministry; there was no time for rest.
I probably said in my earlier message that one or both of the wedding party must have been relatives of Jesus and Mary. After further study, now I am not so sure. We are told that Mary, Jesus’ mother was “there,” but HE was “called” – invited – “kaleo.” That is the same word used to describe God’s effectual call to salvation. Christ may not have been related closely enough to have been expected to be there. He was “called” at the last minute – and along with Him came the disciples. These six additional guests may have put some stress on the preparations.
Verse 3 tells us that at some point the wine ran out. In softening Jesus’ reply to His mother, some preachers try to say that they were “beginning to be in want of wine,” and so Jesus said “it is not yet time.” But Mary flatly said, “they have no wine.” Wine in the Word of God is often used allegorically to represent joy. No matter how joyous our circumstances might be, isn’t there always room for more? This is an area of our lives which can never be completely satisfied – more joy, more happiness, more. A wedding may be among the happiest occasions in people’s lives, but that joy is not permanent. We are running out of joy; we need more.
For thirty years Mary had been watching her very special son. She probably heard Him say more than once, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” Some preachers can, but I can’t tell you exactly what she was thinking when she mentioned the lack of wine. Despite the fanciful lies we sometimes hear, Jesus had not been dazzling the family with miracles for thirty years. Mary had never seen him raise the dead, multiply the family bread or quiet a dangerous thunder-head. “They have no wine.” What was she expecting? Could she have been suggesting that Jesus and the disciples leave before things got really embarrassing? Could she have been hinting that Jesus send John out to buy some more wine? Maybe she DID expect a miracle, but she had no precedent, and she didn’t directly ask for it.
Some self-righteous people don’t like Jesus’ reply to his mother. But there was no disrespect in His answer; He had always lived in subjection to His earthly parents. His use of “woman” was not out-of-place or uncommon in that day. But above this, we have to remember that Christ knew exactly what was in her heart at that moment. We sometimes misjudge what our friends do or say because we are not familiar with all the facts surrounding what they do or say, and here we know nothing about Mary’s heart. But Christ knew exactly what Mary was thinking, and it may not have honoured the Lord.
But more than that, I believe Christ spoke this way to offer a pre-rebuke to the idolatry which would develop later. Verse 3 says that Mary was “the mother of Jesus;” she was NOT “the mother of God” – Christ in His deity. Mary was honored by God to bring forth Jesus the human being; she did not give birth or create to God. Mary had no authority over the Son of God then, and she never will. And Mary, knowing what she had been thinking, responded in an admirable way – “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.” She didn’t try to justify herself. She certainly DID NOT tell the servants, the governor of the feast, the bridegroom or anyone else, “If you need anything from my son, ask me.” Mary had no authority or influence over the Son of God, and she still has none at all. If you need anything, ask Jesus, and then – “Whatsoever HE saith unto you, do it.”
Then came the Lord’s first miracle. It was not done to please Mary, to make her proud, or to give her points with the wedding party. And this miracle was not simply to supply a need, even though that is usually the application made in modern sermons. As was the purpose of all of Christ’s miracles – “His disciples believed on him.” In this case it was the disciples who needed this miracle. They had all heard the Baptist’s praise and teaching about Christ. They had been impressed by Jesus’ demeanor and the few lessons they had heard from His lips. They had not been disappointed and were not second-guessing their decision to follow him. But that miracle, clinched the nail, “Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God” – John 16:30. They were humbly forced to admit – “My Lord and my God.”
And the Christ who could change water into the fruit of the vine, can be trusted for greater miracles. He who can be trusted for bread and fish, and He can be trusted for eternal life. Christ might have said, I give unto YOU bread and wine, “and I give unto THEM eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” – John 10:28. John 6:27 – “Labour not for the meat (or wine) which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you.” Later Jesus will say, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” – John 6:47. If you can believe Christ for bread and wine, you can trust Him for more important things – salvation and eternal life.
As did all of Christ’s miracles, this pointed a finger toward Calvary. There the miracle-working Son of God gave His life as a ransom for many. “And by him all that believe are justified from all things…” They are declared righteous in the sight of the holy God. The disciples’ faith in Christ was strengthened exponentially by this little miracle.
Having laid that foundation, let us now shift to a different kind of application.
In one of the Lord’s debates with the Pharisees, He pointed to some of their social hypocrisy. “John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil. The Son of man (Christ Jesus) is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!” Intermingled with Christ’s miracle of the wine is a lesson on Christian socialization and interaction. There are Christians similar to John the Baptist or some of the Christian Pharisees, who shun all social contact with the lost world. Without joining a monastery, they become isolated monks. And as a result they provide no joy to others in need. But we need to be reminded that this was not the way of Christ – our Saviour and High Priest.
There have been times in history when multitudes flocked to hear anyone who could preach God’s Word. But times and societies change. It used to be that the best time for churches to preach the gospel was Sunday evening, because multitudes of people attended their own ceremonial and prepackaged ritualistic church services in the morning, but in the evening, with hunger in their hearts they visited the Baptist church to hear about Christ. It used to be that men like Matthew Henry or Alexander MacLaren could preach through the entire Bible chapter by chapter, Sunday morning and Sunday evening for years and their buildings were filled to overflowing with hungry people. But today, there is hardly any interest in preaching at all – even among professing Christians. And as a result it is even more necessary than ever to take the gospel out into the white wheat fields. The elect wheat isn’t going to come in to the barn these days to be cut or threshed.
Jesus was called to a wedding, and He said to disciples, “Let’s go.” It wasn’t a question up to debate. I wonder how many of the disciples were a little shy or slow? This wasn’t an invitation to a bar or tavern; this wasn’t a weed shop or strip joint – this was a wedding. There are many places where Christ and His disciples should not go, but this wasn’t one of them. Jesus went to weddings and funerals; he ate at the homes of the rich and powerful as well as known sinners. He touched lepers and harlots when they met Him in the street.
Some may have accused Him of befouling himself with those people, but he didn’t go into their opium dens or whore houses. Let us learn the lesson, Christian; we have been given the Lord’s own example. We need to go to where the needy people are.
Who were the couple being joined? I would like to think that they became disciples of Christ, but I fear that was not the case. If this husband became one of the twelve, I would think that John would have told us his name, unless it was John himself, and we know it wasn’t. Despite probably having no “success” Christ went to the wedding feast and brought His joy. And who was the governor of this wedding feast? I have heard lots of suggestions, from the chiefest of the guests, to one of the fathers, or even to someone whose job it was to keep the peace and govern the drinking. I don’t know who it was, but I know who it WASN’T – it wasn’t Christ. The Lord Jesus took the lowest and least seat at the feast, just as He taught us to do. He was sitting in the corner so-to-speak. His conversation with his mother and the servants went un-noticed by the wedding party and the dignitaries – because they were in the shadows.
You, as a Christian, may be the most important person in any room, as certainly Christ was that day. But to be the most effective in the service of the Saviour, we must not demand the spot-light. “When thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.” “Then shalt thou have WORSHIP in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.” But it’s not ourselves who we want to have worshiped; at least it shouldn’t be. “May Jesus Christ be praised.”
So, you’ve been invited to the neighbor’s for a barbeque, or to join some friends bowling, fishing or to play frisbee golf. As we can see with the Lord Jesus, whenever he was “called,” at some point He brought the conversation from the secular and relatively unimportant to the eternal and extremely important. No, you and I have no way to turn the water into wine, but sometimes we can introduce joy. Sometimes we have opportunity to turn the conversation toward something eternal. But can we learn to live like Christians without becoming preachers or preachy?
At this wedding feast eventually there was a need, whether or not it was created by Christ himself. The Lord didn’t care whether or not His seat was in the corner – that he had been ignored. He wasn’t upset that He wasn’t seated at the head table or that He wasn’t asked to make a toast to the young couple. Even though it might have been and should have been, this wasn’t about Jesus at all. But His wasn’t hurt; He was concerned for the others.
“There were set there 6 waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing 2 or 3 firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.” These waterpots were there so the guests might ritually wash their hands before the meal. Mark 7:3 – “The Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.” So as the guests went to sit down, one of the servants dipped out a ladle of water and poured it over the hands of each person. John Gill says they even washed their feet. And now those big pots were empty. They were not fancy wine decanters – they were not crystal or china. They were common earthen pots used to wash people’s hands and feet. Each of the six pots held two or three firkins, which some say were as much as 20 gallons apiece.
Do you remember when Elijah was being fed by the widow of Zarephath? As the food supply ran out the prophet stepped in to miraculously supply the need. “And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruise of oil fail, according to the Word of the Lord.” Similarly, Elisha met the needs of another woman, filling every pot, cup, pan and glass she and her son could find. Not only were their immediate needs met, they could even sell some of their surplus and buy a treat or two.
When the Lord Jesus filled these waterpots, He supplied more than a hundred gallons of wine. That young couple, who apparently didn’t have a lot before the wedding, left their feast with wine enough for themselves and for sale. “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages….” In our attendance at the neighbor’s wedding, or funeral, or barbeque, we may be used of the Lord to leave joy – eternal joy. But we will never leave anything unless we go, following the example of our Saviour.
It is not likely that you will ever be able to make another person financially wealthy. But as I’ve said so many times, wealth should not be confined to silver and gold – money. That young couple needed to start their married life with Christ. They needed joy, and Christ is the source of joy.
When those five disciples walked into that wedding hall 2,000 years ago, who did they have with them? Wherever the child of God goes, he goes with Christ. We have the wine that dying neighbor needs to fill his last few days on earth with joy. We carry with us the wisdom of God – certainly something which every young couple need as they start out in life. We possess life itself in the person of the Saviour.
Just as Jesus turned that humble Jewish wedding feast into something extra special, He can do it today. He can do it for you. Perhaps you are in the doorway to the most exciting period in your life – I tell you it will be better with Christ. Or maybe you are facing the prospects of disease and death – you should be able to see your need in way you’ve never seen it before. Even if you didn’t send the Lord an invitation yourself, someone else has done it for you, and here He is. Humble yourself and show him your empty water pot. Trust Him for your greatest need. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”