Teaching series from John

The New Wine

John 2:1-11

Teaching t22475


Brief reminder of setting: John was one of Jesus’ disciples, an eye-witness of His ministry and death and resurrection. He wrote his gospel to help non-Jewish seekers come to an informed faith in Jesus as the Messiah.

In the Old Testament, the prophet Jeremiah predicted that when the Messiah came, He would inaugurate a “new covenant” with God’s people (Jer.31:31-34)—a new arrangement that would replace the old arrangement and enable God’s people to experience greater security and intimacy with Him.

In chapters 2 and 3, John presents Jesus as the One who brings this new covenant. Specifically, He provides new wine, He announces a new Temple, and He makes possible a new birth. This morning, we’ll look at His provision of the new wine...

The miracle

Read 2:1-3. Jesus’ family and His disciples are invited to a wedding in Cana, which was nine miles north of Jesus’ home town, Nazareth. Wedding receptions were major social events, lasting for up to a week. To run out of food or drink was a social disgrace, sometimes even leading to legal suits. And there was no simple way to buy more wine (even if they had the money).

Read 2:4,5. Mary may be simply a concerned guest, or she may have been one of the caterers. Knowing her Son’s divine origin, she urges Him to help. Since Jesus had done no miracles thus far, it’s not clear what she expected Him to do. Jesus’ reply is not rude, but it is firm (and a little cryptic). He makes it clear that He is not under her authority. She accepts His statement, but does not interpret it as a refusal to help.

Read 2:6-10. Jesus miraculously provides the wine for the reception. Put yourself in the shoes of the bridegroom. Your wedding reception is about to turn into a nightmare. The banquet master calls you over—presumably to say: “We’re out of wine—what do we do now?” Instead, he pays you a compliment: “Most couples start by serving the good stuff until the guests are tipsy and their taste-buds are dulled, and then they introduce the Gallo to save money. But you started with decent wine and saved the best wine for later!” I wonder how the bridegroom reacted. Did he freak out? Did he smile and nod, taking credit? We don’t know because John doesn’t tell us. As an eye-witness to this miracle, he focuses on the meaning of this miracle—what it taught him and the other disciples about Jesus...

The purpose of Jesus’ miracles

Read 2:11. This is the first miracle Jesus performed, one of seven miracles that John records. Notice that he calls this miracle a “sign” which revealed Jesus’ “glory”—which resulted in His disciples “believing in” Him. These three words are super-important in John’s gospel. They have very specific meanings that we need to understand.

“Sign” means a something like a symbol. This is a real miracle that met a real need for the couple. But its ultimate purpose goes far beyond what it did for the couple; its purpose is what it reveals about Jesus— what it signifies.

And what does it reveal about Jesus? It reveals His “glory.” “Glory” doesn’t just mean “better than average” (“That was a glorious dinner!”). It means Jesus’ unique excellence; it means His deity (read 1:14). Jesus’ signs show us what the heart of God is really like. You may have serious misconceptions about what God is like. I sure did. You may be aversive to something about God that’s not even true! You may see in a minute that this miracle corrects some of your misconceptions. You may find yourself attracted to God when you see what Jesus is like.

And what is the purpose of this revelation of Jesus’ glory? It is not to entertain us, or merely so that we will believe that Jesus is God. It is so that we will believe in Him. There is a world of difference between these two kinds of belief. You may believe that a surgeon is competent by reading his credentials and interviewing his past patients. But you believe in him when you entrust your body to him—to cut into you, to reach inside of you to remove what is dead and repair what is broken. This is what Jesus was after with these men, and this is what He is after with you and me. He wants us to believe in Him—to entrust ourselves to Him, to let Him reach inside of us and remove our spiritual death and repair our broken souls.

This, then, is the order: Read and ponder Jesus’ signs, understand how they reveal His glory, and then entrust your life to Him. What does this miracle reveal about Jesus’ “glory?” There are at least three answers to this question...

What this miracle reveals about Jesus’ “glory”

First, this sign reveals that Jesus is life-affirming. Wedding receptions are parties, where people enjoy music (singing and dancing), enjoy one another (catching up, laughing, meeting interesting people), and enjoy good food and drink. Jesus’ presence and participation signifies that He is for this aspect of human existence. And His miracle (120 gallons of wine; 60 cases; 720 fifths; 2800 4 oz. glasses of fine vintage wine) enabled the party to go on with gusto!

If you think this is something, consider that this kind of party is one of the Bible’s favorite pictures for heaven. Isa.25:6,9 pictures God’s kingdom this way (read). I think the disciples, undoubtedly familiar with this passage, saw Jesus’ miracle as a foretaste of this feast, and a sign that He was the Messiah who will enable the feast to go on forever.

Contrary to the impression some Christians may give you, Jesus is not a grim ascetic, a cosmic kill-joy. He does not begrudge fun and laughter. Following Him does not mean that you automatically give up the ten things you like best and start doing the ten things you like least. Jesus says over and over again that His purpose is to give His followers joy to the full (read Jn.15:11), and to give us abundant life (Jn.10:10b). Yes, He will call you to deny yourself to follow Him, but this is ultimately so that you can really live.

Second, this sign reveals that Jesus is a humble servant. Did you notice how Jesus performs this miracle in a behind-the-scenes way? It’s just the opposite of someone who sees the opportunity to make a big splash and says: “Watch this!” It may be that no one but His disciples even realized that He did this miracle. And even then it’s evidently not because He tells them, but because they observe and connect the dots themselves. This day is for the newlyweds, and Jesus is intent on keeping them in the spotlight rather than usurping it for Himself. Ironically, part of what impresses the disciples about Jesus is that He doesn’t try to impress people!

If you read through the gospels, you will see that this humble servanthood characterizes Jesus’ miracles. He normally performs them privately, to meet human need, and preserve the dignity of the people He serves. Unlike many so-called Christian healers, He steadfastly turns away from opportunities for money and power (often telling people not to tell others).

This is how He defines greatness (read Mk.10:43,45)—not as using your power and influence to get others to serve you, but to serve others, to give yourself away to meet others’ needs. The way up in God’s kingdom is down; the way is under.

This why you can trust Him as your Leader (read Matt.11:28-30). Because Jesus is humble in heart, you can come to Him knowing that He won’t use you. He will teach you and guide you into the same kind of humble, serving life. This way of life will not make you weary (the prideful way of life leads to weariness)—it will lead you into the soul-rest that you long for.

Third, Jesus replaces external washing with internal life. John is careful to note how Jesus provided the wine. He could have used other containers, or created new containers—but He intentionally used the water jars that were used for “ceremonial washing.” This washing was not about physical hygiene; it was a ritual purification. Observant Jews of the day washed their utensils and their hands several times during a meal. (No wonder they needed so many big water jars!) Why did they do this? To avoid contamination by “sinners.” They saw this as their main problem, and they practiced these washing rituals as the solution.

This is a picture of human religion. It focuses on the outside: rituals to observe, behaviors to eliminate, bad people to avoid, etc. Jesus said this was fundamentally wrong (read Matt.23:25,26). What we need is not a car-wash for the outside; we need a cleansing on the inside—a heart-transplant that will motivate and empower a new way of life that is self-giving. Religion can never provide this. Instead, it only disguises selfishness and promotes self-righteousness, which is the worst problem of all!

Do you realize that when Jesus changed this water into wine, He put this whole practice out of business? He made it impossible for people at the reception to wash their hands with holy water. (I bet some religious people left because of this!) Instead, He replaced the water for washing with wine that is for drinking. Wine was (Ps.4:6,7; 104:15), and still is (JEWISH TOAST) associated with the life and joy of God. Jesus is saying: “I haven’t come to give you another way to wash the outside. I have come to give you real spiritual life—My life that will go down into your soul, and make you alive to God, and change you from the inside out.”

How do you get this life from Jesus? The same way you get life from wine—you “drink” it. Read Jn.7:37-39. Jesus switches the imagery from wine to water, but the point is the same. Come to Him and drink. Entrust yourself to Him, and He will give you His Spirit, who will become a never-ending Source of life within you!


Review SIGN > GLORY > BELIEVE. I hope this miracle corrects some of your misconceptions about who Jesus is. I hope it helps you to understand how uniquely excellent He is. I hope you respond to this by entrusting yourself to Him.