Sermon 24 January 2021


John 2:1-11 Sermon Sunday 24th January 2021 Revd Tudor V Roberts.

Right now, would not you and I do anything for a slap-up celebration with good food and wine, people, family, friends and neighbours all together? Clearly 400 people this last week at a secondary school in North London felt just the same, only problem was it was illegal to meet under Covid 19 restrictions and those organising it now have to pay a £10,000 fine plus other costs.

No such restrictions were in place in Cana as John describes the events around a wedding celebration in Cana of Galilee. Cana is only mentioned in the Bible by John so it must have bene an insignificant place, but in the 1st century whenever a wedding took place it was a big affair and would have gathered  people from far and wide, no one missed a wedding.

John tells us that the wedding took place on the third day. Weddings took place in Israel on a Wednesday for virgins and on a Thursday for widows. Probably John is hinting there at something significant. This will be Jesus’s  first public miracle a sign of what was to come, and his Gospel will end with Jesus being raised from death on the third day. Right at the start of his ministry Jesus chooses to do a miracle right at the core of a family life, a demonstration that Jesus wants to be at the very centre of our lives.

Jesus’s Mother is never mentioned by John by name, she is the Mother of Jesus. She had probably been staying with the bride’s family helping them get ready for the wedding, and then Jesus and his disciples are invited and for this celebration Jesus will have acted as family head of his group of disciple’s, responsible for any gifts for this wedding celebration.

The mother of Jesus says to Jesus “ They have no more wine”. This was a crisis for the couple, but here she is still operating in Mother mode maybe in frustration that at about thirty years old he has still has not launched out on his lifetime mission. But Jesus rather than rebuking her simply points out to his Mother that he is on a different agenda. “Woman he says why do you involve me?”.  “ My time has not yet come”. many in a non-Middle eastern culture are shocked at the way Jesus says  “Woman” so a word of explanation may help. The word woman is not an insult, quite the opposite.

Josephus mentions the wife of  Pherorus who tells Herod the Great how her husband summoned her in his illness and began the summons using the word Woman Pherorus had great affection for his wife and in fact fell out with Herod over this matter.  So, John 2:4 is definitely not an insult.

My hour says Jesus has not yet come. In John the hour matters, when in John 12:23 Jesus meets with some Greeks who have come up to the temple to worship at the time of a festival Jesus on learning this says The hour Has come for the Son of man to be glorified. But for now, that hour has not yet come.

And yet Jesus’s reply to Mary enables her, in a way I do not understand ,to turn from being his mother to being a disciple. Do whatever he tells you she says to the servants. In this moment, the widowed Mary realizes for her the hour  has come; from now on she will be in first place a disciple and motherhood will come second although these cords will be severely strained when it comes to the Cross on which her son died.

Is that the case for you and I? do we see our primary role as disciples of Christ?

In Cana, a row of dominoes as it were is beginning to fall. Events are beginning to come to a head. But first John reminds us of some vital background information. Nearby stood six stone jars used by the Jews for ceremonial washing. Stone Jars were more hygienic than simple pottery ones as they did not  retain any infection, and these were big boys each one could hold 20 or 30 gallons that is some capacity, and they were, once full, very heavy. If you had 20 gallons of water in one vessel that was 166 pounds in weight and 249 pounds in weight of water if you have a 30-gallon stone jar. Full of water these jars were not going anywhere. Now draw some of the water out and take it to the head of the stewards. The order is carried out and astounded at the quality of wine, the Head steward says this is amazing everyone uses up the most expensive wine first and when the guests have drunk a bit then out comes the cheapest wine, but you have left the best till last.

Supplying wine at a wedding was a major operation, you could not just nip down to Majestic wine and get a couple of boxes, a wedding In Israel was mass catering , people were celebrating, maybe the whole village and to run out of wine was an embarrassment and scandal that no family could live down, honour was involved not to mention the compensation that might need to be paid. On the basis that this was a couple with not huge resources, Jesus steps in and though he has not been recorded as bringing a gift, now he demonstrates his exceptional generosity; when Jesus is doing the catering there is an abundance, so Jesus here really is the Saviour, he has saved the day.

The wedding is now awash with extremely good wine, it is like the best of Bordeaux  wines was being served and there is as with so many of Jesus’s miracles a practical outcome ,when people are healed, they can return to work, when a leper is healed, he is reunited with his family, when a woman with an issue of blood is healed, her honour and position in society is healed too. Jesus’s  generosity had several effects.

It demonstrated his glory to the disciples.

It gave the wedding couple a way-out of shame and embarrassment.

It probably meant that were was a huge amount of wine left over and selling this off would have given this newly married couple a nest egg to pay off the wedding costs and see them  through their first few years of married life.

Jesus uses a big catch of fish to draw Peter to follow him and now with this turning of ceremonial water into wine his disciples see a glimpse of his Glory and put their trust in him.

Why does this particular miracle reveal his glory? Because  it’s an  illustration of the fulfilment of messianic hopes.

In Isaiah  25:6 The prophet gets these words.

 

On the mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a banquet of rich food for all people  a banquet of the best of meats and the finest of wines.

When John wrote in Revelation 21:2 about his vision, he saw.

The Holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven  from God prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

In Zechariah 10:7 The epramites will be like warriors and their hearts wil be glad about wine.

In Isaiah 55:1 The prophet sees time when people will buy wine and milk without cost.

So, when Jesus did that miracle turning the water into wine his disciples gazed in amazement at the gallons of ritual water turned into wine, this was a sign the Spirit had come, what a way to wow a group of men and provide endless amounts of wine.

Provision, Joy,  and gladdened hearts, this sign of messianic joy was given to a people in as much need as us, Maybe they had no pandemic, but their country was occupied by the Romans, and this miracle was set in the midst of community, it brought joy to one family. One day Jesus would gather his disciples and have with them one last supper with bread and wine. We can rejoice in that  supper even though right now because of Covid 19 we cannot meet physically to celebrate a full Holy Communion service. Soon, very soon the hour would come, and the disciples and we can look back to Cana as the moment that it all began, the Messiah had come. Will we like Mary and the 12 follow him? Where do we need Jesus to do a miracle in our lives ?Where do we need celebration? Maranatha Come Lord Jesus.

 

Tudor Roberts

 

Prayer of Confession

(inspired by John 2:1-11)

 

Lord, we need a miracle today.
Like Jesus changing water into wine
at the wedding feast in Cana, 
we need a miracle today.
We are tired, Lord, of the hurts of this world. 
We are discouraged 
in the face of injustice, war, poverty, and indifference.
We need a miracle today, Lord.
Your steadfast love, like a mighty mountain, 
will not be moved.
Your gifts, as many as the mighty winds,
cannot be counted.
Your glory, like a mighty torch,
will not be put out.
Lord, crown us with your love.
Show us your glory, 
that in you we may be moved 
to acts of kindness, love, justice, and mercy.
Lord, we need a miracle today. Amen

 

 by Erik Alsgaard, and posted on the Worship Elements page of the Ministry Matters website

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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