Signs are all around us, aren’t they? Advertising signs for shops, road signs for drivers, and logos for the latest gadgets. You can’t escape them! The thing about signs is that they point us towards things. They are designed to direct us to some place, warn us about somewhere or remind us about something. So road signs stop cars crashing or getting lost, shop signs show us where we can buy the things we want, and logos help us identity a good mobile phone from a dodgy one.
This term at St Michael’s we are looking at John’s Gospel. John’s eye-witness writing about the life of Jesus. And John’s Gospel is FULL of signs. Signs that are designed to point us to Jesus and help us understand who he is.The signs John shows us in his Gospel aren’t road signs or shop signs, but miracles Jesus performed. Jesus’ miracles are signs designed to show us who he is and why he came. Signs like feeding the 5,000, raising the dead, healing the sick and giving sight to the blind.
Today we are looking at the first sign Jesus performed, a sign John tells us about in chapter 2 of his Gospel.
- The Sign: Water into wine!
Weddings are good fun aren’t they? They are meant to be joyful, happy occasions when we celebrate the marriage of a man and woman, and wish them a long and happy life together. After the formalities of the wedding service, most wedding days end with a reception, where wine flows, a buffet or banquet is eaten - and when fathers embarrass their children by going on the dance floor!
The Bible tells us that God loves weddings too. After all, he invented them! Right at the start of Old Testament, in Genesis chapter 2, we’re told that marriage between a man and a woman is something God-given. And at the very opposite end of the Bible, in the book of Revelation, we are told that Heaven will be a lot like a wedding banquet. For God’s people, the world to come will be a time of celebration and joy that never ends.
So it should come as no surprise then that our Bible reading today tells us that Jesus and his disciples once attended a wedding. It was a wedding in Cana, in Galilee, close to where Jesus had been brought up. It may even have been the wedding of relative, because Jesus’ mother Mary was there too.
But there was a problem. The wine had run out! The groom and bridegroom, the hosts of the wedding, hadn’t brought enough wine, and now it was nearly gone. Without wine, the party would go flat. Not because they were desperate for wine to get drunk, but because wine was associated with joy and celebration - a tangible symbol of God’s goodness and blessings.
So without wine, the whole atmosphere of the wedding banquet would change. It could become more like a funeral wake than a wedding. You can imagine the servants scurrying around, frantically trying to rustle up some spare wine from somewhere. Unlike us at St Michael’s they didn’t have the benefit of a ‘Majestic Wine’ warehouse next door!
Wisely, Jesus’ mother Mary believed her son could come to the rescue. She knew he was special, and could redeem the situation somehow. She was right of course, and Jesus turned an enormous quantity of water into wine. Its estimated that there were up to 700 litres of water in those six stone jars - well over one hundred gallons, equivalent to about a thousand bottles of wine!
And it wasn’t just any old wine - we’re told it was top-quality wine, not just cheap ‘plonk’! It was so good that the master of the banquet believed best had been saved until last. Jesus’ miracle produced a great quality of wine, as well as a great quantity. And it’s the same with all the miracles of Jesus that John tells us about. The signs that Jesus performs in John’s Gospel are always of outstanding quality. For example:
- it wasn’t just few mouths he fed from five loaves and two fish, but over five thousand.
- it wasn’t just a blind man he healed, but a man who’d been blind since birth.
- And it wasn’t just a dead person that Jesus brought back to life, but a man called Lazarus who’d been in the grave for four days!
When you heard the story read just now, did you notice that hardly anyone would have known what Jesus had done? His mum would have known, so would the servants and his disciples, but no one else. He probably didn’t want to upstage the bride and groom, and draw attention from them on their big day. But more importantly, Jesus says in verse 4 that his time had not yet come. It wasn’t yet time for him to go public with his power. His most public acts were yet to come – culminating in his death and resurrection.
- The Sign’s significance: Jesus’ glory revealed!
So what did Jesus’ slightly secretive sign mean? What were his first disciples meant to learn from seeing him turn water into wine? And what are we meant to learn from it today? A big clue comes in the final sentence of our passage. John tells us that Jesus’ miracle “revealed his glory”. It revealed his identity to his watching disciples. It showed them he was special.
For a start, it showed them that Jesus had come from God. By turning water into wine Jesus performed a supernatural act – an act that only our Creator God could do. It was a suspension of the laws of nature which showed Jesus to be God’s Son, God’s Word made flesh.
This week our nation celebrated Queen Elizabeth 2nd becoming Britain’s longest reigning monarch, overtaking Queen Victoria’s record. By turning water into wine, Jesus was also showing himself to be a king – God’s chosen king. Because Old Testament prophets, men like Daniel, Amos and Isaiah, had all promised that God would one day send his own chosen king:
- A king who would be called the Christ or Messiah.
- A king who would bring God’s goodness, grace and joy to his people.
- A king who would bring such blessings to his subjects that it would be like a river of wine flowing over them.
So by turning water into wine, Jesus was giving his disciples a giant sign that he was this long-promised king. Jesus Christ is the king sent by God the Father to bring abundant blessings to his people. Jesus Christ is the king whose rule who will last forever – even longer than the 63 years our Queen has been on the British throne!
- The Sign’s purpose: Put your faith in Jesus!
Jesus ability to turn water into wine was an amazing miracle. But John doesn’t tell us this story just to amaze or entertain us. It was a sign with a purpose. Its purpose was to show Jesus’s glory, as God’s Son and God’s King.
But like any sign, we can follow it or we can ignore it.
Jesus’ first disciples certainly couldn’t ignore what they had seen. John tells us that they put their faith in him following this miracle. They believed that he has come from God to be their king. They believed Jesus was the one who could bring them God’s blessings. They believed Jesus was someone to trust.
But what about you? Does today’s sign create or strengthen faith in you? Does it make you want to be Christ’s disciple? I hope so. Because the Lord Jesus continues to offer lasting joy to everyone who trusts in him:
- A joy that comes from knowing our sins are forgiven
- A joy that comes from knowing we’ve become God’s children
- A joy that comes from having real purpose to our lives
- And a joy that comes from the certain hope of heaven.
People today look for lasting joy in all sorts of places today, don’t they – whether it be in sport or career success, or in fame and fortune. But they all lose their appeal in the end. Ultimately they all fail to satisfy us at the deepest level. They all fall at the final hurdle. Only the Lord Jesus can give us true and lasting joy.