Sunday, September 03, 2023

“The First of His Miraculous Signs” [Matt's Messages]

"The First of His Miraculous Signs”
Life in Jesus’ Name - The Gospel of John
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
September 3, 2023 :: John 2:1-22 

This is one of my favorite souvenirs from our sabbatical in Great Britain.

Heather bought me this metal sign with a red dragon on it.

Anybody know which of the countries on the island of Great Britain sports this red dragon on their flag?

It’s the country of Wales, that’s right. One of the nations within the United Kingdom. That beautiful country on the western shores of the island where Heather and I spent several weeks there in early June. King Charles used to be the “Prince of Wales.”

Heather bought me this sign. It’s really beautiful. It has the “red dragon of  Cadwaladr” on it which has stood for the national pride of Wales for nearly 1400 years! 

And you can’t see it from there, but it’s completely filled up with the names of Welsh towns and cities in it.

They all sound exotic, and many are unpronounceable for me because I don’t speak Welsh. But we love to look it over and pick out the names of the places we visited:

St. David’s

And there are little figures, and symbols, and icons embedded in between. It’s really beautiful. Thank you, Honey, for buying for me. I haven’t figured out where to hang it yet. Probably in my office somewhere.

And this metal sign, like all good signs, has a central message. Something it’s pointing to.

And it’s pretty obvious. Because it’s it written right across the front in the middle. Can you read it from back there?

It says, “I ❤ WALES.”

I fell in love with that beautiful corner of the world: the beaches, the fields, the forest, the people, the culture, the church, the whole exotic thing. I love Wales. 

Wales is the place where, I think I finally started to really rest on our sabbatical. Where the rest caught up with me, a month and a half in. So it will always have a special place in my heart.  “I ❤ WALES.”

Why am I telling you this?

It’s to emphasize the idea of a sign.

A sign points to something.
A sign has significance.
A sign says something.

Sometimes it just says, “Stop!” Like a big red octagon with big white letters. “Stop!”

Or our church sign out there on Route 53. "This way to Lanse Free Church!"

A sign, if it’s doing it’s job, points to something significant.

And in today’s passage of God’s holy Word, John the Evangelist writes about what he says was, “The First of Jesus’ Miraculous Signs." Greek word, “saymeion.” Sign, mark, token, signal. In this case, it is a miraculous event that is the sign.

Did you catch that when Keagan read it? It’s in verse 11. Skip down there and look at it again.

“This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him” (Jn. 2:1-11).

That’s pretty significant, pun intended. Jesus performed a sign. It was a miracle. But it wasn’t just a miracle. It was a miracle with a meaning. A miracle with a message. If you looked closely at this sign, you got the message.

John says Jesus with this sign “thus revealed his glory...”

To those who knew what was happening (which was a surprisingly small number in this case, to those who knew what was happening), Jesus gave a glimpse of His glory.

And John told us to expect just that. Remember what he said in the prologue? Chapter 1, verse 14. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14).

And I don’t know about you, but I want to see His glory, too.

So let’s look more closely at His first miraculous sign.

It’s really a wild story. It’s really weird and strange. I thought this week, “This story is too weird to not be true. Nobody would come up with this. Nobody would do it this way unless this is actually how it happened. Too strange not to be true.”

Obviously, Jesus is going to to do a miracle here.

But you could almost miss it! In fact, there were people who were there, who saw the miracle, who even drank the miracle, and didn’t know the miracle had happened! Isn’t that wild?!

I wouldn’t do it like that. But that’s because I’m not Jesus.

This is Jesus revealing His glory. This is Jesus’ first miraculous sign.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s jump back up to the first verse and see how this miraculous sign came about. Verse 1.

“On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding” (vv.1-2).

A wedding! Don’t you just love a wedding? What a wonderful event a wedding can be. And Jesus’ day, a wedding was a huge deal. The wedding feast often lasted for a whole week! Everyday life took a pause and the two families and their close friends came together to celebrate the joining of this man and this woman in holy matrimony.

This was a big deal especially in a small town like Cana. Remember, that’s where Nathanael was from (the guy in the last chapter, whom Jesus invited to “come and see” to come check Him out and see if Jesus was as good as advertised).

This is apparently the third day since then, and they’ve reached the little town of Cana in the northern region of Galilee, and there’s a wedding going on that Jesus’ mother was at.

John never tells us her name, but the other gospels tell us that it was “Mary.” This is the woman who gave Jesus birth. She carried him for nine months. Jesus is fully human. Nobody knows that better than this lady right here.

And she’s at this wedding. Perhaps she’s related to the bride or the groom. If so, it’s probably the groom, because he’s responsible for the wine at the wedding. We are never told exactly who the bride or the groom were.

But we are told that Jesus and His disciples had been invited to the wedding, too. We don’t know how many disciples Jesus had by then. Last week, we learned about Andrew, probably John, Simon (who Jesus called Peter), Philip, and Nathanael. So probably those five guys at least and maybe more are with Jesus at this wedding.

And everybody is having a good time...and then disaster strikes. They run out of wine.

Now, you and I can’t really understand what a big problem that actually was. Heather and I didn’t even have any wine at our wedding, and it was just fine. But this was a disaster for this couple, and even more for the groom and his family because it was their responsibility to provide the joyful drink for the feast. It was shameful and embarrassing at best and potentially ruinous at worst. The bride’s family might have been able to sue the groom’s family for breach of contract.  There was financial liability on the line. It was a major failure of Middle Eastern hospitality, which was no small thing!

It was a big problem, and Jesus’ mother swings into action. Look at verse 3.

“When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, ‘They have no more wine.’”

Mary knows about Jesus. She remembers the angel’s visit. She remembers that she had been a virgin who conceived a child. She remembers the shepherds. She remembers the wise men. She treasured up all of those things in her heart.

And it’s been about thirty years, and she decides that now’s a good time to ask Him to do something.

Perhaps it’s because He’s pulled up to the wedding with some disciples. Some actual followers. Maybe she’s heard that John the Baptizer has publicly pointed Jesus out as the Lamb of God who is going to take the away the sin of the world.

Whatever her thinking is, she pulls Jesus aside and says, “They have no more wine.”

This party is about to go south real quick. The wedding feast will be a failure. The joy is being drained from this event.

Now Jesus’ response might have been very surprising to her. Especially in the way He talks to the woman who gave Him birth. Look at verse 4.

“‘Dear woman, why do you involve me?’ Jesus replied. ‘My time has not yet come.’”
He doesn’t call her, “Mom.” He calls her, “Gunai” in Greek which is a respectful way of addressing her but not particularly affectionate. It’s kind of like “Ma’am.” [By the way, don’t try this at home. Kids, don’t call your Mom, “Gunai.” That’s just for Jesus.]

Jesus says, “Ma’am, why are you getting me involved in this?”

“Dear woman, why are you trying to make this my business?”

It’s fascinating because I think this signals that Jesus is fully on His Father’s mission. He doesn’t take orders from His mom. Now that He’s into His public ministry, He is distancing Himself from His mom so that she no longer has an inside track. It doesn’t mean He doesn’t love her, but He’s about the Father’s business now like never before.

And also, somewhat paradoxically, it’s not yet His time to go big. Did you see that in verse 4? 

“My time has not yet come.”

Literally, “my hour” has not yet come. We’re going to see that idea of Jesus’ hour over and over again as we study this book. Jesus says that it has not come several times over the course of the first 11 chapters.

It’s not time yet for Jesus to get all of the attention. It’s not time yet for Jesus to be lifted up. It’s not time yet for Jesus to reveal Himself fully as Israel’s Messiah. He’s not going to jump up and do a miracle that says, “Here I am! See me in all my glory!”

If there’s a revelation of His glory, it’s just going to be a glimpse. If He does anything right now, it’s going to be quiet, reserved.

We’re going to see this again and again, too. Jesus is somewhat elusive at this stage. He’s private and careful at times. We’re going to see Him pull back, especially when people are getting the wrong idea about Him or could get the wrong idea about Him. 

It’s not yet His time. But His time is coming.

Now, I love how Mary responds to this. Mary is not offended. She is not put off by being called “Gunai.”  She’s not like, “What did you call me? I’m your mother.” No, she seems to understand what Jesus is doing. And she accepts everything that Jesus says about it not being his time.

But she is also not deterred! She is able to accept whatever Jesus does here as the right thing. Which is a great example for you me. As usual, Mary is showing us how it’s done. Model is almost always a model disciple for us to follow. She accepts whatever Jesus does here as the right thing.

But she seems to still expect Him to do something! She knows His heart. Look at verse 5.

“His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’”

I almost thinks she winks at that point. She gives a shrug to Jesus (okay!) and then says to the servants (perhaps she was family and had a responsibility for the catering, hard to say), “Do whatever he tells you.”

And that, too, is an incredibly point of application for you and me today, isn’t it?

“Do whatever Jesus tells you.”

Even if it feels kinda crazy? What is Jesus telling you to do? What are His commands?

Here his commands are strange. Jesus does act. He does, in fact, a miracle. He calls the crowd together and waves his hands over all of their cups and says, “Alakazaam, Alakazoo. Wine for me and wine for you!”

Is that what He does? No, nothing like it. Look at verse 6.

“Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.”

They might have been empty. Everybody who came to this wedding would have had their hands ceremonially washed before eating. The water was poured over the tops of their hands and the bottoms. Maybe several times.

And we don’t know how many guests were at the wedding. But we do know there 6 of these big stone water jars which when filled hold 20 to 30 gallons. What’s 30 times 6? 180 gallons. Imagine 180 milk jugs up on here on stage with me. 

And Jesus told the servants to fill them up TO THE BRIM with water. V.7

“Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water’; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.’ They did so,  and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.”

Stop there for just a second. When exactly did the miracle happen?

We don’t know. We’re just told that it did. And by the time anybody drinks the wine, Jesus is not mentioned again in the story! I think he might have done the miracle and then quietly slipped away from the wedding.

He told them to draw out some liquid from the jars and take it to the head caterer. He was probably the emcee or the head waiter. And he never finds out where the stuff comes from. But the servants knew. And the disciples did, too. They saw it all. V.9

“Then [the maters of the banquet] called the bridegroom aside and said, ‘Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.’”

We weren’t sure if Jesus was going to do any miracle. Not only does He do it. He overdoes it! But not only did He provide wine, He turned water into wine. And not just any wine. He made the best wine ever!

This was the superior stuff. This would have had the label on it with the highest numbers at the wine-shop. Have you seen those rating numbers? Like anything about 90 is supposed to be really good. This would have been 100, 200 out of 100.

“You have saved the best till now.”

Problem solved. Can you imagine what that feast would have been like after this miracle?

The joy? The enjoyment of the new couple? The rejoicing and dancing of the two families become one. The disaster was averted and the feast became a festival. And Jesus quietly slipped away without taking the credit. That’s not how I would have done it. But it’s how Jesus did it, and His disciples saw it and believed. V.11 again.

“This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him” (Jn. 2:1-11).

What do you think they saw? Let’s talk about that for application today. What do you think His disciples saw of Jesus’ glory in this miracle? In other words, what did the sign say? What was the meaning of the miracle? What was the message of the miracle?

What of Jesus’ glory was revealed?

I have four quick points, and here’s number one.

His first miraculous sign revealed:


He didn’t do this miracle because He was Mary’s son. He didn’t have to do it out of a familial bonds. It wasn’t because He was blood. He did it because He cared about Mary and about this family. He had compassion on them. He saw their plight and was willing to intervene.

It’s possible that the groom had really mismanaged his finances and this was all his fault, but our Lord had mercy on him and quietly stepped in.

Jesus cares. And if you believe that, then you will experience peace.

His mother knew His heart. His mother knew that if she brought the problem to Jesus, He was heart was probably going to go out to the family and want to do alleviate their suffering and bring them joy.

Do you know that that is the heart of Jesus? Do you know His compassionate heart? Do you know that Jesus cares? If you believe that, you will have great peace.

He might not fix every problem you have when you ask. He won’t in fact. He does not take away all of our suffering. Not yet. That time has not yet come. But Jesus cares. And when the time is right, He acts. Out of His compassionate heart. And that changes everything. That’s point number two.

His first miraculous sign reveals:


Jesus can turn bland old water into the best wine ever. And that’s just for starters.

Jesus can turn ceremonial water into celebratory wine.
Jesus can turn disaster into delight.
Jesus can turn dryness into exuberance.
Jesus can turn the old into the new.
Jesus can transform death into life.

He can do miracles including miracles in our lives today.

What are you asking Jesus to transform in His power?

A lot of commentators have wondered if there spiritual significance of the water being ceremonial for washing like the Old Testament law and the wine being like the new wine of new covenant grace. And I say, “Maybe!”

Some of have pointed that the wedding going dry was like the spiritual dryness of Israel under the Pharisees and the wine being like the joyful spiritual life that faith in Christ will bring. And I say, “Maybe!”

Whatever symbolism might be there, we know there is power there to transform.

Jesus revealed His glory. Jesus has real power to make real change. If you believe that, then you will experience real joy. Because you know that He is truly power and can do amazing things in your life.

Do you believe that? If Jesus can do that, just think what He can do with your problem!

180 gallons of the best wine that guy had ever drank. Which really show Who Jesus really is. That’s point number three. 

His first miraculous sign reveals:


In other words, Jesus is the Christ.

Remember that’s the point of this book! John says in chapter 20, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these [signs] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (Jn. 20:30-31).

In time, His disciples got the message.

“He makes wine.” “He makes the best wine.” “He must be the Messiah.”

Last Christmas we were studying the Book of Hope in the Prophecy of Jeremiah. Do you remember that? So much of Jeremiah was gloomy because he had to be a broken record about the broken covenant.

But in chapters 29 through 33, there was a bright ray of light prophesying about the Messiah who was going to enact a new unbreakable covenant. Do you remember that?

Do you remember how Jeremiah described the Messiah’s kingdom? Listen to chapter 31, verses 10 through 13:

“Hear the word of the LORD, O nations; proclaim it in distant coastlands [Like in Wales or in Central Pennsylvania]: 'He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.' For the LORD will ransom Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they. They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the LORD–the grain, the new wine and the oil, the young of the flocks and herds. They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more. Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow” (Jer. 31:10-13).

I think the disciples caught a glimpse of Jesus’ messianic identity when they saw the  party really getting started.

“That’s the Messiah!” 

And we know that that is just a foretaste of the Wedding Feast still to come. When Jesus is not just an amazing guest but the Bridegroom Himself. This miracle was a sign pointing to His identity.

And if you believe in it, then you will have life. Life in His name!

Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God?

If you do, then you (like His disciples in verse 11), will have life in His name.

“He thus revealed his glory.”

Last point. Point number four of four as we go to the Lord’s Table.

His first miraculous sign revealed:


As Jesus told His mother, this was not His hour, but His hour would come. And when His hour came, He did not flinch from embracing it for us.

In a few months, in John chapter 12, we’re going to read what Jesus said in the final crucial week. He said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds [that’s us!]...Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!’” (Jn. 12:23-28).

Do you believe in Jesus’ perfect timing?

It often seems like Jesus is late. He could have made the water into wine before the old wine ran out. But He didn’t do that.

He could have done it before His mom talked to Him. But He didn’t do that either. 

It sometimes seems like He’s delaying things. And He is waiting for His return until the full number of His chosen ones come to repentance, until His Father says, “Go. Go on back.”

But that’s because His timing is always perfect. He knows exactly when to act and what to do.

So that it was on the very night He was betrayed that the Lord Jesus “took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me’” (1 Cor. 11:23-25).

Good signs point to significant things.

Signs are miracles with a meaning, miracles with a message.

Jesus’ first miraculous sign revealed His glory:

The glory of His compassionate heart. Believe that and you have peace.
The glory of His transforming power. Believe that and you have joy.
The glory of His messianic identity. Believe that and you have life.
And the glory of His perfect timing. Believe that and you have salvation.

His disciples saw His glory and they put their faith in Him.

May we do so, too.