A miracle is when God shows us who He is. The first miracle Jesus ever performed was to turn water into wine, and this showed us who Jesus was.
· John 2:11: Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
But if a miracle shows us who God is, if this miracle shows us who Jesus is, than that means it’s something more than a parlor trick. God can do any supernatural thing God wants, so when God works a miracle, it’s not just for the fun of it; it’s meant to teach us, to convert us, to demonstrate to us who God is. And this miracle, being the very first miracle that Jesus performed, must have a special significance for us today.
On its face, this miracle is a little bit odd. Jesus isn’t healing anyone; he isn’t feeding anyone; he doesn’t cast out demons or save anyone’s life. On its face, it does look like a parlor trick; hey, look what I can do! Presto change-o, Pinot noir! It seems to me that Jesus wanted to help this host save face in front of his guests, which is compassionate, but why not cure cancer or save a baby from drowning? Why water into wine?
First, consider that miracle took place at a wedding. A wedding is an occasion of great joy, and it’s also our human ritual that most clearly celebrates relationship. So why would Jesus choose to perform his first miracle at a wedding? To demonstrate that what he is all about, the essence of his ministry, is to be in relationship with us. God is seeking to unite Himself in relationship with us fully and forever, the way husbands and wives are united in marriage and freely give themselves to one another. That’s what we are looking forward to in heaven—the culmination of intimacy with God, the marriage feast of the lamb. If marriage is a great joy in this life, can you imagine the joy of the culmination of our life in God?
CS Lewis was asked about why we can’t have sex in heaven. He responded by asking how you would explain sex to a child. You might say it’s the most wonderful experience you’ve ever had. And a child, confused, asks, “do you eat chocolate while doing it?” Because to a child, eating chocolate is the most wonderful experience they’ve ever had. In the same way, we can’t quite understand the joy that is waiting for us in heaven, but marital love is the closest thing we can know to the total unity we will have with God. So therefore, this wedding has special significance; it’s meant to show us that the whole point of Jesus’s ministry is a beautiful relationship with God.
Second, consider that the miracle points us to Calvary. Through his death, from the blood, Christ will bring new life, and his followers will experience the grace of Calvary through the Communion wine. Jesus’s act of turning the water into wine also recalls Moses’s miracle of turning the Nile into blood. But while, Craig Atwood notes, “That was a miracle foretelling of death and judgment, but Jesus’ miracle was at a wedding, a symbol of life and new creation.” The professor also reminds us that these jars were reserved for religious purposes connected to Judaism. “The transformation of the water into wine was symbolic of the transformation of the old covenant or purity and law into the new covenant of grace and abundance.” And communion is about abundant, joyful life. When I went to seminary, we had communion every week, and during the service we would have a bread maker on to smell the bread baking throughout the service. After the service, some of the other students and I would come to the table and stand around it, talking and finishing the communion bread. Perhaps this would feel kind of sacrilegious. But communion doesn’t only have to be a solemn ritual; it’s the celebration of our new relationship with Christ; a foretaste of the heavenly marriage banquet. It’s okay to smile; it’s okay to be joyful; it’s okay to interact with others during the communion feast. Dan and I attended a wedding and we used this sign in the photo booth: “I Came For the Food!”
In the same way, we come to church, in part, for the food. The point of communion, of course, isn’t the physical nourishment, it’s the spiritual nourishment of our souls uniting with Christ in this sacrament. Presbyterians believe in the real presence of Christ in act of communion; in fact, John Calvin said that communion, not the Bible reading or even the preaching, was the central act of worship. In this feast, our hearts are united with Christ, as we take Him into our bodies, hearts, minds, and souls in a new way; we receive His sacrifice on the cross, His atoning blood to take away our sin and shame, and His grace to save us from death and give us new life. We come to be nourished by Jesus; we come for the food.
Third, in this miracle, Jesus takes something ordinary and turns it into something extraordinary. There are certainly people who believe that this water became grape juice. As we remember Billy Graham, it’s worth noting that Billy Graham said: “I do not believe that the Bible teaches teetotalism . . . Jesus drank wine. Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding feast.” I think a careful reading of the Bible supports something like the Presbyterian stance on alcohol: total abstinence (teetotalism) is to be encouraged. It’s good to abstain from alcohol, because some people are alcoholic, and we wouldn’t want to cause our brother to stumble. At the same time, alcohol in moderation is not to be discouraged, but excessive drinking, illegal or unhealthy drinking is to be discouraged. Jesus turned water into wine to make something ordinary into something extraordinary; this wasn’t just wine, this was better than a 2009 Chateau Margaux.
Chateau Margaux holds the record for most expensive bottle ever broken. In 1989, a New York wine merchant named William Sokolin took a bottle of 1787 Chateau Margaux to the Four Seasons New York, in hopes to sell it for a client for $500,000 because it bore Thomas Jefferson’s initials. A waiter carrying a coffee tray knocked the bottle over, breaking it. Fortunately, it was insured for $225,000. Still, nobody has since heard from the waiter. Jesus took something ordinary and turned it into something extraordinary: a Chateau Margaux. What is ordinary in your life? Is your marriage, your job, your spiritual life, just humming along ordinarily? Jesus said:
· I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. John 10:10
Jesus wants your life and mine to be extraordinary. He wants to transform our marriages, our finances, our health, our homes, our spirituality, into something great—into Chateau Margaux. Do you want this? Do you want a better life? Do you want to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary? This story tells you how.
· His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” John 2:5.
The exchange between Jesus and his mother is so beautiful, because we see her faith and humility. She knows who Jesus is; she knows what he can do. When Jesus says, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come,” it might sound to us like he is being disrespectful or dismissive of his mom, but that is not so. Rather, Jesus is saying that this wine prefigures his death, his final hour, in which he will perform the greatest miracle of all, breaking the power of evil forever. When Christ calls his mother Woman, he is recalling Genesis 3:15, God’s words to the snake: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise his heel.” (Gen. 3:15) Given at the dawn of creation, these words foretell how the woman one day will have a seed, a son, who will crush the head of the serpent. Centuries later, at the wedding feast of Cana, this prophecy begins to be fulfilled. Mary responds to these words with complete understanding that now is the time, and she gives the servants the greatest advice of all: do whatever he tells you.
Do you want Jesus to turn the ordinary into extraordinary? Do you want him to work a miracle in your life? Then do whatever he tells you. Listen for his voice. Follow his lead. Fill the water jars to the brim if that’s what he tells you to do. And then drink up. Drink deeply of the new wine, the rich wine, the good, good wine that is our relationship with Jesus Christ. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.