This morning we have the story of a wedding. Who doesn’t love weddings? And what could be more about relationship than a wedding? Who gets invited to weddings? Family—family and close friends. We don’t invite strangers. The bride and groom invite the people closest to them to share their special day, to witness their vows to one another, their promises to be committed to one another for the rest of their lives.
Everything changes when a wedding occurs. Prior to the wedding, the bride and groom are individuals; at the completion of the ceremony, they’re a couple. And when they’re married in a church before God, they make a covenant agreement with God that the two shall now be one. For better for worse, for richer for poorer—whatever life might bring, they’ll face it together.
John began his gospel by introducing Jesus as Son of God and Word of God. Then he took us to the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, who recognized Him as the Messiah when the Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove. Twice John says, “I myself did not know him”—John the Baptist is related to Jesus and has almost certainly known Him all his life. So he’s not literally saying that he didn’t know Jesus—he’s saying that he didn’t recognize who Jesus really was, he didn’t recognize Him as Son of God until that moment in the river.
And almost immediately, people begin to follow Jesus. Andrew and John not only follow Him, they invite others to join them. Then Jesus invites Philip to join the group—we’re told that “Philip is from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter” (John 1:44)—so he probably already knew them. Philip invites Nathanael to come.
Already a community is being formed—a community in which most are already connected in some way. Jesus doesn’t begin with a group of total strangers, but with family members and their friends.
John wants us to recognize that something new is happening—something big. Everything is changing—human history is at the dawn of a new creation, even if no one quite realizes it yet.
And then there’s a wedding—a wedding in Cana. Jesus is invited, along with His disciples. We’re not told whose wedding it is, but it might well have been a family wedding, as Jesus’ mother Mary seems to be more than just a guest.
And weddings come with expectations. Most American weddings begin with the wedding ceremony itself and then are followed by a reception—a reception that almost always includes food and dancing.
First century Jewish weddings also came with expectations—they were a really big deal and usually lasted for at least several days. Eating, drinking and gift giving were huge—and unlike our weddings, it was the responsibility of the groom to provide enough of everything. To run short of either wine or food was far more than an embarrassment to the groom—it was a total disgrace to the family. Lawsuits were not unknown when this happened.
Like our weddings, however, Jewish weddings were also about relationship. And so, after clearly establishing Jesus as the Son of God, John now gives us the wedding at Cana. He wants us to see the human side of Jesus. And he wants us to understand that Jesus came not just to die—He came to be in relationship with people, ordinary people like you and me.
He came to live among us. John is reminding us of the ancient words of the prophet Isaiah: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
Immanuel – God with us. In the wedding at Cana, John is giving us Immanuel, this God with us. No longer do we have to go to the temple in Jerusalem to be in God’s presence—now He’s here, right here, in the midst of our daily lives. We see God not only attending a wedding but interacting with family and friends and servants. And he’s giving us a sign. Isaiah wrote “The Lord himself will give you a sign”—and John writes at the end of this story, “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And all his disciples believed in him” (John 2:11).
But then, in the midst of this wedding, the wine runs out. And Mary “the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’” Clearly she’s expecting Him to do something about it. Clearly she believes that He can do something about it.
“And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you’” (John 2:4-5).
And in this brief conversation, we discover several important things. First, we see in Mary’s words a model for prayer: she simply presents the problem to Jesus—“They have no wine.” She doesn’t try to tell Him what He should do or how He should do it. She doesn’t appear to be upset or anxious. She doesn’t start pointing fingers and blaming people. She doesn’t say, “Why can’t anybody do anything right around here?” Or, “This is all my fault. If only I hadn’t messed up, this wouldn’t be happening.” She just says, “They have no wine.”
She just laid the problem before Him and trusted that He would take care of it. And notice that she took the problem to Him before she took it to anyone else. It doesn’t say that only after she checked with all the local liquor stores and discovered that they couldn’t deliver enough wine in a hurry or that she consulted with all her friends to see what they thought she should do. She just brought the problem to Jesus.
Is that what you do when you have a problem? A seemingly insurmountable problem? Just lay it before Jesus and then let it go, confident that He’ll deal with it?
Why don’t we do this? Just turn to Him with whatever we’re struggling with? Sometimes we’ve decided that we don’t need anybody’s help—not even God’s. We don’t need anybody. “I can do it myself” is our motto.
Other times we might think that we don’t deserve to have anyone help us. If we’ve got a mess, it’s because we deserve a mess—it’s because we deserve to suffer. And we tell ourselves, “Jesus doesn’t want to hear my problems. Sure, Mary can tell Him she needs more wine—she’s His mother. But I’m not important. And He’s got ISIS and world hunger and human trafficking to deal with. He doesn’t care about my little problems.”
Really? Jesus’ response to Mary was, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come?” (John 2:4).
One of the problems we have with Jesus is that He rarely gives us a direct answer—and already in his gospel, John has shown us that this isn’t a new problem. He always did this. When John and Andrew began to follow Jesus, He turned around and said, “What are you seeking?” Now He says to Mary, “Woman, what does this have to do with me?”
We read His words and think, “What’s He talking about?” In this wedding story, John is showing us who this Son of God is. By referring to Mary as woman instead of mother, Jesus is making it clear that things are changing. Until His baptism in the Jordan River, Jesus’ primary role had been to be Mary’s son and the brother of His sisters and brothers. Now He’s making it clear that He’s beginning His ministry as Son of God and that service to His Father in heaven will be first in His life. Although “His hour has not yet come,” the hour when He would go to the cross, all previous relationships are changing.
Everyone is invited to be a part of the new creation that is being established—but no one is automatically included because of family relationship. James and John have already gone from being cousins to being disciples—and the rest of Jesus’ family is invited to join them.
Mary seems to somehow understand this because she doesn’t argue. She simply tells the servants to “do whatever He tells you.” Trusting that whatever He does will solve the problem.
And this is where things get really interesting. This is where we discover that Jesus will take care of everything if we just do exactly that: if we “do whatever He tells you.”
“Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water’” (John 2:7). These were huge stone water jars, each one holding twenty or thirty gallons—six of them.
And they did—“they filled them up to the brim.” At least 120 gallons, maybe as much as 180 gallons.
Jesus said, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” And they did.
“Do whatever he tells you.”
Would you have done that? Because it doesn’t say that Jesus told them to take this new wine to the master of the feast. It says that He told them to fill the jars with water and then to take some of the water to the master. How was that going to solve the problem? What would the master of the feast say when they gave him a cup of water?
It didn’t make any sense—but they did it anyway. And then the water became wine—only after they obeyed. What if they had refused?
This is really important. “Do whatever he tells you.” Somehow the servants needed to participate in this miracle, this sign. One of the things that we discover in this story of the wedding at Cana is that Jesus can take care of everything if we just do whatever He tells us to do.
What if you refuse? What if you see a problem and tell Jesus about it and then refuse to do what He says? What if you decide that because what He tells you doesn’t make any sense to you, that you’re not going to do it?
How many problems have we brought to Jesus that have never been solved because we refused to “do whatever he tells you.”
God tells us to give, but some people say, “Well, the church has plenty of money—and I can’t really afford it.” Is God telling you to give because His church needs money? Or could there be another reason? Could it be about what He wants you to learn?
God tells you to forgive that person who’s really offended you—but you don’t want to.
God tells you to go across the street and offer to help that neighbor that you’ve never liked—and you don’t want to.
In all these cases, all God is really asking you to do is listen to what He says, identify the problem, and present it to Jesus. Then just do what He says—no matter how crazy it might seem to you. No matter how sure you are that whatever He tells you will never solve the problem.
And another thing—in this wedding story, only the servants realize what has happened. How often does this happen in our own lives? Jesus’ presence, God’s grace, constantly surrounds us—His love is ever active in our lives. Yet we often fail to realize that, to recognize His presence, His work in our lives, His answer to our prayers. Instead, we see only the hands of those who give us the wine, never realizing where it comes from or the grace that it represents.
But this story isn’t just about trusting Jesus for provision. The bigger story, again, is that God has come down from heaven to live among us. Everything has changed.
And in the “new wine” we discover a sign that the new kingdom brought by Jesus is vastly superior to the old wine of Judaism. Jesus changes the water of Judaism into the wine of Christianity—right here at the very beginning of His ministry.
1:17-18, John says, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” The Word heard and preserved through all those long centuries in Israel has been superseded and the fulfillment has begun. We find in the waters of the River Jordan and now here at the wedding in Cana, that the one Moses wrote about in the Law, the one about whom the prophets wrote, has come. He’s appeared among us and the Word has been made flesh.
Ezekiel 36:26-28 says, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to talk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.”
Everything is changing. All we need to do is do whatever He tells us.
The living Christ still has two hands, one to point the way and the other held out to help us along. So the Christian life lies before us not as some remote and frightening mountain peak like Everest that we must somehow figure out how to scale by our own skill and endurance, but a road on which we may walk with Jesus as our guide and friend.
The one requirement, John is telling us here, is that we be a part of the group, a part of the family.
The work of the Holy Spirit isn’t just something that happens to us individually. It requires that the whole Body of Christ work together. The Holy Spirit equips individual members to serve one another—that’s the whole point of the gifts. First, every member has at least one gift of grace by which he or she ministers to the Body of Christ. Then individual members are enabled to offer different kinds if service to the Church. Some of us can be trustees and maintain the church property and finances, some of us can teach the children. Others can serve the spiritual needs of the members, while others have the gift of mercy or helps—they’re the ones we want when we need a hot meal or someone to help out in the church kitchen or drive someone to an appointment. Some have the gift of working with small children and bless us through their work at the daycare. And all of these require spiritual power to be done as God wants them to be done. Even the member who cleans the bathrooms is using God’s gifts for the glory of the body.
The point is that there is unity in diversity. All of these gifts come from the same Spirit. And all of them are for the same purpose—“to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (I Corinthians 12:7).
Haven’t figured out yet what your gift is? Interestingly, Paul gives no instruction for determining our own gifts. He tells us to seek the Giver, not the gift; focus on being the person God intended you to be, and love and serve one another. And in the process, our giftedness will become evident—not just to us, but to all.
Think about it: we know who the people are who are good at working in the kitchen, we know who to ask to be on the audit committee and whose gift is clearly working with children.
Jesus wants us to be in relationship—with Him and with one another. He wants us to enjoy Him together, to enjoy His blessings, to listen to Him and to work together to bring others into this new creation. He wants us to recognize that He’s with us always, in the everyday events of life.
John is saying that In order to enjoy the wine, you have to be part of the group. That’s why he makes sure we know that not only Jesus is at the wedding, but His disciples are there, too. And His mother. And apparently His brothers, because the next verse after the story says that “After this, he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days. ”The new family, getting to know one another. Building relationship. Doing whatever he tells you.
The new creation, the kingdom of heaven has begun—we’ve been invited. Let’s do whatever He tells us.
Let us pray.