‘Beyond All We Ask Or Imagine’ – John 2:1-12 – January 26th, 2020

If you have your Bibles, please turn with me to the gospel of John, chapter 2, verses 1 through 12. John says:

On the third day a wedding took place in Cana of Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding as well. When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother told Him, “They don’t have any wine.”

“What has this concern of yours to do with Me, woman?” Jesus asked. “My hour has not yet come.”

“Do whatever He tells you,” His mother told the servants.

Now six stone water jars had been set there for Jewish purification. Each contained 20 or 30 gallons.

“Fill the jars with water,” Jesus told them. So they filled them to the brim. Then He said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the chief servant.” And they did.

When the chief servant tasted the water (after it had become wine), he did not know where it came from—though the servants who had drawn the water knew. He called the groom 10 and told him, “Everyone sets out the fine wine first, then, after people have drunk freely, the inferior. But you have kept the fine wine until now.”

11 Jesus performed this first sign in Cana of Galilee. He displayed His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.

12 After this, He went down to Capernaum, together with His mother, His brothers, and His disciples, and they stayed there only a few days.

This is the word of the lord.

*

Let’s pray.

Welcome to the sermon where I maybe get fired.

I think one of the more common misconceptions that people labor under is the idea that there’s really two parts of life – on the one hand, there’s the “normal” parts of life, like your job, your family, your taxes, and so forth, and on the other hand, there’s the “sacred” parts of life, the “religious” parts.

If you’ve ever listened to the radio before, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.

You might remember that song by Little Big Town that goes, “Five card poker on Saturday night, church on Sunday morning!” Or that Brantley Gilbert song,“We live it up for the weekend, somebody said something ‘bout church on Sunday.” Or that Tim McGraw song, “I need Jesus or I need whiskey, whatever works best to get me through.”

And these are all good songs, and maybe those lyrics do describe your life perfectly, but pay close attention to the way they frame things. It’s very much, “Here’s all the normal things I like. I work hard, I play hard.” But then, over here, in a very different category, “I love Jesus Christ.” “I go to church on Sunday!” These other six days are about me. They’re about my family. They’re about my needs, my wants, my interests. But Sunday’s about the Lord.

That’s very much the way our culture tends to think about these things.

And yet as we look through our passage for today, one of the things we’re gonna see is that Jesus doesn’t seem to hold these distinctions at all. Our culture says, “These things belong to you, but those things belong to God.” But John tells us that Christ cares about all of it. Christ cares about the mundane parts of your life. Christ is Lord over everything, everywhere. And he’s intimately involved in even those things that seem too silly to mention to him.

God even cares when your party’s not going well. Literally. That’s what John is narrating this morning. Jesus is at a wedding party and it’s not going well. Looking at verse 3, it says, “When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother told Him, “They don’t have any wine.”

That’s the unfortunate situation that the host is in. They’re behind the wheel of this week’s wedding celebration, which is just about the only entertainment most of these folks are gonna get this week, and they’ve run out of the main attraction. That’s embarrassing. That’s about seven steps past being a buzzkill.

In that culture, that’s more than embarrassing – it’s shameful. You run out of wine at your celebration, you’re branded for life as a bad host. You fail at hospitality. And Mary knows that. So she looks down at her empty wine glass, and says, “They don’t have any more wine.”

But Jesus says, “What has this concern of yours to do with Me?” He says, “My hour has not yet come.” This was not the moment that Jesus had been planning on kicking off his public ministry.

But, y’know, generally speaking, a good son does what his mom asks. And Jesus was a good son.

Now, it’s important to mention here that he was infinitely more than just a good son. If you are extremely new to this Christianity thing, and you’re not particularly familiar with the Bible, what I’m about to say might hit you like a train, but Jesus is more than just a good man. He’s more than just a wise teacher. He’s more than just a great spiritual leader. He is all of those things, but get ready, because here it comes: Jesus is the God of the universe. This Jesus is the God who created you.

Like, somebody made you. right? That’s shouldn’t be a controversial thing to say, even in the year 2020. You were created by someone or something. You didn’t just start existing. I am fully aware that we all know how babies are made, or, at least, I hope we do, but even so, there’s something more. Right?

There’s something left something to be desired. And that is that we are created by God. We don’t know how that works. We just know that it works. Human existence isn’t just a fact. It’s a miracle.

People aren’t just facts. People are miracles. You aren’t just a fact. You are a miracle. You matter infinitely, you are of infinite value, your body and your soul are of eternal and immeasurable value, because you are created by God.

Think about what that means. God wanted you to exist. To put that in a negative form, God didn’t want you to not exist. God decided, specifically, to create you. And that is exactly how much you matter, no matter what. No matter what you’ve done, no matter what you’ve said, no matter what you think about yourself or about God – or about me, right? God created you, and the God who created you is this Jesus we’ve been reading about.

And so Jesus is more than just a good man. He’s more than just a good son. But he is a good son. When God comes to earth and lives out a human life, he’s a good son. He’s such a good son that he Uses His Authority As The God Of The Universe To Refill His Mom’s Wine Glass. That’s how good of a son the Lord Jesus Christ is.

So Jesus says, “Look, mom, I don’t know what your empty wine glass problem has to do with me, my hour has not yet come.” And Mary doesn’t even really respond. I imagine she just kind of smirks at him, like, “Yeah, that’s nice honey.” Then she turns to the servants, verse 5, and says, “Do whatever he tells you.” And that just kinda settles it.

And so Jesus, maybe, just leans back in his seat, sighs, gets up, says, “OK let’s go. Where’s the big water barrels. Let’s get this over with.”

And yes, that’s funny. That’s humorous. It is objectively funny that the mother of Jesus successfully heckles him into turning the water at a wedding into wine so that the wedding guests who already managed to drink it all up can drink even more wine. That’s like an Abbott and Costello act.

But it also tells us something very important. It tells us God cares about every aspect of our lives. God cares deeply about every single corner of your life. There is nothing in the world that is too small, too insignificant, to carry to the God of the universe and plead your case to him. Because however much you think you care about your problems, God cares significantly more.

Now, because of the subject matter of the passage, I need to give a very obvious disclaimer. Do not take this passage as a justification for your alcoholism. Do not take the second chapter of John as a license to feed your alcoholism.  

Like, look – if I’m visiting your house, and I look at a wall and see your fully stocked wine rack, I’m not going to make it an issue, because it isn’t an issue. I don’t personally drink, but the scripture never prohibits alcohol. And since the scripture never prohibits alcohol, I do not have the authority as your pastor to prohibit you from drinking alcohol.

But the scripture is loud and clear about drunkenness. It could not be clearer about drunkenness. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that drinking alcohol is a sin,  but abusing alcohol to intoxicate yourself is absolutely sinful, because there is no non-sinful way to intoxicate yourself.

Because as followers of Jesus we are called to sobriety. We are called to keep our heads clear. Because we are always called to be the adult in the room. At all times, we’re called to be the reasonable person in the room. We are called to be the alert and sober-minded person in the room, regardless of where we are or what the occasion is, and we cannot do that if we are intoxicated.

You cannot be the adult in the room if you’re intoxicated. And so as a point of application: Do not get drunk. I know that’s not a very sophisticated sermon point. But do not take this passage as a justification for your habitual drunkenness. Jesus turned water into alcohol because it’s perfectly fine to drink alcohol, but it is absolutely not fine to use alcohol to intoxicate yourself, because we are called to sobriety.

Like I said, that was a necessary digression. But the point of today’s passage is really not about alcohol at all.

The point of today’s passage is that God cares deeply about every single corner of your life, even corners as seemingly-insignificant as you party that’s going terribly. There is nothing in the world that is too small, too insignificant, to carry to the God of the universe and plead your case to him. Because however much you think you care about your problems, God cares significantly more.

So you can be confident. You can confidently carry your small, mundane, seemingly-insignificant problems to the Lord and expect him to intervene.

That’s the second thing we learn in our passage today. We find that not only does Christ care about the mundane aspects of our life, we find that Christ intervenes in them. And when he intervenes in our lives, he does more than we ever asked or imagined.

That’s a quote from Paul in the 3rd chapter of Ephesians. God is “able to do far above and beyond all that we ask or imagine,” and we see exactly that kind of thing playing out in our passage this morning.

So, looking at verses 9-10, John says, “When the chief servant tasted the water (after it had become wine), he did not know where it came from—though the servants who had drawn the water knew. He called the groom 10 and told him, “Everyone sets out the fine wine first, then, after people have drunk freely, the inferior. But you have kept the fine wine until now.”

Now, like I said, I’m not a wine guy. I don’t drink. Wine is like grape juice but worse. And significantly more expensive, so I don’t really get the wine thing, but evidently the folks at this wedding would disagree with me, and so Jesus takes the empty water barrels, has the servants fill them to the brim, and he turns the water into the kind of wine nobody at that wedding party would ever have been able to afford.

All they needed was more wine. What they got was better wine. The chief servant says, “Normally, people put out the good wine, and then once the folks at their wedding party are kind of buzzed, then they put out the bad wine, ’cause once you’re buzzed you don’t really care. But you’ve done the opposite. You put out the “gas station wine” first, then you brought out the top shelf wine that’s been in your family for 7 generations. What are you doing?” The chief servant didn’t understand. That’s how God works.

God intervenes in your life, but he never returns things to the status quo. He never just plucks you out of trouble and then set you right back down where you were. That’s not how God works. God’s goal is never simply to protect you. It’s never simply to save you from embarrassment. It’s never simply to spare you from difficulty.

It’s always to transform you. It’s always to change you. It’s always to bless you more abundantly than you could possibly be prepared for. When Christ intervenes in our lives, he always does far more than we asked or imagined.

Now, it’s very important that I make it clear what I do not mean, here.

We are not teetering on the edge of “prosperity theology.” I’m not about to start preaching a “prosperity gospel.” If you have no idea what the prosperity gospel is, good for you. I’m about to ruin that by telling you about it. I am sorry. Prosperity theology is a movement that got real popular in the mid-20th century. “Prosperity theology” essentially says that, “If you are faithful to God, he’s going to make your life easy.” “He’s going to make your life luxurious.” “He’s going to make you rich.” “He’s going to make you powerful.” “He’s going to make all your troubles disappear.” That is not where we are going with this.

It is absolutely true that when Christ intervenes on your behalf, he will do far more than you ever asked or imagined. But that does not mean that God is going to make you rich. That does not mean that God is going to make you not sick. That does not mean that God is going to take away your clinical depression. That does not mean that God is going to magically make your spouse or your kids or your neighbors or your anybody suddenly like you instead of not liking you. That’s not how any of that works.

What it means, instead, is that like Ephesians 3 says, God is going to “glorify himself” by “working his power in you.”

So if the mundane situation in your life that you have brought to God and asked him to intervene in is your “strained family relationship,” do not expect God to change your family member. Expect God to change you. Expect God to “glorify himself” by “working his power in you.”

Now, obviously, if your strained family relationship is the result of abuse inflicted on you by your family member, then what I just said does not apply.

If your strained family relationship is the result of abuse inflicted on you, Step One towards addressing that might be getting out of the house. It is not “unspiritual” to look at it that way. Pay zero attention to the people who tell you that you can just “pray your spouse’s abusive tendencies away.”

If your spouse is abusing you, stay at your sister’s house, or something. If you don’t have a family member or friend whose home you can crash at, get with us, we will find you somewhere so that you don’t have to stay under the same roof as your abuser.

But the onus is on them. The burden of stitching your relationship back together is absolutely on your abusive family member, it is not on you.  If your strained family relationship is the result of abuse inflicted on you, the burden of repairing your relationship is absolutely not on you.

But that’s a fringe situation. That’s very much out there in left field. That is not the norm.

Most of the time, if you have a strained family relationship, the problem is that you’re hard-headed, and your family member is hard-headed, and you guys just have to find a way to push past your mutual hard-headedness and relate to each other on the terms that the other person needs. They need to figure out how you need to be related to, and you need to figure out how they need to be related to, and you develop a way to interact in a healthy way together. There’s give-and-take. That’s the norm.

And if that’s the mundane life-struggle that you’re bringing to God, that’s excellent, but do not expect for God’s response to be changing your family member. Expect God’s response to be changing you. Expect God to “glorify himself” by “working his power in you.”

If you ask for a smoother relationship with your difficult sibling or your distant father, or your overbearing mother – I am sorry for the stereotypes – expect God to do far more than you ever asked or imagined in you. Expect God to change you far more than you ever asked or imagined. Expect God to give you a patience that you did not have beforehand, that you could not have found somewhere deep down in yourself because it wasn’t there deep down in yourself. Expect God to intervene on your behalf far beyond what you asked or imagined like that.

And expect that to be annoying.

Can we admit that? God’s mercy is annoying. God’s intervention is annoying. When God comes to your aid, it is almost never not annoying. It is almost never just comforting. It’s always God grabbing you, melting you down and then shaping you back into something new that reflects his glory in a way you did not beforehand, and the process is scary, and the process hurts, and the process is obnoxious and you hate it – and then on the other side you can’t imagine ever having settled for the way you used to be.

When Christ intervenes in your life, he does far more than you asked or imagined. Sometimes that means turning your oversized water barrels into better wine than you had in the first place, sometimes it means transforming you in a way that turns your relationships right side up.

So that’s our second point. Not only does God care deeply about the small, mundane, seemingly-insignificant parts of your life, but he intervenes on your behalf. And when Christ intervenes in your life, he does far more than you ever asked or imagined.

And, lastly, John shows us that when Christ intervenes in our lives, the proper response is to believe in him. When Christ intervenes in your life, the proper response is to believe in him. Looking at verse 11, John says “Jesus performed this first sign in Cana of Galilee. He displayed His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.”

I want you to think about that sentence. “He displayed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.” That’s actually a very strange sentence, because there was a whole wedding full of people who witnessed that miracle.

There was a whole wedding full of people who witnessed Jesus turning water into wine. But only the folks who believed in him because of it actually became his disciples. At risk of oversimplifying everything in the world, that’s a good image of the two kinds of people that exist.

There are people who witness God’s glory, and are so taken with it that they throw themselves at his feet and commit to following him wherever he takes them, and there are people who witness God’s glory, shrug it off, lean back in their chair, and go back business as usual.

You are one of those two people. You are either a disciple, or a bystander. And this will not surprise you, but we want you to be the first one.

Because the truth is that you have witnessed God’s glory. Even if you’ve never seen somebody turn water into wine, or even if you’ve never seen somebody miraculously healed of this or that, you’ve never watched an exorcism that wasn’t on a YouTube video or in a Hollywood movie, even if you’ve never witnessed any of that, you have seen God’s glory.

Because God has written his glory into the universe. If you have looked at a tree or been outside, you have seen the glory of God. If you have ever met a human, you have seen the glory of God. Because God reveals his glory to us through the glory he has given everything.

Maybe you’ve never watched any miracle play out, but you do not need to. Because you have seen God’s glory, because you exist, and you can’t exist and not see God’s glory. So the question is not whether or not you’ve seen God’s glory, the question is how you will respond to it.

Are you going to lean back, and sip the miraculous top shelf wine Jesus pulled out of a water barrel before going back to business as usual, or are you gonna jump out of your chair, run over to Jesus, and pledge yourself to him as his disciple.

We can’t make that decision for you. Your parents cannot make that decision for you. Only you can make that decision for yourself, today.

And we invite you to do exactly that. We invite you to come, throw yourself at the feet of Jesus, and become his disciple.

Let’s pray.

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