John 2:1-11

(sermon note: 01-09 sermon note)

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.


This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about a groom who approached the pastor with an unusual request during the wedding rehearsal. “Look,” he said, “I’ll give you $100 if you’ll change the wedding vows. When you get to the part where I’m supposed to promise to ‘love, honor, and obey’ and ‘be faithful to her forever,’ I’d appreciate it if you’d just leave that out.” He passed the minister a $100 bill and walked away satisfied. On the day of the wedding, when it came time for the groom’s vows, the pastor looked the young man in the eye and said, “Will you promise to bow before her, obey her every command and wish, serve her breakfast in bed every morning of your life, and swear eternally before God and your lovely wife that you will not ever even look at another woman, as long as you both shall live?” The groom gulped, looked around, and said in a sheepish voice, “Yes,” then leaned toward the pastor and hissed, “I thought we had a deal!” The pastor put the $100 bill into the groom’s hand and whispered, “She made me a better offer.”

If only it was that easy to get out of (or into for that matter!) some pretty important promises in life! Just slip the pastor a $100 bill or two and your obligations are magically whisked away! Well, unfortunately, any pastor who took his or her calling into ministry with an ounce of seriousness wouldn’t be so easily manipulated. And rightly so! Marriage is a serious commitment between two people that involves serious promises. The vows exchanged between the two people ought to have a bit of heft to them. Otherwise, either person wouldn’t stay as committed to the relationship as God wants them to stay committed. Love, honor, and obey…be forever faithful…these are serious, life-changing vows. They hold us accountable to each other and deepen our relationships with each other. And we need these vows if we’re ever going to know the degree of love God has for us. God loves us and is committed to us as much, if not more, as a married couple. God has made promises with us and we can trust him to keep them. He is a good and faithful God!

This is no more evident than in Jesus’ first miracle at a wedding in Cana. What better venue is there to reveal God’s deep and abiding love for us than a wedding?! The whole event involves witnessing and affirming the love shared between two people. And it is the love that is important, not necessarily the vows that are exchanged. The vows are there simply to protect and nurture the love. Love is a precious gift but it is also a fragile gift. It needs protection and nourishment. If only the groom in that opening joke understood this then maybe he wouldn’t have been so eager to dismiss the vows. We need the vows to provide a sanctuary for our love. Without the vows, our love is at the mercy of this cold and unforgiving world. But back to Jesus’ miracle…

On the one hand, Jesus’ miracle could be reduced to a simple parlor trick. The wine invariably runs out at parties involving heavy drinking, especially parties that go on for days like wedding receptions in Jesus’ time. Jesus likely knew this and could have easily had the water in the six stone water-jars replaced with good wine prior to the event. No one would have suspected since the jars were used for purification rituals and therefore not to be touched. So yes, Jesus’ miracle could easily be reduced to a little foresight and a clever trick. But on the other hand, his miracle is important for what it reveals about God, and not just his ability to do the impossible task of changing large quantities of water into wine. No, what the miracle reveals is the value God places on love and the celebration of love. In his three-year ministry, Jesus revealed a lot about who God is and how He operates but arguably his greatest revelation was that God is a God of love. Recall the words of 1 John, “whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (4:8) Of course, this insight was written after Jesus meaning it was revealed in and through Jesus. Jesus never came out and said plainly, “God is love.” This aspect of God was revealed through the teachings and miracles and sacrifice of Jesus himself. John was using Jesus’ witness to make such a bold proclamation. But it is true, our God is a God of love who places a very high value on loving us and us loving each other. The miracle at Cana revealed this quite clearly. Wine can help loosen people up and encourage them to be more loving towards each other. It certainly isn’t the only means to loosen people up and encourage them to be loving towards each other. But it can help. Jesus was and is all about helping us to loosen up and love each other more. Jesus is also all about setting us free from restrictions. In loosening us up, wine has a way of setting us free, of being a means of escape. Of course, there’s also the price for such freedom with a hangover! But wine can give a brief means of freedom and Jesus was and is all about freedom. Everything in moderation though. Jesus didn’t give an endless supply of wine to the wedding party, just an extra six water-jars.

God wants to set us free and love us and encourage us to love each other. The miracle at Cana revealed this to us. Jesus simply put into action what was conveyed by the prophets of old. Recall the words of the prophet Jeremiah who said, “The Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” (31:3) Jeremiah knew the love of God and attested to it. God continuously and faithfully loved Jeremiah and he felt blessed with such love. David felt similarly blessed as he sang in his 136th psalm, “O give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.” (vs. 26) God’s love wasn’t new with Jesus. We have known God’s love since this beginning of time. And we have known God’s love since the time when the Jesus of scripture existed. Recall the hope of the apostle Paul written to his congregation at Ephesus, “and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (vs.17-19) 

Our God is a God of love, plain and simple. The prophets and apostles testified to it. Jesus most clearly revealed it to us in his teachings and miracles. Let us give thanks for his deep and abiding love and seek to share that love with each other and others. Thanks be to God!

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.