John's Gospel is constructed around seven signs that revealed the Messiah's glory. And the very first of these seven signs was at a party. "Jesus, did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory" (John 2:11). The glory of something is when its perfection is revealed. The glory of a daffodil bulb only appears when the yellow flower comes up out of the cold ground in the spring. So in each of these seven signs John wants us to see an aspect of the Messiah's glory.
By the end of the Gospel John made clear that "Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name" (John 20:30-31). The life he has in mind is not just existing till you die, but the eternal life which begins now and continues through death to our full glory on the other side. So how did this wedding reception reveal the Messiah's glory? Let me pick three words : Person, Power, Prayer.
The glory of Jesus' Person Jesus was happy to come to a wedding party. And he brought his disciples to enjoy it. There was nothing stuck up about him I can picture him enjoying the food, laughing, joining in the conversation. Part of a Jewish wedding was dancing the hora. That is why the atmosphere of a church should be more like a wedding celebration than a funeral wake. God is on the side of joy - it is Satan who delights in gloom, guilt, and misery.
Jesus' mother Mary was called in from Nazareth (only 5 miles away) to be in charge of the catering. And when she got worried the wine was running out Jesus made sure there was plenty for the party to go on. There were six big stone jars, each holding about 25 gallons. Probably the whole village was there, and guests from other places, but 150 gallons is still a lot of wine.
The glory of Jesus' Power Normally if you want wine you begin with water, which brings the nutrients up from the roots into the grapes. You need some sunshine, and a bit of pruning. Then when the grapes were harvested they were dumped into a large vat, and people jumped in and danced as they treaded out the juice. Wouldn't it be great if every church had a big vat for people to jump in and dance and sing for the harvest thanksgiving!. At the lower end of the wine vat there was a hole and a bamboo tube to collect the new wine into specially prepared wine skins. These skins were hung up to ferment, and it took another three or four years for the really good wine to be ready.
All that the Messiah did in his ministry was by the power of the Holy Spirit. So on this occasion he left the servants to do what was in their power to do. They had to draw water to fill the big stone jars. That took say twenty minutes. What they could not do was turn the water into a vintage of the very best wine. Jesus did not stay to supervise the operation. He remained at the table with the guests, and he left the Holy Spirit to speed up the whole process of turning water to wine as the party continued.
In the first two verses of the Bible we read that the Spirit moved over the waters of our world to effect the evolution of plants and birds and fish, mammals, and finally humans. Creating wine from water was simple compared with the creation of all those complex species. And a key to the sign is that when the Master of Ceremonies tasted the wine at this wedding he said "Everyone serves the good wine first, and the inferior after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now." .
In addition to being a sign of the Messiah's Person, and his Power we have a beautiful picture of Prayer. Jesus' prayer was quietly handing over to the Spirit do his creative work. But Mary was also involved in the prayer. She did not fuss, or scream, throw a tantrum, or say "I am so embarrassed, I can never show my face in public again.". She merely stated the problem she was facing. "They have no wine." In her situation we might have tried to tell Jesus how to solve the problem. "Please rush out and get some people to lend us some wine . . . Why don't you wake up the wine merchant, and see if he would open up his store, and sell you some." When faith is expressed in prayer, it is important not to tell God how to do his work He is likely to be far more creative than anything we could think up.
That is important also when we pray for our church. We can state the problem. "This congregation is so stuck in the mud . . . the services are so dead . . . the music is a pain . . . I can't stand that woman . . . that fellow looks so sad and miserable . . . we have no Sunday School." Then having stated the problem as we see it, we back off and see what the Lord says to us. It might seem very trivial. "Fill those six stone jars with water." When we look to the Messiah for healing there are things we have to do such as going to the doctor, taking the pills, quit smoking, agree to an operation, but the work of healing from deep inside us is entirely the work of the Holy Spirit.
Our Gospel ends with the words "Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory" and the result was that "his disciples believed in him" (John 2:11). All of us get signs of Jesus unexpectedly being around. When we believe in him, like Mary we will tell him what difficulty we are facing. Some things are within our power (like filling water containers). But faith is quietly expecting the Holy Spirit to do his work.
As we close with a moment of prayer, we can use a wonderful blessing
that Paul gave to sum this up in a nutshell. "Now to him who by the power
at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than we can
ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians