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Sermon: Do whatever he tells you – extended

April 13, 2016

  John 2:1- 11

I wonder what you would say if someone put you on the spot? If I asked you to think about all the miracles of Jesus and tell me your favourite one, what would it be.
Would it be the feeding of the 5,000?
Would it be helping blind Bartimaeus?
Would it be raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead?
Or the healing of 10 men with leprosy, where one came back to thank Jesus?
There are so many. Events which demonstrate Jesus’ power so dramatically.
Even more unlikely, suppose you were planning Jesus’ ministry of teaching and healing and you were to advise what should be the first miracle that Jesus did.
Would it have been one of those we just mentioned? Enter public life with a bang! Do something utterly spectacular to grab everyone’s attention.
The passage we have read today is significant. John records it as being Jesus’ first miraculous sign, performed in Cana of Galilee. Maybe his first miracle of all. 
Whilst we associate Jesus’ ministry with healing and miracles, John perhaps surprisingly records very few of them in his gospel (just 8 of the 33 we know about from the 4 gospel accounts), but plainly he gives some significance to this surprising use of Jesus’ powers. Perhaps that was just because this was the first and therefore had great significance for his disciples.
In the first chapter of his gospel, John has introduced us to Jesus, taking us right back to the dawn of time. He makes Jesus’ credentials clear. He was with God and he was God. He was God’s word to the world. He is light and life to its people. John the Baptist announces him as the Lamb of God.
We are then introduced to Jesus first disciples. We have Andrew, Simon (who was invited along by Andrew and whose name Jesus changed to Peter), Philip, Nathanael, and another friend of Andrew, who does not have a name. Many people assume this was John himself. We know that ultimately Jesus had 12 disciples but John does not give us any other detail at this stage. John never in fact tells us the names of all 12 disciples, but he does in time introduce us to his own brother James, Thomas and Judas.
A Wedding

The setting for this introductory miracle is a wedding taking place near to Jesus’ home. One important piece of information is missing from John’s account. We are not told who the bride and groom were. Neither do we know where it was or whether it was a 6 course meal with quiche and pavlova. Let alone what the dress looked like or what they had to eat!
You would think some of that information would be more than interesting but John does not focus on the personalities involved here apart from a very select few. 
All we do know is a little bit about the guest list, that Jesus’ mother Mary was there. And that Jesus and his disciples were invited. Whether that was just the 5 John has mentioned or the full 12, again we don’t know.
Jesus is a guest. At this stage, while John has set the scene for Jesus, he has told us only about the calling of the first disciples. He has not told us anything else that Jesus may have been saying or doing. 
Jesus presumably was at the wedding because of some connection to the families. There is nothing to suggest that he enjoyed any kind of fame by now. On the face of it he was just one of the guests, along to celebrate with the happy couple, and enjoy the day like everyone else.
We are told nothing about what stage has been reached at the ceremony, but Mary comes to Jesus with a problem. Only a few verses into the story and it is crisis time. 
The wine has run out. Again we are not told how Mary knew this. Did the families know or was it the servants who had brought this to Mary’s attention? Why did they tell Mary? We don’t know. This was of course a disaster. 
Hospitality was very important in the Jewish culture, and this would be a major embarrassment for the families if it got out. Speaking as someone whose daughter got married a few years ago in the knowledge that we had plenty of wine left over I can read these words now with some smugness. But this was really bad news!
But what could anyone do? I am not sure that the father of the bride had the option of popping down to the Cana Co-op and picking up whatever wine he could get on 3 for 2. At least he may have got away with it without too much of a tongue lashing from his wife.
What interests me is that we are not told who knew about the problems. Presumably those in the know did their best to keep it quiet.
Mary takes the lead

Interestingly though it is Mary who takes the initiative. She tells Jesus. 
What did she think could possibly happen? 
She knew, as we are reminded by the Christmas story, from the announcement to her by the angel and by prophecies spoken over the infant Jesus, that her son was destined for something, but did she really have any more idea than anyone what shape his ministry would take? 

Yet something told her that Jesus could do something about this. He had an answer. He could be the solution.
So she asked. 
And he said “No”.
“Why are you involving me in this? My time has not yet come”.
In some versions, Jesus is recorded as addressing his mother bluntly as “woman”, the sort of response that might surprise us. I’m not convinced by own mother would be too happy if I addressed her in that way.
Some versions have “dear woman” and many would suggest that Jesus used a term of so each that showed rather more respect than we might imagine from the translation.
But either way, he said “no”.
Had Mary hit a brick wall? Jesus was not going to sort the problem out. Somethings g had told he could help, but maybe she had got it wrong?
Or had she?
Mary perseveres

Mary actually carries on regardless. She does not take Jesus “no” for an answer. She still has that sense that he is the one who can turn this day around.
She introduces the servants to Jesus – “Do whatever he says”.
Again, what is she expecting Jesus to do? 
We don’t know. But she comes out with a great piece of advice for all of us “Do whatever he says”.
Is that how you are ready to live? Is that how you seek to make your choices?
Do whatever Jesus tells you to!
The servants do what he says.
In spite of his apparent reluctance to get involved, Jesus has a plan of action. What was his initial response about? Did he need his arm to be twisted! I’m not convinced Jesus is like that.
Was he in some way testing his mother to see if she would persevere, if she would really demonstrate her faith in him to act?
Nearby, we are told were 6 stone jars, each big enough for 20 – 30 gallons. Jesus is now involved, in spite of his initial apparent reluctance, and instructs the servants to fill them with water.
And they did. They took Mary at her word. They took Jesus at his word. They did what he said. Even though they must have wondered how 6 huge jars of water could solve the wine crisis.
Water is pretty popular these days with many people as their drink of choice with a meal. I am not convinced that at that time, in that place, in that culture, that a wedding party would have taken kindly to a cup of dirty water with their cheesecake!
Next he tells them to draw some water out and take it to the master of the banquet. And they did something else amazing. 
They did what Jesus said. 
What must they have thought? “What is the master of the banquet going to say when I give him a glass of water? Here we are – the wine has run out. Try some of this!” This was certainly not the sort of bottled water we are used to today. It was meant for washing not drinking.
How do you feel carrying a jar of water to the master of the banquet? Could you get a clip around the ear, yelled at, or the sack? Yet the servants did what Jesus said. Whatever he said. Even though it seemed a crazy thing to do.
Best wine

And the master drank. And something happened because the servants obeyed Jesus. 
The master drank wine not water. 
And it was the best wine he had ever tasted! 
It seems the master, the man in charge of the feast, had no idea what had happened. He probably had not been made aware there was even a problem. 
But what amazes him is the quality of the drink. That is what he comments on to the bridegroom. “What are you doing, bringing out the best wine last?” You normally start with the best and then bring out the cheap stuff when people have had too much.
Although it does not seem he is given the credit, certainly not publicly, Jesus rescued the situation, and did it with style.
Miraculous sign

John comments that this was, as we said, Jesus’ first miracle in this area. In fact he doesn’t say miracle, but uses his usual phrase, “Miraculous sign”. 
You see when Jesus does a miracle, whether he turns water to wine, heals a leper, raises a dead man, stills a storm, it is never enough just to look at the miracle. 
Plenty of people did that. 
Jesus said it. 
That many people followed just to see what miracle he was going to do next.

But John reminds us that each miracle is a sign. It points to something. If you see a sign telling you the way to the City Centre, it is not enough to stand and admire it. You need to follow it. 
When Jesus performs a miracle you do not look just at the miracle, but you ask what it tells you about Jesus.
John tells us that this miracle revealed Jesus’ glory. It showed that he is God. It went to prove what John had been telling his readers about Jesus in his opening chapter. And it caused his disciples’ faith to rise. 
In chapter 1, Andrew tells his brother Peter “We have found the Messiah!” Nathanael declares “You are the Son of God. The King of Israel”. And now through this event their faith is deepened. “We really are following the right man”.

But here’s an interesting thing about this miracle. When we think of Jesus’ miracles we tend to think of the spectacular ones, some of those we mentioned at the start. 
Crowds witnessing his every move.
But when I look at this miracle I ask myself, who knew about it?
The master of the banquet didn’t know about it. He gave the credit to the bridegroom for his choice of wine. Neither the bridegroom nor anyone else seem to have said anything about the near disaster, or to give credit to where credit was due. The bridegroom got the accolades!
There is nothing to suggest that the bridegroom or the other guests knew. As far as we can tell, the only people we can be sure knew about the water being turned into wine were:

The disciples
The servants
You could almost say that this first miracle of Jesus was a secret miracle, only known to a select few. As far as everyone else was concerned the party just carried on. It was a great occasion.
But it was only great because one man had been invited. It was only great because Jesus was there. It was only great because the servants did exactly what Jesus told them. Jesus, quietly but miraculously, was the true master of the banquet.




So what was it that rescued the day?
1. Trust

A mother who believed in her son. Who recognised that in this embarrassing situation, there was one person who could be trusted and relied upon to help. And she was not afraid to tell others that they could trust him.
Perhaps it is unlikely that we will find ourselves in a situation where we get the wedding catering wrong. Usually our needs are much deeper than that. 
It is not our glasses that run dry but our lives that run dry.
Life is not working out as we planned it. 
There is an emptiness. Maybe like at the wedding, everyone around you seems to be having a great time, but not you. There is one person in the crowd, who can make the difference. Like Mary you can bring the problem to Jesus. Perhaps like Mary, it is not you, but someone else who is experiencing despair. Like Mary bring that person to Jesus.
The fact is that life can never be as it should be until Jesus is in the centre. Perhaps you’ve realised that. Tell Jesus. We know many people like that. Tell Jesus about them. He is the only one who can change a life.
2. Obedience

Secondly, there was a group of people who did what Jesus said. The servants at the banquet were a great example to Jesus’ own disciples. They took Mary at her word, and followed Jesus’ instructions to the letter. 
Can we have any better advice than the advice given to us by Mary’s mother? “Do whatever he tells you”. In order to make sense of life we can listen to all sorts of people with opinions on how we should live.
People set themselves up as experts, with answers for every situation we can face. Friends will be ready with advice. Some people will even try to tell us it’s all in the stars.
If we need to know how to live “Do whatever Jesus tells you”.
If you need guidance “Do whatever Jesus tells you”.
If your life is dry and empty “Do whatever Jesus tells you”.
Share the secret

What a miracle! But was it actually a well-kept secret? Jesus was there but the partying people were totally oblivious to his presence, totally unaware of any problem, and not knowing his ability to change their situation.
Has that really changed?
Do we followers of Jesus feel we are the minority? So many around us know nothing of Jesus, have no sense of the need in their lives and certainly would not consider that Jesus could be the one to change their lives.
But as disciples and servants of Jesus, we know. It is for us to obey. It is for us to ask Jesus, “What do we do? What can we say?” How do we as individuals and as churches share with those around us the secret that Jesus turns water into wine, hopelessness to hope, despair into joy, turmoil to peace, death into life?
Only with Jesus at the centre can this happen!






From → Christianity

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