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Tasting the Wine of God's Kingdom (John 2:1-12)

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Jesus Turns "Sign-Believers" Away

“Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” (John 2:23–25 ESV)

 

When we consider the miraculous signs of Jesus we are often amazed that more people did not believe in him. And yet we often forget the few passages like this one where Jesus actually turned away believers.

The concept of a Jesus who would actually turn believers away is foreign to us-it does not fit the all-accepting, tolerant picture we have of him. Doesn't he know that's not how you build a megachurch? He received repentant tax collectors and prostitutes, why turn away a believing crew like this?

The answer lies in the reasoning for their belief. Jesus knew exactly what was in people and he knew these people only believe I because they "saw signs." In other words, Jesus could do miracles - supernatural stuff - so he must be from God. Nicodemus is an example of this in John 3:2 when he says, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him." To which Jesus essentially replies," you're going to have to do better than that if you want to see God's Kingdom."

Jesus faces the same problem in John 6 when the people who ate the bread came back the next day asking for more bread. To which Jesus replied, "you aren't here because you saw and understood the signs, you are here because I filled your bellies yesterday."

In other words, Jesus turned away many because they didn't see him as more than a miracle worker — someone who could fix their temporary, surface-level problems right then and there. He could have shot Roman candles out of his fingers and many of these same people would have believed in him just the same. They didn't see the deeper meaning behind Jesus' signs, they didn't see anything more than divine power that can be utilized by me today. And though Jesus was able to get some to change their view of him, he ultimately turned many away: he wasn't serving what the food they were looking for.

But we aren't at risk of making the same mistake today, are we? We read all of Jesus' signs in John and we instantly get the deeper meaning and see where that sign (signpost) is pointing, right? No, some are quite challenging for us.

 

THE CURSE AND THE FEAST

With that in mind, I want to look with you at John 2 when Jesus provided wine for a wedding feast that was doomed to embarrassment. Imagine you went to a wedding that ran out of whatever you were drinking-not that big of a deal right? The reception won't last more than an hour or two anyway. But when the wedding Jesus was at ran out of wine, that was a big deal. Wedding celebrations often lasted for days, and to run out of wine mid feast was a big embarrassment.

Not only that, but for the Jews who knew their Bibles, their minds were swimming in a world of symbolism and running out of wine at such a great occasion could have reminded them that this way. only symptomatic of a greater problem, a greater curse, a greater judgment on the world.

Notice the picture of the curse that devours the earth in Isaiah 24:4-13. “The earth mourns and withers; the world languishes and withers; the highest people of the earth languish. The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched, and few men are left. The wine mourns, the vine languishes, all the merry-hearted sigh. The mirth of the tambourines is stilled, the noise of the jubilant has ceased, the mirth of the lyre is stilled. No more do they drink wine with singing; strong drink is bitter to those who drink it. The wasted city is broken down; every house is shut up so that none can enter. There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine; all joy has grown dark; the gladness of the earth is banished. Desolation is left in the city; the gates are battered into ruins. For thus it shall be in the midst of the earth among the nations, as when an olive tree is beaten, as at the gleaning when the grape harvest is done.” Notice how one of the pictures of curse on the earth is that the grapes and the wine are gone. The sweetest blessing God has to offer is non-exist ant because of the sins of the world.

But notice the contrasting picture in Isaiah 25:6-8 - a picture of God's Kingdom in the age and world to come. “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.” As God is reunited with his people. He puts an end to death and hosts a delicious feast of rich food and of well-aged wine (cf. Amos 9:13-15)

Jesus alludes to this in Matthew 8 when he speaks of how people will come from all directions to "recline at table" in the Kingdom of heaven. And so, the Jews recognized that the world was under a curse, but one day God would return to his people and in that day (a wedding feast in Revelation) we will enjoy feasting with God and his people in his Kingdom.

 

MY HOUR HAS NOT YET COME (2:1-5)

So, in light of this worldview, let’s read John 2:1-5 and see what happens when this wedding runs out of wine. I believe Jesus' mother is precisely aware of what the prophets said the fullness of God's Kingdom would be like and it is for this reason that she goes straight to Jesus and says, "They have no wine." Jesus' response has often confused people for a couple of reasons.

"Woman, what does this have to do with me," sounds really rude to our modern ears. Rest assured, "woman" was actually a term of endearment.

② On the surface, it sounds like Jesus is saying he's not going to solve this problem, but Mary's response is to tell the servants to do whatever Jesus says, and then Jesus continues to actually tell the servants what to do to solve the problem.

Clearly, then, Jesus isn't saying he will not act. Look more carefully at what Jesus says, "My hour has not yet come." As always in John, there is more happening here than meets the eye. Jesus and his mother both know that the coming of God's Kingdom will end problems like this, so when she says, "They have no wine," they both know she's making a big request — she's hoping for kingdom come, the final feast — to which Jesus says, "My hour has not yet come."

In John, Jesus' hour refers to the chain of events starting with the cross. Jesus' time to start dealing with the big problems of this world in a systemic way won't truly begin until he goes to the cross. Kingdom doesn't really and truly start to come until Jesus endures this challenging hour. And even still, that's only the beginning of his time. Jesus acts here and provides wine, but he doesn't end the curse. As one commentator put it, “Jesus isn't claiming an inability to act, but an inability to act in a full way," (Edward W. Klink II). It isn't yet his hour.

It's important that we hear Jesus here too. though his hour has come, we still wait for every enemy to be destroyed and for all suffering and lack to end.

We are generally quite wealthy, so when we" run out" of something, we just click and order more. And if we run out of money, we just tap-tap to another credit card. And so we often push away the reminder that this world is devoured with a curse, until some way or another the curse catches up with us. It may be that medical news we never expected to hear, that financial crisis we thought we hedged against, that natural disaster, or that car accident- eventually we are painfully reminded that a curse is devouring this world. But for us who can so easily avoid so much pain, this can come as a shock to our system. It can rock our faith. "Why am I going through this? Why does this stuff happen? I thought that's what we had God for."

And so, like Mary, we tell Jesus — "look at what's going on." And often he does do things. And often he doesn't do what we hoped for. Why? Because, as one preacher recently put it, what we are really praying and hoping for is what Jesus will bring at his coming, at Kingdom come. And though Jesus' how has come —he has endured the cross and been exalted and is subjugating the enemies — our hour hasn't come. As with Jesus, it is only through the cross that we get the crown, only through many tribulations that we enter the Kingdom.

Maybe that's the significance of John counting out days as he does its chapters 1-2. It's odd for John to be so concerned with chronology, yet he counts out days (1:29,35, 43; 2:1) and this wedding happens on the 6th day of this chronology. And when the Sabbath is mentioned in John 5, Jesus is working! Maybe the point is to say this: the Sabbath rest of the Kingdom of God hasn't come yet. 

And when Jesus is raised in John it is on the first day of the week into a garden. It is the beginning of a new week of new creation, of new work. The hour for rest and for Kingdom come is not yet. Like Jesus' mother, we must keep nudging him, keep praying until that great day.

 

JESUS PROVIDES BETTER WINE IN ABUNDANCE (2:6-12)

Though it is not yet Jesus' hour, he gives a first fruits taste of what his how would bring that his disciples wouldn't soon forget. We often focus on how Jesus turned water to wine, but John doesn't. Notice verses 6-12. Notice how John emphasizes two odd details.

First, Jesus doesn't use the original wine jars, instead, he tells the servants to fill six massive jars with water. Now, what's funny here is that completely nullifies anyone's ability to practice Jewish ritual purification since these were purification jars. This is like if we ran out of wine and Jesus said, "Fill the baptistry!" The baptistry would be useless for baptisms — only for drinking wine. This is Jesus' not-so-subtle way of commenting on the usefulness of their ritual cleansings. But, it is also Jesus' way of providing ridiculous amounts of wine: 120-180 gallons of it. There is now an overabundance. They wouldn't run out again.

Second, notice the reaction to the wine. The master of the feast calls the bridegroom to him — by the way, he gives credit to the wrong bridegroom — and says, "You have kept the good wine until the end." The meaning is that Jesus’ wine was even better than the good wine served at the beginning of this feast.

Listen, it is cool that Jesus turned water to wine. None of us can do that. But the real point we are supposed to see here is a hope-renewing picture: the wine and God's blessings had dried up, a curse devours the earth, but Jesus brings the better wine of God's Kingdom in abundance. Jesus manifested his glory, not by simply converting water to wine, but by giving those who were paying attention a taste of that great day when we will feast with our great God in his Kingdom.

 

OUR TASTE OF THAT GREAT DAY

As I read this, I think," How cool would it have been to be at that wedding to get a small taste of what that great feast will be like at the coming of the Lord. What will it be like when we recline at table with our Lord and with his saints in his Kingdom Thanks to the Lord Jesus, we do get to taste that now.  Do you ever wonder why Paul says we eat the bread and drink the cup, proclaiming Jesus' death until he comes? (Cf. 1Cor. 11:26)

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record Jesus telling us why. Notice Matthew 26:29. "I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's Kingdom." As we eat, we memorialize what Jesus did in the past on the cross. We have a covenant with God and each other, so we discern ourselves now. And, we eat a little now in anticipation of that great day when we will feast with our Lord at his coming, in our Father's Kingdom. This now is a taste of that great day.

But, we must remember now that this day would never come if our Lord wouldn't have gone to the cross. Mary wanted that feast to end without any loss, but the only reason we will ever enjoy that feast - that day when we will never lack anything is because our Lord experienced that loss for us. He took the curse on himself, he became a curse — and now we are free. What a great Savior we have who gave so much so God could give us everything!

So, remember the Lord. Eat now in anticipation of the feast to come. Eat in honor of the one who makes it all possible.

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