Summary: What was the purpose of "signs" in Jesus ministry? And what did this particular sign have to say to us?
OPEN: The Chicago suburb of Oak Lawn had a problem - motorists weren't coming to a complete stop at stop signs. So in 2007 the Mayor came up with a creative solution. He added a second, smaller octagonal sign the town's 50 or so stop signs that read:
And smell the roses”
No really, you gotta stop"
Or I’m Telling Your Mom,"
In the naaaame of love."
And – it worked!!! People stopped at the stop signs. The additional signs were so imaginative and humorous people laughed and obeyed the Stop sign. Everybody laughed… except the Illinois Department of Transportation which deemed the signs violations of the Federal Uniform Traffic Control Act, and threatened to withhold funds if the signs weren't removed. Sadly, the Mayor had to comply.
(Uncle John’s Endlessly Engrossing Bathroom Reader, p. 253)
The Mayor’s believed that if he could just get the motorists to pay attention, then he could get his message across. The message… STOP! It was an important message… he was using special signs to get it across.
Signs have always been used to get messages across to people. Whether square, rectangular, triangular, or octagonal… there is a message tied to the sign. Sometimes the sign’s message is very important and even critical
In our text this morning we’re told: “This (changing water into wine) was the first of his SIGNS, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” John 2:11
One scholar went through the Gospels and found at least 35 different miracle/signs that Jesus did during His ministry. But John explained at the end of his Gospel: “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25) In other words, Jesus probably did a whole lot more MIRACLES during His ministry, but these 35 or so that are listed in the Gospels were intended to teach us something. They were like SIGNPOSTS showing us God’s message.
In fact, that WAS the purpose of miracles. When Peter preached at Pentecost he said:
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and SIGNS…” Acts 2:22
And later in the book Gospel of John we’re told “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:30-31
In other words… the miracles that Jesus did were intended to get people’s say: PAY ATTENTION! This is the Son of God… this is the one you need to listen to!
Now, I’m going to repeat a SIGN is something that God used to tell us something. There was a message there… something God wanted us to see about Jesus. And so for the better part of this sermon we’re going to focus on the purpose of Biblical signs in general and of this particular sign in John 2.
BUT, before we do that, I want to spend just a couple moments addressing something that many people struggle with in this passage. To the modern day reader the free flowing wine at parties such as this one in Scripture lead some to think that this “quite a party”. It would seem that many were drunk and that many there were “feeling no pain.”
Well… no. That’s not was happening here. The wine they drank was not like the type folks get down at the Liquor store. In the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day they drank their wine mixed with water… lots of it.
According to the Book of Maccabees 15:39 (written around 60 B.C.) “It is harmful to drink wine alone, or again, to drink water alone, while wine mixed with water is sweet and delicious…”
The Jewish Talmud talks about the traditions of the Rabbis in Jesus’s day, and several times tells us that the normal mixture is said to be 1 part wine to 3 parts water.
So, just so we understand… Jesus made GOOD wine but it was “watered down” wine and no where near as alcoholic as many folks would presume.
Now that that’s out of the way… let’s get to the purpose of Jesus’ miracles. As I said, first and foremost Jesus’ miracles were to get people’s attention.
ILLUS: I learned the most intriguing thing from an interview on NPR. I read a transcript of it, and they were talking about a survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion in 2010 that revealed that a vast majority of Americans, nearly 80%, believe in miracles. In the interview, Greg Smith (the representative of the Pew Forum said “One of the things we see is that even people who are not part of a particular faith, people who are unaffiliated with any particular religion, even this groups says they believe in miracles, more than half of the unaffiliated say they believe in miracles. And so what you're seeing here is that - is more evidence of the religious nature of most people in the United States even those including many young people who may not be formally may not be formal members of a particular religious group