Summary: The miracle at Cana is a sign of the mission of Jesus: transformation.
WATER INTO WINE
TEXT: John 2:1-11
The story of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana, I think contains one of
the most powerful messages in all of Scripture. But it seems that a lot of times, people get
snagged on one of the details and end up missing the joy of the message. There are several ways
in which people get hung up on this story and end up missing the point, so I want to start off by
getting those out of the way.
The first stumbling block tends to be issues surrounding alcohol. Alcohol is often a deadly
and destructive force in today’s world as anyone who has lived with an alcoholic or has faced that
addiction themselves can tell you. As a result, there are some whose only commentary on this
story is an attempt to prove that Jesus turned water into grape juice. Don’t get stuck there. This
is not a story about moral teaching.
You might find it uncomfortable and difficult to explain to your children, but the facts of
the story are that Jesus was at a wedding party where the guests were already soused. Then,
when the wine ran out, instead of saying "Good, now go home and sober up," Jesus provided
about 150 gallons more of the best wine around. All of that is not to say that there aren’t some
very good, very Christian reasons for complete abstinence from alcohol. If you don’t drink, don’t
start now. It is just to say that this story is not about that, and if you get to worried about it,
you’re going to miss the point.
The second thing that hangs people up in this story is the way that Jesus talks to his
mother. No matter that Jesus is 30 years old, most people feel like Jesus is at least a little bit rude
to his mother here. So they go off on tangents about obedience, cutting apron strings, and the
fact that Jesus gives in and does it anyway. Often I’ve heard Mary’s faith examined, how even
though Jesus says "No way, Mom," she goes and puts the servants on stand-by anyway. Those
discussions can be helpful, but I don’t think they’re the reason John put the story in his Gospel.
Which brings me to the third stumbling block for this story, and that is the Gospel of John
itself. If you have ever read the four Gospels--the four accounts of the life of Jesus that we have
in the Bible--and read them one after another, you will notice that John is VERY different from
the other three. The other three Gospels--Matthew, Mark, and Luke--all focus on telling the
story of Jesus in a pretty straightforward manner. Each one was designed for a different audience,
so each one includes and explains slightly different things. But all three of them want to make
sure that their readers get the facts of the story. This is what happened to Jesus, this is who we
believe Jesus is, this is what Jesus taught.
But John is different. John was not written to get the facts out there. John was written
with the assumption that people already knew the facts about Jesus’ life--it has even been
suggested that John was written as a commentary on the other three Gospels. John is not looking
to tell his readers what happened in Jesus’ life. John wants to tell his readers what the life of
Jesus means...what the core message is really all about. To enter the Gospel of John is to enter a
world of symbols and verses that have at least two or three levels of meaning.
Do not use Evelyn Wood’s speed reading techniques when reading John. In fact, I don’t
recommend that you READ John at all. The only way you will ever know what is going on in
John is if you STUDY John. Don’t start new Christians in John. John is a beautiful statement of
faith, but it doesn’t mean a flip to someone who hasn’t already absorbed Matthew, Mark, and
Luke. John is not for beginners.
John is highly selective about the material that he includes, but because people don’t
realize that John is talking in symbols and philosophy and metaphor, they allow themselves to get
caught up in details...like was it really wine or how dare Jesus talk to his mother that way. At
best they end up saying that this is a story about empathy. Jesus sees people who are embarrassed
because they can’t provide for their guests, Jesus feels their pain and helps out. Good sermons
can come from all of that, but all of those things stay on the surface. The only way to get at John
is to start out with the assumption that the message John wants to convey is below the surface