Summary: Do you believe in Jesus? That his coming has provided the only effective purification from sin? That he is the one sent by God to be the Messiah, the saviour of the world? That we might have life and have it in all its abundance?
This week we start a new series: this time on John's gospel. We won't cover all of John's Gospel this year but we'll make a good start. We're starting with ch 2 but we will come back to chapter 1 just before Christmas.
More than any other book in the Bible probably, John's gospel can be studied over and over again with more being discovered each time we read it. The ideas in it are simple at first sight but then as you examine them you realise that there are deeper and deeper meanings to be found in the images and descriptions that John gives us.
Before we begin looking at today's passage, we first need to think about the reason John is writing. What you find, as you work through John's gospel and compare it to the other 3 gospels, is that John leaves out a lot of what they contain and includes quite a bit of material that they don't have. For example, John doesn't have any of the narrative parables that the others have. There's no account of the transfiguration or the institution of the Lord's Supper. There are no reports of Jesus casting out demons; no mention of Jesus' temptations. At the same time, the material found in chs 2 to 4 appears only in John, as do his regular visits to Jerusalem and his dialogues with the Jewish leaders in the Temple and synagogues. Similarly the final discourse to his disciples at the last supper appears only in John. Finally, John records a series of sayings of Jesus which begin with the phrase “I am”, pointing to Jesus' identification with the God who spoke to Moses at Sinai, identifying himself as “I am who I am”.
So as we come to look at John's gospel it's important that we understand that what we have here is different from the other gospels. It's not any better or worse. It isn't any more or less true an account of Jesus' life. But it is different. John has set out to report on Jesus' life with a particular aim in mind. In fact he tells us what it is. If you turn to the end of John, to John 20:30-31, you'll read this: "Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But 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." So John's aware that there's much more that could have been written, but he's selected this collection of sayings and actions, words and works, for the specific purpose of bringing people to belief in Jesus as the Messiah, and as the Son of God, so that through that belief they might have life in Jesus' name.
Now knowing that that's why John writes should help us as we study his gospel to understand better what we find here. That's certainly true of today's passage. John 2:1-11.
What we're told as we read this report of this wedding at Cana in Galilee, of the changing of water into wine, is that this is the first of the signs that Jesus performed. Now that's a clue straight away. In the other gospels the word used for Jesus miracles is more often mighty works or works of power, or wonders or miracles. But in John they're always signs. That is, special actions by which Jesus reveals his glory to those who believe and which confront others with the need to decide about him.
John begins his account of Jesus ministry with this sign and a series of discussions that point us to Jesus' role as the Messiah who brings in the new kingdom of God. These signs illustrate how, with Jesus coming, the old has gone, behold the new has come! Chapters 2 to 4 present the replacement of the water of purification with the new wine of the Kingdom of God; the old Temple by the risen Lord Jesus; they give an exposition of the new birth, a contrast between the water from Jacob's well and the living water that Christ gives and the contrast between the worship at Jerusalem or Samaria and worship in spirit and in truth.
So with that introduction, let's look at the wedding at Cana of Galilee. "On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.” Notice, by the way that Jesus was part of the normal social life of the community. There was no sense in which he withdrew from life, just because he was different or had a particular ministry to carry out. There's no precedent in Jesus' life for the lifestyle of a hermit. Notice too that the works he did were performed in the external world of nature and history, not just the internal world of human thinking, feeling, and willing. That is, there's something intrinsically down-to-earth about Jesus' ministry, and that's shown nowhere more clearly than in this the first of his signs.