How Jesus can turn a crisis into a blessing. John 2.1-11
And we said that Jesus is telling Nathaniel that there would be moments when the curtain between heaven and earth is pulled apart - and he will see that Jesus is the gate between heaven and earth: Jesus is the way that heaven touches earth, and the way that we who are of the earth can encounter heaven.
Three days after Jesus has said that, he turns water into wine.
We are told in v11 that this is the first sign that Jesus does, the first clue as to who he really is.
He reveals his glory and his disciples put their trust in him.
Jesus turns water into wine, the curtain is pulled open, and Nathaniel sees the angels ascending and descending on him, he sees heaven touching earth.
So what is going on here? What does the clue point to? What is Jesus revealing?
1. Jesus is revealing that he is God's Messiah, that he has come to bring the promised Kingdom of God
Jesus turns approximately 120 gallons of water into the best wine, enough for 2000 glasses. That is a lot of wine, even more, as I have said before, than some people here can drink.
In the Old Testament we are told that when the Messiah, the one who will come and bring in God's Kingdom, the one who will be God's ruler in God's Kingdom, 'the Lord will make for all peoples a feast ... of well-aged wines' (Isaiah 25.6), and that 'new wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills' (Amos 9.14)
Jesus is revealing to his disciples that he is the Messiah. He is the Lord.
Remember, when you pray, who it is that you are praying to.
Never assume on God. Never assume that your agenda is the same as Jesus' agenda.
Jesus here even distances himself from his mother.
This is Jesus' home territory. Maybe Mary had played a part in organising the wedding. And when they run out of wine, Mary comes to Jesus and says, 'Do something about it'.
She assumes that Jesus will help them out - maybe there is a bit of parental pride there: she wants to show everybody who her boy really is and what he can do.
But Jesus response to her is literally, in the Greek, 'Woman (probably better translated 'Dear woman' - it is a term of respect but also does imply some distance), what do you and I have in common?' It is a rebuke - a gentle rebuke - but a rebuke, nevertheless.
'Don't assume on me. My agenda is not your agenda. I've come for something else that is much bigger than avoiding an embarrassing scandal at a wedding.'
That sense of Jesus distancing himself from his human parents, reminds us of that time when Jesus was in the temple, and Mary says to him, 'Your father and I have been searching for you ..' And Jesus replies, 'Did you not realise that I had to be in my Father's house'
On that occasion, and now, he is doing what needs to happen in every parent-child relationship as the child grows older. He is opening a gap between them. And with Mary, it is a bigger gap. Perhaps that is part of what Simeon means when he says that a sword will pierce through her heart.
Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί is what Jesus says as translated in Greek.
Lightfoot writes, ‘What have you and I in common? What is there between us two? My ways are not your ways. I know when it is fit to work a miracle, and when it is fit to withhold, but you do not.’
Here lies the rebuke.
In Luke we are told that on one occasion a lady in a crowd around Jesus cried out, 'Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you' (Luke 11.27).
Jesus replies, 'Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and do it'.
It is not a put down of the person whose womb bore him. But it is telling us that the reason that we honour Mary as the mother of Jesus is not because of her physical biological relationship to him, but because of her faith. Her faith in hearing God's word and in saying yes.
And here we see that same faith in operation.
Having been rebuked by Jesus, she simply turns to the servants and says, 'Do whatever he tells you'. In other words, I realise I need to step back. I’m not going to be the mediator. It is now between you and him. He is the one in charge.
That is the Jesus who we are being shown: The curtain between heaven and earth is opened.
And Nathaniel and his mates get a glimpse of Jesus, the one who is so much bigger than us, the Lord of creation, who can turn water into wine.
Don't presume on him. Don't even begin to think that your agenda is the same as his agenda. The Messiah, God's promised ruler, has come. He will establish God’s Kingdom in God’s way and in God’s time. All we are called to do is to trust and obey him.
2. Jesus is revealing that he has come to transform creation
He turns water which was intended for ritual bathing into wine for drinking. And not just any old wine - good wine.
Jesus is saying, I have come to transform creation
I have come to turn water into wine.
Story of priest returning from Lourdes. He is stopped at the border and the customs officer sees a large number of suspicious looking bottles. Those, said our friend, are bottles of holy water from Lourdes. The customs officer takes one out: funny looking holy water. Funny smelling holy water. Funny tasting holy water. This is whiskey. Our friend looks on as if in astonishment and says, ‘Oh Praise the Lord. Another miracle’.
Jesus came to work the miracle of turning that which is ordinary into that which is extraordinary
He has come to turn sinners into saints
It is significant that Jesus uses six jars of purification as an improvised mega wine seller.
But if they are full of wine, where do you store your water for purification?
The point is that because of Jesus, because of his coming, of his death on the cross (that is 'his hour that has not yet come' (v4) which he is speaking about here - the hour of his death, resurrection and ascension - we don't need that water for purification any more.
We are not purified by ritual water - not even by baptism water.
The water of baptism is a sign that we have been purified, but it does not purify us in and of itself.
If you go into a church and sprinkle some of the holy water on yourself, or if you drink of some holy water, that will not in itself make you clean or purify you or heal you or keep you safe from COVID.
What it is, at its best, is a symbol which points beyond itself to Jesus Christ. It brings Christ, by faith, to you. It is because of Jesus that we are purified, that we are forgiven, and that we are being made clean on the inside. It is because of Jesus that God has sent his Spirit to come and live in us.
It is because of what He did for us when he died for us on the cross.
And Jesus is saying to Nathaniel, and to the other disciples who were with him (Andrew, Peter, Philip and John have already been mentioned), what I can do with water, I can do with you. I can turn ordinary men and women, people who are in need of purification, who are stained and damaged and weary by the muck of this world, with the filth in our hearts, into sons and daughters of God, into people who are holy, beautiful on the inside, who bring joy and delight. I've come to make you like this remarkable wine.
What do we need for this transition to happen?
Our faith. Not faith in general. Not faith in holy water - even though God can work through that water to bring us blessing. Not faith that all things will work out well. Not faith in my positive thinking, but faith in Jesus Christ.
It is the faith of the servants in Jesus which means that Jesus is able to work the miracle.
Those are the two main things that I think that Jesus is revealing. That he is the Messiah, the Lord of creation, and that he has come to purify and transform. That he has come to turn what is ordinary into something extraordinary.
But this story is like a well: you can dip down into it many times and still draw up amazing new wine
And as you read it, listen to it, learn it, and let it live in you, you will discover new things.
So there is one more thing that I would like to draw up this morning from this well, and to offer to you
3. Jesus is revealing that - if we are prepared to trust him and do what he says - then he is the one who can transform a crisis into a blessing.
They have run out of wine at the wedding. In the culture, the couple would have been humiliated. It would have been treated as a bad omen.
It was a crisis, and yet because Mary pointed the servants to Jesus, and because they did what he said, he transformed it into a blessing.
For many people coming to Jesus may begin with a crisis. A crisis of personal failure, or sense of sin, that we were out of our depth, or that we have run out of resources. We've tried everywhere and now we're coming to the place of last resort.
And yet out of that crisis, a miracle happens. We discover something astonishing and true and beautiful. We begin to see in a new way. We meet with Lord Jesus, with his love and grace.
I worked on this passage early last week. That is helpful because it means that I have a week to at least try and live the passage.
And so when the crises came - whether big or little - and when it seemed that I had run out of resources and options: whether it was to do with the restoration and my anxiety about this building, or feeling trapped by the expectations of others and myself, or when I lost something important (because I’m always losing things), or worry for someone close, or when I did not know which way to turn - then I tried to stop, take a few slow deep breaths so that I physically calmed down: there is an old British TV series in which one of the main characters, whenever there is a crisis, runs around like a headless chicken shouting, ‘Don’t panic. Don’t panic’! That is not very helpful!
And I tried to picture Jesus at the wedding feast - there is an icon that I find easy to visualise in my mind - and I remind myself that Jesus is in control, and that he has the power to transform situations and people - but that his agenda is not necessarily my agenda.
And then I tried to do what the servants did. To come to Jesus, to listen to him and to do what he says.
And while, this week, I cannot claim to have seen a miracle of the order of this story, or indeed anything that anybody else would call a miracle, I have - in a small way, in the small crises that I have experienced - sensed the presence and the power of the Lord Jesus, and perhaps, with Nathaniel, I have seen - very very vaguely - that he is the door between heaven and earth.
And I am discovering that he is the one who can turn ‘crises’ into blessing.