John 2 v 1 - 25: 'Radical faith'

Part 1: John 2 v 1-12 ‘Wedding at Cana’ From our childhood, 21st century people in the first world have been trained to want more and more acquisitions. I remember that when I was young, a man appeared on our doorstep at home wanting to sell my parents a dormobile, a camper van. I was fascinated by motor cars in those days and had ordered a catalogue, little realising a salesman would bring it! So much of what we eagerly buy turn to dust and ashes before us. Why buy hundreds of pairs of shoes when you can only wear one pair at a time! So, what is the solution for our hungry hearts? We have tried so many things and found that they have made things worse, so where to next? We read in this passage that Jesus offers us something much better than we can normally find and that He offers to give us a life of colour, hope and abundance. Let’s look through the opening verses of John’s second chapter… John emphasises that Jesus not only said great things but did amazing things. This story is about the first miracle Jesus performed. Quite possibly, His surprise appearance at a small village wedding, along with His disciples-not just the Twelve, but the women and other men who pilgrimed with Him-caused the issue of the shortage of wine. The custom in those days-as so often happens even today-was that guests brought wine with them, so in effect Jesus miraculously demonstrated that He was a good guest! The whole story gives us a beautiful glimpse into life in first century Judea. So much has changed since then, but perhaps all of us have attended a wedding and the mood is almost always one of celebration. Just before the first lockdown last March, I was asked to preside over a wedding which involved a dear friend of ours. She had endured a rocky first marriage and was now embracing fully the extra chance she had been given to enjoy a second marriage. That day seems so long ago now, but it was a day of hugs and warm greetings, of celebration and joy, of the sense of the presence of God filling the church where they were married. God seeks to bless marriages. Don’t be frightened of marriage, be aware that if you are not married and choose to marry in a church then God is there also, and this brings with it both a heavy responsibility and a great sense that the burden of getting it right will be shared by the Living God. I love that in this story only the servants and Mary know what Jesus did to produce extra wine! We may wonder at this first miracle. Why did Jesus do this, as it was by no means essential? And then why did John write about it as, as we will see, he writes very sparingly about the miracles of Jesus? We can note three general things about this miracle. 1. When it happened. It was at a wedding feast that Jesus had attended. Jesus was no killjoy, a down at the mouth, dressed in sackcloth and ashes. Much of the time, it appears, Jesus spent with people, eating, drinking, taking part in celebrations, talking, yet still being able to mourn with those who mourned, His heart going out to those who were suffering. Are you like Jesus? Can you enjoy life and the company of others? 2. Where it happened. Cana was a village just a few miles away from Nazareth. This was a small wedding in a parochial backwater, but it was important to those who were getting married and so Jesus was there. This was an opportunity for those who lived in constant poverty, who worked all the hours possible, to come together and rejoice in life, creating festivity that would be remembered for years. Do we regard the small local events as somehow beneath us, are our eyes fixed impatiently on some distant shore so that we do not see the real needs on our doorstep? 3. Why it happened. Jewish Law prescribed that weddings should take place after a feast on a Wednesday night and for a week afterwards, the bride and groom should keep open house. Drunkenness was a great disgrace in first century Judea, but wine was regularly drunk in a mixture of two parts wine to three parts water. Mary had some say in the organisation of this wedding and hurried to Jesus when she heard the news. He told her to leave it to Him. She had lived with Jesus for thirty years and instinctively turned to him when in trouble. It is wonderful to me when I meet with someone who has known Jesus for many years and quietly and humbly walked with Him. Mary allowed Jesus to decide what was best-do we do this in our prayers and attitude? If we look at the quantity that Jesus then miraculously turned into wine, we can estimate that if there are approx. 20 glasses in a gallon and there was a capacity in the six jars of 150 gallons, then Jesus produced around 3000 glasses of wine! An enormous amount of the finest there was, far more than they could ever need! The average person at this wedding would only have noticed that the wine suddenly improved, not that Jesus had performed a miracle! This then wasn’t just a little sample, for God invested everything in Jesus. Paul makes that clear in Colossians 2 v 9: ‘In Christ lives all the fulness of God in a human body’. If we have accepted Jesus Christ into our lives as Saviour and Lord, in one sense we are already living in the Kingdom of Heaven. God in all His fulness has come to dwell in our hearts! Not only did God gives His all in and through Christ, but He gave His all generously, like a well which never dries up, like a stream or river which never ceases to flow. Our river flowing through Bradford often likes to overflow and those like Paul spend lots of time minimising the effects of its flooding, but the river which flows into and through us brings with it all the joy and expectation of eternity with God. In the book of Ezekiel, a difficult book to read, Ezekiel sees in a vision: ’the glory of the God of Israel appearing from the east. The sound of His coming was like the roar of rushing waters and the whole landscape shone with His glory.’ (Ezekiel 43 v 2) This is our God, He doesn’t come tentatively, He is not measured in the way He blesses us, His arms are opened wide, all we are to do is to receive, receive, receive! Part 2: John 2 v 13-25 I want to spend a much shorter time looking at this second part of John’s second chapter with the intention that we should be prevented from seeing Jesus as only meek and mild and the bountiful provider. Like any human, he is so much more that just one or two aspects. When you gaze at Jesus you begin to recognise that He is like a many-faceted diamond, but with every part of Him true to who He is: He doesn’t make out to be something He is not! He then we have a more difficult story. The other Gospel writers put this event at the end of Jesus’ ministry just before His arrest, it could have occurred twice, but it is more likely that John had his reasons to bring this forward to the early part of his Gospel. Remember that he is committed from verse one to bring us Jesus Christ in all His fulness and here John introduces us to the Son of God in action, boldly proclaiming His parentage as He sends the merchants’ tables flying. ‘’Stop turning My Father’s house into a marketplace!’’ He declares. John also writes about Jesus prophesying His death and His understanding of that time is fully accurate. He knew who would kill Him and how long it would be before He was raised again. The death of Jesus was not a mistake!! It is recorded that Jesus often damned the religious leaders for their attitude. Note that Jesus is angry, but it is controlled-no loss of temper-as we notice particularly in Mark’s record, Jesus enters Jerusalem late in the evening-Mark 11 v 11- and waits until the next morning before clearing the Temple of the merchants and money dealers- 11 v 15. There is a warning for us here as well. How much time do you spend studying God’s Word? The Jewish leaders to whom Jesus spoke would spend hours a day studying the minutiae, but they did not notice that Jesus quoted from Isaiah 56 v 7 and Jeremiah 7 v 11. Make sure that you dive deep into the words God has given to you and me. This is normally the point when I ask the question: ‘’What does this mean for us today?’’ But this morning I would encourage you to set your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim. Let your all in all be to follow Him and to love Him. Do not allow anything to deflect you from that pursuit and you will find that, like Paul, you will be content in every circumstance whether with plenty or with extraordinarily little and joy and gratitude will flow out from you in ever increasing streams!

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