February 17, 2013

Jesus, Bringer of Messianic Joy

Speaker: Bret Rogers Series: The Gospel According to John Passage: John 2:1–11

Sermon from John 2:1-11 by Bret Rogers, Pastor
Delivered on February 17, 2013

Come, See Jesus for Who He Truly Is

Last week, I said that the whole of John’s Gospel is an invitation to come and see Jesus for who he truly is in all his glory. There are a lot of people and religions in the world who talk about Jesus—you know, he’s a fairly good moral example; he’s kind to children; he died for what he believed in; some religions may even call him a teacher and prophet; others hang his cross on their mirror as a good-luck charm; he’s even seen as a pretty cool guy among rock- and rap-stars of the day—but the truth is that the overwhelming majority of these people and religions haven’t truly beheld his glory. They haven’t come and seen Jesus for who he truly is—and to their own peril, because apart from seeing Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, and believing in his name, you don’t have eternal life.

The Apostle John’s main concern is that we don’t continue in the same darkness as the rest of the world, in the same blindness the world has to the glory of Jesus Christ. John has really seen Jesus’ glory, “glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (1:14); and he writes this testimony that you might come face-to-face with the greatness of Jesus Christ and believe in his name—receive his grace, trust him for eternal life, treasure his excellence above even life itself. So the invitation still stands this morning to come and see Jesus—to come out of the darkness of your sin and rebellion and blindness and death and ignorance and bitterness and see the One who truly gives life.

Come, See Jesus, the Bringer of Messianic Joy

We know that this invitation to come and see Jesus in all his glory still stands, because verse 11 tells us precisely why Jesus changed the water into wine at Cana: he did it to manifest his glory that the disciples might believe in him. And so verses 1-11 exist in your Bibles not merely to fascinate you with a miracle, but to reveal the glory of the person of Jesus Christ himself. So what is it that we see when we look through the miracle to see Jesus’ glory? I believe John wants us to see that Jesus is the bringer of Messianic joy.

Now, that already implies that we’ve seen Jesus to be Israel’s Messiah. If anyone is going to bring Messianic joy, it’s the Messiah himself, God’s anointed one. And that’s exactly how John presented Jesus back in chapter 1. God anointed Jesus with the Spirit in verse 32, He was called “the Messiah” in verse 41, the one “of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote” in verse 45, he’s “Son of God and King of Israel” in verse 49, and he refers to himself as “the Son of Man” in verse 51. So John has already told us that Jesus is the Messiah. Now John’s going to show us that Jesus is the bringer of Messianic joy, meaning that there’s a joy associated with his day of salvation.

Understanding the Miracle at Cana: Two Preliminary Truths

We see this not only through the miracle itself, but also through the circumstances leading up to the miracle. In fact, it’s Jesus’ own exchange with his mother that clarifies how we should understand the miracle and what the miracle points to. So look with me first at Jesus’ exchange with his mother, and we’ll draw out two truths which help us understand the meaning of the miracle. Verses 1-2 tell us there is a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and Jesus was invited to the wedding along with his mother and his disciples; and a problem rises in verse 3. We’re told the wine ran out. And so Jesus’ mother, Mary, brings the matter to her son by saying, “They have no wine.” Then listen to Jesus’ response: “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come” (repeat). We see two truths, here.

Truth #1: Jesus Does Everything on His Father's Terms

The first truth is that Jesus does everything on his Father’s terms. We see this in Jesus’ reaction to his mother, “Woman, what does this have to do with me?” Now, I know many of you mothers enough to say that a response like that from one of your children simply wouldn’t fly in your household. But what I should clarify is that we shouldn’t read into Jesus’ response the sarcasm and disrespect that’s often behind the response—“Woman…”—in our culture. The next time Jesus speaks to his mother this way is when he’s actually hanging on the cross—and while hanging there, dying for her sins too, he shows her compassion by entrusting his mother to John’s care. It says in 19:26-27, “When he saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” So Jesus isn’t being disrespectful as if he’s dishonoring Mary.

But, I should also add that such a response from a son to his mother wasn’t common in Jesus’ day either. Even though it’s not disrespectful, Jesus is still distancing himself from his mother in some measure, and his next few words tell us why: “My hour has not yet come.” What “hour”? What does Jesus mean by “my hour has not yet come”? John will go on to show us that it’s the hour of Jesus’ death that’s been ordained by his heavenly Father—and nothing can happen to Jesus until that hour has come and everything Jesus does is for that hour.

So, for example, in 7:30 “[the Jews] were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come”—and then again in 8:20, “no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come”—to where when we arrive at 12:23-27, Jesus finally says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit…[and then a little bit later he speaks to his Father] “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.”

So, when we return to Jesus’ words to his mother, we see more clearly why Jesus would distance himself from her. He had decided to help with the wedding feast—that’s clear in that he goes on to perform the miracle—but that decision to help was not on her terms. He wanted his mother to see that what he’s about to do is on his heavenly Father’s terms, not his earthly mother’s terms. Jesus’ glory is not revealed through the promptings of his earthly family members, but through abiding in his Father’s will.

Mary—and everyone of us—must see this Father-Son dynamic if we’re to understand the message of salvation, because an essential part of the good news is that the Father sent the Son and that the Son fulfilled his Father’s will unto death on a cross that God might be glorified and we might be forgiven. “God so loved the world that he gave his only SonGod sent his Son…that the world might saved through him” (John 3:16-17). “I [Jesus] have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me” (6:38). Jesus does everything on his Father’s terms, and that’s behind his words to Mary. “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come” are words that point her to something far greater than meeting the need of the hour, which brings up the second truth that helps us understand the miracle he’s about to perform at Cana.

Truth #2: Jesus' Earthly Ministry Anticipates God's Glorification on the Cross

The second truth is that Jesus’ earthly ministry anticipates God’s glorification on the cross. Everything Jesus does leading up to his death anticipates what God achieves through his death, namely, his own glorification. We just saw that. In John’s gospel, Jesus’ “hour” is the hour of his death, but the hour of Jesus’ death is also the hour of God’s glorification—when the Father is glorified in the Son and the Son is glorified in the Father. That’s why we heard Jesus say earlier in 12:23, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

The cross is where God reveals his glory most supremely in the person of Jesus Christ. It’s where the glory of God’s holiness shines most brilliantly in that the cross proves God alone is worthy of all our adoration (John 1:1; 17:24). It’s where the glory of his justice against rebels speaks most loudly in that it required the death of his eternal Son in their place (John 11:51-52). It’s where the glory of God’s wrath is displayed most supremely in that Jesus absorbed in three hours the wrath which sinners must endure for eternity (John 3:36). It’s where the glory of his grace toward undeserving people sings most lovely in that every provision for our salvation is accomplished at once (John 1:29). It’s where the glory of God’s love is manifested most tangibly in that he did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all (John 3:16).

Before Jesus lays down his life for our sins, he prays to the Father in 17:1, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.” The cross is where God displays his glory in the Son most supremely. So, everything leading up to the cross also anticipates what God plans to reveal through the cross, namely, his own glory.

To put it another way, the more glimpses we can get of Jesus’ glory before the cross, the more we’re helped to see God’s glory through the cross. Seeing Jesus’ greatness before his crucifixion, helps us see God’s greatness through his crucifixion. This is why John testifies at the end of verse 11—once the miracle has been performed—that Jesus manifested his glory. Jesus was right to tell his mother that his “hour” had not yet come, because he wanted her to see God’s glory all the more clearly when his hour did come—and we get the same benefit.

Jesus' Acted Out Parable at Cana

Now, when we take those two truths—that Jesus does everything on his Father’s terms and that Jesus’ earthly ministry anticipates God’s glorification—the miracle at Cana becomes more than just a mere turning of water into wine. It actually becomes an acted-out parable pointing to a greater reality. Jesus has a pattern of doing this in John. For example, when he feeds the five thousand in chapter 6, he then uses the miracle of physical food to point to the greater provision of giving his life for the world. Or when he gives the blind man his sight in chapter 9, he then uses the miracle of physical sight to point to the greater provision of spiritual sight that truly saves. Or when he raises Lazarus from the dead in chapter 11, he then uses the miracle of giving physical life to point to the greater provision of resurrection to eternal life.

We should expect the same with the miracle at Cana. Jesus uses one miracle—the changing of water into wine—to point to a much greater provision—namely, the greater provision of joy and celebration over the salvation Messiah brings through his cross and kingdom. By changing the water into wine, Jesus gives us a picture that foreshadows what his “hour” will ultimately bring—the beginning of a new age. When Jesus does his Father’s will unto his glorification on the cross, he inaugurates a new age where we celebrate the true forgiveness of our sins and rejoice over the bountiful provision of Messiah’s final kingdom.

There’s a reason the stone jars “for the Jewish rites of purification” are mentioned in verse 6, and why Jesus tells the servants to fill the jars with water to the brim. The old order of Jewish law was now fulfilled in Christ’s coming; the time had come for Messiah to bring his kingdom where ceremonial washing was no longer necessary because a cross would wash away sins forever—would make people clean forever!

That’s what 1 John 1:7 says Jesus’ blood does: “the blood of Jesus [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin.” He “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession” (Tit 2:14). This is the taste of glory that John wants us to see through the miracle—the glory of Jesus in the new age, set in motion by his cross and resurrection, is far better than the glory meditated in the old age. Messiah’s death actually brings true cleansing from our sin and guilt, something the ceremonies under the law could never really do.

So now the time had drawn near to replace the ceremonial waters with the wine of celebration. Why go for wine, Jesus—and the good stuff at that? Jesus told them to “‘draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.’ So they took it [And apparently somewhere between verses 8-9 the water became wine. And, it says…] When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” So why provide such an abundance of good wine at a simple wedding party that obviously replaces what water is in the jar? Answer: to point us to the wine of another wedding party in the age to come where we celebrate forgiveness of sins—to point us to the fulfillment of all the promises God made about nations coming to celebrate salvation in Messiah’s kingdom.

The Wine of the Kingdom in the Old Testament

In the Old Testament, references to wine often signaled one of two things—judgment or salvation—and mourning was associated with judgment and gladness associated with wine. So, for example, in Joel 1:5-16 you get this picture of Israel sitting under God’s judgment:

Lament like a virgin wearing sackcloth for the bridegroom of her youth…The grain offering and the drink offering are cut off from the house of the Lord. The priests mourn…The fields are destroyed, the ground mourns, because the grain is destroyed, the wine dries up…Be ashamed, O tillers of the soil; wail, O vinedressers…The vine dries up; the fig tree languishes. Pomegranate, palm, and apple, all the trees of the field are dried up, and gladness dries up from the children of man.

So that’s what sitting under judgment for sin looks like: no wine, no bounty, no gladness, no celebration.

But the opposite is true as well: when the Lord saves his people, the wine, the bounty, the gladness, the celebration returns; and that day of salvation is normally associated with God’s decisive action through his Messiah! So what you get are these amazing promises throughout the Old Testament that you just can’t even fathom—because the degree of provision and the degree of gladness is just too great to contain. Let me read some to you.

The first is from Gen 49:10-11 [p. 42]:

[In the last days, v. 1, one is to come from Judah who’s like a lion, and then it says this…] The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples [So we’re looking at a messianic figure whose rule will cover the earth. And then look what’s associated with his kingdom.]. Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes.

Does that even register with your spiritual taste buds—or have you just grown used to thorns and sweat? Gen 49 foresees a day when a son from the tribe of Judah will establish his reign, and during that reign you can let the donkeys graze freely on the vineyards. Wine will be so plentiful that it’s even used in your washing machine. In an agrarian society, you’re talking crazy, exuberant abundance!

Or how about Isa 25:6-8 [p. 586; Paul uses this text in 1 Cor 15 to show that Jesus fulfills resurrection hopes]...

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.”

So with the final defeat of death, which Paul says happens through Christ, God promises to prepare a feast for his people to celebrate his final victory over death.

Or, what about Jer 31:10-14 [p. 659; same chapter on the new covenant which Jesus ratifies with his blood in Matt 26 and Luke 22]? Listen to this promise:

Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’ For the Lord has ransomed Jacob and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him. They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall be like a watered garden, and they shall languish no more. Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.

One more: turn next to Amos 9:11-14 [p. 771], the same passage that James quotes in Acts 15 to speak of the Gentiles coming to faith through the gospel. The Lord says,

‘In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old, that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name,’ declares the Lord who does this. ‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.’

So what is the Old Testament asking us to anticipate? We’re looking for a ruler from Judah, who will gather the nations like a shepherd, who will make provision for his people’s redemption, and then bring them into a kingdom to celebrate their redemption.

The Provision of Jesus' Death & Coming Kingdom

Brothers and sisters, by making provision for the deficiencies of the unknown bridegroom in John 2, Jesus is acting out a parable that points to the provision of his death and coming Messianic kingdom—a kingdom that begins with the hour of his glorification on the cross and reaches its completion when all the saints can say as they do in Rev 19:7, “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready.”

Do you get the picture, here? Jesus came from heaven to purify you from all your sins that we might participate in the blessings and the abundance of his Messianic kingdom. Don’t get caught up in petty talk over whether or not Jesus is encouraging us to drink wine. Yes, wine is okay when constrained by love of neighbor and holiness before God. You shouldn’t get drunk. But that totally misses the point! Changing the water into wine points to something greater—not a day when we’re all intoxicated with wine, but a day when we’re all intoxicated with joy over the purification from our sins; not an age in which we’re finding satisfaction in a bottle, but a day in which we’re finding satisfaction in Jesus Christ, the Son of God! The fullness of his kingdom has yet to come on earth, but the celebration already began when God raised Jesus from the dead, confirming that the cross really takes away our sins.

The Expulsive Power of a New Affection for Glory

So don’t let the world dupe you with its empty invitations to the bar and to the chat rooms and to the get-rich-quick schemes and to whatever else the world’s inviting you to. Overcome the world’s invitations to lust and pride and greed and power by receiving John’s invitation to eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. He’s extended an invitation to a better party, a better kingdom, a better feast, where all your desires are eternally and maximally satisfied. Don’t let sin fool you with its promises to satisfy your desires now. Fight sin with the expulsive power of a new affection for glory in messianic joy.

Let Jesus’ glory as your Messiah and joy-giver so fill your soul that the fight against sin becomes a fight for more joy, more satisfaction, more celebration in Jesus. When sin raises its ugly head, hearken to John’s invitation; run and see Jesus’ glory as bringer of your Messianic joy. He’s bringing a kingdom that uses wine in the dishwasher and gold for asphalt in the street, and he’s removed every obstacle standing between you and God in that kingdom by dying for you on the cross. That’s glorious. That’s a true, satisfying Savior! And he stands ready to save you now, to forgive you now, to satisfy you now, if you will have him by faith. Verse 11 shows us that seeing the miracle means nothing unless you see Jesus’ glory through it and believe in him.

So I’m going to invite you with John to believe in Jesus this morning, all of you. Don’t turn to rituals this week to overcome your sin. Turn to Jesus who is faithful and just to forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Don’t view the Christian life as dull: “Well, I guess I have to take up my cross again today.” The whole kingdom is in front of you—your sins are forgiven—celebrate with your Messiah’s victorious cross and kingdom. He came to bring you joy. “These things he speaks to us, that his joy may be in us and that our joys may be full” (John 15:11). He even stands ready to hear your prayers when we’re joyless, just like he says in John 16:24, “Until now you have asked nothing in my name; ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” Let’s do just that.

other sermons in this series