Save the Best for Last and Other Lessons from a Wedding in Cana

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

‘Save the Best for Last and Other Lessons from a Wedding in Cana’

 © October 21, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin October 21, 2018

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer 

Opening Hymn #57: I Sing the Almighty Power of God; Choruses 

Prayer and Tithing – Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayer Requests

Responsive Reading #601 (Faith and Confidence – Psalm 27) 

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                Saving the Best for Last and Other Lessons from a Wedding in Cana’

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to BLCF Sunday Praise and Worship Service. For our lesson this morning, which is entitled Save the Best for Last and Other Lessons from a Wedding in Cana’, where we will examine the account of the first of Jesus’ signs or miracles, at a wedding in Cana, from the second chapter of John’s Gospel:

John 2:1-12 (ESV): The Wedding at Cana

 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.[a] Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 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 10 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.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers, sisters, and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.

Footnotes: a. John 2:6 Greek two or three measures (metrētas); a metrētēs was about 10 gallons or 35 liters b. John 2:12 

Some critics seem to place more importance on the metaphorical aspects of the Lord’s first sign, rather than focus on the importance of the miracle.

At one extreme, some authors tend to describe the signs performed by Christ in the Gospels as merely a collection of metaphorical stories, rather than acknowledging that the miracles of the Lord, including the changing water into wine at the wedding in Cana, describe a miracle performed by our Lord as witnessed by John on his gospel, John 2:1-12.

While the use of six stone jars containing water for purification rituals may be laced with religious symbolism, the changing water into wine is what it is, a miracle performed by Jesus, the Word made flesh. It is NOT a symbolic action or metaphor to be interpreted to represent something else. To think otherwise tends demean or diminish the importance of a sign from the Lord.

Jesus came into our world as a Son of Man, but also the Son of God, the Word made flesh, to offer humanity a path to righteousness and salvation by emphasizing a choice centered in faith and obedience to what God provides, rather than what may be gained from this world. With God, all things are possible and in the world, much is not possible:

Matthew 19:23-28 (ESV)

23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world,[a] when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 19:28 Greek in the regeneration

The choice of stone jars as vessels of Jesus’ miracle, considered by some to be symbolic, was likely more one of convenience. But why were the vessels made from stone:

 Archaeologist Yitzhak Magen explains why in “Ancient Israel’s Stone Age” in BAR:

 What was it that connected these stone vessels to Jewish purity laws? Simply this: Stone vessels, unlike ceramic and glass vessels, were not subject to impurity.

Laws of ritual purity and impurity are of Biblical origin (Leviticus 11:33 ff.). During the Second Temple period, however, the rules were greatly expanded. Most of the purity laws relate to rites in the Temple. But the territory of the Temple was at least metaphorically expanded beyond the Temple confines, and ritual cleanliness was not limited to the bounds of the Temple but spread through the Jewish community. The laws affected ordinary people.

It made sense to purchase a vessel that could not become unclean, for once a vessel became ritually unclean, it had to be taken out of use. An impure pottery vessel, for example, had to be broken.

https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/ancient-cultures/daily-life-and-practice/jewish-purification-stone-vessel-workshop-galilee/

Laws intended for the Temple had been expanded metaphorically to outside the bounds of the temple to include ordinary people, not just the priests of the Temple. So it is not surprising that the Pharisees perceived those who had committed actions considered to be contrary to traditional rules, even though the disciples by  not washing their hands through a violation of Jewish tradition, reacted as if they had broken a Commandment of God:

Mark 7:1-4 (ESV): Traditions and Commandments

 Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly,[a] holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash.[b] And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.[c])

Footnotes: a. Mark 7:3 Greek unless they wash the hands with a fist, probably indicating a kind of ceremonial washing b. Mark 7:4 Greek unless they baptize; some manuscripts unless they purify themselves c. Mark 7:4 Some manuscripts omit and dining couches

The stone jars of water which were used to symbolically remove the soil that was thought to defiled the hands of the guests, allowing a ceremonial purification, became containers where the true power of the Lord became manifest: water was transformed to wine. Not just ordinary wine but what the master of the wedding feast indicated that the groom, who was responsible for providing the wine for the wedding banquet, had apparently saved the best for last as we see in John 2:8-10:

And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 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 10 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.”

We should not confuse what the stone jars, which was a man-made tradition with the miracle that occurred inside. Changing water to wine was a miracle performed by the Son of God taking place in a jar made from stone. The miracle was from God in a vessel for man. Just as Jesus is God expressed in the vessel of a man, or the Word made flesh.

Since Jesus came to humanity in the form of a man, does that not mean that he be considered the greatest among all men. The Lord’s answer to this very question may surprise you, as it did to the disciples:

Luke 22:24-30 (ESV): Who Is the Greatest?

24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

28 “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 

In this life, we honour the Lord, and in turn the Father in heaven, when we acknowledge their authority and Lordship by serving others. In this life, we are expected to take a place at the banquet table not as the greatest, but alongside the youngest who role it is to be considered last. This is where least in this world, those who serve will be honored as the greatest in the next kingdom, which belongs to the Father in heaven.

When Jesus performed the miracle of changing water into wine at a wedding banquet in Cana, he did so not to impress the bride or groom, nor officials of the wedding, but to engender faith hope in the hearts of the disciple, those who chose to follow and serve the Lord, John 2:9 and 11:

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) 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

Jesus used his response to a simple request from his mother, Mary, to provide wine for a wedding banquet, as a lesson to show his disciples that the Son of Man is truly the Son of God who has come not to rule humanity, but to serve them. In doing his service, the Lord would humbly forfeit his own life to pay the debt for the sins of humanity. In return, humanity would be offered salvation, given in exchange for faith expressed by humble trust and obedience to the Lord.

The Lord expects those who accept his gift of salvation, to follow His example of humbly serving the least of our brothers and sisters as the only way of inheriting the Kington that has been prepared for the faithful:

Matthew 25:31-40 (ESV): The Final Judgment

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.’                                                                                                                              

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #74: Shepherd of Eager Youth                                                     

Benediction (Ephesians 3:20-21):  Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

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