MORNING MESSAGE – John Cline
Text – John 2:1-11
The four Gospel books are similar but different in various ways. The similarities start with the fact that they all give a sequential account of Christ’s life: Progressing through his birth, baptism, temptation, ministry, passion, death and then resurrection.
The differences lie in how they tell their sequential accounts of Christ’s life. Matthew, Mark, and Luke, whose books are known as the “Synoptic Gospels”, synoptic being a word that means “having a same point of view”, wrote very loose chronological accounts while John was very precise. Mark wrote first of the Synoptic Gospel writers and his chronology of events was thematically and theologically driven. He would write of an event and then mirror it in the following passage with a similar event (doing the same over and over, again). The movement in Mark is theological in that it has Jesus going from Galilee to Jerusalem in a resolute manner as he was going to Jerusalem to there “give his life as a ransom for many”. Peter was Mark’s primary source, it is believed.
Matthew used Mark’s written Gospel (many passages are word-for-word), expanding on Mark’s accounts with his personal remembrances and observations as one of “The Twelve”. His target audience was Jewish as can be seen in that Matthew repeatedly stated that what Jesus had done, or what happened to and around him, or was done or said was in fulfillment of specific Old Testament prophecies. That would be an important witnessing feature for Jewish people he was writing to. Though we Gentiles have come to value and cherish the Old Testament prophecies, the Gentiles of that day wouldn’t have cared very much.
Luke used Mary the mother of Jesus and various others (including Mark’s printed Gospel) as his sources. He wrote for a Gentile audience and specifically for a Greek man named Theophilus, with his Gospel book being the first of a two-part series (Acts is the follow-up sequel).
The movement in Luke’s Gospel was also guided by Jesus journeying from Galilee to Jerusalem due to his usage of Mark’s printed gospel. Again, certain passages in it are word-for-word the same.
Now, Mark, Matthew, and Luke’s books did not contradict each other, but rather, complemented each other through the usage of different eyewitnesses. Think about a court scene: If three or four eyewitnesses give word-for-word identical testimonies about what happened, how would the judge respond? By tossing out all of their testimonies as collusion and as easy proof that the “eyewitness” had “gotten the story straight” before they went into the courtroom. Thus, the slight differences amongst the Synoptic Gospels is a good thing, proving their truthfulness and accuracy. But, John’s Gospel is an entirely different animal in that it is chronologically driven, with a theological purpose behind each story written about.
John does not seem to have had access to the Synoptic Gospels. How do we know that? He doesn’t quote from them. Though formerly John’s Gospel was thought to have been the last one written, more recent scholars have concluded that his was the earliest Gospel written. This is due to the absence of any reference to the Synoptic Gospels. Just as all the letters and books of the New Testament are now thought to have been written before 70 AD due to none of them mentioning that life-altering event of the destruction of Jerusalem and the destroying of the Temple (which means that they must have been written before those things happened), John’s Gospel must have been the first one written due to the absence of the writings of the Synoptic Gospel book writers. John’s book moves chronologically and takes us through three years of Jesus’ ministry (the Synoptic Gospels could be read in such a way that Jesus ministered only for one year). Because John mentions three Passovers, the belief that Jesus ministered for three years comes from John’s Gospel.
As an example of John writing chronologically, but for a theological purpose, look at what he did in chapters 1 and 2. In John 1:29, John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus to be “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. “The next day” (1:35), Andrew expands on that by proclaiming that Jesus is “the Messiah”. “The next day” (1:43) Nathanael Bartholomew proclaims Jesus to be “The Son of God, the King of Israel”. Those ”next day” phrases refer to the days after John the Baptist’s original proclamation as to who Jesus was – “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”, in other words, the Messiah, and the Son of God, the King of Israel that Andrew and Nathanael came then proclaimed he was, John puts all those together with a miracle which proves who Jesus is by mentioning an event that happened on the “third day” after John the Baptist’s proclamation: On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. (John 2:1a)
Cana is a real town near Nazareth. It is still there. Karen and I were on a bus going through that area when we saw a marker sign pointing to Cana. So, we said, “We have to go there”, and so we did. We went to the church which commemorates the event we are now going to read about: Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:1b-5)
The way Jesus addressed his mother as “woman” was a term of endearment in that day, much like the word “mommy” is today. Mary clearly was not insulted by Jesus’ calling her “woman”. In fact, her mind was on the fact that she felt it was time for her son to reveal who he was, the Lamb of God, the Messiah, the King of Israel. In the Christmas birth story accounts we read through this past December, we saw that Mary was fully aware of who he was. She treasured the knowledge of the events and the words told her about her son “in her heart”. In her words to the banquet workers, we can see that Mary clearly anticipated something amazing could be and would be done by Jesus, to save the wedding host from embarrassment. Rightly or wrongly, we can picture her as a comically stereotypical Jewish mother who proudly believed in her son: “Oy, whatever he tells you to do, just do it. Don’t question him. Do as he says.” Carrying on in John:
Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so, they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” (John 2:6-10)
The six stone waterpots holding twenty or thirty gallons each totaled 120 to 180 gallons. Culturally, the poorer quality wine would be served last, once the sensibilities of the guests had been dulled. Jesus did the unexpected and produced the best wine of the ceremony, for the last bit of the banquet. The master of the banquet humorously, but incorrectly, gave credit for the final sweet-tasting wine to the bridegroom, whose response is not noted by John. What John does note is this: What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (John 2:11)
This miracle was the first proof of who Jesus was. John was very selective in the miracles he chose to write about. He recorded only eight miracles done by Jesus, whereas Matthew Mark, and Luke mentioned 29 miracles. The Synoptic Gospel writers had a mission of recording the things Jesus did and said. John’s mission was to record those miracles that would prove who Jesus was and is. With each of the eight miracles mentioned by John, he gives a follow-up commentary and explanation of what just happened before moving on the next event. John calls the miracles “signs”, a special word used only in his Gospel, to denote that miracles validated who Jesus was. As you remember, near the end of his book, John wrote this: Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30,31)
So, this particular miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana was a sign, a proof, of who Jesus is and was. But, what the event shows to me is that Jesus was concerned with more than exclusively saving people’s souls. This miracle was not about saving a life, but about saving face for the banquet host, that he would not be humiliated in front of his guests when the wine ran out.
This shows to me who Jesus is, the Messiah who cares about what people are going through. Friends, Jesus cares about every part of your life. When things are going badly, Jesus is there. When events conspire to take away your zest for life, Jesus is present to help. When life is disappointedly sour, Jesus is near. Just as he saved the best wine for the end of the banquet, the best may yet be to come for you in your life. Simply turn to him and ask for help, as his mother did. Believe that your best days could very well be ahead of you, still to come. Jesus is here; ready and willing to intervene.
Whether your challenges are financial, emotional, relational, spiritual, or physical, turn to Jesus and ask for his help, and then stand back and see what he will do. But, just as the wedding banquet were told by Jesus to do a specific thing before a miracle occurred, Jesus will probably tell you to do something in response to your request for his help. Faithfully do whatever he says to do, just as the wedding banquet workers did, and then stand back in faith to see what he will do. One of the most striking qualities about the way that Jesus lived was that no matter who he interacted with, no matter what he was doing, he was always present in the moment, he was fully present. He gave his undivided attention to the moment throughout the Gospel books. He is still fully present in the moment. Believe and trust in his supernatural provision. Ask him for help. He will provide. Be blessed! Amen.