The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Water to Wine

 “You have kept the good wine until now!”- John 2:10b


What can we learn from Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine? Does it mean we can indulge in drinking wine, drunkenness? Is there something deeper to receive from this first of Jesus miraculous signs? I believe there is and that is what this study will aim at addressing.


When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. 10 And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” (John 2:9-11)


The first miraculous sign of Jesus happened with no real fanfare though it became one of the best known miracles of Jesus. The wine provided to the master of the feast didn’t come with a tag that read “Miracle Wine.” Only Mary and the servants knew what Jesus had done. Jesus didn’t draw attention to what He had done. Jesus was discreet. He was humble and revealed Himself first to servants.


The first lesson to be learned here is that what we do for and in the name of Jesus doesn’t need artificial promotion. If the Spirit is in something, the Spirit will get the word out. We can announce ministry and invite people to it, but it is the Spirit who draws people to Jesus. If the Spirit is not in something all the advertising in the world isn’t going to work.


 Jesus can be trusted; He will not take advantage of you. Normally the diluted or lesser wine would be brought out last because the guests would already have been drinking wine and likely have become inebriated dulling their senses so that they would not be able to know the difference between good wine or the watered down variety. The usual practice would be to use people’s wine produced dulled senses as a deceptive advantage.  Jesus does nothing by way of deception; He does not take advantage of those who are vulnerable. Satan is the father of lies (John 8:43-44). Jesus is light, grace and truth (John 1). Saving the best wine for last tells us Jesus is straightforward with us and He can be trusted.


Jesus produces joy when He is made the center of attention. If you want joy in life (and at a wedding) make Jesus the center of attention. Usually the central focus of a wedding is the bride. Maybe the groom gets some attention, but the main attraction is the bride: her gown, her hair, her nails, her makeup, her choice of wedding intro music. But interestingly at this wedding the bride is not even mentioned! What does this tell us? It tells us that Jesus should be the center of attention at a wedding. Contrary to popular wedding protocol it’s not about the groom or even the bride, it’s about Jesus. John the Baptist said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). That is the key to joy. That is the key to abundant life. The further away from self and the closer to Jesus we come the greater our joy will be. If we want joy to flow at a wedding and in life, we need to go to Jesus and make Him the center of attention.


Wine is a type of joy; the fruit of the earth. Wine comes from grapes. But how is wine made from grapes? Wine is made from crushed grapes. The joy symbolized by wine necessitates crushing. Self must be crushed if we want God’s joy. The things of this world must be crushed and removed as obstacles, distractions and impediments to our walk with God if His joy is to flow freely and abundantly.


Wine is produced from crushed grapes that are waited on to ferment. There is a certain amount of waiting that precedes God’s joy. We don’t want to wait for God’s plan to develop. But if we act on impulse lunging ahead of God’s plan the wine of His joy will be bitter and spoil. We need to wait on the Lord for His joy to be made full (Psalm 16:11). Jesus has a plan, a plan that is abundant and full of joy; it is worth waiting for.


Jesus produces the best. The wine Jesus produced from the water was the best wine. If we want what is best, we will go to Jesus. If we want what is best, we will seek what Jesus has for us. Jesus is the best and He makes the best. Jesus knows exactly what we need and He provides it for us.


Jesus can turn the water of the word into the wine of redemption. Water is a symbol of the word of God (Eph. 5:26). Wine is used to symbolize a number of things in scripture: Wine is used in sacrifice to symbolize God producing joy from the fruit of the ground (Exodus 29:40). Wine can be abused and become a dangerous as snake venom (Leviticus 10:1-11; Deuteronomy 32:33; Habakkuk 2:5). Wine is something leaders are advised to abstain from because it impairs thinking (Proverbs 31:4-5). Wine can be an object of dedication to God when abstained from (Numbers 6:3-4). Wine can be a symbol of joy (Psalm 104:15; Isaiah 25:6; 55:1; Joel 2:19).Too much wine is not good; loving wine is not good (Proverbs 21:17). God’s love is better than wine (Song of Solomon 4:10). Wine can be a symbol of the confusion produced by sin (Psalm 60:3; 75:8; Jeremiah 51:7). Wine can be a symbol of lust and closely associated with it (Proverbs 9:2, 5; Revelation 18:3). Wine can be a symbol of God’s judgment and wrath on sin (Jeremiah 25:15; Revelation 14:8; 16:19). Wine is a symbol of Jesus redemptive atoning blood; He drank from the cup of the wine of God’s wrath so that we would not have to (Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:23, 24; Luke 22:20; John 6:53–56; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 11:27).


All of these things can be associated with the wine at a wedding. But they all culminate in the blood of Jesus. Jesus takes the water of the word and turns us toward the wine of His redemptive blood. He is able to show us the righteous wrathful judgment of God on abominable sinful practices associated with wine. He is able to counsel us against sin that has been encouraged  with wine. Jesus shows us the alternative abundant life we can have in Him. We don’t need the wine of this world to produce His joy in us. He drinks the wine of the cup of God’s wrath on sin for us that we might be forgiven and cleansed from sin. He does this with His blood shed on the cross symbolized by the wine of the communion cup.  When we drink the communion cup together in the presence of the Lord Jesus at the Lord’s Table we are filled with His joy. We remember our redemption, forgiveness of sin and the just death penalty for sin that has been paid for us by Jesus. Those who believe in Jesus accept that truth and rejoice in His provision. That is the greatest aspect of the water turned to wine by Jesus.


Jesus is an example of God saving the best for last. The chronology of this miraculous sign testifies that God saves the best until last. The New Covenant of Jesus and His grace and truth supersede the Old Covenant of the Law. God always does exceedingly abundantly beyond what we ask or think (Eph. 3:20-21). If you are waiting on God and hope seems to be running out, just trust Him, He saves the best for last.


There are some common (as opposed to holy) questions that arise from the account of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana. Those questions are, “Does Jesus turning water into wine justify people drinking wine or other alcoholic drink; at least at weddings? Does it establish weddings as an acceptable time to get drunk?” In response to those questions and others like it I share a comment from a fellow pastor-teacher, Jon Courson:


Throughout history, there have been those who use this story as justification for drinking alcohol. “Jesus made wine. Jesus drank wine. So don’t talk to me about not drinking,” they insist. “If your argument is sincerely based upon the example of Jesus, you will never drink again,” I answer. “Look at Luke 22:18 where Jesus says He will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God shall come. Even if Jesus was drinking fermented wine—a viewpoint to which I don’t personally subscribe—since He as your role model will not drink again until the kingdom comes, neither should you.”


As a pastor, I’m tired of seeing the damage alcohol inflicts upon our children, our families, and our society as a whole. Everyone who has ever begun to drink has done so thinking they would be careful, that they would remain in control. . . . Eighteen million Americans are known alcoholics prove otherwise. [1]


The problem is that people don’t tend to “remain in control” once they indulge wine. Look at some of the figures:“15% of the people living in the United States are considered ‘problem drinkers.’ . . . There are more than three million teenagers who are alcoholics. . . . There are an estimated 140 million alcoholics around the world.” . . . 1 in 25 deaths around the world can be attributed to alcohol. . . . Today’s stats show that nearly 2 million Americans suffer from alcohol related liver disease. . . . Research has shown that alcoholism plays a major role in aggression with as many as 40% of all aggressive incidents involving alcohol in one way or another. 22% of police’s time is spent on cases involving alcohol. . . . Drinking and driving is one of the most serious problems on our roads today. Recent data shows that nearly 40% of all traffic-related deaths are related to alcohol. . . . Drunk drivers are costing the United States approximately 50 billion dollars every year. Alcohol costs so many so much; their health, family, friends and their community.”[2]


The pastor Jon goes on to comment:


“Solomon declares, “It is not for kings to drink wine, nor for princes strong drink, lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that are of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more” (Proverbs 31:4–7). If you’re perishing, which literally means “damned,” or if you’re depressed to the point where you cannot bear life, you have Solomon’s permission to partake of alcohol.


But if you want to be a leader, he warns you to stay away from it lest you short-circuit your thinking process. Solomon was right, for science has since proven that every ounce of alcohol consumed permanently destroys ten thousand dendrites, or filaments, in the nerve cells of the brain. While it is true that each of us has millions of dendrites, I think it is fair to say that none of us has any to spare. If you’re like me, you need all the dendrites you can get! Be wise, precious people, and consider very seriously the effects of alcohol upon your spiritual and physical well-being, your family stability, and the health of our society.[3]


Really, we shouldn’t be looking for loopholes to indulge our flesh. I won’t go so far as to condemn those who do partake in alcoholic consumption as being in sin. Drunkenness is sin. Some Christians do drink wine and do so without sin. But I would simply say instead of indulging in alcohol and risking not only drunkenness but causing others to stumble because of our drinking alcohol, we should focus on and seek to be continually filled with the Spirit. That’s what Paul is inspired to tell us. He says, “Do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). When we get drunk our sense are impaired and confused, dissipated. How much alcohol does it take to impair a person? Not much. Instead we should be seeking to have our senses intensified and empowered by the filling and refilling of the Holy Spirit. Be filled continually with the Spirit.


John goes on to conclude the account saying, “This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him” (John 2:11). The first miracle of Moses the law giver was to turn the water of the Nile to blood; a sign of judgment. The first miracle of Jesus the grace-Giver was turning water into wine; a type of joy. If you approach the water of the word legalistically you’ll find judgment; harshness. But if you approach the water of the word with grace, you’ll find the joy of Jesus. Be careful with your approach.

Jesus worked His first miraculous sign at a wedding in Cana. The marriage relationship is second only to our individual personal relationship with God in Christ. For our marriages to be fruitful and enduring we need the intervention of Jesus. We need Jesus to infuse washed up or watered down marriage with His joy. When a marriage is running low on what it needs, go to Jesus and do what He tells you to do.

We are like earthen vessels (2 Cor. 4:7). And we need to fill our stone waterpots up to the brim with the water of Jesus’ word (e.g. Eph. 5:26). Then as we’re filled with the word, drink in and absorb what each of us as spouses need to do to bring sweetness to each other. As we serve each other in Christ, as we share in the water of the word of Jesus, He will put His joy in us as couples. Jesus can fill up the empty. He can use the vessels willing to be filled with His word. He can and will turn water into wine.

[1]Courson, Jon: Jon Courson's Application Commentary. Nashville, TN : Thomas Nelson, 2003, S. 450
[3]Courson, Jon: Jon Courson's Application Commentary. Nashville, TN : Thomas Nelson, 2003, S. 450

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