Here are two quotes from Psychology Today:
For over 300,000 years we've looked to the sky and gods for answers. We invented fire, landed on the moon, and even flung a piece of metal outside the solar system. But despite all our developments, we have no more of an understanding of why we exist than the first thinkers of civilized consciousness. Where did it all come from? Why are we here?
We're like Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz," who went on a long journey in search of the Wizard to get back home, only to find the answer was inside her all along. The farther we peer into space, the more we realize that the secret of life and existence can't be found by inspecting spiral galaxies or watching distant supernovas. It lies deeper. It involves our very selves.
These people are like Scuttle, the seagull in the movie “The Little Mermaid.” Ariel finds several human artifacts that she is unfamiliar with. She brings them to her know-it-all seagull friend. He has no clue what their names or purposes are, but he has answers nonetheless. For example, he examines a fork and declares that it is a “dinglehopper,” an instrument that humans use to straighten out their hair.
People look at humanity, realize their must be a purpose, and make one up.
This session isn’t about why we are here on earth, but it is about why Jesus was here, and more to the point - the fact that Jesus knew His purpose perfectly!
As we begin looking at Jesus’ miracles, we’ll see something important. He didn’t perform miracles in order to bring attention to Himself, even though miracles sometimes did that. He never tried to make his life easier, though he could have. He didn’t try to impress his disciples.
Every miracle brought glory to God the Father, and more specifically, they did so by attesting to Jesus’ identity as God’s Son and the Savior of the world.
In today’s parable, Jesus turns water into wine. Jesus wasn’t concerned primarily about happy party guests. He certainly did meet a real need, as miracles do. But this miracle teaches us more. We see Jesus’ compassion for our needs, a glimpse of His identity, and His ability to reveal God in all He does.
Principle One: Jesus’ miracles were a response to human need. (John 2:1-5)
In John 1, two men Identify Jesus as God. John the Baptist makes the declaration that Jesus is the Lamb of God. Nathanael called Him the Son of God and the King of Israel. These men correctly identified Jesus and even shared who He was with others. But it isn’t it until chapter 2 that we actually see evidence of who Jesus is.
John 2:1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Grapes were abundant in Palestine. Wine was a common drink and was also used as a medicine and disinfectant. Though drunkenness is condemned throughout Scripture, wine was a staple Jewish drink.
Mary presents a need. Running out of wine would have been an embarrassment. Have you ever been at a party where there was not enough food? Example: Graduation reception last year.
What did Mary expect Jesus to do? We can’t read her mind but that hasn’t stopped commentators from speculating. Some speculate that perhaps the addition of Jesus and His disciples to the wedding feast overloaded the need for food and drink, causing the embarrassment. Some suggest that perhaps Jesus could have acted as a helper, going to purchase more wine. “Be a good son and go get some wine.”
To me, the most obvious way to look at this is to consider that Jesus’ response to His mother shows that she knew He was capable of a supernatural response. Mary made a statement and it’s Jesus who asks a question: ““Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
Depending on tone, that a statement that would have gotten me smacked. Jesus isn’t being rude to his mom, but he is making it clear that his ministry, and the timing that he will follow in laying out his ministry, wont be manipulated, even by his mother.
Though she was a mature woman, full of faith, Mary was childlike in her request. When a young child has a need, she goes to her parents full of faith, confident they can meet her need. We cringed at the sight of a demolished toy in the hands of our child because we knew it would include the petition - Daddy, fix this. Parents rush to the aid of a sick child, helping her to find comfort and peace in a struggle. Children don’t try to bargain or instruct their parents when a true need arises. They simply state the need.
Perhaps this is part of the truth in Matthew 18:3-4, when Jesus said, “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
The irony in this story is that the roles are reversed. The mother comes to the Son, acknowledging His authority and divine power. She doesn’t ask anything of Jesus. Mary just presented the need, and instructed the servants to obey Jesus. Mary is similar to the Roman centurion in Matthew 8. The military leader understood that one with authority need only speak and the command would be carried out. Mary understood this exact power that Jesus held not only over the situation at hand but over all of His creation.
The point of this first principle is that Jesus chose miracles that met real human need. In the wilderness temptation, Satan tempted Jesus to perform selfish miracles. At the cross, some of the mocking included statements like “Come down from there.”
Everything that Jesus does is the pursuit of his own glory, but that pursuit involves meeting the real needs of real people. People like us, who have hurts and pain and needs. One of the things I thought about with this parable is that with my own needs, I only tend to bring the really big ones to God. But even the embarrassment of running out of beverages is important to Jesus.
Principle Two: Jesus’ miracles communicated the nature of His identity. (John 2:6-10)
One time, a worker at a State Fair created a funny situation. He took a freshly-laid chicken egg and put it in one of the rabbit cages. As children walked by, touching the soft fur of the beautiful bunnies, they stopped and stared at the egg in the cage.
What did almost every child ask? “Did that rabbit lay that egg?” The volunteer would always say: “Do rabbits lay eggs?” The kids would stand there and think while their parents snickered in the background.
What was happening? Their brains were telling them that rabbits do not lay eggs. Their eyes seemed to be revealing something else.
Religion has the same effect. Sometimes we come to wrong conclusions based on what we see. We look at our actions, and we come to the conclusion that how we live determines what God thinks of us. We look at people and draw conclusions about their walk with God. We see people smile and don’t consider the hurt in their life.
Here’s where I’m going with this. Jesus, of course was perfectly holy, and if you watched him, you would see a good man. But, the land was filled with Scribes and Pharisees, people that you would have thought were good men. Jesus might not look that different from all the other Rabbis and spiritual leaders. Lots of people looked holy.
Miracles became a way that Jesus set himself apart. The miracles met real human needs. But Jesus didn’t meet every human need in Palestine. The miracles had a deeper purpose that Jesus was fulfilling and communicating.
Peter said this in Acts 2:22:
“Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst.”
God enabled and instructed Jesus to perform miracles to identify Himself through them.
John 2:6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 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.”
Jesus miraculously turns the water into wine. The handbook pointed out something interesting. The only people who see this miracle are the servants. If you’ve ever been a server in any capacity, you know how you’re sometimes treated: second-class. Servants are expected to grin and bear it. They are to know their place, and it wasn’t one of honor. The honored positions were guests of the wedding; these were just the lowly servants.
To these servants, and to his disciples, Jesus is beginning to prove who he is. This is not an ordinary Rabbi with a band of twelve followers. This is more than a friend of the bride and groom and the son of Mary. This is a miracle worker.
Maximus of Turin (380-465) said it like this:
“Now this transformation of the water from its own substance into another testified to the powerful presence of the Creator. Only he who had made it out of nothing could change water into something whose use was quite different. Dearly beloved, have no doubt that he who changed water into wine is the same as he who from the beginning has thickened it into snow and hardened it into ice. It is he who changed it into blood for the Egyptians and bade it flow from the dry rock for the thirsty Hebrews—the rock that, newly transformed into a spring, was like a mother’s breast refreshing with its gentle flow a countless multitude of people.”
Principle Three: Jesus’ miracles displayed glory and strengthened faith. (John 2:11-12)
John 2:11 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 and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.
God’s holiness is unique and can’t be mistaken for any other kind of glory. When Moses saw His glory in the burning bush, the old shepherd knew it was not simply a plant on fire. When the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai as a cloud, no one mistook it for your everyday cumulus clouds. When Belshazzar saw the handwriting on the wall, he knew he wasn’t just seeing things. When God announced the birth of Jesus, it was to lowly shepherds, and the announcement was adorned with the glory of His angelic host. The manifestation of God’s holiness is powerful, and obvious.
The disciples understand what just happened. They were already following him. Now, John says they believed in him.
This is not a public display. Mary knows what Jesus did. The disciples and the servants who fetched the water knew a miracle had been performed. Nobody else seems to know. But for Jesus - this is an opportunity for God’s glory to be revealed through his ministry, and it’s revealed to those whom Jesus wants to see it.
This miracle accomplished its purpose. First, it met the human need of the moment. Second, it clarified his identity to those who saw it. Third, it displayed god’s glory and brought faith to those who saw.
This wouldn’t be the last time one of Jesus’ miracles caused someone to believe in His true identity. Yes, He met needs. Yes, He healed. Yes, He touched and loved and cared and helped. But every miracle was solely focused on one purpose: to glorify the Father. The servants who saw the miracle may have had no idea who Jesus was and why He had followers, but the miracle changed them forever. The disciples certainly knew who He was and had agreed to follow Him, but this miracle gave them a deeper connection in believing He was who He said He was.
“So what does this have to do with me?” you might ask. “Jesus is not on earth anymore; I don’t get to see His miracles.” Correct. But you are a miracle of Jesus, pointing others to God. “Me?” you might ask, “I’m a sinner saved by grace.” Exactly. And when you tell others how Jesus won your heart, called you by name, and changed you from the inside out, you are just as amazing and awe-inspiring to unbelievers as the turning of water into wine.
Circle back to how we began - talking considering our purpose for being here: Just as Jesus considered His purpose before each miracle, we should consider our purpose before each conversation, each lunch meeting, each relationship, and each trial: Am I reflecting Christ? Do I point others to Him? Can others tell by my words and actions that Jesus is King of kings, Lord of lords, and the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world?