Unless you get far off into the remote wilderness, it’s almost impossible to go through your day without seeing signs – of all sorts. Whether they’re the informational kind along I-94 or those omniscient little ads along the sides of your web-browser, they say something to you and they present something you should do. “Gentlemen & Ladies – Use this bathroom or that one depending…” “Left lane will be closed on Tuesday – don’t drive there!” “Behold this craftsman style console table in black walnut – all the glamorous hostesses have one!”
You find signs in John’s Gospel too. Most often people call them miracles, but today John says, “This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee.” In the gospels, there are lots of these wondrous signs – of all sorts – Jesus giving sight to the blind, calming a storm, feeding thousands with a boy’s lunch. And like the signs you see daily these ones say something to you and demand something from you. In v.10 “[Jesus by way of this sign] revealed his glory” – he tells you who he really is – and “[seeing the signs, Jesus’] disciples put their faith in him” – he calls you to express your relationship to him with trust. I like how John encapsulates those two things in the last line of his gospel: “[All these signs] are written that you may believe…”
To do just that let’s look this morning at what Jesus does. So that you may believe we see Jesus bringing help at just the right time. Which is an important idea to consider because we often have our own timelines for life and believing entails putting our trust somewhere other than in ourselves. Maybe a bit like Mary… She sets the wedding problem before Jesus rather tersely, “They have no more wine,” and implies something more, “Son, you need to do something about this…” This isn’t a bad request in itself, but listen to Jesus’ response, “Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come.” Jesus’ response is maybe like if you ran for POTUS this next term and won and your mom popped in on your meeting with the Joint Chiefs to say, “You need to be doing something in Iraq and yesterday…” In that moment, you might love and respect your mother by reminding her and everyone else that you serve her and many other women – she doesn’t get special sway because she’s mom – not in this. You’d say, not “mom” but “Ma’am, did they elect you president?”
Jesus isn’t harsh with Mary, but firm. He’s basically saying, “The Savior of the world is beginning to work and the when and how of it is for me to know and decide and not for you, dear not-my-mother-right-now.” We need this firm, definite, word of Christ too, because every Christian in his or her heart and mind does the same thing. How often have we thought that this or that ought to be done in the Church or in the world, in politics and government, or in the family and our relationship! How often haven’t we been dissatisfied with the way Christ rules the world, and even secretly said to ourselves: “If I had a say, things would be different.” How often haven’t we said, “Maybe you ought to be doing this, Jesus.” His words to Mary remind us of our own place and our own ignorance, maybe our own sinful selfishness at times.
At the same time, what a wonderful thing for us, his words to Mary! In the little words, “dear woman,” your Savior lets on that, not just for his mom, but for every woman, every man, every child he brings help. Mary doesn’t dictate Jesus’ ministry; ministry with Jesus is for mankind. And “My time has not yet come,” is evidence of when and how Jesus works that ministry. John uses this phrase from Jesus over and over again in his gospel. Almost always pointing ahead to his death at the cross – Jesus arranged what he did and didn’t do depending on whether the hour was near at hand or not. In John 17, just before he goes to the cross, Jesus prays, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” And it is the full glory of God and of his Son Jesus Christ that his work is always directed toward death and punishment at the cross, everything in just the right place at the right time, so that with his perfect work and forgiving love sinners might be saved.
So that you may believe, there are signs from the beginning of Jesus’ work that say that at just the right time he is bringing help for all people. Jesus’ help brings the fullest and best joy to mankind. Indeed, when we look at the sign at Cana itself, we can see that Jesus pours out the best abundantly.
You know, when the servants did as Jesus commanded, it was to fill up those six jars of water nearby. It’s actually about 150 gallons of water Jesus then makes into wedding wine. If you’re familiar with wedding planning, you may know for a standard 4 hour wedding of 100 people, you’re looking at 400 glasses or 15 gallons of wine. 150 gallons? That’s enough for ten weddings! And while we’re at it, do you ever wonder why Jesus’ first miracle happens at a wedding reception of all places, to restock the open bar of all things? You might just say that it’s so you may believe that Jesus is the Christ when you see his power. But I wonder if it’s also because this is exactly how the prophets of old talked about Jesus’ day. The prophet Joel, “[I]n that day the mountains will drip with sweet wine, and the hills will flow with milk, and all the brooks of Judah will flow with water…” When the Savior comes it will be gallons and gallons of abundance, God’s love all over the place in miraculous things. And in the wedding way you heard Isaiah speak this morning, “[T]he Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married…as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.”
You ever seen that? The groom rejoice over his bride in the abundance of a wedding? It’s a magic thing. When the groom spins his bride around the dance floor and her eyes are only for him and all the eyes are on them? When brothers who joke and fight toast for all to hear with words from the heart seldom said? When hundreds gather to show they support a love that’s just beginning? This wedding joy? It’s like all the best in one place, and abundantly – and it’s the kind of thing, at the memory of it, that makes old wives stop paying the bills and smile, that makes manly men tear up a bit and turn away, the kind that fills people with joy…
I mean to say that – at Cana, Jesus works a sign so that you might believe that he is the Christ with power to help perfectly timed – but it also hints at how you believe, doesn’t it? Christ, in his love, works to present us to himself as his sinless, radiant Church, as beautiful as a bride on her wedding day. He fills us with the abundant joy of new love, forgiven into new life, promised for forever. Like water into wine, he takes our normal and mundane and changes them into the sweetest tasting love of holy life.
As you watch your Savior work, know that it’s so you may believe, but not in some staid and stoic way – it’s so that you may believe with abundant and overflowing joy! The kind that, like Mary, dares to ask and dares to trust our Lord will do the best. The kind like those servants who do what the Lord commands and silently see his wonders and smile from the shadows. The kind like the disciples’, where seeing this work so timely, so helpful they take their trust from other things and begin to set it here, again and again with the Lord like nowhere else. The kind like the Corinthians’, who learn to use all their gifts as from the same Spirit, and all their talents for the same Lord, and all their work as part of the same body for the same good. When Jesus begins to work he pours out abundance and the best and, as you trust in him, faith feels and fulfills his wedding joy abundantly too.
Water to wine, the lame walking, the blind seeing, the dead raised – these signs – they say something to you: they reveal Jesus’ glory – that in undeserved love he is hard at work for us; and – these signs – they present something for you to do: it’s very simple – in this powerful Savior we have simply to believe. Amen.