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John 2:1-12; 15:1-1
We are going to carry on with our exploration of Jesus in the gospel of John. The first part of the gospel has been called the book of signs, John uses some of the stories of Jesus and calls them ‘signs of glory’ (2:11), there are seven of them in the gospel.
Sign of Glory
Like any sign, it points to something. John the Baptist has been pointing to Jesus as the Messiah, now John the writer of the gospel picks up this theme and shows how Jesus is pointing to something. What?
The mandate of Jesus was the revelation of the Kingdom of Heaven, and so his life on earth pointed to reality of the heavenly kingdom. This was the first time that Jesus revealed his glory, the brilliance of heaven gets exposed, he uses his powers to show something of God, and to confirm to his disciples who he is.
Glory is a word used to describe the radiant nature of heaven, it is the best word to sum up spiritual things, we are designed to carry a glory, a radience of the eternal nature of God, something that Jesus comes to restore to mankind, and the Holy Spirit comes to endow us with.
This was a miracle of transformation, so was a demonstration of the kind of ministry that Jesus would have on the earth, he was in the business of transformation (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17)
The word used here in ‘signs of glory’ is semeion suggesting that they were authenticating signs of Jesus nature and mission. In the other gospels they signs are referred to as dunameis, meaning a demonstration of the power of God.
‘Sign is a miracle that is viewed as a proof of divine authority and majesty, the power in the physical realm indicates a principle operative in the spiritual realm’ – William Hendrikson
So we join the story (John 2:1) with Jesus arriving at a wedding party. He and the disciples got an invite to join the week long celebrations, his mother seems to be the caterer!
He had just started his ministry by getting his core team together, for Nathaniel and Philip it was the first day on the job but for Jesus it was the ‘third day’. This should jump out at you, because ‘third day’ is filled with hidden meaning, this story is not just an ordinary story of celebrating a friends wedding, this is full of hidden meaning.
‘third day’ speaks about the resurrection, since Christ arose from the dead on the third day, something of transformation is going to happen! John is deliberately using this to get the reader’s attention.
‘wedding’ it is no accident that Jesus is invited to a wedding, its not his wedding, but the inaugural miracle to authenticate the Messiah is at a wedding celebration. The same writer, John, had a vision of the arrival of Jesus (the bridegroom) to claim his bride (the church), this is the end story of human history, everything in scripture and in this era of history is pointing to this climactic event when Jesus returns for his bride! So he begins his active ministry on earth at a wedding.
But this is not a good wedding, its a disaster, they have run out of wine. It would of been a great matter of shame and dishonour during the week long festivities if the wedding ran out of wine.
Wine is the predominant biblical symbol of joy (Eph. 5:18). More hidden meaning, Jesus arrives at a wedding party and the joy is about to run out. The good times of the old view of God’s community has run its course and new community is going to be formed who have and endless supply of joy!
Jesus seems a bit harsh with his mother “dear woman” (v4), but he was speaking as the son of God and not as her son. The need was for a new joy to come on the people, but Jesus knew that it was not the right moment in history for this to happen (this saying occurs 5 times in john 2:4; 7:6, 8, 30; 8:20), Jesus had to die, be resurrected and ascend before he could send the Holy Spirit of joy! The destination of the cross was never that far from Jesus mind, he was on his Father’s timetable (John 12:23, 27; 13:1; 16:32; 17:1).
Obey (John 2:5)
I’m not entirely sure that Mary knew what was going on, she just told the servants to do whatever her son wanted, miracles need a degree of obedience to work. Faith operates by hearing God and then doing what he says, humans like to feel they have a say in what is happening.
Empty Jars (2:6–7)
The jars, probably stacked up outside the wedding were used for ritual washing as part of the old order of worship, Jesus calls for them to be used for something completely different, a new order – wine at a wedding! Mosaic covenant to New Covenant. (cf. John 4:13; 7:38-39). One commentator usefully compares the water for washing as an image of the word of God (See Eph. 5:26; John 15:3), suggesting that the unbeliever needs to be filled with the word so God can do a miracle of transformation.
That which is empty is filled, the metaphor for the Holy Spirit coming in someones life. We are immersed with water at our baptism, the great transition moment in the believers life, the sign of moving from death to life!
Filled Jars (2:8-10)
There is nothing spiritual in any of these images so far, big jars filled with water is a very physical and natural event, but then comes the power of God. He takes the normal and transforms it. No light show or fireworks, they put in water and draw out wine! How understated yet how miraculous.
He takes sinful, messed up people, empty jars; plunges us into the waters of baptism and produces new wine… lots of it!
There were a 180 gallons of wine – some party! In my calculations that is about 810 bottles of wine, this was no modest miracle this was an over abundance of wine!
So the wine that was poured out of the jars was of such a superior quality that this provoked a comment from the master of the banquet, the new wine of the kingdom that Jesus announces is far superior to the wine that has passed. He makes what was good even better.
This was a party, the ‘joy’ was about to run out, and then Jesus creates plenty more joy to around! But a joy that is deeper and better than anything that had gone before. Its the nature of what we have filling us, a joy that is not ‘happiness’, its a joy that will see you through disaster, tragedy and pain. Its a joy that is not easily explained.
Even as the new wine is the symbol of the joy of the Holy Spirit, we should not loose the significance of the wine as the blood of Jesus, poured out for us. The joy of the Spirit is let loose by the blood of Jesus, the two things are intertwined.
Jesus is in the business of bringing something better than the original to us, what he has got to offer is so much more.
The prophetic symbolism of this miracle is profound. He chooses to do it at a wedding, the joyful union of two people prophesying his union with his bride. He chooses to use wine, the symbol of his blood and the symbol of new wine for a new covenant, which we use today to celebrate his death and resurrection in the Lords Supper. He uses water, the symbol for the cleansing of baptism, the sign of a new start. He uses ceremonial jars, turning the old to something new.
In contrast with the ‘old’ when Moses who turned water into blood as a sign of God’s judgment (Ex. 7:14-24), Jesus brings joy. His first miracle was a gracious indication of the joy which He provides by the Spirit. The OT water of purification is replaced by the NT blood of the lamb.
I am the True Vine (15:1-11)
Not only are there 7 signs of glory in John’s gospel, there are 7 statements about the nature of Jesus, I AM statements.
I AM is deeply significant, it is actually a signature statement, Jesus is saying in those two words that he is God (cf Ex 3:14, God speaks to moses)
The vine is where the grapes come from in order to create the new wine. Here Jesus is announcing that he is the source of this new wine, the true vine, the essential vine.
God uses image of the vine to describe Israel, He lavished care and attention on his people (Ps. 80:7-10; Isa. 5:1-7; Jer. 2:2; 6:9; Ezek. 15; 17:5-10; 19:10-14; Hosea 10:1; 14:8), it is the preeminent symbol of Israel, even today the bunch of grapes are used as symbol of Israel.Jesus is calling the people of Israel to attention, and he is calling the modern church to attention. Look! You call yourselves the people of God but I am the true vine, the authentic, the real deal. Focus on me church.
Jesus emphasis is on how fruitful we are. It is important to realise that the fruit we produce is key to the life of the believer. Living in lack raises some questions about the way we are living. If we are constantly being robbed it raises questions for us. No the way of Jesus is the way of fruit.
Jesus goes on to say that the his branches (his people) need to get pruned in order to be effective.
Pruning seems vicious but actually it is essential for the fruitful production of any tree. We get cut back, face difficulty, feel the pruning of God, this is for the good of us. Although we can face challenges that are not sent by God he is able to use them to be a part of a pruning in our lives.
This pruning takes place as we welcome the message or word of God in our lives. We don’t live by fanciful man ideas, we live because of the word of God in us. To be fruitful we need the word at work in our lives, it cleanses us and prunes us of silly human ideas that are not heaven ideas. David asked the question, “How can a young man keep his way pure?” He answered, “By living according to your word” (Ps. 119:9). Jesus says to his disciples, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).
Part of the glory of God is to see fruitfulness in his disciples (15:8) we are meant to be fruitful, designed to produce fruit. Your destiny is fruit.
Fruitfulness comes as we abide (menō, which occurs 11 times in this chapter, 40 times in the entire Gospel, and 27 times in John’s epistles) stick in there, rest. We have to stay connected to the branch to be fruitful. Its why not being part of a church is a bad option, your fruitfulness will be severely hampered.
Key here is that we remain in him and he will remain in us.
Abiding is a settled state of connectedness to the trunk. God chooses to get things done with us, fruit only comes from the branches it doesn’t come from the trunk!
Obedience is part of abiding (15:9-10). As we learn to abide in Jesus, we learn to be obedient to him, in the same way that he abides in his Father and so is obedient to his will. Obedience is not something to be feared, it is part of the walk of faith as children of God.
When the abiding process happens “my word (rhema) abides in you” then we get what we ask for because we ask in alignment with the will of God. Lets think about this process for a bit. We find a place in God to stay connected to him, and in return his spoken now words remain in you, they germinate the sap that runs round you to produce fruit. The active ingredient of the needed now word of God in our lives makes us fruitful. When we respond to the word then something happens to us, we become fruitful. Its why when we pray we abide in God, he speaks to us and this word sets something happening – it means that faith can arise!
The end result is joy of this process is a deep joy… water into wine!
Seven “Signs” in the Gospel of John
Seven ‘I am’ statements in John