An Encounter with the Satisfier of our Souls (John 2:1-11)
We are beginning a new series called “Encounters: Meeting Jesus in the Gospels” today! Someone asked me if I was going to talk about aliens (totally joking I’m sure). Yes, the name is from a 1977 science fiction film called “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” directed by Steven Spielberg. The story is about a man who life is changed after “encountering” an unidentified flying object, or UFO.
Well, my prayer for myself and all of us is that our lives would be transformed as we encounter Jesus in the Gospels in this series. Down with information! Up with transformation! Down with being spectators on the sidelines! Up with participants in the game…with the sweat, blood and tears to show it! Down with soldiers on reserve! Up with soldiers ready to battle and getting right behind the Commander-in-chief for victory!
Now the temptation will be to look at these stories with the glasses of familiarity. I pray we will never get comfortable with Jesus Christ. If you come here afflicted by something this week, may He comfort you. But I also pray that if we come here comfortable, that He might afflict us! Little eaglets, when they are born, are not meant to sit in their nests and get comfortable. The mother eagle “stirs up the nest,” literally destroying the nests they have built to get them to fly. In Deut. 32:11, God says, “Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the Lord alone guided him, no foreign god was with him.” Great verse!
I have a tendency to be a nest builder and relax in my walk with Christ under the feathers. But the Lord never lets us get too comfortable and He is always stirring up our nests. May He do that again! I want to grow another inch in Him. I want to go a little higher and farther and dig a little deeper with the Lord. So that is my prayer for us in this series.
With that in mind, let’s get to the text for today, which is found in John 2:1-11. Let’s pray.
Alright survey time. How many of you are really adamant about filling up your gas tank as soon as it hits half tank? How about quarter tank? In other words, you don’t even know what the gas light looks like because you have never let it go that far? How many of you wait until the last minute to fill up gas in your car? I mean, the light came on like 20 miles ago and you are still going and you are ok with it? Anyone ever actually run out of gas?
I have never run out of gas because I grew up with my mom freaking out if we ever hit half a tank. She would think we could go only a couple of miles from that point. My dad was also like that and he would say, “No, you can go at least 10 more miles.” This was at the half or quarter tank!
I always thought once the gas light comes on, you had about another 10 miles left. But it was only recently that Jenny told me (she’s the kind of person who goes way past the gas light) that most cars can go 20-30 miles after the light comes on. Nevertheless, I am still nervous once the light comes on. I am holding on to the steering wheel tightly and looking frantically for a gas station. I don’t ever want to run out of gas!
But it seems like I am so careful not to run out of gas for my car, but it is easy for me to run on an empty spiritual tank a lot of times. I can think I am ok with the Lord because I do the motions. As one writer says, “We can sing Christian songs and call it authentic worship. We can have an attractive personality and be mistaken for a Spirit-filled life. Humorous or emotional stories can pass for inspired preaching. Christian clichés can be given out as biblical wisdom.”
When I share the gospel with people, I always tell them that it is about a relationship, not a religion. I want them to see that there has been a change inside of us that makes us who we are. We are not trying to change ourselves or do a bunch of stuff to get to God. God has gotten to us through Jesus Christ.
But the longer I am a Christian, the more I am constantly fighting my relationship with Him from becoming just a religion; when it becomes just a to-do list and routine. Ever feel like that? When I am stuck in religion, I am always left empty and thirsty. I am running on fumes and not going anywhere. That’s why I always need a rescue. I need Jesus to step in all the time.
So I want to look at this encounter today as meeting Jesus, the true Satisfier of our Souls! Let’s begin with this:
I. The wine of religion always runs out (John 2:1-6)
So we pick up the story in John 2:1. Jesus has just picked five of his disciples. The reference to the third day means three days after Jesus called Philip and Nathanael (John 1:43-51). We are not exactly sure where Cana in Galilee might be, but most likely about 10 miles from the hometown of Jesus, Nazareth. In fact, on a clear day, you can see Cana from Nazareth. It was just a little village outside of town.
As a result, we are not surprised to find Mary, who interestingly is never called Mary in the Gospel of John (John 2:1, 3, 5, 12, 6:42; 19:42), but always the “mother of Jesus” there. The fact that Jesus, his mother and disciples were all invited shows that the wedding involved friends and family of Jesus. All of Jesus’ family and Jesus himself was from the area and the wedding is probably of someone close to them. The disciples were invited due to association with Jesus.
Weddings in those days were a huge deal. They would also last sometimes an entire week, depending on how rich you were. In fact, close relatives and friends stay at the home of the groom that entire week. It was sort of a honeymoon/family reunion/bachelor party/bridal shower all rolled into one. They would parade the couple down the street and sing songs almost every night. Modern weddings are usually paid for by the bride’s family, but Jewish weddings are usually paid for by the groom’s family. Once a couple is engaged, they are considered legally a married couple (remember Joseph and Mary), although they did not live together or consummate their marriage. The groom would be busy at work trying to prepare a place for them (this is why Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you” John 14:2).
During the actual week of the wedding, typically on a Tuesday or Wednesday night, the groom and his men would go to the bride’s house. They would escort the bride and her maids to his house, where there would be a ceremony and banquet. For the overworked, underpaid and harshly taxed Jew, the wedding was a much needed break to relax with old friends, share some meals, a little wine and enjoy some laughter.
In addition, Mary seems to be more than a guest here; she has some responsibility at this wedding as she goes to Jesus with a problem in John 2:3. Joseph is not mentioned here. The last time we hear of him is when Jesus is twelve years old (Luke 2:41-50) and that is why Jesus gives His mother to John at the cross (John 19:26-27). Joseph would have been pretty mad if Jesus is giving his wife away to some kid like John! So Joseph must have died by this point in John 2. This is probably why Jesus was home with Mary until he was 30, taking care of her.
Anyway, back to the wedding celebrations. Laughter is in the air. Isn’t it amazing that Jesus starts His ministry at a wedding! I wonder what his disciples are thinking when Jesus agrees to go to the wedding. They are following this rabbi and he doesn’t take them to a mountain to pray or a temple for worship or a synagogue to preach. Those were the things a normal rabbi would be all about. But Jesus is no ordinary rabbi. He is the Word became flesh, who “pitches his tent” among us (John 1:14). He has come to the ordinary events of life to infuse life to it!
At this wedding, the servants are helping to serve the food and when one of them started to notice that the wine was running out, and running out fast! Mary may have been some sort of assistant to the host of the wedding. She seems to have inside knowledge of what is going on. Perhaps one of the servants told her of the situation.
Notice what she says in John 2:3 to Jesus: “They have no wine!” Great of her not to explode: ““Why didn’t you plan better? There’s not enough wine! Whose fault is this anyway? You guys never do anything right. If anything is to be done right around here I have to do it myself!” Or implode: “This is my fault. I failed. I’m to blame. I deserve it. If only I’d majored in culinary art. I’m a failure in life. Go ahead; do the world a favor. Tie me up and march me to the gallows. I deserve it.” She brought the matter to Jesus. This was a knot she could not untie. Good lesson here: Prayer should never be our last resort; always the first.
For 30 years Mary has cherished in her heart the future glory of her son. She has seen the visions, heard the angels, shepherds and wise men and probably knows who He is more than anyone there. So she pleads for Him to rise to the occasion and pour out His glory in this time of need.
You see, to run out of wine is a huge embarrassment to the groom and his family. This was such a disgrace that the bride’s parents can actually bring a lawsuit against the groom and his family! In fact, there was a “strong element of reciprocity in ancient Near Eastern weddings. The groom would be expected later to give reciprocal wedding gifts to the young men in attendance who had given him gifts. If they left unsatisfied, the groom would eventually have to give each of them not only a wedding gift but compensation for the amount they had been deprived because of his insufficient provisions.”
If the wine runs out, the whole town would talk about it and the family of the groom would probably hear of it for the rest of their lives. This was a major crisis and social catastrophe if nothing was done about it. We don’t know how this could have happened. Perhaps they underestimated how many people would show up. Perhaps they didn’t think people would drink as much as they did. We are not exactly sure.
A brief word about the drinking wine mentioned here. Some have suggested that they drank just grape juice. John Macarthur notes, “Wine was the staple drink in the ancient Near East. Due to the warm climate and the lack of any means of refrigeration or purification, fruit juice tended to ferment. The result was an alcoholic beverage with the capability of inducing drunkenness. To help avoid the risk of inebriation, wine was commonly diluted with water to one-third to one-tenth of its strength.” The Bible does not condemn drinking wine or alcohol, but it does condemn drunkenness. Every once in a while you hear people say, “See Jesus drank, I can drink!” I want to reply, “Really? You want to compare yourself to Jesus Christ like that? If so, that is probably the only way they are like Jesus Christ.
I would say my position on alcohol is this. If your conscience bothers you about it, don’t do it. If there is alcoholism in your family, it is probably best that you abstain from it because you might not be able to control it. Otherwise, as long as you do not get drunk, I do not see any biblical evidence for total abstinence.
Alright, end of commercial! Back to the text. Now we have an interesting response from Jesus in John 2:4. Let’s break it down. He says, “Woman.” Other translations say “Dear Woman” or “O woman.” Man, is that what you should call your mother? Do not try that at home! Actually it not a cold harsh term at all. That word is also the same word used in John 19:26 where Jesus said, “Woman, behold your son!” It is actually a term of endearment and respect, probably the equivalent of “Ma’am.”
But why doesn’t He call her mother? Well, what He is doing is letting her know that the time has come where the human relationship is over. The private home life is over. It is time for Jesus to start His ministry as the Son of God. He is distancing Himself. It was not that He didn’t care for her or will never talk to her again. He is making sure she gets the fact that He is not just “my little boy”.” Mary will need a Redeemer as well. She needs to see that.
Next we have a difficult phrase, “What does this have to do with me?” (ESV) When we read it, we are already reading it with a tone in our minds. Doesn’t it sound harsh? Actually William Barclay in his commentary notes that this phrase “…was a common conversational phrase. When it was uttered angrily and sharply it did indicate complete disagreement and reproach, but when it was spoken gently it indicated not so much reproach but misunderstanding. It means: ’Don’t worry; you don’t quite understand what is going on; leave things to me, and I will settle them in my own way.’ Jesus was simply telling Mary to leave things to him, that he would have his own way of dealing with the situation.” He follows this by, “My hour has not yet come.” The “my hour” is a common phrase in the Gospel of John. It refers to the time Jesus will be glorified starting with the cross until He reigns. What He’s saying in effect is, “No one writes in my daytimer, except my Father. I’m on His timetable and plan. I am not going to be ruled by human agendas, even my own mother’s promptings. When it’s time to act, I will decide.”
Mary seemed to get the point as she says to the servants in John 2:5: “Do whatever He tells you.” She’s relinquishing her control. Take your commands from Jesus! He’s in charge. Interestingly, John makes notice in John 2:6 of the fact that there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification. These were set there for people to wash their hands not just for dirt on their hands, but it was a ritual of ceremonial cleansing used to wash their face, hands and feet before their services, upon entering a house and before meals.
Here is what I think is going on with this passage. There seems to be connecting thread from this event to the cleansing of the Temple in John 2:13-22 and the conversation with Nicodemus in John 3 and the woman at the well in John 4. The connecting theme seems to be what Paul said in 2 Cor. 5:17: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, behold, the new has come!”
Judaism by this point had turned into a dead religion. It was all about the forms and not the function. They had the rules, but no relationship with God. The religious leaders went around pointing fingers at those who were keeping the standards. It was empty. It was dead. Remember Miriam dancing and singing with her tambourine when they were crossing the Red Sea (Ex. 15:20)? Remember David also with such passion for the God of Israel…called a man after God’s own heart?! (1 Sam. 13:13-14). But now the tambourine is broken. The heart of the people was a dry barren land. Synagogues were dead with boring prayers and Bible reading. Temples were more about business than worship. Like in the Chronicles of Narnia, it was always winter and never summer…that is, until Aslan comes!
So here and throughout John 2-4, I see Jesus showing up and bringing newness. He overturns the tables at the Temple and says this is not what worship is about. Religion was now all about making a profit. He tells Nicodemus, a religious leader, that it is not about being born as a Jew, but being born again. In John 4, the woman at the well was caught up religion too as she talks about worshipping at a mountain (John 4:20). Jesus goes on to tell her it is not about where you worship, but how you worship (John 4:23-24).
So Jesus showing up at this wedding is kind of like Him making that announcement. The old is gone! The new has come! Aslan is here! Because being stuck in religion is a horrible thing. Getting up every day doing the routines, checking off boxes, over and over again!
The wine of religion always runs out. It is stale. It is sour. It is flat, like pop left out on the table for days. I was trapped in religion once for 17 years. I was so devout and went to church regularly. I pictured God as taking my file in Heaven and putting a check plus next to my name, every time I thought I performed well. I thought I was so holy. During Lent week, we used to have to sing and while singing, we would have to get on our knees and bow down and get back up. I remember patting myself on the back because I could get down faster than anyone else. One time I counted how many times I was kneeling. Crazy?! But that couldn’t bring joy into my heart. I wondered if it was ever possible to have joy in my family? It was a small hell to be part of with my dad’s alcoholism and endless arguments. The wine of religion left a sour taste in my mouth. It was a ” I don’t do this” and “I don’t do that” kind of lifestyle.
There a lot of people trapped in that today. There was once a hotline offered if you wanted to call and confess your sin. They had about 50,000 calls a day. Then they set up another hotline where you can listen to other people confess their sin. Can you believe they received 200,000 calls a day on that line? Do you know why? People don’t know what to do with guilt. Religious people are the worst. They are told to pray the Lord’s prayer 10 times or visit this city and face the wall and take 10 steps backwards and on and on or climb these steps of the church 50x. The question is always how much is good is good enough to pay for my sin?
How often do we measure our spiritual growth by our quiet times and not if we are growing to love God and people or not? How often do we point at people who are committing external sins and feel a little better about ourselves that we are not doing that? I like standing up in front during the church service because I have found myself looking at others worship and being critical of them usually. “Why aren’t you singing? Why don’t you sing louder? Why are you distracted? If you loved God, you wouldn’t do that!” But only to have the Spirit of God come to me and say, “If you loved God, you wouldn’t be looking at others right now, but worshipping me!”
See, that is the Enemy offering you the cup of the wine of religion to drink. It makes you feel good about yourself. The initial taste is great, but leaves a bitter aftertaste. Pretty soon you run out and you are dying of thirst.
But Jesus steps in on the scene! Aslan is here! Look secondly,
II. The wine of relationship always satisfies in abundance (John 2:7-11).
This must have been a lot of people at this wedding because to have six large stone water jars there meant 120-180 gallons of water for people to use. Those jars are a picture of Judaism. You see those jars you immediately think “purification ritual.” Think religion. Think dead and empty.
Jesus makes the servant fill up the jars. The jars are fuller than full. They do as He said. Notice in John 2:8, Jesus says, “Start serving the wine and give it first to the head waiter.” I wonder if the servants are wondering, “You mean give a glass of water to the head waiter?” The head waiter is the guy responsible to make sure all the guests and the seating were all taken care of and well supplied. He is probably also the master of ceremonies. We do not know when the water actually changed into wine. Was it right then or was it as the servants were walking toward the head waiter?
But in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, the water is transformed into wine at some point. One commentator writes, ““The combined capacity of the water pots was about 150 gallons. Reckoning a half-pint to a glass, these vessels would contain about 2,400 servings of wine—certainly enough to supply a large number of people for several days. In quality and quantity the new-made wine more than satisfied the needs and taste of those who attended the feast” (Tenney, EBC, p. 83).
The head waiter takes a sip. The wine is fresh. It is sharp and crisp. Wow! Boy, this is really good! He calls the bridegroom over in John 2:9 and says to him in John 2:10: “Most people serve the best wine first and then the poor wine, but you have kept the best for last!” I mean, this was not some Welch’s grape juice from Jewel. This was so amazing wine!
John tells us in John 2:11 that this was a “sign.” Actually John’s gospel consists of seven “signs.” A sign is something that points to something else. A sign has a deeper message than what you see. What is the message?
It seems to be partly about Jesus meeting our needs. Did you ever notice Jesus never performed any miracles for the sake of performing them? Or just for sensation sake? A blind man needs to see. A paralytic needs to walk. Hungry people needed to be fed. A poor couple needs wine for a wedding. Jesus never wasted His power and always used it to give somebody something that they needed. He is interested in our needs!
But there is something deeper here. The kingdom is here! Stanley Toussaint in his journal article connects this thought when he says,
“There are a number of factors that show this is the point of the miracle: (1) the kingdom is often portrayed in terms of a banquet, especially a wedding feast (Matt 8:11; 22:1–14; Luke 13:29; 14:15–24; Rev 19:7–9). The presence of the Lord at these marriage festivities at Cana graphically pictures the coming of the kingdom. (2) A number of references in the Old Testament picture the kingdom age in terms of wine. For instance, Isaiah 25:6 joins the figures of a banquet and wine together to illustrate the joys of the future kingdom age. In Isaiah 27:2–6 the prophet describes Israel as God’s vineyard in the millennium. An abundance of wine was a description often used in the Old Testament of the time when Abraham’s promises would be fulfilled (Gen 49:11–12; Jer 31:12; Hos 2:22;14:7; Joel 2:19, 24; 3:18; Amos 9:13–14; Zech 9:15–17; 10:7).”
Jesus took 180 gallons of religion, of guilt, laws, laws and more laws, and transformed it to 180 gallons of grace. 180 gallons of forgiveness! Go back and read John 1:16-17: “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” The comparison between Moses and Jesus is key to our text. Remember the first miracle of Moses? He turned water into blood; a sign of judgment (Ex. 7:17). Moses is the one who gave us the law. What is the first miracle of Jesus? Jesus took something used for external purification and turned it into internal pleasure. He brought fullness where there was emptiness. He brought joy where there was disappointment. He brought celebration where there was embarrassment and shame. That is the wine of relationship!
Think about the miracle for a second. Jesus created wine without any grapes, or vines or earth or seasons to bring rain on the earth or sunlight to help it grow. He thought it and it came to be. He spoke and it is done! (Ps. 33:9). This is why John says, “He manifested His glory” in John 2:11. He is still working His creative genius today! He turned my hell into heaven. He turned my pain into peace. He turned my disappointments into joy. He turned my prison to praise! My pain into peace! My tragedy into triumph! My cross to a crown! My rags into riches! The ordinary into extraordinary! He made the simple things divine.
Wine and joy are associated together (Judg. 9:13; Ps. 104:15). The rabbi’s would say that “without wine there is no joy.” Jesus would comes to us today and tell us that the wine of Heaven is so different from the wine of the world. The world offers you the best at first and once you are hooked and after the initial exhilaration, you are left in the morning with a headache and heartache and the gnawing emptiness returns. Some of us are drinking the joys of this world and thinking it is the real deal. It is empty, folks.
Do you know what I want for myself and EFC more than anything? I want us to taste this new wine in Christ. I want to know what it means to “gaze into His beauty” as David said (Ps. 27:4). I don’t want to sit in the sidelines and watch a show. I want to get on stage and grab a hold of Christ for my life. I do not want to be content with biblical knowledge and go week after week of sitting in a service, singing some songs, hearing a message and go home. I want new wine. I want Him to come and reveal His glory in our church. I want our lives to be transformed! I want Him to take us and shake us. I am tired of religion. I need Him. I want Him.
DL Moody, the famous evangelist, walking once in the streets of New York City, when he was overwhelmed with the Lord’s presence. God was calling Him to seek His face and pray. So he knew of a friend nearby and went there, knocking urgently at his door. He told his friend that he needed a private room immediately. His friend escorted him to a room and Moody there spent hours in the presence of God just praising, thanking God and praying. He said it was like he was being carried by the river of God. He said sometimes he felt so overwhelmed by it that he prayed to God to stop it or he would literally die!
I’m not talking about pure emotionalism or sentimentality. I am talking about knowing what it means to love Christ with all of my heart and soul. And I want others to taste this wine. We need to give it to others. The disciples believed in Him the text says. How come the servants didn’t? They had front row seats to the whole thing! I pray I am not like a servant here. I pray I don’t go another day without responding to the mighty works Jesus does in my life! I want His abundance.
One last thought here. Do you know why He can offer us this new wine? Turn to Luke 22:39-42. See, there is the cup we were supposed to drink: the wine of God’s wrath. God filled it the brim and Jesus drank it all…until the last drop! He transformed that wrath into forgiveness and grace and offers it to us! Praise God. May we encounter this Satisfier of our Souls again today in a fresh and reviving way.
Jon Mutchler, Ferndale, Washington; source: Ian Sample, “Spray-on Mud: the Ultimate Accessory for City 4×4 Drivers,” www.guardian.co.uk (6-14-05)
MacArthur, J. (2006). The MacArthur New Testament Commentary : John 1-11 (78). Chicago: Moody Press.
Lucado, M. (1995). A Gentle Thunder : Hearing God through the Storm (119). Dallas, TX: Word Pub.
 Dallas Theological Seminary. (1977; 2002). Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 134 (134:45-51). Dallas Theological Seminary.
Emmaus Bible College. (2001; 2002). Emmaus Journal Volume 10. Emmaus Bible College.
Jesus is currently abstinent: Luke 22:18.
The Gospel of John: Volume 1. 2000, c1975 (W. Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow, Ed.). The Daily Study Bible series, Rev. ed. (97). Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.
 Emmaus Bible College. (2001; 2002). Emmaus Journal Volume 10. Emmaus Bible College.
Gangel, K. O. (2000). Vol. 4: John. Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference (30). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Dallas Theological Seminary. (1977; 2002). Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 134 (134:50). Dallas Theological Seminary.
The Gospel according to St. John. Edited by Arthur Westcott. (B. F. Westcott & A. Westcott, Ed.) (36).London: J. Murray.