The miracle we looked at yesterday reflects the theme of John 1-3. The old has gone, and the new is coming.
But first, let’s get back to why the issue these people faced was bigger than simply a lack of booze at a party.
Their issue relates to the esteem in which weddings were held in first century Jewish village culture.
Weddings were a very big deal. They were the cultural highlight of a village. They were massively important celebrations. Aside from religious festivals, weddings were the main time for the village to come together and celebrate. Going to a wedding was the best thing you could do prior to Netflix.
This is part of the reason Jesus uses banquet and wedding feast imagery when describing heaven. It was symbolic of the best times of people’s lives.
And these banquets would often last seven days. Everyone in the village was invited, unless you were a total social outcast. The Jews would not have handled 20-person wedding celebrations in a Covid lockdown. These weddings were planned for months. All eyes were on the two families and the host of the wedding. It was a massive opportunity for honour for the family. Or shame, if things didn’t turn out right.
In fact one interesting thing I discovered when researching this was that you could actually be taken to a local court if you failed to give a good gift at a wedding. So no more $20 in an envelope in the wishing well… If you gave a sub-standard gift it brought enormous shame on the couple and you could be held legally culpable for your actions in that. Serious business, these weddings.
And so if you as a host botched it, then you were in for massive social shaming. You would be the guy everyone talked about for years after. The one who didn’t love his son enough to get plenty of wine. The shame would be great.
And this host in Cana committed the cardinal wedding sin. He ran out of grog. And shame was about to come on him that he would never be able to live down, unless someone stood in to rescue him. Because this was the first century. There were no late night bottl’os.
You couldn’t just whip up wine, and not in large quantities, without a lot of notice. This is why weddings were so well planned – even today you can’t just grab a wedding cake and dress off the shelf the night before. Not without embarrassment.
But Jesus – the Word who was there in the beginning; the Word who created all things; the Word who covered the shame of Adam and Eve with animal skins; this Word Jesus, despite his time not yet being ready, he decides to show us a sign of what he has come to do about not just social shame like stuffing up a wedding, but all shame that comes from sinful humanity.
Let’s pick it up at verse 6:
Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons [around 75-115 litres].
These are not the type of vessels you normally made wine in. He takes the ceremonial washing jars – as in, the jars that dispensed the water used for washing away the sins under the Old Covenant. The water that constantly reminded you of your shame and your need for purifying. And I guess it was a big party and there was lots of sin happening, because they needed 6 jars, which were presumably now empty. That’s a lot of water – over 600 litres used for washing of the hands.
Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.
So Jesus fills the ceremonial water jars – jars used to hold water that tried to wash away sin. And they fill them to the brim. It’s almost over-flowing. But the water doesn’t stay water. It turns into wine. And not just any wine; the best wine – wine that stuns the master of ceremonies. And there’s more than enough to go around. A sign for John’s readers of what Jesus came to do. That the old ways of purifying were over, and a new way had come.
And it’s no surprise that later on Jesus used wine as a symbol. Not a symbol of water cleansing – that belonged with John the Baptist and his water baptism. But a symbol of blood. Blood that was spilled as a sacrifice, once and for all, for the forgiveness of sins – this is my blood which was shed for you. This blood takes away the sin and shame that goes with it.
Adam and Eve had a simple choice – to take and eat – and when they took and ate, the fruit that was outside their body came in and corrupted, symbolically, their soul. They were not created with sin, they chose to put sin in them, in a simple act of taking and eating.
And now here is Jesus, and he leaves us with a similar choice. In order to receive this removal of the shame that is inside us, we simply need to take something from outside us – Jesus’ blood, shed on the cross, and put it inside us. And we symbolise this spiritual reality whenever we take communion – do this whenever you drink it as a sign of the covenant in Jesus blood. We simply take and eat – we simply ask Jesus into our hearts to purify us.
Then – and only then – do we see our shame melt away. Because Jesus blood was more powerful in cleansing sin than anything else – no ceremonial washing water can get rid of sin. No religious activities, whether they are Christian or otherwise can take away shame. No making amends, no acts of charity, no trying to justify it in your mind – nothing else works other than the blood of Jesus Christ shed for us. Only Jesus – a perfect man, can take the punishment of an imperfect humanity. And only a man who is God – the Word that became Flesh – can satisfy the justice of a Holy God. The blood of Jesus flowed for all who want it.
And it’s offered freely, and you can drink deep. And it takes away our shame.
I don’t know what you’ve done in your life.
Some of you may be masking very real sins.
Some may have things they’d rather not dwell on or bring up from their past. Dark and dirty secrets.
But if you are someone who loves Jesus, who trusts in Jesus, then these sins do not define you anymore.
They’ve been paid by the blood of Jesus. They will never be brought up again by God. They don’t hold any power of you. If you are still dealing with the sin, then bring it to the light and stand unashamed and naked before God – because it is paid for and covered. There is no shame left.
No matter what you’ve done. No matter who you’ve been. When you come to the cross of Jesus, his blood washes you white as snow. And you can be pure and holy and blameless.
And that identity didn’t come cheap. It’s not something to be mocked by revelling in sin.
A true Christian will not sin easily – it won’t sit easily with you to remain in sin.
But know that when you do stuff up, no matter how bad, your nakedness and shame has been covered by Jesus’ blood.
The God who covered a naked and frightened Adam and Eve with skins. The God who helped a broken Israel find purity through washing and sacrifices.
The God who sat at a wedding and made wine to cover the shame of an embarrassed banquet master.
And the God who covers your sin and mine with his own spilled blood so that we can be free from guilt and shame.
If you haven’t already, would you accept the blood of Jesus, shed for your sins?
And if you have already accepted that, would you let all the guilt and shame that you may be harbouring go?
It’s been paid for in full.
Amen. And thanks Michael for guest-blogging for us these last three days.
- If you want to know more about Christianity, head to www.alpha.org.au and participate in an online course which takes you through the basics of faith.