A Sign to Believe

Based on:  John 2:1-11

Last Monday when I came into the office I had an e-mail from someone asking me to perform their wedding. I also had a message on the answering machine from someone else asking about a different wedding, and then during the day I had a call from a third person asking about yet another wedding.  I thought, "is God trying to tell me something?" Is he giving me a sign that I should preach on the only verses recorded in scripture where our Lord is an invited guest at a wedding, the wedding at Cana?

And here I am, preaching on those very verses from John Chapter 2. But, I have to admit, I had already made the decision to use these verses for my sermon today, even before those people contacted me.  The interesting thing is that these verses are not primarily about a wedding.  Certainly, Jesus gives his blessing upon marriage and even on the wedding celebration by attending this wedding at Cana, but the main reason John records what Jesus does here is that Jesus, by turning water into wine, is giving a sign, a miraculous sign. 

We will talk more about what the sign means and the signs that God gives us in a moment, but first let’s examine the circumstances in which Jesus performs this miracle of turning water into wine. Only a few days after Jesus started gathering his disciples, he was attending this wedding celebration.  In the culture of that time and place, a wedding celebration could last a week or more.  At some point during the celebration the wine began to run out.  This was a major faux pas, an embarrassment to the family.  Just imagine how people would talk today if there was a wedding where the tuxedos hadn’t been ordered.  The bride and all of the bridesmaids look beautiful, but the groom and his groomsmen are all wearing blue jeans and T-shirts.  If you were that wedding couple, wouldn’t you want to hide.

In this Biblical wedding setting, Mary must of had some connection to the family because she is concerned about this wedding couple and she mentions to Jesus that they have no more wine.  Jesus’ response may startle us at first, because it sounds little harsh.  But consider that as he addresses his mother as “dear woman,” those words do not carry with them the same apparent disrespect in that culture and in that language than they seem to have for us in English.  And when Jesus says, "Why do you involve me?" he is reminding his mother of his purpose.  Perhaps his mother is thinking only about the reputation of the wedding couple.  Jesus has to remind her of his purpose. “I am not here simply to help this couple avoid embarrassment,” Jesus is saying, “my purpose is to show these disciples who I am and draw them closer to me.”

Jesus, in his own time and in his own way, does save the bride and groom from embarrassment by turning 120 to 180 gallons of water into wine. But, more importantly, Jesus is accomplishing his heavenly Father’s business by providing his disciples with a sign.

What is a sign?  That’s what the apostle John calls this miracle, but what does that mean?  Well, what does a sign do?  Doesn’t it call your attention to something?  For example, I was told that during the bad weather we had recently that the lights were flashing on the signs on highway 14 on your way out of town.  Why?  They were drawing attention to the fact that the weather was bad and you shouldn’t be driving on highway 14!

What about this miraculous sign of Jesus?  To what does it point?  It draws the attention of the disciples to Jesus and points to the fact that God is at work here.  With this sign Jesus reveals his glory as the Son of God, and the trust the disciples have in him grows.  The miracle is like a big arrow pointing at Jesus with the words on it, “Listen to this guy, he knows what he is talking about!”

In this miracle the disciples see the power Jesus has over created things.  They also see his control over events.  As John makes clear, Jesus made this miracle to be the first of his miraculous signs.  In other words, Jesus alone was in control of when and where he performed miracles. 

This miracle and all of Christ’s other miracles were not only signs for his disciples but are signs for us as well.  They point us to Jesus’ power and his control.  When you hear about the miracles of Jesus you know that he is different than you and me.  He is the almighty God.  He has power to do amazing things.  We are weak and imperfect creatures who are not even able to stop ourselves from sinning.  To be in the presence of God’s perfect power should terrify us.  After the miraculous catch of fish Peter even said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”

But the miracles of Jesus are also a sign pointing us to his love for sinners.  Look at how he helps a wedding couple with their celebration.  Look how he heals and restores the sick and even raises the dead.  Look at his greatest miracle.  He has taken away your sin by his death and has given you eternal life by his resurrection.

Let’s digress for a moment and ask, “What about other signs?”  Do you wonder if God still gives you signs? Do you perhaps look for a sign from God that you should marry this person or that?  Or a sign to make a certain investment or take a certain job?

These are all things that God leaves up to us and our sanctified judgment.  If we want to look for signs, let’s take a look at the biblical examples.  If we look at this miraculous sign at Cana and the other miracles Jesus performs, to what do these signs point?  Don’t they all draw our attention to Jesus and identify him as God and as our Savior?  Look for signs that do the same thing and follow them.

When my family moved to New Ulm so that I could study to be a pastor, things didn’t work out financially the way we planned, but God made sure they worked out.  That wasn’t a sign that I should or shouldn’t study for the ministry, but it was a big, flashing, neon sign pointing to God’s promise to take care of me as one of his children because of Christ.

The earthquake in Haiti is not a sign that the Haitians shouldn’t have made a pact with the devil.  It is a reminder to all the world that our time of grace on this earth could end in a moment.  It is a sign for us Christians pointing us back to Jesus who assures us that he has removed our sin and that because he lives we too shall live.

The same with an illness, financial trouble, relationship issues – God tells us he uses these things to bless us by drawing us closer to himself.  When he gives you these “signs” then turn to God’s promises in his Word and receive comfort.  Go to that Word and learn more about Jesus, in whom all of God’s promises are kept.

Most of all look for and cherish the two miraculous signs that God performs among us on a regular basis: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  These two miraculous signs point to God’s love for us.  In these sacraments God connects us with Jesus and gives us the forgiveness Jesus paid for with his blood.  Every time we use them God performs a miracle among us.  He forgives sin and draws us closer to himself.

If you are going to look for a sign from God look for the ones that point you to Jesus, his Word, and the forgiveness he gives.  That is what this miraculous sign at the wedding of Cana is all about.  You can be sure those signs are from God.

Remember those three requests I had early in the week about weddings?  Were those a sign?  I really don’t think so.  The decision to preach on these verses had already been made.  If you want to talk about a sign from God in connection with my preaching, let’s talk about the call you extended to me to come here and be your pastor.  That is a sign from God that he wants me to share the Gospel with you and, just like the miracle at Cana, point you to Christ, your Savior!

Amen.

 

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