Friday, January 22, 2010

“A Mother’s Faith”—John 2:1-11

In every marriage ceremony, there is always at least one mistake. A young couple, very much in love, were getting married. The wife to be, was very nervous about the big occasion and so the pastor chose one verse that he felt would be a great encouragement to them. The verse was 1 Jn 4:18 which says: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”

Rather unwisely, the pastor asked the best man to read it out and to say that the pastor had felt that this was a very apt verse for the Bride and that he would be preaching on it later in the service. The best man was not a regular churchgoer. And so he did not know the difference between the Gospel of John and the first letter of John. As instructed, he introduced his reading by saying that the pastor felt this was a very apt verse for the Bride. Instead of reading 1 Jn. 4:18, he read John 4:18, which says, “You have five husbands and the one that you now have is not your husband.”

There is no such thing as a perfect wedding. There are always going to be problems – some of them small and some of them large.

This morning, we come to look at a wedding that had a big problem. They were quickly running out of wine for all the guests that they had invited to the party. And once they ran out of wine, the celebration would be over. The joy would be gone. They were running on empty.

Among you here, I would imagine that there are some of you who are running on empty. You thought that you had enough to carry you through, but your reserves have just about been depleted. Your joy is just about gone. It’s going to take a miracle in order to renew the supply of joy in your life. This morning, Jesus wants to work a miracle in your life. He wants to fill you with new wine – He wants to restore your joy so that you will have more than enough joy to make it the rest of the way.

Let’s take a look at the miracle that Jesus did at a wedding in Cana. As we do, you will discover 4 things that must happen in our lives before Jesus can fill our lives with overflowing joy.

1. Admit that there is a problem. (vs. 1-3a)
Weddings in Israel at that time were long celebrations usually lasting a week. Instead of getting married and going off by themselves, they were surrounded by their friends and family for the first week of their married life.

How would you like to have your mother-in-law watching your every move after having just gotten married? During that week, they had a huge celebration. It was a week-long feast. The parents of the groom were responsible for providing all the food and drink that would be needed for the celebration.

Though we don’t know the names of the bride and groom at this particular wedding, we are familiar with some of the people that were present there. Mary, Jesus’ mother was there, and it is very possible that she was the hostess for the event. Jesus and His first disciples, having been invited to the celebration, arrived on the 3rd day – almost at the halfway point of the feast.

From a human perspective, it would look like Jesus had bad timing. For He arrived just as the supplies for the feasting were about to run out. Friends, Jesus always arrives just as the supplies for the feast are about to run out. That’s when people recognize that they have a need for Him. In this case, the particular supply that was running short was the wine. To the Jewish people, wine symbolized joy. A joyous celebration without wine was not a possibility.

When the wine runs out, the party stops. You may have seen the TV ads where the celebration ends when a particular item is missing. In one ad the dancing stops when they run out of “Pringles”. In another, the necessary ingredient for joy is cheese. In still another, all hope is lost when the frosted mini-chex run out. Every society has its own idea of what symbolizes joy. I don’t know what it says about our society to think that our joy is symbolized by potato chips, cheese and cereal. For them, wine symbolized joy, and they were running out.

I can imagine that that bride, if she even knew about the shortage, might have been getting pretty anxious. I can hear her saying to her mother, “My wedding day is not supposed to be like this! I’m supposed to be filled with joy. But instead, I’m worrying about what everyone is going to say about us when they discover that we have run out of wine.”

Maybe you have had similar thoughts. Marriage is not supposed to be the horror that you are experiencing. Parenting isn’t supposed to be filled with so much sorrow. Christianity is not supposed to be like this. I’m supposed to be overflowing with joy – or so I’ve heard – but nothing seems to be happening. My joy is gone.

For some of you, your joy is running low. You thought that you had enough to make it through whatever period of your life you’re going through, but you were wrong. You are running on empty. And the first step to seeing that joy restored was to admit his problem to God.

As I said earlier, Mary may very well have been the one responsible for planning and coordinating the feast. It would have been embarrassing for her to admit that she had messed up and not planned on enough wine. Embarrassing or not, she was willing to admit that there was a need.

That’s what we have to do too. We have to admit that there is a need – that we are running dry in our joy. When you come to church on Sunday morning, I know that you feel like everyone is expecting you to have a smile on your face and act like the world is a friendly place, and that all is okay in your life. When someone asks how you are doing, the expected response is “Fine”. But that may not be the case. And you’ve got to be willing to admit that to God. Once you admit that there is a problem, then you can do something about it.

2. Bring the problem to Jesus. (vs. 3b-4)
When Mary realized that there was a problem, she correctly took the problem to Jesus. “The fact that Mary came to Jesus indicates she believed He could resolve the problem.” This family may not have exhibited a great deal of wisdom in how they planned for the wedding celebration, but the wisest thing that they could have ever done was to invite Jesus. The very presence of Jesus at this wedding opened the possibility to a miracle.

In case you weren’t aware of it, Jesus is present with us in this place today. The very fact that Jesus is here means that there is enough to resolve whatever problem you may be facing today. And there is a big enough supply of joy to keep you going even through the middle of the problem.

When Mary came to Jesus and communicated the problem to Him, His response toward her seems a little cold and hard to us. And there are times when we bring our requests to God for what we think would bring joy into our lives that God’s response seems cold and hard. It seems like the windows of heaven have closed. But the response that Jesus gave to Mary was to let her know that she was no longer in control. That he was under obligation to fully obey His heavenly Father not His earthly mother.

When it comes to asking God to do certain things in our lives, God is under no obligation to do things our way or in our time. He does it in His time and in His way.

3. Do whatever Jesus tells you to do to fix the problem. (vs. 5-10)

Inviting Jesus to the party made it possible for the supply of joy to be renewed and refreshed. But the simple fact that Jesus was there did not bring the joy. Some of you and many other Christians believe that all it takes to have joy is to become a Christian. “I’m here, Jesus, in your presence. Now, give me joy!” Just being in Jesus’ presence will not give you joy. In order to experience joy He has to be Lord and Master of your life. You have to listen for what He tells you, and then, you must obediently do it. The servants had to be willing to be obedient. Obedience made the possibility of joy a reality.

To those servants on that day, Mary said, “Do whatever He tells you to do.” At that moment, Jesus ceased to be a guest and became the one who was in control of the whole wedding celebration. And at that moment, a miracle began to happen. People are perfectly willing to have Jesus as a guest in their lives. But they are not willing to turn over control and “do whatever He tells” them, and so they never have their lives changed by a miracle.

The servants heard Jesus speak, and they responded in obedience. They began the process of filling the stone jars with water. Each of these jars held between 20 and 30 gallons of water, and there were 6 jars. That’s 180 gallons of water. It would have taken a lot of time and energy to accomplish this task. Trip after trip to the well to draw water and pour it into the jars. And we don’t know how far it was to the well.

It would have been tempting to do a half-hearted and half-completed job. After all, Jesus only said to “fill” the jars with water. He didn’t say how far to fill them. And “fill” is a word that can be interpreted in many ways depending on how hot it is and how late in the workday it is.

Anything over half way is full, isn’t it? That’s what potato chip companies seem to think. But these men didn’t think so. When Jesus told them to fill the jars, they took Jesus’ words quite literally, and they filled them all the way to the brim, just shy of overflowing.

I would say that most everyone here would admit to wanting joy. And in order to receive that joy you might even be willing to be obedient to God – to a certain extent. But are you willing for your obedience to reach all the way to the brim even when the obedience that Jesus asks for doesn’t make sense to you? Or when it requires more work than you had originally intended on giving?

Or when it forces you to rearrange your priorities and your schedule like these servants had to do? You see, the amount of joy that you experience is in direct proportion to the amount of obedience that you give. The greater your obedience, the greater your supply of joy will be. When Jesus tells you to do something, never do it halfway because Jesus wants to give you joy to the full.

Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. You are here present at the 10:15 worship service. That’s great. I commend you for that. That is obedience, but it is not obedience to the brim. Prior to this hour, we had an half hour of Sunday school. Thursday morning we meet together at the parsonage. On Friday nights, we have Youth and Adult Group Bible studies. You see being a part of those things can get you closer to the brim, but you’re still not there. In order to get to the brim, you need to spend time every day meditating on God’s Word and spending serious time in communication with God. Each of these will get you closer to the brim. I don’t know where the brim is for you, but I know that in order to get there, you have to do whatever He tells you to do. It will require work. It will not be easy. I guess the question that you have to ask yourself is how badly you want the joy that God has to offer.

A miracle happened on that day. Jesus brought joy to a situation where there was great apprehension and impending embarrassment. The miracle couldn’t have happened without the request of Mary as she admitted the problem. It couldn’t have happened without the presence of Jesus for them to bring the problem to Him. And it couldn’t have happened without the willingness of the servants to work hard to do whatever Jesus commanded them to do. But the miracle didn’t happen because of any of these things. The miracle happened because they all were willing to totally submit themselves to the authority of Jesus over their lives. And that brings us to the last that you must take in order to have overflowing joy.

4. Commit yourself to Jesus, the Problem-solver. (vs. 11)

Mary’s initial request was fulfilled – not in her timing or in her way – but the result was far more than quenching thirst or saving from embarrassment. The result was faith.

The Bible records that Jesus’ disciples that were present there at the wedding put their faith in Him as a result of what they saw.

Two miracles happened on that day. The first was the changing of water into wine so that a celebration could continue for the rest of the week. But the second was much more significant. In the second miracle, the hearts of Jesus’ disciples were changed from condemned sinners to forgiven children of God so that a celebration could continue for the rest of eternity. You tell me. Which was the greater miracle?.

Jesus wants to do a work in your life that doesn’t just provide joy for today but is a continual spring of joy flowing up inside of you every day until the day that you stand in His presence. That miracle in you requires that you commit your life into His hands.

There is no such thing as a perfect wedding. There is no such thing as a perfect life. How are you going to respond when things don’t go the way that they are “supposed to”, and they threaten to steal your joy? Are you going to obey God’s command to rejoice in the Lord always, or are you going to wallow in self-pity?
Do you want God’s kind of joy today? Then you’ve got to…
1. Admit that you don’t have it right now
2. Bring your need to Jesus
3. Do whatever He tells you to do
4. Commit yourself completely to Him…Amen

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