Jesus' First Miracle
Topic: Biblical Verse: John 2:1–2:12
The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Vacation Bible School Week 1: “God’s Wonder Lab”
“Jesus’ First Miracle”
Reflecting on today’s Gospel lesson, I couldn’t help but think that later this month, my wife and I will be traveling to Iowa for my niece’s wedding. This is my brother’s oldest daughter, and when I talked to him recently to see how the father of the bride is holding up, he said, “I just do what I’m told to do.” Smart man! He shared that the dinner menu was being finalized and a thousand other details that he’s really not involved with, just as long as he brings his credit card or checkbook to foot the bill. We’ve all been to weddings, whether family members, friends, or neighbors, and the headcount of how many people are expected to attend is always kind of a moving target. Caterers and event planners usually work in a margin of error to plan for no-shows as well as people who do show up but didn’t RSVP. To run out of food or drink at a wedding banquet would be a huge embarrassment not just to the father of the bride, but to the bridal couple themselves. And that’s exactly what has happened in today’s Gospel lesson. Jesus is at a wedding in a village called Cana in Galilee. He’s there with his disciples as well as his mother, Mary. We don’t know who the bride and groom are in this account; they are not named. Perhaps they were friends, or neighbors, or even relatives. We are not told, but what we are told is that there was a big problem. They had run out of wine at the wedding reception. Then as now, this would have reflected very badly on the bridal couple and their families, but this becomes the opportunity for Jesus to reveal his glory. Jesus does the impossible as he transforms water into wine. This becomes the theme for preaching on this first Sunday of our Summer Vacation Bible School series under the theme, “Jesus’ First Miracle.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus doesn’t perform miracles. These are called “signs” (σημείον), and the term is used intentionally by John to help us understand that all of these wonders done by Jesus, beginning with changing water into wine at the wedding in Cana, were not just for a “wow” effect to dazzle and amaze people. These signs were to point people to the greater reality, the saving truth, that Jesus is the promised Messiah, and lead them to faith and trust in him. The truth is that sometimes in life, we find ourselves lacking what we need. It might not be running out of wine at a wedding, but there are lots of other areas in life where we wonder how our needs will be supplied. We lay awake at night trying to figure out what to do. We may feel fear or shame, frustration or anger at our circumstances because we don’t know how to make things work. We don’t know where to turn. The good news is that Jesus cares for us, even when we are fearful, frustrated or angry. Jesus meets us where we are. He comes to help in time of need, just as he did with the situation at the wedding at Cana. The truth is that Jesus is more than able to help us and to meet our needs. And not just meet our needs, giving the bare minimum, but exceed all expectations. This is what Jesus did with the wedding at Cana by providing a super abundance of the very best wine. In his grace, Jesus blesses us with far more than we expect or deserve. He points us to himself as the Son of God, the promised Messiah, our Savior.
Jesus transformed the water in those six stone jars that were reserved for ritual purification purposes (see Mark 7:1-4), each holding between 20-30 gallons. Think of it: that is somewhere between 120-180 gallons of wine! Prior to this, we are told that the jars were empty, and that Jesus then commanded the jars to be filled with water (John 2:6-7). And so it is in our own lives: we often find ourselves empty and depleted; needing to be filled. We are often content with just the basics; with just enough to get by; with only a little. But Jesus desires to give us so much more! He desires to fill us up to the brim, like those water jars, so that truly “my cup runneth over” (Psalm 23:5). And not just with ordinary water, but with the rich wine of his saving love that far exceeds all that we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21). In changing water into wine, Jesus fulfilled what was spoken by the prophets of the coming Messiah: that there would be more than enough wine and fine foods (See Hosea 2:19-20; Isaiah 25:6-8; Jeremiah 2:2; Song of Songs). The central image of the kingdom of God in Scripture, spoken by the prophets and used repeatedly by Jesus in his preaching and teaching, is that of a rich banquet (Matthew 22:1-14; Luke 14:16-24). In doing what he did at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, Jesus proclaimed that this promised kingdom was now present, fulfilled in Jesus himself. The sign of the water-become-wine reveals Jesus’ glory, which leads to faith: “And his disciples believed in him” (John 2:11). That remains the goal today: that Jesus’ gracious work in our lives to supply our needs will reveal his glory, leading to our faith and trust in him.
Sometimes people get concerned that Jesus seems to be disrespecting his mother when he says to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4). Actually, Jesus uses this same address for his mother when he is hanging on the cross, as he tenderly commends her into the care of his beloved disciple, John: “Woman, behold your son” (John 19:26). Jesus’ hour was not at the wedding at Cana in Galilee, even though he revealed his glory by changing water into wine. Again and again throughout John’s Gospel, Jesus refers to his “hour” that was coming when he would be ultimately glorified (John 2:4; 4:21, 23; 5:25, 28; 7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1; 17:1; 19:27). That would be upon the throne of the cross, where Jesus’ glory would be revealed in his suffering and death. The first miracle of transforming water into wine would give way to the ultimate miracle, the greater glory and eternal good, of the shedding of his blood as payment for all our sins (John 19:1ff.).
We get a foretaste of the richness of Jesus’ eternal glory and his kingdom here in the Lord’s Supper today. The same Jesus who changed water into wine comes to us under earthly forms of bread and wine to give us his very Body and Blood in this blessed Sacrament. Jesus comes to meet us in all our need; to assure us of the forgiveness of all our sins; and to strengthen us in our journey of faith. We can only say with the psalmist: “You are the God who works wonders!” (Psalm 77:14). Thanks be to God. Amen.
Join us next Sunday for our second Summer Vacation Bible School Sunday as we learn about Jesus who walks on water (Matthew 14:22-33).