We are going to be looking at an often-overlooked side of Jesus; but before we do that, I want to tie up some loose ends by way of some side notes.
I don’t want you to miss, in this text and in subsequent texts, the omission of reference to a significant person. His name is Joseph, and he was the supposed father of Jesus. I would suggest that Joseph is not mentioned here because in the life of Jesus, Joseph had died. I would also suggest that the death of Joseph gives us a significant insight into at least one of the reasons Jesus was 30 years old before He started His public ministry. As the oldest son, he had important responsibilities at home, as head of the household. And He fulfilled these responsibilities until his brothers were able to assume them.
If our time is lacking in one important trait, it is the acceptance and the faithful discharge of responsibility.
Husbands and wives are buying the superficial and stupid philosophy of our age which says, “Do your own thing.” “Get it while you can.” “Look out for number one.” “Do whatever turns you on.” Husbands and wives have simply forgotten the awesome responsibility that comes with marriage, and with children.
If Christians are to make a witness in our times, one of the very best places I know to make that witness is in the faithful fulfillment of the responsibility we have, wherever it is given… in our jobs, in our homes, in our relationship. When I have contracted to do a job, by God’s grace I am going to “hang in” until it is done. When I have made vows of marriage, I am going to hang in “until death us do part.” When I make a commitment and take upon myself a responsibility in a relationship, I am going to fulfill it, by God’s grace, because that’s what it means to be obedient. Responsibility!
When the trained nurses came to Florence Nightingale she said, “Young women, the strongest will be wanted at the washtub.”
The Chinese emperor who first built the dikes in China, said this: “I feel personally responsible for every man who drowns in China.”
When Sir Wilfred Grenfell was fulfilling his mission in Labrador, some friends in England gave him a motor boat as a gift. Sir Wilfred accepted it gratefully and used it the very first day he received it. A woman on one of the islands had become terribly sick and had called for this tremendous man of God. He answered the call immediately and put his new boat out in a very, very stormy sea. After a few hours he was lost. The woman died and he lost his life. They investigated later, and found that the ship was put together back in Liverpool, England, and that some turkey had substituted a steel screw for a brass screw when they were anchoring the compass. Responsibility! It was easier to reach the steel screws than it was the brass.
We can take that illustration and apply it in a thousand places in our lives: in the places where you serve; the places where you play; in the choir; in the Sunday School; as an elder; as a deacon of the church. We have been given a responsibility and by God’s grace and in obedience to Him, we must be responsible.
Side note number two: I want you to pay particular attention to the way that even those who love us the most can, because of that love, make some serious mistakes. Look at the third and fourth verses of that second chapter:
“When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.'”
Now when we see what Mary said to Jesus, and His response, we are able to see what was implied in Mary’s statement. What Mary said to Jesus was, “They don’t have any wine,” and Jesus’ reply to her was, “What does that have to do with me? My hour has not come.” What Mary was really saying (and Jesus knew it) was, “Son, they don’t have any wine. This is your chance. I mean, this is it! You can stand up and say, ‘I am the Messiah. I am the anointed one of God, the King of Kings. I have been sent to save you.'” She said, “This is it! This is the time!” But Jesus didn’t do as she said. He changed the water into wine, but He didn’t go to the length His mother expected Him to go.
The neighborhood in which I grew up was the kind where everybody was close and if you did something wrong, everybody knew about it and everybody was on you like ugly on an ape. We had this one woman in the neighborhood whose name was Mary Sue Kricken. One time her daughter made straight A’s on her report card and I made straight F’s. But I made up for it, because I won a debating contest at the high school. Mary Sue said to my mother, “We always knew our kids were great, didn’t we; and now the world is beginning to find out.” Now she was wrong. But Mary, the mother of Jesus, was right. You see Mary knew because the angel had come and told her. She knew there was no earthly father for Jesus. She knew all of these things, and like any mother in the world, she said, “Now is the time, my son. This is it! Come on!” And Jesus said, “No, my hour has not yet come.”
Be careful about listening too closely to the people who love you. Some times love is blind. In
Notice Mary was saying exactly the same thing that Satan said in Matthew 4, in the temptation of Jesus. Remember? Satan said to get up on the pinnacle of the temple and cast Himself (Jesus) down, and the whole world would follow Him. Mary was saying exactly the same thing. Only she was saying it out of love and the devil was saying it out of hatred. But they were the same words.
I am glad my wife thinks I am wonderful. But I must be careful, because my wife loves me.
I remember when I was in high school, I was challenged to a fight. My friends said, “You can take him, Steve. You’re a great fighter. He doesn’t have a chance.” I believed them and got creamed. That’s what happens in life. If you have lots of people who love you and care for you, thank God for that. That is beautiful and it is His precious gift. Very few people have that. If you have it, though, learn to cling very closely to Christ, because He mingles wisdom and love together.
Side note number three: I want you to note the principle of God’s timing.
“(Jesus said) ‘O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.'”
Now that sounds harsh in the English, but in the Greek it isn’t. You remember in the
When Augustus was talking about Cleopatra, the Queen of Egypt, whom he loved and respected, he called her “woman.” It was not a bad title but was the way someone could address another with respect.
“What has this to do with me” was a colloquialism. What He was saying in a very free way was, “Mother, I love you; but you don’t exactly understand what is going on here. Now I want you to leave it up to me and I am going to do it right.”
But the thing I want you to particularly notice is that He says, “My hour is not yet come.” Now as we study this gospel, we are going to see that phrase 2 or 3 times until we come to the
What is happening here is that we see Jesus perfectly attuned to the perfect timing of the Father. People come to me and ask, “How can I know God’s will and when is He going to let me know?” Or they ask, “When is He going to bring the right girl or the right guy along?” Or, “When is this temptation that I am facing now, going to stop?” Or, “When am I going to get over this depression?” And I say, “On the authority of God’s Word, when God’s time is right, God’s thing will happen.”
I love Young Life’s phrase that you have to earn the right to be heard. We ought to emblazon that on our hearts. You have to earn the right to be heard. We go out and beat people over the head with our Bibles… we witness to everybody we see about Christ, when that isn’t His plan. We’re doing the right thing at the wrong time. How often I have spent weeks just being a friend. That’s all. Just being a friend, until the Father comes and says, “It’s time now. You can tell him about Me.”
Perfect timing! Ecclesiastes says, “To every thing there is a season.” God’s hour is perfectly timed.
Side road number four: It is important that you understand the significance John attaches to the miracle.
“This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him…”
Now the whole Bible teaches this, but there is no place it is taught more clearly than in the Gospel of John. If you are aware of the structure of this gospel, you are aware that it is built on seven miracles. As you read through the gospel you become aware that these are the touchstones the apostle John uses for his gospel. But he doesn’t call them miracles. He calls them “signs.” Why does he call them signs? Because he says they are pointing to something else. For each sign, each miracle, there is a teaching… there is a sense in which you can see the deeper significance of what God has done.
One of the great problems in modern Christianity is that when God acts in a significant way in our lives, we too often ask “What” rather than “Why.” God saved you? Isn’t that wonderful! Why? God dealt with your financial problem. Isn’t that wonderful! Why? God put your marriage back together. Praise God! Why? God has given you a remission of cancer. Isn’t that great! Let’s praise God for it. Why? Why? Why? Vernon McGee teaches the Bible on radio. He has cancer. Vernon went to the Father and said, “I will need time. I will need time to teach through the Bible,” and God has given him that time. You see, McGee has not just asked the what, but he has asked the why. Always do that in your life.
Now for the next few moments I want us to look at an aspect of the ministry of Jesus which is often overlooked. That is His joyful participation in the lives of people while they are laughing.
One of the most unfortunate stereotypes Christians have given to Jesus is the one of a grey ghost who follows behind us. Whenever we look like we’re going to have some fun, this grey ghost (Jesus) says, “You can’t do that. You can’t do that because I don’t want a follower of mine engaging in that kind of activity.” We picture this grey ghost behind us all of the time and we have a horrible time with our Christian faith.
Probably nowhere is this manifested better than in the times and places where we try to determine God’s will. If you are a committed Christian, really committed to the Lord, you probably say this to yourself: “Wherever the hard place is… wherever I don’t want to go… wherever I am miserable… that is where God wants to send me.”
A young man came into my office not too long ago and in the course of our conversation I asked him what he was going to do with his life. With all of the enthusiasm with which one would greet pneumonia, he said, “Aw, I’m going to be a preacher.” And I asked, “Why in the world do you want to be a preacher?” And he said, “Well, I love the Lord.” I said, “That’s good, but why do you want to be a preacher?” And he said, “Because I love the Lord and I want to serve Him in a full time way.” I looked him in the eye and asked, “But do you really want to be a preacher?” And he said, “No.” So I asked, “Why can’t you serve the Lord being a lawyer, or a garbage collector, or a teacher?” On the authority of God’s Word, let me tell you that the last thing in the world you are supposed to be is a preacher.” That was one of the easiest counseling problems with which I have ever had to deal. He left that place joyful, because he had seen Jesus as a grey ghost going behind him saying, “Uh-uh, you can’t do that. You’ve got to do whatever makes you miserable.”
Now I am not saying that God never leads you to a place where it is hard. I’m not saying that God never asks you to do something you would rather not do. I’m not saying that He doesn’t put you some place where you don’t want to be. Of course He does. But let me tell you something… and you can hang your hat on this. The God of the universe loves to hear His children laugh. We are going to see this as a case in point in
First question: Where was Jesus? Jesus was at a party! You see, the most joyous time in the life of a first-century Jew was a wedding feast party, because that was all they had. A wedding feast was not just something that lasted for an hour on the night of the wedding, or the night before the wedding. The wedding feast, like the one described in
You say, “Aw come on now. Nobody would say that kind of thing to Jesus.” Oh no? Check out
“(Jesus said) John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The son of man (I) came eating and drinking and they say, ‘Behold, a glutton and a drunkard…'”
I can’t tell you the times when I have been wiped out by some well-meaning Christian who comes to me when I am doing something of which they do not approve, and they say to me, “Would Jesus do that?” “Can you picture Jesus doing that?” Then I feel guilty. They go on, “Would Jesus go to a movie? Would Jesus dare go to a football game? Would Jesus do any of those things?” And I say, “No, I guess not,” and I feel wiped out.
Then I get to thinking, and do you know what? I can’t picture Jesus at Howard Johnson’s eating, either. And I can’t picture Jesus on an airplane. And I can’t picture Jesus sitting at the Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church laughing. What’s wrong? I’ll tell you what’s wrong. My view of Jesus is wrong… dead wrong. Jesus is in a place where people laugh. You will find Him at places like that.
I one time served a church where there was a liquor store in the village. The woman who owned that store had not been to the church for years and years, so I went to see her. I went into that liquor store and said I hadn’t seen her at church and she said, “No, and you won’t, because the first time I went to that church they told me to get out and that they didn’t want me to come back again.” I looked at her and said, “I want you to know you are welcome at this church. And if anybody says anything like that, you just let me know.” She did come to that church and she was a delightful lady.
One of my friends asked me, “What if somebody had seen you come out of that liquor store?” Well, first of all, if they were friends of mine, I would hope they would understand why I was there. If they saw me come out of a bar they would know I had been in there praying for somebody else. But I would want them to know, also, that if Jesus were here, that is where He would be, because that is where people are hurting and they need to hear His laughter.
Question number two: Not only where was He, but what was He doing? Let me tell you what Jesus was doing. He was helping out some friends so that their party wouldn ‘t he a flop. How about that?
Now I want you to know that nobody was drunk at that place. I have a significant alcohol problem in my church and I am not advocating you going out and getting soused, or going out and buying booze, or whatever. Don’t get me wrong. But I want you to know that in this text Jesus is helping these friends of His make sure their party doesn’t flop.
We always picture Jesus helping the broken hearted. Right? And the lonely. Right? And the fearful. Right? And he does. We see Him healing the sick and raising the dead. He does that. But how often have you seen Him making a good party better?
When I am speaking at another church, do you know how I gauge the spiritual depth of that church? By how easily they laugh. Some of the most significant meetings I have ever conducted have been at Bluefield, West Virginia. Do you know why? Because I noted at the first service there that people laughed freely. There is an elder in this church who laughs a lot.
When John Huffman was the pastor here, a pagan came to him and said of this man, “He really doesn’t believe it. He is just there having a good time.” And John said, “That’s what it’s all about.” You see when Jesus gives the joy, it is real joy. One of the most godly men I ever knew had the most infectious laugh I have ever heard. And nobody would think of having a party without having him there.
Question number three: Not only “Where was He?” and “What was He doing?” but “How did He do it?” I had to read this text a number of times before I saw the methodology of Jesus, and I want you to see it because I think it is a significant insight into these verses. Let me remind you that Jesus created the water that was changed into wine, in the first place. (
Jesus’ mother said to a slave, “Jesus says fill up those jars with water.” and that slave says to another slave, “Why do we want to fill up the jars with water? We’ve already got water.” But Mary said, “Do it because He says do it.” So they filled the jars with water. Then she said, “Take a cup of water to the steward? He’s not thirsty. He didn’t ask for a cup of water. What are we going to do that for?” Mary said, “Do it.” So the slave takes a cup of water over to the steward and sees a surprised look cover the steward’s face as his taste buds start working. “Son of a gun,” he says, “That’s good wine! That’s the best wine! You’re supposed to serve the best wine first, not last.” Now that’s what the slaves were doing. Do you know what Jesus was doing? He was standing over in a corner grinning from ear to ear. That’s the methodology of Jesus.
I can just see Jesus and the disciples as they left the marriage feast at Cana: “Did you see the expression on that steward’s face when he tasted and the water was wine?” Do you see it? Jesus could have very simply changed water into wine, but His methodology was one of humor. I would suggest that you read Elton Trueblood’s book on The Humor of Christ.
Question number four: Not only, “Where was He?” and “What was He doing?” and “How did He do it?” but “What was the result of that which He did?”
“This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory, and his disciples believed in him…”
What happened in the midst of the laughter, and the fun, and the jokes and the party? Notice! People got converted! That’s what happened. In the midst of the laughter the name of Jesus Christ was glorified. We don’t think about that always, do we? We think He gets glorified in a prayer meeting, or a worship service. But did you ever think that the name of Christ is glorified when we laugh? Did you ever think that people are changed and converted when our joy catches fire in their lives? Empty piosity will kill a church faster than apostasy. That’s a fact. And here’s another thought for you: If your doctrine makes you narrow, and negative, and rigid and sour, junk it. You didn’t get it from Jesus.
Rubens, the seventeenth century artist, once said that with a single stroke of his brush he could change a weeping child into a laughing child. Jesus does that, too. The brush stroke of forgiveness. The brush stroke of freedom. The brush stroke of love. The brush stroke of power. The brush stroke of eternal life. The brush stroke of acceptance. One brush stroke and He changes the frown and tears into laughter. Listen. If you can’t win pagans with sober sadness, let Jesus do the painting. You might be surprised.
One of the finest Christian magazines produced in our time is Campus Life, which has won a lot of awards and says some good things. It’s light, and it’s funny, but most of all, it’s obviously committed to Jesus Christ. In a recent issue is a letter that says almost everything that I have been trying to say this morning to Christians. I want to quote that letter verbatim: “I have been looking at my friend’s March Campus Life and was shocked. I have never read such a worldly ‘Christian’ magazine. What do creme rinse ads, articles about U.F.O.’s, and the ‘ETC column have to do with Jesus? The praise worldly records got was the last straw. You are misleading many.” (Anonymous, St. Louis, Missouri).
Ladies and gentlemen, Jesus went around turning water into wine because it always hurts when His followers go behind Him turning wine into water.
You think about that…Amen.
We are going to be looking at an often-overlooked side of Jesus; but before we do that, I want to tie up some loose ends by way of some side notes.