Epiphany 3


Sermon Three: Jesus changes water into wine – John 2.1-11


Well we are now at the end of our Epiphany trilogy. I hope you’ve found this a helpful and challenging series.


We’ve seen Jesus Christ revealed to the Gentiles by a bright star shining in the night sky. That star led the wise men from the east to discover Jesus. We saw how maybe we can shine like stars in a dark world and reveal Jesus to others.


We’ve seen Jesus Christ revealed to the watching world at his Baptism in the Jordan – ‘this is my Son’. We saw that if we live in the truth of our baptism, which means to be immersed into Christ, we can reveal him to others.


Today we’ll look at what was, according to the gospel of John, Jesus’ first miracle or sign when he changed water into wine at a wedding reception. This was the occasion when the world first saw the power and glory of the Son of God at work amongst them. Today we’ll see that Jesus can transform something quite ordinary into something really special – and he can do the same with our lives.


First let’s have a look at what the Bible says about wine. Wine in the Bible is something quite special. It’s much more than just a social lubricant that makes people happy. It’s a sign of God’s blessing on his people. It’s a sign of abundance. It’s a sign of joy and gladness. Listen to these verses from the OT, from the prophet Joel:


Surely the Lord has done great things.
Be not afraid, O wild animals, for the open pastures are becoming green.
The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches.
Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you
the autumn rains in righteousness. He sends you abundant showers both autumn and spring rains, as before. The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil. (Joel 2.22-24)


We could find many more along the same lines. An abundance of wine – along with grain, fruit and oil means God is blessing a people or a nation. We need to have that in mind as we read this story.


Likewise, the New Testament also uses wine as an image of the new life that Jesus gives to all who follow him and live for his kingdom. ‘Don’t put new wine into old wineskins’ said Jesus on one occasion. When the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, some thought that they were drunk. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is compared to being filled with new wine! Now don’t worry if you don’t drink wine for whatever reason. That doesn’t mean you aren’t going to be blessed. And the bible says just as much about the dangers of too much wine! But we need to be aware of the significance of the wine in this story.

So let’s get back to the story. In those days weddings were lengthy affairs lasting up to a week – so they needed plenty of food and wine. Here at this wedding at Cana they run out of wine. And that’s a serious matter – a major embarrassment to the hosts. Well, you know the story. Jesus notices the six stone water jars that were standing empty in the house. He says to the servants ‘Go and fill them with water’. They do as he says and when the water is decanted and the steward tastes it, of course it has become wine. Or to be precise ‘water-become-wine’.  And up to 180 gallons of it! And the best quality possible!


Now in the light of what we saw earlier from the Old Testament, to run out of wine means to run out of God’s blessing. So there’s more to this story than meets the eye. In fact this story is packed with significance and symbolism.


Firstly let’s look at these water jars. They were for the Jewish rites of purification. They were there to enable people to fulfil the requirements of the law which required a very strict regime of cleanliness. For example you couldn’t eat or drink with unwashed hands and there were even more laws about washing than that one. These water jars represent the law - the written code that laid burdens on people, that set a phenomenally high bar for them to reach, that became associated with struggle and effort. In this story the heavy burdens of the law as represented by the water jars became the joy and freedom of the best wine ever. Jesus transformed something old and barren into something new, fresh and life changing.


Secondly, the amounts here are incredible! There were gallons and gallons of it – each jar we are told held 20 to 30 gallons. So that could mean 180 gallons! Abundance to the greatest degree! There’s no shortage of the new life that Jesus gives. God’s grace never runs out.


Thirdly, the wine was the best – unusually in the view of the steward saved until last. This isn’t second rate plonk that as long as the guests were getting drunk they wouldn’t notice. No, this is top quality. Jesus only gives us the best.


Fourthly, this is something ordinary – water, being transformed into something special. Jesus turned ordinary water into the best wine and the miracle occurred in a very ordinary place to ordinary people at an ordinary commonplace event. I think it’s significant that John when describing this miracle says that what is produced is not wine but ‘water-become-wine’. It’s something very ordinary that has been transformed. When we are transformed by Jesus we are still ourselves but we have also become something new.


At this wedding reception in Cana, Jesus transformed water into wine. This is a story about many things but especially about God’s blessings on us.

Jesus turned something old into something new.

Jesus turned something very ordinary into something very special.

Jesus turned something rather boring into something very exciting.


Jesus can do exactly the same for us.


He can turn the poverty of our lives into riches for his kingdom.

He can turn the monochrome of our lives into full techni-colour.

He can turn mere existing into real living. As he said later in John’s gospel. ‘I have come that they may have life and life in its abundance.’


And that’s one of the key ways that we can reveal Christ to the world. Because a life lived with Jesus is a life that is different, distinctive, attractive. Isn’t it great when people say to us ‘I wish I had what you have’. Or ‘what is it that you have in your life that I don’t have.’ Our lives and how people view them are one of the most effective forms of evangelism. As disciples of Jesus Christ our live shave purpose and meaning. We have a joy and a peace that others don’t always know. As we live out our lives in this distinctive way and speak when God gives us the opportunity, we can play a big part in revealing Jesus Christ to the world. We can be a ‘transforming  presence’.


So as we reflect on this miracle, this first sign that Jesus performed at the wedding at Cana-in-Galilee, perhaps a similar question comes to us. Have you run out of wine? I hope not. But if you have, Jesus can easily work another miracle of transformation in us!