“Wine” October 5, 2014
INTRO: My parents sent me to a Christian school for several years that was
connected to a church that had some particular rules. (I’ve told you about before.)
Their number one rule was that Christians shouldn’t drink wine
or any other alcoholic beverages. They had four other big rules.
And very often in chapel we would hear all these rules repeated:
No drinking, smoking, dancing, going to movies, or listening to rock music.
“No drinking” was always at the top of the list.
Parents sent me to another school for 9th -12th grade, so didn’t graduate from there.
But one of my best friends stayed and graduated.
It was a small senior class, about ten students.
The pastor’s daughter was one of the seniors.
So when they went on their senior class trip to Washington DC, pastor went too.
My friend told me (GR, pastor First Pres), that one night they all went
to a restaurant, like a TGI Fridays.
They were sitting at a big table when the manager came over and said:
Congratulations! Our 100th customer of weekend—You get a free daiquiri.
Well this pastor, who had preached so much against drinking, had no idea
what a daiquiri was. He just heard “free.” So he said: Great! Bring it!
All the kids were cutting eyes at each other wondering what was going to happen.
So the waiter came out with a huge bowl—long straws sticking out on every side.
George said that when the waiter set it down they all leaned forward
and started sucking for all they were worth.
The pastor took a swallow, his eyes got big, and he shouted: Stop!
There’s alcohol in there!
This very first miracle of Jesus turning the water into wine posed a problem
for that pastor and his church because it clashed with their number one rule.
So they had a very strange interpretation of this miracle.
I heard them explain it many times.
When Jesus turned the water into wine, it wasn’t really wine, it was grape juice—
because Jesus wouldn’t make anything that would make a person drunk.
The wine Christ made was not wine, it was Welch’s.
I was about twelve years old when I heard that,
so I asked my dad if they were right and he said—
If wine in the Bible means grape juice, then why does the Bible also say:
“Do not be drunk with wine”? You can’t get drunk on grape juice.
Wine means wine and to say otherwise is to violate the plain meaning of Scripture.
And then as usual, my father explained to me how different Christians have
scruples about things like drinking and we need to understand that.
I remembered that grape juice interpretation as I was studying this passage.
But it occurred to me that some of you may have grown up in church traditions
that taught something similar—that wine is a bad thing, wrong for Christians.
So I thought it might be helpful to start
by looking at the significance of wine in the Bible.
John says that this was the first of Jesus’ miraculous signs,
and that by this sign he revealed his glory.
A sign is something symbolic. A sign is a pointer to something else.
Jesus Christ chose as his very first miracle, the inauguration miracle of his ministry,
to do a miracle in which wine was the central focus.
That means we can’t understand the miracle until we understand wine’s symbolism.
So we’ll study that first.
Then, once we understand that, will look at the significance of the miracle itself—
what it reveals about the Lord Jesus Christ, his person and work.
And then, after we have studied the miracle itself,
we will consider the significance it has for our lives.
So these are our three points or headings:
1. The significance of wine in the Bible
2. The significance of this first miracle
3. The significance of these things for your life
MP#1 The significance of wine in the Bible
I’m going to quote a number of passages. You probably won’t be able
to remember them all, but the cumulative message will be clear.
What they show us is that wine is God’s gift and a sign of his blessing.
Wine is a symbol of rejoicing, fellowship, pleasure, abundance, and happiness.
Psalm 104 says
He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man . . .
God has given wine to gladden the heart of man.
Wine is not just prized for its taste, it’s prized because of its effects on a person’s
body and spirits. Wine makes you feel good. It gladdens the heart.
Ecclesiastes 9 says:
Eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart,
for it is now that God favors what you do.
Proverbs 31 commends giving wine to people who are suffering
because its ability to reduce pain or sorrow is a mercy from God.
The Lord promised to reward his people’s faithfulness with wine.
Before they entered the Promised Land Moses told them:
If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them . . . (the Lord) will bless the
fruit of your womb, the crops of your land, your grain, new wine, and oil.
And the Promised Land itself was described as a land with an abundance of wine.
A land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards.
On the other hand, when the Israelites were unfaithful, one of God’s punishments
was to take wine away from them, or make them drink poor wine. Isaiah says:
Your choice wine is diluted with water . . . though you have planted lush vineyards,
you will not drink their wine.
Wine was part of the tithes and offerings faithful Israelites were to offer to God,
and they were told to drink wine as part of certain celebrations. Deuteronomy 14:
Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the
presence of the Lord your God . . . buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other
fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the
presence of the Lord your God.
Here and in many other places, wine and the drinking of wine
are connected with rejoicing, happiness, and pleasure.
Wine is important in large part for its role in making merry, in delighting a person.
You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound—David
Wine also linked with erotic love, especially in the Song of Songs. She says:
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your love is more delightful than wine.
And then he says:
I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride; I have gathered my myrrh with my spice.
I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey; I have drunk my wine and my milk.
But perhaps the most important symbolism of all is that the prophets spoke of
fine wine and abundant wine as a symbol of the blessings the Messiah would
bring to earth and especially to his people.
The prophet Isaiah:
On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—the best of meats and the finest of wines.
The prophet Joel:
In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk.
The prophet Amos:
“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when the reaper will be overtaken by the
plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains
and flow from all the hills. I will bring back my exiled people Israel . . . they will plant
vineyards and drink their wine . . .
The prophet Zechariah
The Ephraimites will become like mighty men, and their hearts will be glad as with wine.
In all of these ways wine is celebrated in the Bible as a choice drink,
a blessing that God has given to man, wonderful in taste and in effect.
Wine is the drink for fellowship, for lovers, for times of plenty, for feasts,
for worship—and so a symbol of happiness and divine blessing.
Now, let’s bring all of that biblical symbolism of wine to this first miracle.
But before we do, let me digress for a moment.
For all the Bible passages that speak of the blessing of wine,
there are other passages that speak just as vividly of the curses of drunkenness.
The Bible never winks at or chuckles about people drinking too much.
It sees drunkenness as a crime committed against image of God in which made.
It is a sin that is specifically and repeatedly condemned.
1 Corinthians 6 sums up the Bible’s view when it says that drunkards will not
inherit the kingdom of God. Wine is God’s blessing, drunkenness is his curse.
In our social interactions with each other when there is wine or strong drink,
we have to practice self-control and encourage each other to be self-controlled.
Because then we will enjoy God’s blessing of wine in the right way,
and he will be glorified. And, we will understand this miracle . . .
MP#2 The significance of this first miracle
John says that the Lord turning the water into wine at this wedding was the first
of his miraculous signs, and that he thus revealed his glory.
What does that mean? In what sense did this miracle reveal his glory?
It revealed that Christ came to bring an abundance of joy and fellowship
and love and life and plenty.
All the things that wine symbolizes, he was brining into this world.
Later he says: I have come that they might have abundant life.
That’s the glory of this miracle.
It’s the inaugural miracle of the kingdom of the Messiah, the time of God’s favor.
For Mary, her concern was the immediate crisis at the wedding banquet.
She was worried about the humiliation of the groom and his family
who were running out of wine.
But Jesus was thinking about bigger things.
He was thinking about his hour. “My hour has not yet come.”
What was his hour? Explained in chapter twelve, his crucifixion, resurrection.
In other words, Jesus was looking beyond just the immediate need of this
wedding party to the work God had called him to do.
He made it clear in a gentle but direct way to his mother,
that everything he did from this point on would be with his hour in mind.
Nothing would distract him. Would not be manipulated or controlled by anyone.
That’s what his strange conversation with her was about, when he said:
“Woman, why do you involve me?” It wasn’t rude, but in a formal way he was
letting his mother know his work was about to begin, even she was his disciple.
But then, after making that clear to his mother,
he seized the opportunity to reveal himself to his disciples.
It’s an amazing opportunity only God could have orchestrated.
A wedding party running out of wine. People needing wine.
Because as we just saw a moment ago, the prophets had predicted that when the
Messiah came, he would usher in an age of blessing when wine flows liberally.
An abundance of wine was a picture of God’s blessing through his Messiah.
Remember all those passages I just quoted from Isaiah, Amos, Joel, Zechariah—
banquets of new wine, wine dripping from mountains, hearts glad with wine?
There are even more I didn’t mention.
This theme is all through the Old Testament.
When Jacob blessed his son Judah in Genesis 49,
he said that one day there would be a royal son from the tribe of Judah,
and when he came, wine so abundant, you could wash your clothes in it.
Jeremiah, who is called the weeping prophet.
He lived in a time when things were evil and falling apart.
He was a preacher, but nobody listened to him, they abused him.
But when Jeremiah foresaw the coming Messiah, for once he got happy. He said:
They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion;
they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord—the grain, the new wine and the oil.
So the Lord Jesus knew the Scriptures, he knew the Prophets,
he knew this imagery and symbolism of the abundance of wine,
and took the opportunity to perform this miraculous sign.
Notice the extravagance of miracle. Jesus didn’t just deal with the immediate need.
He didn’t just provide enough wine for guests to get through the end of the banquet.
He had the servants fill these enormous jars—thirty gallons of liquid.
And ordered them to fill them right to the brim—no skimping.
180 gallons of wine, that’s 900 bottles of wine.
Think how much was left over and what an amazing wedding present it was
for the married couple. This wasn’t cheap wine, it was the very best.
It was the kind of wine these folks never could have afforded themselves.
Allison and I went to San Francisco for honeymoon. Drove up to Sonoma Valley,
toured a winery, the Charles Krug winery.
While there, person giving tour said, Newlyweds, huh?
Tell you what you ought to do. Buy a case of our finest red wine, 12 bottles.
Put it away, take out a bottle every five years. Drink last one 60th anniversary.
It sounded very romantic, but guess what? We couldn’t afford it!
This lucky couple in Cana was able to do that with the best wine ever.
They had wine to drink for years.
And by the extravagance of this miracle the Lord Jesus was declaring:
The prophecies have been fulfilled. The day of salvation has come.
The age of God’s bounty and blessing is here.
John tells us that his disciples got it. They understood the message.
Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah and he has ushered in the age
of God’s abundant blessing. And they put their faith in him.
Have you put your faith in him? That brings us to the last point.
MP#3 The significance of these things for your life
This miracle makes us ask an honest question: Has it really come?
Did Jesus really usher in the age of God’s abundant blessing?
Did he? Is that really the world we are living in?
Let me put it this way:
Did you wash your clothes in wine this week?
In other words, is your life and life in this world filled to overflowing with
rejoicing and fellowship and pleasure and abundance and happiness?
When you put it that way, the answer seems to be no.
The world is full of horrible things and even in my life, even as a believer,
there are plenty of times of sorrow and plenty of times I don’t feel joy.
I certainly wouldn’t say it feels like I’m always sitting down to feast of new wine.
So how do we reconcile what Jesus Christ signified he was doing in this miracle,
with what we are actually experiencing?
Here’s the answer. Jesus Christ has ushered in the age of God’s blessing.
It has begun, but the consummation of it and the fullness of it is yet to come.
So we’re still waiting. But we know it’s begun and we know it’s coming
because of his resurrection.
So in the meantime you must do two things.
1. Enjoy and make the most of the foretastes of wine Jesus gives you.
One day new wine is going to flow from the mountains, until that day comes,
the Lord Jesus gives you occasional glasses to drink. He says here, drink this.
Isn’t that good? Now, be encouraged. That’s a little foretaste of heaven.
I’m preparing a place for you. This good thing is an appetizer.
Think about the moments in your life when something was perfect.
I remember a few years ago, one clear spring morning, I rolled out the motorcycle.
I hadn’t ridden it in weeks because it was too cold and wet.
Will got on the back, he was ten or twelve at the time.
We rode slowly down Woodland Street to warm it up.
And then we turned south on 31 at the top of the hill, downtown Cullman below us,
beyond that, the hills of Blount County. The air was sparkling, the sky blue.
I gunned it, and 1100ccs of Italian steel responded with a roar.
And Will and I both shouted: Yee haw! It was perfect. It was heavenly.
Cherish those moments of perfection. Remember them. They are a foretaste.
Life with Jesus Christ in his eternal kingdom will be exhilarating.
Allison’s cousin Thomas Ayers and his family are here this morning.
Once, years ago we were visiting them, and we were down in Houma, Louisiana.
And Thomas’s father, who you all know and miss, Michael Benoit treated us
to one of his famous shrimp boils. Fresh Gulf shrimp, right off the boat.
Crabs, sausage—piles of it, heaps of it, mountains of it right on newspaper
spread on the tables. I’ve never seen so much and I decided I was going to eat all.
It was a feast I had never had before, and I doubt I ever will again.
It was perfect. It was heavenly. It was a foretaste of the feasts will have with Jesus.
What are your perfect moments? Perhaps that moment held your newborn child.
Perhaps moment your team won in the last seconds and you were there.
Perhaps a quiet evening some old friends just happened to be passing through.
Call to mind your heavenly moments and then try to roll them up into one ball.
Then think what that life is like which Jesus is preparing for us and let that
boost your spirits and make you content and grateful and generous.
So enjoy the foretastes of wine Jesus gives you.
2. Turn to Jesus when your wine runs out.
Sometimes the wine runs out. It runs out in your work, it becomes hardship.
It runs out in your marriage. It runs out in your relationships with children.
It runs out in your health and your age.
In Alexander Maclaren’s sermon on this passage he expresses very poetically
what it feels like when the wine of joy runs out. He says that when we
remember the past, it’s not always good, it’s often painful. He says:
With remembrance comes remorse and regret. The vision splendid no longer attends men as they plod their way through the weariness of middle life, or pass down into the deepening shadow of advancing and solitary old age . . . some of you (feel) you have got nothing in your cups but dregs that you scarcely care to drink.
So what do you do when the wine of joy runs out of your life?
Instead of new wine in your cup, you just have bitter dregs.
Your temptation will be to look to the world for something to perk you up—
some idol you will follow to try to get your joy back.
It may be money or shopping or mindless entertainment—there is plenty of that.
It may be drugs, may be alcohol. Wine can become a poor substitute for real joy.
But none of those things will restore your joy—only Jesus can. And he will.
I don’t know why he lets us go through seasons in life when our joy goes away.
Sometimes we can figure out a reason.
Maybe we’ve done it to selves by indulging in particular sins or neglecting prayer.
But most of the time it’s just life in a fallen world—
and the Lord allowing us to experience that lack of joy so that we seek him more.
That’s what you have to do when your wine runs out.
Don’t touch the cup the world offers, but come to your Savior Jesus and pray:
O Lord Jesus, when the wine ran out at the wedding in Cana,
you supplied an abundance of the finest wine.
Do it in my life Lord, just a glass of your best, that’s all I need now.
Just a token of your favor. I’m waiting for you.
And you can be assured, that he will not ignore your plea for long—
but will answer you and give you once again a foretaste of his eternal joy.