Tonight, I had the opportunity to preach at Licensing School, which is where I am this week as a participant. It was a humbling honor to preach to the servants who will go into the mission field shortly. The sermon comes from John 2:1-11 and is entitled “Sharing the Wine.”
I love Hard Rock Cafe.
It has nothing to do with the food, which I find bland. It has nothing to do with the atmosphere, which can be generic. It has nothing even to do with the music, which can be played so loud that you cannot have a conversation.
I love Hard Rock because it is special to my wife and I.
Three years ago today, it is where my wife and I shared a time of fellowship and celebrated our new marriage with our closest friends. We eloped on May 30, 2009 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. After the wedding, we all gathered at the Hard Rock Cafe on the main strip. Why? It was a place of significance. Hard Rock in Louisville was where Abbi and I ate at on our first “real” date in Louisville.
On our wedding day, we went in and had lunch as a family of friends. It was a relaxing time.
Our wedding celebration is not the usual wedding. A normal wedding is, perhaps, what you experienced at your reception. Even if you’re not married, you have heard some of the stories of “wedding reception planning.” It includes hours upon hours of food tasting, cake decisions, music selections, seat assigning, and flower purchasing. Everything, we believe, has to be just right in order to have the perfect night to start this new life. If it is not, we fear all would be ruined.
That normal wedding story is similar to the wedding celebration we see in John 2:1-11. John writes of a great fellowship to honor a newly-wedded couple. The celebration was on its third day. That seems long for us today, but in Jesus’ time this was normal. A typical wedding celebration would have lasted about a week. It seems obvious, but you have to do a lot of planning for this type of wedding celebration. Whomever was the host, you would want the best of the best. A wedding was that important. They wanted to honor the guests, and they didn’t want to be seen as bad hosts. Even the poorest of the poor would save enough to celebrate a new marriage.
This was a huge community event, which meant you did not want this celebration to end early. If it did, you would risk being humiliated in front of your family and friends. Could you imagine being humiliated, in front of your friends and family, on your wedding day?
Our wedding is on the verge of this humiliation. It was the third day and the celebration was coming to an new. There was no more wine. There were still days to go and there was nothing left to drink. Let’s bring this forward to where we can understand the situation. This would be the equivalent of running out of beverages before the “Chicken Dance,” the “Electric Slide,” and before D.J. Kool had the opportunity to clear his throat. This was a huge problem.
What was going to happen? What takes place is deep moment of teaching that tells us a lot about transformation.
It begins with Mary, the mother of Jesus. She is aware of the situation and rushes to help. Mary is among the guests and perhaps she is among the servers. Also in attendance were Jesus and some of his disciples. This was after his baptism and calling of his first disciples. Mary knew that Jesus’ public ministry was underway. She hoped that Jesus could prevent this potentially humiliating situation from getting worse.
So, Mary goes to Jesus and says “There is no wine.” It is short and sweet, but what is she really saying. Jesus, she says, “There is no wine. What are you going to do about this?” I wish John would have described Jesus’ facial reaction. I have the feeling it would have been something like, “So what!” This is essentially what he says. He says, “My time has not yet come,” which might be a nicer way of saying, “I have bigger fish to fry.” Worrying about whether or not there was enough wine to get through the rest of the week was not of grand importance to Jesus. It was outside his “ministry action plan.” But, he doesn’t say that he wouldn’t help. Jesus helps, but does so in a way that brings out a deep time of teaching.
Jesus begins by telling the servants Mary had secured to grab the purification jars. These jars were not like the purification jars we used tonight. These were large jars that could hold eight or nine gallons of water. They were used to ceremonially clean someone, especially a guests hands. It was part of the ritual life of sacrificial discipleship of that time. This life served a purpose, but it wasn’t doing what it was intended. The people’s faith was stale. The outside was being cleaned, but the inside of a person’s life was not being impacted in deep ways. Something new was needed.
Once the purification jars were brought over he tells the servants to fill them to the brim. Remember, these jars could hold eight gallons of water. The servants were probably thinking, “We are never running out of wine now.” There is some symbolism here. In having the servants fill the ceremonial jars to the brim, Jesus is making a public announcement. The ways that are familiar to you are over. The ceremonial lifestyle to salvation has run its course. Something new is on the horizon.
The newness is symbolic in the water that is transformed into wine. Jesus tells the servants to take water out of the well. The way the text is written makes it seem that the water did not come from the ceremonial purification jars. Instead it came from a well. When the master of the banquet tasted the wine, he tasted the best wine that was available. This would’ve been a shock. Normally you would serve the best first and slowly bring out weaker and weaker wine. But, the best was now available.
Do you see the symbolism? The wine is Jesus Christ, who is the best who has ever been offered to us. Jesus, the Son of God, freely came into this world and offered himself as a teacher, a guide, but, most importantly, as a servant who gave of his life so that we might be free and able to enter a relationship with the Father through the Holy Spirit.
When we taste the wine that comes from the living water of Christ it transforms us. We are no longer that broken sinner, but known as a redeemed child of God. We are no longer defined by the things of the world, but the things of God. When we taste the best that has ever been offered this world, it impacts our lives in ways that are holy and in ways that are deeply personal to each of us.
Friends, at some point in our lives we have tasted that wine. We have drunk from the living waters of Jesus Christ. It’s why we are spending a week away from our families and working through long hours. God has done something powerful in each of us and transformed us into something beautiful. Out of that transformation we have been called to share the best the world has ever been given to those around us, through our words and our actions.
Each of us has a desire to share the best in Jesus Christ with the world. It is at the root of our calling to “go make disciples.” We do so in a world that believes it has the “best” message. So many lives are broken by the gospel of self, of greed, of consumerism, of popularity, of Americana, and so on. It’s a difficult world to do ministry, but it is an exciting time to share the best wine – to share Jesus – with a broken and hurting world.
Who in your life do you need to share the best with? Who in your life do you need to share the message of hope and transformation with in your community and in your life? Who needs to be in your fellowship, so they can taste and see that the Lord is good.
Whether we are going back to our churches to resume ministry or about ready to enter the pulpit for the first time, we are called to share the best in Jesus Christ. It is a hard work that we have been called to enter into, but it is a humbling call to be called by God to share the best with the world that so desperately needs to hear about Jesus.
In a few moments, we are going to celebrate a time of community together as a family of pastors. As you celebrate, I invite you to think about your ministry settings. Take time to remember the work God has done in your life and simply give thanks. But then, remember forward by putting that transformation into practice by asking God this: How will you leave this place and share the best thing that ever happened to you? How will you share the gospel of Jesus Christ to your people?
My friends, we have a great story to tell. Tell it well. Tell it with enthusiasm. Tell it with passion. Tell the story of God sending the best in his Son, so that we might experience the best in our life.