Week of July 31

The Wine of Christ’s Presence

Read: Isaiah 63-64; Psalm 107; John 2
“When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine’”
John 2:3, ESV


I ask in this devotional, “Is there ‘Christ wine’ in our gatherings?” The world was out of wine when Jesus arrived on earth. All that was being offered spiritually was cheap and did not satisfy. So, the nature of Jesus’ miracle at Cana is obvious. He had come to bring about conversion: “water to wine, sinners to saints” (cf. 2:10; “You have kept the good wine until now; EBC). The impact of the miracle was that it marked the beginning of His ministry that was accompanied by the power of God. This was such a watershed moment for His disciples that John records, “his disciples believed in him” (2:12). Let’s learn today how to include Christ in every moment of our lives.

Understanding the Bible Context

Getting a clear picture of the setting
Cana is believed to have been a small town about 9 miles north of Nazareth. It was set in the hills of Galilee and, according to John’s account this would have been the first stop for Jesus and His disciples following His baptism. He arrives just in time for a wedding. Such events in many cultures are community-wide celebrations and refreshments will be provided for all guests. Furthermore, to fail to provide adequately for those in attendance would be considered a social disgrace. In a village like Cana, such an error would never be forgotten, and the faux pas would follow the newlyweds throughout their lives. Let’s dig a bit deeper into the meaning of this narrative.

Geography and time mean different things in John’s Gospel. We must not read the book as though it were written by a newspaper reporter. This story is about a sign. The three “next day” references in chapter one form a triad and the “third day” here could point forward to the coming third day (cf. v. 19). The third day in Christian thinking has deep theological significance. Tie this idea to the word “hour” in the wedding at Cana (v. 4) and we will begin to have our eyes open to a wonderful awareness of God’s eternal plan for redemption unfolding in the ordinary events of our daily lives. The point of turning “water into wine” is the resurrection and the new life that it makes possible (cf. NAC). Got it? Good!
Making sure that Christ is present in all we do
Mary approached Jesus and told Him, “they have no wine,” which created an emergency (2:3). Jesus asks her with respect, “What business is that of ours?” She simply gave Him encouragement to act independently, and confidently instructed the servants to do what He told them to do. She expressed complete confidence that He would handle the situation appropriately. In this moment, He made sure that He was operating according to the purpose of His heavenly Father and not in the timing of His earthly mother. We do well to learn the difference in our own lives and ministries. “Time?” This word refers to the first hour when He manifested the real reason for which He came.
Here’s the point
This passage introduces us to the mighty power of God at work in the life of His Son, Jesus. John shows us the Old Testament glory of God (cf. 1:14; Greek, doxa, and Hebrew, kabod) as being operative in Jesus of Nazareth. He was acting anew in the Savior! We might say, “Therefore, what was Jesus here for?” Jesus was not directed by His mothers or brothers or by any temporal cultural standard (2:2-5; “Why do you involve me?”). He lived to fulfill His Father’s purpose (1;18, 5:19-20, 30, & 36). Bingo! We also live best when we are possessed by a “third-day” and “new wine” belief. In other words, live resurrection lives—newness—in Christ.

Applying the Passage to Our Lives

There are some things that are essentials for youth events. One of them is food—pepperoni pizza, which I have never liked, or hamburgers and/or hot dogs—and the other is activities! To fail on either end risked students giving the ministry a bad name with their peers. I recall a time when a youth minister scheduled a large youth gathering. He set out to grill the burgers and realized he had all the “fixin’s” but no burgers! Yep, that put a growl in more than just stomachs, and the “food pas” was never forgotten. Folks would say years afterward, “Do you remember the time when so-and-so forgot the meat?!” Student ministry can be rough, but I have a wider spiritual point to make.

Here is a way to pour Christ-wine into all we do each day. C. S. Lewis once wrote in God in the Dock, “God creates the vine and teaches it to draw up water by its roots and, with the aid of the sun, to turn that water into a juice which will ferment and take on certain qualities. Thus, every year, from Noah’s time till ours, God turns water into wine.” He goes on to state that men fail to see this fact and attribute such things to some finite spirit like Bacchus.

Moderns will point to chemical processes as the cause for the making of the wine. John wants us to see from the onset of Christ’s ministry that the miracle at Cana will only “have half its effect” if it only convinces us that Christ is God. The miracle, according to Lewis, has its full effect if, whenever we see a vineyard, or a glass of wine, we “remember that here works He who sat at the wedding party in Cana.”

This begs a serious question for our ministry in the world. What is it that we are offering the world in our worship, our teaching, and our activities? Are our gatherings known places where God visits and converts sinners to saints? Does He make disciples in our communities? This passage reminds me that it is vitally important to live and serve in the middle of God’s purpose and timing, otherwise we must place a sign above all that we do: “We Have No Wine Here.”

Reflecting Upon and Discussing the Passage

1. The curse of the age is to live without joy over all that God places on our tables. Thank God for supplying in abundance the necessities of daily life (cf. Matthew 6:11).

2. The sadness of many of our worship gatherings is that we do not offer “Christ wine.” They lack God’s power and timing and there is no miracle of new life there. Ask God to honor your gatherings with His presence in His power. Then glorify His name when He transforms lives.

3. For Families: Some afternoon this week at snack-time, ask your children to gather around for a “Magic Moment.” Prepare for this in advance by putting on a tray a small bowl, a clear glass with water, and a pepper shaker. Oh yes! And drop some soap on your hands and rub well, but make sure no one sees the soap preparation.

Then, when you are ready to begin, pour water from the glass into the bowl, and ask your kids to take turns shaking some pepper into the bowl of water. Ask them to put their finger in the bowl and separate the pepper. When they have had a chance to do this (it will be unsuccessful), stick your finger (with the soap layer) into the bowl and watch in amazement as the pepper separates immediately!

Explain to your children how it worked and allow them to do the “magic trick” themselves. At the end of your fun, remind them that there is a difference between doing a “magic trick” and working a real miracle. Jesus worked His first real miracle at a wedding, when He changed water into wine for the guests to drink. It showed that He was God, that He had miracle-working power, and that He loved the people at the wedding.

May your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock