“Jesus’ First Sign: from water to wine”
January 16, 2022 / CAN
Rev. Shihoko Warren
We are now in ‘the season of Epiphany’ which lasts 6 weeks until the season of Lent.
During the Epiphany season, we celebrate the manifestation of Christ’s salvation to the broken world. ‘Epiphany’ means ‘manifestation’. It means that what has been hidden up to now, suddenly appears. The truth is revealed to us, when the proper time has been fulfilled.
Today’s Gospel of John chapter 2 is a well-known story about the wedding at Cana, where Jesus changed water into wine. John recorded this miracle as Jesus’ first sign to ‘manifest’ Christ’s glorious salvation to the world. Verse 11 says: “What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which He revealed his glory.”
John notes the seven signs of Jesus Christ in the Gospel.
The Gospel of John is quite different from the other Gospels. Throughout the Gospel of John, many symbolic numbers and expressions are used to imply how glorious the new life in Christ truly is.
The story of the wedding at Cana begins with a symbolic number, ‘the third day’ in verse 1. This implies Christ’s glorious Resurrection after ‘three days’.
The wedding at Cana also demonstrates to us the image of the banquet in God’s glorious Kingdom, where we rejoice and celebrate being transformed into Christ’s resurrected body.
The Gospel of John is also known as the New Testament version of ‘Genesis’, as both Genesis and John 1:1 begin with the opening words, ‘in the beginning’. The Gospel of John starts, by proclaiming : “In the beginning was the Word,… Through Him all things were made.”
The Gospel of John manifests the glory of New Creation in Jesus Christ.
Genesis 1:1-2 says: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep waters, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. ”
In the Gospel of John, the first sign of new creation in Christ is the changing of water into wine.
Do you see here something common in both Genesis and The Gospel of John? In the first creation in ‘Genesis’ and Christ’ new creation in the Gospel of John, both make an important reference to ‘water’!
Today, I would like to ask all of you to imagine yourself as the ‘water’ described in both Genesis’ creation and Christ’s new creation in the Gospel of John.
You know, most of our human body is made up of ‘water’, it is said, there is an average of roughly 60% water in an adult body. The percentage of ‘water’ in a baby’s body, can be as high as 75%.
So, I hope, you can now easily imagine yourself as the ‘water’, so as to know what Jesus’ first sign really means to us!
John 2: 6 describes that there were six stone water jars, which each could hold “twenty or thirty gallons”. These water jars were used for the Jewish ritual of washing hands and vessels to cleanse them from impurity. At the wedding in Cana, all 6 water jars were empty at the start.
John again here uses the symbolic number, ‘6 water jars’, one short of seven. The number 7 symbolizes ‘perfection’ and ‘completeness’. The number 6 means something is ‘incomplete’ or ‘imperfect’. The ‘6 water jars’ indicate that the laws or legalistic faith can never reach to the fullness of salvation in Jesus Christ. The Gospel of John implies that the justification by observing the laws or legalistic life is indeed empty, just like the 6 empty water jars.
In verses 7-9: Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then Jesus told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the chief steward of the banquet.” They did so, and the chief steward tasted the water that had been turned into wine.
The water was transformed into the best wine! For Christians, ‘water’ symbolizes ‘baptism’. The ‘baptism’ is the ‘beginning’ of our Christian life. It is the ‘beginning’ of ‘new creation’ in Christ! At the beginning of our Christian journey, all Christians are ‘water’. However, throughout our Christian life, with God’s mysterious timing and ways, we are being transformed from water into the best wine!
In my youth, before I was baptized, I struggled and hesitated about baptism for a while, because I misunderstood that before baptism, I needed to become a better person first, I needed to gain enough knowledge about the bible and Christianity. I thought I must try hard to become qualified to be baptized. It took me a long time to realize that we can never become better or transform ourselves simply by our own power. Only the power and grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ can lead us to transformation from water to the best wine.
So, if anyone has the same struggle or hesitation about baptism, that I once had, please don’t worry! If you know anyone who is struggling over baptism, please let them know these simple truths!
There are no qualification or skills that you need to gain before baptism. All we need to do is to trust Christ who died on the cross and was resurrected from death, for us! It is Jesus Christ who transforms us from water into the best wine. So, all we need to do is to simply receive the water that God pours over us. As the 6 empty water jars were filled with water, if you too feel ‘empty’ about yourself or your life, this could be a sign that you need ‘water’, and it is time for your ‘baptism’.
‘Baptism’ is just like the birth of an infant baby, coming out from the ‘water’ of the womb. No babies are required to become better or gain enough knowledge before they are born! It is God who gives life and grows babies, through the nurturing of their parents or community.
In Jesus’ first sign, we don’t know ‘when’ the water actually changed into wine. It is still a mystery to us. We can never fully comprehend God’s timing.
In verse 4, Jesus told His mother, Mary: “My hour has not yet come.” The word ‘hour’ refers to the time of eschatological fulfillment. Only Jesus knew fulfillment of the time of His passion, death, resurrection, and ascension.
We don’t know the time of eschatological fulfillment when ‘Christ’s Second Coming’ or the ‘New Heaven and Earth’ comes. God’s time is a divine mystery for us all!
However, we, Christians know ‘how’ God fulfills His plan of Salvation. God uses His faithful and humble children. In Jesus’ first sign, Mary didn’t know what Jesus meant by “My hour has not yet come.” However, in verse 5, Mary said to the servants, “Do whatever Jesus tells you.” Mary humbly and faithfully trusted Jesus and His word. She gave an essential instruction to the servants. The servants also trusted Jesus and did what Jesus told them.
Without these humble and faithful followers of Jesus Christ, the water would not have been turned into wine.
Let’s remember once again that God uses each and every one of us to fulfill His glorious plan of the New heaven and earth!
At the Church of All Nations, since last year, we have been studying about Christ’s witnesses and Spiritual gifts. Very similar to my struggles about baptism when I was young, we often tend to misunderstand that we should wait and do nothing until we become more faithful and gifted in order to serve Christ. However, in this way, we will never become faithful or spiritually gifted.
Last year, we also studied the Book of James. The book of James is not talking about legalistic faith. The Book of James exhorts those who misunderstand. James tells us not to simply wait, not to sit and do nothing! But, to trust the Lord and to follow what Jesus said to us in our everyday life.
By trusting and following what Jesus said to us, we are being transformed from ‘water’ into ‘the best wine’. We are becoming faithful witnesses of Jesus Christ. We are demonstrating spiritual gifts to the broken world for the Gospel. In this way, we become a part of God’s glorious plan of salvation and new creation in Christ our Lord!
At the beginning of my homily today, I asked all of you to imagine yourself as the ‘water’. Let’s read again Genesis and Jesus’ first sign , replacing the word ‘water’ with your own name.
In Genesis 1:2: “Darkness is over the surface of ‘me’, yet the Spirit of God is hovering over ‘me’! ”
In Jesus’ first sign, ‘I’ was empty, but ‘I’ was filled. Christ is transforming ‘me’ into the best wine!
The best wine is Jesus Christ our Lord, who shed His blood for us! We are being transformed into Christlikeness! What grace and glory God has given to us! What a glorious salvation in Christ we have been made a part of!
The Gospel of John 1: 12 &16 say: “to all who believed in Jesus Christ, God gave the right to become children of God. Out of fullness of Christ, we have all received grace upon grace.”
Through Jesus Christ our Lord, we are shifted from darkness to light. We are being transformed from water into the best wine! The Holy Spirit is leading us to the fullness of new life in Christ Jesus our Lord!
Let us remember once again that God uses His children to fulfill His glorious salvation plan!
In our everyday life, May we humbly trust the Lord and faithfully do what Jesus told us, just like Mary and the servants at the wedding in Cana!
Glory be to our triune God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit! Amen.