Making All Things New
Series: The Gospel of John
We can sew on patches to the problems of our lives and world, but can it all be made new? It can, because this passage shows us that Jesus makes all things new.
I was thankful recently for a few of you who recommended to me new pairs of pants. 3-4 years ago I bought 4 pairs of pants to kinda be my main pants, but now 3 of them have holes in them that keep reoccurring. When they first appeared, my wife noticed them and sewed or patched them up for me. I love that; I can keep wearing them and not have to buy new ones. But invariably, a few months later, the hole would come back. Why? Because my wife can fix the old pants, but she couldn’t make them into new and better pants. And isn’t that the problem with our world? We can genuinely fix problems we see, and we should. But why do they end up reappearing later? Why do we see such apparent victories against racism in things like the Civil Rights Movement, only to find the sin of racism reappearing in 2020? Is it possible for the world as it is to not only be sewn and patched up, but to be made new? Is it possible for us to not only be sewn and patched up, but made new? This passage shows us that it is. This passage shows us the first of Jesus’ miracles, and it begins a section of the Gospel of John where Jesus is making things new. In this, the first of His signs, He begins not even with a spiritual renewal, but a material one, turning water into wine. Why? Because just as we saw in John chapter 1 that all things were made through Jesus in the first place, we see here in John 2 that Jesus makes all things new in His timing, better than before, and for His glory.
In His timing
Our passage begins by setting the scene at a wedding at Cana in Galilee, at which the Mary, the mother of Jesus was present. Jesus and His disciples were also invited. However, weddings at that time and still in many cultures were multiple day events. Therefore, it was possible for the wine to run out, and in this case, it did. It was the groom’s responsibility to ensure that there was enough wine, so this would have been a massive social embarrassment for him. Imagine even today going to a wedding and sitting down for the reception when you realize there isn’t enough food for 1/3 of the guests. How embarrassed would the bride and groom feel? That’s something like what this would have been like for the groom, especially in an honor/shame culture.
So Mary, who was probably family or a close friend to the bride and groom, turns to Jesus and tells him they have no wine. Recall that this is Jesus’ first miracle, so Mary probably isn’t expecting Him to perform a miracle. But she no doubt remembers that an angel came to her to announce his birth, and that she gave birth to Him while still a virgin, so there is something very special about Him. He’s the kind of guy you go to when something is wrong, and there is a kind of nascent faith Mary has that if anyone can do something about this, it’s Jesus. Nonetheless, Jesus responds with a rebuke: “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” Don’t read “woman” disrespectfully; it’s probably more like if you’ve ever seen an employee trying to correct a customer, they might say something like, “Ma’am, I understand your concern, but you’re holding up the line.” So Jesus here respectfully but firmly pushes back on Mary’s request, because his hour has not yet come.
What’s that mean? Jesus’ hour throughout the Gospel of John refers to the hour of His death, and Jesus realizes that if He begins indiscriminately revealing His identity, it will lead to His death. Now, He does end up providing wine, so His rebuke to Mary isn’t about the wine. What He’s doing is He’s reorienting Mary. He’s reorienting His mother. Parents are used to putting their kids on their schedule. When I tell my son it’s time to clean up and go take a bath, he sometimes says, “No it’s not,” and guess what I say? “Yes it is.” My wife and I set his schedule because we’re his parents. He doesn’t set the agenda. Here Mary comes to Jesus as his mother with her agenda: “They have no wine; do something,” but Jesus is clear that He has His own agenda, with its own schedule, and His hour has not yet come, whether there is wine or not.
And Mary responds to Jesus’ respectful rebuke faithfully. She turns to the servants, over whom she evidently had some authority, and tells them to do whatever He tells you, not whatever she tells them. She’s saying to them, “We’re on His agenda now.” And if that is an appropriate response for Mary, the very mother of Jesus, how much more is it an appropriate response for us. We all, especially those of us of a more pessimistic disposition, see things that are wrong with the world and our lives. And it may even be things as seemingly small as a socially embarrassing moment like this; one of the things this passage shows us is that Jesus cares about even the small things in our lives. Jesus teaches us to pray even for our daily bread. He makes all things new. And yet, He does it in His timing, because He has His own agenda, and He will not allow it to be co-opted even by His own mother, let alone by you and me.
You see, the mistake we make is we think our diagnosis of our problems is inerrant. We recognize that we are unhappy on some level, and we think we can figure out why and we know the best way to solve it. We’re like people who go to the doctor and tell the doctor what’s wrong with us and how the doctor should treat it because we read a WebMD article. No, Jesus knows better than we do, and He has a far greater, far more glorious vision than just solving your latest issue. Your issue is part of the story, but it’s not driving the plot. And unless you are willing to come to Jesus on those terms, you cannot come to Him at all. He will not be a supporting cast member in your story, but He is inviting you into His story, where He is making all things new, including you. Mary had to come to Jesus no longer as a mother comes to her son, but as a servant comes to her Lord. And she did. Why can’t you? Why hasn’t Jesus increased your income, healed your disease, given you a house, given you a spouse, given you a promotion? Maybe it’s because He’s working on making you new by getting your attention less fixated on those things and more fixated on Him and His agenda. Why hasn’t Jesus enabled you to overcome that sin in your life, why hasn’t Jesus saved that friend or family member you’ve been praying for and sharing the gospel with for years, why hasn’t Jesus grown our church to greater maturity in that area of weakness you’re noticing? Because He makes all things new in His timing. And one day, He will right every wrong, including even the little things in your life, but He will do it on His agenda, as part of His greater work to make all things new. In the meantime, heed the words of Mary to these servants: Do whatever He tells you. That’s the part we’re responsible for. Because when Jesus makes all things new, the new is always better than what came before.
Better than before
Verse 6 introduces us to a way of doing things that was common at the time that Jesus came. It was the old way, the traditional way, among the Jewish people of the time: They had massive stone water jars for rites of purification. In God’s law, He had instituted purification ceremonies, and the idea of them was to teach the people that there was something wrong with them: They were guilty of sin, and sin defiles us inwardly. The cleansing ritual served to remind us of this fact, but to also teach us to look to God for cleansing.
And it’s these jars that Jesus tells the servants to fill with water, which had to seem like a strange thing to the servants. Recall that the jars aren’t there to drink out of; they’re there for purification. The problem is that there isn’t enough wine, and Jesus wants us to do a purification ritual? What’s up with that? But recall also what Mary told them: Do whatever He tells you. It’s not our job to make all things new; it’s our job to do whatever Jesus tells us to do, and He makes all things new. We pour the water; He makes it wine. And so when they take the water to the master of the feast, which was kinda like an M.C., the water has now become wine. And the master then turns to the groom, because he didn’t know where the wine came from, and he says to the groom, verse 10: “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Not only did Jesus turn the water into wine; He turned it into better wine than the wine that ran out! And what this signifies to us is that the age He is bringing in is better than the age that came before it, the age of purification rituals.
All throughout the Old Testament God promised a time would come with the coming Messiah, the promised King of Israel, where the people would rejoice with well-aged wine. We saw it earlier from Isaiah 25:6-9 – “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” This miracle, the first of Jesus’ signs, signifies to us that with the coming of Christ, this time of rejoicing in the LORD’s salvation has also come. And therefore, those who have received that salvation, Christians, should be some of the most joyful people around.
On a kind of basic level, Jesus shows us here the appropriateness of being happy and rejoicing at things like weddings. God is not anti-joy. To the contrary, Jesus came to bring true and lasting joy. You should have fun at weddings. At Nick and Katie’s wedding recently a few of you gave me a hard time for not dancing, and after studying this passage, I think you all may have been the more Christ-like that night. Of course we shouldn’t enjoy sin, but there is so much in God’s creation that is not sinful that Christians ought to be the first to enjoy. What are you saying about Jesus when you can’t smile, can’t laugh, can’t rejoice? You’re saying He’s not really a big fan of joy, but you kinda have to give up the fun stuff in life and follow Him so He doesn’t send you to hell. How dare we? Is that the Jesus of this passage? Of course not. But even more so, the great source of joy in this passage is not the wedding or even ultimately the wine. It’s Jesus Himself. He has come, and even when there are no fun weddings to attend, even when there is no great wine to drink, He is reason for joy. So Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” There is always something in the Lord in which to rejoice, and you typically find that as you rejoice in Him, even when everything around you seems dark, that He also begins to open your eyes to see all the good He’s given you in the things made through Him. And He does this all, ultimately for His glory.
For His glory
So verse 11 summarizes the story in these words: “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” The hour had not yet come for the full manifestation of His glory to all, but at the beginning, for the first of His signs, He did manifest it to some. The bride, the groom, the master of the feast, the wedding guests: None of them knew He turned the water into wine. And wouldn’t you think that if you wanted to manifest your glory, you’d want to manifest it to the most glorious people? Jesus is different. He manifests it to the servants and His disciples, the nobodies. And now it’s been written down for us, that we might see His glory in this story too.
So what do we see of His glory in this story? First, as I’ve already alluded to multiple times, we see that Jesus is the Messiah, the promised King of Israel. The age of wine is here because Jesus is here, and that shows us something of the kind of King He is. When this King comes, the people feast with the best wine, rather than groaning or hiding in fear. Jesus is a kind and generous king. He is for our joy. He cares about seemingly small things like a social embarrassing situation for a groom. He didn’t have to do this. Nobody’s life was on the line. If He just wanted to display His power, there were countless other ways to do that: He could have flown or broke the stone jars in pieces. And He even makes clear to His mother that He’s under no orders. But instead He freely and willingly chooses to increase the joy of all the people at this wedding and to save the groom from public shame by making not just any wine even, but the best wine, from water.
He also did reveal his power. Notice that John doesn’t narrate at any point for us Jesus turning the water into wine. There is no invocation of God to turn the water into wine, no ceremony, no pomp and circumstance. We simply read in verse 9 that when the master of the feast tasted it, the water had now become wine. How did Jesus turn the water into wine? He simply willed it, and it was so. There is no other miracle like this in the Bible, even though other miracles are recorded. In each of those, the one performing the miracle prays, or goes through some ritual, and then God performs the miracle. Here there is none of that; why? Because Jesus is God. He doesn’t need any help. Even more to the point, we saw in John 1 that Jesus is the Word, through whom all things were made. And Here He makes a new creation without a word, because He is the Word. The same Word through whom all things were made is the Word who makes all things new. That’s a glory uniquely God’s. No one else is creator. That’s why my wife can’t make new and better pants out of my old pants, why we can’t make a new and better world out of this old one. We aren’t the creator, but this story reveals that Jesus is. The glory He manifests here is the glory of God alone, the glory of the only Son from the Father.
And, finally, He revealed that He is the true bridegroom. Remember that it was the groom’s responsibility to provide wine for the wedding feast, and in verse 10, when the master of the feast wants to complement the wine, who does he address? The groom. But what do the servants, Jesus’ disciples, and now we, know? It was Jesus who provided the wine. He’s the true bridegroom who provides the best wine for the guests at His wedding, only for Him to enjoy His feast, He’d first have to go through His hour. The purification laws that God instituted were there to teach us something true: We are unclean, and we need a purification, a purification no ritual can ultimately bring, a purification without which we’ll never be able to have true and lasting joy, and it’s this purification that Jesus accomplished when His hour did come. On the cross He bore all the filth of our sins, suffered for them in our place, and then He rose again, new, purified, better than any who had come before, never to die or be defiled again. Because He did, now whoever believes in Him is cleansed of all their sins by His blood, signified here by the wine.
Believe in Him, as we read that His disciples did here, and you will be free to use stone jars not to hold water for purification, but to hold wine for celebration. Christians should be the most joyful people around because we are no longer trying to purify ourselves of our sins. We’ve been cleansed! We’re the people who can both admit there is something really wrong with us, and so not have to live a life of denial, and the people who have been cleansed, and so live a life of joy. That’s what it’s like to live in the Messianic age, the age that Jesus ushered in with His presence. And yet, even we still look forward to a greater feast. There is another hour coming when Isaiah’s prophecy will reach its final end, when death will be swallowed up, and every tear will be wiped away, when the true bridegroom, Jesus Christ, will host His own wedding feast, with His bride, the church, and the wine will never run out.
So as people who live in the Messianic age, better than the one before it, but who still look forward to a better day, we should, on the one hand, be people of great rejoicing, and on the other, hungry for the day of greater rejoicing. C.S. Lewis summarizes life in this age in this way: “I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.” We have times in our lives where we focus on the rejoicing: We have fun at a wedding, we get together around a meal and enjoy one another’s company, we maybe even drink some wine, and as Christians of course we set aside time to gather every week with the express purpose of rejoicing in the Lord in our worship gatherings.
If you find you’re unable to rejoice in these ways in this life, don’t beat yourself up further for not rejoicing enough. Part of the reason we don’t rejoice more is because we focus on ourselves too much. Some of you hear of the glory of Jesus and the rejoicing possible in Him and the first thing you think is, “Ugh; why am I not rejoicing in Him more?” The irony is you’ll never rejoice in Him more that way. The path to joy in Jesus is to stop looking at yourself so much and instead to Jesus and consider His kindness, His power, and the way He’s cleansed you of your sins by His blood. Because, you know, belief is not just a one-time thing. Jesus’ disciples were already His disciples at the beginning of this story, but verse 12 tells us they believed in Him. What’s that mean? It means they saw more of His glory now than they had seen previously, and they exercised faith upon it. There is always more glory of Jesus for us to see. If you want real and lasting joy, look there for it.
And at the same time, if you’re passing your days in feasting and fun, grinding out the bare minimum at work to afford your lavish lifestyle, is it really joy in the Lord that you have? Because if it is joy in Him, you’ll also feel a hunger for Him to come back, and you’ll seek to work faithfully for Him until He does. You’ll work to put sin to death in yourself, you’ll work to see others led to rejoicing in Jesus. There will be times when you fast instead of feast. You will grieve all the things that aren’t yet made new in you and in your world. spend a portion of our services doing that every Sunday. But we never end on it. Because though joy and sorrow are mixed in this age, joy gets the final word. The best wine is yet to come. Our future will be better than our present. The end for which we were all created was a feast, not a famine, and whoever believes in Jesus can rejoice now, knowing that they will rejoice later. It will be greater than anything that came before it. In His timing, and for His glory, Jesus will finish the work of making all things new.