Like the cup of communion, the wine is poured out without request from those who benefit and is poured out with extravagant abundance!
I. Establish the text
A. Select the Pericope: John 2:1-11
B. Other texts for Year for Sunday within
C. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?
1 What “third day”?
3 How do we ask Jesus for things? Do we simply expect Jesus to fill our needs when notified?
4a What concern is the wine to Jesus? –> “Give us this day our daily bread …”
4b When are we commissioned to ministry? Installation? Ordination? Seminary/Sunday School? Baptism!
5 This is a statement of faith! That Jesus can solve our problems, and even when he has objected, will solve our problems.
6 Did John have a numerological meaning hidden in the six jars holding 2 to 3 measures? (Six being the incomplete number.) Or is this only to demonstrate that this was a large household and the vastness of Jesus’ grace poured out for us?
7 Are we the treasure, in stone jars, filled with water, awaiting transformation into superior wine?
8 What would the servants have been thinking when they took the water to the wine steward?
9 Imagine the reaction of the servants when the steward proclaimed what they to be only water as the best wine.
10a Heard Baptists excuse this wine as weaker, less intoxicating, than modern wine, but the guests would get drunk.
10b Consider wine as a metaphor for God’s mission to the people.
10c Keep the good wine until later?
11 Jesus first miracle is to make wine! We should celebrate his glory!
E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?
- John delimits this story with “On the third day” and with “after this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they remained there a few days.”
6. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?
This is a unique passage.
Joel 3:18 In that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, the hills shall flow with milk, and all the stream beds of Judah shall flow with water; a fountain shall come forth from the house of the LORD and water the Wadi Shittim.
H. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms
Water for purification rites? Nothing overt in Scripture.
Wine: Other than this passage, and a reference to this passage, John does not use this word.
II. Literary Study.
A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?
- This is the last Gospel written. John seeks to affirm that the actions of Jesus are continued by the actions of the Holy Spirit ‘Paraclete’ as present among believers. John seeks to show the revelation of the glory of Jesus Christ from the beginning of his ministry. John has a different understanding of the second coming of Jesus Christ. He understands that God is with us now in the form of the Paraclete.
III. Question the text.
A. Observe the passage from the perspective of its characters.
Jesus was a wedding guest. Is not concerned about the shortage of wine. But instructs servants to fill the jars with water. The miracle has to be deduced from Mary’s instructions and what we know of Jesus.
Jesus’ mother (unnamed in this passage) neither asks nor tells Jesus to provide more wine.
The servants are fully aware of what has happened, but only after the wine steward tastes the wine. Had they thought that Jesus was about to pull a fast one?
The wine steward affirms the completion of the miracle. And wrongly attributes the beneficence of good wine to the bridegroom.
The disciples are transformed through learning about this miracle.
The bridegroom is the beneficiary of the miracle, but is oblivious to it. Like people in a disaster benefiting from others.
B. Are there any unusual details? Un-named characters? ‘Pointless’ description? Meanings of names of characters? What does a literal meaning of natural metaphors imply?
On the third day: If we presume that this is a sequence of days beginning with Jesus’ baptism (creation) then he recruits disciples on the second and third day, and this story comes on the third day after meeting Philip, or the sixth day after his baptism. The wedding then links to Genesis in the creation of humanity. The six jars of water may also link to the six days of creation.
Jesus is the only named character, keeping our focus on him.
Why six stone jars? Why two to three measures each? Stone jars would ensure ritual purity that an earthen jar would not, in the event of contamination with a dead unclean animal, including the washing of items so contaminated. The volume of wine produced connotes the superabundance of gifts available through Jesus.
Cana occurs later as a place where Jesus perceived the people demanded signs to believe in him.
C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?
- Center of Gravity: A sign that Jesus is more than a mere mortal.
- Emotional Center: The surprise of the wine steward on drinking the good wine.
D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.
- What concern is the lack of wine to Jesus?
- What does Jesus mean that his hour has not come? Has our hour come?
- Does serving the good wine last parallel Jesus appearing after the prophets?
E. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?
- The sign swamps the details of the story.
IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?
Gail R. O’Day (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Gospel of John”) opines that these jars symbolize the new wine filling the old vessels of Jewish purification. She connects the abundance of good wine with Amos 9:13 & Joel 3:18 as a symbol of the joyous arrival of God’s new age.
Gerard Sloyan (Interpretation: John) notes ancient interpretations which link the mother of Jesus to Eve, with both sharing the title of Woman. He notes potential problems of upstaging the wedding with this miracle if everyone knew of the source of the wine, thus explaining Jesus’ silence regarding the transformation, and also the difficulty of keeping this secret in a small town (thus when Jesus returns the people want to see more miracles from him).
The NIV Life Application Bible opines that running out of wine at a wedding was more than a breach of hospitality. They suggest that Mary was not asking for a miracle, only that he find someway to solve the bridegroom’s social problem.
V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?
Those times when my sermons were best received, when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,” were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond
A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?
Since this is the last Gospel, written long after Paul’s letters, does this function as the institution of the Lord’s Supper? This cup is the new covenant, sealed in my blood, poured out for the forgiveness of sins. Like the cup of communion, the wine is poured out without request from those who benefit. And it is poured out with extravagant abundance!