Good morning. If you have your Bibles, go ahead and grab those. We’re going to be in John, chapter 2. So, not chapter 1 any longer. We’re moving on into chapter 2. We’re going to look at the first 11 verses in that. I want to give you a little picture of where we’re going. The next three chapters in the gospel of John kind of have the same theme or they’re structured or organized to communicate a simple and singular truth. It’s just a truth that’s hard for us, so Jesus is going to come at it from a multitude of different directions in the hopes that we can get it.
If I could steal from Paul to explain John, what we’re going to hear about and what we’re going to see over the next three chapters is that the old has gone and the new has come. That’s it. That’s the singular message the gospel of John is now going to try to put into our hearts and our heads: the old is gone and the new has come. I’ll just highlight some of that today.
In verses 1-11, we’re going to see that the ritual purification system of the Old Testament has been replaced by new wine. Relax, Baptists. I’ll explain. Next week, we’re going to see that the temple has been replaced by a resurrected Lord. After that, we’re going to get an exposition on new life and new creation, and then after that we’re going to see that God’s people are sustained not by Jacob’s well but by the living water of Christ himself. Then from there we’re going to look at worship no longer being about place but being about person.
We’ll see that the true worshipers aren’t going to worship in Jerusalem or Gerizim but the true worshipers are going to worship in spirit and truth. In all of it, we’re going to get to see that when John says Jesus was full of both grace and truth that he’s exactly that, and in beholding him and in seeing him we will become more like him. So that’s where we’re going, but for today let’s look at this text. John, chapter 2. I’m going to start in verse 1.
“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ’They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ’Woman, what does this have to do with me?’”
Does that make anybody else cringe a little bit? Maybe we were raised differently. Janet would slap the taste out of your mouth if you talked to her like that, and if she did not, you could count on Big Steve (that’s my dad) coming off a top rope out of nowhere and snatching your soul. We’ll talk about this text, because you’re like, “Ooh, did he really just say that to his mom?” Maybe y’all grew up with parents who were like, “I want you to sit here and think about how you talked to me.” That’s just not the house I grew up in. I’m grateful for y’all. Here’s what happens.
“And Jesus said to her, ’Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ’Do whatever he tells you.’ Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, ’Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, ’Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.’ So they took it.
When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, ’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.’
This, the first of his signs…” There are seven signs in the gospel of John. “…Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.”
Like I said, we’re going to see driven out the old and something new replace it. I think there are three things we see in this text that are unique for us to consider as Christians. If you’re wondering what I’m up to today, I’ll just tell you what I’m up to, Christian, non-Christian. If you’re a Christian, what I want to try to convince you, what I want to try to remind you of is that the ritualistic purification system has been replaced with the new wine of the kingdom, and I want you to rejoice and be glad in that.
If you’re not a Christian, what I want you to hear is the invitation to newness of life. If you’re tired of your life, there’s great news: there’s a new one waiting for you. So there you go. I have no secrets now. That’s what I’m trying to accomplish. There are three things that are new in this text that start to shape and mold us as the people of God who are in Christ, so I want to highlight those.
The first is that there is now in Christ a new nature when it comes to our relationships with others. Not only in Christ is our vertical relationship completely changed, but now our horizontal relationships change. Let me explain some of that. Look back in verse 3. I want to get to the bottom of this “Woman” thing. “When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ’They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ’Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’”
I have read multiple commentators try to make this sweet. Several commentaries want to go to where Jesus is hanging on the cross and Mary is there with John and they’re both crying and Jesus uses this same language. He says, “Woman, behold your son; son, behold your mother,” in a way that he’s saying, “Hey, Mom, John is going to take care of you. John, take care of my mom.” So they’re like, “Oh, he uses this same language.” But this is clearly a rebuke on his mama. Is it not? Have you seen the text? We just read it.
This does not seem sweet. This is a rebuke, and who gets to rebuke their mom? Jesus does. The key to unlock the text is that little phrase: “My hour has not yet come.” When Jesus uses that little phrase, specifically when he says that phrase to other human beings, what he is saying is, “You are not, in position, power, or relationship to me, able to command me in my salvific work. I submit only to my Father.” He’s lovingly rebuking his mama by saying, “I love you, but from now on I do what God says, not what you say.”
Let me do this. I’m going to come over here. That’s the Bible. We know that’s true, inerrant, sufficient, complete. A lot of pieces we’re missing here. We don’t know what happens to Joseph. We know the last time we heard about Joseph Jesus was around 12. That’s what we have. We have him at the temple. Then Joseph just vanishes. We see in the texts that Joseph is a righteous man, a good man. He doesn’t leave Mary when she becomes pregnant without any of his help.
Now, that whole angel of the Lord showing up in your room certainly helped him be upright, but he doesn’t divorce her. He seems to be a good father. In fact, Jesus is not just the son of a carpenter; he actually was a carpenter, which means his daddy taught him his trade. But somewhere along the lines, we just stop hearing about Joseph. What you have now, apparently, is that Jesus is not just the eldest son, but he also has become a provider and protector of Mary.
If Dad dies in this culture, eldest son becomes responsible for his mama. So now you have this situation for all of these years… Jesus is 30. So for all of these years, Jesus has been providing, Jesus has been protecting. I think part of what you’re seeing here is when Mary has a problem, who does she go to? She goes to Jesus. Why? Because Jesus has been protecting and providing for their family in a human sense, not just a divine sense. He is fully God and fully man.
If something needs to be worked on at the house, it’s Mary going to Jesus and saying, “Hey, this is a problem. Can you help?” Right here she has a problem, and she goes to Jesus and says, “They’ve run out of wine,” and he rebukes her. He just says, “I love you, Mom. You’re not my boss.” Who gets to do that? The Son of God gets to do that. You can start deleting that little text to your mom right now. You don’t get that; he gets that.
He’s creating distance. He’s creating space between human authority and the authority he has as the Son of God. We’re seeing it in this text, and it’s discombobulating to us, because we don’t have these kinds of relationships. What I mean is nobody in here is coeternal with the Father. No one in here is the Creator and Sustainer of all things.
If you’ve been sent by God to fulfill the mission of God for the salvation of the earth and your mom is trying to get you off that track, you rebuke your mama. That’s what we just saw happen in this text. For those of us who are in Christ, our relationships change immediately upon surrendering our lives to Jesus and knowing him. Not only are our vertical relationships rearranged, but our horizontal relationships begin to change. The old way of doing things is replaced with the new.
I have two things here that I want to point out. I think there are more, but these are the big ones. What changes in our horizontal relationships because we’re in Christ? First, we stop being all about ourselves, and we become servants of God. Let me read you some of this. This is Matthew 20:25-28.
“But Jesus called them to him and said,’You know that the rulers of the Gentileslord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,even as the Son of Man came not to be served butto serve, andto give his life as a ransom formany.’”
The motivation of a life marked by servanthood isn’t white-knuckled obedience but it’s mimicking and becoming like the Savior who saved us. Jesus says, “I have come to serve you; therefore, you will be servants.” We will not be like the Gentiles who use their authority, their position, their power, their wealth for themselves. Instead, we’ll be all about others, and it will be scandalous and discombobulating, and it’ll be a witness to the world.
We are men and women, whether at work or at church or at home or in the community, who are marked by servants’ hearts. “How can I serve you? What can I do to help? How might I put myself a little bit out of sorts so that you might not be?” This is the heart of Christ. This is the heart God creates in those who know Jesus and follow Jesus.
You and I are constantly steeping in a “What about me?” culture. Tell me everything we’re drinking in with all of our senses isn’t, “You do you. You’ve got to be you. You’re going to be miserable if life isn’t about you. Who’s going to take care of you if you don’t take care of you?” This is what’s happening at work. This is what’s happening on our TV. This is what’s happening in our hearts. Our hearts love this message. “What about me?” It sings that song.
What the Bible is saying here is “No, no, no. We’re not going to sing that song. We’re going to sing a different song.” Like our Savior, our song is, “How can I serve you? How can I help you?” If you will track and pay attention to your frustrations and agitations, they are almost always tied to thinking life is about you. I’m sorry I said that sentence. Let me say it again. If when you start feeling agitated… Does anybody else just randomly start feeling agitated? Anybody? Let’s just do this. Most of us are family.
If you just start feeling agitated and you’re not quite sure what’s going on, if you stop for a second and think, “Okay, why does that bother me? Why is this bothering me?” I’m telling you, 90 percent of the time, we’ve drifted and bought into the lie that the universe owes us something and this needs to be about us. “How dare they not consider me? I’m trying to get to work on time. Why are they going the speed limit in the left lane? It’s for passing. It’s for passing!” What’s going on in us? When our spouse doesn’t do this, when our kids do this…
It’s this idea, “The world is about me, and I require for my own happiness and joy the world to be about me.” Now, by the grace of God, I get to play in all kinds of spaces. I’m friends with people who don’t have cars, and I’m friends with people who have a Falcon 900 Learjet, and here’s what I can tell you. Despite socioeconomics and all of that, here’s what’s true: the more life is about you, the more miserable and sad you are, and the more your life is not about you, the happier you tend to be. That’s counterintuitive, but it’s true.
Billionaires whose whole life is about themselves can be super miserable, and people who can’t afford a car can have so much joy and so much gladness, or it can be the opposite: a billionaire who’s crazy generous and understands all of that has been given to him to steward, and he can be as happy as a lark in that, or someone who’s poor and is like, “I want more. I got a raw deal on this. I deserve…” The more life is about you, the more miserable you’re going to be.
Paul, the apostle, would double down on this. In Galatians 6:10 he says, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone…” Can I tell you what I don’t like about that text? That everyone in the Greek means everyone. Anybody else want an asterisk on that? Pastor would. Pastor would like an asterisk. “Do good to everyone.” I want to go, “Everyone?” Everyone. Then he says, “…and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
I want to try to explain that. Wherever we go, we’re known as servants. At work we’re known as servants. In our neighborhood we’re known as servants. We’re just known as servants. This marks us as a distinct people. We mirror and look like our Savior who came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. So in our neighborhood, that guy is a servant, that woman is a servant. At work, they always are encouraging and wanting to help. They’re just servants. What drives that?
Then when it comes to us loving one another… I keep saying this lately, and it’s because we have such an opportunity in such a toxic environment. Kindness in the face of disagreement is near nonexistent. What would it look like for the people of God to disagree passionately on several issues but still treat each other with kindness and compassion and empathy in regard to seeking to understand? I could not overstate in this moment just how massive of an apologetic it will be just to be kind.
I want you to think about it. You don’t need to master presuppositional apologetics. You don’t have to have the answer to “What about the dinosaurs?” spring-loaded or “What do you do with the problem of evil?” You could just be kind. Doesn’t that take a little pressure off? You can just be kind. You can just be a servant. You can just be generous. You can just be loving. It has been amazing to me over the years how that’s the thing that breaks down skepticism and walls.
In fact, we had an older couple actually give their lives to Christ after watching a Home Group love on their children in one of the darkest seasons of their lives. It was the kindness of the saints toward one another that made 60 years of doubt and skepticism crumble. This is how we’re changed. I’m here to serve you; you’re here to serve me. We’re here to serve one another. Oh, if the church could get that in 2018.
That’s not the only thing here. Not only do we become servants of all, but we also become ministers and ambassadors of the gospel. That’s how our relationships change. Second Corinthians 5:17-21. If you have a church background, you’ll know this text.
“Therefore, if anyone isin Christ, he isa new creation.The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.All this is from God,who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave usthe ministry of reconciliation;that is, in Christ God was reconcilingthe world to himself,not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to usthe message of reconciliation.
Therefore,we are ambassadors for Christ,God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.For our sake he made him to be sinwho knew no sin, so that in him we might becomethe righteousness of God.”
This is not addressed to vocational ministers. That’s not who’s being written to here. This is not in the section of the New Testament that’s entitled the “Pastoral Epistles.” This is not 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. It’s not, “Ministers, here’s how you minister.” This is “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, and the old has gone and the new has come.” What’s one of the markers of that? Oh, this ministry of reconciliation? You’re now ministers of it. What that means is now wherever you go, wherever you are, you are an ambassador.
I’ll say it again. I’ve been saying it a lot lately. There are no spectators in the kingdom of God. All are called. All are gifted. All are placed. It’s also why moralism leads to boredom in the Christian faith. It’s why if God’s big plan and purpose is for you to be good and not be bad, you lose power, you lose vitality, and you never walk in what God has called you to, because what he has called you to be is an ambassador wherever you are.
I think this is important. I loved this quote from Bruner. Here’s what he says: “We may highlight again Jesus’ frequent presence in social settings in all four gospels. Jesus was clearly not a recluse, a hermit, or an unnaturally religious person.” I love that phrase: an unnaturally religious person. “He was invited to meals and parties, and he came to a number of them.” What Bruner is trying to get across, especially when Jesus is at a wedding…
A Jewish wedding is an epic party. It can be 7 to 14 days long, which is why you might run out of wine if you planned poorly. Then your name would be slandered and shamed because you ran out of wine. In this environment, Jesus has showed up at a full-fledged, blowout party where there are massive stone wine bottles. I almost called this sermon “From the Bottle to the Box,” and then I decided not to. I’d rather just call it New Wine.
What we see happening in this passage is Jesus in a party, and he’s not unnaturally religious. He’s so full of life and joy and kindness that people are drawn to him, and they want him at their parties. How radically different is that for our little minds than how we’ve grown up thinking about Jesus? He’s constantly being invited to things like this. Why? Because there was life in him that wasn’t to be found anywhere else, and people wanted to be around it, even as they stumbled forward.
Think about the settings we see Jesus in. You’re going to see some of those in the weeks to come. If you dive into all four gospels, he is in some questionable places, some places that I think if I showed up at some of the elders would want to have a little chat with me. Like, “Hey, Friday, where were you? Yeah, about that…” Yet Jesus is in those places, not participating as a drunkard or a glutton, although he certainly was accused of it (in the social media of his day, that’s how he was getting popped), but as a friend of sinners, full of life. They wanted him there.
You and I have not been called to be unnaturally religious. This is yet again God taking this out of our hands and requiring us to come to him. Abiding in Jesus, knowing Jesus, loving Jesus, growing in intimacy with Jesus transforms us in such a way that there is a kindness in us, there is a life in us, there is a joy in us that men and women want to understand and want to be around.
If you, at work, were marked by joy and gratitude and life and lived like the servant to all, how out of step would you be with the rest of your coworkers? Would it be true that most of your coworkers are aware of the shortcomings of the place that you work and like to talk about those things? I worked in the secular world for a day and a half or something, but it’s true. There is a lot of complaining going on in our day.
What would it be like for you not to be that? Wouldn’t you stand out a little bit, be a little odd? Like, “I can’t believe they did this.” You’re like, “Yeah, I don’t get it either, but I’ll tell you what. Can I help you with that project? That does sound terrible. I’m jammed myself. My life is full also, but I have a little space. I might be able to help you.”
“Huh? What’s your angle?”
“Kindness. I’m just trying to be kind to you, brother.”
What would happen if we lived this way? What kind of conversations could we get into about the hope that’s inside of us? Again, this isn’t complex. This is kindness. This is joy that’s found in Jesus. That’s what I love about what he has done here. If you leave right now and you’re like, “I’m going to be kind,” well, that’s unnaturally religious. “I love you, Dan. Oh my gosh, I love you so much. Jesus, help me.”
That’s not how we… We actually are. We’re not pretending to be; we actually are grateful. We actually are free. We actually have been reimmersed in the truth that God has forgiven us, loves us, delights in us, and that has set us free to be a certain way. Not do a certain thing; be a certain way. Oh man, if ever you could understand what God is up to as you being a certain way, not doing certain things. John is like… It’s a full-out assault on this idea.
Then it’s not just that our relationships change. That’s not the only thing new. You also have a new direction for your life found in this text. Look at what it replaces. I love this. Jesus says, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come,” and Mary is like, “Okay, servants, whatever he says, do it.” Mary is like, “I get it. You’re the Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. Servants, do what he says.”
Here’s our new direction in life. It’s really simple: do what he says. That’s it. Now my vertical relationship has changed in that I’ve been fully, freely, and forever forgiven, and my horizontal relationships have changed in that I am a servant to all and an ambassador for Christ wherever I go, and now what I see is I have a new direction for my life, and that new direction is if Jesus says it, I’m doing it. Oftentimes, that’s not going to make a lot of sense to me, and oftentimes I’m not even going to understand what God is up to, but I have to trust him.
Obedience is a serious thing to the God of the Bible. Remember, we covered this earlier. The law of God was a grace in and of itself, explaining to us how life works. I’ll say it again. This might make a million or two. Every command in the Word of God is about your joy. God is not interested in your begrudging submission or robbing you from some experience that’s going to finally make you alive. All of his commands are “This way to life.” You can expect that some of those times we were told, “Do what he said,” are going to be confusing to us, not make a lot of sense to us, but are also still exactly what we need to do.
If you know your Bible or if you want to study your Bible, one of the things I always find fascinating is God rarely will lay out the whole plan. He’s like, “Hey, cross the River Jordan into the Promised Land.” Then Israel is like, “Well, the river is up. We’re going to get swept away. Everything you’ve given us is going to be swept away. You’ve brought us out here. The whole nation is going to get swept away in that river.” God basically is like, “Okay. All right. Go ahead and cross the river, please.”
“I don’t know if you heard me. The river is up. It’s way up. It’s like the flood season. God, if we even put a toe in that we’re going to get swept away, and if everybody follows me, you’ll kill all of us.” God’s response is like, “All right. Okay. Cross the River Jordan.” What happens? It is not until Joshua puts his foot in that the river stops, not before. Why? Because faith and obedience rooted in faith is the thing that pleases God, and it’s the conduit through which power flows.
You can expect to not understand a lot of Jesus’ “Go this way.” Sixteen years ago, the last place on earth I ever wanted to pastor was in Dallas, Texas, and its area. Christianity Today in 1998 called Dallas the “center of the evangelical world” because of the number of nonprofits and the number of mega-gigachurches in this area. I am not a brother who wants to be in the Buckle. I wanted to be on the front lines. I wanted to plant a church in San Francisco or maybe in Austin or maybe Hong Kong. I just wanted to be on the front edge.
It wasn’t until I actually got here and realized most of us aren’t believers here; we just go to church that I started going, “Actually, this is far more difficult.” But the Lord was like, “Hey, this is where we’re going.” I was like, “Well, are we?” He was like, “Absolutely we are.” So for 16 years I have been here, and all God has done in this place has required me to just go, “I don’t want this. I don’t like this. I think you’re wrong, but I’m going to step out.”
Those are the spaces that God tends… What pleases God is faith. In fact, without that, it’s impossible to please him. God is far more excited about us going, “I don’t know. I’m not sure. Not quite. I don’t know if I like it, but I’m going to step out, and I’m going to trust that you’re good.” That pleases the heart of God, and it creates this space in which his power might flow versus us needing every little bit of the details about what we need to do, because what we’re saying in that moment is, “I’m god; you’re not God. I need to be able to handle this on my own. Without all the data, how am I supposed to make an informed decision?”
I just want to lovingly tell you God is not interested in giving you all the data so that you might make the right decision but that he might lead you into something you feel is wrong, only to get you into what is absolutely right. This is all a matter of perspective. What I mean by that is you can expect the Word of God to clash with your desires. You should just expect it.
The reason that’s true is the Word of God is God’s self-disclosure of himself and his plan for us to flourish and for him to be glorified. He is eternal; we’re here for a couple of seconds. We’re going to see things differently. If you’ve ever been around children… I’m not even asking if you have children. I’m saying if you’ve ever been around children, their age limits their understanding, does it not?
It’s hard to convince a 3-year-old of certain things. It doesn’t matter how concrete it is. They just lack the capacity to grasp it. If that is true, then how much more an infinite, eternal God and created beings that are here in the morning, according to the Bible, and gone by the afternoon? You’re like the dew on the grass in the morning. The old adage, “Here today, gone tomorrow.” He’s like, “You’re not even here that long.” Here today, gone today.
So you can expect it to rub. It’s an arrogant position to believe that God is the one who’s out of touch and he must catch up to us. You can expect the Word of God to rub in difficult ways on your life, to confront you, to rebuke you, to correct you, and you can expect to not like it and want to justify what you want. The push and pull of our day will be to drift away from the Word of God and justify something rather than what he has revealed to us. It’s a hopelessly arrogant position.
When God says, “Marriage, money, sex, this way,” we’re like, “Oh my gosh. You are so stuck in yesterday. Right now, God, I don’t want to bring this up, but you’re wearing a fanny pack and some short jorts, and you have on high tops with your socks pulled up to your knees. No one is going to respect you, God. You are going to so have to get with the times. You’re going to need skinnier jeans.” This is what we do when we say, “I know what the Bible says, but that’s not really what the Bible says.” It’s a preposterous and arrogant position. So there’s a new direction for our lives, and the new direction is simple: do whatever he says.
Lastly, and really the thrust of the text, in fact, I would even say the point of the text… Look there in verse 6. “Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, ’Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim.” I think that’s significant that they filled them all the way to the brim.
“And he said to them, ’Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.’ So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, ’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.’ This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”
What we see happening here is the concept all over the Old Testament about what is clean and what is unclean. For the Jews of this day, any moral or physical blemish made one unclean and unfit to be in the presence of God until there was a rite or ritual of ceremonial cleaning that then got them into the presence of God. Some people were so unclean that, regardless, they were not welcomed. Jesus, in this act of transforming water and purification jars into wine, is replacing that old model with something new.
It’s so compelling and beautiful. There’s this language of “It was filled to the brim.” It was overflowing, and it was so much better than the good wine that it was good, good, good wine. He confronts often this idea of clean and unclean. In fact, on repeat, Jesus has a real problem with those who are ethically about moral cleanliness rather than inward transformation. In fact, he saves his harshest judgment for those who believe that way.
You were unclean if you were sick with certain illnesses, if you had touched someone who was, if you were promiscuous, if you were a tax collector. If you were ethnically not a Jew you were unclean. Some of these meant you would never be clean and never could be clean. If you had come in contact with a dead body… All of these made one unclean and unfit to come into the presence of God unless you went through this ceremony of cleansing.
What Jesus is saying is, “That day is over, and there’s a new day that has come, and that new day is I’ve brought good wine. I’ve brought celebration and joy and rejoicing, because I have cleansed you. I will make you new. I will wash away your stains. I will give to you my cleanliness, and I will take from you your filthiness, because as the perfect Son of God, I cannot have a spot or blemish.” Jesus, because he knows this is hard for us, throughout his entire ministry shows us to be true.
Let me just point out a couple of things. He oftentimes rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees who believed that ceremonial purity was the height of what God required of them. He would say some really hard things to them. He would say, “You’re like a tomb. On the outside you have flowers, but really you’re full of dead men’s bones.
You’re like a bowl that looks clean, and then when you pull it down you notice, ’Oh man, one of the kids had oatmeal in this, and the dishwasher doesn’t have enough power to power through this oatmeal that’s now like concrete.’ That’s what you’re like. You’re like whitewashed tombs. You’re like dishes that look clean on the outside but on the inside are filthy.” These are very confrontational words to those in power.
He’s saying to them, “You’ve got it all wrong. To pretty up the outside and not be transformed from the inside is not what God desires. It’s not what God is after, and it certainly is not a currency God accepts.” One of the things that becomes apparent in the Gospels is Jesus doesn’t need to touch anybody to heal them, but he constantly chooses to. There are these stories where a dad or a soldier comes up to Jesus and is like, “My son is about to die,” and he’s like, “No, he’s not. I’ve healed him. Go on home. He’ll be playing in the front yard.”
Jesus doesn’t need to touch to heal, but he’s constantly touching people. Why? Because humanity needs touch. We’ve been designed for it, especially people who were viewed as unclean, because to touch something that was unclean was to then be unclean yourself. So Jesus was constantly touching unclean people. He would touch the lepers. He would touch those who were sick. He would touch sinners.
This whole idea of clean versus unclean was so pervasive that I think you get one of the more powerful stories in all of the Bible, where a woman of the city (that’s what she’s called in the text; I don’t think that has anything to do with downtown living) comes in, and she is a broken woman. She comes in, and she’s crying and heaving, and there’s snot and there’s brokenness. She’s just grabbing onto Jesus’ feet. It’s this moment of profound brokenness.
This is for free. It’s not in my notes. No little girl dreams of being a prostitute when she grows up. They dream of being princesses. They dream of being wives. They dream of being CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, but nobody is like, “You know what I want to do when I grow up? I would love for men to use me, abuse me, take me as a commodity, and never view me as a human person.” Which means really horrific things happen to little girls that lead them into that.
I’m saying that just in case you have a compulsion toward pornography, to know that regardless of what’s being projected, no little girl starts out saying, “That’s what I want to do with my life.” Very dark things have to happen to get you there. I’m not trying to shame anyone, but I am trying to shine light on something.
So here we have this woman, and she is as broken as it gets. She hates herself. She feels like there’s no future for her, no entrance into the kingdom of God for her, and she is just wailing on Jesus’ feet. The Bible says the men in the room, of course, think, “If Jesus knew what kind of woman this is, he would not let her touch him.”
Again, I love the story, because Jesus speaks to their thoughts. How awkward does that room get? They’re just thinking, “Why would Jesus let this woman touch him? Does he not know what kind of woman this is? Surely Jesus is unclean. This woman who has given herself over to prostitution is touching the Son of God, the Lamb of God.” They had no concept of what Jesus was up to.
Jesus goes, “Why would you think that way?” Oh! That moment. “What do you mean? I wasn’t thinking that.” Then Jesus says, “Hey, listen. What she has done is beautiful. I have a quick story, a quick question for you. Two men owe debts. One is a massive debt; one is a small debt. They’re both forgiven. Who’s more grateful?” Well, now they’re busted. So they’re like, “Well, I guess the one who owed the more.”
Then he goes on and says, “This woman has done something beautiful. It’s not unclean; it’s beautiful. She cannot make me unclean. To touch me and for me to touch you makes you clean.” What we see here is Christ’s complete and utter victory over our failures and shortcomings, no matter what they are. To be touched by Jesus is to be made pure, 100 percent and forever pure. When Jesus touches us, our nastiness doesn’t remain. His righteousness pervades, and it transforms us from the inside out.
If you are walking in, if you are stuck in the shame that comes from participating in things that go contrary to your design and God’s plan for your life, and if you are punishing yourself or if you are maybe even unconsciously sabotaging your relationships with others, I’m just trying to lay before you, if Christ has touched you, you’re pure, and that’s gone. It’s just gone. It doesn’t get to linger unless you give it a home.
If you make that your identity and something that gets to define you, then you’ve given a house for shame. I’m trying to tell you no, if Jesus has touched you, his message is, “Do you see this? This is beautiful.” In a few weeks, there are going to be dozens and dozens of men and women who get in our baptisteries and testify, “This is where Jesus found me.” What was meant for their shame will become a trophy of God’s grace, and what was meant for their destruction will be an opportunity to brag on the power and goodness of God.
If that’s you, I’m here to say no, if Jesus has touched you, you’re pure. You need to no longer give that a home. You need to confess. You need to repent of allowing that to fester. You need to ask for the Holy Spirit to do a deep work of healing inside of you. I think that’s one of the things that Encounter is so good for: just come and be prayed over and be prayed for, because no longer is ritualistic, ceremonial cleanliness the path to God. The path to God? New wine.
New wine is better than ceremonial cleansing. It just is. I even love the imagery. When they have drunk their fill and ran out of that wine, there’s all of a sudden this new wine that was so much better than that old wine. You see, even in how the text is wired, he’s saying, “Hey, they tried the wine, the good wine that was earthly, and they ran out of it.” Then Christ comes with new wine. When the master of ceremony tasted it, he was like, “Oh my gosh. Bring me the bridegroom. Where did you get this? Where did you get this? Oh my… What? This is awesome. This is just incredible.”
When we’re out of wine, we’re out of joy, we’re out of life, we’re out of energy, we feel exhausted, here’s Jesus going, “Oh, I have new wine. No, this ain’t no ’White Zin,’ bro. This is good wine.” (Sorry if you like White Zin.) You have Jesus just showing up with this great offering. “Oh, you’re out? Oh my gosh. You’re on the edge of shame? No, no, no. You don’t have to walk in shame. I’m going to take that, and I’m going to make it glorious,” and he reveals his glory in the bringing of new wine to those who are out of all that humankind can create, do, and accomplish.
Let me close out like this. If you hate your life, praise God, because there’s a new life being offered to you today. If you’re just like, “I don’t know if I can do this anymore,” hey, one of the best things ever is for you to admit you can’t. That’s not death; that’s life. That’s why it’s so counterintuitive. To just surrender is where life is found. This is what Jesus is talking about. “I have come that you might have life and have it to the full.”
This is why we talk about (and we’ll look at it in a couple of weeks) what it means to be born again. The Matt Chandler who lived from zero to three days before my 18th birthday died with Christ on the cross, and I’m standing here as a new man, new wine. Not old wine, but new. I ran out of gas, and there was Jesus.
New purpose, new relationship, new destiny, new life. “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” What is that yoke? What is that burden? “Know me, be with me, and I’ll transform you from the inside out, not the outside in.” This is the invitation extended to all of us today. Let’s pray.
Father, thank you for these men and women. I thank you for new wine. We thank you for new life as servants, the freedom that comes from not making the entire universe be about us. I thank you that you have made us ministers of reconciliation and ambassadors, bringing purpose and life and mission into all that we do, and I thank you that obedience rooted in faith brings us joy and you glory.
I just ask all the more, Holy Spirit of God, that you would let us behold and see the beauty of Jesus, that in beholding his glory we would step into what we were designed and made for, that you would help us see ourselves more clearly, know who we are and who we are not. We thank you for human frailty and weakness.
I just pray that you would help us get a sense of it and that in light of seeing our own weaknesses, shortcomings, failures, and fault lines we would see your glory, your goodness, your new wine, and we would step into it. We love you. Help us. It’s for your beautiful name I pray, amen.