Signs are designed to COMMUNICATE. If a sign doesn’t communicate something, it’s USELESS. Or worse, if it communicates SOMETHING OTHER than what was intended, it’s often WORSE than useless.
Here’s some examples of signs that don’t quite communicate the way they were intended. (show pictures)
When you don’t understand the sign the way it was intended, you end up focussing on THE SIGN ITSELF, rather than what THE SIGN POINTS TO.
- You imagine the church people, rather than helping them deal with worry – which is the point of the sign.
- You imagine choosing the children you’re going to get FREE, rather than the CLOTHES they’ll WEAR – which is the point.
- You imagine the terrible indigestion you get from the Sherrill’s Roadhouse kitchen, rather than filling up with petrol then eating dinner – which is the point of the sign.
It’s possible to SEE the SIGN, but get the MESSAGE WRONG. To focus on the SIGN, rather than what it’s POINTING TO.
And it’s the same thing with Jesus, and the SIGNS HE’S doing. People losing sight of Jesus because they’re so pre-occupied with the miracles. With the SHOW.
One of the things that’s unusual about John’s Gospel, compared to the other three, is that he uses a special word for Jesus’ miracles. It’s the word SIGN. It’s often translated as MIRACULOUS sign, or something like that. But it’s just the word SIGN.
John’s point is/ a SIGN COMMUNICATES something. It SIGNifies something. Jesus did miracles, not just as party tricks, but to POINT to who he was, and what he’d come to do.
And even here, right at the beginning of the journey, the signposts are pointing to THE END. To the CLIMAX of the story – where Jesus’ identity and mission is seen at its most extreme and colourful and obvious. Because it’s his and resurrection that most clearly show his GLORY.
And that’s what the SIGNS are pointing to.
So let’s begin the journey, keeping an eye on the signs as we go. But never losing sight of the destination.
We pick up the story in Ch 2, and Jesus has made it back to his home district of Galilee. To Cana. And he’s been invited to a wedding. Which may even have been the reason he WENT there.
His MUM’S there, his BROTHERS are there too. And even his disciples have scored an invite.
But part-way through the celebrations the UNTHINKABLE happens. The WINE runs out. A very Aussie moment – the keg runs dry, the Pub’s got no beer! But there’s no bottle-shop they can just duck down to. It’s very embarrassing for the bridegroom.
And so, you can see in v3, Jesus’ mother steps in. She says to Jesus, They’ve got no wine.
And, at first sight, Jesus’ answer is a little confusing. Because in v4 he more or less says, “What’s that got to do with me?” And then he says MY TIME HAS NOT YET COME. It’s literally my HOUR has not yet come. The journey’s just begun.
It’s like you’ve just started out on holidays. It’s 900 km to QLD. And before you’ve made it to Hornsby, the kids are saying, Are we there yet? How much longer?
And your answer is, It’s not TIME yet. The HOUR hasn’t come yet.
Jesus knows where the journey’s headed. And as the questions keep coming, he has to keep saying, It’s not time yet. Like 5.28.
28 “Do not be amazed at this, FOR A TIME IS COMING (literally AN HOUR is coming) when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out
Or a bit further on. 7:30
30 At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his time (his HOUR) had not yet come.
But when we get to Ch 12, we can see it’s finally TIME. The alarm clock goes off. Ch 12 v23. Jesus has just ridden into Jerusalem on a donkey. And he says.
23 …”THE HOUR HAS COME for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and DIES, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
And a bit further on in Ch 13 v1
13:1 It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the TIME (literally the HOUR) had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father.
The HOUR Jesus is talking about is HIS and RESURRECTION. That’s where the journey’s headed. And way back in Ch 2, the journey’s just BEGUN. It’s not time to be thinking about the END just yet.
(pause) Or IS it?
Because, in v6 of Ch 2, we see Jesus DOING something. It may not be time for HIS , but he’s going to show us a SIGNPOST which points to where he’s HEADED. V6.
6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.
Six jars – nearly the size of 40 gallon drums. And John makes sure we notice as he tells the story. Not just any sort of water. But the water the Jews used… for ceremonial washing. Which the Jews were passionate about. They’d wash first thing in the morning to wash away evil spirits that came in the night. They’d wash before a meal. They’d wash after a meal. They’d wash as they walked into the temple. They’d wash… as a sign… of being clean before God. They’d ladle out the water from their stone jars, and pour it on one another’s hands. Making sure they followed the rules, and washed all the way to the wrists.
And Jesus says, fill the jars with water. And they fill them to the brim. Six stone jars, full to the brim of symbolism. Representing very clearly the way the Jews think they can be clean before God.
And what happens? They draw some out. And it’s transformed. They draw some out. And it’s been replaced… by choice wine. Better than anything else that’s been served before. The water the Jews thought could make them clean before God… has gone. And there’s something else in its place. Which is much better.
Now if you’re thinking all this symbolism stuff is too technical and mysterious, it’s interesting, isn’t it, that Christians have always used wine as a symbol. And still do. Except that we unfortunate Presbyterians when it comes to the Lord’s supper use grapejuice instead. As a powerful symbol of what Jesus says he’s going to do on the cross.
There’s a hint of it if you want to look at John 6. John 6:56; where Jesus says, “Whoever eats my flesh and DRINKS MY remains in me, and I in him”. To which the crowds say yuk; sounds revolting.
But Jesus goes on to explain it’s a metaphor. A word picture. Which he explains later. That he’s going to shed his at the cross. To pay for the sins of anyone who wants to share in it. That he’s going to bleed and die as he hangs from the nails in his wrist… to wipe out every blot on our copybook. Every stain on our souls.
And the wine… is a symbol of his . 600 litres of it. Enough to party on for days. Far better than the wine that came before.
And then John gives his summary in v11.
11 This, the first of his miraculous SIGNS, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus REVEALED HIS GLORY, and his disciples put their faith in him.
Which is exactly what John says Jesus’ WHOLE ministry is about. Remember that verse back in Ch 1? V14?
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. WE HAVE SEEN HIS GLORY, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
God’s Word – God HIMSELF has pitched his tent in the middle of us. Jesus HIMSELF. And we’ve actually SEEN HIS GLORY. The radiance of his presence. The majesty of his character. The physical and bodily representation of the invisible God.
And this FIRST sign shows us a GLIMPSE of that GLORY. But remember it’s only a signpost on the journey. A signpost pointing towards the DESTINATION. Towards revealing Jesus’ GLORY.
Because it’s at the CROSS that we see Jesus’ GLORY. We saw that already in a verse we read from Ch 12 v23.
23 …“THE HOUR HAS COME for the Son of Man to be GLORIFIED.
In other words, it’s time for his GLORY to be REVEALED.
And again in Ch 17. Jesus is praying, and he’s thinking about the cup of suffering he’s going to have to bear. 17:1
17:1 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the time(the HOUR) has come. GLORIFY YOUR SON, that your Son may glorify you.
In other words, it’s a prayer that God would reveal the glory of his son in the upcoming events. Show it for everyone to see.
But that’s all down the road. We’re only at the beginning. The FIRST road sign. So how does turning water into wine POINT towards the GLORY of Jesus on the cross?
We’ve got the pieces of the puzzle. Let’s see how they connect. We’ll take it from the top. They’re at a wedding. The wine runs out.
Mary says to Jesus, they have no wine.
To which Jesus is replying, You’re right. These Jews don’t have the wine they need. Just lots of ceremonial water and washing rituals. Trying to fix up on THE OUTSIDE what can only happen on THE INSIDE.
What they need is for their SIN TO BE FORGIVEN. For the Christ to die on the cross for them. To shed his as the final sacrifice. That’s the wine they need. But my hour has not yet come.
But I’ll give a sign… of what’s up ahead.
And so 600 litres of Jewish ceremonial washing water is suddenly replaced by 600 litres of choice quality wine. As a sign of what’s up ahead.
And the bridegroom is congratulated. Because it’s all so much better than what came before. He’s SAVED THE BEST UNTIL LAST.
You want it in a sentence.? Here it is: The Bridegroom Will Provide All the Wine We Need.
And the bridegroom who does that, is Jesus himself. As he goes to the glory of his appointed hour… at the cross. Because no amount of water will do it. Only the wine of Jesus’ .
That’s what this signpost is pointing towards.
(pause) And if ritual washing is replaced, then THE WHOLE SYSTEM’S been superseded. A system who’s centrepiece is THE TEMPLE.
Jesus is coming to bring NEW WINE. And he’s also coming to bring a NEW TEMPLE.
Have a look at the NEXT section. Jesus is off to Jerusalem for the Passover. And when he’s there, he goes into the temple, and sees it’s full of MARKETS.
It’s supposed to be a place where people can meet with their God. A place of PRAYER. But it’s become a place where people can grab a bargain. And Jesus is furious. And he drives out the animals, and the sellers, and the moneychangers.
At which point the HEAVIES come running. V18.
18 Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous SIGN can you show us to PROVE your authority to do all this?”
Show us your BADGE. Your AUTHORITY to DO this.
But Jesus isn’t interested in THOSE sorts of signs. They’re just Party tricks. Proofs that define God into a nice manageable box. That treat him like a genie in a bottle.
The ironic thing is Jesus just HAS showed them a sign. A signpost pointing towards the destination.
Have a look at how he answers them.
19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy THIS TEMPLE, and I will raise it again in three days.” 20 The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the , his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
They think he’s talking about THE BUILDING. But Jesus is talking about HIS BODY.
The building is corrupt, out-dated, obsolete. But Jesus’ body – the Word become FLESH. Is now where God will meet his people. Because in the BODY OF Jesus God DWELLS AMONG US.
And while the BUILDING emphasised the DISTANCE between God and man. With walls and barriers and sacrifices. With its money changers and temple taxes. The BODY emphasises the CLOSENESS. That through Jesus, God can make us his CHILDREN.
And so, by cleansing the temple, Jesus IS performing a sign. A sign that points towards the ONCE FOR ALL sacrifice. The new wine of his . The sacrifice that makes every other sacrifice OBSOLETE. That makes the ritual cleansing of water SUPERSEDED. A sign that points towards the TEMPLE OF HIS BODY that will REPLACE the TEMPLE OF BRICKS AND STONE.
So? See the signs and believe
So. What do we DO with these signs? Well, the DISCIPLES have got it right – back up there in v11. Jesus shows them the SIGNPOST. And the disciples SEE it, they RECOGNISE his GLORY. And they look straight past the sign to the one it’s pointed to – they put their faith in Jesus. They trust him as the one who CAN get rid of the old way of Jewish purification. And bring in the new wine of his that washes away their sin for REAL.
It’s a question I’ll keep asking as we work through John’s Gospel. As you SEE THE SIGNS, will you put your trust in the ONE they’re POINTED to? Put your confidence in him to handle the forgiveness and the washing-clean you need.
Or, have you MISSED the SIGNS. Perhaps you’re quite happy splashing around with WATER. Trying to wash yourself clean with the OLD way of doing things. Trying to make yourself right before God by the things you do.
But it doesn’t matter how many jars you’ve got – how much water – how full the jars are – or how often you wash. Being forgiven – being made a child of God – is something only GOD can do. Through the wine of the of his Son.
Or, perhaps you NOTICE the signs, but that’s ALL you see. The signposts, but not the destination. You get hung up on the SIGNS. Missing Jesus in the process. Perhaps you get hung up on whether Jesus allowed Christians to drink alcohol. Or perhaps you want to know WHEN the water was changed to wine. Or HOW – investigating the chemical process. But that’s missing the destination because you’re too busy watching the signposts.
Which is the mistake the JEWS made. Give us a sign, they said. But he already HAD. And they didn’t notice. He was REPLACING the OLD temple the temple of endless animal sacrifices and daily washings – with the NEW temple of his BODY. The NEW place where God would meet with his people, where God would deal with their sin. And wash them clean.
Jesus brings us new wine. And a new temple. And so, we can live WITH CONFIDENCE. That God IS our father, that our sins HAVE been cleansed. That our reward for eternity is SURE.
It’s an eternity that John describes in another place as being like ANOTHER wedding banquet. An ETERNAL party, where Jesus is the bridegroom, and we, his people, are the BRIDE.
It’s in Rev 19. v6.
“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) 9 Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”
And then a few verses on into Ch 21. v1
21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
See the signs. Recognise the glory of God. And trust Jesus.