Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE FRUIT OF OBEDIENCE”

John 2.1-11

 

There are many things that we, as Christians, think we need to know to serve God effectively. However, such notions are based upon preconceived ideas and not actual Bible truth, meaning we don’t know as much as we think we know about serving God. And because we don’t know we don’t know, we don’t know that what we don’t know is not nearly as important as willingness. To state the matter another way, attitude is vastly more important to serving God than aptitude. Or to use yet another line that you have likely heard, the most important ability is availability.

There are also many things that we, as Christians, think we need to know to experience joy in our lives. However, joy is not a legitimate goal for any human being to pursue, much less for a Christian to pursue. Joy is a byproduct that is found only in the life of a Christian. Why do I declare that joy is found only in the life of a Christian? I insist that joy is found only in the life of a Christian because joy is declared by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 5.22 to be one aspect of what he terms the fruit of the Spirit. Let me quote the verse to you:

 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith.”

 

We know from Romans 8.9 that the Spirit of God dwells in every Christian and that if anyone does not possess the indwelling Spirit of God he is not a Christian. Thus, the Spirit of God is the unique Source of joy, and He produces joy only in the lives of Christians who are not grieving or quenching Him. To put it another way, the Spirit of God freely produces joy in the life of the Christian who obeys Him.

The reason Christians are sometimes confused about joy, being unclear about the real distinction that exists between the spiritual blessing of joy and the mere emotion of happiness, is because we too often look at the world around us to learn the lessons of life and end up mingling what the Bible teaches (which is true) with what the world presents as true (but which is not at all true). This type of confusion can be seen in the life of someone with a bubbly personality. Nothing wrong with exuberance and effervescence so long as you do not mistake it for joy. Lots of bubbly and exuberant people are not spiritual.

Let us admit that it is very nice to be happy. However, happiness depends on what happens and proves to be a very perishable commodity. Just look at what happens when the energetic person with the bubbly personality does not get his way. Not always, but frequently such a person reacts with a terrible display of temper and sullenness. Joy, on the other hand, is a profoundly persistent blessing from the Spirit of God, being evident (as we all know) even in the midst of injustice, persecution, physical suffering, and other types of not getting your way. Remember Paul and Silas praying and singing praises to God in Acts 16.25? Before that, there were the apostles in Jerusalem who had been beaten by order of the Jerusalem religious council rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for Christ, Acts 5.41. Rejoicing is the expression of joy. If there is joy, there will be rejoicing, with joy produced only by the Holy Spirit of God when He is pleased rather than when He is grieved or quenched by disobedience. The lost of this world, it is true, can on occasion be very, very happy. However, they must have things to be happy and possess what they think is knowledge to conclude wrongly that happiness is joy. Christians, on the other hand, real Christians, need very little to be filled with joy. I’m not knocking prosperity at all. My wife and I have recently returned from countries whose people possess far less than every American take for granted. In Romania, Ukraine, and Greece no one who owns a car, a television set, a smart phone, an air conditioner, or indoor running water and bathroom facilities would ever consider himself poor. In our country, however, virtually every so-called poor American has these things the rest of the world labels as luxuries. Such things are not necessities. The Christians in those countries without such things, who are deprived of so many things that make us happy, are characterized by their joy.

How is this to be explained? It is quite simple because the Christian life is, oh, so simple. In reality, the Christian life is only complicated by sin. God teaches us about the wonderful simplicities of life in His precious Word. And quite wonderfully, God teaches each of His children how to be filled with joy, not as a goal to be pursued but as the byproduct of something else entirely. When God teaches His children, whatever He teaches His children, He typically teaches us in three ways: The first way God teaches us is by direct command. The Ten Commandments, for example, were commands God issued to the nation of Israel, along with 603 other commands contained in the Hebrew Scriptures.[1] Direct commands are also abundant throughout the New Testament. The second method God uses to teach us is through our life experiences. Though often quite painful, the lessons learned as we live out our lives are lessons that are usually remembered and properly understood in light of Bible truth. Jacob, as an illustration, experienced many hours in this school of hard knocks under the LORD’s tutelage before he was humbled by God, leading to his conversion and being renamed Israel, the prince of God.[2] The third method used to teach God’s children is the object lesson. This is where we learn by watching God teach someone else. Abraham and Isaac learned much about the Savior when just before death Isaac traded places with the ram. Do we not also learn a great deal from reading and studying that encounter? We most certainly do. The Bible is filled with such object lessons, beginning with the temptation of Eve and the Fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden.

My prayer this morning is that the Lord will teach us a great deal about serving Him, and also much about a joy-filled life, not by means of direct commands, and not by means of lessons learned by personal experience, but by showing us just how simple a serving, joy-filled life can be using an object lesson. I would like for you to turn to John 2.1-11. When you find that passage, I invite you to stand and read with me silently while I read aloud:

 

1      And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:

2      And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.

3      And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.

4      Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.

5      His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.

6      And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.

7      Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.

8      And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.

9      When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,

10    And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.

11    This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

 

In our text, Mary illustrates for us the key to being joyful. You will also notice in our text that nowhere in the passage is there any suggestion that Mary was seeking joy. Neither, it must be admitted, is there any direct mention of joy, with the suggestion of joy intimated by what transpired in connection with the miracle of turning the water into wine, because “In Jewish thought, wine is a symbol of joy and celebration.”[3]

We now consider Mary’s instruction on how her needs in life will be met. Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ, is taught in two ways:

 

First, BY MEANS OF HER REBUKE BY THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

 

This is shown in the first four verses:

 

1      And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:

2      And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.

3      And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.

4      Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.

 

Notice, first, several facts from these four verses: It is three days since the last event narrated, which was the Lord Jesus Christ’s encounter with Nathanael.[4] This would suggest, because of inactivity on the Sabbath, our Lord, and His friends joined the wedding party on a Sunday. Since Cana is less than ten miles from Nazareth and because Mary, the mother of our Lord, was in attendance, the wedding may have been a close family friend or relative. It may also help to explain why Mary felt some responsibility to help when the hosts ran short of wine. Running out of wine at a wedding was a disaster in that culture because marriage was a profoundly significant event in Jewish society, that consisted of two observances at the end of a betrothal or engagement of not more than a year. These two observances were a marriage feast of up to a week’s duration followed by the consummation of the marriage. For this reason running short of wine was unheard of, since at this time the groom and his family spared no expense to insure a successful feast. Knowing that there was a great need to be met, Mary decided to approach the Lord Jesus Christ to inform Him of the need.

Why did she approach Him? If you look at verse three once more you will notice that she did not ask anything of the Lord Jesus Christ. Rather, she informed Him of the problem. And why did she do that? Obviously, she knew He could meet the need. Whatever the problem, we know the Lord Jesus Christ can meet the need. Additionally, she knew He would meet the need. She knew He would meet the need because it is His nature to meet needs. She knew He would meet the need because He loved her. She knew He would meet the need because she knew of His love for others; all others. And she knew He would meet the need because His earthly ministry had begun. It was now some 47 or more days since His baptism, the beginning of His public ministry. Don’t think for a moment He did not show His mother great love and affection at the time of His departure, informing her and answering her many questions as He left home to embark on His journey to the cross of Calvary. He is back now. Not back home, for He would never return home in that sense, but back in Galilee after His baptism, and after His testing in the wilderness, and after He was publicly identified by His cousin John the Baptist. But He is now different somehow. He is much thinner after forty days without food. He looks older after that most intense spiritual conflict of testing. Despite these changes, it was natural for her as a mother to want her firstborn son to address a problem for her. She wanted Him to meet the need. But why did she want Him to meet the need? To help their friends and relatives at the marriage feast to make it a success? Yes. However, it runs deeper than that. Perhaps she hoped He would somehow vindicate the old charge against her (and reflecting upon her character) that He was a child of fornication (making her a woman of ill-repute). Maybe some of the ladies at the sewing bee wouldn’t let the fact die that she was pregnant during her betrothal year. The charge was levied against the Savior in John 8.19 and 41 by the Pharisees when they said to Him,

 

“Where is thy Father?”

 

and

 

“We be not born of fornication.”

 

How had those Pharisees so far away in Jerusalem learned of the apparent circumstances of His birth? From Mary’s acquaintances in Nazareth, and likely even some of the women at this wedding, friends and loved ones who could not believe hers was a virgin conception. Or perhaps Mary wanted her Son to meet the need in order to vindicate Himself. After all, hadn’t He left His honorable profession of carpentry? How was that to be explained to her family and lifelong friends? And what visible means of support did He now have? What mother wants her son, especially her firstborn, to be without visible means of support and all that might imply? Yes, there are many reasons why she may have wanted Him to make wine miraculously, but the fact remains that she did approach Him.

The problem, of course, is how she approached Him. No doubt, she approached Him with confidence. After all, she was His mother. No doubt, she also approached Him with expectancy, yea with presumption. Did He not rebuke her? He addressed her “woman,” which while not being an affectionate expression is not disrespectful. His remark was somewhat emotionally distant without approaching rudeness. Then there is the question. He asked her “what have I to do with thee?” Why the question? Several possible reasons: First, approaching Him as she did and informing Him of a problem in front of other men was a breach of etiquette. She did not seek privacy to inform Him but approached the area where the men had gathered (the sexes did not mingle on such occasions) with servants in tow. But there is another reason for His response. When He left home, He had no doubt hugged her and shown love to her as He said good-bye. Things are different now, but Mary does not yet appreciate the difference. Whereas He was her obedient Son when He left, He has now returned after His baptism and the anointing of the Holy Spirit settling upon Him fully occupying His office as Israel’s Messiah. Therefore, things are different.

What do we learn from verses 1-4 about Mary? Several inferences are permissible: First, she had a need that she expected the Lord Jesus Christ to meet. There is nothing wrong with that expectation, though it is very possible that the need that drove her action was not quite the need she might have felt or the need she might have expressed to someone else. She might have felt that she needed Him to meet the need so the feast would not be a disaster and her family or friends not be embarrassed. However, the need that drove her actions could have been her desire for vindication from the false charges that she had faced for thirty years accusing her of immorality when she most certainly was not. Second, the fault in Mary’s thinking was in the way she felt the Lord Jesus Christ should respond to the need. She wanted her Son to do something, to do something publicly, and to do something in response to her expectation and desire. In that she was wrong. She was wrong for expecting Him to do something publicly. She was wrong for expecting Him to do something to fulfill her desire rather than for Him to best meet the need. Thus, the rebuke:

 

“Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.”

 

 

Then, BY MEANS OF HER RESPONSE TO THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

 

5      His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.

6      And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.

7      Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.

8      And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.

9      When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,

10    And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.

11    This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

 

Of course, the first thing the Lord Jesus Christ did was show His mother that He was not subject to her will. (This is obviously contrary to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church). He did this by using the word “woman” when addressing her. As I said earlier, it was a respectful address, but not an intimate one. It was a bit reserved. He was bringing her to the realization that their relationship had been altered by Him embarking on His public ministry. This was entirely appropriate because apart from the virgin conception and birth, Mary was not a particularly unusual woman. She was a woman, a sinner, and was saved by grace, as her Magnificat in Luke 1.46-55 makes very clear. Another way of showing that He was not subject to her as her son still living at home was about His use of the word hour when He said

 

“mine hour is not yet come.”

 

His “hour” is a reference to the time of His crucifixion, as we see in John 12.23 and 27:

 

23    And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.

 

27    Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.

 

From the time of His departure from Mary and His home in Nazareth, He was not subject to the will of man (or His mother) until His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane when He allowed the soldiers to take Him into custody.

Mary’s response to the Lord (and her Son most definitely was her Lord) was, correctly, submission. Is it not amazing? Mary immediately recognized His authority over her even though He was her Son, just as David realized Christ’s authority a thousand years before though He was David’s descendant. I read Matthew 22.41-46:

 

41    While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them,

42    Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David.

43    He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying,

44    The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool?

45    If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?

46    And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.

 

How did Mary demonstrate her submission to the Lord Jesus Christ and yield to His will in the matter rather than pushing her agenda? She showed her submission by straightway surrendering the servants, who had been called to do her bidding, to her Son to do His bidding. And if you think this was an insignificant gesture, remember once more that Mary, His mother, yielded to Him publicly just as she had approached Him publicly.

What did the Lord Jesus Christ then do following Mary’s display of submission? He performed a miracle, but not in the way she had first desired and initially expected, which would have vindicated her and also vindicated Him. Keep in mind that the Savior has little interest in your reputation or mine, or even His mother’s. In fact, He had little interest in His reputation during His earthly ministry, since Paul in Philippians 2.7 wrote

 

“But made himself of no reputation.”

 

Instead, the Lord Jesus Christ sought to enhance His Father’s reputation, which was done by glorifying Him. Notice three things related to how He accomplished that: The first thing we notice is that His tools were servants. The word servants in John 2.5 is the same New Testament word for deacon or minister. Those servants were ordinary people, nothing about them is indicated. They were just men and women ready to do what the Lord commanded. Who knows how much ability they had. What we see here is that they were available. The second thing we notice is that His method was obedience. Is there any indication in this passage that the Lord Jesus Christ asked the servants what their qualifications were? No. Did He ask them if they wanted to obey Him? Do you feel like it? Do you want to go to Church? Do you want to serve God? No. He simply said “fill” and verse 7 tells us they filled to the brim (showing complete obedience). He then said “draw” and “bear” in verse 8, and they did. Astonishing, is it not? Servant #1 may have had a headache. Servant #2 may have been tired. Servant #3 may not have wanted to be there for some other reason. But each of them did what he was told, fully and completely! Obedience! We read of none of them leaving the area as soon as they could for others to finish the job. The third thing we notice is that His result was WINE! Our Lord did it, but without a show. Only He, His disciples, His mother, and the servants had any idea what great miracle was wrought. But the result was so good that the governor of the feast was impressed and complimentary, thinking the groom’s good wine which they had just tasted was bad compared to what our Lord made.

 

It is said that wine, new wine, is the Bible symbol for joy.[5] If that be true, then some interesting and hopefully life-changing lessons can be drawn from our text, with Christ turning water into wine for a blessing whereas Moses had turned water into blood as a curse.[6] Then there were the water pots used for ceremonial cleansing according to the Law being instead used as containers of blessing by Israel’s Messiah. What a series of contrasts.

Mary wanted wine. Can I suggest that the application here is that she initially sought joy? She went to the Son of God and directly asked for it to be given to her in her way. He told her “No,” then He gave her what she asked for, but in His way, and only after she accepted His mild rebuke and responded by yielding to His will for her life, which was for her to submit to Him rather than expecting Him to submit to her. With the servants then simply obeying the commands of Christ, we see the result is wine with no one witnessing the miracle that had obviously been performed. Thus, may I suggest to you that joy is the byproduct of obedience and does not come about as a result of seeking it as an end in itself?

Beloved, this is God’s way of dealing with His own. If God’s children simply obey Him, He will fill them with joy, to the brim. Mary ended up getting what she initially wanted, but only after she abandoned her pursuit of joy and yielded to the Savior’s will and way. Joy, real joy, true joy, was the direct result of her submission and also the servant’s obedience, with both Mary and the servants (and a great many other people besides who attended the wedding feast) being blessed thereby.

If you lack joy in your life, real abiding joy, it is because you are disobedient. However, please do not think that joy will be the result if you decide to obey Him. What must of necessity happen first, of course, is your conversion to Christ. When a sinner comes to Christ for the forgiveness of sins and is then indwelt by the Holy Spirit, then and only then will joy be given. Not before.

But if you are a believer in Jesus Christ and you obey Him, Hallelujah! Then what happens is, 1) The needs of the hour are met, as the Savior met the need of the hour at that wedding. 2) The Lord’s glory is manifested, which is a good thing since we exist to glorify God. 3) And you have joy in your heart, not as a result of seeking joy but as a consequence of yielding to God’s will and obeying Him. Are you disobedient in unbelief? Come to Christ my friend. Are you disobedient in your failure to serve? Then perhaps we can open God’s Word together and address that serious matter.

__________

[1] http://www.jewfaq.org/613.htm   8/18/2016

[2] Genesis 32.24-30

[3] Andreas J. Kostenberger, John - ECNT, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), page 93.

[4] Ibid., page 91.

[5] That the wine created by the Lord Jesus Christ was not the beverage alcohol that passes for wine in our day is established by Andreas J. Kostenberger, John - ECNT, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), page 93 and by Jack Van Impe with Roger F. Campbell, Alcohol: The Beloved Enemy, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1980), pages 101-129.

[6] Exodus 7.17-21

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org