Monthly Archives: February 2015

Running On Empty

We all face difficult and seemingly impossible situations. But we have to realize something in those situations. What is impossible with you is possible with God! God can make your impossibility possible. All those impossible situations are God’s greatest opportunities to reveal His glory. If you are facing something that seems impossible, there is hope. Everybody wants a miracle, but nobody wants to be in a situation that necessitates one. The bigger the problem, the greater the potential miracle.

In the gospel bearing his name, John records signs and miracles of Jesus to motivate his readers to believe that He is the Christ and the Son of the living God. “. . . but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31). There are thirty-four distinct miracles in the gospels and John wrote about seven of those in his letter. Four of the ones he recorded are unique to his gospel. And he also says in John 20:30 there were many other miracles that didn’t “make the cut.”

The first miracle in John’s gospel is very unique. It takes place at a Wedding in Cana in John 2. “On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.” (John 2:1-2). Knowing that all of them were on the guest list we can assume this was the wedding of a relative or a family friend.

Many people look at this and wonder that of all the miracles in the Bible why would “water into wine” be the first miracle John highlights? Jesus miraculously raised the dead from the grave, healed the blind, healed the lame, healed the sick, multiplied food meant for a few to feed thousands, walked on water, and things like that. So why would creating fine wine from just plain water be the first? There are several things about this miracle that show us why it is first.

If it’s a big deal to you, it’s a big deal to God. What seems unimportant to us was very important back then. Running out of wine today might seem pretty minor but in first-century Palestine this would have resulted in public shame. And your wedding day is a day you want everything to be perfect. Weddings are a big deal at anytime in any culture, but weddings were really a major event in Jesus’ day. Weddings in that culture and that time period lasted a week or more so you better have plenty of food and beverage. If you ran out of food or drink it was a disgrace and embarrassment for the groom and his family and there is some evidence of even the possibility of a lawsuit.

Knowing all that we can still look at it and say, “Yea, but we are not talking about raising the dead, providing food, healing a disease, walking on water, etc. This miracle was not about saving a life, it was about saving face! This shows us how much God cares about even the smallest details of our lives.

God is awesome not only because nothing is too big but also because nothing is too small. If it is a big deal to you, it is a big deal to God! Jesus starting with water demonstrated His ability to take the simplest thing on earth and turn it into something amazing. And look at it this way . . . if God can do that with water, what can’t He do? Jesus was fully God and fully man. He lived this life being tempted just like we are yet without sin. Nothing is off-limits where God is concerned. Everything is possible with Jesus!

Being the first miracle it set in motion Jesus earthly ministry. “3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ 4 And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’ 5 His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’” (John 2:3-5). When you read this it seems like Mary is pushing Jesus and He is resisting her. She wants Him to step up and help with this and Jesus doesn’t want to. Jesus was waiting on a cue from His heavenly Father for when the time was right. Jesus is hesitant because He knew once He started down this road it would start the countdown to the cross and Calvary.

Sometimes a miracle needs a nudge. There is a crisis at the wedding and Mary immediately goes to Jesus. She had obviously learned to lean on Jesus over the years since by all indications from Joseph’s absence she is a widow. When she tells Jesus there is no wine, Jesus addresses her in a way that has intrigued commentators for years. “And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’” (John 2:4). This sounds kind of harsh but really it all goes back to what is being put in motion. The countdown clock is ticking leading towards His death.

When He says, “Woman” (John 2:4) it is not a sign of disrespect or irreverence but it also is not a term of endearment. To refer to a lady as “Woman” (John 2:4) is a sign of “polite distance.” His relationship with her as His mother and His entire family is shifting. If you remember when He was on the cross He addresses her the same way. He was telling Mary to embrace and lean on John and for John to take care of His mother.

Some have questioned whether or not Mary knew or was asking for a miracle here. I really think she was looking for a miracle. It’s not like when you ran out of wine you could go to the corner store and pick up some more. But the primary reason I think she was asking for a miracle is because of what Jesus says. If she had just wanted Jesus to simply go and get wine, He would not have said, “My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4). Jesus knew what Mary was asking for that’s why He said that. Jesus was following His Father’s plan and He did believe in Himself. This did all work in God’s ultimate plan and glorify Him but it’s almost as if Mary had a sixth sense and her gentle nudge was a catalyst for this miracle.

All Jesus needed was a gentle nudge from His mom. Mary gave Jesus just enough of a push to launch Him into His earthly ministry. If you are like me sometimes it’s not just a little nudge that I need. It’s more like an elbow in the ribs, or a slap on the back of the head or as some would say, “A kick in the pants.” Before going into the ministry, I was pursuing my own dreams and desires. I had my life all planned out. There was a group of people at church who began talking to me about ministry. At that time, that was the furthest thing from my mind. These were people I admired and respected but I didn’t want to talk about ministry. It got to the point that when I saw them come in the front door, I would exit out the back door.

Finally when I surrendered to God’s call to ministry I realized God had used them to give me my not so subtle “kick in the pants.” “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works . . .” (Hebrews 10:24). Other translations say, “spur one another.” That “stir” or “spur” is something used to nudge each other along. As we follow and obey the leading of the Holy Spirit, God uses us to nudge someone else when they need it. Has God used somebody to nudge you? Did you pay attention to it or ignore it? Who do you need to nudge?

Miracles take what is ordinary and make it extraordinary. “6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.’ So they took it. 9 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 10 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.’” (John 2:6-10).

These six stone water jars with the water were used to ceremonially wash utensils and their hands. This was an old tradition connected to the law and Jesus was getting ready to change them into something brand new. Jesus told them to fill up the jars. Remember one of the common characteristics of all miracles is there is a human element involved. Jesus is the only one who can perform miracles but there is always something Jesus asks us to do to see the miracle. We must be obedient in the natural to see the supernatural! When the jars were filled “to the brim” (John 2:7) that was a sign that the ceremonial purification had been fulfilled and something new was beginning. Also, having them filled with water all the way to the top left no room for trickery or deception.

Jesus asked them to fill the jars. They filled the jars and then the miracle happened. I think it is amazing that it doesn’t say Jesus stirred the water, spoke certain words or anything. All Jesus says is, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” (John 2:8). Jesus had taken plain old water (H2O) and changed it into wine. And not just wine but the finest wine anyone had ever tasted. By starting with water, Jesus demonstrated His ability to take the simplest thing on earth and transform it into something even more beautiful and even more flavorful. Jesus took the ordinary and made it extraordinary.

When the master of the feast tasted the wine he couldn’t believe his taste buds. He knew from countless experiences the usual custom was to serve the good wine first. When the people were at the point where they wouldn’t notice the difference they would slip in the “not so good” wine. The bridegroom knew this and he would have been the one responsible for the wine and the food at the party. He probably thought, “Now this is pretty cool. My wine at my party has been so good that my bad wine is much better than most people’s really good wine.”

If Jesus can do that with water, what can’t He do? It shows us that all things are possible with God! You and I are symbolized by the water jars. We are just plain and ordinary vessels. The vessel is fragile and plain and only valued by what is inside. We are inundated with issues that need the miraculous touch of Jesus. We have struggles with diseases that are taking their toll on us, relationships that need restoring, etc. All of these things and many more that are impossible for us, but are possible with God. The vessel that was once plagued with sin and struggles can be set free.

These water jars were typically used for the rituals of cleaning utensils and hands which were all directly related to the Law. We are often trapped by religious rules and rituals and are missing a relationship with Jesus. Once we experience a true relationship with Jesus we will be set free from the rules and rituals of religion. “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2).

With the touch of Jesus we can become extraordinary. Jesus turning water into wine that was “the best of the best” shows us He can do all things. There is no atom in the universe or your body that is not subject to God’s overriding authority. Your unique one-of-a-kind genetic code sequence if written out would be like a three-billion word book. If God can override the laws of nature, He can crack the code He wrote just for you. God can and does cure the curse of sin. God can and does cure the curse of disease. Sometimes here and now and sometimes later in eternity. Sooner or later there will be no more pain, no more sickness, and no more death. All of us prefer sooner, but we will definitely take later. Both are equally miraculous!

Water into wine as the first miracle foreshadows the last miracle that really is the greatest miracle of all. At the wedding in Cana Jesus turned water into wine. At the Last Supper, Jesus raised a cup of wine and said, “. . . for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28). Jesus transformed the fruit of the vine into the catalyst that brings forgiveness for every sin of every person. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Just before His crucifixion Jesus turned an ordinary cup of wine into a bottomless glass of grace.

Don’t seek miracles just simply follow Jesus! And if you follow Jesus long enough and far enough you will find yourself in the middle of some miracles. For that bride and bridegroom every time they reminisced about their wedding reception or sipped a cup of wine, it didn’t just jog their memory but it jogged their faith. Years ago I remember hearing a song that said, “All I need is a miracle, all I need is you.” Tell Jesus that today. Pray to Him, “Jesus, all I need is a miracle. All I really need is You.”