Earlier this year, before the world changed, I was traveling through the Holy Land and seeing the Bible come alive as I walked where Jesus walked. Early in the trip, as our bus approached the region of Galilee, the tour guide mentioned casually, “Oh, we’re currently passing through the village of Cana where Jesus’ turned the water into wine at a wedding. There’s nothing to see or anything worth stopping for, so we’ll just keep driving.”
What!?! Nothing worth stopping for?!? I stared out the bus window, looking at the very place the Creator God came down to earth, attended a small town wedding, and transformed the physical properties of H2O into sweet tasting Pinot Noir with a simple command! Nothing worth stopping for? But we kept on driving. I did manage to snap a photo of the “Cana Wedding Restaurant” through the bus window before Cana disappeared in the rearview.
While our tour guide wanted to keep moving, I want to linger in Cana for a moment today as we celebrate this wedding. When all is said and done, after all the hard work and planning that went into this celebration, our greatest hope is that Jesus would grace us today with his presence as he graced the wedding in Cana 2,000 years ago. Let me read the story from the Gospel of John, chapter 2:
2 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
4 “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
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.
8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”
They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”
Let me suggest three gifts or graces Christ wants to bring to your marriage that we find in this account.
1. When you’re empty, turn to Jesus.
We don’t know Jesus’ mother’s relation to the bride and groom, but she comes off sounding as concerned and emotionally invested as a modern-day mother of the bride in this story. She is not a passive attender in the background. She sees a problem and takes action, or should I say, shoves Jesus into action whether he’s ready or not.
But her words to the servants make for a wonderful recipe for a healthy marriage and motto for life: “Do whatever Jesus tells you” and things will work out for the best. Friends, as you go through life together, you’re often going to find yourselves running low on what’s needed. Jesus’ mother said, “They have no more wine.” And you’ll find yourselves saying, “We don’t have enough money” or “We don’t have enough time” or “I don’t have enough patience” or “I don’t have enough love in the tank right now.”
In these moments, may you not try to muster up more of yourselves, or ask the other person to give you something they don’t have to give. Turn to Jesus, and let him fill your jars until they overflow. You are both great people, but you’re also both leaky vessels. You’re both cracked in different ways, and therefore you can’t sustain your life and your marriage on your own reserves. You need some jars!
2. Six “Jars” to sustain your life and marriage.
When this couple from Cana was facing a disaster of running out of wine and the public shame that would have resulted, there were six ceremonial jars already on hand that Jesus filled with water and used to rescue their wedding day.
Similarly, your marriage’s success will depend on whether or not you keep some of your own spiritual jars on hand at all times for Christ to use as channels of grace. These are certain fixtures, family practices, household rhythms that Christ will use to renew your soul and sustain your faith and relationships. If you don’t have them, God can’t use them.
These spiritual jars include 1) regular pattern of worship, 2) a faith family and spiritual friendship, 3) feeding on God’s Word, 4) coming under spiritual leadership, 5) coming to the Lord’s Table, and 6) a nurturing a life of prayer. Just as Christ used those six jars on hand to keep that wedding celebration going, so Christ depends on you having these Spiritual jars active in your life if He is to keep your marriage going strong.
3. He saves the best until last.
Wedding feasts in Jesus’ day could go on for seven days and the entire village would be invited. It was common for the host to bring out the best wine early in the festivities, and later when the crowd dwindled and the people were too drunk to notice, they would bring out the cheap discount wine. And so the Master of the ceremonies is surprised in this story and says, “You have saved the best until last.”
Did you know there’s a collection of erotic love poems in the middle of your Bible? It starts out with the young woman saying, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine” (Songs 1:2). Now, listen to some sage wisdom that you won’t hear coming out of Hollywood or the radio waves. Pop culture’s films and music give you the impression that love and romance is a young person’s game; but the truth is this: Love is like wine, and gets better with time.
Marital love really does get better as it ages! Vintage wine and vintage love are tastier than new wine and new love. Don’t believe me? Ask around.
Sadly, many, many couples don’t hang in there through the hard times, and therefore miss out on the best times that come later. In his book The Meaning of Marriage, Pastor Tim Keller points out that “Two-thirds of all marriages that say they are unhappy will become happy within five years if they keep working at it.”
Here’s the deal: you are not just marrying the person standing in front of you today. You’re marrying the magnificent masterpiece God wants to shape them into gradually over time. You get to come alongside one another and be one another’s cheerleaders as you each grow and change, stumble and fall, dream and experiment, and slooooooooowly age into the choice vintage version of yourself.
And by God’s grace, years from now when you’re wrinkly and gray, you will look each other into the eyes, look back at how far you come and who you have both become and say, “Lord, most people bring out the good stuff early on, but you have saved the best till now!”
May it be so. May it be so. Amen.
Bonus: Here’s a song about how love is better than wine: