For those who haven’t been with us for a while, we are currently working our way through the life and ministry of Jesus – creating a bit of a timeline to help us see how all of the stories and events of Jesus’ life all fit together.
And so far, we’re really just begun. We looked first at the one event recorded for us in the Bible of Jesus childhood – that is, the time when his family visited Jerusalem for the passover and Jesus got separated from his parents for three days. Eventually they found him in the temple – sitting with the religious teachers – listening to them and asking questions – growing in his understanding of God and already beginning to carry out His Father’s will.
Then we hit the fast forward button and jumped ahead in time to when Jesus was an adult and was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. Although Jesus certainly didn’t need to confess or repent of any sin, his baptism marked the first step in his journey to the cross where He would take all of our sin upon Himself and take our punishment once for all.
And then right after His baptism, we saw that the Holy Spirit led Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil for 40 days and 40 nights. Of course, Jesus had complete victory over every temptation that Satan brought his way and he modelled for us how we too can have victory over the temptations that we face.
And that brings us now to the beginning stages of Jesus’ public ministry. Today we want to look at two “firsts” for Jesus. I had originally planned just to look at Jesus’ first miracle, but as I read through that, I realized we should probably back up and also look at Jesus’ first disciples as well – since they are a significant reason for why Jesus did this first miracle in the first place. So we’ll start with his first disciples in John chapter 1 and then we’ll move to chapter 2 to look at his first miracle. It is quite a lot of material to cover in one message so we are going to go through it all fairly quickly – but hopefully, we’ll be able to pick up on the major themes that run through these two passages and learn something important for our lives today.
Now as we mentioned back at Christmastime, the Gospel of John really doesn’t say much about Jesus’ birth or early life. Instead, John gives a brief summary of who Jesus is and what He came to accomplish, and right after that, jumps into the narrative of John the Baptist. So in John’s Gospel we don’t actually meet Jesus until after Jesus had already been baptized and presumably after he had returned from his 40 days in the wilderness.
And before we start, I should mention that we will be talking about two different John’s today. There is John the Baptist (whom we’ve talked about already) – and then there is the Apostle John who would eventually write the Gospel that we’re reading from. I’ll try my best to clarify which John I’m talking about as go through it. I did a word count when I was finished this message and apparently I’ll be saying the word “John” about 75 times! So hopefully we won’t get too confused.
And so as the Apostle John begins his story of Jesus, we see John the Baptist preaching and baptizing – explaining to the people that He Himself was not the Messiah – but He was only preparing the way for the Messiah.
And it’s at this point that Jesus happens to be walking by and John spots him from a distance. This is where we first meet Jesus in John’s Gospel – this is in John chapter 1 verse 29…
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ 31 I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.”
32 Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. 33 I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God.”
Even before Jesus performed any miracles or preached any sermons or taught any parables, John the baptist was boldly declaring that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. There was no doubt in John’s mind that Jesus was the Chosen One of God – the Messiah that everyone had been waiting for. And so John was very enthusiastic and intentional about pointing people to Jesus.
And that’s actually one of the things that impresses me most about John the Baptist – he always pointed people to Jesus – both figuratively as he called the people to repent and to prepare themselves for the coming of the Messiah – and now quite literally, as He points out Jesus in the crowd and declares that Jesus is the Chosen One of God. John’s focus is never on himself – he’s not trying to build up his own ministry or increase His own following – but He always very plainly points everyone to Jesus…
Of course, at this time, John had huge crowds of people coming to see him and hear what he had to say. He himself had several disciples that were following him and learning from him. We even see many years later in the book of Acts that the believers in Ephesus were still preaching and practicing the baptism of John – and so John’s influence was quite far reaching!
But John was always very careful not to make it about himself – it was always about Jesus. In fact, John would later say in John 3:30…
30 He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.
I think that exactly the perspective that each one of us should have. God didn’t put us on this planet to make a great name for ourselves. Our job is to glorify Jesus in all we do – His name must become greater and greater – and our name become less and less.
It’s probably worth considering how much time and effort we spend trying to promote ourselves and to make ourselves seem important and significant – and then compare that to the time and effort we spend trying to promote Jesus – showing his importance and significance to the people around us. Whose name do we really desire to become greater and greater?
Well, for John, he truly did desire to make much of the name of Jesus – even at his own expense. And that’s exactly what we read in the next verses…
35 The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. 36 As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” 37 When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus.
So here we see that John had some disciples or followers of his own. These two guys had been following John – learning from him, learning to be like Him – but when John pointed to Jesus and declared “That guy is the Lamb of God – he is the Messiah we’ve been waiting for” – these two disciples decided that they needed to follow Jesus. While John would lose these two disciples as his followers, Jesus would gain them. And I think that’s exactly how John wanted it. His whole purpose was to point people to Jesus.
And actually, it’s here that John’s Gospel shifts from following the story of John the Baptist to now following Jesus. Verse 38 says
38 Jesus looked around and saw them following. “What do you want?” he asked them.
They replied, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”
39 “Come and see,” he said. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day.
40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of these men who heard what John said and then followed Jesus.
Now I’ll just pause here briefly. Here we see the name of one of John’s disciples – it’s Andrew (who happens to be Simon Peter’s brother and we’ll meet Simon Peter in a bit) – but we never hear the name of the other disciple who had been following John the Baptist with Andrew. Well, most scholars believe that the other disciple was John Himself. (Not John the Baptist – but the Apostle John who would go on to write this very Gospel.)
Now this was probably not the time where Andrew and John became full-fledged disciples of Jesus per se, (we’ll actually see Jesus calling them to do that a little bit later) but they did follow him to where he was staying and would spend the rest of the day getting to know Him at little bit.
And it’s here that we see that Andrew and John had learned well from John the Baptist, because they too immediately went out to point others to Jesus. Look at verse 41.
41 Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ”).
42 Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John—but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter”).
There’s a couple things that I really like in these verses. First of all, I love how Andrew immediately goes and finds his brother and then brings him to meet Jesus. Isn’t that precisely what God has called all of us to do? Isn’t that why we exist as a church – to invite our brothers and sisters to come meet Jesus? And I just love the simplicity of that!
It’s actually not our job to convict the world of sin or to convince them that Jesus is the Messiah – the Son of God… The Holy Spirit is at work, and He’ll take care of all that convicting and convincing…. – our job is simply to invite them to come meet Jesus. Through our words and through our actions – though the evidence of our lives we invite people to come meet Jesus – (sometimes figuratively and sometimes literally) and then we just trust God will take it from there. I think this is a great reminder of what God calls us to do – to invite people to come meet Jesus.
The second thing I like in these verses is that Jesus knows both who Simon is right now – but also He knows who he will eventually become. Simon may be an impulsive, over-zealous fisherman right now (as we’ll see later on), but Jesus know that he will eventually be transformed into ‘Cephas’ or ‘Peter’ – both of which in Aramaic means ‘Rock’. Peter would be one day be a faithful, solid rock who would be a key leader in the early church.
It’s such a great reminder that Jesus knows who we are today – with all our flaws and failures, but He also knows who he created us to be. He knows how He will transform us and change us into brand new people – people who go on to do amazing things in the Kingdom of God.
And you know, I’ve always wondered, if Jesus were to give me a nickname that truly reflected who I would become – who he created me to be – what would my nickname be? Would I be a ‘rock’ like Peter – or maybe one of the “sons of thunder” like James and John? I don’t know – but I’m excited for the day when we’ll find out!
But to get back to our passage – Jesus now has his first three followers – Andrew, Peter, and John. Verse 43 continues:
43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Come, follow me.” 44 Philip was from Bethsaida, Andrew and Peter’s hometown.
45 Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.”
46 “Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
“Come and see for yourself,” Philip replied.
Again, we see this pattern of pointing others to Jesus. Philip, after meeting Jesus himself, immediately goes and finds his friend Nathanael and invites him to come and see for yourself! Come meet Jesus.
And it seems that Nathanael is a bit sceptical that the Messiah could come from Nazareth! Apparently Nazareth didn’t have much a reputation – at least not a good one! But none the less, at Philip’s invitation, Nathanael went along to meet this Jesus fellow. Verse 47.
47 As they approached, Jesus said, “Now here is a genuine son of Israel—a man of complete integrity.”
48 “How do you know about me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus replied, “I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you.”
49 Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God—the King of Israel!”
50 Jesus asked him, “Do you believe this just because I told you I had seen you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” 51 Then he said, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.”
Now there is a lot of stuff going on in these verses that I just don’t have time this morning to get into – but if you’re interested in further understanding what’s going on here, come talk with me after the service or even do a little research yourself. But in a nut shell, Jesus reveals (as he did with Peter), that he knows everything about Nathanael – even the stuff that’s going on in his mind and heart.
And so immediately, Nathanael believes! He boldly declares, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God – the King of Israel.” Which is quite an amazing statement about a guy that he just met moments ago!
And so to this, Jesus promises that all of them would see even greater evidence than He truly is the Son God – and that He would be the stairway between heaven and earth – the bridge between God and man.
And so now this brings us to John chapter 2. At this point, Jesus now has 5 disciples who have been following him for a few days at best. They really don’t know much about who Jesus is except what John the Baptist had told them – and now what they had experienced over the last few days as they hung out with Jesus.
But as it happened, Jesus was invited to a wedding – and his disciples were invited to go along with him. It says in John 2 – verse 1.
The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. 3 The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.”
4 “Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”
5 But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
It would appear that Jesus’ mother, Mary, was in some way involved in the hosting of this wedding – since she knows about the wine problem before everyone else seems to – and she also seem to have the authority to tell the servants what to do. Because of this, some people suggest that this may have been a wedding for one of Jesus’ relatives or close family friends – we’re not really sure, and it probably doesn’t matter.
But regardless, when Mary realizes that the wine is about to run out, she tells Jesus about the problem – seemingly expecting Him to do something about it. And we don’t know exactly what she expected Him to do. As far as we know, Jesus had never done any miracles before – so I don’t know if Mary was expecting that. But it stands to reason that Mary likely understood that Jesus was the Messiah – even if she may not have fully understood what that meant.
Between the angelic visits at Jesus’ birth, the wisemen worshipping Him, finding Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem – “in His Father’s house”, and then just raising this young man who never sinned – all of this together must have been clear evidence to Mary that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the Son of God. And so, in her mind, this could be the opportunity for Jesus to finally reveal this to everyone else in some miraculous way!
But Jesus responds in an unexpected manner.
4 “Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” John 2:4
And please don’t read this to be a rude or callous answer by Jesus. Jesus is not talking back to his mother – nor is he ignoring the plight of this poor newly-wed couple. I mean, running out of wine in a wedding celebration was a pretty serious social faux-pas back then. Hospitality was a huge deal in that culture – and so running out of wine during a great celebration would be a huge embarrassment that would follow this couple for years! But Jesus isn’t making light of their situation – or callously withholding his help cuz ‘it’s not my circus – not my monkeys’.
Instead, the key thing that Jesus is saying is that it wasn’t up to Mary to decide when and how Jesus would publicly reveal Himself as the Son of God. His time had not yet come for that.
However, that didn’t mean that Jesus wouldn’t help. As we see in the next verses – Jesus would help out this newly-wed couple, but it wouldn’t be in the grand, public way that perhaps Mary had imagined. It says in verse 6…
6 Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” When the jars had been filled, 8 he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions.
9 When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. 10 “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!”
In an amazing, but fairly low-key way, Jesus miraculously transformed ordinary water into wine!
Not only did Jesus save this couple from the huge embarrassment of running out of wine in their wedding celebration, but Jesus even went so far as to providing the best wine for their celebration!
And there are a lot of different observations and applications that we could make from this particular miracle…
For one, we could note Jesus’ care and concern for each one of us – and how he provides not just sufficiently, but abundantly.
Or we could note Jesus’ approval and support of marriage – as he chose a wedding celebration as the setting for his very first miracle.
And while those may be good and true observations, I don’t think those are the main lessons that God intends for us to draw out of this story. That’s probably not the point that John was trying to make as he recorded this for us in his Gospel.
The point, I think, is found in the very next verse – and it connects back to everything we just read in chapter 1. This is what it says in John 2:11.
11 This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
It seems that Jesus did not do this amazing miracle for the sake of the newly-weds – or for the sake of his mother – or even for the sake of the many people who attended the wedding.
In fact, as far as this passage tells us, most people had no idea that Jesus had done anything. But the disciples knew. They knew that Jesus had done a miracle. They had gotten their first glimpse of the glory of Jesus – and they believed in him.
That’s why Jesus did this miracle. He did it for the sake Andrew, Peter, John, Philip, and Nathaneal – so that they could begin to see his glory – and believe in him.
And actually, that’s the point of the entire Gospel of John! If you fast-forward to the end of the book, John states it quite plainly for us. It says in John 20 – verse 30…
30 The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name. John 20:30-31
You know, that’s the ultimate desire of God. That’s why God does any miracle – even today! He does it so that we would believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him we will have life by the power of his name.
- God’s greatest concern is not saving us from embarrassment.
- God’s greatest concern is not that we are healthy and wealthy.
- God’s greatest concern is not even that have plenty of food and drink.
God’s greatest concern is that we would have life – true, eternal life – that comes from believing in His Son Jesus.
That’s what God desires for us more than anything!
And needs to be our desire as well.
And I think there are two ways that we can apply this to our lives today:
First of all, we need to recognize how everything that God does in our lives is for the purpose of us believing in Jesus – trusting in Him so that we can have life! And maybe that’s a through a miracle that he does for us – maybe he shows us a glimpse of his glory by providing for us in some amazing way! Those are always great experiences that show us how we can trust in God.
But that’s not always how God reveals His glory. Sometimes, God reveals his glory through hardships or tragedy or suffering. Sometimes God knows the only way for us to put our faith in him is by taking away everything else. And he doesn’t do that because he hates or is callous towards us. No! He loves us like crazy and he desperately wants us to trust in Him so that we can have true life!
Everything God does or allows in our life – is so that we might turn to Him, to believe in His Son Jesus, and to find life in the power of his name. So that I think, is the first big take-away for us this morning.
The second big take-away is the importance of pointing others to Jesus.
We talked earlier about how John the Baptist, and then Andrew, and then Philip all saw the importance of pointing people to Jesus. It was their highest priority and first act of business to bring others to meet Jesus – to meet the One who could give them life.
Do we share that same sense of urgency? That same sense of priority? Do we make it our goal to bring others – our brother and sisters, our friends and family – our co-workers or neighbors – do we invite them to come meet Jesus?
As I said before, that’s our purpose as a church. That’s why God still has us on this planet! If we’re not inviting people to come meet Jesus – then what are doing?
If God’s greatest concern is that people believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God – and that by believing in him they can have life by the power of his name… Then shouldn’t that be our greatest concern as well?
Like John, we need to boldly declare – “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”
Like Andrew, we need to tell our brothers “We have found the Messiah”
Like Philip, we need to tell our friends, “Come see for yourself!”
We need to make it our goal – our highest priority – to invite people to come meet Jesus – come meet the Son of God – believe in Him – and through the power of his name, experience true, eternal life!