WINE, WOMEN, AND SONG
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
January 12, 2020
1 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. 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.” 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.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
— John 2:1-11, ESV
Two years before the great Loretta Lynn scored her biggest hit with the highly theological, “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ with Lovin’ on your Mind,” she had a similar song that made it all the way to number one. It was called, “Wine, Women, and Song.” It went something like, “While I'm at home a working and slaving this a way, you're out misbehaving and spending all your pay, on wine, women, and song.”
Wine, women, and song are issues you would expect to find negatively in a country song, but they are not things you would positively associate with the Lord Jesus Christ, especially if you grew up in a strict Baptist church. Wine and other alcoholic beverages are off limits, women in the congregation are not supposed to say a word, and the only songs you are allowed to sing come from the Baptist Hymnal or some southern gospel album about mama and mansions in Heaven. But the real Jesus is not the fundamentalist Jesus.
The real Jesus is the fun Jesus. Jesus made, drank, and enjoyed wine. Jesus included women in His entourage, beginning with His blessed mother and ending with a trio of women around the borrowed tomb. Jesus attended celebrations like weddings where there was an abundance of music, singing, and yea verily, even dancing.
But like everything else the Messiah did, Jesus partied with a purpose. The wine, women, and song in this story provide the backdrop for the first of seven “signs,” or miracles, that John wraps His Gospel around (along with seven strategic sayings that all begin with “I Am ...”). Each one, beginning with this one, points to Christ’s supreme deity, His strong compassion for people, and His sovereign power to meet every important need. Let’s go with Him to the wedding!
Wine, Women, and Song
I have heard a hundred hair-splitting sermons in my day that claim the wine Jesus made was akin to modern grape juice. Such teaching displays a naiveté of biblical language and culture. The first time wine is mentioned in the Bible, Noah makes it, drinks it, gets drunk, and passes out (ref. Genesis 9:21). You can’t do that with Welch’s.
The word for the wine that Jesus made was picked by Paul to warn against drunkenness (ref. Ephesians 5:18), so we know the wine had to pack a punch stronger than a country mule. The folks at this wedding had already “drunk freely,” which literally means they were intoxicated. Drunkenness may be sinful, but wine is certainly not. So when they ran out at this wedding, Jesus made more.
To further chap the backsides of Pharisees and Fundamentalists everywhere, Jesus made this top shelf wine because a woman spoke up and virtually ordered Him to do so. This was no ordinary woman, of course, but Mary the mother of Jesus (John never uses her proper name, only “mother,” perhaps because she was like a mother to him, too.). She knew Jesus was the Messiah, just as His first disciples did. She knew what He could do, anything, because He was and is the presence and the power of God. So Mary bid her son, God’s Son, to make some wine. After a wrinkle in their conversation which we will iron out later, Jesus acquiesced.
No rabbi had ever included women in the close company of disciples. Jesus began His ministry with a woman at his right hand and let many others lend a hand along the way. Mother Mary is Jesus first witness, at the wedding, while Mary Magdalene became His last witness, at the funeral (which Jesus ruined by rising from the dead). Wine and women are important to Jesus.
So is song, in this case a wedding song, a wedding song that was about to be drowned out by an embarrassing end. Weddings can be quite festive occasions in our culture, but they pale in comparison to the Jewish weddings of Jesus’ day. They typically lasted a week or more, with the actual ceremony in the middle (Tuesdays for the newly married, Wednesdays for remarriages). The fatted calf was killed and feasting was the order of every day. Wine flowed like a river, the kind of good wine that gets people singing and dancing, and it was a social disgrace (and in some cases a legal crime) if the host ran out of wine.
Jesus, at Mary’s bequest, refused to let the singing stop. He commanded the servants to collect 120 gallons of water (and water was almost as valuable as wine, if not more so in some places). Then He ordered them to use the wine serving vessels to bring a taste to the host. Everyone is at risk now, but following Jesus is always a risky business. Lo and behold, the water had been transformed into wine, and the most excellent wine to boot.
The wine flowed, women and men enjoyed a fabulous wedding reception, and songs of God’s glory and grace wafted over the entire crowd. In the center of it all stood the Lord Jesus Christ with a great smile upon His face, surrounded by a band of believing disciples.
Miracles, Messiah, and Disciples
You and I both know this story is not really about wine, women, and song. It is about miracles, the Messiah, and making disciples. John takes this wedding at Cana to a higher, spiritual plane, a particular motif that characterizes his Gospel. Let’s take the elevator and look at this wedding from upstairs.
A miracle is something supernatural, rising above the laws of science and reasonable explanation, that can only be performed or permitted by God. God gives them sparingly, for natural law and providence provide a stage big enough for His plan of redemption to unfold. Occasionally, however, God paints a “sign” (John’s preferred word), or miracle, to point us in the direction of salvation.
Moses and Aaron performed signs in order to point God’s people in the direction of the exodus and the promised land. Elijah and Elisha performed miracles to thwart the influence of faithless priests and evil kings who had turned Israel’s hearts away from God. Jesus and the Apostles performed signs and wonders to grab the attention of an Old Covenant being fulfilled and a New Covenant being offered, a covenant of salvation by the miracle of regeneration (like grapes turned into wine) by grace through faith in the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
In John’s Gospel, all signs point to Jesus, beginning with this one in Cana, a little village not far from Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth. He was just beginning His messianic campaign that would end at the cross. He knew that at least at a few stops along the way, He would have to do something to prove Himself to be God and man. He debated with His mother, Mary, as to the timing of His first miracle because He could not let His popularity peak too soon. Persuaded, however, that it was time for wine, Jesus overturned nature to turn water into wine, something only God can do.
Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. Jesus of Nazareth is the master of weddings and funerals, of land and the sea, of every geographical, physical, and spiritual area in our lives. Jesus Christ is Lord. This story alone should serve to make you love Him, trust Him, believe in Him, and become His disciple.
And make no mistake, discipleship is the bottom line here. Jesus did what only God can do because God loves people and calls us to follow Him. Jesus did what only God can do because He is the source of all goodness, joy, and true celebration. But at the end of the day, or at the end of this wedding, Jesus did what only God can do in order to accomplish this goal, “His disciples believed in Him.”
Disciples believe in Jesus. Disciples follow Jesus, through celebrations and storms. Disciples obey Jesus’ word, like the servant who took Mary’s advice, “Do whatever He tells you” (even if it doesn’t make sense sometimes). Disciples walk with Jesus on earth. Disciples will live forever with Jesus in Heaven, only disciples.
So come to the wedding and drink the wine of regeneration, made and poured out by nail-scarred hands. Listen to the woman who said, “Do whatever He tells you.” And sing the song of salvation until you arrive at the place where you will see the Lord Jesus Christ face to face, where the wedding reception never ends.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org