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The Miracle is Believing!


Passage: John 2:1-11

Speaker: Rev. Dr. Stephen Graham

Ernest Hemingway’s “Today is Friday” is written in the form of a trilogy about three Roman Soldiers who had crucified a Nazarene Carpenter, who had claimed to be the Son of God. On their way back to the barracks they stopped by a tavern in ancient Jerusalem.

One of the soldiers had been so affected by the incident that he could not engage in the moment with his raucous friends. His heart and mind were still back at the scene of the cross, still on the Man who was dying. With a faraway look in his eyes, he said, “He sure looked good in there today.”

Those who study the life and death of Jesus Christ come away saying, “He sure looked good in there.” The gospel of John is a book of the signs Jesus gave to reveal his glory, signs of just how good Jesus looked as he lived among us. Each sign is the dramatic manifestation of the power of God.

Our gospel reading calls attention to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. In John’s gospel Jesus calls his first disciples, two fishermen, Peter and his brother, Andrew, and two more, Nathaniel and Philip. Then Jesus traveled to Cana. There he performed the first miracle, the first of six “signs” that Jesus performs in John’s account. John called the miracles, “signs,” because they were done to teach and to reveal something significant about Jesus and the response of his followers. “Signs point to something. The signs in John are used to point to Jesus’ identity as Messiah, the child of God, sent by God and acting with all the agency of God.”[1]

The changing of the water into wine was the first of these signs; done at the wedding with festive spirit and with gifts in abundance. John reports that it began on the third day so we will watch for what is coming. The “third day” serves as a resurrection symbol. John established that the events of this third day were revelatory events anticipating the resurrection. In fact, the next story in John, the cleansing of the temple (John 2:13-22), was also a “third day” story, another of the signs. One commentary reminds us that given the favorable reception Jesus received in Galilee and his rejection in Jerusalem, it is not coincidental that the wedding is set in Galilee and the “funeral” in Jerusalem.

John told this story to celebrate what it revealed about Jesus. We learn that it is because of this “sign” that his disciples were led to believe in him (verse 11).

One of my favorite worship writers, Ann Weems, said, “The real miracle is in believing.”

For John, it is not believing something but believing someone, namely Jesus Christ. Royal Lane member, Jaime Clark-Soles, offers her translation of John 20:31. “But these things are written so that y’all (you all, plural) may come to believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing y’all may have life in his name.”

John avoids the noun “faith.” Instead, he uses the verbal form, “to believe,” altogether 98 times in the gospel. Believing is consistently directed toward Jesus Christ. At some points, it is Jesus as a person, at others it is Jesus’ work or his words. John’s view of faith is dynamic. Believing is far more than intellectual assent. Believing implies a dynamic personal commitment to Jesus as the Christ.

The first sign of Jesus was at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. Although the hour of the final glorification, the cross and resurrection, had not yet come, Jesus did reveal his glory. He looked so good there that day that his disciples believed in him. John’s gospel began with the words that in Jesus’ human form we behold God’s glory. God is always showing us a bit of glory here and there, but in Jesus the glory was more fully revealed than ever before.

In a wonderful story by Jostein Gaarder, a little girl, Elisabet, is talking to an angel. When they come to a field of wildflowers, Elisabet exclaims, “Look at the lovely wildflowers!”  hen angel responds, “They are part of the glory of heaven that has strayed down to earth…You see, there’s so much glory in heaven that it’s very easy for it to spill over.”[2]

In the Old Testament lectionary text, Isaiah gave this sign to the people, a sign of God’s desire to spill over into their lives, to “call the people by a new name, a brand-new name straight from the mouth of God. No more will you be called forsaken or rejected. No more will your land be called desolate or ruined. You will be called God’s delight. You will be united with God, wedded by God’s love (Isaiah 62:1-5).

When Isaiah wrote of the people being joined with God in marriage, he was saying that God rejoices over them like a bridegroom rejoicing over the bride. God’s grace spills over into their lives so that they may live a theme of endless praise on earth (v. 7). When wed to God, the children of Israel are called to reveal God’s glory. God sure looked good in there rebuilding the children of Israel in love. At just such points in their story, when the children of Israel believed in God, when they dedicated their lives and were willing to live in response to God, at those times they were signs of God’s glory spilling over in them.

We, too, are called to welcome Jesus to the wedding. The wedding? Why who is getting married? We are. We are called to be Christians whose hearts are united in love. Our love is to show evidence of our belief in Jesus the Christ. The hymn sings, “Has he not your love excited? Then let love inspire each breast!”

On this Sunday before the observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Let us be united in love!

In Christ there is no East or West
In Him no South or North;
But one great fellowship of love
Throughout the whole wide earth.
John Oxenham

After a long and consistent influence of the scholar and faithful T. B. Maston, Southwestern Seminary halted its doctoral program in Christian ethics as a way "to get away from the legacy of T. B. Maston and be more biblical." As one of many who were guided by the remarkable way in which Maston called Baptist to make belief more than simply mental assent, to let our belief be a dynamic personal commitment by how we lived out our trust and faith in Christ. Joel Gregory, who had been his pastor, recalls visiting Dr. Maston when he was in the hospital hovering between life and death. By his bedside were papers, which had sentence after sentence of closely written, cramped script. It was apparent that Dr. Maston was re-reading the gospels again; writing down something he learned about Jesus from each verse! There were hundreds of sentences, yet this man was purported as not biblical. T. B. Maston believed in Jesus the Christ, and because he did, hundreds, if not thousands of us would say, “Christ sure looked good in T. B. Maston.”  

In John’s gospel Jesus is the glory of God revealed in human flesh. Jesus looked good as he poured out his love and laid down his life.

Let us see signs of his love spilling over and grow in our understanding that the miracle is believing!

We Pray: May we die to self and live to you, O God, as a sign of your love being poured out in our world this day! In the name of the One in whom we believe, Christ Jesus, our Lord, we pray. Amen

[1] Jaime Clark-Soles, Reading John for Dear Life, (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016), 9.

[2] Jostein Gaarder, The Christmas Mystery (New York: Farrar Straus Girous, 1996), p. 69.