Sunday Night Live Sermons
OLD FAMILY, NEW BEGINNINGS
WHO HE REALLY IS
15th February 2004
In our magazines, “Impact” and “Frontlines” we tell the true stories of people whose lives have been turned round by the Christian faith with the help of our staff and our programs. In our magazines, “Impact” and “Frontlines” we tell the true stories of people whose lives have been turned round by the Christian faith with the help of our staff and our programs. Likewise, I have conducted an extensive half-hour interview with one such person every week on our radio programs under the title “Ordinary People With Extra-ordinary Stories”. I have done this now every week for over twenty years. At the same time, many of these people have shared their stories on our weekly TV program, “Turn “Round Australia”, others on our specials from the Opera House, and many in our church services in Wesley Theatre. I guess I have told the story or interviewed over 2000 such people whose lives have been remarkable changed by our ministry.
Do you find some of the stories unbelievable? Do you wonder what happens to the people mentioned in the stories after they leave our programs? This past week, I decided to follow up on about a dozen people whose stories we told last year. Together their testimonies were incredible. I rang our staff and got forwarding addresses and phone numbers and talked to a number of those people. One guy last year at our Turnaround Program, led by Nerida Dunkerley had a remarkable turnaround in his own life. Carl said, “The program is called Turnaround, and that’s exactly what it has done – it has turned my life around.” Carl lived with us for nine months. Carl is honest about the mistakes he has made: a life of alcohol abuse, violence, jail and broken relationships.
It took the love and support of the staff at Wesley Rehabilitation Services to help Carl get his life back on track. Carl said: “Alcohol addiction caused my downfall and took part of my life away. Others could see it, but I couldn’t.” Carl started drinking heavily when he was 16. Later his drinking led to his marriage falling apart and losing his children. Moving from one broken relationship to another, Carl kept turning to alcohol to escape the pain of his life. “I chose a relationship with a woman over a relationship with my children. That day really tore at my heart, and so I drank more heavily to deal with the pain.”
Drunk one night, angry and confused, Carl decided to kill himself. He chose to drive off the freeway at high speed, his car crashing down a deep ravine. As he regained consciousness, Carl was surrounded by fire. His car was in flames. He was rescued from death. Afterwards., Carl said, “I wanted to be put in jail. My life was out of control, and I was screaming out for help.” He was sentenced to three months in prison. Carl had hit rock bottom. He knew he needed help. But the day he was released, his partner took him straight to the pub to celebrate. Continuing along a path of violence and drunkenness, Carl found himself threatening a police officer – a move that triggered a judge to order Carl into the care of Wesley Rehabilitation Services. “I had left everyone, all my friends and family, and was totally alone. I came to understand that I had a problem, an addiction to alcohol.” In-depth counselling sessions and practical support from our staff enabled Carl to look at his life and see how alcohol had wreaked havoc on his family, relationships and his children. “I had no self confidence, no faith in my own recovery. Wesley has taught me to trust again, and to look to other people for support,” Carl said.
Wesley Rehabilitation Services provides assistance from alcohol, drug, gambling and other addictions. “Eight months ago, I would not have believed that I could be helped. A lifeline has been passed out to me so that I don’t drift out to sea again,” said Carl. What has happened since? He has been able to reunite with some family members, but his children do not want to see him yet. Carl hopes with time and healing they will want to meet their father. He went to Church at Mt Annan, met a very strong Christian woman who laid down some very firm guidelines for their friendship. That blossomed into love. They have married and moved into a house at Narellan. Carl is doing a TAFE course in business management, and his talent for painting which he discovered while with us is being improved by his doing a course at TAFE. Carl says: “I am a stronger person today, and am so thankful for the support I have been given to believe in myself and to have a future. If my story helps one person, that touches me. It’s my opportunity to pay something back.”
To help people turn around their lives and to create new quality in all their relationships – with God, others and themselves – was part of the whole purpose of the Jesus Christ. John’s gospel reveals how Jesus did that in the lives of so many people. That is why John puts at the beginning of his Gospel a sign of the transforming power of Jesus Christ. It would show what Jesus can do, and it illustrates all that is to follow. That sign occurred at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Cana is on the West Bank of Israel. It is now called Herbert Qana, and is six kilometers north of Nazareth. A wedding is always a gala occasion. In a village like Cana it would be a community celebration. A few years ago, I joined with more than a thousand Jews in a kibbutz near Cana in a wedding celebration.
Failure to provide adequately for the guests would involve social disgrace and at this wedding the supply of wine ran out. In the close knit communities of Jesus’ day, such an error would never be forgotten and would haunt the newly married couple all their lives. The situation prompted Mary to informed Jesus of the emergency. The miracle of the water being turned into wine has a number of deep meanings and John put it at the beginning of his Gospel for that reason.
1. WHY A SIGN?
John’s Gospel starts with this event to give an indication of what the rest of the Gospel will show. The wedding of Cana in Galilee was the first recorded miracle of Jesus. Some scholars reject anything looking like a miracle. John says that this miracle was a “sign” that pointed to something beyond itself, that there is a deeper meaning. John 2:11 “This, the first of His miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed His glory, and His disciples put their faith in Him.”
Note when it happened. A wedding feast typically lasted for up to six days of open house celebration involving the whole village as I witnessed.
Note where it happened. John 2:1 “On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee”. Cana was a small village, although today it is the site of an aircraft electrics factory. “Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and His disciples had also been invited to the wedding.” Mary was possibly a relative hence Jesus and his disciples were invited.
Note what happened. Mary asked Jesus to help because, to the family’s embarrassment, the supply of wine ran out. Jesus said nothing but simply went to the water jars.
“Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then He told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realise where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 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.” The toastmaster in charge of the distribution of food and drink was astounded by the high quality of the wine since generally a poorer quality was served once the taste of the guests became dulled.
2. WHAT DOES THIS SIGN MEAN?
Many have spoken of this sign indicating the interests of Jesus. Jesus is interested in ordinary people and everyday events: weddings, funerals, work, fishing, harvesting, drawing water from a well, farming, sewing patches on garments and so on. All of His teaching is illustrated from the activities of ordinary people whom He understood and loved. This sign was a quiet affair. Neither the bridegroom nor the toastmaster knew what had happened. The servants filling the water-pots and drawing the wine knew.
Others have used this sign to indicate the methods that Jesus uses. He works with humans in solving peoples’ problems. He used the hands of people to fill the water pots, to draw from them, and to give to others. He takes whatever we already possess and uses that, multiplies that, and satisfies our needs abundantly. He fills our emptiness with a quality never before realised.
Others have used this sign to indicate the mission of Jesus. His purpose was to reveal to His disciples who He was. “This, the first of His miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed His glory, and His disciples put their faith in Him.” People who put their faith in Jesus see His glory. They understand exactly who He is. Put your faith in Jesus and you know!
Others have seen in this miracle an example of the abundance of God’s grace. One characteristic of John’s writing is that beneath John’s simple stories “there is a deeper meaning which is only open to those who have eyes to see.” Wm Barclay One detail was the six stone water-pots containing the water which turned to wine. Jesus turned all that water into wine. That was anything up to one hundred and eighty gallons of wine! Not 180 bottles of wine, but 180 gallons of wine! When the grace of Jesus comes to us there is enough!
A further meaning is that Jesus Christ can fill your inner emptiness. Is Jesus filling your emptiness? Where, on a scale of one to ten, would you rate your life now? What number will you record? One poll revealed Australians average 6.7. That seems to me to be pitifully low! Australians should be living life to the full, enjoying it to the uttermost, living with confidence in the future. We live in a land of peace, with bountiful natural resources, with the highest rate of home ownership in the world. We have more people employed than at any time in our history. But too many people rate their satisfaction with life low. They are empty within. But there is always a superabundance of God’s grace to meet our every need. Beyond all our dreaming, His grace is abundant!
To others, the miracle is about Jesus who brings about conversion: water to wine, sinners to saints. This is a miracle of transformation.
Note it occurred in almost complete obscurity. Few know when or how it happened, but they know that it did happen. That is the same with many transformed lives I see. Quietly, in their own home, or on a bus, or at work, the changing friendship of Jesus overwhelms them and they are born again as brand new creatures, now made children of God. The effect of this miracle is noteworthy. It marked the beginning of a ministry accompanied by supernatural power; and it proved so convincing to the new disciples that they “put their faith in him.” The deed helped confirm the conclusion they had drawn from their previous interviews with him: Jesus is the Messiah.
The disciples knew that was the difference they saw in the lives of those whom Jesus touched. Whoever came to Jesus, found their lives transformed. The early Christians saw the difference in their lives, not just once, but every day. They quoted from the Old Testament: Lam 3:22 “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Do you wish to discover the transforming touch of Jesus in your life? Give your life into His hands now! He who can change water into wine, can change your life also. When you belong to the family of God you can have a new beginning when Jesus Christ remakes your life.
John R.W. Stott "BASIC CHRISTIANITY." IVF 1958 p108.
"A BIBLICAL THEOLOGY OF MISSIONS." George W. Peters. Moody p.187).
"THE RADICAL WESLEY" Howard Snyder p.64