THE WEDDING IN CANA – Jesus’ first miracle

English

THE WEDDING IN CANA

– Jesus’ first miracle

Reading: John 2:1-11

John records eight miracles, although he never describes them as miracles, he calls them signs. The word meaning “power” used frequently in other gospels to describe miracles is not used by John. Only once is the word translated “wonder” found in John, and then with the word “signs” alongside it. But the word translated “signs” occurs seventeen times. John’s method of description invites a continued enumeration: he calls the first miracle “the beginning of signs”; the next one he calls “the second sign”. The seventh (on my count) was the resurrection of Lazarus, whilst the eighth and last sign was performed after Christ’s resurrection.

Through the continual use of the word “signs”, I believe that John is attempting to indicate to us the true purpose of the miracles, they were to act as signs. They were more than displays of power; their purpose goes beyond that. They are there to provide indicators to us of greater things.

This was the “beginning” – or “first” – in a series of miracles John was to record, which were to be understood as “signs” setting forth a series of divine principles by which the nation of Israel might be restored to Yahweh, and by which true spiritual Israelites might be encouraged in the way which could lead them to life eternal.

There is in this then a justification for us to look for greater meaning within the recorded miracles. And indeed we will find that we can relatively easily find many types and symbols that sit just under the surface of all the miracles that we find in the scriptures.

The power that Jesus had, the power of the Holy Spirit, had been given to him by God at his baptism. His disciples had not yet seen him use this power. They believed what John the Baptist told them, that he was "the Lamb of God” and they followed him. They listened to his word and became his disciples, but when they saw his miracles, they were convinced by the demonstration of power that he was the Christ. I think also that much of the convincing came from these sometimes obvious messages that those miracles taught.

{John 1:36}

THE WINE RUNS OUT:

Very soon after Jesus had gathered his first few followers around him, he was invited to a wedding in Cana of Galilee.

John is very specific, he began his second chapter by providing points of connection between it and the first two chapters. The first link was his reference to “the third day”. It was actually the seventh day of John’s narrative. This was the third day after John 1:43.

The number three is most significant for its symbolic or typical meaning in scripture. It speaks of resurrection through the making of a covenant which has been ratified through sacrifice. The number has a particular relationship to Christ’s personal resurrection to divine nature. He was the first-fruits of those who shall be raised to receive eternal life. The number three therefore also aptly symbolizes the resurrection to glory of the Body of Christ, the vast concourse of Believers who will become “glorified together with him” at the judgement seat.

That occasion will become the greatest marriage celebration of all time, when Christ and his bride become conclusively and completely united.

{Rev. 19:7-8}

The fact that the marriage in Cana actually took place on the seventh day of John’s narrative is also deeply expressive of a strong spiritual lesson; for it will be on the seventh one-thousand year-day, after six one-thousand year-days of sin’s reign, that the final union between the Lamb and his Wife will take place.

Cana was the home of Nathanael. Jesus’ mother Mary was there and his disciples also were invited. One or both of the marriage parties must have been friends, or possibly relatives, of the family of Jesus, for his mother “was there”, that is, she was staying there. Her freedom in suggesting to the servants that they do whatever Jesus commanded is confirmation of this. Jesus was invited; and John’s expression, “Jesus was called, and his disciples”, suggests that the disciples were invited because of their connection with Jesus. Joseph, Mary’s husband, is not mentioned. It is difficult to account for his absence from such an important event, unless, perhaps, he was already dead.

The Greek word used for “called” is Kaleo. It is the same word that is consistently used throughout the New Testament to express the invitation which God has extended in calling men and women to the Gospel. It is also, most significantly, the same word used to represent the summons which Christ will extend to those who are found worthy to attend the marriage of the lamb.

{Rev. 19:9}

I do not think it a mere coincidence either that Christ chose the same word when setting forth the parable concerning those “that were bidden to the wedding”.

{Matt 22:3}.

A wedding was always a happy occasion. In those days the feasting and rejoicing with family and friends sometimes lasted for days. Sometimes seven, and sometimes as many as fourteen.

Something happened at this wedding which could have spoiled the pleasure of the occasion and brought disgrace on the host - the wine ran out before the feast had ended.

It would be most improbable that a shortage of wine – a basic commodity – would have occurred in the early stages of the feasting. There seems only one reasonable explanation: and it is simply that those responsible for the conduct of the wedding were so poor that they were unable to provide for the needs of either themselves or their relatives and friends.

This explanation for the lack of wine is most fitting, since those gathered together at the marriage feast typify, in the primary sense, the nation of Israel.

The absence of wine thus becomes the focal point in the “sign”.

In the Scriptures, wine was often used as a symbol for doctrine. It also typified blood, which is “the life”. Thus, in this “sign” absence of wine represented lack of spiritual life. And this was the state of the Jewish nation when the Son of God walked in their midst; a state of affairs which he had come to alleviate, if Yahweh’s people would receive his teaching. They were, undeniably, “the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. Religion, as understood and practiced by the nation generally, was corrupt. Whether they appreciated their true needs or not, these people were in desperate straits for the saving influence of the “wine” of sound doctrine and spiritual enlightenment. And only the Son of God could have provided them with the spiritual “wine” which could fill them and satisfy them, and bring them spiritual rejuvenation.

But the nation of Israel stood in an untenable position before their God. The “wine” in which their religious leaders had taught them to trust, had, like the wine at the feast failed.

The purpose of this sign to Israel nationally was to show them that they were spiritually bereft, and that only the Son of God, their Messiah, could supply their spiritual needs and restore them to Yahweh.

When Mary discovered this embarrassing situation, she said to Jesus, "They have no wine" (v3). Jesus realized that she was hoping he could help and he said to her, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" (v4). He wanted his mother to understand that whatever he did from now on, since his baptism, he did to please God. As much as he loved his mother and wanted to please her, he must do his Father's work only. It was not yet time for him to be known publicly to all men. Nevertheless he did perform a miracle at this time as the first sign to his disciples and those gathered at the wedding that he was the Christ.

Mary had learned to turn to her son when in need. She had doubtless experience of his resourcefulness during the years at Nazareth; but the recent events, with the knowledge which she had of the paternity of her son, may have led her to look now for something greater, some manifestation of power. The answer of Jesus “Mine hour is not yet come”, indicates this.

WATER INTO WINE:

Mary seemed to get the impression that Jesus would help. She said to the servants, "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it" (v5).

At the entrance to the house there were six large stone water pots. They were there so that the guests could wash their hands before eating, not because they were dirty, but it was a custom of the Jews.

{Mark 7:3-4}

Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the water pots with water". When they were filled to the brim, he told them to draw out and take it in to the ruler of the feast. It seemed a strange order, yet Mary had told them to do whatever he commanded. To their amazement, they drew out - not water, but wine from those very large jars that they themselves had filled with water. When the ruler of the feast tasted that wine, he congratulated the bridegroom for providing such excellent quality. Most people would pour the best out first, "but", he said, "thou has kept the good wine until now" (v10).

WHY JESUS PERFORMED MIRACLES:

The power of God is greater than any power man can have. You may remember when God sent plagues upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians that the magicians tried to copy Moses. By their trickery, it looked at first as if they could too, but even they had to admit that it was God's power at work through Moses. So in the miracles Jesus performed he was showing the people what great power God had given him. He was the Son of God and God was with him.

In Acts 2:22 Peter describes him as "Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you".

In John 2:11 we are told: "This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him".

This was just what God intended - the people saw the miracles and believed his words. In this way the Lord Jesus Christ taught the people to give honour to God, for it was God that had given him the power of the Holy Spirit.

LESSON FOR US

In all the miracles that Jesus did he set out to teach the people particular lessons. This was the first miracle Jesus did and it taught a very important lesson. The water-pots were there "after the manner of the purifying of the Jews" (v6). The water was to wash the body. It made them feel clean, but it could not make a man clean within, that is, in his heart, Jesus taught that we should be "pure in heart". The words that Jesus spoke could change a man and make him clean within. When we read the Word of God and think about it and keep it in our hearts, it changes us. Let us then read that Word daily and God will be pleased to see that change in us.

Symbology

Within the miracle there are certainly a number of symbols that we can recognize. The six water-pots speak of mankind. The number six is so often associated with man that we need not speak of that in particular at this time. These pots were by no means small; two to three firkins a piece indicates that they would have held around 25 gallons each. That’s 113 liters to those who work in metric. They are described as stone water-pots. This is a word that occurs only three times in the scripture; this is the first occurrence, the second is found in 2Corinthians 3:3 – the last Revelation 9:20.

{2 Corinthians 3:3}

Men and women are to be converted in “fleshly tables of the heart”. The Revelation quote speaks of making stone tablets into idolatry. Just as the Jews had done. They had made the laws of God into the laws of men with their traditions. The Jewish concept of religion for what it really was: a perverted, formal, ritualistic philosophy, in which the real power and meaning of divine truth had been submerged. It had become idolatry. The warning is powerfully there for us Brethren and Sisters. On the positive side, the Lord Jesus Christ would change the hearts of men and women who would receive him, even as he was about to change the contents of the stone water-pots.

We see the Lord Jesus Christ changing the water of ceremonial cleansing into the wine of the new covenant.

He told the servants to “fill the water-pots with water” and they obeyed him, as Mary had counselled them. Here, then, was an example of the first principle of discipleship: “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it”.

The servants “filled” the water-pots “to the brim”. This established the principle that there would never be any shortage of that which Christ would provide, for the eternal well-being of all who would truly draw near to him. He would supply all their needs, so that they would lack nothing. There would be no holding back on the Lord’s part when it came to providing for the needs of sinful, suffering humanity – even to the giving of his own life.

The steward of the feast was the servant of the bridegroom who was responsible for the purification and the sustenance of the guests. In him we are able to distinguish the features of the high priest of Israel who, presented with the new wine, did not know whence it came, or who presented it, yet unconsciously acknowledged it as better than the old.

{Hebrews 8:6}

“It is expedient for us”, he says, “that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.”

It was not the earthly bridegroom who had held back the good wine until now. It was the God of Israel who in the fullness of time sent forth the heavenly Bridegroom with the true wine which had in it the essence of eternal life, before which the old wine “is ready to vanish away”.

Although the steward did not know, the servants knew because they listened to his words, and knowing, they wondered. But it was to the disciples that Christ’s glory was manifested. His power was a vital confirmation to them of the truth of his words, and removed the last tendency to withhold their allegiance. Previously they had believed his claims, now he had vindicated them and their mental assent became a personal trust and prepared them for that moment when without hesitation they were to leave all and follow him.

Exhortation

There is great exhortation to be found in the miracle before us. We need Brethren and Sisters to drink the “wine” of his doctrine. This means that we need to make every opportunity to provide for the partaking of “wine”. We need to ensure that we attend to our daily readings. We need to ensure that we attend all the meetings that occur in this hall. We need to ensure that this room is never vacant that our seat is always full. We have to ensure that we make time to study and cogitate on that Word. We need to make it “our meditation all the day”.

We have to ask of ourselves whether we have become like the Scribes and the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. Is our religion corrupt? Do we pretend to be religious, whilst in reality we have become “whited walls”? Are we hypocrites. Could those denunciations said of them, be said of us today? Are we resting on our lees, or can it be said that we have a little of the “Milk of the Word” but are lacking the Wine?

The purpose of this miracle to those who would dare to call themselves Spiritual Israel is to show that if we drink the “wine” of his doctrine, and become covered with the blood of his sacrifice, He can find you in His service – a joy which will be fully realized at the glorious marriage supper of the Lamb.

May we be found worthy of a place in that day.

Swahili Title
ARUSI YA KANA Mwujiza wa kwanza wa Yesu
English files
Swahili Word file
Translator 1
Jonathan Nkombe
Literature type
English only