Today’s lesson will be taught as a sequence of events; for we have in the second chapter of John a story of our Lord’s first miracle, the changing of water into wine. It is more than just a story; it is a narrative of historical fact, written for us by the Spirit of God: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16).
The story takes place in a small town by the name of Cana, “place of reeds.” Cana was situated near the city of Nazareth, from where Mary and Jesus came to a wedding. Cana was where Jesus promised to heal a nobleman’s son (John 4:46). It was also the home of Nathanael (John 21:2). A divine act of God provides for us a glorious revelation of heaven. Scripture gives us the reason for such a miracle to take place at this time of a marriage feast. This miracle and those that would follow are provided to manifest the glory of God in the Son. The miracles are to make known, to reveal a great mystery of God, to show His divine glory. Christ was the ‘Word,’ who spoke of the divine Godhead, was “made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). To see our Lord’s glory is to recognize Him as He truly is, the God-Man in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwells. It is to know Him as He is revealed in God’s written word: our Prophet, Priest, and King. It is to identify Him as the only Savior. The glory of the Lord is who He really is: His character, His works, etc. The root meaning of the word, glory (doxa) is recognition. We glorify our Lord Jesus Christ when His image is recognized in us and in our deeds. Our transgression is recognized in coming short of the glory of God, our salvation recognized in the glory of God: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins” (Rom. 3:23–25).
John the Baptist introduced his disciples to Jesus as “the Lamb of God” (John 1:36). After hearing these words, Andrew testified of Jesus to his brother Simon Peter, saying, “We have found the Messiah, which is, being interpreted, the Christ” (1:41). The following day Jesus gathers Philip into His fold. Philip would seek out Nathanael, saying, “We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (1:43–45). These are those who received an invitation to a wedding. Philip, Andrew, and Peter were of Bethsaida, and Nathanael of Cana. Mary, the mother of Jesus, came from Nazareth. Family and friends had been invited to this wedding. It was a time of joy and celebration.
Mary is probably in her late forties. She is acquainted with the family, most likely a relative, to the extent that she can speak openly to the servants that they might do her bidding. From Nazareth and Cana, and other nearby places, they gather to celebrate the wedding. Food and wine are enjoyed as they give words and gifts of blessing to the couple. As time passes, they run short of the wine.
We begin now to see the providential work of God. The Savior about whom the Father had recently said, “This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” begins His redemptive ministry. One of the majestic acts of our Lord would reveal that He is truly the Messiah, the one sent by the Father to be the Savior of His people. Calvin so observes, “I have no doubt that all this was regulated by the Providence of God, that there might be room for the miracle.”
Mary is moved by the need of wine for the guests to go to her son. As Scripture reads, “Now when the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said unto him, They have no wine.” Here is a mother who, yes, without full understanding, watched her son grow. She had called him to meals by the name the Angel of the Lord told her and Joseph to give him: “Joshua” (Jehovah is salvation—for He shall save His people from their sins). She had heard the story of the shepherds and wise men; she had watched Joshua grow, waxing “strong in spirit, filled with wisdom.” For “the grace of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40). Mary had heard Jesus’ voice when he was twelve, saying, “I must be about my Father’s business.” She kept all these sayings in her heart. She had seen the birth of a son, remembering the words of her cousin Elizabeth, “Blessed is she that believed; for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord” (Luke 1:45). The Spirit of God would turn Mary to her Son, as it would be natural to her, saying, “They have no wine.”
Jesus answers Mary, saying, “Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.” It is a gentle rebuke, reminding Mary of those things she hid in her heart. She quietly acquiesces to His words of a rebuke. Christ spoke such to Mary that what would come to pass would be to the glory of God, and, therefore, in His time. We must not venerate any person or thing above our Savior and Lord. However, Mary did “not knowingly and willingly offend; but Christ only meets the danger, that no improper use may be made of what his mother had said, as if it were in obedience to her command that he afterwards performed the miracle” (Calvin).
Mary receives the rebuke in its intention. For she speaks to the servants, saying, “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.” Neither she nor they are to approach Jesus. He will do what is His will to do. Jesus calls the servants to “Fill the water-pots with water.” When they were filled to the brim, He says, “Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast.” After the first taste, the governor, the one responsible for seeing to the food and drink, calls the bridegroom to his side, saying, “Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine …but thou hast kept the good wine until now.”
We do not know the response of the bridegroom or his guests at the wedding. For the narrative is given to us, not that we may speculate on the responses, but that we might know why Christ performed miracles throughout His three years of ministry on this earth. It is clearly told to us that we may not speculate but celebrate in faith and thanksgiving. For this “beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee,” to “manifest forth his glory!” His miracles were acts of divine revelation that His glory, His person, character, and redemptive work, might be recognized and known. Thus, we note the response of our Lord’s disciples, They believed! The Lord would later sum up His ministry in His prayer to His Father: “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world; …For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me” (John 17:5–8).
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