And on the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and Jesus also was invited, and His disciples, to the wedding. (John 2:1-2 NASB)
It is at that time which marks the beginning of the ministry of Jesus on earth that we read in the Gospel according to John of a wedding in the town of Cana. It is an occasion that follows but three days on the heels of a mighty proclamation from the lips of the prophet, John the Baptist, that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God. For Jesus, that all righteousness might be fulfilled, had presented Himself to John for baptism in the river Jordan. And John, that he might recognize Jesus as the Messiah, had been told in advance by God that, “He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.” Small wonder then that John, himself, would be the first to declare to his Lord his own need to be baptized by Him.
The very next day would find the Baptist again bearing witness to the Messiah’s mission as he commands to all with ears to hear, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” Andrew, one of two of John’s disciples standing with him at the time, sought with his fellow to know more of Jesus. And with the Master’s gracious invitation, they were permitted to come with Him to see where He was staying.
We are told nothing of what Andrew and his unnamed companion saw or heard during their time with Jesus. Whatever it was, however, it was enough to convince Andrew that Jesus was the long-awaited Christ. To his own brother he goes and Simon Peter is introduced to Him who alone has words of eternal life. One day hence finds Philip and Nathaniel (whose birthplace was Cana) added to the Lord’s small band of intimate followers. Four disciples in a group whose number would later increase to twelve.
The invitation for Jesus and His disciples to come to the wedding seems, perhaps, to have come their way through our Lord’s relationship to His mother, Mary. For the text speaks first of her presence at the wedding. As Cana was in close proximity to Nazareth, Jesus’ own home town, it is not unlikely that the families involved had more than a passing acquaintance with one another.
Yet, “Jesus also was invited…”
He who had made them male and female at the very beginning of human history. He who had bid them to be fruitful and multiply; who had given to mankind the very institution of marriage. God in the form of this man, Jesus, was also invited to the
wedding. He was invited to the wedding and He came! Does Jesus not even today, in our own age, come to be present at every wedding to which He is sincerely bid?
It is at the very outset of the ministry of Him who had come to earth to show men the heart of the Father. No miracle has yet been brought about to bear witness to the fact that He and the Father are One. No crowds of eager listeners have yet gathered at his feet to hear him teach with the authority of One who, alone, has seen the Father and speaks the Father’s words and works the Father’s work while it is yet day. There is no indication given in the text that on this festive day of celebration, Jesus is given any other status than “invited guest” by the main of those about Him.
At some point in the gay affairs of the day the wine gives out, threatening to lessen the joy of the occasion. Wine has much symbolism in the Bible and I would not here press the significance of its lack beyond what is needful. It is enough to realize that, to people engaged in a simple manner of living, its want reached into the tender heart of Jesus’ mother, Mary, with fingers of compassion. There is more to her declaration to our Lord, “They have no wine,” than mere comment. For Jesus’ own reply of, “Woman, what have I to do with you? My hour has not yet come,” seems to endorse such a conclusion. She speaks words to Him of expectation. A conviction that He can do something about the lack and restore joy, hope, and life to the celebration. To keep sadness and disappointment away.
Mary’s supplication to Jesus should not lightly be considered. It seems to me, dramatic. For even the mother of the Lord, Himself, must take Him not as her son but as her Savior, the Son of the living God, the Eternal. The mother must declare her child her Creator and Lord. Her faith must find appropriate expression in action — as must all who say they believe!
At first glance, Jesus’ answer seems a harsh rebuke to her faith. Although strange sounding to the ears of our day, His words are neither careless nor disrespectful. Does He not simply state the truth of His mission? That He has come to show the Father to those with eyes to see and to die for the sins of the whole world? The divine and miraculous provision of wine at a small wedding in Cana found no immediate home within the Father’s unfolding plan. For is this not what Mary has asked of Him? A miracle wrought by God? In the very asking, however, Mary has declared much: that Jesus has the power and the care to alter the circumstances before them!
Although our Lord, at first glance, seems to deny His mother’s request, yet she persists. Turning to the servants about them, she gives orders to comply with whatever requests might be made of them by Jesus. On what compulsion does she press on?
Has she not rightly divided the heart of God? Her request has nothing to do whatsoever with thoughts of personal gain. She cares only for the joy of those being joined together as one in marriage by the power of the Holy. Her motives are pure and found to be within the will of God — for her prayer (it is right to call it so) is to be answered.
In spite of His initial reply, she perseveres. Is it not her time to believe in a way hitherto undemonstrated? To act with boldness, sure of the character of God embodied in the Man, Jesus, before her? Does she not simply and honestly display the essence of what is written in the book of Hebrews, “… for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him”? Her actions are not based upon prior experience of miracles — for the apostle John clearly states that the miracle to come is the first of His signs. (Jn 2.11) Her actions are based upon vibrancy of faith, having stored up many wondrous sayings since the day the angel revealed to her that she, who had known no man, would be with child by the power of the Holy Spirit. It seems to me most fitting, indeed, that Mary’s expression of faith would set the stage for the earliest miracle of Jesus’ ministry.
It is a wonder of wonders that within the overall plans of God there is room for answering the diverse prayers of his creatures. In one manner, Mary’s request has little to do with the mission of our Lord — as it pertained to the atonement for the sins of the whole world. On the other hand, in the matter of revealing to us the Father, it is of major importance and is found to be in complete sympathy with the very heart of God. We should find the whole matter hugely encouraging.
Does it not also seem in keeping with the methods of God to include in this miracle those whose position in society is that of a servant? To them, Jesus gives a command: fill six waterpots, those used for ceremonial purification, with water.
The manner in which his directive is carried out reveals a continuum of faith. Not in some half-hearted mode is it rendered. Perhaps these same servants had been to the Jordan and had heard the Baptist’s proclamations of this Nazarene now before them! We know not. What we do know is they obey Him to the fullest and the great stone waterpots are filled to the very brim.
Jesus speaks again, “Draw some out now, and take it to the headwaiter.”
Once again we are not privy to the details. At what point had the water become wine? In fact, was the water yet wine even at this juncture? For Jesus says only, “Draw some out now…” I do not think that I take unwarranted liberty if I say that there is cause enough to ponder. Did not Naaman come clean of his leprosy only after the full seven dippings in the Jordan, the task assigned him in which to be obedient, were completed? And did not the blind man at the pool of Siloam see, not when the Lord placed the spittled clay upon his eyes, but only afterwards — again, when the full measure of obedience to His words was laid in? And what of the feeding of the five thousand? Is it impossible that that which the servant took to the headwaiter to sample, as was commanded him by our Lord, was still yet water? Enough are the illustrations (like those already given) that at least urge all of us on towards the most lively obedience so that the works of God might be made manifest to our astonished joy and His great glory. One fact is indisputable: what flowed over the lips of the headwaiter was not water but the finest wine!
Of significance, too, I think, is that the miracle is kept to so small a company. Unaware of what has taken place, the headwaiter gives praise to the bridegroom — thinking him to have saved the best wine ‘till last. In the wonderful simplicity and majesty of the Almighty, He has worked His first miracle, yea, His first sign, for the seeming benefit of a few “common” people.
I am sure it escapes no-one’s notice that God, who is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-wise, needs not our prodding to do good deeds. Yet there is, beyond question, efficacy in prayer — in our petitions of Him. Is this not a glorious condescension of God to our lowly estate?
A young boy in our own day may well be found helping his father in the building of some article of furniture or cabinetry. It may rightly be said that the older man has no need of the lad’s help in the construction of the intended piece. It can readily (and perhaps more easily!) be made without the child. But is it not also so that the father is found to enjoy the participation of his son? That it is his genuine pleasure to include the boy? Is it not also true that the younger might even venture some opinion about the colour or design of a part of the whole that finds the father indulging in his request? The outcome of the matter being of a certainty what the father originally intended, but bearing the marks of his son as well. Prayer is a great mystery!
We do well to consider the lessons of the miracle at Cana. To linger over the willingness of God to respond to fervent and active faith. A God who is never at a loss for the “right” materials but who accomplishes His pleasure with whatever useful things be at hand. A God who delights to involve His children in His good works. Who exalts the humble and simple of station. A God who has no need to boast (as a man) — that all might see — but who is ever content to reveal Himself to even a very few. Even one. A God, who in Jesus, calls us to do “whatever He says”, that water might be made wine and that we, who are His disciples today, might believe and behold His glory.
© Michael Kimball 2013, 2017 (This writing may be freely copied in its entirety without prior permission from the author.) Listen to the audio version at FatherBound.com.