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Someone in the village of Cana in the region of Galilee was getting married. Weddings are such a special day for the bride and groom. Holy Matrimony unites an individual man from one family and an individual woman from another family together into a mysterious union whereby the two become one new family.
It’s interesting to see just how God established this thing that is called “marriage.” In the beginning, God took an individual man and separated an individual woman from his side so that there were two separate individuals. Then, through marriage, He united the man to the woman again and made the two one. From one flesh, God made two fleshes and then joined the two fleshes together again and made them one flesh. What God rent asunder, He joined together again, and man it not to rend it asunder again. “And God saw all that He made and it was very good.”
And somehow, that ‘very good’ still resonates in the heart of mankind no matter the place or culture or the religion and weddings are universally happy and festive events.
Someone in the village of Cana in the region of Galilee was getting married. And they invited Jesus to come to their wedding. Jesus doesn’t crash the wedding with his disciples, He was invited. They must have known Jesus although we’re not told how.
• Cana and Nazareth are very close to each other on the west side of the Sea of Galilee.
• Or maybe they had known each other as children.
• Maybe they were among the children who played together in one of those caravans of families that made the annual trek to Jerusalem for the Passover, maybe even in that one when Jesus was 12 and was left behind.
• Maybe the groom was a carpenter and worked on a project that Jesus the carpenter was working on.
But unfortunately, John doesn’t tell us.
What we can say with a good deal of certainty is that they did not invite Jesus to come to their wedding because they had sat in on one of His sermons or witnessed a previous miracle. It wasn’t because they ‘believed in him.’
Jesus does not begin His ministry of teaching and proving His teaching with miracles until after He is baptized. And John carefully notes that this wedding happened “on the third day.” The 3rd day since His baptism. And even then, Jesus does not really want to go public with His ministry as long as John the Baptist is still active. So, when His mother Mary pushes Him to do something about the potential disaster at this wedding before He’s ready to, He tells her, “My hour has not yet come.”
So, even though it is not for reasons of faith that this couple invites Jesus to come to their wedding, I always wonder if, when they look at the photo album and the videos and remember that special day and what Jesus did at their wedding, they weren’t so glad that they did.
John is the last writer to write his gospel about 50 years after Jesus’ ascension. I really wish that John would have found that couple and interviewed and asked them about their marriage and how it’s gone and what does it mean to them that Jesus, whom we now know is the Son of God, was at their wedding. But unfortunately, he doesn’t.
It would also have been nice if John would have included some commentary here about ‘marriage,’ and ‘how to have a successful marriage’ or something like that. But John leaves all of that for Paul and Peter.
Point is, John doesn’t seem so much interested in defending the institution of marriage or giving marriage advice and counseling as he is in making sure that we see that something very significant happened here at this wedding in Cana, just three days after His baptism, when the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him as a dove and a voice from above said, “This is my Son, with whom I am well-pleased.”
John writes, “This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And His disciples believed in him.”
When John writes, “This was the FIRST of his signs,” he means that there are more to follow. John records seven altogether. Matthew, Mark and Luke call them ‘miracles.’ But John calls them signs. “Signs” are something that points to something beyond itself.
That what signs do and what they’re for. When we see a sign that says, ‘Waterville,’ we know that the sign itself is not Waterville, but that it points to Waterville. When we see dark clouds in the sky, we know that this is a ‘sign’ that it will probably rain or snow. Lots of folks lately have had a fever and achy muscles, ‘signs’ that they have the flu.
What Jesus does here at this wedding in Cana is a miracle that’s for sure. You’ve got to believe that this was a miracle or you’ll never see the sign. Folks can find all kinds of explanations for why Jesus didn’t really change water into wine, which only means that they’re never going to see what the sign is pointing to.
Like I said, John reports on seven of these signs in his gospel. He organizes his whole gospel around these signs. And then at the end of his gospel, John writes, “Jesus did many other signs… which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may believe and by believing have life in his name.” (John 20:31). That’s what each and every sign points beyond itself to. “That you may believe…” Believe what? Believe that Jesus is who He says He is and that He has done for you what He says He has done for you. “And by believing have life in His name.”
Now, once you have what the sign points to, you don’t need the sign anymore. Once you’re in Waterville, signs pointing to Waterville are no longer necessary. Once the signs lead you to “believe, and by believing have life in His name,” then there’s no more need for more signs. The disciples saw what the sign of the water turned to wine pointed to. “And the disciples believed in him.”
When it comes to Jesus, I’m afraid that a lot of us get more hung up on the signs that Jesus does than on what they point to.
Why is it that we keep praying for miracles, for signs, when we’ve already got what the signs lead us to? I understand that there are some who make it sound like if you’re not asking Jesus for a miracle then there’s something wrong with your faith. But I think it’s just the opposite really. The demand for signs and miracles really means that you still haven’t seen what these miracles are pointing to.
When you read through the first half of John’s gospel it’s pretty clear that Jesus does a lot of incredible things in public that are signs that point to who He is. And some see what the signs point to and believe in him, but most do not. They only want more signs, more miracles.
Then when you read through the second half of the gospel, it’s pretty clear that Jesus is spending most of His time in private with His disciples who believe in Him.
In the early chapters of the Book of Acts, we see that the Apostles did miracles, they healed the sick and cast out demons and even raised the dead. These were signs that pointed to the fact that what the Apostles were saying was the true word and teaching of Jesus.
But after a very short time the miracles stop and we’re asked to see what they pointed to, which is that the word of the Apostles, the ‘Apostolic Word’ is the true Word of Jesus. And wherever and whenever their word is spoken and taught faithfully, you can believe that Jesus Himself is present giving you life in His name.
Of course, the great sign that Jesus has given us is His death and resurrection from the dead. This is the ‘sign of all signs.’
This was the ‘sign’ that Jesus hinted at to those who refused to see beyond the sign. John writes that while Jesus in Jerusalem for the Passover, the leadership of the Jews came to Him and said, “What sign do you show us for doing these things? Jesus answered them, ‘destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:18-19).
This is the sign that, when He is with His disciples who believe in Him, He talks about very plainly. “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things… and be killed, and after three days, rise again.” (Mark 8:31).
Sadly, many do not believe that Jesus’ resurrection is a real miracle. They believe that it never happened, just a hoax or a fabrication of the disciples. And so obviously they never see what sign points to and they do not believe in Him or have life in His name.
But you and I who have seen this sign through the hearing of the Apostolic word of the New Testament, boldly declare, “I believe in Jesus Christ… He suffered and was buried and the third day rose again according to the Scriptures…” The sign of the Resurrection is enough for us. We see what it points to. It points to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and we believe in Him.
We believe not simply in the miracle that He rose from the dead on the 3rd day, but we believe what that miracle points to – all of our sin has been atoned for, the wrath of God against our sin, even our sin of unbelief has melted away and we have peace with God.
Since Jesus had so clearly pointed to this impossible miracle before it happened, we believe that His Word is true and worthy of full acceptance and complete trust and full obedience.
Here, at Cana in Galilee, John writes, He “manifested His glory.” To “manifest” is to ‘make known.’
Throughout the Old Testament, God manifests His glory in powerful and miraculous ways; in the parting of the Red Sea, in the pillar of cloud by day and fire by nights that goes in front of Israel, in the manna and quail that comes down from the sky to feed them on their journey.
But here at Cana in Galilee, God manifested His glory by turning 120 to 180 gallons of water into wine at a wedding. For you and me, this is a manifestation of the glory of God that is made known only by faith. In a similar way that God manifests His glory in the water of Holy Baptism, and the eating and drinking of the bread and wine of Holy Communion.
John was one of the disciples who came with Jesus to this wedding in Cana of Galilee. John writes on behalf of himself and those with him saying, “we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Jn.1:14).
Which makes me wonder whether or not the bride and the groom saw what the sign that Jesus did at their wedding pointed to, and believed in Him?
• I wonder about the ‘master of the feast’ who was so impressed with the quality of the wine and the incredible hospitality of the groom for saving the best for last? Did he see the sign and what it pointed to?
• And what about those servants? They were the ones who filled the jars with water. They knew what went into those jars. They of all people should have “seen His glory.”
But unfortunately, John doesn’t tell us.
So, maybe rather than wonder about everyone else so much, it’s enough to just wonder about ourselves.