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The First Sign

Miracles?

This narrative from the second chapter of John's Gospel tells about the first miracle that Jesus did. Not everyone believes that miracles can ever happen, so a illustration might help. Imagine a chess-board world. None of the chessmen, not even their kings and rulers, have ever seen anything outside the chessboard.

A chessman who is a atheist (that is, a philosophical materialist, who does not believe there is anything but matter and energy) says "There is nothing and no one outside the chess-board. In fact, the word 'outside' is meaningless." Such a chessman would not believe in Chess-players and certainly not in a Chess-board maker. Nothing can happen except according to the rules of chess, and so miracles can never happen.
Others do believe in what they cannot see, and are not surprised that sometimes things happen outside the normal rules, such as the black chessmen being replaced by red ones, or a bishop with a broken mitre suddenly disappearing and later coming back fully repaired. Nor will they be surprised when the chess-board is wiped clean, folded up and put away.

Once a person accepts that the universe, including us, has a Creator, there is no logical barrier to believing in miracles. True, there are many bogus "miracles" around. This no more proves the impossibility of miracles any more than meeting many dishonest men proves there are no honest ones.

The Broad Background

It is significant that John starts his account in chapter 1 with the very first words from Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning ...", telling us that Jesus, the Living Word, is the very One who spoke the active word that caused the universe to spring into being. There in those early chapters we see something VERY GOOD (1:31) springing out of NOTHING at the command of God. We see PARADISE LOST because the first people, like proud chessmen, wanted to be their own masters, rather than trust the goodness of God. There we see God's great promise that one day One would come to lead men HOME at last. It is in this over-arching context that we should approach John chapter 2 (and all the rest of the Bible too).

God had promised a rescuer, a saviour, a restorer. To the Jews, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (who was also named Israel) this One was known as "Messiah" (literally "anointed one" - One sent by God with power and authority to be the great, long-awaited, Restorer).

Saviour?

Jesus was born, a "Nobody" in a minor town in a minor country. Yet angels announced him, and shepherds and wise men came to worship him. His very name means "God a Saviour". His mother, Mary, treasured up all these things in her heart, and wondered. Could this really be the Messiah, the SAVIOUR? Everyone said "What a good child!". As he grew, everyone said "What a good man!", but still the world and people's hearts were in a mess. Is he really the one?

No Wine

Wedding day in Cana! Many guests invited to celebrate the day with the happy bride and groom (and for several days too! - this was an Eastern wedding). Mary and Jesus are invited (perhaps the wedding of close relatives, a cousin of Jesus? As we will see, Mary seems to have some role in managing the feast). Jesus' followers (probably Peter and Andrew, John, Philip and Nathaniel, and maybe John's brother James) are invited too, to swell the numbers, and because of the lavishness of Eastern hospitality. The guests have all washed their hands and feet (dusty travelling in those days) and the feast has been going along well. It is then that Mary draws Jesus aside and tells him quietly "They have NO WINE". The wine supply had run out! How embarrassing for the family when the quests and neighbours find out. A bad start to the marriage.
"Then the man said, 'This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.' Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." Genesis 2:23,24 ESV (UK)
"God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy." 1 Timothy 6:17 ESV (UK)

From Next to Nothing

Mary expects that Jesus will do something (what mother does not know her own son's character and speech?) so she tells the waiters at the feast "Do whatever he tells you". Now nearby were six large stone water-jars, of about 100 litres each. The water had been taken out earlier for the quest's washing of hands and feet. "Jesus said to the servants 'Fill the jars with water.' And they filled them up to the brim."

"Water!" - perhaps they think "the guests have already washed". But they do as they had been told, and filled them up to the brim. This was a huge amount of water, and left no room for any "magic" tricks, such as later pouring in some concentrated, fortified, wine. Jesus did not even touch the water or the pots.

Then Jesus said "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast." Here is a real challenge to their obedience. "What will the Master of Ceremonies say?". "We might lose our jobs." But they do it anyway. Good servants these!

Who is He?

"When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called for the bridegroom and said to him, 'Everyone serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.'" 2:9.10

The best wine kept till last, or so the MC thinks. The wine is so good he is very surprised. He is used to things being the other way; the longer the feast goes, the worse the supplies get.

Who is this, that plain old water obeys him?

Why six big pots?

Why the very best wine? - for the same reasons. And we see also that wine is not evil (it also is God's gift); it is drunkenness that leads to evil.

God supplies the best, when our supplies are exhausted.

Heaven reverses the world's practice; "the best is yet to come".

The First Sign

John wrote to show us the signs that point to who Jesus is.

"but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." John 20:31 ESV (UK)
"This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory."

"And his disciples believed in him." They were sure that He was indeed the Messiah, the Christ, "and that by believing you may have life in his name". Everyone needs to look at this sign, and all the rest in the Gospels, to see if this is true. Nothing else really matters.


Notes

First Miracle?

Was the the first miracle that Jesus did? This happened after Andrew and Peter, Philip and Nathaniel and one other came to see Jesus in John chapter 1. Yet in Luke's account Jesus performed miracles of healing (Luke 4:31-41) before we hear of him calling his first disciples to follow him (Luke 5). Are these accounts contradictory, as some like to say? Is the Bible unreliable?

I think the answer may lie in two areas:-

"but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." John 20:31 ESV (UK)
"Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written." John 21:25 ESV (UK)

Bible text: John 2:1-11

English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

2:1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." 4 And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come." 5 His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."

6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast." So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now." 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

Completed sketch


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This page http://tardus.net/firstSign.html published: 24 May 2014

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