John 2:1-11
The Wedding At Cana

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

The Wine Ran Out

1. The scripture says, "There was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there," (verse one). Since the scripture says Jesus and the disciples "were invited," it is believed that Mary the mother of Jesus had a special role [at the wedding]. It happened just then that there wasn't enough wine at the wedding banquet. So, Mary went up to Jesus and told him the situation, "The wine ran out," (verse three). Whereupon, Jesus replied, "O woman, what relationship do you have with me! My time is not yet come," (verse four).

2. The reply of "O woman, what relationship do you have with me!" seems to be very cold. Many different sorts of explanations for it have been attempted from of old. But, I think we ought to read it as it is without protesting it. Jesus flat out denied Mary's request. He refused the request from her to "Do something for me since the wine ran out." At the same time he also drew a line between him and Mary. In this way, he was showing that he wasn't there to exist just as Mary's son. The Lord Jesus was sent from God, and he was moving towards "my hour" which had been set by God.

3. So, what did Jesus do after refusing Mary's request? Today's passage of scripture tells us that [the Lord] performed the miracle of changing water into wine. "What's this, didn't he answer Mary's request after all?" --It certainly looks like it based on the results. But, John, who wrote this gospel, is not putting the point on Jesus' having granted Mary's request and his saving the day at the wedding banquet. He concludes this event in the following manner: "Jesus performed [his] first sign at Cana of Galilee, and revealed [his] glory. Then, the disciples believed on Jesus," (verse eleven). In other words, he is putting attention on the fact that it was the first "sign" [of his] and that Jesus "revealed glory." That's what he is trying to tell us about.

[The Lord] Performed The First Sign

4. First, let's give some thoughts regarding the fact that this was the first "sign." Many a time it is that when something happens, its meaning is not understood at the time it happened. Not all the meanings of what Jesus said or what the Lord did were understood by the disciples back when [he said them or did them]. No, actually instead, [John's] gospel tells us about the disciples' incomprehension without [trying] to hide it. Thus, in the other gospels, upon many an occasion Jesus tells [his] disciples to keep quiet about things. "Jesus commanded his disciples to not tell anyone about him," (Mark 8:30). They mustn't speak of Jesus yet; because until Jesus was crucified and risen again, they hadn't yet seen what they truly needed to see; because there was no way they could comprehend until afterwards.

5. This miracle at Cana has been handed down in the church as one of the episodes which tell us what Jesus did. But, John came to know it later on, that the miracle that Jesus did really did point to something important. For that reason, John calls this miracle "a sign." The main thing for "a sign" is not [the sign] itself, but to what does it point. With that then, let's take another look at what Jesus did.

6. Jesus said, "Fill the water jugs all the way up." These water jugs are explained with deliberate purpose as having been "stone water jugs which the Jews used for purifications." Two or three "metretes [measures, firkins, barrels]" were generally about eighty to one hundred twenty liters. They were pretty big water jugs. In those days everybody's house had water jugs like these. The water that went into them did have a purpose in taking off the outward dirt, but, even more so, it was used mainly for purification rites. A strict Jew would practice purifications often. He would wash till pure anything that would receive defilement upon it, like clothing and utensils, or the hands and the body. At dinner time he would purify his hands, and at times he would purify his hands even right in the middle of dinner.

7. This act, that is, "the keeping of the rites of purification" or more broadly speaking "the keeping of the law" is frequently connected to two attitudes. One is "fear." A fear that not performing the purification was connected to disasters. A fear that by not keeping the law will not punishment befall me? A fear of being criticized by others for not keeping the law. Driven by this fear, people kept practicing what was set out to be done. In this way then, daily life bound to the law was configured.

8. The other [attitude] was "a feeling of superiority." The person with the attitude that "I am keeping this [law] with all my might" does not turn his eye on someone else observing [a law] of some kind like he is doing. He usually turns his eye on someone "not keeping" [the law]. He will compare himself with a person like that. He will look down on the person not keeping the law. He will condemn that person. By doing that he will secure his own spot of superiority. He supports a lifestyle in which an attitude of being religiously superior to someone else is bound to the law.

9. Whether the driving force is fear or it is a feeling of superiority, it is clear that such a religious lifestyle has nothing whatsoever to do with a joy that is overflowing with life. In that sense, I'd say that "the rock water jugs used for purifications" symbolically indicate this joyless religious lifestyle.

10. But, what is going on here? Jesus changed the water in "the water jugs used for purifications" into a flavor rich wine! This was truly a demonstration of Jesus to point out a truth.

11. In the Old Testament wine often stands for the joy of deliverance and salvation, (Amos 9:14), and also it's the same with wedding banquets (Isaiah 61:10). The doing of this miracle shows that the Lord came in order to bring great joy of this kind. Although [someone] might be practicing something with all their might, it is only either fear or a feeling of superiority that is at the base root to their actions. --Jesus came in order to bring the joy of salvation that is overflowing with life in place of this lifeless religious lifestyle. He came to bring the wine of joy in the place of the waters of purification. This event is every bit "a sign" pointing to the fact that Jesus did do exactly that.

[The Lord] Revealed Glory

12. Second, this is closely connected to the fact that Jesus "revealed his glory."

13. In fact, we are told there was a debate about this purification rite between Jesus and the Jews. Please look at Mark chapter seven. "The Pharisees and a number of the scribes of the law had come from Jerusalem and gathered before Jesus. And they saw there were people eating a meal with defiled hands, that is unwashed hands, among the disciples of Jesus. --All the Jews, beginning with the Pharisees, strictly kept the spoken traditions of men from long ago, and did not eat if it wasn't after they meticulously watched their hands, and whenever they returned from the market, they did not eat if it wasn't after they purified themselves. Besides that, there were many cases when they had received and strictly kept from long ago different washings of cups, copper vessels, and dinning tables," (Mark 7:14). Then they reproach [them] with "Why are you eating a meal with defiled hands?" After they had this, Jesus spoke with his disciples as follows. We will read from verse twenty. "The very things which come out of a person defile the person. For, from within, in other words, from the heart of the human being come forth wicked thoughts. Lewd acts, theft, desires to murder, greed, ill will, fraud, evil speaking, lust, jealousy, arrogance, indiscretion and the like, all of these evils come from within and defile the person," (Mark 7:20).

14. In short, even though the people had rites of purification with all their might in order to purify their defilements, what defiled them, what defiled anyone did not come from the outside, but came from the inside, said the Lord. As seen from God's perspective, he said that we are totally defiled persons, as the defilement has been coming from within. The issue we must really take up is the problem of the sin that extends deep down inside human beings. Also, the problem of humanity's sin is not something you can get by with by a hand washing ritual of purification, [or] by a ceremoniously keeping of the law.

15. But, Jesus himself was about to accomplish what these rites of purification could never do. Jesus said, "My hour has not yet come." [That hour] was coming when Jesus would say "The hour has come." Please look at John chapter twelve and verse twenty-three, where the Lord says, "The hour has come when the son of man will receive glory. I clearly say to you. A grain of wheat, unless it falls to the earth and dies, will remain a grain. But, if it dies it will yield forth a great product," (12:23-24). It was just before Jesus was crucified that he stated this. Jesus calls "the hour when he is crucified" as "the hour when he receives glory" because it was the hour when salvation would be accomplished by the Lord Jesus.

16. Human sin that divides people from God is not taken away by waters of purification. It is not taken away by keeping the law. Instead, in these acts human sin becomes more and more obvious and out in the open. However, the sinless Jesus became the atoning sacrifice for our sin. As the lamb of God that takes away sin he shed his own blood for our atonement. Through this sacrifice of Christ, we are given relationships with God as persons who have been forgiven of our sins. We can live in a relationship of life with God. In this manner then, not fear, not an attitude of superiority, but the love and the joy that God pours out on us will begin to shape our every day way of living. [Our] waters of purification will be changed to wine.

17. "Jesus performed [his] first sign at Cana of Galilee, and revealed [his] glory," wrote John. Just like the sun shinning out from a break in the clouds, the miracle in Cana was an event in which the glory soon perfectly revealed at the cross could be seen as a snapshot in a moment of time.

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