TRA 10th March, 2002
A New Miracle Every Day
I do not understand people who say they cannot believe Jesus turned water into wine at Cana of Galilee. This was the first miracle Jesus performed and yet I see that same miracle happening every day. I was driving home from Vision Valley last Friday after the opening of our new "Stringybark Lodge" when I drove past a market garden. Some market gardeners were working in the rain on the rows of growing vegetables. I said, "There you go God once again: turning water into vegetables." I was down at our Cottee Orchard near Renmark in South Australia where we have over 100,000 orange trees in production. We were pumping up the brown, salty Murray river water onto our orange trees and God was turning it into bright, sparkly yellow orange juice. Water into orange juice! Some miracle worker! The same water was being turned in other rows of trees into lemon juice, and on 10,000 almond trees into almonds. Down the road on a neighbour's vineyard, the water was being turned wine! God is doing a miracle of transformation every day!
Cana was a village in the hills of Galilee. Its location is now called Khirbet Qana, about six kilometres north of Nazareth. A wedding is always a gala occasion. In a village like Cana it would be a community celebration. A few years ago, I joined with more than a thousand Jews in a kibbutz near Cana in a wedding celebration, with all the feasting and dancing and much drinking of wine and Coca-Cola! The wedding meals was provided for all guests. Both then and now, wine was important. To fail in providing adequately for the guests would involve social disgrace and at this wedding the supply of wine ran out.
In the closely knit communities of Jesus' day, such an error would never be forgotten and would haunt the newly married couple all their lives. The situation prompted Mary's urgency when she informed Jesus of the emergency. The miracle of the water being turned into wine has a number of deep meanings and the Apostle John put it at the beginning of his Gospel for that reason. The miracles of Jesus are numerous, but this miracle is always in the top ten.
1. WHY A SIGN FOR HIS FOLLOWERS?
John's Gospel starts with this event to give an indication of what the rest of the Gospel will show. It is the sign that Jesus gave at the wedding of Cana in Galilee. It was the first recorded miracle of Jesus. Some scholars reject anything looking like a miracle. John says that this miracle was a "sign" that pointed to something beyond itself, that there is a deeper meaning. John 2:11 "This, the first of His miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed His glory, and His disciples put their faith in Him." Here is a sign, a frontispiece to the Gospel.
Note when it happened. At a wedding feast, which typically lasted for up to six days of open house celebration involving the whole village as I witnessed.
Note where it happened. John 2:1 "On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee". Cana was a small village, but today it is larger with an aircraft electrics factory employing many. "Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and His disciples had also been invited to the wedding." Mary was possibly a relative of the groom so that is why Jesus and his disciples were invited.
Note what happened. Mary asked Jesus to help because, to the family's embarrassment, the supply of wine ran out. Jesus simply went to six large stone jars which each contained 20-30 gallons of water for drinking or cleansing, and told the servants to fill them to the brim with water and to draw it out again and give it to the master of ceremonies who remarked what good wine it was!
6 "Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they filled them to the brim. 8 Then He told them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet." They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realise where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now." The toastmaster was in charge of the distribution of food and drink at such a large social occasion. He was astounded by the high quality of the wine since generally a poorer quality was served once the taste of the guests became dulled.
2. WHAT DOES THIS SIGN MEAN?.
Many have spoken of this sign indicating the interests of Jesus. Jesus is interested in ordinary people and everyday events: weddings, funerals, work, fishing, harvesting, drawing water from a well, farming, sewing patches on garments and so on.
All of His teaching is illustrated from the activities of ordinary people whom He understood and loved. This sign was a quiet affair. Neither the bridegroom nor the toastmaster knew what had happened. The servants filling the water-pots and drawing the wine knew.
Others have used this sign to indicate the methods that Jesus uses. He works with humans in solving peoples' problems. He used the hands of people to fill the water pots, to draw from them, and to give to others. He takes whatever we already possess and uses that, multiplies that, and satisfies our needs abundantly. He fills our emptiness with a quality never before realised.
Others have used this sign to indicate the mission of Jesus. His purpose was to reveal to His disciples who He was. 11 "This, the first of His miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed His glory, and His disciples put their faith in Him." People who put their faith in Jesus see His glory. They understand exactly who He is. Put your faith in Jesus and you know!
Others have seen in this miracle an example of the abundance of God's grace. One characteristic of John's writing is that beneath John's simple stories "there is a deeper meaning which is only open to those who have eyes to see." Wm Barclay One detail was the six stone water-pots containing the water which turned to wine. Each large stone water-pot held between twenty and thirty gallons of water. Jesus turned all that water into wine. That was anything up to one hundred and eighty gallons of wine! Not 180 bottles of wine, but 180 gallons of wine! When the grace of Jesus comes to us there is enough!
A further meaning is that Jesus Christ can fill your inner emptiness. Today some reject Jesus Christ. Some people claim a superior intellect thinking they have no need for God. Some wrap themselves in pagan secularism that is a cover for their immorality, thinking that if they deny the existence of God they will be free from His moral laws. Some live pampering their own pleasures in thoughtless hedonism careless of the needs of others. Others believe in every faith except the true one and seek refuge in a tangle of conflicting ideologies. Despite this they remain empty within.
Paradoxically there is greater interest in Jesus and His teachings than ever. The International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Jan '97 p24 indicates there are 65,571 books in libraries with "Jesus" in their titles! Over 25,000 books on Jesus have been published in the past 25 years, and that in 1996 alone, 1,500 new books on Jesus were published. People look to Jesus to find an answer to inner emptiness. But is Jesus filling your emptiness? Where, on a scale of one to ten, would you rate your life now? If the interviewer asks you, what number will you record? One poll revealed Australians average 6.7. That seems to me to be pitifully low! Australians should be living life to the full, enjoying it to the uttermost, living with confidence in the future. We live in a land of peace with no social conflict, with bountiful natural resources, with the highest rate of home ownership in the world. We still have more people employed than at any time in our history. But too many people rate their satisfaction with life low. They are empty within. But there is always a super-abundance of God's grace to meet our every need. Beyond all our dreaming, His grace is abundant!
To others, the nature of the miracle is very plain. Jesus had come to bring about conversion: water to wine, sinners to saints. This is a miracle of transformation. Note it occurred in almost complete obscurity. Few know when or how it happened, but they know that it did happen. That is the same with many transformed lives I see. Quietly, in their own home, or on a bus, or at work, the changing friendship of Jesus over-whelms them and they are born again as brand new creatures, now made children of God.
The effect of this miracle is noteworthy. It marked the beginning of a ministry accompanied by supernatural power; and it proved so convincing to the new disciples that they "put their faith in him." The deed helped confirm the conclusion they had drawn from their previous interviews with him: Jesus must be the Messiah.
3. IS THERE EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT SUCH A SIGN?
In "Archaeological Diggings" Feb/Mar 1997, edited by Australian David Down, there is an article entitled "Houses Of The Wealthy In Jerusalem." It tells of the discovery in 1970 by Israeli archaeologist Nahman Avigad and his team of the remains of houses destroyed by fire dating from the Revolt of 66?70AD. Seven houses of two and three storeys, bathrooms, baptisteries (mikveh) and large cisterns have been excavated. Pottery, Jewish coins, and an inscription found in situ "Belonging To Bar Kathros" indicated it was a high priest's house torched by the Romans in 70AD. A coin from 69AD was found inside the house giving us accurate evidence of its dating.
The Jewish Historian Josephus' wrote: "The Romans surmounted the last wall without bloodshed, and, seeing none to oppose them, were truly perplexed. Pouring into the alleys, sword in hand, they massacred indiscriminately all whom they met, and burnt the houses with all who had taken refuge within." War 6.403
In "The Burnt House" a skeleton of a woman was in the kitchen. A seven branched menorah or candlestick, the earliest such depiction known, was painted on the wall. In the kitchen were several large, lathe-turned stone vessels. Professor Avigad states, "we were astonished by the rich and attractive variety of the stone vessels." p176 Why would Jews need such expensive stone wares each capable of holding twenty to thirty gallons? The answer is in the Jewish laws of ritual purity: stone vessels "afford protection from" impurity. These stone vessels reflect the "six stone jars" prepared "for the Jewish rites of Purification" (John 2:6) found at the wedding of Cana in Galilee. Charlesworth p106-8 Here are identical authentic vessels from the time of Jesus, identical to the ones in which Jesus had turned water into wine.
The disciples knew that was the difference they saw in the lives of those whom Jesus touched. Whoever came to Jesus, found their lives transformed. The early Christians saw the difference in their lives, not just once, but every day. They quoted from the Old Testament: Lam 3:22 "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Do you wish to discover the transforming touch of Jesus in your life? Give your life into His hands now! He who can change water into wine, can change your life also
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