Out With The Old – In With The New

This is the story of the first miracle of Jesus, which has no parallel in the synoptic Gospels, and it stands quite alone giving insight into the way Jesus and His disciples lived that many Christians love to ignore: Jesus drank wine. (Horrors!) Just for fun, compare this passage with Colossians 2:20 ff.

If this blows your mind, then let me quickly sum up this passage for you: Jesus performed His first miracle at Cana, where, for the first time His glory and authority was revealed, and His disciples came to believe in Him; let’s have a closer look…

As our next scene opens, Jesus and His disciples have been invited to a wedding. Wedding-celebrations lasted up to a week, depending on the resources of the family, and they were a time of feasting and drinking. This was often a community-wide event.

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; 2 and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 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 that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” 6 Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim. 8 And He said to them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it to him. 9 When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, 10 and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.

12 After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and they stayed there a few days. (John 2:1-12)

The scene is set: Jesus, His mother (John never says “Mary”) and the disciples were there. This seems to have been three days after the calling of Phillip. No reason is given for the reason the wine ran out. Some have postulated that the attendance of Jesus and the disciples was the cause, but since John says that they had been invited, this seems unlikely. It would also seem that Mary was well known to the family involved here, since she so quickly took charge of the disaster. When she brings this social catastrophe to Jesus’ attention, His reaction is interesting: literally, “What’s it to me?” Notice that Mary seems to be aware that Jesus can remedy the situation easily; why else would she pass right over His question and tell the servants to do whatever He says? Jesus statement that His time has not yet come has troubled some commentators who haven’t noticed that, in John’s Gospel, John uses this wording to refer to the time of Jesus’ being glorified (by the cross) and not to His performance of miracles, in this case a rather mundane one, if indeed any miracle can ever be called “mundane“.

Running out of wine was serious-business, because either the guests had drank more than anticipated or those responsible for the feast hadn’t planned properly. Either way, there wasn’t a liquor-store in the neighborhood where they could buy more wine. They had a problem…

Mary knew what to do – ask Jesus to take care of their problem, but…

While we might recoil in horror that Jesus called His mother “woman“, but in that culture, it wasn’t disrespectful, demeaning or dishonoring to her. This was the way Jesus normally addressed women.

The next part of His response might also surprise us by its bluntness. “What does that have to do with us?” Jesus and His disciples were guests at this party, so the logistics of the party was not His concern. Jesus was also fully-aware of His mission on earth, and being the “divine-caterer” wasn’t part of the package. Yes, He did feed large crowds on a least two occasions, but that was out of compassion, not obligation. Jesus did NOT perform miracles “on-demand“, and His mother didn’t have any more say in His mission than anyone else. Even though Jesus told His mother that taking care of their host’s wine-problem wasn’t in His “job-description“, I don’t believe that it was a hard-edge rebuke either, as do some Bible-scholars.

“My hour has not yet come.” Whoa! What did Jesus Just say? What is this about His “hour“? As we will see, when Jesus refers to His “hour“, He is speaking of the time of His crucifixion…already… Keeping this party going is a foreshadowing of a much grander party which is to come; the great Marriage Supper of the Lamb, but He will have to die on the cross to make this grander party possible.

Was Mary forcing the issue when she said, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”, or was she expressing full-confidence that Jesus would provide what was needed? I believe that she thought that Jesus would do something, and that what He would do would be good.

The need for the stone water-pots takes us back into the Old Testament, specifically the Ceremonial Law. The Ceremonial Law, which is detailed in Leviticus 12-15, touched virtually ever facet of their daily-lives. The religious-establishment had also added many rules and regulations of their own in addition to God’s laws. They also didn’t have indoor-plumbing or any of the other conveniences that we take for granted, so something as simple as washing one’s hands before eating or after going to the bathroom required water. Some people kept water on hand to take care of their purification needs, as did this family. Others had to go to the public bathhouse or other body of water to bathe, wash their clothes, and take care of other personal-care needs.

The total capacity of these jars would have been in the range of 120 to 180 gallons. It is worthy of note that Jesus used all of the jars and had them filled up completely; nobody could say that Jesus’ power was limited, nor could they claim that He just slipped some kind of magic fairy dust into them: they were full.

It may have taken many trips to the well to fill up those waterpots, but at Jesus’ command, they did. If they averaged twenty-five gallons each, that was one-hundred and fifty gallons of water, which was soon to become wine. That must have been some very good wine, because the headwaiter wondered why they had saved the best wine for last. We don’t know how far along in the feast that this event took place.

While Jesus always performed His miracles for the benefit of others, His primary purposes in performing miracles were to show His glory and to lend credibility to His message, to further-convince His disciples that He was who He said He was, the Messiah.

When the servants drew the “water” from the jars and served it to the master of the banquet, the master confirmed that not only was this wine, but it was the “good stuff”. This wasn’t some cheap “wino’s-wine“; this was “top-shelf-vintage“. It can be hilarious reading commentaries about these verses when the commentator goes on and on about how this was “obviously” not really wine but unfermented grape juice.

We should also see that Jesus was God over all of creation, which meant that He could create something from nothing or turn something into something else, water into wine. He will demonstrate His lordship over creation in many other ways as we progress through John’s gospel and His ministry.

One very important thing to note is that this miracle symbolized the coming of a new kingdom-order. The old ceremonial and sacrificial system was being done away with, symbolized by the water for purification, and Jesus was establishing a new kingdom-order, symbolized by wine, a symbol of the coming Holy Spirit. Jesus came both to fulfill the old law and to nullify it, which He did by His sinless life and atoning-sacrifice on the cross. We are beneficiaries of both His finished work and promised Holy Spirit.

The brand new disciples, who had responded to the testimony of John the Baptist, and then to each other’s witness, saw for the first time, that Jesus was more than a man who had been blessed by God: He had a power that no mere mortal possessed, and they put their faith in Him. This would also be the reason for His future miracles; to confirm His true identity and the authority by which He taught.

One of the cardinal rules of interpretation of the Bible is that you must set aside your pre-suppositions, opinions and traditions and let the text speak for itself. When you are confused or feel that you have come upon a contradiction, there are various things you can do to figure out what the meaning is. Here are two easy ideas: You can usually do a word study and find out what is going on. In addition, a close examination of the complete context will also aid in determining what the text is teaching. After this has been done, if the Bible turns out to support your pre-suppositions, opinions and traditions: Marvelous. But where it doesn’t, your presuppositions, opinions or traditions are wrong. In this case, if you are bound and determined to say that Jesus would never allow the serving of wine, you have two problems to deal with: First, the Greek word used here is “oinos“; which happens to mean “wine”. The Greek word for grape juice is “tnyx“. Why would John, “under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit“, make such a “writing error”? Second, note what the master of the banquet said in verse 10. Does that even remotely indicate that they were dealing with grape juice? Does it sound to you like what he would say if the wine was watered down to less than 50% wine? A better question would be,Was Jesus trying to get everyone drunk?” The text does not tell us that Jesus had everyone’s glass refilled, it tells us that the master of the banquet, the only one we know for sure that was aware of the problem got a sample. We don’t know what the other attendees did after that, or if they even became aware that the wine was gone. We do know why Jesus performed the miracle, however.

Yes dear believers, this is the point, and all of the silly business of trying to explain away the wine only draws our attention away from the majesty of our Lord.

12 After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and they stayed there a few days.

Jesus had already made Capernaum His “headquarters“, maybe at the home of Peter and Andrew, so that was His next stop. By this time, His entourage already included at least four disciples plus His family, and there was no “Motel-6” or “Days-Inn” to stay in. Other Gospels record Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law at his home in Capernaum.

It appears that Mary was already a widow by this time, with kids still living at home, because there is no mention of Joseph in this scene, and Mary will reappear at other times throughout Jesus’ ministry (Mark 3:31-32). It would have been a serious social faux-pas for Mary to show up at the wedding without Joseph at her side. His sisters may have already been married-off by then, because girls got married much younger than boys in that culture. Whatever the case was, the family was together during the wedding and for a short time afterward.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Steve

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Bible Study – Miraculous Healings

After Jesus has been warmly-welcomed in Galilee, He again shows His power in healing two people, one in Capernaum, and the second one back in Jerusalem. We are going to focus on those healings in today’s study. Jesus, the eternal Word, was the principal-agent of creation, and He could heal anyone of anything.

Healing a Nobleman’s Son
46 Therefore He came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a royal official whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and was imploring Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death. 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.” 49 The royal official said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son lives.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off. 51 As he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was living. 52 So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives”; and he himself believed and his whole household. 54 This is again a second sign that Jesus performed when He had come out of Judea into Galilee. (John 4:46-54)

Jesus was back in Cana of Galilee, where He had turned water into wine. News about Him had spread to Capernaum, the home of a “royal official“. Capernaum was an important fishing-center which was located on the northwest edge of the Sea of Galilee, and Cana was about twenty miles southwest, about halfway between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea. There is a ridge of mountains between them. Cana is also about ten miles due-north of Nazareth, where Jesus grew up. Was this “royal official” a Roman dignitary, a Gentile? We aren’t told, but we see the father’s faith that Jesus could and would heal his son, because he made the trek to Cana to see Jesus. His son was dying, so Jesus was his only hope.

Was Jesus trying to put him off by saying “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.”, or was Jesus testing his sincerity? Either way, the father wasn’t taking “No” for an answer, because he said “Sir, come down before my child dies.

Jesus said to him, “Go; your son lives.” Jesus, once again, shows His divine authority by healing the man’s son from afar. We find another “spoken-word-healing” in Luke 7:1-10, when Jesus healed a centurion’s servant.

The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off. Notice that he DIDN’T say “Why aren’t you going with me?“. He believed, and headed back home.

As he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was living. Can you imagine the excitement when his slaves told him that his son was okay? Friends and family had hovered over him for agonizing hour after agonizing hour watching as his fever went ever-higher. They had tried everything they could think of, but nothing worked. He kept getting sicker and sicker, until he was on the brink of death. Then, in a moment in time, the fever broke and he was WELL. Had they been hoping and praying?

As a parent also, I can relate, because my son had a lot of problems when he was very young. Croup put him in the hospital for three days, and we took turns huddling over the croup-tent he was in, watching as a respiratory-therapist gave him breathing-treatments very four hours. We were very happy to take him back home to his sisters and HOME. Recurrent ear-infections also turned him from being a happy-go-lucky toddler into an inconsolable baby. I will never forget the day he got tubes put in his ears. He went into the hospital cranky and came out happy. We had our happy-go-lucky boy back.

52 So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives”; and he himself believed and his whole household. Twenty miles is an easy drive for us, but it wasn’t an easy hike for him. He didn’t get close-enough to home for his slaves to meet him until the next day. Traveling alone at night was dangerous, so he had probably stopped somewhere for the night. He may have set out again at first-light. Jewish time-reckoning began at 6 am, so his son had been healed at about 1 pm, so it had been over twelve hours since the healing. Faith had turned into belief, and after the miraculous-healing, he and his whole household believed in Jesus.

This is again a second sign that Jesus performed when He had come out of Judea into Galilee. Signs and miracles validated Jesus’s message, but He didn’t do them as “magic-tricks” to impress people, rather He did what would meet the needs of people in the moment.

The Healing at Bethesda
5 After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. 3 In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, waiting for the moving of the waters; 4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted. 5 A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” 7 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” 9 Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk.

Now it was the Sabbath on that day. 10 So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.” 11 But he answered them, “He who made me well was the one who said to me, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk.’” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk’?” 13 But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.” 15 The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16 For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” (John 5:1-17)

As this scene opens, Jesus has returned to Jerusalem for one of the annual feasts. The last time we saw Jesus in Jerusalem was during Passover when He had cleansed the Temple. Jesus is going to rattle some more chains this time also by declaring that He was equal with God.

Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. The pools in Jerusalem were a place where Jews could perform their ceremonial-cleansing rituals, not places of recreation. The Romans had their public-baths which Jews may have used for ordinary bathing, but when they needed to get ceremonially-clean, they went to one of the pools. There was a list of things which caused a person to become “ceremonially-unclean” in the Old Testament, and if a person was “unclean“, they couldn’t participate in worship in the Tabernacle or Temple. As you may recall, the water that Jesus turned into wine in Cana was for “ceremonial-purification“.

In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, waiting for the moving of the waters; 4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted. “Bethesda” means “House of mercy” or “House of kindness“, and God showed mercy on His people by sending an Angel to stir the waters. Healing was “first-come-first-served” which sets this scene up for Jesus to perform another miracle, and His next encounter with the Jewish leaders.

A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” 7 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” 9 Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk.

We aren’t told how old this man was, but he had been lame for 38 years, and maybe since he was young. How long had he been coming to the pool hoping to get healed? How did he even get there? Jesus knew everything He needed to know about him, and took care of his problem in an instant. The man had been depending on others to help him get into the pool, but he hadn’t gotten there yet. Jesus didn’t ask him if he had the faith to be healed, rather He asked him if he WANTED to be healed. When Jesus said “Get up“, he was healed. Period. No questions asked. He got up, grabbed his pallet and walked.

My baby brother is a semi-quadriplegic as the result of a spinal-cord injury he suffered as the result of a motorcycle accident. Yes, he has recovered an amazing amount of movement in his hands, arms and legs, but he is by no means “well“. He is still wheelchair-bound and dependent on my sister for some of his needs. It would be marvelous if he was granted complete-healing, but God hasn’t seen fit to heal him completely.

Now it was the Sabbath on that day. 10 So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.” There was just one hitch – it was the Sabbath, and the Jewish leaders confronted him about carrying something on the Sabbath. The Jewish leaders weren’t content with God’s Sabbath-commandment, so they had built a long list of “do’s” and “don’t’s“, mostly “don’t’s” which they loved to club people over the head with. They thought that they were doing God a “favor“, but in reality, they were making legalism more important than obeying God.

They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk’?” 13 But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place. Jesus had an uncanny knack for slipping through crowds and away from the scene of action, and the man was probably so shocked that he had been healed and was now walking that he didn’t immediately recognize Jesus.

Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.” While it is true that some sins can bring physical-consequences, but Jesus wasn’t insinuating that the man was crippled because he was a “sinner“. Jesus just cautioned him against doing anything which might bring physical-consequences.

My dad had syphilis when he died, and you don’t get syphilis by drinking the water. There are numerous other examples of a person’s actions causing physical-consequences.

The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Why did he go back to the Jewish leaders? Was he trying to shift the blame for getting caught carrying his pallet onto Jesus?

For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. The Jewish leaders started turning up the heat on Jesus, and that gave them even more reasons to hate Him.

But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” This is the clearest and most unmistakable claim to Deity that Jesus had made up to this point, and the Jewish leaders picked up on it immediately. They went ballistic!

We will pick this conversation up from here next week, when Jesus reaffirmed His claims.

In Christ,
Steve