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Reception in Galilee

John 2:1-11 - On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” Now there were set there six water pots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. Jesus said to them, “Fill the water pots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!”

This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.”

Early in our Lord’s public ministry, He attended a wedding in Cana, a small town in Galilee. We read in John 2:11 that Jesus did His first miracle at the wedding reception. Changing the water into wine was not only our Lord’s first miracle; it is the first of the seven “sign miracles” presented in the Gospel of John. The sign miracles were specifically selected to prove the deity of Jesus Christ and to show that salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone. “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples, but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life through His name” (John 20:30-31.)

Let’s look at this miracle at the wedding reception in Cana and see some of the lessons the Holy Spirit intended, by having the apostle John choose this miracle as the first sign miracle.

Background Notes

When you visit Cana today, you will see at least four churches that commemorate this first miracle of the Lord Jesus. Each church is supposed to be situated right over the place where it happened! We don’t know the exact spot of the miracle, but we definitely know that this miracle took place in the small town of Cana, which is located near Nazareth in Galilee. John 21:2 tells us that the disciple, Nathanael, came from Cana. The Nathanael connection may be one of the reasons Jesus and His disciples were invited to this wedding.

A major social embarrassment took place at this wedding reception. They ran out of wine! That’s like inviting people over for a dinner party today, and running out of food before everyone is served. Mary, the Lord’s mother was concerned about this embarrassing situation, and asked Him to do something about it.

The Lord’s response to his mother in verse 4 sounds like a harsh reply. “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” Although it sounds abrupt, this was not a harsh response. It’s similar to the words the Lord said to Mary when He was on the cross, “Woman, behold your son” (referring to John the disciple), and to John, “Son, behold your mother.”

In this reply, the Lord’s point was that He was subject to the will of His divine heavenly Father, and not to the will and schedule of His human earthly mother. Mary recognized this, and she simply said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it” (v5).

The six stone water pots mentioned in verse 6 were used for ritualistic ceremonial washings. These ritualistic washings were practiced in Judaism (both then and now, by the way). Each of these water pots held 20-30 gallons. They were filled to the brim, and the Lord changed all that water to wine. That’s a lot of wine! Could this wine make you drunk?

Some people would say that the “wine” mentioned here in John 2 wasn’t “real wine”---it was only “good grape juice.” However, if that were the case, the master of ceremonies at the reception certainly wouldn’t have said to the host: “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!”(v10). This wasn’t just wine. This was good wine -- excellent wine, aged miraculously and instantaneously! This was quite a miracle.

But why would Jesus change water into wine that could make one drunk? The basic answer is that there is nothing intrinsically evil about wine, so there is no problem with the Lord making wine. In fact, wine is used as a symbol of joy throughout the Scriptures. Problems with wine arise because of what we do with wine. The Bible is clear that we are not to get drunk with wine (Ephesians 5:18). The Bible is also clear in its teaching that we should not hinder the Christian growth of weaker or more sensitive believers by the improper use of our Christian liberty and that liberty would certainly include our use of alcoholic beverages. (Read Romans 14:13-15:2 in this connection.)

As to the great amount of wine, you might ask, “Why so much?” The water pots held 20-30 gallons each, and there were six of these large containers. That is a lot of wine! We should keep a couple of background notes in mind here. First, this was probably a very large wedding reception. You don’t have six large ceremonial pots of water for ritual washing if you have only a small group of people. So probably a lot of people were invited to this wedding. Furthermore, we should remember that wedding receptions in that day didn’t last just a couple of hours---they sometimes went on for an entire week!

It is important to note that verse11 says that this was the “beginning of signs” that Jesus did in Cana of Galilee. This was the first miracle of Jesus. That statement rules out any of the so-called “childhood miracles” that Jesus supposedly performed, according to some unreliable, extra-biblical sources. For example, Jesus is alleged to have molded clay pigeons, and had them come to life and fly away. That (and all the other supposed childhood miracles) is apocryphal. The Bible says, “This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.”

Doctrinal / Teaching Points

1. God approves of marriage and weddings.

The Lord attended the celebration of a marriage in Cana. A man and a woman were married and the Lord blessed the wedding and reception with His presence and His first miracle. We know from Genesis 1 that God approves of marriage, including sexual relations within marriage. But marriage, as ordained by God, is to be between one man and one woman, in a permanent, life-long relationship. (See Genesis 2:24.)

What constitutes a marriage? Is it just a man and a woman suddenly deciding that they are in love and saying some secret vows to each other?” No! As we follow marriages throughout Scripture, we find that the marriage vows are a public declaration, not just before God, but also before other people and the civil authorities. Marriage vows are to be made before God and in the presence of witnesses who can attest to the vows before governmental authorities. Remember that civil authorities are ordained by God according to Romans 13. So a secret agreement between a guy and a girl that they will be true to one another does not constitute a marriage. A wedding is the celebration of a marriage---a public declaration before God and the civil powers that this man and this woman have made covenants to each other, and they are now man and wife.

The fact that the Lord Jesus attended this wedding in Cana supports the biblical truth that God approves of marriage and weddings.

2. Judiasm can never produce the joy of Christianity 

All the miracles of our Lord have teaching associated with them. It was not by chance that the Lord Jesus chose to do this miracle by using six Jewish ceremonial water pots! The Lord certainly could have snapped His fingers and created the wine, but He didn’t. He specifically chose to use those ceremonial water pots when He changed water into wine, because of the teaching that is associated with the miracle.

In this miracle, the water pots represent Judaism. They represent what the Old Testament Law had become, with all of the additions and traditions that the Jews had added to it over the years. Judaism had become a religion of rules and regulations. Like the empty water pots, Judaism had become an empty shell, and it was powerless to produce joy. Without the miracle, those empty water pots could produce no wine, the symbol of joy. Joy could only come through change with the coming of Jesus Christ, and the miracle of the new birth through Him.

The new wine of Christianity is not Old Testament Judaism repackaged, even though Christianity is based on the Old Testament and it is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. The pots were empty but the empty rituals of Judaism ended with the coming of Jesus Christ. The Lord didn’t ask the servants to throw away the old water pots. He simply asked them to fill the empty pots up with water. Then Jesus Christ performed the miracle. He filled those old water pots with something brand new! What the servants drew out from the pots was new wine.

In Matthew 5:17 Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.” The Lord did not discard the teachings of the Old Testament or the principles taught in the Mosaic Law. He fulfilled them! He filled them with new joy and meaning. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament, and true joy is only available in Christ. Judaism could never produce the joy of Christianity.

3. Responses to the Lord vary, both then and today.

The joyful results at the wedding reception in Cana are in marked contrast to what happened a few miles away and a few months later, in Nazareth. There the Lord’s ministry was rejected. The people even tried unsuccessfully to kill the Lord Jesus by throwing Him over a cliff! (Read the entire account in Luke 4:14-30.)

These two contrasting events early in our Lord’s ministry are descriptive of the range of responses to the Word and the work of Jesus Christ today. On the one hand, some people are filled with rage when they hear the truth. They totally reject the Lord, as did the people in Nazareth (Luke 4: 28-29). On the other hand, those who respond eagerly to the truth and put their faith in Jesus will see the Lord’s glory revealed, as did the disciples at the wedding reception in Cana (v11).

Practical Application

1. Invite Jesus to your wedding!.

The Lord Jesus was invited to the wedding in Cana, and He accepted. His presence brought joy to all who were at that wedding! If you are single and the Lord leads you into marriage, invite Jesus to your wedding and the Lord will bless you and others through you.

What does it mean to “invite Jesus to your wedding”? First of all, it means that you want your marriage to be a biblical marriage---two believers who are married in the Lord. Furthermore, it means that you want to place the Lord first in your relationship. You want to have a Christ-honoring relationship, a Christ-centered family and a Christ-centered home!

A Christian marriage is a wonderful reflection of the relationship between Christ and His Bride, the Church. That teaching is found in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” The love relationship between Christ and His church is to be reflected in the marriage relationship of two believers. A Christian marriage can greatly advance the kingdom of Christ as that couple dedicates themselves to serving the Lord together, in a loving relationship that reflects the relationship between Christ and His Church. What a challenge to all of us! Invite Jesus into your marriage!

2. Come as you are! 

We have already seen that there is a wonderful picture of new birth in Christ in this miracle. Notice once again how our Lord went about performing this miracle. He didn’t ask that the water pots be cleaned up first. No! He just said, “Fill them up with water.” Then came the miracle.

There is a divine principle here for salvation. The Lord doesn’t ask us to first get our act together, get all cleaned up and then come and present ourselves to Him. “OK, here I am Lord! I’m all cleaned up. Now you can save me!” No, He asks us to come just as we are!

The filling up with water may represent the importance of God’s Word, the Bible, in the process of salvation. Often water represents the cleansing effect of the Word of God. Ephesians 5:26, for example, mentions ”the washing with water through the Word.” And Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”

If indeed the water represents the Word of God, there is a great lesson here in how to do evangelism. We can’t do the miracle. Only the Lord can do that! But we can obey the Lord’s command and fill up the pots with water! We can sow the seed by sharing and teaching the Word of God! That is our job. Then the Lord works the miracle of new birth. What a great lesson in salvation!

Maybe you’re like one of those water pots before the miracle---empty and just going through the motions of rituals and religious ceremonies. The divine remedy is to come to Christ as you are, receive the Word of God and experience the miracle and joy of salvation.
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