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"The Marriage Feast at Cana" by Romans
Of the Four Gospel writers, I would have to say that John is my favorite. Some of you were here when I went through the entire Gospel According to John. It took me over a year to get through it. There were some nights when I only covered one or two verses. I was a real education for me, as I hope it was for you who were here. I learned much by reviewing the many commentaries and cross-references and footnotes that applied to the original Greek words John used, their English translations, as well as the verses and various Themes that John included.
I personally like John's writing style, and the wonderful accounts of the things Jesus did and said which are not included in the other Four Gospels. The Wedding Feast at Cana in Galilee for example, is such an account. It is not included any of the other Gospels. In the very last verse of his Gospel, John writes in Chapter 21:25 “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” That tells me that, given limited space, John very carefully chose the things which he did include in his Gospel account.
First, in John, Chapter 1, we are introduced to Christ as the Logos, the Word being with God and being God from the very beginning. John clearly identifies Jesus as the One Who was the Creator that we read about in Genesis 1:1. From several different perspectives and approaches, John 1 goes on to make the case that Jesus Christ was both God in Eternity past, and now, in the flesh, the Messiah for Whom Israel had waited centuries.
In the very next Chapter, and starting in verse 1, we read of the account of the Marriage Feast at Cana. But, as we shall see tonight, this account of a Wedding Feast is so much more than a “Hey! Guess where we went?” account of an event, and to a much greater extent, more than a mere record of Jesus' first miracle.
While it is an account of an actual event, the account is also rich with symbolism and deep spiritual significance that we can learn much from. So, let's start by reading the whole account together, and then going back over the account pointing out what I had never seen before. These new insights were pointed out in a recorded sermon from a Church Service my wife attended, and which shared with me. I will utilize the basic skeleton of the sermon, but I also intend to add plenty of new meat to it for tonight's Discussion. Having said all of that, let's begin. I will be using the Revised Standard Version...
John 2:1-11 “On the third day, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus was also invited to the marriage, with his disciples. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, 'They have no wine.' And Jesus said to her, 'O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.' His mother said to the servants, 'Do whatever he tells you.' Now six stone jars were standing there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, 'Fill the jars with water.'”
Continuing, “And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, 'Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast.' So they took it. When the steward 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 steward of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, 'Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.' This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.”
First, let me ask all of you: Is there any Spiritual symbolism in a Wedding Feast? Jesus spoke several Parables which included the Themes of Weddings and Bridegrooms. In His Parables, what did a Wedding Feast symbolize?
The Marriage Feast or Marriage Supper has a dual significance in Scripture: Earthly and Spiritual. Let's look at some of the Parables Jesus spoke that included this Theme. First, notice Matthew 22:2 “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son...” We also read in Matthew 25:1 “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.” Who was the Bridegroom in Jesus' Parable?
Besides Jesus, the Apostle Paul also utilized this Theme in at least one of his epistles. For example, in 2 Corinthians 11:2 “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” In addition, John used this Theme in Revelation 19:9 “And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.” So we clearly see that a Wedding Feast has deep Spiritual significance.
Let's return to Square One, and examine the account of the Wedding Feast at Cana, now, from a very different perspective, and on a different level...
Let's build our Foundation for this perspective: We read in Deuteronomy 18:15, Moses is quoted as saying, “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;” Moses, whom God used to deliver God's people from cruel bondage, is clearly saying that the Messiah that Israel should look for, will be someone Who will be like him (Moses). Is it not interesting, that the first public sign that manifested the Glory of God, was changing water into blood? And Jesus' first public miracle was to turn water into wine.
I assure you that at the Last Supper, Jesus made a clear connection showing that wine symbolized His blood, shed for the remission of sin. He brought everything full circle. We read in Luke 22:20 “Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.”
Also, in each case, the signs by Moses and Jesus were designed to manifest the Glory of God: Notice where the plagues on Egypt are concerned, the water into blood being the first, we read in Exodus 7:5, we read: “And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch forth mine hand upon Egypt.
Where the water into wine at Cana is concerned, we read in John 2:11 “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.”
With this symbolism of wine and blood, and the purpose of manifesting God's Glory in mind, let's take a second look at the whole account of the Wedding Feast at Cana. From the beginning.
John 2:1 ”On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:”
We can stop right there... It would be very easy to just read right over it, but I want you all to notice that Jesus' first miracle took place on “the third day?” Question: What is the first thing that comes to mind regarding an event of immense significance taking place on ”the third day”?
Yes! Jesus rose from the dead on the Third Day after His crucifixion. We are reconciled to God, and our sins are forgiven by the death of His Son, but it is what happened on the Third Day after His death, that gives us an Eternal Future: Notice Paul's words in Romans 5:10 “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life."
Jesus' shedding of His blood covered our sins, but we are justified by His resurrection:
Albert Barnes writes of this: “We were reconciled by his death. Death may include possibly his low, humble, and suffering condition. Death has the appearance of great feebleness; the death of Christ had the appearance of the defeat of his plans. His enemies triumphed and rejoiced over him on the cross, and in the tomb. Yet the effect of this feeble, low, and humiliating state was to reconcile us to God. If in this state, when humble, despised, dying, dead, he had power to accomplish so great a work as to reconcile us to God, how much more may we expect that he will be able to keep us now that he is a living, exalted, and triumphant Redeemer. If his fainting powers in dying were such as to reconcile us, how much more shall his full, vigorous powers as an exalted Redeemer, be sufficient to keep and save us. This argument is but an expansion of what the Saviour himself said in John 14:19: 'Because I live, ye shall live also.'”
We also read in Romans 4:25 “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”
John Gill writes: “He was raised again from the dead by his Father, to whom this is often ascribed; and by himself, by his own power, which proves him to be the mighty God; and this was done not only that he might live an immortal and glorious life in our nature, having finished the work he undertook and came about, but for "our justification". He died in the room and stead of his people, and by dying made satisfaction for their sins; he rose again as their head and representative, and was legally discharged, acquitted, and justified, and they in him. Christ's resurrection did not procure the justification of his people, that was done by his obedience and death; but was for the testification of it, that it might fully appear that sin was atoned for, and an everlasting righteousness was brought in; and for the application of it, or that Christ might live and see his righteousness imputed, and applied to all those for whom he had wrought it out.”
Jesus' resurrection was on the Third Day after His crucifixion. The account of this Wedding Feast, which is spiritually symbolic of the Kingdom of God. Both take place on the third day.
Let's continue the account: John 2:2-3 “Jesus was also invited to the marriage, with his disciples. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, 'They have no wine.'”
In that culture, a Wedding Feast lasted seven days. To run out of wine would have opened the family up to public ridicule and humiliation. But on a spiritual level, if we focus on the Wedding Feast symbolizing the Kingdom of God, and the wine partaken of at The Last Supper being symbolic of Jesus' shed blood, then the statement, “They have no wine...” takes on a much deeper significance. Why? Consider what the writer to the Hebrews had to say in Hebrews 9:22 “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.”
Continuing in verse 4: “And Jesus said to her, O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” What “hour” do you suppose Jesus was referring to? I believe He was speaking of His crucifixion yet in the future. This claim is supported in another event that only John records: it is the prayer Jesus prayed the night before His crucifixion before they left to go to the Garden of Gethsemane. We find it in John 17:1 “These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee...”
Albert Barnes provides a cross-reference at John 12:27 where we read Jesus' words: “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.”
Mr. Barnes comments: “The word “hour,” here, doubtless has reference to his approaching sufferings the appointed hour for him to suffer. Shall I ask my Father to save me from this hour - that is, from these approaching sufferings?”
There is something about this first miracle that would bring Glory to Jesus. While changing water into wine is certainly a miracle, surely there is more that we can learn from this event. We know that, even though His hour had not yet come, His actions indicate that He saw the deeper spiritual significance, and symbolic impact of the event and the circumstances, and He moved to intervene anyway.
Back to the Wedding Feast account in John 2:5 “His mother said to the servants, Do whatever he tells you.'” Here, again, is a verse we can easily just read right over without notice, but we need to stop and appreciate the spiritual application. Mary's instructions to the servants was: “Do whatever he tells you.” Those words take on a very much deeper Spiritual significance when we consider John's words in 1 John 5:3 “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” As Jesus' servants, we are also called upon to do whatsoever He commands us, just as the servants at the Wedding Feast were instructed. And they did so, apparently without hesitation or question.
A Wedding Feast is a joyful occasion: In that culture, wine was a routine contributing factor to the joy and celebration. Notice in Ecclesiastes 10:19 “A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry...” Certainly, the Wedding Feast of the Lamb in the Kingdom of God, will be an occasion of unimaginable joy and celebration. At Jesus' return, the servants of God hear the words we find in Matthew 25:21 “... Well done, thou good and faithful servant: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”
At the Last Supper, Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 26:29 “But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.”
Back to the account in John 2: Mary's appeal to Jesus also sets another good example...
Matthew Henry says in his commentary: “We ought to be concerned for the wants and straits of our friends, and not seek our own things only. In our own and our friends' straits it is our wisdom and duty to apply ourselves to Christ by prayer. In our addresses to Christ, we must not prescribe to him, but humbly spread our case before him, and then refer ourselves to him to do as he pleases.” Jesus' half-brother James speaks to us of prayer in James 5:16 “... pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
Let's get back to the Marriage Feast at Cana: John2:6 “Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.” These stone jars, and the water in them, were normally used for the ritual and ceremonial washings required by the Law. Notice Mark 7:4 “And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.”
The People's New Testament makes this comment: “The law of Moses required purifications in certain cases (Leviticus 12:1-5), but the rabbis had preserved the spirit of Leviticus in this as in other things, for they taught that food and drink could not be taken with a good conscience when there was the possibility of ceremonial defilement. If every perceivable precaution had not been taken, the person or the vessel used might have contracted impurity, which would thus be conveyed to the food, and through the food to the body, and by it to the soul. Hence it had been long a custom, and latterly a strict law, that before every meal not only the hands, but even the dishes, couches, and tables, should be scrupulously washed.''
It was these stone jars that Jesus ordered the servants to fill: Verses 7-8 “Jesus said to them, Fill the jars with water.' And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, 'Now draw some out, an take it to the steward of the feast.' So they took it.” It was the water from the pots that were used in Old Covenant purification rituals that was miraculously transformed into wine, in a spiritual foreshadowing of Jesus' coming hour. Jesus, here, seized the opportunity to demonstrate that the Old Covenant's requirements and ritual washings, were about to be replaced by a new and better Covenant, with a new set of symbols.
Hebrews 8:6 “But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.”
Verse 9: “When the steward 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 steward of the feast called the bridegroom...”
The servants who obeyed the commands of Jesus knew where that superior wine had come from. And as Jesus' servants, we understand why Old Covenant ritual water is replaced with superior New Covenant wine, symbolizing the shed blood of Jesus for the remission of sins. We recognize and accept a better Covenant, with better promises...
Hebrews 10:9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.”
Continuing in John 2:10 “... and said to him, 'Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.'”
A number of commentaries say that this observance is symbolic of the question that may be asked about the better New Covenant that replaced the rituals and ceremonies of the Old Covenant: They say, the bridegroom (Jesus) is being asked, “Why did you save the best for last? Why couldn't we have had the better Covenant from the beginning?”
The symbols and washings and ceremonies of the Old Covenant make the ministry and sacrifice of Jesus Christ understandable. When John the Baptist declared in John 1:29 “... Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” the Mission and Role of Jesus became immediately apparent. The laws and precepts of the sacrificial system focused on and explained why Jesus came to the earth, and how He fulfilled the prophecies of that Mission.
Isaiah 53:6-7: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (7) He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”
We also read in Isaiah 53:12: “... because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
As we close, tonight, the account of the Wedding Feast, we read in verse 11 “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” There is far more here that we have understood this evening, than we may have never seen before, to show how this miracle manifested Jesus' Glory.
Let's notice each contributing element of the account:
It was performed on the third day... at a Wedding Feast... using the water from the stone jars that were the very implements of Old Covenant purification rituals... and from there produced a brimming supply of wine that was superior to that which had been formerly served... which pictured how His sacrificially shed blood was superior to the blood of bulls and goats.
Notice Hebrews 10:4 “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” In stark contrast to the impossibility of the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins, Paul writes this of how Jesus' blood could take away sins in Colossians 1:14 “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.”
John Gill writes, “In whom we have redemption,.... Which is an excellent and wonderful blessing of grace saints have in and by Christ; and lies in a deliverance from sin, all sin, original and actual, under which they are held captive, in a state of nature, and by which they are made subject to the punishment of death; but through the sacrifice of Christ it is taken, and put away, finished, and made an end of; and they are freed from the damning power of it, or any obligation to punishment for it; and in consequence of this are delivered from the enslaving governing power of it by his grace and Spirit, and will hereafter be entirely rid of the very being of it: it consists also of a deliverance from the law, the curse and bondage of it, under which they are held on account of sin, the transgression of it; but being delivered from sin, they are also from the law, its accusations, charges, menaces, curses, and condemnation. The subjects of this blessing are, not angels, but men; and not all men, but some that are redeemed from among men, out of every kindred, tongue, people, and nation; who are called by the name of Jacob, the people of Christ, a peculiar people, and the church of God; and evidentially are such, who have faith in Christ, love to the saints, and good hope of eternal life; who know the grace of God in truth, are made meet to be partakers of the eternal inheritance, being delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of Christ, and are designed by the we in this text: the means by which this blessing is procured, it.
“through his blood. This is the blood of Christ, his own blood, and not the blood of bulls and goats, and the same with that of the persons he redeems, but untainted with sin; the blood of Christ, as of a lamb without spot and blemish, of original or actual sin, otherwise it would not have been a sufficient redemption price for his people; nor even then, were it not as it was the blood of the Son of God, of one that was God as well as man, whereby it came to have a proper value and efficacy in it to obtain this blessing:
Christ's shedding his blood freely on this account is a proof of his great love to his redeemed ones; the efficacy that was in it to answer this purpose shows the dignity and greatness of his person; and it not being to be effected without it, demonstrates the strictness of divine justice, and that the redemption of men is brought about in a way entirely consistent with the righteousness and holiness of God. A particular branch of this blessing follows, and which serves, in some sense, to illustrate and explain it,
even the forgiveness of sins; of all sin, original and actual; of heart, lip, and life, secret and open, past, present, and to come; which lies in a non-imputation of sin, a remembrance of it no more, a removing of it entirely out of the way, a covering and blotting it out of sight, so as to be no more visible and legible: this is in Christ, where all spiritual blessings are; nor is it to be had or expected from an absolute God, but from God in Christ, and through him, through his propitiatory sacrifice; for as redemption, so forgiveness of sin is through his blood, which was shed for it; so that it proceeds upon the foot of satisfaction made to the justice of God by a price paid, and is an act of justice as well as grace, and belongs to the same persons as redemption does; hence those that are redeemed are represented as without fault before the throne; and indeed, the reason why their iniquities are blotted out, and will be remembered no more against them, is, because they are redeemed.”
Consider also John's words in Revelation 1:5 “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood...”
The account of what happened at that Wedding Feast at Cana, gives us a foreshadowing of superior symbols of a Superior Covenant, with better promises for the servants of God. And the Glory that it manifested for Jesus was far and above the mere sparing of a family from embarrassment and public humiliation at whose wedding the wine ran out. No... the Glory that was manifested was the foreshadowing of His sacrifice for the whole Family of Man, and the justification that would occur by His being raised on the Third Day after He poured out His blood for all of us.
All who believe on Him and accept His sacrifice are spared far more than mere embarrassment: John 3:36 “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” But we are forgiven, and our sins are covered by the Blood of the Lamb of God. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ reconciles us to God, makes us heirs as adopted children of God, and members of the Kingdom of God, to a bright, beautiful, joy-filled and Eternal future.
Is it any wonder that, in acknowledging that the world could not contain all the Jesus did, that John decided to include the Wedding Feast at Cana in his Gospel Account?
This concludes this Evening's Discussion, “The Marriage Feast at Cana.”
This Discussion was originally presented “live” on April 11th, 2018
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