Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | March 3, 2008

What does the event at Cana teach us? (Lesson 6: Question 1 Answer)

1. What does the event at Cana teach us? 

As we consider the miracle during the wedding at Cana a further examination of the event will be performed.  The intent of this examination is to also reflect on the implications of this event.  Before we enter into our assessment of this question another look at the relevant verses should be taken, which are as follows: 

1On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

6Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9When the master 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 master of the feast called the bridegroom 10and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

12After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.

The apostle shares with his readers the details of an event that is not included in the synoptic Gospels.  This event was probably especially memorable to John, being the first miracle that Jesus performed in His ministry.  This event takes place in Cana, which was likely a neighboring village from Capernaum as it was the next destination after the wedding (see verse 12 and also John 4:46).  Nathanael, one of our Lord’s first disciples, is reported to be from Cana (John 21:2).  Thus, it is likely that this wedding was between acquaintances of both Jesus and His disciples.  Judging by the dilemma reported in verse 3 it is indicative of the fact that the families of the bride and groom were not wealthy, but poor peasants from a small village.  As we consider this scene we realize that our Lord associated with people who were of low esteem and not the affluent, wealthy or powerful.  In the eyes of the world this was not a big deal that was accompanied with grandeur and expensive entertainment.  No, our Lord was in attendance at the modest wedding of two relatively insignificant individuals (in the eyes of the world), in a relatively insignificant village in the frontier of Galilee, where the alcoholic beverage was more than likely the main attraction.  Certainly, this was an event that must make those with a theology of glory disappointed in its humble and ordinary setting.

The apostle then proceeds to inform us that in the middle of the wedding the supply of wine for the guests is exhausted.  We can think of several reasons that would have caused this to occur, which we will summarize in the following:

·         The guests consumed more than anticipated, which caused the supply to run out prematurely.

·         There were many more guests that anticipated and the manner of their hospitality precluded them from turning them away.  This would have caused the supply to run out earlier than expected.

·         The bride and groom were poor to begin with and could not afford to serve more alcohol than what was provided.  It was an inevitable conclusion that they were powerless to prevent.

·         A combination of all or some of the above.

The text does not tell us the actual reason and it does not seem to be important to the point of the Evangelist.  Consequently, this dilemma ultimately occurred in the course of God’s providence in order to manifest the glory of the incarnate Son of God.  However, the actual details of the situation are somewhat perplexing, especially the dialogue between Jesus and Mary, which leaves us a little uneasy.The uneasiness is encountered when the response to this embarrassing predicament is discussed between Jesus and His mother Mary.  Apparently Mary had a role in organizing the wedding based on her appeal to her Son’s assistance in the matter.  However, it is not clear whether this request is for plain normal assistance or if it is for supernatural aid.  Judging by our Lord’s answer to the request, it appears to be a rebuke suggesting an appeal for supernatural aid was made in this situation.  This position is taken by Calvin who posits that this incident provides a “perpetual and general instruction to all ages, that his divine glory must not be obscured by excessive honour paid to his mother.”109 Many others suggest that there is no disrespect or tone of rebuke within our Lord’s statement, which is just a normal benign response employing Hebrew idiom.110 Moreover, in the midst of this response we encounter a familiar statement by Jesus that is often repeated throughout the Gospel records, “My hour has not yet come.” (We will discuss this concept further in a subsequent section).  Nonetheless, the strangeness of this conversation seems to be even further strengthened with Mary’s response to the servants.  If Calvin’s view is correct then Mary’s response is dismissive of the rebuke almost putting Jesus on the spot.  If the latter view is correct, then Mary’s response seems to support that it was a periphrastic way for our Lord to answer her positively. As we alluded to in the opening section of this text, this is certainly an awkward conversation and we must concede that the proper interpretation is beyond our skill to conclude.  Whichever view is correct, one thing is for certain, our Lord in this situation committed no sin.  Otherwise, He would not have provided the perfect sacrifice or fulfill all righteousness on our behalf. 

Regardless of what prompted our Lord to intervene the fact that we can be sure of is that Jesus did intervene to rescue the celebration from coming to a premature or embarrassing end.  This is seen in His subsequent direction given to the servants to fill the pots with water and His miraculous transformation of the water into wine.  We do not think it appropriate to find any special significance with the pots or the use of water.  It seems plain from the text that John is just reporting that common elements were used in the fulfillment of a supernatural act.  We find that if anything was significant about this wine beyond the way it was produced, is that it tasted much better than the wine that started the night.  Thus, our Lord saves this celebration from an embarrassing situation, which results in its continuation for the enjoyment and pleasure of all the guests in attendance.

At Cana a group of poor village peasants were privileged to be the recipients of the first miracle of our Lord, which was performed to sustain the modest celebration of matrimony between two people.  In the midst of an ordinary institution of mankind, an extraordinary act occurred in the transformation of water into wine. This miracle provided evidence to the disciples that Jesus was who He proclaimed to be.  He proclaimed to be Son of God with the authority from God to intervene in the natural course of events to produce something supernatural.  This authority was God’s recognition that the agent performing this sign was authorized to speak for Him.  In this case, it wasn’t an ordinary prophet or man of God performing this task, but God incarnate.   The apostle testifies that this event caused the disciples to believe in Jesus, which is also the purpose for the inclusion of this event for the reader (John 20:30-31).  Not only did it create faith within the disciples, but it also manifested our Lord’s glory as Calvin indicates in the following:

And manifested his glory; that is, because he then gave a striking and illustrious proof, by which it was ascertained that he was the Son of God; for all the miracles which he exhibited to the world were so many demonstrations of his divine power. 111  

Although in the midst of humble and unlikely circumstances, a manifestation of our Lord’s glory occurs.  It was fitting for our Lord to lead off His public ministry with an event such as this.  Moreover, it was appropriate for the apostle to follow the previous passage with this episode in the Gospel story.  In addition to the significance of our Lord’s miraculous sign at the wedding in Cana, this story also contributes to humanness or earthiness of our Lord’s incarnation.  This is not where man would expect to find God, but as John reports we can find God in the middle of wedding celebration in an insignificant village in Galilee.  The theologian of glory would have expected to find God in a much more dignified or extravagant setting.  There was nothing rich and famous about the village of Cana then or now, yet this is where our Lord is found. The ascetic would not have expected to find God in the midst of social celebration, known to include music and dancing, with the consumption of alcohol. Yet, this is the environment where the first miracle of our Lord occurred to demonstrate His glory and authority over nature.

In this event our Lord was only a guest to the festivities that celebrated a wedding between two individuals.  Although, He was an integral part in the success of this celebration, the day of His marriage would have to wait.  This day would have to wait until after His “hour had come” and the sufferings appointed to Him were endured (1 Peter 1:18-20).  However, not only would our Lord need to endure suffering first, but His bride the church would also have to endure the sufferings appointed for her (Colossians 1:24-29).  Then once the term of this age arrives at its conclusion and the age to come is ushered in, another marriage will take place whose guest list was determined in eternity (Ephesians 1:3-14).  In that day, our Lord will not be a guest, but the groom (Revelation 19:7-8; Matthew 22:1-11) who purchased His bride with the shedding of his own blood (Ephesians 5:23-24) adorning her with a righteousness that withstands the holy presence of the perfect God (Ephesians 5:25-27).  In that day the setting will not reflect the humble surroundings of the village of Cana, but will be audience to the exalted Lord in the celestial city that excludes all misery and sin.  Until that day we can only enjoy our lives with the common elements that our Lord enjoyed at the wedding of Cana.  Yet we can be assured that our invitations to the great marriage will not turn void, since they have been purchased by our Lord who will Himself guarantee our safe arrival amidst the snares that are also indicative of this age (John 6:39-40).

109 John Calvin (1550) Commentary on the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ According to John (Calvin’s Commentaries, 17; Baker, 2005) 84

110 Leon Morris, The Zondervan NASB Study Bible – Study Notes (Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan, 1999) 1517

111 John Calvin (1550) Commentary on the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ According to John (Calvin’s Commentaries, 17; Baker, 2005) 89

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