Christ Above All
Robert C. Shannon
(c)opyright 1989, Robert C. Shannon.
His First Miracle
    In the second chapter of the Gospel of John this story is told:
    On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee.  Jesus mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.  When the wine was gone, Jesus mother said to him, "They have no more wine."

    "Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied, "My time has not yet come."

    "His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."

    Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

    Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they filled them to the brim.

    Then he told them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet."

    They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine.  He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.  Then he called the bridegroom aside 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."

    This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee.  He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him (John 2:1-11, NIV).

    Apparently the disciples saw something in this miracle that we don't see.  There are three questions that may be asked about it.  We can guess that the servants asked, "How did you do that?"

    It's interesting that the disciples never asked that of any miracle that Jesus performed.  He walked on the water.  They never asked, "How did you do that?"  He multiplied the loaves and fishes.  They never asked, "How did you do that?"  They saw the miracles as related to who Jesus was, not as related to how they were done.  They saw the miracles as validating marks of the Christ, answering the question, "Who is He?"

    For us there is a third question that surrounds this miracle. That's the question, "Why?"  Why did Jesus perform this miracle at all?

    I grew up in a culture that believed it was a sin to drink wine.  Everybody in our church thought it was a sin to drink wine.  Everybody in our town thought it was a sin to drink wine.  There was a local law that made it illegal to sell wine in our town.  It is still against the law to sell wine in my hometown.

    We were really puzzled by this miracle.  We wondered why Jesus did it at all.  We wondered all the more why it was His first miracle.  Surely the first miracle was done by choice and not by chance.  Surely Jesus had thought about it in advance.  We cannot imagine that He decided on the spur of the moment to perform this miracle.  This was his first miracle.  It must have been chosen deliberately.

    We can never really know why Jesus does something.  We can't get into His mind or His heart.  We can only guess and wonder.  But it may be valuable for us to guess and wonder.

    We notice this right away.  Jesus began His work at a wedding and not at a funeral.  A funeral would have been a good choice.  A funeral is a solemn occasion. Jesus came to teach us that life has its solemn side.  Life is serious business.  We are not just here to play and have fun.  A solemn occasion like a funeral would have been a good occasion.

    Jesus came to fulfill the law.  The book of Colossians says that He nailed the law to His cross.  The old system was going to die.  Thus, a funeral would have been a good place to begin.

    Jesus himself came to die.  The cross dominates our religion.  It is woven into the very fabric of our faith.  A funeral would have been a good choice.  But Jesus didn't begin His work at a funeral.  He began at a wedding.

    He began at an occasion of joy, not an occasion of sadness.  Joy is the keynote of the New Covenant.  When you read the prophets, you don't read much about joy.  There are a few such texts.  There are not very many.  Joy was not a keynote in the message of the prophets.  You do find it sometimes in the Psalms, but you find as many tears there as you do notes of joy.

    Turn to the New Testament and it is totally different . Many of Jesus parables dealt with joy.  A woman finds a lost coin and says, "Rejoice with me."  A man finds a lost sheep and says, "Rejoice with me."  A lost boy comes home.  His father says, "Let us be merry."  A man finds a treasure hidden in a field.  He sells everything and buys that field.  A man finds a pearl of great -price.  Jesus told parables about banquets and feasts.  More parables are about joy than any other theme.

    The apostles picked up that note of joy.  "Rejoice in the Lord always," said Paul.  "Count it all joy," wrote James.  We express it mour worship. We sing, "The joy of the Lord is my strength."  We sing, "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee."  We sing, "I have the ~joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart;"  "Rejoice Ye Pure in Heart;" "Joy to the World, the Lord Is Come."  These are our songs.  So it was appropriate that Jesus should begin His ministry at an occasion of joy, not an occasion of sadness.

    We notice, too, that His work began in a small place, not in a large place.  It began in a village, not a city.  I would have begun in Jerusalem.  I would have begun right in front of the temple.  I would have performed there some stunning miracle.  But Jesus began in Cana, a tiny place.  It's not even on a main highway. It's a nowhere place.  What a strange place to begin.

    But Jesus was not interested in earthly power.  He was not interested in earthly prestige.  He was not interested in political influence.  He was not interested in pride.  He signaled this to us by beginning in this little place.

    His interest was in spiritual power, not in any other kind of power.  He went to a place where there was no one with influence or power.  He went to a village wedding where there were only common people.  These were the very people He had come to help.

    He had not come to turn kings around.  They were beyond help.  He had not come to convince the Jewish priests.  They were beyond changing.  He had come to touch the hearts of the common people.  He had come to serve the ordinary man, the ordinary woman.  Here there were hearts that were open to Him.  Here there were hearts that were tender and would receive Him.

    So, He didn't begin in some great city.  He didn't begin at some busy street corner.  He didn't begin at some great crossroads of commerce.  He began in this little out-of-the-way place Cana.

    He began at a minor occasion, not a major occasion.  I have performed many weddings.  To me it is quite routine.  For the couple getting married it is never routine.  They make elaborate plans.  They make elaborate preparations.  Everything must be just right.  They are very nervous.  But for me it's just part of a day's work.  It's a minor event.

    It was so with the village wedding in Cana.  It was a major event to the families involved, of course.  But in the great scheme of world affairs what is one village wedding?

    Jesus had so many other opportunities.  The Jews had great feast days and holy days.  Why not begin on one of them?  Why not begin at the feast of the Passover?  Or the feast of Tabernacles?  Why not begin at Pentecost?  There were many great national holidays.  Why begin with a simple wedding?  The answer may be this:  Jesus was not interested in earthly kingdoms.

    Too soon He had a problem with that.  Too soon they wanted to make Him an earthly king.  Sometimes He had to withdraw from a crowd or go to another place because they wanted to make Him a king.  The disciples thought of Him as an earthly king.  In the beginning they saw Him as a national deliverer.  So, He chose to pass over the great days on the calendar of His people.  He chose this simple event.  It was an important event to that family.  Jesus had a role to play in families.

    I read about a senator.  Someone wrote him a letter.  He was asked to intervene on behalf of an individual who had a problem.  He replied that he was so busy working for the nation that he had no time for individuals!  Jesus didn't come just to help the nation.  He came to do something for every little family.  He wanted to get into every home.  He wanted to be a part of every family.  He still does.  He signaled it by beginning His work at a wedding.

    More than that, He came to make us a family.  That's our relationship to Him.  That's our relationship to one another.  It's a relationship of family.  It's more intimate than any other relationship.  By beginning at a wedding Jesus showed us that we are the family of God.  He wanted to show us that He was concerned about little things.  He didn't limit himself to the great issues of world affairs.  He was also concerned about little things.

    I think it is safe to say that anything that worries you concerns Him.  Whatever troubles you troubles Him.  We teach our little children to pray.  The concerns they bring to the Lord are very small.  They are little, childish things.  But we believe that He hears those prayers.  We believe they are important to Him.

    Try to imagine the scene when the children came to Jesus.  We know what He did.  He blessed them.  What do you think they did?  What do you think they said to Him?  What little concerns did they come to tell Him about?  Whatever they were, don't you think He listened?

    There's something more about this first miracle.  It was symbolic, not practical.  We must say that it certainly was not practical.  What difference would it make if they ran out of wine at the wedding?  At the worst, the host would be embarrassed.  Jesus didn't come to save us from embarrassment.  That is surely not a major concern of His.  So, we must say that it was symbolic, not practical

    . Let me tell you how I would have begun.  I think my first miracle would have been to raise someone from the dead.  Now that would get people's attention!  What a way to begin!  That's what I would have done.  But when Jesus did raise somebody from the dead, they tried to kill Jesus.  Not only that, they tried to kill the man He raised from the dead.  Maybe my idea is not such a good one.

    Perhaps then I might begin with some act of healing.  Perhaps I'd heal some leper or give sight to some blind person.  That would be a good beginning.  But then that's more private than public.  It affects only one person.  Maybe that's not a good choice.

    What about feeding the five thousand?  What a miracle that was!  But if one began with that, then people would expect to receive bread and fish every day.  People would remember the manna in the wilderness and quickly volunteer, "Count me in," they'd say.  I guess that's not a good choice either.  All of my choices have their problems.  So, I've come back to Jesus' choice.

    Can we guess why Jesus chose this miracle as the first miracle?  I am convinced that it is symbolic.  It is symbolic in two ways.  There are three things about water.  It has no taste.  It has no color.  It has no nutritional value.  There are three things about wine.  It has taste.  It has color.  It has some nutritional value.

    I believe this miracle is a parable.  It's a parable of the things Jesus intended to do for us.  He does to our lives what he did to that water.  Without Christ our lives are colorless, tasteless, and have little real value.  When Christ comes into our lives they are changed.  Our lives have color and taste.  Our lives have value in the world.  Jesus changes our lives dramatically!  It's as dramatic as that first miracle so long ago.  What were we before Christ came into our lives?  What would we be today without Him?  The miracle may be a parable, acted rather than spoken.

    It's also symbolic in at least one other way.  Jesus came to this world to perform a wedding.  He came to this world to unite man and God.  Sin had separated us.  It seemed there was nothing that could bring us together.  God was so holy.  We were so sinful.  How could we possibly be brought together?  That was the task Jesus faced.  That was the task Jesus performed.  He united us to God.  He came to perform a wedding.  The striking thing is this: the ministry of Jesus that began with a wedding ends with a wedding . You can read about it in the book of Revelation.  It's not in a village but in a city.  It's not on earth but in Heaven.  It doesn't create a union that will last only until death separates.  It unites forever.  The first miracle of Jesus must be placed alongside the last chapters in the Bible.  In a sense, the gospel begins and ends with a wedding.  There may be far more to that than we will ever know or understand.

    Listen to the description of that last great wedding:

    Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:

    "Hallelujah!
    For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
    Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!
    For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
    and his bride has made herself ready  . . ."

    Then the angel said to me, "Write: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!"
                                                                                                            (Revelation 19:6, 7, 9, NIV)


The Clothes of Christ
Table of Contents
His Last Miracle

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