By J.R. Miller
There were thirty years of silence before Jesus began to speak publicly. The only miracles in those days were miracles of love, of obedience, of duty, of sinless life. At length He began His public ministry, and the first miracle He wrought was at Cana.
It is pleasant to remember that Jesus attended a wedding feast at the very beginning of His public ministry. Indeed, this was His first appearance among the people, and the beginning of His signs, as John puts it, was produced at this marriage festivity, where the simple country folk met in all the freedom of their gladness. Christ is a friend not merely for our sorrow hours--but also for our times of joy. Then His presence and His miracle at this time, indicate His approval of marriage and give it a holy sanction. We should notice also that He was invited to this wedding. If He had not been invited He would not have gone, for He never goes where He is not desired. If we would have Him attend our weddings and give His blessing, we must be careful that He receives an invitation. No matter who performs the ceremony, Christ's hands should bestow the blessing.
The failing of the wine at this marriage feast, is an illustration of the way all earth's pleasures fall short. It comes in cups, not in fountains; and the supply is limited and is soon exhausted. Even amid the gladness at the marriage altar--there is the knell of the end in the words, "until death do us part." Human love is very sweet, and it seems to answer every craving of the heart. But if there is nothing but the human--it will not last long enough. One of every two friends must hold the other's hand in farewell at the edge of the valley, must stand by the other's grave, and then walk on alone the rest of the way. The best wine of life and of love, will fail. Very striking, however, is the picture here, and true also--the failing wine, and then the Master supplying the need. When human joy fails, if we have Christ with us, He gives us new joy, better than the worlds, and in unfailing abundance.
The mother of Jesus came and told Him of the failing of the wine. She had become accustomed to take all her perplexities to Him. That is what we also may do. His answer to His mother was, "My hour is not yet come." He seems to have referred to His time for supplying the need. We may notice here, however, our Lord's perfect devotion to His Father's will. We find the same all through His life. He did nothing of Himself; He took His work moment by moment from the Father's hand. He always waited for His "hour." He had no plans of His own--but followed the divine purpose in all His acts. Though appealed to now by His mother, whom He loved so deeply--He would not do anything a moment before His hour had come. We cannot learn this lesson to well. Sometimes we find it hard to wait for God--but in no way is our obedience more beautifully shown, than in our self-restraint under the direction of God's will. Too many of us run--before we are sent. It requires great patience at times not to put forth the power we have--but to wait for God's time.
The word of the mother to the servants is suggestive: "Whatever he says unto you--do it." She was not hurt by the reply Jesus had given to her, which to some seems harsh. It shows, too, that she did not understand His answer as a refusal to relieve the perplexity of the family in due time. She bade the servants to stand ready now for His bidding, not knowing what He would do--but sure it would be the right thing. "Whatever he says unto you--do it!" is always the word for the Master's servants--and we are to take our commands from Him alone. We are not to follow our own impulses in doing things for others, not even the impulses of kindness and affection; we are to wait for the Master's word.
His "hour" was not long in coming. Apparently but a little while after the mother's words to the servants Jesus said to them, "Fill the water pots with water"; then at once, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet." Thus the servants became co-workers with the Master in this miracle. So He calls His people always to be His helpers in blessing the world. We cannot do much ourselves. The best we can bring--is a little of the common water of earth. But if we bring that, He can change it into the rich wine of heaven, which will bless weary and fainting ones. The servants helped Jesus in this miracle. The divine gifts of mercy can only get to the lost--through the saved. Then, how striking is the other side of the truth--the servants carried only common water from the spring--but with Christ's blessing it became good wine. So it always is, when we do what Christ bids us to do; our most mundane work--leaves heavenly results. Our most common work amid life's trivialities, in business, in the household, among our friends, which seems like the carrying of water, only to be emptied out again--is transformed into radiant service, like angel ministry, and leaves glorious blessings behind. We do not know the real splendor of the things we are doing when we do the commonest things of our daily task-work. What seems only giving a cup of cold water to a lowly man is blessed service to one of God's children, and is noted and rewarded by the Father.
We have an impartial witness to this miracle in the master of the feast. He knew not whence the wine was. No one had told him that it was only water in the vessel whence it had been drawn. This suggests how quietly Jesus produced this divine sign. He did not announce it, nor advertise it. He said nothing to call attention to what He was going to do. The people about Him did not know of the wonderful work He had done. So He works always quietly. His kingdom comes into men's hearts, not with observation--but silently. An evil life is changed into moral purity--by His words. Miracles of grace are performed continually, and no one sees the hand that works the marvelous transformation. Silently help comes in the hours of need; silently answers to prayer glide down, silently the angels come and go.
It is significant also that "the servants who drew the water knew." They had put the water into the vessels, and knew it was only water. They had drawn out the water, and knew that it was now wine. Those who work with Christ are admitted into the inner chamber, where Omnipotence is unveiled, where the mysteries of His grace are performed. Christ takes into His confidence those who serve Him; calls them no longer servants--but friends. Those who do Christ's will, know of His doctrine and see His ways of working. If we would witness Christ's power and glory--we must enter heartily and obediently into His service. Often it is in the lowliest ways and in the paths of the most humble, self-denying service--that the most of Christ's glory appears.
We have the testimony of the ruler of the feast, as to the quality of the wine. "You have kept the best wine until now." That is what Christ always does--He keeps the best until the last. The world gives its best first--and the worst comes afterwards. It is so in sin--first exhilaration, then remorse. It is so in the chase for wealth, power and fame--first gratification, then disappointment. But in spiritual life it is the reverse of this. Christ Himself had His humiliation, darkness, the shame of the cross--and then came exaltation, power, and glory. In Christian life the same rule holds: first the cross--then the crown; first the self-denial, the loss, the suffering-- afterwards the blessing the peace, the joy. We never get to the end of the good things of divine love--we never get to the best even in this world. There is always something better yet to come. Then Christ keeps the good wine, the best wine to the very last--in heaven. As sweet as is earth's peace to the Christian, he will never know the best of peace, until he gets home.
This was Christ's first miracle--but it was not the beginning of His grace and love. The record says that in "this beginning of miracles" Jesus "manifested forth his glory." The word "manifested" suggests that the glory was there before; it had been slumbering in His lowly human life all along the quiet years of toil and service at Nazareth. For those first thirty years, the glory manifested itself in ways which no one thought of as supernatural--in the beautiful Life that grew up in the Nazareth home, with its attention to daily tasks and duties.
The story of the eighteen years from twelve to thirty is told in one short verse, "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:52). The glory was in Him those days--but no one saw it shining out. The neighbors did not think of His gentleness of spirit, His graciousness of disposition, His purity and simplicity of life--as revealings of the divine glory.
Now the glory was manifested for the first time. We say there are no miracles now--but there may be less difference than we think between what we all natural and supernatural. Luther said one day: "I saw a miracle this morning. The sky stretched overhead and arched itself like a vast dome above the earth. There were no columns supporting this dome--it hung there with nothing to hold it up. Yet the sky did not fall." You see the same every day--yet you do not think of calling it a miracle--you say it is only natural. In the life of Christ there were a thousand simple and beautiful deeds. During the days of the feast at Cana, if there was a shy and bashful person among the guests, He was especially kind to that one. If there was one that the others neglected, Jesus sought him out. If there was one in sorrow, Jesus tired to comfort him. But nobody thought of these common kindnesses as miracles. Next hour, He changed water into wine to relieve the embarrassment of the host, and that was manifesting His glory.
It is pleasant to notice, too, that it was in a simple act of thoughtful kindness to a perplexed household, that this divine glory was thus manifested. Really it was just a beautiful deed of common kindness. Someone calls this the housekeeper's miracle. It was a most embarrassing occasion. In the midst of a marriage feast the wine failed. There were more guests than were expected, and there was not enough wine to serve them all. The host would have been disgraced if there had been no way of adding to the meager supply. Jesus, by His timely manifesting of power, relieved the awkwardness of the occasion. He performed the miracle; we may be sure, primarily for the sake of the host, to save him from humiliation. When the writer, referred to, calls this the housekeeper's miracle, it is because it shows Christ's sympathy with those who attend to domestic affairs, His thought for them, and His readiness to serve them, relieving them of embarrassment of perplexity. There is no annoyance too small to take to our Savior.
He manifested His glory in just this--His great kindness. When we think of the matter carefully, we know that the most divine thing in the world is love. That in God which is greatest--is not power, glory, not the shining splendor of deity, as it was shown at Sinai--but love, which shows itself in plain, lowly ways. When the disciples besought the Master to show them the Father, they thought of some brilliant display, some revealing of God which would startle men. Jesus replied: "Have I been with you so long--and have you not yet known Me? He who has seen Me has seen the Father." He had been showing them the Father in all His days--not alone in His miracles of goodness and mercy--but in the thousand little kindnesses of the common days. It was to His daily life as the disciples had seen it, that He referred. He meant that the truest revealing of God to men--is not in great Theophanies and transfigurations--but in a ministry of gentleness, helpfulness and kindness, such as Jesus Himself had performed.