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The Best Things in Life: Chapter 7 - This Beginning of the Signs

By J.R. Miller

      The only miracles of Jesus' thirty silent years--were miracles of love, of obedience, of duty, of beautiful living. When we remember who he was, the Son of God, in whom all divine fullness dwelt, his making no manifestation of glory those years--was as great a miracle as when at length he began to do miraculous things.

      The first recorded appearance of Jesus, after entering on his public ministry, was at a wedding feast. This tells us of his interest in human joys. Many people seem to think that religion is only for times of sorrow. They say that Christ came to help us in our hours of pain and in our troubles. But it is suggestive that his first manifestation of divine power--was not in healing a sick man, opening a blind man's eyes, raising a dead child--but in making wine to prolong the joy of a feast. He is a friend for our happy hours quite as much as for our hours of sadness. Jesus wants still to attend the social pleasures that the young people have. If we have any feast or entertainments to which we cannot invite him--they are not fit for enjoyments for a Christian.

      "The wine failed." Earth's pleasures always fail. They come in little cups, not in living fountains. The failing wine at the wedding feast is an emblem of every joy that is only human. It lasts a little while, and then the cup is empty. Human love is very sweet. But if there is nothing but the human, it will fail some time.

      The record says that in this first miracle, Jesus manifested his glory. The glory was no diviner when it took the form of power and wrought a miracle, than it was when unrevealed. During the thirty years the divine life in Christ revealed itself in what no one regarded as supernatural--in the beautiful life that grew up in that home, with its attention to daily tasks and duties. The neighbors did not think of his gentleness of spirit, his graciousness of disposition, his purity and simplicity of life--as revealing of divine glory in him. Then that day at Cana the glory was manifested--it flashed out so as to be seen.

      We do not begin to be aware of the divine glory that is about us all these common days. We say there are no miracles now. In the life of Christ, there were countless simple and beautiful deeds wrought continually. During that marriage feast. Jesus probably was the life of the company. He was unselfish. If there was a bashful person among the guests, Jesus was especially kind to him. If there was one whom all the others neglected, Jesus sought him out and spoke words of cheer and comfort to him. There is not doubt that his presence was a blessing to all the guests at the wedding. But nobody thought of these common kindnesses as miracles. Then next hour he changed water into wine--and instantly all were amazed, and saw in this miracle, that he was divine.

      What is glory? It means power, splendor, greatness, honor. What was the glory that this particular miracle manifested? For one thing it showed Christ's power over nature. There were several of these nature miracles. With a few loaves he fed a multitude of hungry men. Here he provides wine for the company of wedding guests. He showed his power over the elements by quieting the storm, and stilling the waves of the sea with a word. He was perfectly at home in all the fields of nature. There ought to be great comfort for us in these truths. Our Master is master of all things. This is his world!

      But the miracle meant more than this. Why was this miracle wrought? Not to make a display of the power of Christ. Not merely to show his disciples that he was divine. Every miracle he wrought, was wrought as an act of mercy or love. This beginning of signs was simply a beautiful deed of common kindness. Someone calls this, the housekeeper's miracle. It was a most embarrassing situation. In the midst of the 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 too meager supply. Jesus, by manifesting his power, relieved the awkwardness of the occasion. He wrought the miracle, primarily for the sake of the host, to save him from disgrace.

      There are those who think it dishonoring to our Master--to say that he has a care for the little frets and worries of a poor family, or that he is concerned in the small affairs of a common household. They think his glory lifts him above all such trivial things. But there really is no perplexity too small to take to him. He manifested is glory here in just this--he thoughtful kindness.

      We know that the divinest thing in this world is love. That in God which is greatest--is not power, not the shining splendor of deity--but love, which shows itself in plain, lowly ways. When the disciples came to the Master, saying, "Show us the Father," they were thinking of some brilliant display, some revealing of God which would startle men.

      Jesus replied, "Have I been so long with you, and yet have you not known me?" He meant, that the truest revealing of God to men is not in great miracles--but in a ministry of gentleness, helpfulness, and kindness, such as Jesus had wrought through all the years.

      Nature is full of the glory of God. Every common bush is afire with God for those who have eyes to see the brightness. But the truth is that most of us have no eyes for the splendor. Here and there is one who, in the presence of God's revealing, takes off his shoes in reverence. But people in general see nothing of divine glory, in God's works in nature.

      The woman at the well was disposed at first to treat trivially the weary man who sat on the well curb, and asked for her a drink of water. Then Jesus told her that if she only knew who it as that was talking to her--she would ask of him the largest blessings of grace. We all rob ourselves continually of untold blessings which might easily be made ours--if we knew the Christ who is always so near to us.

      Jesus changed water, common water, into wine. He is able to work similar miracles continually in our lives. Many of us do not attain the best in any phase or department of our life. We get only common water, which our Lord would make into rich wine--if we would accept the miracle at his hands. To many business men, business is only business, very earthly business at that. If only they would let Christ make it over for them, business would become as holy, as beautiful, and as sacred, as a communion service. Paul teaches us to do all things in the name of Christ. If we would do this, all our secular affairs, as we call them, would become as holy as angel ministries. Jesus himself was a working man for many years. But we know there was nothing sordid about his work. He did it all for God, and he made each piece of it beautiful enough to show to God at the close of the day.

      We do not get the best out of our friendships. How many of us lift them up into anything like what the friendship of Jesus and John, or Jesus and Mary, must have been? How many of us who are friends kneel often side by side and pray together? Do not most of our friendships run along on very common levels? Jesus is able to work his miracle on these friendships of ours, changing the water into wine, making them into divine fellowships.

      We do not get the best out of our Christian life. We join a church--but we do not allow the church to enter deeply into our life or to mean much to us. We do not allow the Master to possess us wholly, body and soul. We do not discover the possibilities of prayer. We do not have the Holy Spirit in our hearts as guest, in an absorbing measure.

      The other day a man was apologizing for something he had done something that was not beautiful. He said he was one of those "diamonds in the rough" with which Christ could not do much. He never could be made into a sweet, happy, lovely Christian, he said. He thought he was more like Peter than John. He was reminded that even Peter, with all his original faults and roughness, became at length a noble and Christlike man. At first, during his training, he was rash and impetuous, and talked too much--but he was always sorry for his mistakes, and then grew out of them. It will not do to hide behind Peter, when our religion lacks in beauty; unless, like Peter, too, we leave our faults behind, and grow in grace and loveliness.

      There are some professing Christians whose life is not beautiful. In Paul's wonderful cluster of "whatsoevers," summing up the qualities which should find their place in Christian character, there are two which never should be lacking, "whatever things are lovely," and "whatever things are of good report." It is not enough to be true, just, and honest--these sturdy elements are essential--but our lives must also be beautiful, and what people say about us must be such as shall honor the holy name we bear. Some people are honest--but crabbed. They do good deeds--but do them in a most ungracious way. They attend meetings and talk a great deal about religion, freely criticizing other Christians--but are not winsome themselves. They are not humble, though they praise humility They are nor devout, though they talk much about other people's undevoutness. There are some good men whose lives are really full of good works, who will go miles to do a kindness, who are faithful in all personal duties, who never omit prayer or church attendance; but whose influence as Christians is far from sweet and winning. They are like certain nuts which have a meaty kernel--but a prickly burr. When they do you a favor--you almost wish they had not, they hurt you so in doing it.

      This miracle suggests to us that Christ can make our life richer and more beautiful, if we will put it into his hands; that if we live with him as we may--our characters will grow every day into greater sweetness and loveliness. A Christian man has no right to be 'hard to get along with'. Even if other people are unlovely in spirit, he must be lovely. If others are selfish, he must be unselfish. If others are crude, he must be refined. We should set for ourselves the highest ideal of beauty--and then strive to reach it. "Let not your good, be evil spoke of." Do your gracious deeds, graciously. Make your honesty and truth, beautiful. Take care that your zeal is not censorious and uncharitable. Let your earnestness be gentle and kind. Judge not--that you be not judged. Speak evil of no man--leave his faults to his Master. Look after yourself, you own flaws and motes and beams--you will have quite enough to do--and let Christ be the judge of other people's faults. Strive to be the sweetest, truest, noblest, holiest, most useful Christian you can be--and do not talk about it. "Moses knew not that his face shone."

      The picture of the life of Charles Kingsley which his wife has given in her "Letters and Memories" of her husband, is on of the finest groupings of the qualities of an ideal life in all literature:

      Dedicated to the beloved memory of a righteous man
      Who loved God and truth above all things.
      A man of untarnished honor-
      Loyal and chivalrous-gentle and strong-
      Modest and humble-tender and true-
      Pitiful to the weak-yearning after the erring-
      Stern to all forms of wrong and oppression,
      Yet most stern towards himself-
      Who, being angry--yet sinned not-
      Whose highest virtues were known only
      To his wife, his children, and the poor;
      Who lived in the presence of God here,
      And passing through the grave and gate of death,
      Now lives unto God for evermore.

      Shall we not seek and pray that this beginning of his signs the Master may work in us? Then we shall have the same glory in us--which was also in him. We need not ask for power to work miracles--but let us beseech God for glory in our hearts and lives--the glory of love, of gentleness, of truth, of patience, of thoughtfulness, of kindness, of forbearance, of humility, of helpfulness. Then the glory of our life will be manifested, not in an occasional flash of surpassing heroism, self-denial, generosity, effort, or sacrifice--but in a daily life of unbroken goodness, faithfulness and holiness.

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See Also:
   Chapter 1 - For the Best Things
   Chapter 2 - Think On These Things
   Chapter 3 - Apelles, the Approved
   Chapter 4 - Rule of Peace
   Chapter 5 - Sympathy With Weakness
   Chapter 6 - Persis the Beloved
   Chapter 7 - This Beginning of the Signs
   Chapter 8 - Christ in Our Every Days
   Chapter 9 - Doing Impossible Things
   Chapter 10 - Crosses
   Chapter 11 - Power of Christ's Friendship
   Chapter 12 - Why Not Be Troubled?
   Chapter 13 - The Problem of Temptation
   Chapter 14 - Christ's Body and Its Members
   Chapter 15 - Reserve
   Chapter 16 - A Program for a Day
   Chapter 17 - Let Us Love One Another
   Chapter 18 - Praying Without Ceasing
   Chapter 19 - Roots and Roses
   Chapter 20 - Show Me the Path


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