I always approach my devotional reading through faith. That is, I read Scripture prayerfully under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This makes these times a special time of communication with my Lord. It’s a form of prayer, if you will. Sometimes God reveals something new to me and that is what happened this morning as I read the second chapter of John’s Gospel. The message is simple really and obvious now that it’s been revealed. And like all such messages from our Lord, even in its simplicity, the implications run deep.
First, a little background. John Chapter 2 begins with the famous wedding at Cana. To sum up, Jesus and His entourage arrive in Cana on the third day of Jesus’ ministry. (According to John’s Gospel, Jesus is pointed out by John the Baptist and begins calling disciples. then He goes to Galilee and calls some more disciples and then “on the third day there was a wedding at Can in Galilee”.) His mother is invited to the wedding and so are Jesus and his disciples. Unfortunately, the groom runs out of wine and Mary tells Jesus about it. At first He is stand-offish about the matter but ends up transforming six ritual jars of water into wine that is higher quality than they had at the beginning of the party. This is the first of the signs that Jesus performed “and manifested his glory.” (John 2:1-12, ESV)
I have never been satisfied with my understanding of this story before today. I didn’t get why this event (as miraculous as it appeared to be) was elevated by the evangelist to the rank of a sign that demonstrated the divinity of Jesus. Commentaries didn’t help much. They spoke of it pointing to His new covenant or God’s abundance in time of need. Both of these thoughts are true enough but neither explains why this over the top party trick is a “sign of his glory.”
This morning God spoke in a clear and resounding fashion. I was already thinking in terms of God’s creation of the earth from reading John 1 yesterday. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and Word was God. he was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:1-3) This morning, the first words I read are “On the third day…” I have already written about what I believe happened on the third day of creation according to Scripture (c.f. The Day God Created Man: or Don’t Shoot the Messenger ) but even if one does not “get” that, one only has to think about Jesus’ forthcoming crucifixion and resurrection to understand the signification of the third day as it applies to Jesus and all the world. I have written about that too (check out The Passion of Christ ). With those thing in mind, I continued to read and I came to the part of the story that describes the “six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification” (v. 6). Six jars? Jesus instructs the servants to fill them up. Fill them? Then, when they draw some of the contents out of these jars that are now filled to the brim, they discover that the mundane water has supernaturally been transformed (remade?) into wine of the highest quality. The water has been recreated into something completely different and fare better than it had been seconds before.
This is a sign of who Jesus is because it is speaking of people being born again as new creations by the power of Jesus Christ. The number six is the number that represents humanity. Six jars, then, means people. Faith in Jesus brings about a miraculous change in substance within those earthen vessels. This understanding made perfect sense within the context of the rest of the chapter and what follows in Chapter 3. Chapter 2 continues with Jesus’ cleansing of the temple and His declaration that He would raise this temple in three days and ends with the phrase “for he himself knew what was in man” (v. 25). Chapter 3 begins with Nicodemus’ questioning Jesus and being told that one must be born again to enter the kingdom of God (v.v. 3:3-7).
It’s not that the new covenant is not related nor that God is not an abundant provider, it’s just that the story goes right to the heart of the Gospel just as any sign must do. Jesus was crucified for our sins and was raised on the third day so that we may have eternal life with him by our faith in Him. That is being born again. Before we believe, we are children of our earthly parents. But when we place our faith in Jesus and accept Him as our Lord and our Savior, we become children of God, “who [are] born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1: 13, ESV).
You may also be interested in these articles:
- The Passion of Christ
- God So Loved the World Redux
- The Day God Created Man: or Don’t Shoot the Messenger