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The third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee.
The miracle at Cana
I. THE OCCASION ON WHICH THE MIRACLE WAS WROUGHT.
1. The time. The third day after the interview with Nathanael.
2. The place. Cana, about nine miles from Nazareth. Called Cans of Galilee to distinguish it from another town of the same name in Ephraim.
3. The company.
(1) The mother of Jesus there probably on the ground of relationship. It has been supposed that the wedding was in the family of Cleopas or Alphaeus, whose wife was Mary’s sister.
(2) The most interesting and instructive fact is that Jesus was there. In Him the social element was prominent. In this respect He differed totally from His forerunner. He may have meant to teach those of His disciples, who had been followers of the Baptist, the great lessons of human intercourse, marriage, etc.
(3) Jesus’ disciples Andrew, Peter, Philip, Nathanael and John.
II. THE CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH LED TO IT.
1. The fact stated “They wanted wine;” Mary called Him aside and told Him so.
2. The manner in which the announcement was received.
(1) Not disrespectfully.
(2) Yet in the way of mild censure which rebukes Mariolatry.
(3) Because the proper season for the exercise of His Divine power had not arrived.
3. The appropriate advice that was given. Christ requires universal and prompt obedience.
III. THE FEATURES BY WHICH IT WAS DISTINGUISHED.
1. Nothing could be more simple. There was no pomp or parade.
2. Nothing could be more extraordinary. No means were used.
3. Nothing could be more convincing. Deception was impossible.
IV. THE CONSEQUENCES WHICH ENSUED.
1. The display of Christ’s glory.
2. The confirmation of the disciple’s faith.
(The miracles of the Lord Jesus.)
The miracle at Cana
1. After all those years of quiet and obscurity Jesus manifested Himself not as the Son of Mary, but as the Son of God.
2. He showed His power not to a hermit of the desert, but to a social gathering, teaching us the sanctity and blessedness of domestic life.
3. He commenced His ministerial life not as a stem preacher of righteousness beside the sea which covered the sins of Sodom, but as a helper of innocent rejoicings at a marriage feast. While we love our sins our place is by the Dead Sea; but if we heed the call to repentance, we pass from the desert to the feast. The narrative teaches us important lessons.
I. NEVER ACCEPT A FORM OF RELIGION WHICH MAKES PEOPLE GLOOMY AND MOROSE. The people who would shut all the sunshine out of life and stifle its innocent laugh, and hush the happy song, have not read the gospel of Jesus aright. There are times for separation, but as a rule it is in the midst of our daily round that Jesus works His miracles of mercy.
II. THE SANCTITY OF CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE. No marriage can be blessed unless Jesus and His disciples are invited. It is quite possible to go through a form of marriage which is quite legal, but which is a mere contract, and has no mark of holy matrimony about it. When we see marriage contracts for money, or position, or to hide the results of sin, we may be sure that Jesus has not been invited, and that there can be no blessing.
III. JESUS IS EVER WORKING THE SAME WONDERFUL CHANGE AND IS SHOWING FORTH HIS POWER. All nature is a miracle lesson.
1. The seed sown in weakness is raised in power, and we learn that as God gives us our daily bread so He gives us the True Bread from heaven.
2. Every growing vine with its clustering grapes shows us the miracle of water made wine, telling us that Jesus is the True Vine, and that we are the branches, and that without Him we cannot live.
3. The them receives the rains of winter and returns them glorified in the rose of summer; the helpless chrysalis takes unto itself wings, and flies as the beautiful butterfly. And the same miracle is shown in our Lord’s dealings with men. He came to raise and put new strength into fallen humanity. The miracle was wrought on the first disciples--on Peter who denied his Master, but was changed into a pillar of the Church, etc. (H. J. W. Buxton, M. A.)
The miracle at Cana
In three points of view this miracle seems strange.
1. It has not that visible stamp of Divinity which is the peculiar glory of most of Christ’s miracles. They do not disturb, but restore the true order of nature. In these we see the victims of disorder emancipated, and disorderly forces remedied. They show the Son of God engaged in a conflict with physical as well as moral disorder, and exhibit on a small scale what the cross exhibits on a large.
2. Christ’s treatment of His mother seems contrary to the tender spirit we should have expected.
3. The other miracles recorded by John were in connection with discourses to which they led and revealed the inner glory of His grace and troth. But the fact that it was wrought in connection with a domestic scene will help us to clear up these difficulties. It was fitting
(1) That He should here break away from His mere earthly relationship to mother and home.
(2) That He should here inaugurate that ministry which differed from His wilderness experience and the habits of the Baptist. His object was to hallow the legitimate enjoyments of life, and conquer the world, not turn His back upon it.
4. The particular form of the miracle illustrates
(1) The enriching power of Christ, His power to improve and perfect the sources of human gratification. Though not repeated in form, the miracle is constantly repeated in spirit in the greater sweetness of the poor man’s morsel and the poor man’s life when flavoured with God’s blessing.
(2) The generosity of Christ who giveth liberally and upbraideth not: afterwards shown in the miracle of the loaves and fishes, and foreshadowed in prophecy (Isaiah 4:1).
5. It is in thorough harmony with the Johannine miracles. Of the eight, three bear on the elements of bodily nourishment, and spiritually on the nourishment of the soul. It is also in harmony with Christ’s teaching in John: the parable of the living bread and of the vine: the vision of heavenly refreshment through Christ in the Apocalypse. (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
The miracle at Cana
I. THE PLACE WHICH THIS MIRACLE HOLDS AMONG THE MIRACLES OF CHRIST. The first.
1. As indicative of the general character of those which followed. The product of Christ’s omnipotence and good will.
2. As the beginning of those wonders which had as their object to manifest forth Christ’s glory.
II. THE CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH THE MIRACLE WAS WROUGHT.
1. The failure of the wine perhaps through the unexpected advent of Jesus and His disciples.
2. Mary’s appeal based upon her anxiety for the credit of the entertainers and comfort of the guests.
3. Mary’s faith in Jesus not merely as her Son, but as the Son of God.
4. Mary’s modesty and humility: she demands nothing, and prescribes nothing.
5. The displeasure of Jesus tenderly teaching Mary
(1) That her relationship was no ground on which she might make application, and that her former claims on this ground had passed away.
(2) That in all matters connected with His great work she was no more to Him than other believers.
(3) That as He was David’s Lord so was He hers.
(4) That what He was about to do was not to be done for the reason for which she desired it.
6. Christ’s announcement of His hour: His, not Mary’s; the time of the total failure of the wine.
III. THE MIRACLE ITSELF.
1. Expected by Mary.
2. The preparation and co-operation of the servants.
3. The arrival of the hour.
4. The drawing forth of the water made wine.
5. The surprise of the governor.
IV. THE THINGS IN WHICH WE ARE INSTRUCTED BY THE MIRACLE.
1. The anticipation of ecclesiastical corruptions.
(1) The Roman depreciation of marriage..
(2) The Romish distinction of meats; that a man is holier for what he eats or from what he abstains.
2. The duty of temperance and self-denial amidst the profusion of temporal mercy. The great abundance tested self-restraint. The same principle applies to all enjoyments--dress, furniture, reading.
3. The superior excellency of the Gospel’s dispensation.
(1) As contrasted with Moses’ first miracle turning water into blood.
(2) The kingdom of god is not meat and drink.
4. The sanctifying influence of Christ’s presence. (A. Beith, D. D.)
The miracle at Cana
I. THAT RELIGION ENLARGES THE PLEASURES OF SOCIAL LIFE. Christ’s presence did not interfere with the ordinary proceedings. There was no look on His face that chilled the company. He made no protest against the glad music of the nuptial chant. No one expressed the wish that Jesus had stayed at home. The wedding feast would have been a wretched failure had He stayed away. And religion is misunderstood if it is supposed to lessen the happiness of life. A good deal of worldly pleasure is feverish, delirium which religion condemns, but it rules out no innocent pleasure. It commands men to rejoice always. What untold miseries it has swept away. There is more happiness in the Christian cottage than there was in Caesar’s Palace.
II. THAT SOCIAL LIFE IS THE MOST PROMISING SPHERE FOR RELIGIOUS USEFULNESS. Christ did not feel out of place here, although a careless observer might think it better for Him to be in the Temple teaching. He was here because of His perfect sympathy and to do good. Social life furnishes the Christian with his great opportunities, Faithfulness in religious exercise not the whole of duty. The Christian in society is the foremost preacher. He is there to bear witness to the sympathy of religion with everything that is wholesome, and to protest against everything that is pernicious. (Sermons by the Monday Club.)
The relaxation of Jesus Christ
I. Our Lord had passed through the conflict of the wilderness and the initial stages of His work as the caller of men, and had, moreover, come off a long journey. He therefore NEEDED RELAXATION and found it at a wedding feast, and in the company of his friends. Showing us that no man can or ought to be incessantly engaged in strife or labour. If he does he will prematurely wear out or break down. Time for rest and unbending is urgently required after any severe strain to body or mind.
II. The previous work and conflict was PROFOUNDLY RELIGIOUS; So was the relaxation. The danger in our relaxations is to accumulate other burdens by forgetfulness of self or God. “Whether therefore ye eat or drink do all to the glory of God.”
III. CHRIST UTILIZED THE HOURS AND MEANS OF RELAXATION FOR DISTINCTLY RELIGIOUS ENDS. His aim is ever to leaven society religiously.
1. By the manifestation of His glory, so that
2. His disciples may believe on Him.
IV. CHRIST EMPLOYED IN HIS RELAXATION THOSE INFINITE RESOURCES OF HIS FOR THE GOOD OF OTHERS, which even in the wilderness He could not be induced to exert on His own behalf. He declared to Nicodemus that He could do exceeding abundantly above all he could ask or think; here He fulfilled the declaration. (J. W. Burn.)
Christ at a feast
I. HOW HONOURABLE IN THE SIGHT OF CHRIST IS THE ESTATE OF MATRIMONY.
1. Society is never in a healthy condition, and true religion never flourishes where marriage is lightly esteemed.
2. Christ’s blessing and presence are essential to a happy wedding.
II. THERE ARE TIMES WHEN IT IS LAWFUL TO BE MERRY AND REJOICE.
1. True religion was never meant to make men melancholy, but the contrary. The Christian has no place at races, balls, theatres, etc., but he has no right to hand over to the devil innocent recreations.
2. It is not easy to hit the mean between the lawful and the unlawful. But the golden rule is Luke 2:49.
3. While we should take our gladness into religion we should take our religion into the world.
III. THE ALMIGHTY POWER OF JESUS CHRIST.
1. An act of will without any visible means.
2. The same power is at the disposal of His people. (Bp. Ryle.)
The wedding feast
I. ATTENDED BY CHRIST’S FRIENDS; those connected through blood and by grace. Marriage though not a Christian sacrament is a religious ordinance Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5; Mark 10:7; Ephesians 5:31); honourable in all (Hebrews 13:5), and when the parties are well matched by affection and religion, a matter for hearty congratulation. Ordained for the happiness of the individual and the development of the race, it is calculated, when undertaken “solemnly, advisedly, and in the fear of God,” to promote the welfare of husband and wife, and to secure a home for godly upbringing of children (Malachi 2:15).
II. GRACED BY CHRIST’S PRESENCE. The first wedding on earth attended by God (Genesis 2:25). Not strange, therefore, that Christ should have set a mark of honour on His Father’s institution; while it was peculiarly appropriate that He should inaugurate His mission by placing His hand on the springs of humanity, lifting up this holy ordinance which perhaps had suffered more than any other by the fall and restoring it to its pristine dignity and beauty. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
The wedding feast
I. CHRIST’S MINISTRY OPENS ON A SCENE OF HUMAN HAPPINESS
1. God Himself is essential happiness and would have us happy.
2. We are disposed to make God the sharer of our sorrows; He here teaches us to make Him the partner of our joys.
II. CHRIST’S FIRST APPEARANCE TO THE WORLD WAS AT A WEDDING. A standing protest against the tendency to make it a virtue to abstain from marriage. This tendency was denounced by Paul as one of the most pernicious doctrines of false teachers.
III. OUR LORD’S FIRST MIRACLE WAS WROUGHT IN CONNECTION WITH AN EVENT, THE BRIGHTEST AND MOST INNOCENT IN HUMAN LIFE. It was not to the sinful outcasts of society that He gave His first and special manifestation of Himself, but to those who were keeping His laws and exercising aright the natural affections He had given them. Heaven always comes nearest to the purest home. The gospel prefers to receive men at their best, not at their worst, and to gather into its treasury of grace, not the wrecks of human life, but the rich spoils of its youth and strength.
IV. THE MIRACLE TOOK PLACE AT THE VILLAGE OF THE ISRAELITE, INDEED IN WHOM THERE WAS NO GUILE. This disciple had the blessedness of the pure in heart who see God. He who manifested Himself to the sleeping patriarch in a dream at the top of the ladder, revealed Himself to Nathanael in waking reality at the foot, as a servant ministering to the necessities of others, and enriching the enjoyments of human life by His blessing. He who appeared to Jacob in a fleeting vision for the purpose of establishing a covenant relationship with a particular family and nation, has opened up by His Incarnation a free intercourse between God and man. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
I. WHAT THEY ARE BY NATURE.
II. WHAT THEY BECOME BY SIN.
III. WHAT THEY AGAIN BECOME ONLY BY THE GRACE OF CHRIST. (J. P.Lange, D. D.)
Marks of the grace of Christ
I. THAT CHRIST GIVES US THE MOST PRECIOUS FOR NOTHING.
II. MAKES A GLORIOUS THING OUT OF COMMON.
III. GIVES THE BEST LAST.
IV. GIVES ACCORDING TO HIS OWN TIME, NOT ACCORDING TO OUR IDEAS. (Harless.)
The water, the wine, and the wedding
I. THE PATHETIC VALUE THERE IS IN THE SIMPLEST FORMS OF HUMAN LIFE. A little village mentioned four times in the Bible, and then only by one writer, now extinct, and yet having a sweet, bright fame throughout Christendom, so that Pilgrims go to look up its ruins. A common wedding has made it immortal, while the names of great cities have perished.
1. A most significant sanction of the marriage relation. The New Testament scheme of faith and practice was inaugurated in direct sympathy with human hearts and established in the centre of the family institutions.
II. JESUS OUR LORD IS NO RESPECTER OF PERSONS, or if of any of the poor. Jesus is present at every true marriage.
III. JESUS NEVER SET HIS MOTHER UP TO BE A MADONNA. He deeply respected her, but did not allow her to dictate to Him. In “Woman” there is no reproach. It is the same word as that addressed to her on the cross. But in “What is there now which is common to you and me,” He intends to suggest His independence.
IV. A NOBLE MOTTO FOR EVERY SINCERE CHRISTIAN (John 2:5). Mary was neither humbled nor discouraged.
V. THE SOVEREIGNTY OF THE SON OF GOD OVER NATURE. Three characteristics of this miracle: its mystery, its magnitude, its morality. (C. S.Robinson, D. D.)
Christ and society
Christ here at the outset exemplifies one great rule of His self-manifestation, “The Son of man came eating and drinking,” regardless if cavillers say, “Behold a man gluttenous and a wine bibber.” His very miracle was a multiplication of the materials of feasting, acting Himself on what afterwards became the law of the gospel. “Use hospitality one to another without judging,” etc. Christ came not to take a few out of the world, but to transform the world itself; and presented Himself at a marriage feast to redeem things “which should be for our health” from being turned, through godless abuse into “occasions of falling.”
I. Observe how RELIGION BEFORE AND WITHOUT CHRIST HAS DEALT WITH SOCIETY. Its effort and prayer has been to be “taken out” of it to save itself, But this instinct, right in itself, has been shown in ways suicidal. Selfishness bad in nature, is worse in religion. Christ’s Epiphany to society was an original idea among the religious. The dream of every religion but the Christian was celebrate monasticism. Even Christianity has relapsed into it literally, and also morally in the selfishness which marks out certain persons, phrases, recreations as signs of a world lying in wickedness. Far less difficult would Christian duty be if we might quit the world and have done with it, but we cannot and dare not. This parable of our Master’s life shows us this.
II. How CHRIST DEALS WITH SOCIETY. He finds in the world homes beautiful with natural affection, and tables spread with God’s bounties. Into this, with the treacherous ashes above and the latent fires below, Christ comes and says, “Use this world as not abusing it,” and by His presence helps us to obey His precept. Realize, then, this sanctifying presence in business, e.g., or pleasure, and we shall realize that which will quicken both with Divine life. We shall then be there to exert the same helpfulness to others through Christ, as Christ exerted at this feast.
1. Jesus was there with His disciples, not a solitary Messiah.
2. Let the disciples now take the Master with them. For some, alas I this would be irksome, and so they either go without Christ, or else stay away. The former is sinful, the latter faithless. (Dean Vaughan.)
Some people think that the age of miracles has passed; everybody knows that that of marriages has not.
I. JESUS NOT ONLY TOLERATES THE SOCIAL USAGES OF LIFE--its festivities among the rest--BUT ENCOURAGES AND SANCTIFIES THEM. Some gloomy people frown upon the common signs of cheerfulness, but for this habit we have here the eternal antidote.
II. WE NEED CHRIST AT SEASONS OF SOCIAL FESTIVITY AS MUCH, OR EVEN MORE, THAN AT OTHER TIMES. Pure religion is never unseasonable. If we think we give our worship to God, and stop the devil’s mouth by an occasional indulgence, the devil will soon get our worship too. There is no more fatal mistake than to think that if we pay our dues in the House of God, we may please ourselves in the house of man. Jesus should be always bidden at our seasons of joy; for be sure that if we do not send Him our invitation, the devil will come without one.
III. THERE IS AN EXQUISITE TENDERNESS IN OUR LORD’S BINDING HIS DISCIPLES TO HIM at this marriage feast. He does not speak to them of the cross as yet. He speaks as they are able to bear it. Coming after His long fast in the wilderness, He breathes no asceticism. He who had been so hardly pressed for bread, turns water into wine. He will train us as we need to be trained.
IV. IF CHRIST IS SHUT OUT FROM THE HOUSE OF FEASTING, WE MUST NOT
WONDER AT HIS ABSENCE FROM THE HOUSE OF MOURNING.
(Harry Jones, M. A.)
The ministry began at a marriage festival which ended on Calvary, and its glory was manifested by both.
I. THE FUNDAMENTAL, ORIGINAL, AND ULTIMATE CONDITION OF LIFE IS BLESSING. Life begins in Eden, passes by Gethsemane and Calvary, and ends in heaven. It is God’s will that man should be everywhere and always blessed. Misery lies not in God’s making, but in the devil’s marring.
II. OUR LORD SOUGHT TO SEVER HIMSELF AT ONCE AND ABSOLUTELY FROM THE ASCETIC SPIRIT. He came to add to the mirth of all feasts, the brightness of all homes, the gladness of all songs. He was absolutely free from the monkish idolatry of sorrow. He simply went about His Father’s work in whatever direction it might be.
III. CHRIST REVERSED THE DEVIL’S UNIFORM METHOD AT FESTIVALS. Did ever any one get the best of the world’s wine, or the devil’s, at the end of the banquet? But whatever He gives has an infinite store behind it. Hence we are saved by hope. The pain and toil are for the moment, the joy grows into eternity
IV. CHRIST SHOWED THE TRUE SPIRIT OF SELF-SACRIFICE. The joy sympathetic with the joy of the Lord. (J. Baldwin Brown, B. A.)
Lessons of the incident
1. Temperance amidst plenty.
2. The profusion of Divine gifts.
3. Christ’s presence changes the circumstances of His people.
4. Christ turns the lower into the higher; the common to the valuable.
5. Christ does not work till the necessity is felt.
6. Christ works according to His own will, without human interference. (Family Churchman.)
General analysis and illustrations of the Cana miracle
The company at this wedding may represent the Church of Christ, which is often represented as the guests called together to a marriage feast. Jesus, and His mother, and His disciples were there; thus it is in the Church. The former circumstances of the marriage, wherein they wanted wine, represent the state of the Church before Christ came; or rather, before the evangelical dispensation was established. The latter circumstances of the wedding, wherein they had plenty of wine, represent the latter state of the Church, after the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost, and especially after the fall of Antichrist. The wine represents the spiritual supplies of His Church, the grace and comforts of the Holy Spirit, which are often represented by wine in Scripture. Their wine ran low, and was just out; so formerly the Old Testament Church had a supply of wine; but when Christ came into the world it was just out--they had in a manner no wine. But when Christ came and ascended up to heaven, He soon gave His Church plenty of wine, and much better wine than ever the Jewish Church had enjoyed; as it is said, “Thou hast kept the good wine until now.” So again, before the glorious times of the Church commence, the Church’s wine runs very low, and is almost out; what they alloy with is water--human learning, sapless speculations and disputations, and dead morality. Formerly the Christian Church had wine, as in the times of the primitive Church, and in the times of the Reformation; but now their wine is almost gone. But after the beginning of these glorious times their water shall be turned into wine, and much better wine than ever they had before. The mother of Jesus may represent the more eminent ministers of the gospel, or the public eccleslastical authority, as exercised in synods, public schools, etc. They, in a dark and dead time of the Church, complain to Christ of their unsuecessfulness, of the want of wine in the Church, and look to Him for a supply. But they must not expect an answer till Christ’s time is come; their prayers are not answered till then, and then they shall be fully answered; their prayers are not rejected, they are offered up with incense. The cries of the souls under the altar, that cry, “How long, Lord, holy and true?” are not rejected; but yet it is said to them that they should wail till God’s time comes. The servants represent gospel ministers; they have a command from Jesus’ mother, i.e, from the Church in her public authority, to do whatsoever Jesus commands. Whence we may note, that the way to have a plentiful effusion of the Spirit with His Word and ordinances, is for ministers to be faithful in their work. They are to fill up the water-pots of purification with water; that is all they can do. They can, in the use of the ordinances of God’s house, and the appointed means of grace and purification, he instant in season and out of season; they can fill the water-pots up to the brim; they can be abundant in preaching the Word--which, as it comes from them, is only water--a dead letter, a sapless, tasteless, spiritless thing--but this is what Christ will bless for the supplying of His Church with wine. (Jonathan Edwards.)
The popularity of this Cana miracle
From a very early period the Church has recognized the importance and significance of the miracle. Of the fifty-two marble sarcophagi originally found in the catacombs of Rome, and now preserved in the Museum of St. John Lateran, no less than sixteen have carved upon them a rude representation of Jesus touching with a rod two, three, four, five, or six water-pots standing on the ground--the number varying according to the skill of the artist, or the space at his disposal. In the frescoes and mosaics of numerous churches and consecrated buildings, the incident has been depicted in a great variety of ways; and Tintoretto exhausted his genius, in giving expression to its wonderful beauty, in his great picture in the church of Santa Maria della Salute in Venice. With commentators in all ages, the miracle of Cana has been a favourite and fertile theme for exposition. No miracle will more thoroughly reward a careful study than that which meets the inquirer at the very threshold. It is the “gate beautiful” by which he enters the sacred temple of Divine truth. It is the illuminated initial which represents, in a pictorial form, the nature and design of the kingdom of heaven as revealed unto men. It is an acted parable of the whole gospel; a type and image of all the work of Jesus, opening up a vista of light far into the ways of God. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
Two places claim the distinction of being the Cana of the gospel--the one a ruined and deserted village, called Khurbet Cana, about half-a-day’s journey to the north-west of Nazareth; and the other, called Kerr Kenna, lying much nearer, on the present main road from that town to Tiberias and the lake district. The great weight of evidence derived from name, site, history, and present remains, is on the side of the latter place, which is still one of the most prosperous villages in Galilee. Like Nain, its situation is exceedingly picturesque. It is perched on the slope of a low hill, at the head of several valleys forming natural roadways leading down on the one side to the sea-coast, and on the other to the Lake of Galilee. In front is a rich bottom, which becomes a lake or a swamp in the rainy season. In this respect Cans resembles the villages of Italy, which are nearly all built upon isolated heights, rising up from extensive marshy plains, not only for the sake of security, but also for the purer air and wider outlook. Its Greek name, which has no Hebrew, Chaldee, or Aramaic form, means a reed; and was doubtless derived from the reeds which still grow in abundance in the marshy plain below, and utter their mournful wail as the winds pass through them. Several well-known places are similarly named for the same reason, as Cannae, Canneto, Cannossa, and Cannes. The houses of the modern village are embosomed among orchards of pomegranate trees, whose dark-green foliage and scarlet blossoms form in April a scene of enchantment. The fig-tree still casts its grateful shadow over the white roadway, and at the foot of the hill there is a deep, cool well, the only one in the neighbourhood, from which the water used at the marriage feast must have been drawn. Remains of ancient edifices testify to the hoary antiquity of the site and its former importance. The foundations of an early church and monastery, erected by Syrian Christians in commemoration of the marriage feast, may still be traced. The buildings were entire long before the Moselm power was established in Galilee; and various pilgrims from the West visited them from time to time during a period of nine hundred years. Our own English St. Willibald, who was a palmer in 722, stayed one day in Cans, and prayed in the church; and, four hundred years later, another English pilgrim, Saewulf, saw and reported regarding the convent, called after the ruler of the feast, “Holy Architriclinos,” the only building in Cans then that was not wholly destroyed. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
Eastern marriage customs
An Oriental wedding is very different from an Occidental one; and there is as much variety of usage in the accompaniments of this ceremony in the East as in the West. In all cases, however, the marriage ceremonies are among the most prominent ceremonies of private life, as much display being made as the circumstances of the contracting parties will allow. Among the wealthy inhabitants of towns, however, the ceremonies of marriage are both protracted and complicated. Six or seven days after the conclusion of the betrothal contract, the well-to-do bridegroom begins to illuminate the street in which he lives with swinging lamps and flying flags in token of the coming festivities. During the evenings of these days festivals are held at the bridegroom’s house. The chief entertainment is given by the bridegroom the evening before the marriage. On the day of the marriage the bride goes in procession to the bridegroom’s house, preceded by music, dancers, mountebanks, and walking beneath a canopy. The procession seeks a circuitous route, and takes several hours before it reaches the bridegroom’s house. Here the party is entertained with a repast. At sunset the bridegroom leaves the house, and goes in procession to a mosque to say the proper ceremonial prayers. Then the procession returns slowly, preceded by music and lanterns. When the procession reaches the house, pipes, coffee, and sherbert (sweetened water, for the Mohammedans do not drink wine) are set before the company. The bridegroom then visits his bride, whose face he now sees for the first time. Upon his announcement that he is satisfied with his bride, the women without raise the zaghareet, or shrill cries of joy, which announce the happy event to the whole neighbourhood. The bridegroom then returns, for a little while, to his friends who are feasting below, to receive their felicitations on the completion of the marriage. (S. S. Times.)
Marriage happy where Christ is acknowledged
When Philip Henry was settled at Worthenburv, he sought the hand of the only daughter and heiress of Mr. Matthews, of Broad Oak. The father demurred, saying that, though Mr. Henry was an excellent preacher and a gentleman, yet he did not know from whence he came. “True,” said the daughter; “but I know where he is going, and I should like to go with him.” Mr. Henry records in his diary long after the happiness of the union, which was soon after consummated: “April 26th, 1680. This day we have been married twenty years, in which time we have received of the Lord twenty thousand mercies--to God be glory!” Sometimes he writes, “We have been so longmarried, and never reconciled, i.e, there never was any occasion for it.” His advice to his children with respect to their marriage was, “Please God, and please yourselves, and you will please me”; and his usual compliment to his newly-married friends, “Others wish you all happiness. I wish you all holiness, and then there is no doubt but you will have all happiness.” (Life of Philip Henry.)
The blessing of marriage
That is the great blessing of marriage, that it delivers us from the tyranny of Meum and Tuum. Converting each into the other, it endears them both, and turns a slavish, deadening drudgery, into a free and joyous service. And by bringing home to every one’s heart that he is something better than a mere self, that he is the part of a higher and more precious whole, it becomes a type of the union between the Church and her Lord. (J G. Hare)
Religion for joy as well as for sorrow
Religion is just as necessary for prosperity as for adversity. There is no happiness so happy but His presence can make it happier; and they who seek to have Him at their bridals can count more confidently on Him in their sufferings and at their death-beds. (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
The miracles of nature and the miracles of Christ
He that made wine on that day at the marriage feast in those six water-pots, which He commanded to be filled with water, the same does every year the like in vines. For as what the servants put into the water-pots was changed into wine by the operation of the Lord, just so what the clouds pour forth is changed into wine by the operation of the same Lord. But at the latter we do not marvel, because it happens every year; by constant use it hath lost its wonder. And yet it suggests a greater consideration. But since men, intent on a different matter, have lost the consideration of the works of God by which they should daily praise Him as the Creator, God has reserved to Himself the doing of certain extraordinary actions, that, by striking them with wonder, He might rouse men as from sleep to worship Him. A dead man rises again; men marvel: so many are born daily, and none marvel. If we reflect more considerately, it is a matter of greater wonder for one to be who was not before, than for one who was to come to life again. (Augustine.)
The transformation of the mean
He made wine of water; not wine without water. It is not the nature of His work to make a new order of creatures for saints, or a new order of faculties for religion, or a new planet for that future world wherein dwelleth righteousness; but it is His office to take the common man as he is, and the heavens and earth which now are, and by a new and supernatural putting forth of power upon them, to evolve from the one a pure, holy, and royal being, and for the other a fitting home and dominion for him for ever. Precious as are those living jewels of His which the Saviour eventually gathers into the glorious cabinet of the world to come, they are in their origin mere men and women, of like passions with ourselves--ordinary humanity ennobled and transformed by supernatural grace into eternal kings and priests. Christianity, in its highest achievements and results, is simply the miraculous power of Jesus made effective in and upon the common elements of nature--the gladdening transfiguration of the common into the noble, the sinful into the holy, the earthly into the heavenly. (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
When they wanted wine
The wine supplied was m ACCORDANCE WITH THE CUSTOM OF THE COUNTRY. The produce probably of their own industry in the vineyards around. Wine in Bible lands was not an occasional luxury as with us, but a part of the daily food of the people. A simple, natural beverage, very different to the branded wines of this country, but intoxicating, nevertheless. Such wine was among the first oblations to the Divinity Genesis 14:18). Wine and bread, in conformity with this principle, are the essential elements of the Holy Supper, because they are the essential elements in the support of life in the East.
II. THERE IS A NATURAL HARMONY BETWEEN THE FRUIT OF THE VINE AND THE BRIDAL FESTIVITY. The richest juices of the vine plant are prepared and stored up in those parts which are specially associated with the propagation of the species. For aught we know, the reproduction of the vine might be accomplished without the exquisite goblets of the grape cluster; and so the marriage rite can take place without any festivity. But God loves not a mere utilitarianism; and it is as natural that wine should form part of the festivities of marriage as that beauty and gladness should crown the accomplishment of the common purposes of the world.
III. Understanding the importance attached to wine on such an occasion, we can realize THE CALAMITY OF ITS FAILURE. “Without wine there is no joy,” a common Jewish saying. It may have been caused by the poverty of the host, or through the unexpected arrival of Jesus and His disciples. Anyhow it was an intense mortification. Why? Because we all desire to appear prosperous. Poverty is hard to bear; but its disclosure is a thousand times worse. Not because poverty is a disgrace; but because man was made for happiness, and without it he feels that he has fallen from his natural place. This is owing to sin. There was no scarcity in Eden.
IV. Viewed in this light, it is a most striking coincidence that OUR LORD’S FIRST MIRACLE SHOULD BE WROUGHT TO RELIEVE WANT. The kingdom of heaven meets humanity where the law has left it stripped and destitute.
V. This failure teaches us THE FAILURE OF THE WORLD’S JOY. It was the highest and happiest occasion on which want intruded itself. What a testimony to the insufficiency of even the richest feast of worldly attainment or experience. Marriage, the crowning bliss of life, with all its dear ties and affections, comes to a close.
VI. JESUS COMES TO US AT EVERY CRISIS OF WANT, and provides for us what we ourselves cannot supply. Christ, received as guest, becomes host, and out of His fulness supplies all our need. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
What kind of wine was it?
The miracle took place a few days before the Passover, and this festival usually fell on the 30th of March. The wine that was drunk at the feast must therefore have been kept for six or seven months from the previous vintage. It must, in consequence, have undergone the process of fermentation, for, without this, no organic juice could have been preserved for such a length of time. Fermentation is a natural process, which takes place in all watery solutions of vegetable substances containing saccharine matters; and depends entirely upon the growth of a microscopic fungus called the yeast-plant, which develops with extreme rapidity into myriads of minute ceils or vesicles, and while doing so resolves the sugar in solution into alcohol and carbonic acid gas. The spores, or seeds, of this fungus exist in enormous quantities everywhere; and no vegetable juice can be exposed to the air for however short a time without receiving some of them; and if the temperature and other conditions be suitable, they begin at once to grow and multiply, thereby producing fermentation and liberating alcohol. Even in ripe grapes, while they are hanging on the vine, this yeast-fungus is often developed, causing vinous fermentation. It is impossible, therefore, to produce an infusion of grapes from which these ubiquitous germs are absent--unless the juice is boiled and the vessel hermetically sealed; and even then, so tenacious are they of life, we cannot be sure that we have got rid of them, as Pasteur’s recent researches abundantly testify. And wherever these germs are present, the process of fermentation begins, and is carried on with greater or less rapidity according to the temperature. In a warm climate it goes on with extraordinary vigour. There is no such thing, therefore, as unfermented wine. The juice of the grape when immediately squeezed out may be so called; but if it is kept for a few days under ordinary conditions it inevitably undergoes the vinous fermentation. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
God honours our leaning upon Him
A circumstance happened to me yesterday. I cannot help telling it to you. I received a note from one of the trustees of the Orphanage to say that the running account was so low that, when the cheques were paid on Friday morning, we should have overdrawn our banking account. I did not like that state of things; but I did not fret about it. I breathed a prayer to God that He would send money to put into the bank to keep the account right. Last night, at nearly ten o’clock, I opened a letter that came from Belfast, and it had in it a cheque for £200, being the amount left as a legacy. I wrote across my acknowledgment, “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together!” That amount put the account square for the time being; and although the Orphanage has no ready money to go on with, still that does not matter, God will send more means during the week, and at all other times when the expenditure calls for it. At the moment when I opened the letter, and found the £200, I felt as if my hair stood on end, because of the conscious nearness of the Lord my God. My brother, Hugh Hanna, when he sent that cheque, and sent it on that particular day, did not know that it would coma just when I was praying to God for help in a time of trouble; yet it came exactly when it was sought for. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Trouble carried to Christ
“What do you do without a mother to tell all your troubles to?” asked a child who had a mother of one who had none. “Mother told me whom to go to before she died,” answered the little orphan. “I go to the Lord Jesus; He was mother’s friend, and He’s mine.” “Jesus Christ is in the sky; He is a way off, and He has a great many things to attend to in heaven, it is not likely He can stop to mind you.” “I do not know anything about that,” said the orphan; “all I know, He says He will; and that’s enough for me.”
The mother of Jesus saith unto Him they have no wine
THE MIRACLE WAS WROUGHT AT THE SUGGESTION OF A MOTHER, and was the result of the promptings of human affection. The first influence that reaches the senses of a child is from the mother; and whatever miracles of blessing have been done in the world may be traced to her. “She who rocks the cradle sways the world.” Jesus was like all human beings in this respect. And now He has entered on His life’s work, it is fitting that He should receive the first call to the exercise of His power from His mother.
II. THE IMPORT OF THE WORDS OF MARY. Some regard them as a passing remark; others as a delicate hint that they should retire. These explanations inadequate. Mary expected some unusual manifestations of Christ’s power, and drew attention to the want of wine to excite His sympathy and help. She knew that there were no ordinary means of procuring wine, and that a crisis had happened in His life which was in keeping with what she knew about Him. Now, therefore, was the time to show to the world who He was. But mingled with this there were selfish elements: personal pride in the expectation of His achievements, and anxiety to keep her old motherly influence over Him.
III. JESUS’ REPLY. Just as He assured her in the Temple that He must be about His Father’s business, so now He told her that a higher motive than a mother’s authority must regulate the manifestation of His glory. The blessings of heaven are bestowed, not according to a capricious favouritism, but according to a fixed principle of Divine government. At first sight the reply seems repellent; but
1. In those days “woman” was a title of respect. When the true dignity of woman is recognized, that is the best name by which she can be known. Emperors have called their queens by this name, and Jesus used it in His tenderest message on the cross.
2. Christ avoided calling Mary His mother for the same reason that He refused to acknowledge David as His Father. Henceforth He was not to be known as her Son, but as the Son of the Eternal Father.
3. “What have I to do with thee,” a common phrase indicating the conclusion of all debate. It has no severity in it, and may have been uttered in a tone and with a gesture that could not be reported. Anyhow, Mary’s feelings were not hurt, as is seen from her expectant words to the servants.
IV. THE SON HAD NOW BECOME LORD EVEN OF HIS OWN MOTHER, and her happiness could only be secured by obedience to Him. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
The anxious mother
I. THE SOLICITUDE SHE FELT. While it becomes the friends of Jesus to be careful for nothing (Philippians 4:6; Matthew 6:31; Luke 10:41), Mary’s distress was
1. Natural, seeing that the wine failed through the arrival of her Son and His companions.
2. Beautiful, inasmuch as it was sympathy with others.
3. Permissible, because a habit enjoined by Christ (Mark 12:31; Luke 10:36; Luke 10:36; John 15:17; Romans 12:10; Philippians 2:4).
III. THE REQUEST SHE MADE. That Christ should establish His Messiahship by miracle.
1. In turning to Christ in her emergency, Mary acted with propriety, teaching us where to go with our troubles as they arise (Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 5:7).
2. In prescribing to Christ the manner of His help, her example must be eschewed; Christ then, as now, regulating all His movements by the will of the Father (Ephesians 1:11).
3. In failing to grasp the character of Christ’s mission, she represents the dulness of the natural heart (1 Corinthians 2:14).
III. THE REPROOF SHE RECEIVED.
1. Inconceivable that there was any contempt in it (1 John 3:5; 1 Peter 2:22). In this let Christ be our exemplar (Ephesians 6:2).
2. A respectful reminder that henceforth He had passed beyond His earthly home, and had entered upon engagements in which the will of God was supreme (John 4:34; John 6:38).
(1) Whom Christ loves He reproves when they go astray (Heb Revelation 3:19).
(2) There are higher obligations than those due to parents (Acts 4:19).
(3) In all matters connected with religion and conscience (James 4:12),
IV. THE COMFORT SHE OBTAINED. Repelling the suggestion of a public demonstration, He intimated by some explained sign that His assistance would not be wanting. So it is ever His custom to mingle mercy with judgment (Psalms 101:1).
V. THE TRUST SHE DISPLAYED. With quiet confidence she directed the servants to hold themselves in readiness to execute any instructions He might give, symbolizing the faith which is ready to interpret and cling to Christ’s hints of favour, whether found in His Word or Providence. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
Mine hour is not yet come
I. CHRIST’S HOUR WAS THE TIME FIXED BY THE FATHER. No outward event or motive could decide when it was right for Him to do a mighty work. He waited obscure and inactive for thirty years, until the hour appointed had come for beginning His public ministry; and when He entered on its career, all its incidents were regulated by the Father’s predetermined purpose.
II. THE ULTIMATE REFERENCE IS TO THAT POINT OF HIS LIFE MOST DECISIVE OF ALL, THE HOUR OF HIS GLORIFICATION. But the way lay through the valley of the shadow of death. The hour when He was glorified was the hour when His work was finished. Jesus, therefore, connected the hour of His greatest triumph with the hour of His greatest defeat: and everything that promoted His glory made sure His death. The converse on the Transfiguration Mount was about His decease (see also John 12:23-29). All this was realized here in anticipation. He saw the inevitable connection between the miracle and His hour of doom. We need not wonder, therefore, that He should hesitate before performing an act involving such tremendous issues. His mother knew nothing of all this, and His gentle words of rebuke struck a note which He meant to vibrate in her heart like the memorable word of Simeon in the Temple. It is striking that we hear no more of Mary in St. John until she stands beside the cross.
III. This foreshadowing of the cross by the first manifestation of Christ’s glory is TYPICAL OF A COMMON HUMAN EXPERIENCE. The marriage indicated the commencement of the most serious part in the drama of life, in which self-sacrifice is continually necessary. Marriage is nature’s preparation for death. Death empties the world and marriage is ordained to replenish it. The happiest hour of life is thus intimately connected with the saddest. And so with all the glories of man. Triumph and success come late in life and are associated with ebbing strength and failing desire, which rob them of nearly all their pleasure.
IV. WITH PURIFIED FAITH AND SPIRITUAL INSIGHT MARY ENTERED INTO HER SON’S DESIGN. Her command to the servants proves the greatness of her faith. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
The supreme hour
(cf. John 17:1):--
I. A DESTINY FORESEEN. It has been maintained that there is a fixed plan and destiny for each life. What then about the multitude of wicked and suffering lives? And yet it is impossible that God should not have some plan and purpose for all: for Divine Providence is the care for the whole and for each part. Otherwise chance and accident would be governors of the world. To get out of this order and follow our own blind wills, however, is possible. We are ever treated as creatures to whom choice is offered. God will not compel us; but He will guide our lives if we will trust Him. But we can choose to stand in antagonism to His purposes. All sin does this. Yet there is a Sovereignty which is able to see all contingencies and provide for every catastrophe. Therefore there is a work for each to do and a time to do it in. We come into life for a purpose. What that is seems hidden. We learn by experience. Christ’s mission, of course, was of transcendant importance; but He comes possessed of a conviction that He is sent to do a special work in a special hour. This is constantly on His lips. There was to be nothing accidental. He completely foresaw and foretold His destiny, What that was stands out clear in its own light--death for our salvation. Take that away and what is left? Like music without the leading part, the air, there may be harmony, but there is no meaning. So as Christ knows it is coming He prepares Himself and His disciples for it. And when it comes He cries “It is finished.”
II. A FORESEEN DESTINY TRIUMPHING OVER ALL OBSTACLES. What wonderful preservations there were which prevented any failure. The thought of Christ’s possible failure is overwhelmingly terrible. Yet He was tried in every possible way. The devil tried Him by his temptations; His friends by their endeavours to seize Him as a madman; the Pharisees by their invitations; the people by their attempt to crown Him; His townsmen by their attempt to assassinate Him. Twice the reason is said to be “because His hour was not yet come.” The hour came, not a moment too soon or too late, but at the appointed time. Conclusion:
1. A word of comfort to His servants in times of anxiety about their lives and work. If we have surrendered ourselves to God let us accept curler and place without fear.
2. A word of encouragement to workers whose results seem so meagre. Be still, live on, every pulse beat brings the hour of glory nearer.
3. Let no man fear premature death, “A man is immortal till his work is done.” (W. Braden.)
I. THE HOUR THAT STRIKES WHEN GOD CALLS TO HIGHER DUTY, better thoughts, purer purposes, more unworldly aims than are common in this lower life. Neglect that and you have lost a great possession. You may succeed elsewhere, but you have suffered the supreme loss. You are not watching for it: it may come and go and leave you a wreck.
II. THE HOUR CALLS IN SPECIAL MOMENTS OF TEMPTATION. Every soul has in it its special strand of sin. We find it out by contemplating what is hardest for us to give up, what we most like, what we least like to do. The call comes and our hour approaches.
III. Then there is THE LAST HOUR WHICH BELONGS TO US ALL, about which it is impossible to speak since none of us have died. But it is coming quickly. Prepare for it. (Canon Knox-Little.)
I. NO HOUR IS UNIMPORTANT. It may seem to be, and be treated as trivial. But an architect will tell you that every stone in a building is necessary for the strength and symmetry of the whole. So with life. Its hours are of untold value in relation to each other and the great whole.
II. ANY HOUR MAY BE TO US THE MOST MOMENTOUS HOUR OF ALL. There may come quite unexpectedly some solemn event which rosy change the whole purpose and current of our life. A letter, a friend, a call, a casual visit to a stranger’s house, may result in beginning a business or finding a wife. This may not be the supreme hour, but it assuredly leads to it. It is one link in the chain of hours; take away that one and all the possibilities of the future are gone. The present hour contains the germ of our destiny.
III. TO EVERY LIFE SOME GREAT AND SOLEMN PERIOD COMES, a decisive period, a turning point, one which condenses in itself all others, and for which all others have prepared--just as the hundred years of patient culture have prepared the aloe for the single year in which it flowers. It may come in youth of middle age. Then what we are is proved and what we shall be decided. (W. Braden.)
Christ’s treatment of His mother
The phrase ἐμοὶ χαὶ σοί is a literal translation of the Hebrew ילךְמַה־לּי (Josiah 22:24; 2 Samuel 16:10; 1Ki 18:18; 2 Kings 3:13; Matthew 27:19; Matthew 27:19; Mark 1:24). It is also found in the classics. The radical idea appears to be: “What have we in common? Our relations are wholly different.” The formula there is used to express unwillingness to be disturbed or hindered by any one. It always implies reproof, although sometimes a friendly one merely (2 Samuel 16:10), here, “Mingle not thyself in my concerns; we pursue different aims and thou comprehendest me not.” If Christ, then, did not consider this as a suitable occasion for the performance of a miracle, why does He, nevertheless, follow His mother’s suggestion? Because it could not, on the other hand be regarded as an unsuitable one for it offered Him an occasion for proving His philanthropic disposition. As Messiah He uttered the reproof, as a son He complied with the request. The address γύναι is not disrespectful, but solemn, (cf. the address from the cross John 19:26). Augustus thus addresses Cleopatra: “Take courage, O woman, and keep a good heart.” That the look of Jesus expressed more than His words convey, may be gathered from the address of His mother to the servants. (A. Tholuck, D. D.)
The sense is what have I as God to do with thee a woman?. Dost thou suppose that the Divine power by which I work miracles can be set in motion by thee because thou art the mother of My humanity? Hence Christ who loved and revered His earthly mother (Luke 2:51; John 19:26) teaches us to begin with love and reverence to our Heavenly Father. “The hour of My weakness derived from thee has not yet come; but it will come, and when that hour of human infirmity arrives, and when that infirmity of which thou art the mother, hangs on the cross, then will I own thee.” John 19:26-27 is the best comment on this text. (Bp. Wordsworth.)
Mary catches at the little unobtrusive word, not yet, and with great penetration infers from it, then it will come! (Herberger.)
The reasonableness of this incident
If this miracle was one of the manifestations of Jesus as the Son of God, can anything be more natural or consistent than that it should be introduced by words which declare that He could not be in subjection to any earthly authority, while yet the act itself was an act of ministry to even the commonest necessities of the sons of Earth? Is not this apparent contradiction accomplishment of His work, the exhibition of Him in His complete character? He will not be the servant of His creatures, not even of His mother; He obeys the will which all are created to obey. He will be the servant of His creatures. He is come into the world for that end. He is doing the will of His Father when He is stooping to the lowest of all. (F. D. Maurice, M. A.)
Jesus Christ Himself is the expression of the fatherly and motherly nature in God. But this great truth was lost sight of in the dark ages; and the strange idea arose that even Christ Himself was what God was formerly conceived to be--a stern and angry judge, needing intercession and appeased with difficulty. The manhood in Him, from its very sinlessness, was supposed to be implacable; and therefore the pitying, compassionate womanhood was personified by His mother, who acted the part of intercessor between Him and a guilty world. She was a human being, having all a human being’s experience of sin, its temptations, trials, and sorrows; having the consciousness of weakness in herself, teaching her how hard it is not to sin, which would necessarily make her compassionate towards others. We all know how, step by step, she has been raised from that position of participation in human sin and sorrow to an exemption from it. We can trace this gradual ascent in the pictures of her which represent her first as alone; then with the infant Saviour in her arms; then with Christ crowning her; then kneeling before Him; then sitting a little lower; then on a level with Him. And now there is a tendency to place her above Him; for there are more churches dedicated to her than to Him. In Rome God the Father is almost unknown, and God the Son has ceased to be an object of adoration. The Father is pictorially represented as an old man, and the Saviour as a little child; arid both are made subservient to the Virgin. But there is a Nemesis in this last monstrous development. By the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, thus paying Divine honours to her, she is removed further from the sympathies of men, and the attraction of her intercession will ultimately be weakened. What made her worship so alluring was the mistaken idea that just because she was a tender human being--a loving, sainted mother--having the knowledge of sin, she would be less severe towards the frailties of men. But this charm she will lose by her deification. She will come to be regarded as a stern and implacable judge, having no sympathy with men, because she is herself withdrawn from the possibilities of their frailties; and the confiding trustfulness with which prayers are now offered to her will cease to be felt. Indeed, the change has already taken place, and the supposed mother of the Virgin, called St. Anne, is now invoked to entreat her daughter to ask her Son to be propitious to the suppliant. Where is to be the end of such meditatorship? May not the Virgin’s grandmother be also brought in? And if the Virgin is to be regarded as conceived without sin, must not her mother also--and so on--back to Adam; and thus the doctrine of the Fall and of original sin be done away with altogether, and with it the standing-ground and necessity of the Church? How simple and satisfactory the truth itself which is thus so strangely perverted! (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
Whatsoever Be saith unto you, do it
Implicit obedience to Christ
That is a remarkable claim.
It is almost startling to be told that, without leaving room for our own opinion, whatever a certain voice says to us we are to do. That claim can be made for no created intelligence. But it can be made for Christ. And this is the language of one who, so far, knew Him best on earth. Never before, nor since, has mother been able to say of son that ‘tis well to do whatever he requires. Nor is our personal witness wanting; it is evident that the world’s miseries are due to disobedience to Him; and it acquires a more extraordinary significance when we remember that He hath something to say about everything we do or ought to do. He not only assumes to guide at crises, but at every step.
I. WHAT MUST PRECEDE THIS OBEDIENCE.
1. Subjection: Ye are not your own; He has a right to me by His redemption. I cannot take my own course or follow my own will without robbing Him.
2. A listening for His voice, a training our ear to recognize Him. For though He may have something to say, and indeed may say it, it does not follow that we hear. How can we hear whenever He speaks, how be sure that it is He? It is easy to follow caprice or self-will, and think we are following Him. Whatever He says is in harmony with this Divine Book; to knew what He says we must come here, and if coming here we sincerely say, “Speak Lord, for Thy servant heareth!” He will speak. But we cannot always retire to search the Book, nor even pause to consider what is right--how can He control us then? Obey; obey and you will come instinctivelyto know your Lord’s will, as (as one has said) “by copying perpetually a master painter’s works, we can at last recognize his touch unerringly.”
3. A determination to trust Him. For it demands courage to commit ourselves blindly to another. It were easy to do something that He tells us, but--“whatsoever” Ah! many a time He will say do this, go there, lay down that joy, take up that burden, when it will seem to be wrong; then it is when the text comes home to us, that we need courage to obey, and may fail through fear. Courage is wanted to take the first bold plunge into the sea, but when we find its sustaining power is trustworthy, we fear no more: so with the will of Christ. But how can we bring ourselves to that abandonment. Only by remembering that Christ cannot lead us wrong. Infinite wisdom! Infinite love!
II. WHAT THIS OBEDIENCE INVOLVES.
1. It is Contrary to questioning. We may not discover it at once; for gracious purpose He may keep us waiting, but ere the time for action comes He will reveal enough. Then questioning should end. He will not debate with us. It is not unlikely that He may call us to strange things--things as strange as when He called Abram, or Moses, or Jonah, or Peter. Now, when those strange commands come, which seem to involve so much risk, and which lead into the dark--then is the time to recall this word, and to act upon it.
2. It is contrary to delay. Delay is disobedience. When we dare not reply “I will not,” we sometimes reply “I will, but not now,” and quiet our conscience with the idea that this is not refusal. Jesus said, “Follow Me!” and he answered, “Lord, suffer me first,” etc., and the Lord said “No.” So we respond to some of His commands, “Lord, suffer me first to do something else,” “Seek ye first the kingdom,” etc.
3. It is contrary to consideration of cost. It is well to settle with ourselves that we cannot follow Christ without soon, and often, coming to what is hard. “If any man will come after Me, let him take up his cross,” etc.
4. It is contrary to inquiry about other matters. For it is one of our most dangerous temptations to neglect clear duty because of what is not clear. What is clear may be but little, a mere foothold on “a pavement of mist,” but plant the foot there if so Christ bids, and He will show more, at length bringing him that obeys as far as He knows to the rock and the day. We are apt to confuse others’ tasks with ours. “Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it.”
III. WHAT FOLLOWS THIS OBEDIENCE.
1. It prevents hardness of heart. Young men and women with whom Jesus pleads, there are old men here who would tell you that once Christ’s voice was clear to them, but that now they catch but murmurs of a voice far off, and who would entreat you to respond to Him now. Hardness is the certain result of refusal.
2. It proves that we are Christ’s. What is Obedience
(1) Is the mark of a Christian. “Hereby we do know that we know Him,” etc.
(2) The test of service: “Why call ye Me Lord, Lord, and do not what I say?”
(3) The test of love: “If ye love Me,” etc.
3. The way to success. You have heard it said that religious principles will not do for business. But can anything be more hopeless than to go against the God of Providence on whose side all things work. But let the text guide you in the office and the workshop, in public life and the social circle, and this will be the issue--judge if it be success or no! A peaceful conscience repose in the Divine care, unclouded fellowship with God, and at last, “Well done,” etc. (C. New.)
To obey God in some things of religion, and not in others, shows an unsound heart; like Esau, who obeyed his father in bringing him venison, but not in a greater matter, viz., the choice of his wife. Child-like obedience moves towards every command of God, as the needle points that way which the loadstone draws. (T. Watson.)
Obedience must be cheerful
A musician is not recommended for playing long but for playing well; it is obeying God willingly that is accepted; the Lord hates that which is forced, it is rather paying a tax than an offering. Good duties must not be pressed nor beaten out of us, as the waters came out of the rock when Moses smote it with his rod; but must freely drop from us as myrrh from the tree, or honey from the comb. If a willing mind be wanting, there wants that flower which should perfume our obedience, and make it a sweet smelling savour to God. (T. Watson.)
Submission without reasoning
Payson was asked, when under great bodily affliction, if he could see any particular reason for this dispensation. “No,” replied he, “but I am as well satisfied as if I could see ten thousand; God’s will is the very perfection of all reason.”
Manton says that, “John Cassian makes mention of one, who willingly fetched water near two miles every day for a whole year together, to pour it unto a dead dry stick, at the command of his superior, when no reason else could be given for it.” And of another it is recorded, that he professed that if he were enjoined by his superior to put to sea in a ship which had neither mast, tackling, nor any other furniture, he would do it; and when he was asked how he could do this without hazard of his discretion, he answered, “The wisdom must be in him that hath power to command, not in him that hath power to obey.” These are instances of implicit obedience to a poor fallible human authority, and are by no means to be imitated. But when it is God who gives the command, we cannot carry a blind obedience too far, since there can be no room for questioning the wisdom and goodness of any of His precepts. At Christ’s command it is wise to let down the net at the very spot where we have toiled in vain all the night. If God bids us, we can sweeten water with salt, and destroy poison with meat, yea, we may walk the waves of the sea, or the flames of a furnace. Well, said the Blessed Virgin, “Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it.” My heart, I charge thee follow thy Lord’s command without a moment’s question, though He bid thee go forward into the Red Sea, or onward into a howling wilderness. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Obedience to Christ
I. THE RIGHT THAT MARY HAD TO SPEAK. The right of
1. Experience. Without this speech the history of Christ’s life would be sadly incomplete. Omit it, and what would our position be?
(1) We should hear the voice of heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son;”
(2) The voice of the Herald, “Behold the Lamb of God!”
(3) The voice of the Church, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God;”
(4) The voice of the world, “Never man spake like this man;”
(5) The voice of friends, “The holy one of God;”
(6) The voice of Justice, “I find no fault in Him.”
But we want to hear another voice, that of home. And here we have it from her whose lips kissed Him, whose hands caressed Him, who had Him under her eye from childhood to manhood, and her testimony is, “Whatsoever He saith,” etc.
2. Modesty: What gives point and force to her words is that she is no garrulous woman, making her son the subject of constant commendation. Only this once does she testify to Him. And there was a strong call in her to speak now. Up to this time Jesus had been a private man and had belonged to herself. But henceforth He was to be the public Messiah, and her Son no longer. Mary here renounces her exclusive right to Christ, and in parting from him says, “Whatsoever,” etc.
3. The tacit approval of Christ. Mothers are partial. Was, then, Mary’s love too strong for her judgment? The best answer is that Christ, who was least open to flattery, did not chide her: but afterwards, in laying down the terms of discipleship, used His mother’s words, “Ye are My friends if ye do whatsoever I command you.”
II. THE ADVICE THAT MARY GIVES.
1. It is not enough to have Christ’s words. The Bible as a mere possession is either neglected altogether or treated as a charm.
2. It is not enough to study Christ’s words, even with the closest attention and the firmest belief; although that is a blessed privilege.
3. The whole duty and creed of man is to do whatsoever Christ commands. To this we are pledged by the pattern prayer, and in this we have a supreme example in Christ Himself.
III. HOW ARE WE TO OBEY?
1. By loving Him.
2. By aiming at the perfection that is in Him. (P. Robertson.)
Obedience to Christ
I. THIS ADVICE MEETS A FELT WANT. There are times in life when we want the responsibility of decision divided--times of utter bafflement and perplexity. A friendly recommendation is sometimes helpful, but what is wanted is supreme dictation. Christ steps in here as the commander of the people and says, “Lo,” “Come,” “Do,” “Stand.”
II. THIS ADVICE WAS GIVEN BY CHRIST’S MOTHER, who had lived with Him a whole generation, and after all that experience felt warranted in offering it--the most magnificent tribute to Christ that was ever offered: that He was worthy of perfect obedience.
III. THIS ADVICE HE ENFORCES HIMSELF.
1. His commands are imperative and final. He never prefers a request or revises a decision.
2. His commands brook no emendation, diminution, or enlargement.
3. His commands require prompt and implicit obedience.
IV. THIS COMMANDMENT IS EXCEEDING BROAD.
1. Follow Me.
2. Love one another.
3. Wash ye one another’s feet.
4. Go ye into all the world.
5. Do this in remembrance of Me. (J. Parker, D. D.)
The right path into the meaning of this saying is found in an interior view of the three states of mind represented in the little group.
1. That of Mary, who speaks.
2. Of the servants to whom she speaks.
3. And of the Saviour for whose decisive word she and they are waiting.
On the part of Mary there was evidently a mixture of perplexity, impatience, reverence, and trust. The impatience was sufficiently reproved and restrained. His “woman,” etc., dispelled her rising complacency, and placed her on that level of human dependence where, with all her loveliness, beauty, and sanctity, she must ever remain. Christ’s word was a call for increased faith. For thirty years Mary had carried in her soul the memory of the strange events which signalized His birth, etc. As yet He had given no supernatural sign. Was it not almost the “hour?” Just at this point of uncertainty she stood, but when she looked at Him all her doubts fled, and all fears sank to rest in one resolution of trusting obedience. “Whatsoever,” etc.
I. Whatsoever HE saith. One voice is singled out, and that has supreme authority. Some master every human being has. There are as many masters as there are interests, tastes, passions, etc. When we come to the moral life, men are at liberty to choose as they will. “Choose now this day,” etc. Choose Christ and live for ever, choose any other master and you will die. “No man can choose two masters.”
II. As there is but one voice of supreme authority, so THERE IS BUT ONE PRINCIPLE OF CHRISTIAN DUTY--instant, active obedience.
1. How many of the failures and miseries of life creep in between the hearing of God’s command and the doing of it. Men mistake speculative for practical truth; put matters of feeling in place of action. Some problem of Providence is conjured up as if a man had a right to keep his repentance and faith waiting till he can fathom it; some obscure dogma which should be left to clear itself is set up as a stumbling-block; moods of depression and discontent; conflicting claims of family or friends, or between action and contemplation. These must be cast off and left behind, not by thinking over them, or spasmodic efforts to manufacture feeling, but by a more prompt, unremitting doing of Christ’s will. Jesus saith “fill the water-pots,” etc. Our homely opportunities are our water-pots. Fill them with such water as you have. Whether the water shall be made wine is for Him to decide, not us. Be about the Master’s business. Go to the nearest duty.
2. Another kind of difficulty is cured by prompt obedience--indecision as to beginning to serve Christ. It is not till our part is done that the firkins are filled, that the supernatural energy will change the heart into the new creature. Believe: faith is the power: but the proof and fruit of faith is not separated from it--“Arise, and wash away thy sins;” bring forth fruit meet for repentance; bear witness to the Redeemer; have charity for one another.
III. ONE OTHER WORD COMPLETES THE SCOPE OF THE LESSON. “Whatsoever.”
1. What it should be, His mother and the servants did not know. It turned out no very difficult task, although it might have been. But it was a great trial of their faith. How was the water to remedy the want of wine? How are our prayers to move the Everlasting Arm? How shall bread and wine feed the heart, etc. And then there are other trials which need this bread “whatsoever” to cover them. When you begin to calculate the consequences of your obedience, when your flesh cries out that the sacrifice hurts
1. You will want this “whatsoever.”
2. What a holy power and beauty this obedience will yield in our dwellings. Draw out and bear to every guest in the Father’s house. Christ takes these old and common water-pots of our mortal relationships, our household affairs and every day dispositions and employments, and then, if only we are ready with our obedience, fills them with that new wine to which He so often compares His gift of life. (Bp. Huntington.)
A story is told of a great captain, who, after a battle, was talking over the events of the day with his officers. He asked them who had done the best that day. Some spoke of one man who had fought very bravely, and some of another. “No,” he said, “you are all mistaken. The best man in the field today was a soldier who was just lifting up his arm to strike an enemy, but, when he heard the trumpet sound a retreat, checked himself, dropped his arm and without striking the blow. That perfect and ready obedience to the will of his general is the noblest thing that has been done to-day.” (Pulpit Treasury.)
“Sir,” said the Duke of Wellington to an officer who urged the impossibility of executing the directions he had received, “I did not ask your opinion; I gave you my orders, and I expect to have them obeyed.” Such should be the obedience of every follower of Jesus Christ. The words which He hath spoken are our law, not our judgments or fancies. Even if death were in the way, it is “Not ours to reason why, ours but to do or die.” (Pulpit Treasury.)
A word for everybody
I. The UNIVERSALITY Of the command “whatsoever”
II. Its AUTHORITY, “He saith.” Who?
1. Our Creator.
2. Our Preserver.
3. Our Redeemer.
4. Our Master.
III. Its INDIVIDUALITY. “YOU.” Masters, servants; parents, children; ministers, hearers; the aged, the young; the man of many talents, the man of one; doctors, artists, poets, labourers.
IV. Its SPIRIT, “Do it “ thoroughly, cheerfully, at all times, everywhere. (Dr. Jarbo.)
“Ye are not your own,” etc.; therefore “Whatsoever He saith,” etc.
What does He say?
I. LABOUR NOT TO BE RICH (Pro_23:4-5; Pro_28:20; 1 Timothy 6:9-10). Yet the sin of the age is over anxiety to be rich. He saith by St. Colossians 3:2).
II. BE NOT CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD (2 Corinthians 6:17; Isaiah 52:11). What a falling off from this command there is in dress, amusement, etc.
III. GO WORK THIS DAY IN MY VINEYARD. There are so-called Christians who are quite satisfied if there are no great blots in their lives, without caring about the blanks; indeed their life may be called one great blank. Each one, however, is expected to cultivate his talent. To this end it is not necessary to be a minister. While there are young to teach, sick to visit, poor to be relieved, institutions to be supported, Christ to witness, no special vocation is required.
IV. LOVE AS BRETHREN. “By this shall all men know,” etc. (John 17:20-21). And yet see how the different regiments of the Christian army, instead of fighting against the common foe, are turned against each other, and the world says deridingly, “Settle it first among yourselves, and then we will listen to your claims.” We are not likely to see eye to eye on all subjects; let us therefore be tolerant of each another’s opinions and feelings.
V. HITHERTO YE HAVE ASKED NOTHING IN MY NAME. ASK AND YE SHALL RECEIVE. How remiss we are in the duty of prayer, public, social, private, family. Philippians 4:8. (Dr. Jarbo.)
Six water-pots of stone.
The significance of the water-pots
I. THE USE OF OLD MATERIAL FOR NEW PURPOSE. In the natural word vegetable life grows out of the mould of vegetable decay. The tabernacle was constructed of Egyptian materials and many of the laws and customs had an Egyptian form. Prophecy took shape from political circumstances. When Christianity became the dominant religion, it absorbed all that was excellent in previous religions. In Rome every church is built out of heathen ruins. In short, it is an universal principle in religion to make a heavenly use of ordinary things, just as Christ used the water-pots of the law for the first blessing of Christianity.
II. THE CLOSE CONNECTION BETWEEN ALL PARTS OF REVELATION as one harmonious scheme of grace. The old and new covenants are not antagonistic but complimentary. Jesus was foretold by Jewish prophecy, born under the law, lived a Jew, choose Jews for His disciples, and conformed to Jewish customs. And when the two roads diverged through Jewish unbelief it was Christianity that maintained the true tradition as is shown in the Epistle to the Hebrews.
III. THE INSUFFICIENCY OF THE OUTWARD AND THE SUFFICIENCY OF THE INWARD. These people were keeping the natural ordinance of God in all its purity and also doing what the law required for their purification. The water-pots represented the best side of Jewish faith and life; but their emptiness declared their insufficiency and their number and size, their unsatisfyingness. However frequent and copious their ablutions, they could not remove sin. The law could make nothing perfect. It did not touch the heart. The wine of grace imparts an inward life and thoroughly cleanses moral impurity.
IV. THE NEEDS AND PROVISION OF ATONEMENT. The wine with which the water-pots were filled spoke eloquently in its origin--being the sacrifice of the vine, the life-blood of the grape, crushed out of it when trodden under foot of man in the winepress--of that atoning blood of Him who is the True Vine poured forth on the cross, which cleanses from all sin. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
We are struck with several peculiarities of these water-pots. They were not made by the potter out of clay, but were hewn by the carver out of the compact limestone of which the rocks in the neighbourhood were formed. They were constructed of stone, as the ecclesiastical canon enjoins fonts to be, since that material is less liable to impurity. In all likelihood, therefore, they were not closed-up jars with a narrow orifice, as they are usually represented in paintings, like the wine amphoras of clay which we see among the ruins of ancient cities, such as Pompeii and Rome; but large massive stone basins or tazzas, with wide mouths, like those which the Greeks and Romans constructed of marble, alabaster, or porphyry for their numerous lustration, of which we see splendid specimens in our great art museums, and especially in the Vatican sculpture gallery. This shape would approximate more closely to that of the sacred laver in the Temple, which they would doubtless take as a model for these domestic utensils, intended to form a link of connection between the ceremonies of public and private worship. Owing to their large size and great weight they were not movable, but were fixed in one spot, in the hall or vestibule, or near the entrance of the house, in a position analogous to that of the laver in the Temple, which was also a fixture. Another thing that strikes us is the enormous capacity of these water-pots, which were capable of containing from sixteen to twenty-four gallons each. The frequent ablutions of the Mosaic and of the subsequent traditional law required a large supply of water. Vessels so massive as these must have lasted for many generations; and there is a probability that some trace of them, or of others like them, of the same date, may have survived down to a comparatively late period. They were placed in the vestibule of the house and each guest as he arrived removed his travel stains with their contents; and large as was the quantity of water which they held, the company was so numerous that the whole six were emptied. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
The water-pots in the way of Christ
An artist was painting a large picture of this marriage feast. A friend came to see his work and his first remark was, “What lovely water-pots!” The painter immediately blotted them out, saying, “I want you to look at Christ, not at the water-pots.” What a lesson for the teacher, “I am determined to know nothing among you but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” What a lesson for the disciple, “Consider Jesus the Apostle and High Priest of our profession.” What a lesson to the penitent sinner, “Looking unto Jesus”: not His beautiful Church, nor His learned ministers, but Him. Fill the water-pots with water.
About the miracle generally, note
1. The wine was harmless, or Christ would not have made it.
2. The great quantity is accounted for by the great number of guests. At Eastern weddings often an open house is kept, and they last several days. The miracle was simple and unostentatious, as near the course of nature as the supernatural can go. Learn from this to do good works quietly and naturally.
I. THE PRINCIPLES INVOLVED IN OUR LORD’S MODE OF PROCEDURE.
1. As a rule, when Christ is about to bestow a blessing He gives a command. The blind man was sent to Siloam; the palsied man had to stretch forth his hand; Jairus’ daughter was commanded to arise; and Lazarus to come forth. The same principle holds good in grace. The sinner must repent and believe, to be saved: Zion must awake and arise before she can be blessed and multiplied.
2. Christ’s commands are not to be questioned, but to be obeyed. Had the servants been like modern captious critics they would have objected: that what was wanted was not water but wine. And sometimes Christ’s command does not seem pertinent to the point in hand. The connection between faith and salvation not always apparent. Sometimes the command may seem trivial and some other duty preferred. But the connection and importance must be left with the Commander.
3. Whenever we get a command it is always wisdom to carry it out zealously “up to the brim.” Do not be afraid of an overplus.
4. Our earnest obedience is not contrary but necessary to our dependence on Christ. Faith without works is dead, being alone. To leave all to Christ is not faith but laziness.
5. One action alone is not sufficient. The water was only water although the water-pots were full. Even so after sinners and saints have done all they could, nothing is done till Christ speaks the word of power.
6. Although human action in itself falls short of the desired end, yet it has its place, and God has made it necessary by His appointment.
(1) It was not necessary in itself that the water-pots should be filled, but it was necessary that all should be open and above board. It was just the same with Elijah, who filled the trenches with water to show that there was no concealed fire.
(2) It was instructive to the servants. The master did not know, but the servants did. So earnest believers who do the work now are those who know about it.
II. THE APPLICATION OF THESE PRINCIPLES. Let us see how to carry out the command.
1. Use in the service of Christ such abilities as you have. Jesus chose what was ready to hand. The pots and the water. So Christ employs men, not angels. If those He chooses have no golden chalices let them fill their earthen vessels. The servants improved what they had: for the water-pots were empty and they filled them. Let the preacher improve his gift of learning, fill his intellect to the brim, and expect Christ to turn the water into wine.
2. Use such means of blessing as God appoints: Scripture study; attendance at the means of grace, etc.
3. Use the means heartily. What is worth doing at all is worth doing well.
4. Remember when you have done all you can there is a great deficiency left behind. After the most strenuous industry water is still water.
5. Trust in Christ to do the miracle. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Filling the water-pots
I. THE SERVANTS.
1. Their faith was kindled by Mary’s. It was apparently a foolish and capricious thing they were asked to do. Why should they be taken away from a useful work to one of supererogation? The guests had washed, and no more water was required. The first miracle thus brought out the necessity of faith for the work of Christ.
2. Their effort was needed also; just as much in its way as the power of Jesus: viz., to fill the water-pots, and to draw, and to bear. The first miracle, therefore, was wrought in accordance with God’s law of labour, in which man cooperates with Himself.
II. THE COMMAND OF JESUS. Notice
1. The emptiness of the vessels, significant of
(1) The emptiness of Jewish rites which had no efficacy in themselves.
(2) The induced insufficiency occasioned by Pharisaism which emptied the institutions of the Law of all their meaning by their abuse of them. As a man by pouring water into a full cup displaces some of the water already there, so by their works of supererogation they made the Law of none effect.
(3) The emptiness of the institutions of Judaism of the significance they once possessed. They had served their purpose. The fulness of time had come.
2. The word of Jesus indicates
(1) That He came not to destroy the Law but to fulfil it.
(2) As He Himself did so He commands others to do: fill the water-pots, invest the latter with its significance, put the element of truth into the empty form, teaching and doing what it requires. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
Human effort She necessary condition of Divine help
I. THE EXTREMITY INTO WHICH THE GUESTS WERE LIKELY TO BE BROUGHT. l. Under this extremity the servants did not give way to foolish speculationor gloomy forebodings. They made Jesus acquainted with it.
2. Having obtained instruction from Christ they rendered a prompt and absolute obedience. They offered no suggestion. Had the thought occurred to them they would have dismissed it. Christ is ever ready to guide the perplexed, but demands their obedience. Had the servants partially or wholly disobeyed there would have been no relief.
II. THE HELP WHICH WAS AFFORDED IN THEIR EXTREMITY. The aid rendered was
1. Appropriate. Wine was needed and wine was made.
2. Opportune. Christ did not wait until the wine had failed and the host humbled.
4. Secured the commendation of those who were unconscious of it. (J. S.Exell, M. A.)
Why the water-pots were filled
I. TO REMOVE ALL APPEARANCE OF DECEPTION. It was not a small quantity own at the bottom where it might have been mixed with the dregs of wine by sleight of hand. The quantity was so great that there was no possibility of collusion. The water was seen in the mouth of the vessels.
II. TO AFFORD A WEDDING PRESENT TO THE YOUNG COUPLE. Jesus was no mean, niggardly giver. He did things in a royal way, and symbolised here both the qualitative and quantitative excellence of the gospel, the plenteousness as well as the power of His redemption. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
The quantity of water changed into wine was very great--about 135 gallons--and the true reason of the large surplus beyondpresent need was that there might be in this residue--as in the twelve baskets remaining over and above the barley loaves after the miraculous feeding--a visible and abiding proof and record of this mighty work; and that whenever the wedded pair brought forth any of this wine from time to time, to welcome and regale any of their friends, they themselves might be reminded and speak to others of His divine love and power which produced it; so that the effects of the miracle might extend far beyond the time and place and circumstances of its first operation; and that the water made wine might diffuse the knowledge of the Gospel and become a fountain of living water for the salvation of souls. The bread of the loaves could not be kept long; and, therefore, in that case the surplus produced was less. But the good wine of Cana might be preserved for many years. (Bp. Wordsworth.)
The secret nature of our Lord’s work
Jesus did not even speak. There was no pomp of circumstance. The attention of the guests was not arrested. The wine took its place among the ordinary refreshment of the table.
I. CHRIST’S UNIFORM WORK WAS SO QUIET AS NEVER TO STARTLE THE SPECTATORS. It was so with His Incarnation; His early life; His ministry, in which He did not cry or lift up His voice; His wonderful works, which were done in humble villages for the benefit of poor persons.
II. THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST CAME AND COMETH WITHOUT OBSERVATION, as an artic summer steals into the very bosom of winter, and ere the ice and snow have passed away, bright verdure creeps over the earth, and hosts of brilliant flowers laugh in the sunshine as if by magic. The very essence of God’s kingdom is secrecy. It is the kingdom of Him whose glory is to conceal a matter. The dawning of the day and of the year cometh without Observation.
III. THE METHOD OF THIS MIRACLE AFFORDS US MUCH COMFORT AMIDST THE ANXIETIES CAUSED BY THE DISCOVERIES AND SPECULATIONS OF SCIENCE. What though science is showing us that God is working in nature by uniformitarian methods, and not by cataclysms! What though it should reduce the field of the miraculous, and bring much of what we tought were the wonders of God’s supernatural dispensations within the cycle of natural law! Such a conclusion, satisfactorily established, ought not to shake faith, because such a method would be in entire harmony with what Jesus has revealed of the kingdom of God in nature and in grace. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
The naturalness of the miracle
There are many speculative difficulties about miracles. We are used to reasoning up from them to Christ; may we not reason from Him down to them? Given a Being like Christ, and the miracles are but the fitting framework of that Divine picture. The sick healed, the bread multiplied, the water turned into wine, the winds hushed, the dead raised, all these cease to be unnatural--“His name is wonderful.” Therefore the supernatural is His natural element; supernatural works are natural to Him. For the believer the Person of Christ witnesses to His miracles. For the unbeliever, the miracles witnessed to His Person. (Bp. Alexander.)
The governor of the feast.--In primitive times the person at whose charge an entertainment was given, was chief manager of it. He distributed to every guest his portion. Those to whom particular respect was due were helped to the best parts, and to a larger share, as in the case of the mess of Benjamin. In after times this custom was laid aside as illiberal and invidious, and the guests were allowed to help themselves. But at these entertainments of a later age a master or governor was usually elected by the guests, whose business it was to determine the laws of good-fellowship, and to see that every man was duly supplied. The guests were obliged to be in all things conformable to the commands of this important functionary. He was called an architriclinos, meaning literally one who presided over an entertainment, where there were three sets of cushions arranged for the guests to recline upon at table. He was not a servant who had charge of dishes and provisions, and appointed to serve the guests, but a friend of the bridegroom, and was appointed by him as the chairman of the banquet, to insure that all things should be done properly and in order. This is clearly proved by the authority which he is seen to possess, the freedom of his conduct at the feast, and the terms of equality and intimacy upon which he stood to the bridegroom. The name of his office was given to the Christian convent, erected in Cana by the Empress Helena, which was known far on in the Middle Ages as the “Holy Architriclinos.” (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
They bear it
At what precise point the wonderful transubstantiation took place
whether it was in the filling of the waterpots with water, or in the transferring of their contents into smaller vessels--we are not told. There is a veil over this as over all creative acts, and we cannot trace beginnings. Severn, the friend of Keats, painted in Rome a picture of the Marriage of Cana; but he did not complete it. He represents the servants in it pouring the water out of one vessel into another. The water issues from the vessel clear as crystal; but in the are formed by its descent it is refracted into a red colour. There can be no doubt that the painter caught the true idea of the transformation. What the servants drew out as water they received into their vessels as wine. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
The governor of the feast
A vessel was let down into the pitcher, and was then carried to the ruler of the feast, who would distribute the wine in it to the guests. Ruler rather than “governor.” The same English word should be used throughout the two verses. What exact office is denoted by the Greek word is uncertain, as it occurs nowhere else in the Bible, and is very rare in the classical authors. The chief English commentators (Alford, Wordsworth, Trench) are agreed that he was chosen by the guests from among their own number, but this opinion has not commanded the general assent of scholars; and there seems more reason to think that the person intended is what we should call the “head-waiter,” whose duty it was to taste the viands and wines, to arrange the tables and couches, and to be generally responsible for the feast. (H. W. Watkins, D. D.)
Tasted.--This word supplies a strong incidental argument against the Romish doctrine of transubstantiation. The occasion before us is the only known occasion on which our Lord changed one liquid into another. When He did so change it, the reality of the change was at once proved by the “taste.” Why is it, then, that in the pretended change of the sacramental wine in the Lord’s Supper into Christ’s blood the change cannot be detected by the senses? Why does the wine after consecration taste like wine, just as it did before? The pretended change of the bread and wine is contradicted by the senses of every communicant, and that which contradicts our senses we are nowhere required in God’s Word to believe. (Bp. Ryle.)
The servants knew.--The guests took no part in the preparation for these miracles, did not contribute their own shares of faith and labour, and consequently were not aware that the heavens had been opened, and the ladder of communication between heaven and earth set up in the midst of them. Their hands were idle, and therefore their eyes were veiled. Only the servants knew, and they knew because they had helped Christ to perform the miracle by drawing the water, by doing what they had to do. The revelation came to them through their work, and was the reward of it. The secret of the Lord was with them because they had done the will of God. And is not this true of all work which is a revelation? It is not in idle speculation, in mere theorizing and musing, in standing looking on with folded hands, that we understand the plans and purposes of God, but when we enter into the field and work along with Him. It is in doing the will of God that we know the doctrine that it is of God. Doing God’s will puts a spiritual telescope into our hand, whereby we can see the things that are unseen and eternal, which the mere eye of speculation could never see; or a spiritual microscope, which enables us to see wonderful things in God’s law, which the mere eye of curiosity could never discern. The teacher who instructs others becomes wiser himself by so doing. Engaging in the work of converting souls; we can sympathize with the Divine Son, who left the Father’s house and came to seek and save that which was lost. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
Thou hast kept the good wine until now.
I. THAT CHRIST HAS SYMPATHY WITH HOUSEKEEPERS. The wine gave out and Jesus came to the rescue. Don’t fret when there is a scant supply in your household, but trust in God and do the best you can and He will help you. Christ is the best adviser and most efficient aid.
II. CHRIST DOES THINGS IN ABUNDANCE. A small supply would have been enough, but Christ gave one hundred and thirty gallons of the very best wine. Everything God does He does plenteously.
1. In nature.
2. In grace.
III. CHRIST DOES NOT SHADOW THE JOYS OF OTHERS WITH HIS OWN GRIEFS. Christ knew what was coming for Himself, but He hid His own grief to kindle their joy. So don’t you infuse your own griefs into your children. They will have trouble enough by and by. Be glad that they cannot appreciate yours. Keep back the sorrows as long as you can. Let them enjoy life while they may.
IV. CHRIST IS NOT IMPATIENT WITH THE LUXURIES OF LIFE. The wine, that could have been dispensed with, ran short, and yet Christ replenished it. There is no more harm in honest luxury than honest poverty. There is no more religion in a new coat than in an old one. The world was once a paradise and will be one again.
V. CHRIST HAS NO IMPATIENCE WITH FESTAL JOY. the very miracle augmented it. The children of God have more right to laugh than others: no joy is denied them.
VI. CHRIST COMES TO US IN OUR EXTREMITY. When the wine had given out, and before there was any embarrassment thereupon, He came to the aid of these people.
1. So often in extreme poverty Christ has come to the relief of His people.
2. In the despair of conscious guilt.
3. In death.
VII. CHRIST GIVES HIS BEST LAST.
1. In Christian experience.
2. In glory. (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
I. THAT GOD MOVES BY A HIGHER LAW THAN MAN UNDERSTANDS Isaiah 55:8-9).
1. Men give their best first, but God adopts the principle of gradual development.
2. Men give sparingly, God gives abundantly.
II. THAT MAN IS SOMETIMES PRAISED FOR BLESSINGS THAT COME DIRECTLY FROM THE DIVINE HAND.
1. In legislation the politician is praised, and few ascribe the blessing to the Great Fountain of government.
2. In social life men have praised parental discipline, or scholastic education for a high tone of morality, whereas few acknowledge the Source of Purity.
(1) It is here that infidelity has erred; it has stopped at second causes and paused at the bridegroom, instead of inquiring for Christ.
(2) So with science; but science is only an agent. It may be a botanist, but who started the vital fluid? A geologist, but who wrote the rocky page? An astronomer, but who built the world?
(3) So with professing Christians.
III. THAT GOD SOMETIMES PRESENTS THE RESULT WITHOUT REVEALING THE PROCESS, In some departments of the moral universe processes belong exclusively to God, and results to man. In the discipline of our nature God conducts the mysterious process; whereas in the dissemination of the gospel man is required to undertake the agency. These three great principles may teach us
1. To recognize the Divine hand in every advancement. What have we that we did not receive. We should be humble, therefore.
2. Never to distrust the resources of God. You have never drunk the best wine which God can provide. He has unsearchable riches.
3. To repress inquisitiveness, and cultivate gratitude. Take thankfully what God provides. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)
Five characteristics of Christ’s working
I. APPROPRIATENESS. Christ does the right thing, in the right place, at the right time. The people did not want bread, nor clothes, nor health. Had they been rich the miracle would have been unnecessary; at an earlier period it would have been premature. And in His providence over our life Christ does nothing out of place or superfluously.
II. MYSTERY. Christ simply willed and the water was made wine: no one knows how.
1. So in physical life.
2. Human life.
3. Spiritual life.
III. SELF-ABNEGATION. The bridegroom received the credit for Christ’s act.
1. So in life the employer gets the credit for the skill and strength of the employee.
2. So in morals human cleverness and power get the credit for successes which should be given to the goodness of God.
3. So in the Church the means of grace are allowed to usurp the place of the Giver of grace.
IV. PROGRESS. The best last. This is the law by which Christ governs men.
1. By His providence.
2. Through His Spirit.
V. UNOSTENTATIOUS GENEROSITY. The need of which the guests were ignorant was anticipated by Christ. (J. W. Burn.)
Satan’s banquet and Christ’s
I. THE HOUSE OF SATAN, in which are four tables.
1. The table of the profligate--a gay table. The governor comes in. He has a bland smile and a robe of many colours. He brings
(1) The wine-cup of pleasure. The young man takes it, and sips at first cautiously. He does not intend to indulge much. But how sweet it is! He drinks a deeper draught, and the wine is hot in his veins. How blest is he! He drinks and drinks again, till his brain begins to reel with the sinful delight. This is the first course.
(2) Now, with a leer, the subtle governor riseth. His victim has had enough of the best wine. He brings in another, all flat and insipid--the cup of satiety. “Who hath woe? who hath redness of the eyes? They that tarry long at the wine,” figuratively and literally. The profligate soon discovers that all the rounds of pleasure end in satiety. “Give me something fresh,” he cries; and gaiety itself grows flat and dull.
(3) The governor commandeth another liquor to be broached. This time the fiend bears the black goblet of suffering. He who rebels against the laws of God must reap the harvest in his own body here.
(4) The last course remains--the grave. The profligate dies, and descends from disease to damnation.
2. There is another table, all clean and comely. The wine on it seems to have no intoxication in it. How contented are the guests! It is the table of self-righteousness. Satan, like an angel of light, brings forth a golden goblet containing the wine of
(1) Self-satisfaction. This wine makes the drinker swell with self-important dignity.
(2) This cup is eventually replaced by that of discontent and unquietness of mind. As confidence is wanted, it is found wanting.
(3) This is removed, and the cup of dismay is brought in. How many a man who has been self-righteous all his life has, at the last, discovered that the basis of his hope has gone.
(4) The last course must be the same as that of the profligate, inasmuch as Christ has been rejected.
3. The third table is crowded with most honourable guests--kings, princes, mayors, aldermen, and great merchants.
(1) Satan brings in a flowing cup, and says: “Young man, you are starting in business; get rich as fast as you can.” The youth drinks, and says: “I have abundance now: my hopes are indeed realized.”
(2) But next comes the nauseous cup of care. Riches canker his heart.
(3) After this comes the cup of avarice, which increases the burning thirst of which many have died clutching their money-bags.
(4) Then there is the cup of loss, in which money and the satisfaction it once gave perish.
4. The fourth table is set up in a very secluded corner for secret sinners. Satan steps in noiselessly
(1) with the cup of secret sin. “Stolen waters are sweet.”
(2) After that he brings the wine of an unquiet conscience.
(3) A massy bowl filled with black mixture, the fear of detection, next has to be quaffed.
(4) Discovery is the last cup. “Be sure your sin will find you out,” if not in this world, in the next.
II. THE HOUSE OF THE SAVIOUR.
1. Come and sit at the table of Christ’s outward providences.
(1) The first cup is often one of bitterness--the worst wine first. Christ seeks no disciples who are dazzled with first appearances.
(2) After the cup of affliction comes the cup of consolation.
(3) The cup of glory.
2. The table of inward experience.
(1) The first cup is the bitter cup of conviction.
(2) This gives place to the cup of forgiving love.
(3) The cup of everlasting bliss.
3. The table of communion.
(1) The cup of communion with Christ in His sufferings.
(2) The cup of His labours.
(3) The cup of good wine, communion with Christ in His resurrection and triumphs. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The feast of the Lord
I. FOR THE BELIEVER CHRIST KEEPS THE BEST WINE TILL THE LAST.
1. There are some of God’s best beloved who have never known what it is to get out of the depths of poverty, affliction, profitless toil, to whom it will indeed be true, when death gives them their discharge, that Christ has kept the good wine till the last--riches, happiness, rest.
2. This will be equally true of God’s favoured ones. The most highly favoured, who had been caught up to the third heaven, declared that he only saw through a glass darkly, and that there was a higher heaven yet. There are many aspects of the heavenly state, and in each of these the principle of the text holds good.
1. Here on earth the believer enters into rest by faith, and enjoys the peace which passeth all understanding. But drink of that as we may, the good wine has yet to come. The present peace is dashed by cares and doubts and disquietudes.
2. Heaven is a place of holy company. Here we have some of that wine, but our companions are compassed with infirmity. There the just are made perfect.
3. In heaven there is perfect knowledge. On earth we know much that makes us happy, but heaven is a place of complete and endless manifestations and joys.
II. CHRIST’S REASONS FOR DOING THIS.
1. To make a broad distinction between His dealings and Satan’s.
2. Because it is His good pleasure.
3. That He may give us an appetite for the good wine.
4. That He may be glorified by the trial of your faith.
1. Hasten towards the place where the good wine is kept.
2. If the best things are to come, let us not be discontented.
3. Why should we envy the worldling? (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Christ’s method and the world’s
I. THE WORLD’S METHOD IS TO GIVE THE GOOD WINE FIRST.
1. The gay world, to the young, presents the appearance of a feast where everything is provided that can please the eye and gratify the taste. But experience strips off the disguise. Enjoyment brings satiety, and long ere the cup is drained the soul turns from it in dislike. There is not a more miserable creature than the man to whom the world has given all its blessings and has nothing more to promise. The novelty of this world’s pleasures is their greatest charm.
2. Take the case of the drunkard. He is dissatisfied with the low life of drudgery he leads, and pants after a higher life and a freer atmosphere. So he drinks to drown his sorrows and to promote his joy. But the hour of elation passes, and leaves a grievous sense of bodily discomfort and a profound sense of self-contempt. More so with the confirmed drunkard. It is long since he drank all the good wine which his lust could give him; and now he is drinking the bitter dregs of the wretched wine which “biteth like a serpent,” etc. There was a time when the tottering frame was instinct with health and vigour, and the palsied hand had a grip of iron, and the bloated face was full of comeliness and intelligence.
3. Nor is it otherwise with the avaricious man. How precious was the first piece of money that came long ago as a reward of industry. But as he drank deep of the golden cup of wealth the first fresh glow of happiness disappeared. Care and anxiety grew with fortune, and wants with the means of gratifying them.
4. So with the ambitious man. The first draught of ambition’s cup is indeed the sweetest; all that follows is often bitterness and loneliness. The fruit is fair to the eye; but in the mouth it crumbles into ashes. It lures but to disappoint; it tempts but to betray.
II. OUR LORD’S METHOD IS TO GIVE THE BEST WINE LAST.
1. This is illustrated in His own life. He drank the poorest wine first and then the best. He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the cursed death of the cross; wherefore God hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name.
2. So with the disciples; they drink of His cup and are baptized with His baptism. The law of His kingdom is first the cross, and then the crown; first suffering, and therefore glory. His blessings are not like random sunbursts through the clouds, or the irregular overflowing of an intermittent spring, but form parts of a gradually unfolding series. They are bestowed in proportion as our necessities arise and our faculties expand. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
The best last
The world presents us with fair language, promising hopes, convenient fortunes, pompous honours, and these are the outside of the bowl; but when it is swallowed, these dissolve in an instant. Every sin smiles in the first address, and carries light in the face, and honey in the lips, but when we “have well drunk,” then comes “that which is worse,” a whip with six strings, fears and terrors of conscience, and shame and displeasure, and a caitiff disposition, and diffidence in the day of death. But when, after the manner of purifying of the Christians, we fill our waterpots with water, watering our couch with our tears, then Christ turns our water into wine--first penitents and then communicants--first waters of sorrow and then the wine of the chalice; for Jesus keeps the best wine to the last, not only because of the direct reservation of the highest joys till the nearer approaches of glory, but also because our relishes are higher after a long fruition than at the first essays, such being the nature of grace, that it increases in relish as it does in fruition, every part of grace being new duty and new reward. (Jeremy Taylor.)
At first the palate distinguishes with the utmost nicety the quality of the wine; but afterwards, as more of it is drunk, the keen edge of the taste is blunted, and it cannot distinguish between the different kinds, so that an inferior wine at this stage might be substituted for a superior one without the guests being any the wiser. The extraordinary pitch of perfection to which the sense of taste may be educated is shown by the experience of those who are employed, in docks and warehouses, to discriminate between samples of different kinds of wine and tea; but these men use the utmost caution in the exercise of their peculiar gift. They are careful only to employ a very small quantity of the article experimented upon; and they confine their trials within very narrow limits. Excess or familiarity destroys the sensitiveness of the nerves, and tends to deaden the impressions produced upon them. So alive are some musicians to this physiological fact, that they will not touch an instrument that is out of tune, lest their sense of harmony should be impaired. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
This beginning of miracles
The miracles of Christ
Miracles are not only a proof but a part of revelation, and carry their own weight of truth quite independent of their testimony to the authority of the whole.
I. IDENTIFY THE GOD OF NATURE WITH THE CHRIST OF THE GOSPEL, and show that the Word was God, and that all things were made by Him. Believers in Christ do not need their witness, but should follow up their teaching, and study in nature the wisdom and power and goodness of Christ.
II. ILLUSTRATE THE WIDE BENEFICENCE OF THE GOSPEL. They would have been equally cogent as proofs of His Divine authority if there had been no element of mercy in them; and it is humiliating to reflect that had they been miracles of judgment the people would have been more willing to listen to His words. As it was, they were the outcome of the wealth of compassion that filled His heart, and teach us something of the present range of His love.
III. PROVE THE ILLIMITABLE POWER BY WHICH EVERY GOSPEL PURPOSE WILL BE ACCOMPLISHED. The words, the promise, and the power that performs are eternally linked together. No power, therefore, can prevent the accomplishment of the great purposes of salvation. All fears, then, should be banished. There is no danger that the miracles of Christ do not prove to be under His control.
IV. SHOW THE DIVINE EARNESTNESS WITH WHICH GOD PRESSES UPON THE ATTENTION OF SINFUL MEN THE CLAIMS AND MERCY OF HIS GOSPEL. (W. H. King.)
The miracles of nature
Men cry out for signs, but we may see miracles enough every day. I read that Aaron’s rod budded, and I am astonished. But last spring I saw a cause of greater astonishment--thousands of bare rods budding and blooming blossoms in the hedges. I saw no one do it, and yet the trees were being daily clothed with thicker foliage. Was not that wonderful? I read that the manna came down daily from heaven to the wilderness, and I am amazed. But I see a cause of greater amazement every year: I see your bread coming, not down from heaven, but up from the earth, a much more unlikely place, every day in the spring. Is not that wonderful? I read that Elijah, hiding by the brook Cherith, was daily fed by two carnivorous ravens, and I am filled with wonder. But there is a cause of much greater wonderment in the fact that millions upon millions are daily fed with abundance of bread and meat, without a single raven under God’s sun to cater for them. I read that Jesus Christ multiplied the loaves and fishes, and that the fragments that remained filled twelve baskets full--there was more at the end of the meal than at the beginning. But thisyear I witnessed a greater miracle: I saw the barley and the wheat increasing, “some thirty, some sixty, and some a hundred fold”; and the loaves and the fishes, notwithstanding the enormous consumption, are more numerous to-day than they have ever been before. Nature is a standing miracle. (J. C. Jones, D. D.)
The beginning of miracles
There are five reasons why this should be the first.
1. As marriage was the first institution ordained by God, so at a marriage was Christ’s first miracle.
2. As Christ had showed Himself miraculous a little while ago by a fast, so He cloth now by an extraordinary provision at a feast. When He would not makes stones bread, it was not because He could not.
3. He would not make stones into bread to satisfy Satan, but He was willing to turn water into wine to show forth His glory.
4. The first miracle wrought in the world by man was transformation Exodus 7:9), and the first miracle wrought by the Son of Man was of the same nature.
5. The first time you hear of John the Baptist, you hear of his strict diet, and so the first time you hear of Christ in His public ministry, you hear of Him at a marriage feast. (Lightfoot.)
This miracle cannot but have a representative character. We may observe
I. ITS ESSENTIAL CHARACTER. A sign of sovereign power wrought on inorganic nature, not on a living body.
II. ITS CIRCUMSTANTIAL CHARACTER. The change of the simpler to the richer element. In this respect it may be contrasted with the first public miracle of Moses, which commences the record of Old Testament miracles.
III. ITS MORAL CHARACTER.
1. The answer of love to faith.
2. Ministering to human joy in one of its simplest and most natural forms (cf. Matthew 11:18-19)
In each respect the character of the sign answers to the general character of Christ as
1. A new creation.
2. A transfiguration of the ceremonial law into a spiritual gospel.
3. An ennobling of the whole life. In addition, notice that the scene of the sign--a marriage feast--is that under which the accomplishment of Christ’s work is most characteristically prefigured (John 3:29; Matthew 25:1; Matthew 25:1; Revelation 19:7; Revelation 21:2). (Bishop Westcott.)
The water made wine
Let us now look at the FACT, the mode, and the motive of this miraculous act. That it was a miracle, a creation-miracle, the turning of water into wine, stands on the face of the record. Every attempt to reconcile belief in the record with an evasion of the creative act implied in it has been a failure. Such suppositions as that the spiritual elevation of the guests under the power of the Lord’s discourse made them think that to be wine which was only water (Ewald)
, or that He gave to that which still remained water the force and sap of wine (Neander)
or even that this was a supply of wine produced in the ordinary way and providentially arriving in the nick of time at the believing prayer or omniscient foresight of the Saviour (Weiss)
, will not satisfy the fact, nor the plain and honest meaning of the recording Evangelist, an eye-witness of the wonder. Some of those who rest in the fact of the miracle and regard it as creative have vainly attempted to conceive and describe the MODE in which it was wrought. It has long been usual to suggest that this act may be thought of on the analogy of nature’s work; that what was done here in a moment was the same thing which is done in countless vineyards year by year. “The essence of the miracle,” says Olshausen, “consists in divinely effecting the acceleration of the natural process.” So also Augustine long ago. The analogy is tempting, but we gain nothing by it as an explanation. Indeed, it is impossible, and after all inept. There is no real parallel. We can trace these processes in nature; but here we can trace no process. We should have to imagine not only accelerated processes of nature, but also those artificial changes, anticipated and condensed, by which the fruit of the vine becomes a beverage--the ripening of the wine as well as of the grape.
There are no natural laws by which water in a well or in a jar will change into wine. Nature never would do this, however long time you gave her. Finally, for the PURPOSE. One of the main difficulties, according to some expositors, is the absence of sufficient motive. This is a miracle, they say, without a moral end. It is placed at the outset of the Fourth Gospel, with the evident intention of showing
1. That Jesus struck a key-note to His ministry so entirely contrasted with that of the Baptist, whose disciples these first followers of Jesus had originally been.
2. Nor can the objection about the triviality of the occasion justify itself, as if it were the mere relieving of a dinner-table dilemma. Rather the reverse is the true inference. The gracious Lord has sympathy with all needs, the finer as well as the commoner. He who multiplied the loaves for the relief of a hungry congregation might increase the store of wine for the resolving of a social perplexity. The minor graces and courtesies of life are taken account of, in Christianity, as well as the stern realities.
3. But, indeed, to search for an exact necessity as motive here is to miss the whole point. These wedding guests could have done without more and better wine. It is a miracle of superfluity if you will. The well-spring of grace and truth in Jesus Christ overflows at the first onset. He is come to give life, and more abundant. It is placed in the front of the miracle-record not merely to point a contrast between the Saviour’s ministry and that of the Baptist, but to show how the new economy surpasses the old. This whole transaction reveals His glory as the Bringer of the final and highest dispensation. In Jesus Christ, God “ has kept His best till last.” In fine, it is plainly meant that we should see in this work an epitome of the Lord’s entire miraculous activity. In it, all His glory is His grace and love. In the Nature miracles we are to note how always He is “not ministered unto, but ministers.” (J. Laidlaw, D. D.)
The beginning of miracles
All beginnings have a wonderful interest to us. There is a peculiar pleasure in tracing a broad deep river, that bears upon its bosom the commerce of a nation, to its source far up among the mountains, in a little well whose overflowing waters a child’s hand could stop; or in going back to the origin of a mighty nation like the Roman, in the drifting ashore, at the foot of the Palatine Hill, of the ark that contained the infant founders. Institutions, social or benevolent, that have been established for ages, derive a fresh charm from the consideration of their first feeble commencement, and the contrast between what they were then and what they are now. There is a mystery about a cloud coming all at once into the blue sky, a star appearing suddenly amid the twilight shades, a spring welling up in the midst of a sandy plain. It seems as if something new were being created before our eyes. A sense of awe comes over us, as if brought into contact with another world. I have had this curious feeling when coming unexpectedly upon the habitat of a very rare plant. This peculiar charm of novelty belongs especially to the origin of sacred institutions-to the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the performance of the first miracle, the formation of the Christian Church, and the production of the New Testament writings. The thought that there was a time when these things had no existence, that for thirty years Jesus wrought no miracle, that the first believers in the gospel in Judea, Corinth, and Rome had no New Testament, gives a vividness to the feelings with which we regard them, brings back the freshness that has evaporated with long familiarity. The miracle of Cana comes into the midst of the previous natural life of Jesus like a star out of the blue profound, like a well out of the dry mountain side, like a rare, unknown flower appearing among the common indigenous plants of a spot. It brings us out of the narrow wall that hems us round, to the verge of God’s infinity, where we can look over into the fathomless gulf. It is the first act of the new creation, in which a new life-potency entered into what at the time existed, and called forth a new development. It gave to the stream of the world’s course a new motion and a new direction, without which it would have become a stagnant bog--a dead sea. It is the base of that wonderful miracle structure of the gospel, of which the resurrection is the pinnacle. (H. Macmillan, D. D.)
The first miracle
How well fitted this miracle is, in its character, to introduce the train which succeeded it; to open the wonderful order of instructions, doctrines, and works which was afterwards developed; to be, as it was, the first miracle. The glory of the natural day is not manifested forth in the morning by a blaze of meridian splendour. The light is mild and soft which first peeps from behind the hill-tops, or flushes from the bed of ocean. So it was with “the glorious gospel of the blessed God.” Its first manifestation by miracle was like the spreading dawn. It blended with the joyous accompaniments of a festive occasion and the kind sympathies of domestic life: It came like a nuptial blessing to a young pair who were just commencing the journey of life together. By-and-by we shall see it among the sick, the maimed, and the blind, healing infirmities, and restoring the lost faculties of sense. By-and-by we shall see it in the dark death chamber and the darker tomb, dispelling the darkness and raising the dead. Then we shall find no want of elevation. Then our minds will be filled and overpowered by its sublimity. But now let us do justice to its loveliness, and admire its first approach to the children of men. (F. W. P. Greenwood, D. D.)
Christ’s first miracle
The first of a series gives the key to the whole. The first animals or plants have been combining types, i.e, have united in themselves the characters of several familes now widely separated. So the earliest human lives were typical. The first notes of a song suggest all that is necessary to make the harmony. And the first miracle enters into all the other miracles that Jesus did, and combines in itself the elements of them all.
1. It is a work of mercy.
2. It is an emblem of a higher spiritual blessing.
3. It is a prophecy of the new genesis.
Like an illuminated initial letter, which contains in itself an illustrated epitome of the contents of the whole chronicle, it appropiately begins the series of Christ’s beneficent works by a beautiful picture of the nature and design of them all.
I. IT LINKS THE WORK OF THE SECOND ADAM WITH THAT OF THE FIRST. Adam’s disobedience turned paradise into a wilderness. Christ’s obedience turns the wilderness into paradise.
II. IT SHOWS THE RESTORATION OF NATURE AS WELL AS HUMANITY. Man’s sin brought barrenness: Christ’s work restores fruitfulness. And as nature shared the effects of the fall with man, it will participate also in the effects of redemption. This miracle is the first step in the process.
III. IT COMBINES THE GOSPEL WITH THE PRECEDING DISPENSATIONS. Moses could only sweeten the waters of Marsh--only ameliorate the bitter spring of human sin, and reform men. Jesus turns the water into wine and regenerates men.
IV. THE OCCASION WAS ONE OF TRANSCENDENT IMPORTANCE. In this respect it is the first in order of rank as well as time.
1. As a human institution marriage stands at the head of all others, originating in paradise and surviving the wreck of the fall.
2. As a type of heavenly mystery it stands first in importance and significance.
(1) The union of those attributes of love and power in God, from which creation had its birth and has its continuance.
(2) The union of Divine influences and human experiences in the soul which forms the kingdom of heaven within.
(3) The union of the Saviour and the Church.
V. THE MIRACLE WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT OF ALL, if any gradation can be allowed. There was here no co-operation of faith. It was not the purification and assistance of a natural function, but a creation de novo. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
The miracle as a sign
I. OF CHRIST’S MISSION. It was none the less significant because wrought for a temporary purpose. Man’s need of Christ appears in trifling as well as conspicuous ways. Food is common-place, but it is an universal need.
1. The act was significant of the joyous and abundant feast He was about to spread for all people.
2. The moment in which it was wrought, when the wine had failed, is a sign of the fact that Christ waits till man’s own powers are exhausted before giving His grace. Hence He delayed His advent till the world was exhausted with its efforts to find peace and holiness. The pagan religions were exhausted. Philosophy had failed to solve the problems of life. So we do not receive the fuiness of Christ till convinced of our helplessness and ready to depend on Divine grace.
3. The nature of the miracle, the creation of the wine out of water, not out of nothing, is a sign that
(1) He had come not to create a new world, but to transform the old;
(2) Not to establish a new religion, but to transform Judaism;
(3) Not to produce new characters, but to regenerate stoners. He has poor material to work upon. Human nature is as weak and cold as water. But as He made good and warming wine, so He will strengthen our humanity and fill it with the love of God.
II. OF THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST.
1. Of His grace and glory (John 1:14; John 1:17).
2. Of His naturalness. He was thoroughly at home, and revealed the natural union of a pure humanity with a Divine life; sympathizing with human joys, as at Bethany with human griefs. Religion does not break the sweet ties which God has formed between man and man.
3. Of His mindfulness of His great object. We see this in His conversation with His mother, which shows us to remember in society that the chief end of man is to glorify God, and that no earthly joy or work must be allowed to unfit us for that. (G. T. Purves.)
The miracle as a sign
In respect of
1. It was a miracle in itself, apart from all surrounding circumstances. What is an everyday occurrence in one climate may be a rare wonder in another. To an inhabitant of the tropic the freezing of water would be a miracle. The feats of a chemist would pass for supernatural in the first, but be put down as strictly natural in the nineteenth century. But Christ’s miracles are miracles all the world over and all the ages through.
2. The miracle was not performed till nature was exhausted. His hour did not come till the wine had actually failed. This always characterizes His interpositions. All He cured were incurable. This is a sign that we may calculate on His presence in extremity. When your earthly wine is all gone, He will come to your relief.
3. This miracle in its results is repeated every year. Miracles are explanatory notes revealing the secret processes of material phenomena, signs of the power that is everywhere and always at work. He turned the water into wine once; He does so still.
1. It was performed in a wedding. John the Baptist was an ascetic; will Christ be one? The Jews looked for a king; will Christ then claim the throne? Christ was not an ascetic, for He went to a wedding. He was not a dignitary, for it was a wedding of ordinary people. This was a sign then that He belonged to Society.
2. The miracle was performed at the feast. Jesus was always the antagonist of suffering and the source of joy. The thing here signified is that if there is a time to weep there is also a time to rejoice.
3. It was performed at a marriage feast for the purpose of beneficence, to point out the difference between the Old Testament miracles and those of the New, and to show the different character of the two dispensations.
4. It was a miracle of luxury. Wine was not needful to maintain life; loaves and fishes were. This is a sign then that man does not live by bread alone, but is permitted to go after the beautiful in every form. Is it sinful to have pictures whilst the heathen be unreclaimed? There is no reason why Englishmen should be half-civilized because Kaffirs are altogether barbarous. Because the potato is the more useful plant of the two, that is not to say that the rose is unnecessary.
5. The miracle is a sign that self-restraint should be practiced in the midst of abundance.
III. CHRIST’S PERSON.
1. He had not to acquire glory, bat only to manifest it. He manifested it here as the Sovereign of nature.
2. As a consequence His disciples believed in Him. They did so before. This confirmed them. Miracles cannot convince unbelievers. It was the disciples, not the guests, who believed. (J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)
The first miracle of Christ the sneaking expression of His life and work
I. OF HIS PERSON, in which the earthly human nature becomes a heavenly: the essential, genuine Vine (John 15:1).
II. OF THE POWER OF HIS LOVE which transformed the water of earthly need into the wine of heavenly joy: brings forth judgment unto victory, makes blessedness out of Divine sorrow.
III. OF HIS DIVINE WORKS, in which is everywhere reflected His main work of bringing to pass the new birth of mankind from the earthly kingdom into the heavenly.
IV. OF HIS LAST WORK The glorification of the world. (J. P. Lange.)
The beginning of signs: or the sacredness of common life
I. CHRIST’S SYMPATHY WITH THE RELATIONSHIPS AND GLADNESS OF MAN’S LIFE. That was a new thing in the world, the sign of a new spirit that was to pervade mankind. There is a strong tendency in human nature to associate lofty morality with rigorous sternness of life: the prophets; John the Baptist; monks. But here Christ mingles with the gladness of a wedding feast, and exerts His supernatural power to supply a festive need. This implied
1. That earthly life was to be glorified by the heavenly.
2. That human love is not to be carnalized, but made Divine.
3. That human relationships do not clash with the love of God, but are to become powerful instruments for aiding it.
4. That no sphere is too common for Christ to sanctify.
II. CHRIST BESTOWED ON COMMON THINGS A HIGHER POWER IN ORDER TO AWAKEN HUMAN GLADNESS. This signifies the elevation by Him of the natural into the Divine, of the common into the uncommon. Here again was a new thing to the world. To Christ’s eye nothing was commonplace; not the lowest man nor the plainest life. His mission was to glorify the old and familiar.
III. Combining these two features, we see that LIFE IN ALL ITS COMMON RELATIONSHIPS AND COMMON TOILS IS TO BE A MANIFESTATION AND SERVICE OF CHRIST. In human friendship we are to serve Christ, and in our daily work to glorify Him. Life throughout, with its joys and sorrows, is to be transformed. How is this to be done? Notice
1. That the character of a man’s deeds is determined by their inner motive, not by their outward form.
2. This sanctity is attained through the power of Christ’s love.
IV. THE RESULTS WHICH WOULD FLOW FROM THE ATTAINMENT OF THIS.
1. Life would become a constant manifestation of Christ.
2. Life would be a constant education for the heavenly.
3. It would give us the assurance of eternal fellowship. (E. L. Hull, B. A.)
Miracles as signs
The term “sign” denotes in its simplest usage
1. A means of identification (Luke 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 3:17).
2. A proof or evidence furnished by one set of facts to the reality and genuineness of another (2 Corinthians 12:12).
3. A symbol or emblem (Ezekiel 4:3). Now the miracles of Christ were signs in all these three senses. They identified Him as the Messiah foretold in prophecy; they authenticated Him as the Son of God, and furnished evidence of the truth of the claims which He put forth; and they were emblems in the material sphere of the blessings which He came to bestow in the spiritual, and of the manner in which they were to be received by those whom He designed to benefit. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Manifested forth His glory
The first miracle an Epiphany of Christ
This glory is undoubtedly Christ’s Divine glory” full of grace and truth”; the effulgence of His perfections translated so as to bring them within the reach of sense. And when John says that Christ manifested forth His glory he implies that although it had been almost entirely hidden for years, yet, like the sun behind the clouds, it had all along been lying below the surface. The miracle rolled away the clouds from the face of the sun.
I. CHRIST’S GLORY WAS SEEN IN HIS ENTIRE CONTROL OVER NATURE. Power over nature always excites our admiration. But why is it that the man of science, whose genius can tame or discipline steam or electricity, wins so deep and universal an enthusiasm? Not because the feat has the charm of novelty, nor because it is an enrichment of man’s life and an addition to his comfort, but because there is in him, at an immeasurable distance, an approximation to God. And yet we can explain it by natural causes which fall within the range of experience. But a miracle passes that line. And since we know that order is a principle which belongs to the very life of the Creator as well as to His administration, we conclude that He will not depart from His ordinary rules without some reason, and that no one but Himself can dispense with them. And thus in a miracle God is actively present, not as authorizing anarchy, but suspending some lower law to give play to some higher. The outward miracle arrests man’s reason and imagination to behold in it the manifested glory of the Lord of Nature. Had we witnessed it, should we have recognized it as what it was? Yes, if we can say with the Te Deum that earth as well as heaven is full of the majesty of God’s glory. No, if we see in nature only the operation of self-existent laws.
II. THE GLORY OF SPIRITUAL TRUTH, an unveiling of the laws whereby the King of the new spiritual empire would govern His subjects.
1. Nature is ever being silently changed into something higher and better than when Christ found it. What is Holy Scripture but the water of what might have been a human literature changed by the Spirit of Christ into the inspired Word of God? That which was mere good-nature becomes Divine charity by grace: that which was only well-exercised reason or farsighted judgment becomes faith: all the natural virtues are transformed into the spiritual. So it was at the first. The Sanhedrim were perplexed at the intellectual and moral power of the illiterate apostles. The Roman proconsuls were bewildered at the majestic constancy of poor men and weak women and children. And so it is now.
2. The law of continuous improvement from good to better and from better to best. The real Giver of the good wine does not fascinate by the charm of His earliest gifts and then give to the jaded faculties His poorer graces. In His service the spiritual senses do not follow the law of bodily decay, they gain with advancing years, and require and receive higher nutriment.
III. THE GLORY OF HIS CONDESCENDING AND TENDER CHARITY.
1. Christ here began that life of condescension before men which was involved in His incarnation, and which He followed heedless of slander and misconstruction.
2. Christ here shot forth a ray of that glorious love which redeemed the world. His whole action is marked with tender consideration; He saves this poor couple from the disappointment of being unable to entertain their friends; He adds to their store, but in such a manner as to lay them under no embarrassing obligation to Himself. So God bestows His blessings so unobtrusively that we forget the Giver, but here, as ever, would teach us to imitate Him when we bestow ours. (Canon Liddon.)
The lesson of Epiphany--peace and plenty through Christ
Consider this miracle in the light of the service for the Second Sunday in Epiphany.
I. THE COLLECT, which is a prayer for peace. The Collects are supposed to collect the subject of the Gospel and Epistle. But the gospel is a miracle of plenty, a contrasted idea to that of peace. There may be lavish plenty when there is no peace--there may be deep peace when there is little plenty. And yet in the deepest, truest sense of the terms they are one. Their separation is only temporary and accidental. For what is peace? Perfectly satisfied desire. Disquiet is want of satisfaction. But in spiritual and intelligent creatures there must be the satisfaction of the whole nature. If man be body, spirit, and soul, if any one of these be unsatisfied, he cannot be at rest. In vain you satisfy animal appetite and intellectual craving, if the hunger of the spirit be unappeased. And men are not at peace, because of the first great mistake that man made in his first sin when he withdrew the food for his soul. This food is God. Man’s sin was the determination to have the feast of body and mind without this spiritual element, and the sin and misery of man ever since has been to sit down to a banquet from which he has banished God. And God forbid that without Him there should ever be peace: because it is the lack of this plenty disquieting his soul that leads him to God. God teaches this truth in
1. His Word.
2. His providence. Lest man should lose himself in sensual delights God drove him from Eden. Sometimes God shows us how poor the gift is without the Giver; sometimes how blessed the Giver is without the gift, and better by giving Himself with the gift. This is the highest of all states, even heaven itself. This the true peace and plenty our Father meant us to have. It is our sin that has set them in antagonism.
II. Now turn to the Gospel. We see Christ giving back to men the lacking plenty of their feasts. The wine had run low. He renews it in lavish abundance that He may tell as in symbol that for the renovated man the amplest enjoyment of God’s gift is consistent with perfect peace. Christ has come to tell us that we need Him and may have Him in all our joys.
III. THE EPISTLE teaches us that there is an Epiphany amongst men as there was once an Epiphany to men. In the Gospel Christ gave Himself and His best gift to us. In the Epistle Christ calls upon us to show Him forth to men by giving ourselves and our gifts to others. That is the very reason He gave Himself to us. “Freely ye have received; freely gird”; fill to the brim the means of helping another’s need: your material, intellectual, and spiritual wealth. (Bp. Magee.)
The glory of the Virgin Mother
1. For thirty years Christ had done no miracle: which is itself worthy to be called a miracle. He was content to live in obscurity till His hour was come. This is true greatness. In all the works of God there is a conspicuous absence of haste. Six slow days and nights of creative force before man was made. Two thousand years to discipline and form a Jewish people: four thousand years of darkness, ignorance, and crime before the fulness of the time. Whatever contradicts the Divine plan must pay the price of haste--brief duration.
2. St. Paul speaks of the glory of woman as distinct from that of man. Their provinces are not the same, and the qualities which are prominent and beautiful in the one are the reverse in the other. The glory of her who was highly favoured among women was different from that of her Son in degree--the one was human, the other was more: in order the one manifesting the grace of womanhood, the other the majesty and wisdom of manhood in which God dwelt. The glory of the Virgin consisted in
I. HER CONSIDERATENESS. There is gentle womanly tact in the words “They have no wine.” Unselfish thoughtfulness about other’s comforts; delicate anxiety to save a straitened family from the exposure of their poverty. So in old times, with thoughtful hospitality, Rebekah offered water to Abraham’s wayworn servant. So Martha showed her devotion even to excess. So the women ministered of their substance.
II. SUBMISSION. “Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it.” Here is the true spirit of obedience. Not slavishness, but loyalty to and trust in a person whom we reverence. Submission at the outset of the Bible is revealed as woman’s lot and destiny. The curse of obedience, as that of labour, transformed by Christ into a blessing. This blessing twofold.
1. Freedom from doubt. Mary felt no perplexity at the rebuke. A more masculine mind would have been made sullen and sceptical. Mary could not understand, but she could trust and wait. So with the Syro-Phoenician woman, Mental doubt rarely touches women. Soldiers and sailors do not doubt. Prompt, unquestioning obedience is the soil for faith.
2. Prevailing power with God. The Saviour’s look promised, probably, more than His words. Prayer is a deep mystery to the masculine intellect. “How,” says Logic, “can man’s will modify the will of God? Where, then, lies the use of it?” But there is something mightier than intellect, truer than logic--the faith that works by love.
III. PURITY OF HEART AND LIFE.
1. Gradually the recognition of this became idolatry. Why? Before Christ the qualities honoured as Divine were probably masculine--Courage, Wisdom, Truth, Strength. But Christ proclaimed Meekness, Obedience, Affection, Purity--graces distinctly feminine. Men sought to give these new ideas embodiment, and they found them embodied in the Virgin Mother.
2. The only corrective for this idolatry is the perfect humanity of Jesus Christ. His heart had in it the blended qualities of both sexes, and when we have learned that in Christ there is all that is manly and all that is womanly, we are safe from Mariolatry. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
The glory of the Divine Son
I. THIS GLORY DID NOT BEGIN WITH THE MIRACLE, THE, MIRACLE ONLY MANIFESTED IT. And if instead of rousing men to see the glory of Christ the miracle merely fastened attention on itself, the whole intention of a miracle is lost. To the wise man the lightning only manifests the electric force which is everywhere, and which for one moment has become visible. As often as he sees it it reminds him that the lightning Slumbers in the dewdrop, in the mist, and in the cloud, and binds together every atom of water that he uses in daily life. But to the vulgar mind the lightning is unique, a something which has no existence until it appears. So to the half-believer a miracle is the one solitary evidence of God. But to the true disciple a miracle only manifests the power and love which are at work everywhere. It is not more glory, but only glory more manifested when water at His bidding passes at once into wine. And if you do not feel as David felt, God’s presence in the annual miracle, and that it is God which in the vintage causeth wine to make glad the heart of man, this miracle would not have given you conviction of His presence. “If you hear not Moses and the prophets,” etc. This deep truth of miracles most men miss. They believe that Jesus was Divine because He worked miracles. But it is by power less Divine that the same Being bears witness to truth, forgives His enemies, makes it His meat and drink to do His Father’s will?
II. IT WAS THE GLORY OF CHRIST TO DECLARE THE SACREDNESS OF ALL THINGS NATURAL.
1. All natural relationships. John the Baptist’s was the highest form of religious life known to Israel. His was a life of solitariness. Christ goes to a marriage to declare the sacredness of feelings which had been reckoned carnal and low. For it is through our human affections that the soul first yearns after God, and it is to them that the Infinite reveals Himself: and by an earthly relationship God has typified to us the only true espousal--the marriage of the soul to her eternal Lord.
2. The sacredness of all natural enjoyments. To say that this was a religious ceremony is sophistry; and to say that although Christ was there it would not be safe for us to go, is to overlook the fact that His disciples were there. No! the temptation was past, the ministry of John was over; and now the Bridegroom comes into She world in the true glory of the Messiah--not in a life of asceticism, but in a life of godliness; not separating from life, but consecrating it. The ascetic life is more striking, easier, add more reputable. But the life of Him who was called “a man gluttonous and a wine bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners” was far harder, but it was heavenlier. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
The manifestation of Christ’s glory
I. The manifestation of Jesus Christ is the only true essence of our Christianity.
II. The manifestation of Jesus Christ is the true evidence of our Christianity.
III. The manifestation of Christ to others is the one great evangelistic duty of the Christian and of the Church. (Bishop Barry.)
The peculiar glory of Christ
Moses was not said to manifest his glory when he turned water into blood; nor Paul, nor Peter, nor any of the apostles, to manifest their glory in the miracles which they wrought. Why this peculiarity of language in the ease of Christ? Was it not from the peculiarity of His person--God as well as man? (J. Fawcett, M. A.)
The glory of conquest
As the first ray of the morning reveals the glorious light which is soon to flood heaven and earth, so the first miracle of Jesus revealed the glory of Him who had come to subdue all things unto Himself. (G. T. Purves.)
Christ at a wedding
You nowhere read of His being at a funeral. Why? Because marriage belongs to the primeval order of creation, but funerals do not. Marriage is a part of the original programme of the universe, but death is an intrusion. He, therefore, went to a marriage to vindicate the Divine order; He did not attend funerals because they are incursions upon that order. He was the Everlasting Life, and consequently could not join in the procession of death. Indeed, each time He met death in His sojourn through the world, He could not but grapple with him and compel him to give up his prey. (J. C. Jones.)
After this, He went down into Capernaum
Christ at Capernaum
It is not needful to inquire what His errand was there, and upon what occasion His mother and brethren went with Him; whether because Joseph was new dead, and so He took care of His mother, or because they would convey Him on His way, or because His brethren were to go up to Jerusalem with Him; only this voyage was before that Matthew 4:13), when He came to dwell in Capernaum, for then John was cast in prison (Matthew 4:12), but now he was not (John 3:24).
I. Christ was content to submit Himself to the wanting of a certain abode and settled dwelling in the world, that He might sanctify our pilgrimage and tossed condition to us, and to invite His followers willingly to be removed from place to place, as He hath service for them. So much are we taught by this His removal.
II. Christ hath errands in eminent places as well as obscure, and will not despise them for their eminency more than the base for their baseness; and He can make the work of His kingdom in a land advance from obscure beginnings and places, to be more eminent and conspicuous. So much may we gather from Christ’s going out of obscure Cana to Capernaum, a chief city in Galilee.
III. As it is wisdom in Christ’s own to go still in His company, so others also may be with Him so long as His way and theirs lieth together, or when He is working gloriously and His gospel hath credit; for, after this miracle, we find not only His mother and disciples, but His brethren or kinsfolk with Him, who yet believed not in Him (John 7:5).
IV. Christ may stay longer or shorter while, and do little or much in a place, as He pleaseth; and particularly He stayeth or removeth according as may contribute to advance the great work of His glory and of sinners’ salvation; for He continued there not many days, as having more to do at this time in Jerusalem. (D. Dyke.)
The Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Christ’s first passover
I. HIS ATTENDANCE AT THE PASSOVER, One of the three great annual festivals which all males were required to attend. None excused but the sick and the disabled. God made the ordinance peremptory, to teach
(1) That His worship and service were the chief things.
(2) That God’s house was to be the centre of the moral universe, and that all nations would flow to it. Christ’s attendance showed
1. His fulfilling of all righteousness. He came not to destroy.
2. His communion with believers of the Old Testament. Partaking of their sacraments, He declared Himself of one body and spirit with them, just as by instituting sacraments for New Testament believers He declared Himself of one body and spirit with them. Thus Christ is the bond of both dispensations.
3. Himself and His mission to the nation. The promise was that He should come to His temple. Here the people could identify Him if they chose.
II. THE CONDITION IN WHICH HE FOUND THE TEMPLE, AND HIS INTERFERENCE THEREWITH. The market was going on in the outer courts of the Gentiles. The sheep, etc., were sold there to save the inconvenience of individual Jews bringing their offerings from a distance. The money-changers were there, to exchange foreign money for the half-shekel of the sanctuary. The abuse consisted in making God’s house a house of merchandise, in which the priests themselves profited. Christ interfered to show His official assumption and exercise of legitimate authority in His own house. The cattle were driven out, the money-tables overthrown; but the doves ordered to be taken away, so that they might not be harmed. Nothing harmful or cruel was done. In this interference we see His glory as the “Son of God” and His administrative authority as “King of Israel.” Unsupported Himself, all fled before Him.
III. THE CONVICTION WROUGHT IN THE MINDS OF SERVANTS (John 2:17).
1. We have here the love of Christ, and His earnestness for their salvation and God’s glory: typical of His whole work.
2. Christ’s example to us.
(1) Our zeal must begin with ourselves.
(2) Must concern itself with God’s honour and man’s salvation.
(3) Must be actuated by love. (A. Beith, D. D.)
The temple market
I. THE MARKET.
1. Described. Jerusalem was in all its glory. Its inhabitants were astir in the early morning, enjoying the cool of the day and the excitement of the season. The streets were blocked by crowds from all parts, who had to make their way to the temple past flocks of sheep and droves of cattle. Sellers of all possible wares beset the pilgrim, for the feasts were the traders’ harvests. Inside the temple space the noise and pressure were, if possible, worse. The outer court was in part covered with pens for sheep and oxen. It was, in fact, the yearly fair of Jerusalem, and the crowds added to the din and tumult, till the services in the neighbouring courts were sadly disturbed.
2. Accounted for. It seems strange that the priests should have permitted it, but the explanation throws light on Christ’s conduct. The priests made pecuniary profit of it. The sale of doves was almost wholly in their hands, and the rent for the rest was very large. The money-changers were usurers and tricksters, and augmented the priests’ revenue out of their unlawful gains.
3. Christ’s indignation was, therefore, natural. He had come fresh from the manifestation of His glory, with all the enthusiasm natural to a Jewish prophet and inspired with His Divine mission, to testify to the nation as a whole where it could be best reached. Behold, then, His Father’s house invaded by a troop of mercenaries and hucksters!
II. THE EXHIBITION OF CHRIST’S WONDROUS MORAL POWER. There was no physical power displayed, nor any exciting contention with the profaners of the temple. The scourge was only an emblem of power and chastisement, the sight of which was sufficient, and at which they all unresistingly fled. How could one man effect such a clearance, unknown, a Galilean, with no formal authority, priestly power, or following? It was perhaps due to the “solar light” of His countenance, behind which was the unspeakable power of perfect holiness (Matthew 17:2), which made Him attractive to the virtuous and devout, but awful to mere money-grubbers. They were dumb and helpless, because conscience-stricken, in the presence of Incarnate Righteousness.
III. THE PROFOUND SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS ACT. Spiritual cleansing. The temple may be considered as a symbol
1. Of the heart defiled by selfishness and sin, to be cleansed by the expulsive power of Christ’s love.
2. Of society or the world, to be cleansed by Christ’s redeeming grace.
3. Of the Church, to be cleansed from superstition, and worldliness, and bigotry, by truth, purity, and charity. (J. E. Flower, M. A.)
The profaned temple
I. THE SIGN AND ITS APPLICABILITY. The temple a symbol of the temple of humanity, built of living stones. To cleanse this He entered on His ministry; and if He had a right to do the greater work, He had a right to do the lesser.
II. THOUGHTS SUGGESTED BY THE SIGN.
1. All men are created to form part of God’s temple. The Divine idea of humanity is an organic whole--Christ the centre, the shrine; human hearts grouped round Him forming the courts. Contrast the ideal with the actual. Yet in the midst of chaos God is working out His purpose, and will not rest till the idea is realized.
2. Men have misused the courts as markets. Commerce is good, but its place is outside the heart, not inside. It defiles when it intrudes on the sanctuary. Yet how hard even in the most sacred seasons to exclude their profane associations. Business for most is more absorbing than God and His will.
3. Christ has power and authority to cleanse the courts.
(1) With His scourge He may drive away the property which usurps His Father’s place.
(2) He may scatter the money-changers’ money, and leave him at leisure to reflect with out it.
(3) He may speak His orders to those who defile the sanctuary with lighter profanations through judgment and disease.
4. The time will come when the temple shall be purified. In the Revelation we see the design perfected. A city without a temple, because itself is a temple. There shall be gold there, and all the good things of the earth shall be sanctified to Divine uses. (C. A. Goodhart, M. A.)
The purging of the temple
I. APPROPRIATE to
1. The place: the metropolis, the centre of the Theocracy, the predicted theatre of Messiah’s self-revelation (Zechariah 2:10-11; Zechariah 9:9).
2. The time: at the passover, when the paschal lamb, of which He was the antitype, was about to be offered, and when the vast crowd gathered afforded a favourably opportunity for impressing the national mind and conscience.
3. The condition of the temple: whose forecourt, reserved for the worship of proselytes, was transformed into a market and fair under the pretence of religion--a melancholy, because faithful, picture of the secularization of the Jewish religion by the Pharisees.
4. The character of Him who carried it through. The Father’s Son had a right to purge His Father’s house.
II. SUPERNATURAL. As much so as the turning of water into wine. The manifest insufficiency of the means places it in the same category as John 18:6. Its suddenness also surprised, and inward consciousness of guilt paralyzed, the traders. Natural and supernatural causes were thus combined.
III. SIGNIFICANT. Designed to be a revelation to the ecclesiastical authorities of His Messiahship (Psalms 69:9; Malachi 3:2-6).
IV. SUGGESTIVE. Recalling to the disciples the words of the Psalmist, it confirmed their recently formed convictions.
V. ALARMING. It startled the Sanhedrim, who recognized the Messianic character of the action, but wanted to know whether He was Messiah. Secretly they must have dreaded this. But because He was different from what they expected, they declined to receive Him. They trifled with their consciences by asking for a sign. They preferred the darkness, although the light had now conspicuously dawned. Lessons:
1. The duty and privileges of the ordinances of religion. Christ at the passover.
2. The need of purity and order in the sanctuary--Christ purging the temple court.
3. The danger of a worldly spirit intruding into the domain of religion--the traders in the sacred edifice.
4. The propriety of being zealously affected in Divine service--Christ’s example. (T. Whitelaw, M. A.)
Christ’s principles of action
Had Christ appeared as a teacher it would have been a great benevolence: but He would hardly have had so widespread an influence. Teaching was only one part of His task, the other was to ordain a fellowship. So He needed to appear as the reformer of religion. The temple was the centre of religious life: here then the reformation must begin. See then the principles of Christ as a religious reformer.
I. HE DID NOT COME TO DESTROY, BUT TO PURIFY AND FINISH. But why trouble Himself about an institution that was to pass away? (John 4:24). The answer is that Jesus did wish to erect the new on the ruins of the old, but since so much depended on the old, this, when reformed, should attach itself to that. We should be like Christ in this, not to destroy but to reform and build up.
II. THE ZEAL OF THE REDEEMER WAS INTENDED TO BANISH EVERYTHING THAT MIGHT ENTANGLE MEN AGAIN IN WORLDLY THOUGHTS AND ANXIETIES. The really devout and upright as well as the frivolous might see no evil nor distracting influence in these things. The temple was large enough. All these arrangements had to do with religious life. Was it not a matter of indifference whether they were carried on within or in the neighbourhood of the temple. Those whose thoughts would be disturbed by them would be disturbed without them. But human prudence is one thing; the judgment of Christ another. Whatever draws men to and keeps men near God must be kept pure and free from desecration. The weakness of the human heart forbids the worldly and the Divine mingling with one another. The germ of the Jewish corruption lay in the mixing of the two. Let then our church, life ordained by that Lord who here cleared the temple, be free from foreign admixture.
III. WHAT RIGHT HAD CHRIST TO ACT IS THIS WAY? Did He not overstep the bounds of His authority. No, according to the free customs of that people and age it was competent to any one to assail anything that was at variance with public law. There was ever scope for honest zeal. Christ found it so, and would have us find it so and lift our voices for what is right and good, to win public opinion to them. We Christians are a priestly people called to keep pure the temple of God upon earth. (Schleiermacher.)
Christ at Jerusalem
I. HOW MUCH CHRIST DISAPPROVES OF IRREVERENT BEHAVIOUR IN THE HOUSE OF GOD. Are there none who bring to church their money, their lands, their cattle, etc.; who bring their bodies only to a place of worship and are “almost in all evil, in the congregation” (Proverbs 5:14).
II. HOW MEN MAY REMEMBER WORDS OF RELIGIOUS TRUTH LONG AFTER THEY ARE SPOKEN, and may one day see in them a meaning which they now do not see (John 2:19; John 2:22). Sermons preached to apparently heedless ears are not all lost and thrown away; nor are texts taught by teachers or parents to children. There is often a resurrection of the good seed sown after many 1 Corinthians 15:58; Ecclesiastes 11:1).
III. HOW PERFECT IS OUR LORD’S KNOWLEDGE OF THE HUMAN HEART (verses 24-25). He saw beneath their superficial faith that they were not disciples indeed. This thought ought to make hypocrites and false professors tremble. They may deceive men but they cannot deceive Christ. But it is a word of encouragement to real Christians. (Bp. Ryle.)
It is impossible not to feel the change which at this point comes over the narrative.
I. There is A CHANGE.
1. Of place: Jerusalem and Cans.
2. Of occasion: the passover and the marriage feast.
3. Of manner of action: the stern Reformer and the sympathizing Guest.
II. THE SPIRITUAL LESSONS WHICH THE TWO SIGNS CONVEY ARE ALSO COMPLEMENTARY.
1. One represents the ennobling of common life and the other the purification of Divine worship.
2. One is a revelation of the Son of peace, the other a revelation of the Christ, the Fulfiller of the hope and purpose of Israel. (Bp. Westcott.)
The desecration of the living temple
Alas! that even in the restored and consecrated temple of man’s soul, scenes are at times enacted, of which the sacrilege in the Jewish temple was but a feeble emblem. It is a desecration, Dot of a material building but of God’s spiritual house--the merchandise, not of sheep and oxen but of sins. The pollution is not in the “outermost court of the Gentiles, but in the inmost sanctuary where God delights to dwell”--in man’s heart. Too often is there rebellion, even in the believer’s soul, against the authority of the Lord; and giving to Him a divided heart. Too often are the living temples thronged with carnal things, earthly affections and desires. Too often is the lowing of oxen and the bleating of sheep heard, and the tables of the money Changers planted, within the precincts of God’s house. Alas! how often is the silent and solemn devotion of the believer’s heart distracted by the noise of conflicting passions, and its purity defiled by low and grovelling affections. Holy thoughts and desires, like the poor, despised Gentiles, are turned out of their proper place, and thrust into a corner. Oh, this is monstrous incongruity. Have you not here a temple which you have sacrilegiously profaned; and has not your passion for sordid gain and worldly occupation so entirely engaged and absorbed you, that all your feelings and faculties seem to be expended on earthly vanities, and your affections settled down to the dust? You profane that which God has made holy--that which He has set apart for Himself, and where He would delight to dwell. “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves.” (W. Chalmers, M. A.)
in the temple are those who pursue secular interests in the church; and God’s house is made a house of merchandise, not only by those who seek to obtain money or praise, or honour by means of holy orders, but by those also who exercise the sacred ministry, or dispense sacred gifts, with a view to human rewards and not with simplicity of intention. (Bp. Wordsworth.)
The zeal of Thine house hath eaten Me up
ZEAL FOR THE STRUCTURE OF THE HOUSE.
1. It is the duty of the Church to provide convenient places for the public worship of God. Over-building is a lamentable waste of strength; but under-building is a sin. The Church who neglects to provide proper accommodation for the fast growing population of the country, is guilty of a grievous breach of Christian trust.
2. The house of God should be in consonance with the most chastened taste. Beauty is as cheap as ugliness. The fiat roof was prevalent in antiquity, but Christianity, elevating the human mind, has given us the dome and the spire. Our conscience, like David’s, should smite us when our house is better than God’s.
3. The same zeal which prompts us to build and beautify should prompt us to pay, and not leave a burden of debt to coming generations; but those who inherit the burdens should believe in the strength of God and remove them. Many have been obliged to go through the bankruptcy court because of too much liberality in the cause of the devil; none through over liberality in the cause of God.
II. ZEAL FOR THE ORDINANCES OF THE HOUSE.
1. The means of grace, the ordinary services; if we neglect the means we shall not have the grace. God promised to be a “small sanctuary” to the Babylonish exiles; so He will be to those who are in sore captivity through affliction. But if in health, God expects you to be in the assembly of His people. The social character of Christianity must be thus maintained.
2. Two institutions in particular go under the name of ordinances. About these there has been much controversy. Extremes are to be avoided
(1) That they are miracles.
(2) That they are empty ceremonies. True zeal shuns both extremes.
3. There must be zeal not only for but in ordinances. Warmth is always attractive and contagious. One of the objects of the gospel is to warm man’s natural frigidity. Fervour in the pulpit, in the prayer-meeting, etc., imperative. “But it is not respectable!” God preserve us from respectability, then. But there is enthusiasm enough in political and social gatherings and in business.
III. FOR THE DISCIPLINE OF THE HOUSE.
1. Wickedness should be rebuked. Purity must be maintained at all costs. Some churches need the scourge of small cords to drive out the men who, by their negligence or immorality, disgrace the altars of God.
2. Virtue should be fortified. In the family and the Church, discipline should aim at the development of goodness, so that the doctrine of God our Saviour may be adorned in all things.
3. Our interest in the holiness of the Church should be all aflame with sacred zeal. In proportion as we are zealous for God, He will bless our efforts at evangelization.
IV. FOR THE DOCTRINES OF THE HOUSE. It is the Church s vocation, not that of the ministry as an official order to defend the faith.
1. Zeal for the doctrine implies mental hostility to error. The tendency of to-day is to tolerate not only heretics, which is right, but heresy, which is wrong.
2. Whilst opposing heresy, our chief concern should be the vindication and exposition of truth. Zeal not for sect and party, but for the truth--particularly the cardinal truth of the cross. (J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)
I. ITS SPHERE. We cannot confine it to the temple or any other ecclesiastical structure.
1. The universe, in all the glory of its interminable spreadings, is the house of God. There is not a lonely spot which is not full of Deity.
2. And when we divide this universe into sections we know that there is some scene hououred above others with the Almighty’s presence--where angels cluster, and where the Creator may be said more emphatically to dwell.
3. The whole company of the faithful upon earth constitute “the house of God”--builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit.
4. Nay, there is not a solitary individual, over whom the great change has passed, who is not tenanted by the High and Lofty One.
II. CHRIST’S ZEAL WORKING IN THIS SPHERE. Zeal devoured the spirit of our Saviour, and in driving out the traffickers from the temple we can recognize the workings of the principle, but we cannot limit it to this. We gather from the expression
1. That Jesus was consumed with a lofty desire to benefit the denizens of the universe.
2. Over the inhabitants of heaven Christ poured His amazing solicitudes.
3. An ardent longing to rescue this world from its degradation, and to build up its desecrated fragments into s temple of the living God, throbbed in the heart of Jesus of Nazareth. Confined, as it might have seemed, to a single race, its effect branched out into every quarter of the house of God, and orders of intelligence which needed not to be brought to the Saviour might have been confirmed and sustained by that which put man within the circles of acceptance.
4. Viewing God’s house as including the believing remnants of Adam’s descendants, we see Him entering on His course as the sun enters on his march in the firmament. His soul yearned over those who had destroyed themselves. He entered into the nature on which rested the awful curse; and when the race He had come to redeem rejected Him, the zeal of God’s house kept Him fast on His pathway of pain. (H. Melvill.)
I. The OBJECT of zeal--“Thy house.” The Jewish temple as symbolizing
1. The Old Testament Church.
2. The world of sinners.
3. Corrupted Christian communities.
II. The NATURE of zeal. True and godly zeal, says Bp. Jewell, eateth and devoureth up the heart, even as the thing that is eaten is turned into the substance of him that eateth it; and as iron, while iris burning hot, is turned into the nature of the fire, so great and just is the grief that they which have this zeal conceive when they see God’s house spoiled, or His holy name dishonoured.
III. The MANIFESTATION of the zeal.
1. In rigidly expelling the defiling and the false.
2. In replacing and building up the pure and the true.
The zeal of Christ
It is said that sometimes when a crowd see a vessel that is going to pieces, and hear the cries of the drowning men, they seem as if they were all seized with madness, because, not being able to give vent to their kindness toward the perishing ones by any practical activity, they know not what to do, and are ready to sacrifice their lives if they might but do something to save others. Men feel that they must work in the presence of so dreadful a need. And Christ saw this world of ours quivering over the pit. He saw it floating, as it were, in an atmosphere of fire, and he wished to quench those flames and make the world rejoice, and therefore He must work to that end. He could not rest and be quiet. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The zeal of our Lord to be imitated
Let the zeal of the house of God ever eat thee. For example: seest thou a brother running to the theatre? stop him, warn him, be grieved for him, if the zeal of God’s house hath now eaten thee. Seest thou others running and wanting to drink themselves drunk? Stop whom thou canst, hold whom thou canst, frighten whom thou canst; whom thou canst, win in gentleness: do not in any wise sit still and do nothing. (Augustine.)
The most remarkable examples of zeal are found in the records of the early itinerant ministers. Richard Nolley, one of these, came upon the fresh trail of an emigrant in the wilderness, and followed it till he overtook the family. When the emigrant saw him he said, “What? a Methodist preacher! I quit Virginia to be out of the way of them; but in my settlement in Georgia I thought I should be beyond their reach. There they were; and they got my wife and daughter into their church. Then I come here to Chocktaw Corner, find a piece of land, feel sure that I shall have some peace from the preachers; and here is one before I have unloaded my waggon!” The preacher exhorted him to make his peace with God, that he might not be troubled by the everywhere present Methodist preachers.
Christian zeal necessary
A young Brahman put this question to the Rev. E. Lewis, of Bellary--“Do the Christian people of England really believe that it would be a good thing for the people of India to become Christians?” “Why, yes, to be sure they do,” he replied. “What I mean is this,” continued the Brahman, “do they in their hearts believe that the Hindoos would be better and happier if they were converted to Christianity?” “Certainly they do,” said Mr. Lewis. “Why, then, do they act in such a strange way? Why do they send so few to preach their religion? When there are vacancies in the Civil Service, there are numerous applicants at once; when there is a military expedition, a hundred officers volunteer for it; in commercial enterprises, also, you are full of activity, and always have a strong staff. But it is different with your religion. I see one missionary with his wife here, and one hundred and fifty miles away is another, and one hundred miles in another direction is a third. How can the Christians of England expect to convert the people of India from their hoary faith with so little effort on their part?” (Chronicle of London Missionary Society.)
When Baxter came to Kidderminster there was about one family in a street which worshipped God at home. When he went away there were some streets in which there was not more than one family on a side that did not do it; and this was the case even with inns and public-houses. While some Divines were wrangling about the Divine right of Episcopacy or Presbytery, or splitting hairs about reprobation and free-will, Baxter was always visiting from house to house, and beseeching men, for Christ’s sake, to be reconciled to God and flee from the wrath to come. (Bp. Ryle.)
Zealous, but not furious
It is in the matter of religion as with the tending of a still; if we put in too much fire it burns, if too little, it works not: a middle temper must be kept. A heat there must be, but a moderate one. We may not be like a drowsy judge upon a Grecian bench, who is fain to bite upon beans, to keep himself from sleeping; neither may we be like that Grecian player, who acted mad Ajax on the stage; but we must be soberly fervent and discreetly active. St. Paul’s spirit was stirred within him at Athens because of its idolatry, and it breaks out of his mouth in a grave reproof: I do not see him put his hand furiously to demolish them. And if a Juventius and Maximinian, in the heat of zeal, shall rail on wicked Julian at a feast, he justly casts their death, not on their religion, but on their petulancy. It was a well-made decree in the council of Eliberis, that if any man did take upon him to break down idols, and were slain, he should not be reckoned amongst the martyrs. There must then be two moderators of zeal, discretion and charity, without either and both of which it is no other than a wild distemper; and with them, it is no less than the very life-blood of the Christian. (Bp. Hall.)
What sign showest Thou?
Christ and the rulers
I. THE DISPUTE WHICH FOLLOWED HIS PROCEEDING IN THE TEMPLE.
1. The remonstrance addressed to Him by the Jews. The parties were the authorities of the Temple who, by their question, espoused the cause of the traffickers. “The Jews require a sign,” and for the want of one to their liking, the Gospel was here as ever a stumbling block. There was nothing unreasonable in the request. The cleansing bore a Messianic stamp; but the request was made in anger at the disappointment that their gains had been interfered with, and not with desire to receive information. The very cleansing ought to have been a sufficient sign.
2. The reply of Jesus might be understood to mean the Temple itself, or what He intended: the temple of His body. They misconstrued it into speaking against the sacred fabric, which became one of the fatal accusations against Him afterwards. In the true sense Christ only is the temple of God, although in a secondary sense believers are also, and the universe. The death and resurrection of this temple was to be the sign both for them and for believers. “He was delivered for our offences an d rose again for our justification,” by which “He was declared to be the Son of God with power.”
II. THE PRESENT AND REMOTE EFFECTS OF CHRIST’S REPLY ON THE MINDS OF THE DISCIPLES.
1. As to the effect at the time there seems to have been none. Of many things, including Christ’s death and resurrection, they were ignorant, and remained so up to those events, and even then they were slow to believe. This was owing to their secular views of the Messiah. And how often is such obtuseness the case with believers now. Theirs was removed by experience, so must ours be.
2. The remote effect was on the fulfilment of His Word, most blessed (John 2:22). The spirit eventually quickened the seed sown in good ground John 14:26). Exactly similar is the experience of the Church at all times. The truth may lay dormant for years, but when the Spirit comes it germinates. What an argument for teaching the young whether they understand or not. (A. Beith, D. D.)
It would have been a great one in their sense of it. Zerubbabel and Herod had raised the Temple, and other great persons buildings as great. But the temple of the body, if ever that were down, all the temple builders that ever were would never get it up more. So great, indeed, was it that he in hell could not desire a greater (Luke 16:30).
I. CHRIST’S BODY IS THIS TEMPLE. The Pharisees mistook the term. Christ could not have meant God’s house, the zeal of which consumed Him, and which He had just purged. Only polluted temples are destroyed. Christ, who knew His own meaning best, has interpreted it, and perhaps then pointed to His body.
1. A body a temple? How? Because God dwelleth there. There are temples of flesh and bone as well as of lime and stone. Our bodies are called houses because tenanted by souls, temples when tenanted by and used in the service of God.
2. Christ’s body a temple seems only such by some gift or grace, but in Christ dwelleth the fulness of the Godhead (1 Corinthians 2:9), and always pure and employed in the Father’s service.
3. Christ’s body “this” temple.
(1) The two temples began alike at Bethlehem (Psalms 132:6; Matthew 2:1).
(2) Both were destroyed and reared again. The Chaldees destroyed the one and Zerubbabel raised it. The Jews destroyed the other, and Christ Himself raised it.
(3) Both were consecrated to like uses. There, the only true holocaust of His entire obedience, which burnt in Him bright and clear all His life long Leviticus 6:9). There the only true trespass-offering of His death, satisfactory to the full for all the transgressions of the whole world Leviticus 5:6). There the meat and drink offering of His blessed body and blood (Leviticus 2:1).
II. THE DISSOLUTION OF IT BY DEATH.
1. The saying.
(1) Death is a dissolving, a loosing the cement with which body and soul are held together.
(2) This temple drops not down from age or weakness, dissolves not of itself, but by force and violence.
(3) Violent on their part, voluntary on His. He could have avoided it, and must have said it, or they could not have done it.
2. The saying no command, which would have been an order to commit sacrilege or murder; but
(1) A prediction to warn them of what they were now casting about.
(2) A permission which is always in the imperative; permitted for a greater good the destroying of sin by destroying this temple; for a greater good still to raise it again.
3. The doing. He said dissolve; they said crucify. The roof of this temple, His head, was loosed with thorns; the foundation, His feet, with nails; the side aisles, his hands, both likewise; the sanctum sanctorum, His heart, with a spear. They did more, they violently loosed the temple. And remember it was one of flesh and bone, not of lime and scone. Yet the ruins of a temple of senseless stone will excite pity; how much more the sensible temple of His body which, even before its dissolution, was strangely dissolved in bloody sweat, nor was it alone dissolved.
(1) The veil of the material temple split from top to bottom, as it were, for company, or in sympathy with Him.
(2) The great temple of the universe in a manner dissolved: its face black, the earth quaking, the stones rending, the graves opening.
III. THE REARING IT UP AGAIN BY HIS RESURRECTION. The saying was spoken by way of triumph over all they could do to Him.
1. The act.
(1) ἔγερω is a raising from sleep, and sleep we know is not destruction. It is to show us that He would turn death into a rest in hope, both His and ours.
(2) They should therefore miss their purpose. They reckoned to destroy Him, but would only prepare Him a short rest.
(3) The ease with which He would do it--with no more difficulty than waking from sleep, or tying an unloosed knot.
2. The person rising. Not “destroy you and some other shall raise,” but I will do it. An argument of His Divine nature. None could do it but God.
3. The thing raised. The same and no other.
(1) In substance.
(2) But not in quality; in a far better estate than before (Haggai 2:9). In the morning after sleep the body riseth more fresh and full of vigour. So His body and ours (1 Corinthians 15:42-43) and henceforth this temple, dissolved in death, should be indissoluble by reason of resurrection.
IV. THE TIME TO DO IT IN. Within three days; and He did it within the time. Our duty then is
1. To rejoice. At Easter we celebrate the feast of dedication, which was ever a feast of great joy.
(1) His dissolution means the loosing us from our sins and their consequences.
(2) His resurrection is a promise of what He will do for another temple: the temple of His body mystical, of which we are parts--living stones.
2. To templify our bodies, which in many are far from temples; houses of trade, pleasure, idolatary, which must be dissolved to be made God’s houses. Then God must come in and sanctify them. (Bp. Andrewes.)
I. LIFE THROUGH DEATH.
II. CONSTRUCTION THROUGH DISSOLUTION. III. THE USE OF THE NEW THROUGH THE FALL OF THE OLD. (Bp. Westcott.)
The temple of Christ’s body
The metaphor was not dragged into conversation, but the temple He had just purged was shown to be a figure of something greater than itself.
I. THE ENIGMA. Christ cast a shadow over truths, the full disclosure of which might have altered the conduct of the Jews and the character of His mission. His hearers were puzzled and their after thoughts excited. What good man could propose such a destruction? What sane man could promise such a restoration? Yet it made such an impression that it was misquoted against Christ in the high priest’s palace, and as He hung upon the cross (Matthew 26:60-61; Mark 14:57-58; Mark 15:29-30).
II. THE TYPE. The tabernacle and temple were significant preparations for the time when God would become flesh and tabernacle among men. Christ knew and proclaimed Himself to be the antitype; this new temple, in which the fulness of the godhead dwelt bodily, was consecrated when Jesus was anointed with the Holy Ghost.
III. THE LESSONS.
1. Christ foresaw clearly that the Jews would destroy this temple. To this He was reconciled and longed for it, inasmuch as His sphere of influence was now circumscribed; but the destroyed temple would be rebuilt on a scale more glorious, and all nations called to it.
2. The words, “I will raise it again,” are significant
(1) Of the identity of the body in which Christ rose with that in which He suffered. No doubt the transformation was great. The conditions of an incorruptible body are not known to us. But these words prove the link of continuity, and if there was such a link in the case of Christ, so also there will be one in the case of the saints whose bodies are to be like unto His.
(2) Of the power Christ had over His own future. His authority to cleanse the temple had been called in question. He affirmed that He had power not only to do this, but to raise up one which men could destroy but could not construct (John 10:18).
3. As He is risen Christ is a temple for all nations. In Him God dwells accessible to all: anywhere, irrespective of sacred times and places.
(1) The place of reconciliation, the refuge for sinners.
(2) The home of communion, the resort of saints; a temple that shall never be subverted.
4. The epistles carry this view of thought further.
(1) Every Christian is a temple of the living God; a motive for holiness far higher than moralists have dreamed of in their theories of the dignity of man, and the elevating power of self-respect (1 Corinthians 6:15; 1 Corinthians 6:19).
(2) More frequently Christians are living stones which collectively form a great temple or “habitation of God in the Spirit.”
5. A local church, also, as representing the Church Catholic, is also a temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:21-22; 1 Peter 2:5).
6. The life which animates the stones, and so pervades the temple, emanates from the living foundation stone--the risen Christ. But this cannot now be fully manifest, just as our Lord was not understood at Jerusalem. The inner life of Christians is not seen. The Lord’s body is not discerned in the Church. But the temple is so being built that the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
7. In such a world as this the holy temple encounters risk.
(1) The traders desecrated the Temple, worldly Christians secularize and degrade the Church of God; but such, sooner or later, the Lord will drive out and disown.
(2) Greater still is the fault of those who by strife and schism tend to destroy the temple; against this Paul lifts a stern warning (1 Corinthians 3:17). (Donald Fraser, D. D.)
The mysterious sign
I. ENIGMATICAL, conveying one thing to unbelief and another to faith. Under the figure of a destroyed and rebuilded temple Christ announced that His death, brought about by them and His resurrection effected by Himself, would legitimize His recent action and demonstrate who He was. The same sign was subsequently given in Galilee (Matthew 12:40).
1. By the Pharisees through
(1) Slavish adherence to the letter of Scripture (2 Corinthians 3:6).
(2) Spiritual blindness occasioned by hypocrisy (Mark 3:25; Romans 11:25).
(3) Positive aversion, arising from inward moral corruption (John 3:20; John 8:43-44).
2. By the disciples. They had begun to see the light, but, like men with eyes only just opened, they were unable to discern accurately the objects the light revealed (Mark 8:24).
III. MEMORABLE. Hid away, this word was never afterwards lost. It recurred after the Resurrection illuminated by the fact to which it pointed, and thus helped to seal their faith (Acts 26:23; Acts 26:23; Romans 1:4, 1 Peter 1:3). Lessons:
1. The complete ability of Christ to justify all His ways to God and man. Christ’s readiness to furnish a “sign.”
2. The irrefragable certainty of Christ’s death and resurrection, attested by the knowledge and experience of His disciples.
3. The veiled secret of Holy Scripture; the testimony of Jesus.
4. The blessedness of faith, however immature. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
The temple of His body
I. THE DIGNITY OF OUR LORD’S BODY. The bodies of believers are called temples because God dwells in them by a communication of grace, but the humanity of Christ is God’s temple by a substantial inhabitation, immediately and personally--“In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead.” God dwells in the Church as a King among His subjects, in Christ’s humanity as a King in His royal palace.
1. In the Epistle to the Hebrews Christ is the mystery shadowed forth by the outward sanctuary: The similitude will appear if we consider
(1) They were alike in building; both under the immediate and special direction of God.
(2) In the ornaments by which they were beautified.
(3) In Him the import of the sacred vessels is fulfilled.
(4) Christ’s body was like the Temple, as it regards those religious services which were performed in it.
(a) In the Temple was a standing oracle; in Christ’s humanity dwelt the true and living oracle of heaven.
(b) In the Temple was the altar of sacrifice and the atonement for sin. Both derived their efficacy from Him who His own self bore our sins.
(c) The Temple was the house of prayer: in the days of His flesh what prevailing supplications Christ offered, and He now even liveth to make intercession.
2. To this temple must every acceptable worshipper approach.
(1) The Spirit of Christ must inspire their prayers.
(2) His name must authorize them.
(3) His merit must perfume them.
(4) His advocacy must recommend them.
II. THE VIOLENCE AND DISHONOUR WHICH THE TEMPLE WAS DOOMED TO SUFFER AT THE HANDS OF HIS ENEMIES.
1. The nature of His passion was a dissolution, a full and complete death.
2. The extent of this passion. Death severed soul and body, but this was all--the union of the Godhead with the manhood was indestructible.
3. The circumstances by which this event was accomplished and wherein their aggravation consists.
(1) Violence and wickedness on man’s part.
(2) Voluntariness and love on His.
III. THE GLORY TO WHICH IT WAS TO BE RAISED BY HIS ALMIGHTY POWER.
1. The agent, “I.” Dead men were raised by others. Christ by Himself. He is a quickening spirit for Himself and for us.
2. The subject--the self-same temple.
3. The state.
(1) Substantial--“A spirit hath not flesh and bones,” etc.
(2) Entire--nothing wanting to its perfection.
(3) Glorious. (J. Styles, D. D.)
Christ’s human body the temple of God
I. THE DWELLING-PLACE OF GOD. As soon as the first temple at Jerusalem was built. “The glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.” This splendid manifestation passed away, but the Lord did not depart. To the very moment when the building was destroyed a shining cloud constantly abode over the mercy-seat as a symbol of Jehovah. The second temple was without this, but still God was there, dwelling unseen within it. And this fact was in our Lord’s mind, for He calls the Temple “His Father’s house.” He dwells indeed in His Church and in every soul which He has redeemed, because He is continually acting by His Holy Spirit. But when He speaks of dwelling in the Man Christ Jesus, He means much more than this. There is an actual passing of the Godhead into that frame of dust, a union so close and entire, that wherever that human frame is, there is God. Is this mysterious to you? It was mysterious to Paul. Great is the mystery of godliness; to angels. We cannot explain it; but Scripture, which calls on you most plainly to believe it. “God was in Christ.” “In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,” not by a figure; but really, substantially. God dwells in His Church as the light of day dwells in our houses; He dwells in Christ as the same light dwells in the sun. He dwells among His people as the ocean dwells in the rivers whither the swelling tide carries it; He dwells in the incarnate Jesus as that ocean dwells in its bed.
II. A MANIFESTATION OF GOD. And herein also the resemblance between Him and both the Jewish temples holds good. When God entered that, He entered not spiritually only, but visibly; a bright cloud was the symbol of His presence. To understand the application of all this to Christ we must bear in mind
1. Though we ourselves are spiritual beings, we can form no conception of any being that is purely spiritual. This incapacity arises from the constitution of our nature. God is a spirit. It will follow, then, that unless something is done to help us, we can never have any right idea of God. We may form some conceptions of His attributes; but as for God Himself, He can have no place in our minds. But He meets this weakness of our nature. We cannot get into that spiritual world which He inhabits; He comes, therefore, within our range, into the world of matter, and embodies Himself in the human nature of Christ, and then says to an astonished universe, “Behold your God!”
2. We can form no adequate idea of the character of any being, unless we see him in action, or are made acquainted with his actions. Now, had God merely embodied Himself in a human frame, and then just shown Himself to the earth and disappeared, we should not have been advanced materially in our knowledge of Him. Hence He “dwelt among us,” spoke and acted; and in so doing made a revelation of Himself. By the truths Christ taught, by the powers He exercised, by the dispositions He manifested, and above all, by His sufferings and death; He has unfolded to us the Divine character. Something was known of God before. The heavens had declared His glory. His law too had asserted His authority and holiness, and His providence had borne witness to His justice, His goodness and truth. But what was all this? Nothing, when compared with the person, and work, and cross of Christ.
III. A MONUMENT TO GOD’S PRAISE. We wonder not that lofty structures were raised to the gods of the heathen, and that the heathen thought they honoured their gods by raising them. They did honour them. Their gods were men like themselves. But as for building a temple to the living Jehovah’s glory, the thought of it seems at first confounding. We think of Him who has heaven for His throne and the earth for His footstool Yet God did allow a temple to be built to Him, and that temple did show forth His praise. It was a public acknowledgment of Him. Christ’s human nature glorifies God while it reveals Him. He is “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God,” “the brightness of the Father’s glory.” (G. Bradley, M. A.)
The three temples of the one God
I. THEIR ONE PURPOSE (cf. Psalms 68:29; 2 Corinthians 6:16)
. The essential idea of a temple is that of a place where God manifests Himself to man, and where man dedicates himself to God. The first of these is realized by the Shekinah; by the power and character of Christ; by the holiness Of Christly souls in each of the three temples respectively. The second is attained in each: by the altar of the Jewish Temple, by the cross, by consecration.
II. THEIR SIMILAR HISTORY. In their
1. Origin. There was silence and mystery in each. The temple noiselessly built, Christ obscurely born, the Christian spiritually quickened.
2. Materials: Glorious in each. In the Temple gold, precious stones, fragrant woods. In Christ a specially prepared sinless body. In Christians fearful and wonderful elements.
3. Sufferings. One besieged, the second crucified, the third hated by the world.
4. Divine desertion. The first was “left desolate,” the second “forsaken,” the third often loses God as in eclipse.
5. Destruction. The Temple was more than once destroyed; the Saviour gave up the Ghost; the Christian descends into the grave.
6. Restoration. The first was restored and may be again, Christ rose again the third day, Christians shall rise so that the temple shall be completed and the top stone laid with rejoicings. “Grace, grace unto it.”
1. For those who refuse to be identified with the Temple: What glory you lose; what a destiny you miss.
2. For those who are identified with the Temple: Be enduring; be pure; fulfil your high end. (U. R. Thomas.)
The crowning act
I. A CERTAIN DEMAND. It is shown
1. What they required--a sign, often requested in our Lord’s day and afterwards.
2. Why they required it--because of the extraordinary cleansing of the temple.
II. A SIGNIFICANT ANSWER. There is here
1. An exalted claim. The temple was the abode of God.
2. A striking prediction.
3. A wonderful declaration.
III. A GROSS MISREPRESENTATION.
1. How it originated; in applying literally what was only meant figuratively.
2. The feeling it produced--ridicule or contempt.
3. The explanation which the Evangelist supplies.
IV. AN IMPORTANT RESULT. “When therefore,” etc. From this we see
1. That the words of Christ were not forgotten.
2. The effect such remembrance produced. (Miracles of our Lord.)
When He was in Jerusalem at the Passover
The first Jerusalem believers
THE OBJECT OF THEIR FAITH: the name of Christ. The name of anything is that by which it is known; so the name of Christ is that revelation of the Saviour proposed for faith’s acceptance. So faith may vary in different ages, persons, and even in the same person according as the object is fully or partially unveiled and apprehended. Faith can never travel beyond the bounds of testimony. What was offered to Abraham was a Saviour to come John 8:56); to his descendants, a Saviour come; to John’s disciples, the Lamb of God; to Nathanael, the Son of God and the King of Israel; to the rulers and people of Jerusalem, the Messiah. As such He had been rejected by the former and was now accepted by the latter. The same name, now completely unveiled, is still faith’s object (Acts 3:16; Acts 4:12).
II. THE GROUND OF THEIR FAITH--the miracles of Christ; signs, visible pictures of Christ’s Messianic work as well as attestations of His Divine mission (John 3:2; Acts 10:38). In the same sense they are still helps to faith; they are obstacles only when considered impossible. They are not continued because unnecessary, having been superseded by a complete historical revelation and by a conscious indwelling of the Spirit.
III. THE CHARACTER OF THEIR FAITH.
1. Sincere, as far as it went. If afterwards those who believed in Him took up stones to kill Him (John 8:31; John 8:59) that constituted the damningcharacter of their crime. But some who now believed afterwards became disciples (John 4:45).
2. Incomplete. It did not go far enough. Resting satisfied with intellectual acknowledgment of Christ it did not pass on to spiritual surrender. It had taken the preliminary step of believing in Christ’s name; it wanted that additional of trusting in His person.
3. Superficial: occasioned by the impression produced by miracles and liable consequently to disappear when that impression failed.
IV. THE TREATMENT OF THEIR FAITH.
1. The nature of it: Reserve. He did not trust Himself to them, enter into close relations with them, unite them to Himself as disciples. When Christ puts Himself into the hands of a believer, the result is salvation and eternal John 6:50-54).
2. The reason of it: Insight. He knew what was in them saw they had not fully surrendered themselves. When a soul does so faith is complete. Christ’s knowledge of the human heart was the deepest ground of the different treatment accorded to the Baptist’s disciples; and that knowledge was
(1) instantaneous. He knew at a glance without investigation John 13:1; John 13:1; Luke 6:8; Acts 1:24; Hebrews 4:13).
(2) Original (Colossians 2:13; Revelation 2:18).
(3) Universal (John 16:30; John 18:4; John 21:17).
(4) Particular (John 4:29; John 5:42; John 13:11; John 20:27).
(5) Complete (John 6:64; John 6:64; Luke 5:22; Revelation 2:23).
1. Christ commonly obtains a readier welcome from the humble than from the great.
2. Faith may sometimes look to the right object and yet be exceedingly defective.
3. The soul that would fully enjoy Christ’s fellowship must have perfect faith.
4. Christ knows the quality and quantity of every man’s faith.
5. He who would have Christ trust Himself to him must first trust himself to Christ. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all men.
I. THE DANGER OF A SUPERFICIAL FAITH. It was only such a faith that these people had who believed in Christ on the ground of His miracles. It did not satisfy Christ. It had no deep root and had not led to loyal acceptance of His doctrine. Compare it with that of Nicodemus. Both felt that Christ was a teacher sent from God; but in the one case the feeling stopped there; in the other it stimulated patient inquiry. Consequently, while Christ did not commit Himself to the one, He did to the other. There are believers and believers; there is a serious possibility of being a sincere believer, but with a faith so shallow as not to be owned by Christ.
II. THE UNPROFITABLENESS OF A SUPERFICIAL FAITH. Christ had no faith in their faith. Shallow faith secures none of the privileges of discipleship; it does not appropriate Christ, and therefore does not enjoy His love and friendship. Christ reciprocates the faith of His true disciples only.
III. THE PERFECT ACQUAINTANCE WHICH CHRIST HAS WITH THE STATE OF PROFESSED BELIEVERS.
1. This bears on the nature of Christ ascribing to Him an attribute of Deity.
2. This bears on ourselves, telling us how thoroughly we are known. We may deceive ourselves, but we cannot deceive Him. This should lead to carefulness and honesty. (W. Steele, M. A.)
The omniscience of Christ
Nature in all her realms lies open to His eye. Mankind in all its races are in His view. Every man’s circumstances and thoughts are known to Him. This knowledge’ is
I. INTUITIVE Ours is dependent on human testimony; His utterly independent of it. Who told Him Zaccheus’ name, or of the domestic history of the woman of Samaria, or of the treachery of Judas? And so now from heaven He addressed Saul of Tarsus by name and told the Asian churches that He knew their works. Still “All things are naked and open unto His eyes.”
II. UNIVERSE. With instant discrimination He knew friend from foe, the enthusiasts which fed on His miracles, and that which was love to Himself. Where is there a man? Christ knows Him, one of a thousand millions. What is He doing in crowded mart or solitary cell? Christ knows all about it.
III. INTIMATE. He reads thoughts, feelings, affections, desires. Deception has no covering from Him; hypocrisy no mask He cannot pierce. Judas may deceive the twelve, he cannot deceive the Lord. There is no secrecy in sin. Conclusion: Take comfort from Christ’s omniscience.
1. Are we in sorrows? Think of Hagar.
2. Do we give ourselves to prayer? Think of Nathanael.
3. Are we of doubtful mind? Think of Thomas. (G. T. Coster.)
Christ’s distrust of man
I. WE MAY MEASURE IT IN PART BY THE TEMPTATION IT RESISTED. It was more wonderful than even His mighty works. Around Christ was a nation full of Messianic hopes. All He had to do was by falling in with the notional ideas to gather those hopes around Himself. Who could have resisted such a temptation but He who knew the falsity of the hearts which entertained those hopes.
II. IT DEPENDED UPON THOROUGH AND ABSOLUTE KNOWLEDGE. With most people distrust is the offspring, as in turn it becomes the parent of ignorance. When men have never fairly tried their fellows or studied their behaviour under circumstances which reveal character, they naturally hesitate to commit great interests to their keeping. Christ knew men because He knew man.
III. ITS BEARINGS ON THE REDEMPTIVE WORK OF CHRIST WERE MOST IMPORTANT.
1. It safeguarded Him from surprise and precipitancy.
2. It rendered His death absolutely voluntary. (A. F. Muir, M. A.)
Christ’s knowledge of man
Christ knows the very roots of the trees; we know the character of the trees only from the fruits. (Calvin.)
The miracles at the Passover
I. THE WORKS WHICH THE SAVIOUR PERFORMED.
1. Where they were performed.
2. When on the feast day, a most favourable time.
II. THE HONOUR WHICH THE SAVIOUR RECEIVED. No greater honour can be given to a man than to trust him.
1. By what means the people’s faith was produced. Miracles.
2. The number who were convinced of the truth of Christ’s claims was considerable.
III. THE CAUTION WHICH THE SAVIOUR EXERCISED.
1. How it was shown.
2. The reason assigned.
3. The truth announced--“Needed not,” etc.
(Miracles of our Lord.)
Christ’s knowledge of man
I. HE KNOWS ALL ABOUT THE DISEASE WHICH AFFLICTS US. Our faith in a physician’s knowledge has often much to do with our recovery. Christ knows thoroughly His own workmanship, and all about that sin which is marring it.
II. CHRIST THROUGH HIS KNOWLEDGE IS ABLE TO WORK HIS CURE. To perform this cure requires a perfect knowledge of the disease and power over it. Christ has both these.
III. CHRIST KNOWS THE CHRISTIAN IN A SPECIAL WAY. “I know My sheep.” He calls us by name. As in the human so in the Divine family dispositions and temperaments are recognized. One can be lead by a thread, another will break an ox chain. Christ saw the faith of the Syrophoenician. He knew what was in boasting Peter and in Judas.
1. He knows the temptation of each Christian, and will not allow us to be tempted above what we are able.
2. In the light of this we are able to understand better our trials. Christ as the Physician does not hesitate to use the lancet when necessary. He bleeds the plethoric that he may bring forth more fruit. (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)
Christ’s knowledge of man
He knows what was in man
I. AS HE CAME AT FIRST FROM THE CREATOR’S HAND. God made man upright; and that uprightness is known to Him on whom our help has been laid. The Son partook of the Divine council in which the human constitution was planned.
II. WHEN HE HAD FALLEN. Knowing the character of the perfect work, the Saviour knows also the amount of damage that it has sustained. He knows, also, the gravity of man’s sin, as an event affecting all the plans of God, and the government of all intelligent beings. Some trees are of such a constitution that if the uppermost bud is once nipped off, the tree is finally ruined. It can never develop itself into its proper shape and dimensions. Such an uppermost bud was humanity on the whole material creation. Deprived of its head, the world could not shoot up into the beauty and completeness which its Maker intended it should attain.
III. WHAT WOULD RESTORE HIM, AND WAS ABLE TO APPLY THE CURE. Knowing the worth of man as God had made him, our Physician would not abandon the wreck; but knowing how complete the wreck was, He bowed His heavens and came down to save. He united Himself to us, that if He should rise so must we. I rejoice in the omniscience of the Holy One, both on account of the good that He knew in man, and the evil. A counsellor who understood less fully what our nature was, and our constitution fitted us to become might have advised abandonment. It often becomes a question whether a stranded ship should be left to her fate or brought off and repaired. Sometimes an erroneous judgment is acted on. On one side, an effort is made to save the wreck, when it would have been better to abandon it, and construct another. Again, she is sometimes weakly abandoned, when it would have been profitable to have saved her. And so a helper who understood less of our original nature and capability might have proposed to cast us off as hopelessly damaged, supposing that, by allowing the “wreck to be wholly washed away, a new and higher degree of intelligence might have been called into existence. Although Christ knew all the evil that was in man by sin, He did not disdain to undertake the rescue. By assuming the nature of the fallen, and meeting the law in their stead, He received the curse into Himself and exhausted it.
IV. SOME LESSONS:
1. Speaking of the unconverted--He knows what is in them and yet He does not cast out the unclean.
2. Speaking of His own disciples--He knows what is in them, and with that knowledge, it is because He is God and not man, that He does not shake them off.
3. He knows what is in man, and therefore can make His word and providence suitable. (W. Arnot, D. D.)
Inward knowledge of man necessary for good authorship
Dickens, writing about a clever story by a popular author, says, “It is extremely good indeed; but all the strongest things of which it is capable missed. It shows just how far that kind of power can go. It is more like a note of an idea than anything else. It seems to be as if it were written by somebody who lived next door to other people, rather than inside of them.”
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "John 2". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11