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abundant good wine

... there was a wedding (around AD 30) at Cana in Galilee ... the wine ran out ... Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding two or three metretes [one metretres = 35 litres = 46 bottles; 6 jars  = 700 bottles] ... they filled them with water up to the brim .... the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine ... called the bridegroom and said to him ... “... you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.                John 2: 1-11


700 bottles? The guests had already drunk the wine that, when bought, was considered ample. Extra was needed. But 700 bottles extra? 


This can’t be Jesus Christ.


Had this happened in Jersey the “master of the feast” (if he were a pub landlord) might have protested instead of commenting favourably on the wine quality – because his liquor license might have been endangered by this abundant over-supply. 


Can it be Jesus? Look again at the final sentence quoted in bold above. “This .... manifested his glory.


So what’s behind this, “the first of his signs” that Jesus did? How can such a “sign” “manifest his glory”?


Quite so. How could the “glory” of Jesus be made manifest when the “sign” took place in a village, “at Cana in Galilee” and not in Jerusalem? And when it seems that very few people (his mother and his key followers) knew that Jesus had been responsible for changing water into good wine? He was unwilling merely to work miracles so as to create a crowd of followers.


There is a further apparent non sequitur. Jesus was initially very reluctant to meet this need. When his mother told him about the shortfall in wine he said that this was not the time or place for him to help out like that. Why then did he provide this sign?


The answer to these conundrums seems to lie in a deeper meaning to this sign than merely the changing of water into wine. Actually, that’s true of all of the miracles of Jesus of Nazareth. They are not random evidences of his power. They are much more than that. They have a meaning that alters people inside. Because of the sign “his disciples believed in him.”


This, therefore, needs much more thought. Did you notice that the six stone water jars were used in Cana for “the Jewish rites of purification [Greek katharismos from which we get “catharsis”, cleansing]? Cleansing is a good idea in principle – but it’s joyless, isn’t it – especially if it is purification from sin.


Can purification result in great joy? Was that the point of the sign? A new means of purification – with abundant joy and happiness – was there in Cana in the person of Jesus Christ. The Jewish rites of purification could never provide a joyful forgiveness and an abundant future.


Jesus was unwilling to be known as powerful - but wanted folk to discover his true purpose.


Is there more to know about his true purpose? John, the biographer of Jesus, records shortly after this incident at Cana, a meeting that Jesus had with a Rabbi, a ruler and teacher of the Jews named Nicodemus. In the course of that conversation Jesus said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal (Greek aonios) life.


The serpent in the wilderness incident occurred around 1350 BC when a plague of deadly serpents was among the complaining Israelites as a punishment for sin. If bitten they could be cleansed of sin’s venomous consequences merely by looking at a bronze serpent on a pole, on a cross.


Jesus, AD 30 is saying that he has come so as to be “lifted up” (exalted, made glorious) on a criminal’s cross - to purify others. And folk so cleansed would have “aeonian life” within. They had to look. Those who need the purifying water do look – and truly live.

‘There is as much difference between spiritual joys and earthly as between a banquet that is eaten and one that is painted on a wall.' (Thomas Watson, preacher and author, 1620-1686)
‘Here, joy begins to enter into us; there we enter into joy.'  (Thomas Watson, preacher and author, 1620-1686)
Richard Syvret

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