Two Periods of Christ at a Feast
When a man has set his hand to some stupendous task that can only be achieved through years of suffering, there are two seasons when the strain is sorest. One is when the great work is but begun and the difficulties of it are coming into view; the other is when the work is well-nigh ended. At these two times, when the strain is most intense, the heart recoils from the common intercourse of life. It is very notable that at these two periods we should find Jesus seated and happy at a feast. When other men are fevered, He is feasting. When others cannot brook the common talk, He joins the conversation of the happy table. Could you have guessed, seeing that quiet stranger at the table, that but a week before, alone and in the wilderness, He had been tempted so fiercely by the devil? Could you have thought, seeing Him at the Last Supper with His own, that in a few days He would be crucified? The marriage feast at Cana and the closing banquet in the upper chamber not only tell us of His great love for men, they fill us with ever-deepening surprise at the wonderful serenity of Christ.
The First Miracle, a Counterpart to the First Temptation
First, then, let us observe that in this first miracle we have a counterpart to the first temptation. In the difference between Jesus’ action then and now we have the first glimpses of His glory (Joh 2:11). Alone in the wilderness there came the whisper, “There is no bread; command that these stones be made bread.” Now at the marriage feast there comes the whisper, “There is no wine,” and Jesus turned the water into wine. Both acts would have called for equal power; they were identical if regarded outwardly, yet Jesus saw in the former a snare of evil, and by the latter He began to show His glory. Do you see the difference between the two? In the one, His power would have been employed upon Himself; in the other, it was at the service of His friends. He turned the water into wine for others, but for Himself He would not turn the stones to bread. He saved others, Himself He would not save. He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister. It was the golden dawn of a self-forgetful service that won its crown on Calvary.
Nothing Can Match in Quality What Christ Offers
Again, in this first miracle we have the first foreshadowing of the surpassing excellence of Jesus’ handiwork. The home at Cana was a humble home; but at a marriage an Oriental home, however humble, found ways and means to have the choicest wine. It was its very excellence which proved fatal to it—had it been worse, it might have lasted longer. Then Jesus wrought, and the six waterpots of water became wine, and when the chairman tasted it, not knowing whence it came, he cried that this was the best wine of all. When the company sat down there was wine upon the table. Christ’s vintage challenged comparison with that. No wine would match the quality of that wine which was introduced into the feast by Christ. Now, is not that a mystical foreshadowing of the abiding glory of the Lord? Are there not many things which Jesus brought to the world, the same in kind as the world had always had, yet overtopping them all in worth and excellence? I see the table of the world when Jesus came. There is the cup of love on it and the beaker of joy; there is the wine of hope and of peace and of human character. But when I compare the hope and love and joy that Jesus found with the hope and love and joy that Jesus gave; and when I place the highest pagan character with the noblest character that Christ has fashioned, I cry with the chairman, “This is the best of all”—no wine can match the wine of Christ in quality.
That Which Christ Gives Is Abundant
Once more, in this first miracle we have a first glimpse of the divine prodigality of love. Did you ever think how much these waterpots contained when the servants had filled them, perhaps in quiet humor, to the brim? They held about a hundred and twenty gallons. One-twentieth part of that would surely have been ample to satisfy the largest marriage company. But I hardly think that Jesus stopped to count whether the waterpots were six or twelve. Had He consulted His mother or the servants, they could have told Him exactly what was needed; but He consulted none but His own heart and God—and all the six are wine. Now turn to the wilderness again and to the first temptation. There, for Himself, Jesus would not turn one single stone into a loaf. Here, in the service of His neighbor, there is no bounty that can be too great. He gives with a lavishness that is sublime because it is the lavishness of love. Do you not think that as John looked back on this, he saw in the prodigality Christ’s glory? I think he would recall this opening scene at Cana when the whisper went round, “To what purpose is this waste?” It was Christ’s glory to lavish His all upon the world. It was His glory to die upon the cross. In the uncalculating lavishness of dying love, John saw the spirit that had made the water wine.
Whatever Christ Touches Acquires an Upward Trend
Lastly, in this first miracle, we have the first prophecy of the upward trend of Jesus’ touch. There have been men who never entered the circle of a home or of a church or of another’s heart, but they have left it a little lower than they found it. But there are other men whose faces shine although they wist it not, and it is easier to be brave while they are with us, and we shall walk till the evening with a firmer tread because we met with them in life’s golden morning. Now, magnified ten-thousandfold, that was and is the way with Jesus Christ. There is an upward trend in all His influence: He touches nothing that is not adorned. The lilies of the field speak loud of God; the mustard-seed is the likeness of the Kingdom. Shifty Simon becomes stable Peter, and John the passionate grows into John who loves. The water becomes wine; the wine shall yet be the symbol of His blood. Have we all shared in this upward trend of Jesus’ touch?