And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:
We must perceive at once the peculiar appropriateness with which this miracle was chosen as the first to be performed by our Lord, when we bear in mind that the great object of our Lord's incarnation was to reunite, in ties compared to the bonds of marriage, the human nature with the Divine.
I. It was a festal occasion, and how could our gracious Lord but rejoice at the commencement of that stupendous work of Divine mercy which, determined upon before the world began, by the kindness of God the blessed Trinity, He had now come to effect? Yet whilst the Lord Jesus cheered His heart at the commencement of His ministry by adorning the marriage feast with His presence, and so contemplating His own union with His spouse, the Church, there is melancholy in these words, "Mine hour is not yet come," which speaks to the heart of every one who truly weighs their meaning.
II. "Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it." This is our exhortation. Be in the way of duty, and God will be with you. And herein how blessed and how wonderful is the example set us by our Lord Himself! The greatest miracle, as an old writer has observed, is that Christ should have been for thirty years on earth and yet have worked no miracle till now. For thirty years He did not manifest His powers even to His kinsmen; for thirty years He pursued a carpenter's trade in a remote town of Galilee, obscure, despised. For almost His whole life His was a career of obscurity such as the ambitious must despise. His was a life of inactivity such as the active, the zealous, the busybodies must consider useless. His was a life most certainly which no son of man so endowed (looking merely to endowments of our Lord's human nature) could have led without the special and restraining grace of God. Thus Christ teaches us that our perfection and true greatness consist, in the eyes of angels and of those just men made perfect who form the Church invisible and triumphant, in doing God's will, whatever that will may be, in that situation in which He sees fit, by the ordinance of His Providence, to place us.
W. F. Hook, Sermons on the Miracles, vol. i., p. 1.
References: John 2:5.—Parker, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 1; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 28. John 2:7.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi., No. 1556. John 2:9, John 2:10.—Ibid., vol. v., Nos. 225, 226. John 2:10.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 24; J. Keble, Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany, pp. 421, 441; Homilist, vol. vi., p. 345.
John 2:11I. Beyond doubt this was a miracle of sympathy; and, which perhaps we should not have expected, sympathy with festivity and joy. The hardest kind of sympathy, as everyone who has tried it knows, is to throw a mind that is saddened—which Christ's mind was always—into the happiness of others. It is singular, too, that though it was a first thing, its great point and object was to teach about the last—that with what Christ does, and what Christ gives, unlike and the very opposite to what man does and what the world gives, the last is always the best; and that it grows sweeter, richer, truer, even to the end.
II. Miracles always cluster about the beginnings of new dispensations, or, which is the same thing, about great reformations in an old religion: as Moses, and Joshua, and the Judges, and Elijah that great reformer, and Christ. They are to establish the credibility, the Divine mission, the glory of the leaders of a new system or the teachers of a new faith.
III. There are many definitions of a miracle, but they all come to this—it is a suspension of the laws of Nature, or an effect without its usual cause; and if this makes a miracle, there is very little difference, indeed, between such a work as Christ did at Cana and what He does in every soul which is a partaker of His grace. For in every converted heart, the law of its own nature has been suspended; and no physical cause whatever could account for that effect which has been produced in the change of its tastes and its affections. And it is like the operation of the water at the marriage feast. For by a secret and mysterious process a new principle, a virtue not its own, is introduced and mingled with the original elements of the man's character; and so it comes forth in a strength and a sweetness which were never conceived before, which are for life and refreshment, and usefulness and cheer. Yet this change is but "the beginning of miracles." Many other as wonderful works will follow, for sustaining grace is to the full as great a marvel as converting grace.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 7th series, p. 78.
I. Christ's sympathy with the relationships and gladness of man's life.
II. His elevation of the natural into the Divine; of the common into the uncommon.
III. Can a man be really heavenly in his daily tasks and in his human friendships? Yes, for (1) the character of man's deeds is determined by their inner motive, not by their outward form; (2) his sanctity is attained through the power of Christ's love.
E. L. Hull, Sermons, 3rd series, p. 35.
I. What is a miracle? A miracle is an interference with the common course of Nature by some power above Nature. Any one who believes in a personal Author and Governor of Nature, will have no difficulty in believing in miracles. The same Almighty Being who made and upholds Nature, can interfere, whenever it pleases Him, with the ordinary course of Nature, which He has Himself prescribed. To say that He cannot do this, is manifestly foolish and presumptuous in the extreme; we cannot set bounds to His purposes, nor tell beforehand how He may be pleased to accomplish them.
II. As there are good and bad miracles—miracles of Divine goodness and miracles of lying spirits—one thing must be very plain to us, viz., that by miracles alone no man can be proved to be sent from God. What, then, were our Lord's miracles, as regards their place in His great work? They held a very important place, but they did not hold the chief place, in the evidences of His mission. He turned water into wine, He spoke and the winds were silent, He commanded diseases with a word. So far, the power might be from above or from beneath. But, coupled with His holy and blameless life, and His love of God and obedience to God, these works of power took another character, and became signs—St. John's usual word for them—signs whence He came; they became, when viewed together with the consistent and unvarying character of His teaching and life, most valuable and decisive evidences to His Messiahship. Our Lord's miracles are full of goodness to the bodies and souls of men. Each of them has its own fitness, as adapted to His great work, and to the will of the Father, which He came to accomplish. Each one tends to manifest forth His glory; shows forth some gracious attribute, some deep sympathy.
III. In this particular miracle (1) our Lord, in ministering to the fulness of human joy, shows more completely the glory of His Incarnation than if He had ministered to human sorrow; because, under Him and in His kingdom, all sorrow is but a means to joy—all sorrow ends in joy. (2) The gift of wine sets forth the invigorating and cheering effects of the Spirit of God on man's heart. (3) He kept His best to the last. (4) All this He will do, not at our time, but at His own.
H. Alford, Sermons on Christian Doctrine, p. 82.
As of all our Lord's miracles this was the first, so of all its symbolical character is most plainly perceived, as lying on the very surface. That material gift of God, which He here so abundantly and miraculously imparted, is used in Scripture as a common symbol for the gladdening and invigorating influence of the Spirit under the new covenant. As, then, Christ came to shed down upon the world the higher spiritual gift, so He begins His miracles by imparting in a wonderful manner the lower and material one which symbolises the other.
I. One great feature of the Lord's working in this parable must not escape our notice. The gift which He bestowed was not according to the slow progress of man's proceeding, but direct from His own creative hand. No ministry of man or angel intervened between His will and the bestowal of the gift. Even so it is with His other spiritual gifts; man wrought them not out, nor did we ourselves provide their conditions or their elements; the best we can say of them, and all we can say of them, is that they came from Him. Man may imitate them, may build up their likeness, but man can never endue them with life.
II. There is another particular, in our Lord's operation on this occasion, which deserves our notice. At first, He created out of nothing. Since that first act, however, He does so no longer. But out of that which is poor and weak and despised, He by His wondrous power and in His wondrous love, brings that which is rich and glorious. And thus His glory is manifested forth. He created the wine, but it was out of water; and even so it is in our own lives. We build not up, we provide not the materials of the spiritual state within us; yet it is a transformation, not a creation out of nothing. In our weakness His strength is perfected.
III. "Thou hast kept the good wine until now." This was not, is not, the way of the world. First, the good is put forth. The show is made. All pains are spent; all appliances collected; all costs bestowed; the image is uncovered, and the multitude fall down and adore. But the joy wears out, the wonder departs, and the beautiful image becomes blurred and defaced by climate and by decay. Not so is it with Him whom we love: His beginnings are small and unobtrusive, His progress is gradual and sure. He remembers the end, and He never does amiss.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. iii., p. 16.
References: John 2:11.—C. Kingsley, All Saints' Day, p. 320; Church of England Pulpit, vol. i., p. 75; H. P. Liddon, Christmastide Sermons, p. 368; G. E. L. Cotton, Sermons and Addresses in Marlborough College, p. 459; W. M. Taylor, The Gospel Miracles, p. 207; F. D. Maurice, The Gospel of St. John, p. 57; W. H. King, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 120; Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 112; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., p. 88; A. Barry, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 17. John 2:13-17.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 181.
John 2:15-17"My Father's House.".
I. In this passage we find our Lord, in the first instance, disconnecting, jealously disconnecting, all temporal from spiritual things; endeavouring to do away with that worldly spirit which comes into our holy things. Now, in the letter of the thing, we are not in danger in the present day of any exact parallel to that which drew down our Saviour's indignant reproof upon those who kept the market, and came with beasts and money within the precincts of the Jewish Temple. Yet let us never forget that, before God, the inner life of thought is as real life as the outer life of action. Therefore, thoughts in the house of God are as real to our Heavenly Father as any act can be. If, when within the sacred walls, to think of secular transactions be reprehensible in the sight of God, which of us is not brought in guilty before His omniscient eye.
II. It was Christ's desire to purify His spiritual house. It is for the purity of that Church that our blessed Lord and Master is so anxious, and for which He prays, and for which He shed His Blood; and for which now, in heaven, He intercedes; and for the sake of which He looks to His Second Advent. There is a wonderful prophecy in Malachi 3:1 : "The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His Temple, even the Messenger of the Covenant, whom ye delight in... but who may abide the day of His coming?" In this verse you will notice that the Lord who is to come to His Temple is to come as the Jews' delight, and He is to come suddenly. The Lord did come suddenly on the occasion of my text. He appeared suddenly among the Jews, who then despised Him, but He did not come as the Lord in His glory. But He is to come again to His Church; and if, as we believe, in the restoration of the Jews to their own country, they shall rear again Ezekiel's temple, then in Ezekiel's temple literally the Lord Himself shall come, even the Messenger of the Covenant, whom they shall delight in. Not as the carpenter's son, but as the Lord in His glory; and He will come, and come to purify.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 2nd series, p. 171.
References: John 2:16.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. vi., p. 262; Ibid., vol. xi., p. 211; J. M. Neale, Sermons for the Christian Year, vol. i., p. 161.
John 2:17I. Zeal is one of the elementary religious qualifications—that is, one of those which are essential to the very notion of a religious man. A man cannot be said to be in earnest in religion till he magnifies his God and Saviour; till he so far consecrates and exalts the thought of Him in his heart, as an object of praise and adoration and rejoicing, as to be pained and grieved at dishonour shown to Him, and eager to avenge Him. In a word, a religious temper is one of loyalty towards God; and we all know what is meant by being loyal from the experience of civil matters. To be loyal is not merely to obey, but to obey with promptitude, energy, dutiful ness, disinterested devotion, disregard of consequences. And such is zeal, except that it is ever attended with that reverential feeling which is due from a creature and a sinner towards his Maker, and towards Him alone.
II. On the other hand, zeal is an imperfect virtue; that is, in our fallen state, it will ever be attended by unchristian feelings if it is cherished by itself. (1) Love perfects zeal, purifying and regulating it. (2) Faith is another grace which is necessary to the perfection of zeal. We have need of faith, not only that we may direct our actions to a right object, but that we may. perform them rightly; it guides us in choosing the means as well as the end. Now, zeal is very apt to be self-willed; it takes upon itself to serve God in its own way. Patience, then, and resignation to God's will, are tempers of mind of which zeal stands especially in need—that dutiful faith which will take nothing for granted on the mere suggestion of nature, looks up to God with the eyes of a servant towards his master, and, as far as may be, ascertains His will before he acts. If this heavenly corrective be wanting, zeal becomes what is called political. Christian zeal plans no intrigues; it recognises no parties; it relies on no arm of flesh. It looks for no essential improvements or permanent reformations in the dispensation of those precious gifts which are ever pure in their origin, ever corrupted in man's use of them. It acts according to God's will, this time or that, as it comes, boldly and promptly; yet letting each act stand by itself, as a sufficient service to Him, not connecting them in one, or working them into system, further than He commands. In a word, Christian zeal is not political.
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. ii., p. 379.
References: John 2:17.—A. Barry, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 17; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 95. John 2:18.—R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 4th series, p. 120.
John 2:19The Destroyers and the Restorer.
This is our Lord's answer to the Jewish request for a sign which should warrant His action in cleansing the Temple. "Destroy this temple," said our Lord, as His sufficient and only answer to the demand for a sign; "and in three days I will raise it up." We see in these words—
I. An enigmatical forecast of our Lord's own history. Notice, (1) that marvellous and unique consciousness of our Lord as to His own dignity and nature. "He spake of the temple of His body." Think that here is a Man, apparently one of ourselves, walking amongst us, living the common life of humanity, who declares that in Him, in an altogether solitary and peculiar fashion, there abides the fulness of Deity. And not only does the fulness abide, but in Him the awful remoteness of God becomes for us a merciful presence; the infinite abyss and closed sea of the Divine Nature hath an outlet and becomes a river of water of life. And as the ancient name of that Temple was the tent of meeting, the place where Israel and God, in symbolical and ceremonial form, met together, so in inmost reality in Christ's nature, Manhood and Divinity cohere and unite; and in Him all of us—the weak, the sinful, the alien, the rebellious—may meet our Father. (2) Still further, notice how we have here, at the very beginning of our Lord's career, His distinct prevision of how it was all going to end. The Shadow of the Cross fell upon His path from the beginning, because the Cross was the purpose for which He came. He knows that He goes up to be the lamb of the offering, and knowing it, He goes. (3) We have here our Lord's claim to be Himself the Agent of His own Resurrection. "I will raise it up at the last day." He is the Lord of the Temple as well as the Temple.
II. We see here, in the next place, a prophetic warning of the history of the men to whom He was speaking. Christ's death having realised all which Temple worship symbolised, that which was the shadow was put away when the substance appeared. The destroyed Temple disappears, and out of the dust and smoke of the vanishing ruins, there rises, beautiful and serene, though incomplete and fragmentary and defaced with many a stain, the fairer reality, the Church of the living Christ.
III. We have here a foreshadowing of our Lord's world-wide work as the restorer of man's destructions. If you will put yourselves in His hands and trust yourselves to Him, He will take away all your incompleteness, and will make you, body, soul, and spirit, temples of the Lord God; as far above the loftiest beauty and whitest sanctity of any Christian character here on earth as is the "building of God, the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens," above "the earthly house of this tabernacle."
A. Maclaren, Christian Commonwealth, April 20th, 1886.
References: John 2:19.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 46; J. Keble, Sermons from Easter to Ascension Day, p. 54. John 2:19-22.—D. Fraser, Metaphors of the Gospels, p. 257. John 2:21.—G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 403; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. v., p. 286. John 2:23.—C. W. Furse, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 321. John 2:23-25.—T. Hammond, Ibid., vol. xiii., p. 165. John 2:24.—Homiletic. Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 424. John 2:24, John 2:25.—G. T. Coster, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvi., p. 116; A. F. Muir, Ibid., vol. xvii., p. 365.
John 2:25The idea of a physician, when complete and considered apart from human imperfections, contains these three things: He must know the patient's constitution, his disease, and his cure. He must understand, (i.) what was the nature and capacity of the subject originally and before he was afflicted with disease; (ii.), the ailment under which he labours; and, (iii.) what will restore the diseased to health again. Jesus Christ knows—
I. What was in man as he came at first from his Creator's hand. God made man upright, and that uprightness is known to Him on whom our help has been laid. The Son of God knew that the constitution of humanity admitted of complete communion with God, as a child in a father's bosom, and yet complete submission to God's will, as the creature of His hand.
II. What was in man 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. As the defection of a chief carries away all that owned his sway, the fall of man affected the condition and prospects of the universal kingdom.
III. Knowing the original constitution and the subsequent disease of the patient, the Physician knew also 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, became bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, that He might raise us up. He so knit Himself to His own on earth that if He should rise, so must they. Some lessons:—(1) Speaking of the individual and of the unconverted, He knows what is in man, and yet He does not cast out the unclean. Lepers were not allowed to dwell among the people, but He who is holy, harmless, and undefiled, welcomes the leprous to His bosom. (2) Speaking now 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. His providences, although for the time they may seem mysterious, all work together for our good. (4) He knows what is in man—in the secret chambers of each heart.
W. Arnot, The Anchor of the Soul, p. 125.
References: John 2:25.—Homilist, vol. vi., p. 263; W. G. Horder, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxii., p. 45. John 3:1.—G. T. Coster, Ibid., vol. xix., p. 61, John 3:1, John 3:2.—T. Foster, Ibid., vol. xviii., p 259; T. Hammond, Ibid., vol. xiii., p. 165. John 3:1-3.—J. Baldwin Brown, Ibid., vol. xix., p. 136. John 3:1-11.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 18. John 3:1-15.—Ibid., p. 276; W. Landels, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix., p. 33. John 3:1-16.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 199. John 3:1-17.—Homilist, 3rd series, vol. ii., p. 329. John 3:2.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 181; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 296; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 149.
And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.
And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.
His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.
And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.
Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.
And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.
When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,
And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.
This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.
After this he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples: and they continued there not many days.
And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,
And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:
And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables;
And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.
And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.
Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?
Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.
Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?
But he spake of the temple of his body.
When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.
Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did.
But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men,
And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.