Many long years had passed by. And always the mother of Jesus was pondering in her heart concerning the meaning of all this Word of God, this revelation concerning her son. And while she pondered, and, no doubt, instructed Him, He “increased and grew strong, filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon Him”. For thirty years she had watched this marvelous son, and all the while she pondered.
Small wonder it is, that, when Jesus was thirty years of age and when so many great and important things were happening—things that seemed to point to the indisputable fact, that the hour had struck, that Mary, Jesus’ mother, could contain herself no longer, that on this memorable day at the wedding-feast in Cana of Galilee she seeks to take the initiative by saying: they have no wine. Mary would push the issue.
But she does not understand! And in her hands things would have gone all wrong. The way which she would have chosen would not have led to the glory of the throne of David, the glory of Christ in the deep way of His suffering, His hour, at the right hand of the Father.
But it is now that Christ takes matters into His own hands, and that most fundamentally.
Notice that He takes it for this very reason out of the hands of Mary. He puts her into her rightful place. No, this is not the crude rebuff of a rude son who would dare call his mother “woman”. The word that Jesus here speaks as the Son of God in the flesh, as He is His anointed Servant. He is obedient here to His Messianic calling. He here stands not as Mary’s son, but here He stands as the firstborn Son of God, who will be Lord over all. He is, therefore, also Mary’s Lord, as well as that of David. Compare; . And in this relationship as the Anointed Son in our flesh, whose work is wrought in flesh and blood, yet not along the line of the progress of flesh and blood, by the Word and Spirit, water and His blood, He here lays down the lines of the foundation of the Father’s house. In this house He will be Lord and all the others will be brethren. But they will not be the brethren of the flesh. How could this be. Thus was never the promise given to Abraham. That is not the style of the heavenly architect and builder. Nay, the mother, brethren and sisters of the Lord in this new relationship are they who do the will of His Father who is in heaven.
And so the mother of Jesus is here fundamentally corrected by the Messiah of Israel.
So, fundamentally that now Jesus has cleared the way to begin His work in the Father’s house!
He has in this correcting of Mary, in one stroke, kept the way clear for Himself to walk the way, that will lead to His “hour”. And the chief cornerstone, the stone that was laid by God in Zion will He be in His own blood in that “hour”.
When Jesus, therefore, thus speaks He is preaching the cross and its power. He is preaching Himself as the only hope for Israel and also for Mary. Mary He is saving from her own destruction. He takes Mary’s little plans, the plans of a mere mother according to the flesh, and raises it to the exalted style of the eternal goodpleasure of God’s will in the Beloved Son. And so, this is not a crude rebuke, but it is marvelous saving grace, of which even Mary and her other children will one day sing in perfection, as they already did in the day of Pentecost.
And, we think, Mary felt something of the wonder here already. She immediately is obedient. No, do not say, that when she tells the servants to do whatsoever he says, that she still persists to take matters into her hands. She doesn’t. She says: let’s all be obedient to Him. We will do what He says.
And now Jesus begins with His “sign”. He tells the servants present to fill the water pots, that are present, to the brim. This they do. And with His almighty power, which is His because of the Father’s love for Him () He changes the water into wine. And here again there is divine majesty. The servants knew that it was water that they put into the pots. And what a water they had carried. Approximately 120 gallons of water. And now, behold it is wine. It is carried to the governor of the feast upon Christ’s command. And real wine it is found to be. It was very good. It exceeded in quality the wine that had up till this time been served. Such was the testimony of the governor of the feast not after he knew whence it was. The servants knew. The judge is ignorant of the circumstances. The witnesses are present. There can, therefore, be no doubt about this sign for the servants, nor for Mary and the disciples.
Such was the “beginning of signs”.
The text says beginning. We must not attempt to change the sense of this. Let us leave it as it stands. “Beginning” is not the same as “first”. Indeed this was the first sign. But it was much more. It was the beginning of signs. The implication of this is undoubtedly, that in this first sign the fundamental pattern of all future signs is present. All the other signs in the book of John fall into line. When we understand this sign the others are understandable too. This plan in the work of Christ is what we would expect from Christ. Does Jesus not follow the same plan also in the parables that He speaks. Wherefore when He speaks the first parable, the parable of the sower, and when the disciples do not understand it he says: “Know ye not this parable, and how shall ye then know all parables?” As is the case with this first parable, so we would also understand the “beginning” of signs.
What Christ manifests in this sign is His glory in the way of His “hour”. And in this “hour” He will enter into His own glory, and we shall be brought with Him into this glory. Other signs Jesus will perform, and we hope to study them. And they will all point us to this Christ, to the glory that is His and that shall be ours with Him in His death and resurrection.
Thus it also becomes clear why John writes as he does. He is obedient to the Spirit of truth. The Holy Spirit as the Spirit of the living Christ in glory led Him, John writes! But writing he is led by Christ Himself, who sends the Spirit. And this Spirit takes it all out of Christ and gives it unto us. What He gives is not merely the spiritual blessings, but also the work of instruction, the testimony concerning the Christ, the Son of the living God. These things, these signs are written in this book by the guidance of Christ, that we might believe, and that believing we might live in His name. It is His own Word concerning Himself that we possess here in this fourth gospel.
And, therefore, John adds the important notice, that when Jesus manifested forth His glory in this “beginning of miracles” the disciples believed in Him.
This might at first glance seem to merely imply that the disciples believed that Jesus had performed the miracle. But surely that cannot merely be the meaning of John. The disciples believed that He was the Christ. By faith they saw the implication of the sign. They began to look for greater and better things to come. Here was the long promised Messiah indeed. Indeed, he was a prophet and God was with Him. Here is Immanuel!
It is true that there are notices in the Gospels which indicate that the disciples did not always understand. They often were of little faith. But believe in Christ they did. Although the content of their faith shall presently increase in riches they now already see in Him the Messiah, the one that shall redeem Israel. Concerning this there is no question in their minds.
Thus John says: And His disciples believed in Him.
We have but to think of Andrew, one of the two who first visited with Jesus, who goes to Simon Peter, his brother and says: “We have found Him, the Messiah”. Or again we think of Phillip. After seeing so many of the signs of Christ, and after having been “so long a time” with Christ, he still asks that the Father be shown to Him in the upper room in the night in which Jesus was betrayed. He does even then not yet fully comprehend. But at the first meeting with Jesus, when Jesus tells him that He already saw him sitting under the sycamore tree, then Phillip already makes the wonderful confession: “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou art the King of Israel”. He had been promised to see greater things than these. At this wedding feast Phillip is shown with the other disciples in this Sign of the changing of the water into wine, the greater things, the glory of the Son at God’s right hand. Truly the very heavens were come down to earth. The wonder of Jacob’s ladder of ascending and descending angels must have been brought to Phillip’s attention. And in faith he saw and believed. Vistas of glory opened up before his believing eyes!
Such is the power of this manifested glory. It is the clear testimony of God in heaven to His Son for our sakes, in our behalf.
It is well in these weeks of commemorating the birth of Christ to be mindful of this truth. The Christ, in whom we believe, is not the Christ in the manger. Truly there He was laid as Mary’s son. But there He did not remain. He is now at the right hand of God. We see Him who was made a little lower than the angels, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor.
Let us remember, that He is Mary’s son, but He is now her Lord. Also Mary confesses with that other disciple: My Lord and my God. She also is with all the saints able to comprehend the love of Christ that passes all knowledge. She also is a living stone built together with all the other stones unto a spiritual sacrifice. She with all the redeemed of allages looks unto Him as unto her Saviour.
Thus is the wondrous testimony of the apostle. By this testimony we have fellowship with them by faith, and with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ!