Summary: The first miracle of Christ
ONE STEP AT A TIME
Evangelist George Whitefield was preaching to coal miners in England. He asked one man, “What do you believe?” “Well,” he said, “I believe the same as the church.” “And what does the church believe?” “Well, they believe the same as me.” Seeing he was getting nowhere, Whitefield asked, “And what is it that you both believe?” “Well, I suppose the same thing.”
Questions of faith are good for us. Inquiring minds are to be commended, provided that the answers come from a reliable source. For those seeking proof, seeking the truest, most reliable source, there is definitely something to be gained by examining the first of Jesus’ signs. To be sure, this is a most underrated and misunderstood miracle. The whole “water into wine” thing has spawned a number of jokes. It’s kind of low key and with few witnesses compared to His other signs. It seems that His mother pressured Him into it. We just don’t know what to make of it.
Actually, the number of witnesses provides excellent insight as to why it occurred, where it occurred, and when it occurred. Let’s look at some of the who, what, where, when and why. When did this event take place? John said it was on the third day, but the third day of what? The week, the month, the year? It was actually the third day of Jesus’ public ministry. More importantly, what we need to know is what happened on the first and second days. On the first day John the Baptist was preaching, and as he was standing with two of his followers, he turned them over to Jesus by referring to Him as the Lamb of God who had come to take away the sins of the world.
On the second day, Jesus was with His new disciples on the way to Galilee. There He found Phillip, and with only a two-word invitation, “Follow me,” Phillip joined Him. Convinced of who Jesus was, Philip then went off and found Nathanael. He told him he had found the Messiah in a man from Nazareth. Nathanael was not impressed with the prospect of a Messiah from Nazareth, but Philip persuaded him to give Jesus a listen. Because Jesus greeted him with a remark about his honest skepticism, Nathanael too was convinced that Jesus was the Son of God. Jesus promised him that greater things would be shown to him to make him an even greater believer.
Even greater belief should be something we are all seeking with every passing day. What are we to make of stories like this one? If our faith should be simple, then we need to find simple truth. Some commentators and preachers have made more of this passage than necessary. Some focus on the pressure Mary put on her son to act. Some see it as a sign of the coming marriage feast of the Lamb of God; others see the Old Testament purification laws made void by the blood of the Lamb.
What really matters here? Is it avoiding social disaster for the bride and groom? Is it the need to listen to your mother? Is it understanding how the new faith fulfills the old? What really matters is what happened as a result of the sign itself. John affirms that in this sign Jesus’ glory was revealed and that the disciples believed in Him.
He would do many other signs and miracles; some would create believers; others would be largely ignored or questioned or criminalized. By and large they did not make so many converts that He did not have to die. This sign, as with all the others in John’s record, was intended to cause belief in
a certain percentage of the population; the disciples and followers of Jesus, including us. If they didn’t believe, the faith wouldn’t survive. If we don’t believe the church won’t survive.
You know as well as I do that there are those who feel God’s miracles must be explained away. No one looks for or expects signs from God anymore, even though we just left the season which is captured in the verse, “And this shall be a sign unto you; you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” Jesus’ birth was surrounded by signs, but as with His first miracle, very few were witnesses to it. That must tell us something about the unique aspect of God’s timing.
What we call a miracle God may just consider a normal Tuesday afternoon, and what God calls a miracle we may attribute to human ingenuity. Let’s not dictate to God what a miracle looks like or what we will or will not believe in.