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At the Marriage Feast
JESUS did not begin His ministry by some great work before the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem. At
a household gathering in a little Galilean village His power was put forth to add to the
joy of a wedding feast. Thus He showed His sympathy with men, and His desire to minister
to their happiness. In the wilderness of temptation He Himself had drunk the cup of woe.
He came forth to give to men the cup of blessing, by His benediction to hallow the
relations of human life.
From the Jordan, Jesus had returned to Galilee. There was to be a marriage at Cana, a
little town not far from Nazareth; the parties were relatives of Joseph and Mary; and
Jesus, knowing of this family gathering, went to Cana, and with His disciples was invited
to the feast.
Again He met His mother, from whom He had for some time been separated. Mary had heard of
the manifestation at the Jordan, at His baptism. The tidings had been carried to Nazareth,
and had brought to her mind afresh the scenes that for so many years had been hidden in
her heart. In common with all Israel, Mary was deeply stirred by the mission of John the
Baptist. Well she remembered the prophecy given at his birth. Now his connection with
Jesus kindled her hopes
anew. But tidings had reached her also of the mysterious departure of Jesus to the
wilderness, and she was oppressed with troubled forebodings.
From the day when she heard the angel's announcement in the home at Nazareth Mary had
treasured every evidence that Jesus was the Messiah. His sweet, unselfish life assured her
that He could be no other than the Sent of God. Yet there came to her also doubts and
disappointments, and she had longed for the time when His glory should be revealed. Death
had separated her from Joseph, who had shared her knowledge of the mystery of the birth of
Jesus. Now there was no one to whom she could confide her hopes and fears. The past two
months had been very sorrowful. She had been parted from Jesus, in whose sympathy she
found comfort; she pondered upon the words of Simeon, "A sword shall pierce through
thy own soul also" (Luke 2:35); she recalled the three days of agony when she thought
Jesus lost to her forever; and with an anxious heart she awaited His return.
At the marriage feast she meets Him, the same tender, dutiful son. Yet He is not the same.
His countenance is changed. It bears the traces of His conflict in the wilderness, and a
new expression of dignity and power gives evidence of His heavenly mission. With Him is a
group of young men, whose eyes follow Him with reverence, and who call Him Master. These
companions recount to Mary what they have seen and heard at the baptism and elsewhere.
They conclude by declaring, "We have found Him, of whom Moses in the law, and the
prophets, did write." John 1:45.
As the guests assemble, many seem to be preoccupied with some topic of absorbing interest.
A suppressed excitement pervades the company. Little groups converse together in eager but
quiet tones, and wondering glances are turned upon the Son of Mary. As Mary had heard the
disciples' testimony in regard to Jesus, she had been gladdened with the assurance that
her long-cherished hopes were not in vain. Yet she would have been more than human if
there had not mingled with this holy joy a trace of the fond mother's natural pride. As
she saw the many glances bent upon Jesus, she longed to have Him prove to the company that
He was really the Honored of God. She hoped there might be opportunity for Him to work a
miracle before them.
It was the custom of the times for marriage festivities to continue several days. On this
occasion, before the feast ended it was found that the supply of wine had failed. This
discovery caused much perplexity and regret. It was unusual to dispense with wine on
festive occasions, and
its absence would seem to indicate a want of hospitality. As a relative of the parties,
Mary had assisted in the arrangements for the feast, and she now spoke to Jesus, saying,
"They have no wine." These words were a suggestion that He might supply their
need. But Jesus answered, "Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet
This answer, abrupt as it seems to us, expressed no coldness or discourtesy. The Saviour's
form of address to His mother was in accordance with Oriental custom. It was used toward
persons to whom it was desired to show respect. Every act of Christ's earthly life was in
harmony with the precept He Himself had given, "Honor thy father and thy
mother." Ex. 20:12. On the cross, in His last act of tenderness toward His mother,
Jesus again addressed her in the same way, as He committed her to the care of His
best-loved disciple. Both at the marriage feast and upon the cross, the love expressed in
tone and look and manner interpreted His words.
At His visit to the temple in His boyhood, as the mystery of His lifework opened before
Him, Christ had said to Mary, "Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's
business?" Luke 2:49. These words
struck the keynote of His whole life and ministry. Everything was held in abeyance to His
work, the great work of redemption which He had come into the world to accomplish. Now He
repeated the lesson. There was danger that Mary would regard her relationship to Jesus as
giving her a special claim upon Him, and the right, in some degree, to direct Him in His
mission. For thirty years He had been to her a loving and obedient son, and His love was
unchanged; but He must now go about His Father's work. As Son of the Most High, and
Saviour of the world, no earthly ties must hold Him from His mission, or influence His
conduct. He must stand free to do the will of God. This lesson is also for us. The claims
of God are paramount even to the ties of human relationship. No earthly attraction should
turn our feet from the path in which He bids us walk.
The only hope of redemption for our fallen race is in Christ; Mary could find salvation
only through the Lamb of God. In herself she possessed no merit. Her connection with Jesus
placed her in no different spiritual relation to Him from that of any other human soul.
This is indicated in the Saviour's words. He makes clear the distinction between His
relation to her as the Son of man and as the Son of God. The tie of kinship between them
in no way placed her on an equality with Him.
The words, "Mine hour is not yet come," point to the fact that every act of
Christ's life on earth was in fulfillment of the plan that had existed from the days of
eternity. Before He came to earth, the plan lay out before Him, perfect in all its
details. But as He walked among men, He was guided, step by step, by the Father's will. He
did not hesitate to act at the appointed time. With the same submission He waited until
the time had come.
In saying to Mary that His hour had not yet come, Jesus was replying to her unspoken
thought,--to the expectation she cherished in common with her people. She hoped that He
would reveal Himself as the Messiah, and take the throne of Israel. But the time had not
come. Not as a King, but as "a Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief," had
Jesus accepted the lot of humanity.
But though Mary had not a right conception of Christ's mission, she trusted Him
implicitly. To this faith Jesus responded. It was to honor Mary's trust, and to strengthen
the faith of His disciples, that the first miracle was performed. The disciples were to
encounter many and great temptations to unbelief. To them the prophecies had made it
clear beyond all controversy that Jesus was the Messiah. They looked for the religious
leaders to receive Him with confidence even greater than their own. They declared among
the people the wonderful works of Christ and their own confidence in His mission, but they
were amazed and bitterly disappointed by the unbelief, the deep-seated prejudice, and the
enmity to Jesus, displayed by the priests and rabbis. The Saviour's early miracles
strengthened the disciples to stand against this opposition.
In nowise disconcerted by the words of Jesus, Mary said to those serving at table,
"Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it." Thus she did what she could to prepare
the way for the work of Christ.
Beside the doorway stood six large stone water jars, and Jesus bade the servants fill
these with water. It was done. Then as the wine was wanted for immediate use, He said,
"Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast." Instead of the water
with which the vessels had been filled, there flowed forth wine. Neither the ruler of the
feast nor the guests generally were aware that the supply of wine had failed. Upon tasting
that which the servants brought, the ruler found it superior to any he had ever before
drunk, and very different from that served at the beginning of the feast. Turning to the
bridegroom, he said, "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
As men set forth the best wine first, then afterward that which is worse, so does the
world with its gifts. That which it offers may please the eye and fascinate the senses,
but it proves to be unsatisfying. The wine turns to bitterness, the gaiety to gloom. That
which was begun with songs and mirth ends in weariness and disgust. But the gifts of Jesus
are ever fresh and new. The feast that He provides for the soul never fails to give
satisfaction and joy. Each new gift increases the capacity of the receiver to appreciate
and enjoy the blessings of the Lord. He gives grace for grace. There can be no failure of
supply. If you abide in Him, the fact that you receive a rich gift today insures the
reception of a richer gift tomorrow. The words of Jesus to Nathanael express the law of
God's dealing with the children of faith. With every fresh revelation of His love, He
declares to the receptive heart, "Believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than
these." John 1:50.
The gift of Christ to the marriage feast was a symbol. The water represented baptism into
His death; the wine, the shedding of His blood
for the sins of the world. The water to fill the jars was brought by human hands, but the
word of Christ alone could impart to it life-giving virtue. So with the rites which point
to the Saviour's death. It is only by the power of Christ, working through faith, that
they have efficacy to nourish the soul.
The word of Christ supplied ample provision for the feast. So abundant is the provision of
His grace to blot out the iniquities of men, and to renew and sustain the soul.
At the first feast He attended with His disciples, Jesus gave them the cup that symbolized
His work for their salvation. At the last supper He gave it again, in the institution of
that sacred rite by which His death was to be shown forth "till He come." 1 Cor.
11:26. And the sorrow of the disciples at parting from their Lord was comforted with the
promise of reunion, as He said, "I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the
vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom." Matt.
The wine which Christ provided for the feast, and that which He gave to the disciples as a
symbol of His own blood, was the pure juice of the grape. To this the prophet Isaiah
refers when he speaks of the new wine "in the cluster," and says, "Destroy
it not; for a blessing is in it." Isa. 65:8.
It was Christ who in the Old Testament gave the warning to Israel, "Wine is a mocker,
strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise." Prov. 20:1.
And He Himself provided no such beverage. Satan tempts men to indulgence that will becloud
reason and benumb the spiritual perceptions, but Christ teaches us to bring the lower
nature into subjection. His whole life was an example of self-denial. In order to break
the power of appetite, He suffered in our behalf the severest test that humanity could
endure. It was Christ who directed that John the Baptist should drink neither wine nor
strong drink. It was He who enjoined similar abstinence upon the wife of Manoah. And He
pronounced a curse upon the man who should put the bottle to his neighbor's lips. Christ
did not contradict His own teaching. The unfermented wine which He provided for the
wedding guests was a wholesome and refreshing drink. Its effect was to bring the taste
into harmony with a healthful appetite.
As the guests at the feast remarked upon the quality of the wine, inquiries were made that
drew from the servants an account of the
miracle. The company were for a time too much amazed to think of Him who had performed the
wonderful work. When at length they looked for Him, it was found that He had withdrawn so
quietly as to be unnoticed even by His disciples.
The attention of the company was now turned to the disciples. For the first time they had
the opportunity of acknowledging their faith in Jesus. They told what they had seen and
heard at the Jordan, and there was kindled in many hearts the hope that God had raised up
a deliverer for His people. The news of the miracle spread through all that region, and
was carried to Jerusalem. With new interest the priests and elders searched the prophecies
pointing to Christ's coming. There was eager desire to learn the mission of this new
teacher, who appeared among the people in so unassuming a manner.
The ministry of Christ was in marked contrast to that of the Jewish elders. Their regard
for tradition and formalism had destroyed all real freedom of thought or action. They
lived in continual dread of defilement. To avoid contact with the "unclean,"
they kept aloof, not only from the Gentiles, but from the majority of their own people,
seeking neither to benefit them nor to win their friendship. By dwelling constantly on
these matters, they had dwarfed their minds and narrowed the orbit of their lives. Their
example encouraged egotism and intolerance among all classes of the people.
Jesus began the work of reformation by coming into close sympathy with humanity. While He
showed the greatest reverence for the law of God, He rebuked the pretentious piety of the
Pharisees, and tried to free the people from the senseless rules that bound them. He was
seeking to break down the barriers which separated the different classes of society, that
He might bring men together as children of one family. His attendance at the marriage
feast was designed to be a step toward effecting this.
God had directed John the Baptist to dwell in the wilderness, that he might be shielded
from the influence of the priests and rabbis, and be prepared for a special mission. But
the austerity and isolation of his life were not an example for the people. John himself
had not directed his hearers to forsake their former duties. He bade them give evidence of
their repentance by faithfulness to God in the place where He had called them.
Jesus reproved self-indulgence in all its forms, yet He was social in His nature. He
accepted the hospitality of all classes, visiting the homes
of the rich and the poor, the learned and the ignorant, and seeking to elevate their
thoughts from questions of commonplace life to those things that are spiritual and
eternal. He gave no license to dissipation, and no shadow of worldly levity marred His
conduct; yet He found pleasure in scenes of innocent happiness, and by His presence
sanctioned the social gathering. A Jewish marriage was an impressive occasion, and its joy
was not displeasing to the Son of man. By attending this feast, Jesus honored marriage as
a divine institution.
In both the Old and the New Testament, the marriage relation is employed to represent the
tender and sacred union that exists between Christ and His people. To the mind of Jesus
the gladness of the wedding festivities pointed forward to the rejoicing of that day when
He shall bring home His bride to the Father's house, and the redeemed with the Redeemer
shall sit down to the marriage supper of the Lamb. He says, "As the bridegroom
rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee." "Thou shalt no
more be termed Forsaken; . . . but thou shalt be called My Delight; . . . for the Lord
delighteth in thee." "He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His
love, He will joy over thee with singing." Isa. 62:5, 4, margin; Zeph. 3:17. When the
vision of heavenly things was granted to John the apostle, he wrote: "I heard as it
were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of
mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad
and rejoice, and give honor to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife
hath made herself ready." "Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage
supper of the Lamb." Rev. 19:6, 7, 9.
Jesus saw in every soul one to whom must be given the call to His kingdom. He reached the
hearts of the people by going among them as one who desired their good. He sought them in
the public streets, in private houses, on the boats, in the synagogue, by the shores of
the lake, and at the marriage feast. He met them at their daily vocations, and manifested
an interest in their secular affairs. He carried His instruction into the household,
bringing families in their own homes under the influence of His divine presence. His
strong personal sympathy helped to win hearts. He often repaired to the mountains for
solitary prayer, but this was a preparation for His labor among men in active life. From
these seasons He came forth to relieve the sick, to instruct the ignorant, and to break
the chains from the captives of Satan.
It was by personal contact and association that Jesus trained His disciples. Sometimes He
taught them, sitting among them on the mountainside; sometimes beside the sea, or walking
with them by the way, He revealed the mysteries of the kingdom of God. He did not
sermonize as men do today. Wherever hearts were open to receive the divine message, He
unfolded the truths of the way of salvation. He did not command His disciples to do this
or that, but said, "Follow Me." On His journeys through country and cities He
took them with Him, that they might see how He taught the people. He linked their interest
with His, and they united with Him in the work.
The example of Christ in linking Himself with the interests of humanity should be followed
by all who preach His word, and by all who have received the gospel of His grace. We are
not to renounce social communion. We should not seclude ourselves from others. In order to
reach all classes, we must meet them where they are. They will seldom seek us of their own
accord. Not alone from the pulpit are the hearts of men touched by divine truth. There is
another field of labor, humbler, it may be, but fully as promising. It is found in the
home of the lowly, and in the mansion of the great; at the hospitable board, and in
gatherings for innocent social enjoyment.
As disciples of Christ we shall not mingle with the world from a mere love of pleasure, to
unite with them in folly. Such associations can result only in harm. We should never give
sanction to sin by our words or our deeds, our silence or our presence. Wherever we go, we
are to carry Jesus with us, and to reveal to others the preciousness of our Saviour. But
those who try to preserve their religion by hiding it within stone walls lose precious
opportunities of doing good. Through the social relations, Christianity comes in contact
with the world. Everyone who has received the divine illumination is to brighten the
pathway of those who know not the Light of life.
We should all become witnesses for Jesus. Social power, sanctified by the grace of Christ,
must be improved in winning souls to the Saviour. Let the world see that we are not
selfishly absorbed in our own interests, but that we desire others to share our blessings
and privileges. Let them see that our religion does not make us unsympathetic or exacting.
Let all who profess to have found Christ, minister as He did for the benefit of men.
We should never give to the world the false impression that Christians are a gloomy,
unhappy people. If our eyes are fixed on Jesus, we shall
see a compassionate Redeemer, and shall catch light from His countenance. Wherever His
Spirit reigns, there peace abides. And there will be joy also, for there is a calm, holy
trust in God.
Christ is pleased with His followers when they show that, though human, they are partakers
of the divine nature. They are not statues, but living men and women. Their hearts,
refreshed by the dews of divine grace, open and expand to the Sun of Righteousness. The
light that shines upon them they reflect upon others in works that are luminous with the
love of Christ.
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