THE MINSTRY OF MESSIAH (7)
The Beginning of Christ’s Ministry
The temptation of Christ which we dealt with in our last study, is recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke but not in John. In John however we have a record of the early part of the Master’s ministry and his first miracle. Therefore there could have been an interval of about 6 weeks between Christ’s baptism and the events described in John 1, and during the time the temptation would have taken place.
Jesus comes again from the wilderness to Bethabara where John was baptising and John on seeing Jesus spoke the words in John 1:29-34:
“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, after me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Spirit. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God”.
Much was revealed in the few words which John spoke for they showed that Christ was the Logos which was in the beginning with the Father, but was now manifest in the flesh. Jesus was the anti-typical lamb, slain in Eden to provide a covering for Adam and Eve and that he was greater than John, for John said:
“After me cometh a man which was preferred before me: for he was before me”.
The word before, the Greek, protos, means foremost in time, place, order or importance. Jesus was foremost; before John in time because he was in the mind of the Father from the beginning; before John in place for he was the one who John was heralding; before John in importance because he was the Son of God, the Messiah of Israel.
These words must have stirred his disciples for on the next day, “John stood, and two of his disciples”, John stood and let us note Jesus walked and he again said, “Behold, the lamb of God”, the consequence of which was that the two disciples of John followed Jesus. Jesus turned and asked, “What seek ye?” Their answer revealed the respect they had for him;
“Rabbi (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?”
Rabbi was a title of honour shown in the Master’s words in Matthew 23:8:
“But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren”.
They conferred this honour on him when they first met him. Jesus at that time may have been living in a booth, similar to those the prophets dwelt in. The implication of their request was that they wanted to discuss some private matters with him, no doubt that they may see more clearly that they were making no mistake in following him. The Master’s reply is again significant; “Come and see”. Philip uses similar words to Nathaniel in verse 46:
“And Nathaniel said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see”.
It is necessary for us to come to behold Christ as Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”.
We come to Jesus by opening the pages of God’s word and by learning from God’s word, by becoming a disciple of Christ. A disciple of Christ is one that is taught. We mean the whole of God’s word, for Jesus was the word made flesh, and he taught:
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).
What a wonderful experience for the disciples of John, to see Jesus face to face and to dwell with him and to listen to his words.
As a result of this, knowing now that the one to whom they spoke was the Messiah, Andrew finds his brother Simon and brings him to Jesus. This was a moment of destiny, for the Master was face to face with the one to whom he was to give the keys of the kingdom of heaven and who was to be the Apostle to the circumcision. Jesus says
“Simon the son of Jonas: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone”.
The Hebrew equivalent of Simon is Simeon, which means hearing. A stone is petros, which links with Peter. The Master’s words were prophetic for Peter was not given this name until later (Matt. 16:17). He was certainly the one who heard for it was Peter alone who recognised that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God”. Petros means a stone in contrast to a rock to which Christ was likened.
At this time Jesus was at Bethabara. It is not clear where this was situated. It was either just north of the Dead Sea or further north just below the Sea of Galilee. Jesus then began to go north towards the Sea of Galilee and found Philip and invited him, “follow me”. Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter, which was situated on the Sea of Galilee. Philip recognises that Jesus is the Prophet like unto Moses so he finds Nathaniel who comes from Cana. Nathaniel could not believe that the Messiah could come from Nazareth. We have already considered how Nazareth was a despised area and that it was “the land of the shadow of death”, but from Nathaniel’s words we learn that Nazareth in particular had a bad reputation. It was despised as The Master was. Only those who sought were able to appreciate that the Son of God grew up in this despised city. Hence Philip’s words, “Come and see”. Jesus’s words to Nathaniel, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile”, are a commendation of him and he realises that Jesus is speaking of him when The Master further says;
“Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee”
He now recognises the mighty power of the one standing before him and therefore exclaims:
“Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel”.
Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit must have seen Nathaniel and possibly Philip with him, sitting under the fig tree, no doubt studying those Scriptures concerning the birth of the Messiah, and therefore they were able to recognise that Jesus of Nazareth was the one for whom they were looking.
Jesus answers Nathaniel in verses 50-51:
“Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? Thou shalt see greater things than these. And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open; and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man”.
This incident is very closely linked with Jacob. Jacob used guile and deceit but was eventually named Israel. Here before Jesus was “an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile”. The vision which Jacob saw of the ladder between heaven and earth is fulfilled in Christ, who is the link between heaven and earth, on whom in the kingdom, the angels will ascend and descend and Nathaniel will see this. As Nathaniel sat under the fig tree, he may well have pondered the words of Micah, and linked them with the words about Bethlehem Ephratah in chapter 5 (see 4:4 and5:2). These very words link with Jacob for the temple is described as, “the house of the God of Jacob”, showing how important this patriarch was in the purpose of God”.
THE MARRIAGE IN CANA
The miracle at the marriage is the first sign recorded in the gospel of John. There are eight miracles or more relevantly signs as follows:
- Water into wine.
- Healing the ruler’s son.
- The impotent man made to walk.
- Feeding the five thousand.
- The Master calms the sea.
- Curing the blind man.
- Raising of Lazarus
Clearly the Master performed more miracles than these, but these have been chosen because there is a deeper significance in them and a progression leading up to the kingdom.
In the narrative in John 1, four days elapse as follows:
- Day 1- v.19-28.
- Day 2- v.29
- Day 3- v.35
- Day 4- v.43.
The third day of John 2:1 would therefore be the seventh day. We are being focussed on the kingdom. The third day is also significant for it is the day of Christ’s resurrection.
Within a short while therefore of Jesus arriving in Galilee, he is invited with his mother and some of his disciples to the happy occasion of this marriage in Cana. It may have been a close relative for Jesus’s mother seems to be involved in the organisation. Joseph is not mentioned and one wonders whether he had died. If this was so, Jesus would assume the role of the head of the household.
Mary informs Jesus that they have no wine. His reply seems strange (v.4):
“Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come”.
The title woman is a mark of respect as we see from John 19:26. Jesus’s answer conveyed to Mary that his ministry had now commenced and although he was her son, above all he was the Son of God and he had a work to fulfil as we see from John 5:17:
“But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work”.
He was not answerable to his mother, but had to be about his Father’s business as he had reminded her when he was twelve years of age. It seems that his mother’s request reminded him of his death because for the wine to be produced, the grape, representing his flesh had to be crushed, so that out of it could come new wine. The Master knew that his life had to be crushed; hence his words, “mine hour is not yet come”. His mother significantly said, “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it”. The miracle revealed the great power that The Master possessed for he re-produced the whole process of the growing of the vine, the crushing of the grapes, the fermenting of the must and the final maturing of the wine, all in a moment of time. The six waterpots were there, “after the manner of the purifying of the Jews”. Jesus then told them to draw out and bear to the governor of the feast, who remarked (v.10-11):
“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”.
The wine having run out represented the law having come to an end. The waterpots also represented the Law of Moses which could not purify, and was to come to an end. It was only the crushed blood, the crushed life of Christ which can cleanse us from our sins as we see from 1 John 1:7:
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin”.
Moreover we learn from John 1:17 that the law of Moses was replaced by Christ with the new wine of the gospel of salvation.
In this miracle or sign we have brought before us marriage and the third day. The third day signifies the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ. It is only through this that we have the hope of taking part in the marriage supper of the lamb after the resurrection. We have been invited to the marriage supper of the lamb:
“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints”.
At the marriage at Cana, there was a need for wine. There was a need for the shedding of the blood of Christ; for his life to be crushed to the end that if we partake of his sacrifice by also crushing or crucifying the flesh as he did, our hearts will be made glad when we celebrate the marriage supper in the kingdom.
It is noteworthy that the ruler of the feast did not know where the wine came from, “But the servants which drew the water knew”. What a thrilling experience it must have been for them. They had to obey The Master’s command in faith, believing that as they poured it out, the water had been changed to wine. The fact that this miracle was revealed to the servants may indicate that they then followed Christ.
Moreover the best wine was kept to the last. So with us brethren and sisters, there is joy in the Master’s service now, but also much tribulation, but the best is to be kept to the last. If we walk faithfully, crucifying the flesh with its affections and lusts, we shall experience “joy unspeakable” in the kingdom.
Truly this sign must have made a deep impression on Mary and those disciples who were present, for we read in John 2:11:
“This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him”.