The First Miracle
May 3rd, 1964 @ 7:30 PM
THE FIRST MIRACLE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-3-64 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled The First Miracle. It is an exegesis of the second chapter of the Gospel of John, verse 1 through 11. We are going to read it out loud together here in the great auditorium. And as we read it out loud on the radio, if you share with us this service, get your Bible; turn to the Gospel of John, the Fourth Gospel, read it out loud with us. Every syllable of the Word of God was written to be read aloud, as your King James authorized version will say, "appointed to be read in the churches." So, turn to John chapter 2, the first 11 verses. And the message tonight is an exegesis of this first miracle of our Lord, first 11 verses, all of us reading it together:
And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:
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.
This beginning of miracles, John never uses the word miracle. The word for miracle is tera, teras or dunamis, "a wonder, a power, a marvel." But the word for sign is sēmeion, sēmeion, and that is the word universally used by John in this gospel, "a sign."
In the concluding and climatic word of that gospel, John wrote, "And many other," – and the King James Version translates it correctly, signs – "And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of the disciples which are not written in this Book." "But these are written," – John shows seven of them – "But these are written that you might believe Jesus is Christ the Son of God and that believing you might have life through His name". John, out of a multitude of spiritual parables, lessons that Jesus did by the power of His wonder working might, John out of that multitude of signs, chose seven of them. And the gospel of John is composed of those seven signs with the conversations and elucidations that surrounded them.
For example, the healing of the man born blind then all of the dialogue accompanying; the feeding of the five thousand and the message on the bread of life; the raising of Lazarus from the dead and the resurrection and the life portion of the Gospel of John. So, what Jesus did, John saw in it a deeper and spiritual meaning, and he called them signs. They are a thing, a happening, a historical incident that has in it a deep meaningful spiritual lesson.
So he chose the first one, this turning of the water into wine at the marriage feast of Cana in Galilee. Now it says here that when Jesus had wrought this miracle that His disciples believed on Him. They were confirmed – in that tremendous dedication of the Gospel of John you find in his first chapter that marvelous Savior who is presented and introduced by John the Baptist in the first chapter – the disciples are now confirmed in their acceptance of Jesus at the witness and testimony of the Baptist preacher who pointed Him out. The same kind of a thing as you would read in the story of the Samaritan in Sychar. They believed on the Lord Jesus upon the witness of the woman, but after they had seen Jesus Himself and heard His words themselves they believed on Him because they had seen and heard the wonders of our Lord.
So the disciples believed on Jesus, confirmed for themselves that glorious witness of John the Baptist.
Then it says that this beginning of miracles did Jesus and manifested for His glory. Then there were thirty years in the life of our Lord that there were no miracles, and that is a miracle in itself. For thirty years, for thirty years the marvelous, wonder working, God enabling power was latent in our Lord, waiting upon the time chosen of God. There was no rush before the world, no thirsting after publicity. There was strength, godly strength in His waiting. And He waited in the little city of Nazareth for thirty years.
"Then was manifested for His glory," it was manifested, that is, it was seen. It was looked upon in this first miracle. But it was always there. It was present in our lord. It was God in Jesus just as much though it was not seen and it was not noticed and it did not have a powerful effect, but it was just as real and just as true and just as dynamic and just as marvelous in our Lord when He did the humble ministries of a carpenter. When He was obedient as a child and as a youth to His parents, when He repaired a dollhouse or when He made a little piece of furniture or as tradition says when He made ox yoke, the easiest for the burden of beasts to bear. All of that was as much God, the presence of God, the wonder of God, as in this marvelous manifestation of His glory seen in this sēmeion in Cana in Galilee.
You know, we are funny people. We are strange people. We are deeply cognizant of the power and the thundering of God in the lightning flash and the thunder’s roar. But hardly any of us bother to think of the power of God in the leaf or the grape or the vine or the quiet rising of the sun, the rays of which will play against a baby’s face and never awaken the child.
You know, we are strange people. We think we can see the presence of God when Jesus says to the man who all his life was a paralytic, "I say again to thee, Arise, take up thy bed and walk," and the man who had never walked in his life, who had been paralyzed all of his life takes up his bed and walks, and we say, "That is God!" But hardly any of us say "That is God" when Jesus said to the paralytic, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee." We are overwhelmed with the spectacular and the marvelous. It is easy for us when Jesus takes the loaves and the fishes and He feeds five thousand just breaking, breaking, breaking. And we say, "That is God. That is the wondrous, wonder working power of God!" But hardly any of us see God or think of God when He speaks of Himself as being the bread from heaven, the manna from glory.
So here the manifestation of His glory but refers to the fact that all that our Lord did was no less wondrous, no less godly, no less marvelous, so the presence and power of the Lord in this life and in atom, in a dewdrop, in the midst, in the cloud, in a thousand silent workings of the presence of the great Creator all around us. We can hear God in the thunder and the lightning, but do we hear Him in the still, small voice? We can hear God in the oratory of a great peroration? But do we see God in the ministries of the humblest servants who love Jesus and belong to this church?
"Manifested His glory in this marvelous sēmeion," but it was present in all of the sweet, precious ministries of our Lord even in His childhood and youth, in the silent days of Nazareth.
Now another thing, Jesus sanctified and hallowed the gladnesses and the festivities and the happinesses of the ordinary life that you and I know and love and live in this very world. Now the idea of the Hebrew prophet was, the idea of a Hebrew concerning a prophet was, John the Baptist. He was a typical prophet. He looked like a prophet. He acted like a prophet. He was stern and austere and he cut himself off from the natural intercourse of this life. He never smiled, I should not think. He certainly never feasted. He never went to any festival. He never thought about attending a wedding. Could you imagine that great wilderness preacher stalking into any kind of a festivity dressed in camel’s hair, girded about with a leather girdle, his voice thundering and rasping, eating locusts and wild honey? That to the Hebrew was a prophet.
But how was the Lord Jesus? Why, He came eating, drinking, sharing all of the festivities of life. All you had to do to have Jesus was just to ask Him. You did not have to put anything special, you did not have to say anything unusual, just ask Him, that is all; just ask Him. When Simon, a Pharisee, had a dinner and he asked Jesus, there the Lord was eating in the house of the Pharisee. When Zacchaeus the Publican accepted the invitation of the Lord, there He was in the house of Zacchaeus the Publican. Anywhere anybody wanted Him there the Lord Jesus was.
You know that is a good idea for me as far as I am concerned. Until the Lord did something to me the last month or two my motto in life was do not ever turn down an invitation. Do not ever do it. When anybody would write to me about a revival meeting they would always write me a second letter. And they would say,
Now you know in our revival meeting we have a fine fellowship in our church and some of the people want you to go home with them after church, and some of them want you to eat breakfast with them, and some of them want you to eat lunch with them, and some of them want you to eat dinner with them, and some of them want to take you out for the night. Now what shall I tell them?
Up until the last month or two I would always write back and say, "Do not ever turn down anybody’s invite." Man, we would go all day and all night and all in between times. I like that. I like that. I like that.
For a fellow to be a self-called austere, august servant of God therefore, he cannot smile; therefore, he cannot laugh; therefore, he cannot eat; therefore, he is got to have all kinds of those embellishments and all accouterments and all of those signs and symbols of the austerity of the office around him. Why, man, he is a thousand miles away from being like the blessed Lord that He names. Our Savior had a good time. When the children got together He was a romping and a playing. I know that because in some of His parables He talked about little children and romping and playing and singing and kicking up their heels and running around and playing Ring Around the Roses and London Bridge Falling Down and all of the other things. That is the Lord Jesus. That is the Lord Jesus.
And when they had a dinner and invited Him, He was there. And when they were having festivities He was there. And when they were having a wedding He was there. And when they had the marriage supper He was there hallowing, sanctifying all of the glad, sweet activities of life. Do not ever get so religious that you cannot smile or laugh or look at the little children or delight in them or watch the young people or heaven help us, try to keep up with them. Do not ever. Do not ever get that religious.
Now immediately the question arises, "Well, preacher, what about Jesus making wine? What about the Lord making wine?" I suppose since the days of our Lord people have wondered at this story. The Lord turning water into wine, what about that? Ah, one or two little things by way of incidence and that is all.
The wine that Jesus made was one, a kind that this emcee of the festival, this master, this ruler of the feast, he never had tasted any like it before. I suppose he was an old hand, a connoisseur; he was directing the festivities; he was emceeing the program, and he was a master at that. It calls him the ruler of the feast. He knew good wine. He had been in those feasts for years and for years. He had tasted every kind of vintage and every kind that had been made, and he knew all about it. But when he tasted that wine it was a wine that he never had heard of or tasted before! And he asked the governor of the feast, "Where did this come from? I have never tasted any wine like this."
You know what kind of wine I think that was? When the Lord instituted the Lord’s Supper the night of the Passover our Savior said, "From henceforth I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom." [Matthew 26:29] And in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation there is described for us the marriage supper of the Lamb. And when we get to glory we are going to sit down with our blessed Savior and we are going to feast in the heavenly Kingdom of God. And we are going to drink this new wine.
Well, what kind will it be, do you think? The kind that would orphan a child? The kind that would widow a woman? The kind that would destroy a home? The kind that would ruin a man’s mind and make him unfit for his job? The kind that would make him stagger down a street? The kind to wreck and destroy his life? Is that the kind that the Lord made? Is that the kind we are going to drink at the wedding supper of the Lamb in the Kingdom of God in the world that is to come? Are we going to get drunk in heaven? Are we going to have all of the unholy things that follow after this despised and hated and indescribable liquor traffic? Are we going to have that in glory?
No. The ruler of the feast when he had tasted the wine called the governor and said, "Where does this come from? I have never tasted it like this. I have never heard of it like this. I never saw it like this." It is going to be the new kind that Jesus makes for His children, the ambrosia of God, when we share with Him the wedding supper of the Lamb.
Now, the last and hastily, this beginning of sēmeion did Jesus, and I am to look into the parable, the spiritual story. I am to look in the incident to see a great spiritual truth. Now the spiritual truth is very plain, follow it.
There was sat there six jars of stone after the manner of the purifying of the Jews containing two or three firkins apiece. Now a firkin was a Hebrew measuring liquid measure of from eight to ten gallons a firkin. So, let us just for mathematical ease, let us take the highest number. A firkin is ten gallons. Now each one of those stone jars, they were great big stone jars. They were hewed out, hollowed out, great big pieces of stone hollowed out. And each one of them held two or three firkins apiece. Now a firkin, let us say was ten gallons. Let us take the highest number again, three. So each one of those big stone holders, jars, tubs; I want to say tub, but, let us use the word tub. Each one of them contained three firkins. And if a firkin is ten gallons, that is thirty gallons.
Now there were six of them there after the manner of purifying of the Jews. So six times three, no, yeah, six times three, six times thirty is one hundred eighty. Is that not right? That is right. Those big stone tubs, each one held thirty gallons. So there is thirty gallons, six times thirty gallons, one hundred eighty gallons.
Now what did they use those big iron jars for? They used them to wash their feet in after the manner of purifying of the Jews. They would come into the wedding festival and each one sat down and put both of his feet in the tub and the servant washed their feet after the ceremonial practices of the Jews. And then with his feet washed and cleaned why he went into the marriage supper of the bride and the groom.
Now practically everybody when they read this and after they had filled up, why Jesus saith unto them, "Now bare to the governor of the feast". So they think that Jesus made one hundred eighty gallons of wine. And not only do they think he made one hundred eighty gallons of wine but they also say those servants dipped out of those tubs and bore it to the governor of the feast. Brother it was a good thing according to that interpretation he did not know where it came from because no ceremonial, meticulous Jew would be drinking wine out of a foot tub! He just would not do it. I am just trying to show to you the silliness and the inanity of most people’s reading of the Word of God. You just do not read it.
Those six great big stone jars holding at least one hundred fifty gallons, at least one hundred fifty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, "Fill them up. Fill them up. Fill them up." And they filled them up to the brim, to running over, all six of them. Then He said to them, antlēsate, antlēsate, "Draw out." Now that is the word for drawing something out way down deep, like you pull out a big fish from the bottom of the sea. Draw up now. And here of course would refer to the well, the cistern from which the water came. Draw up now. And they drew up now and between the time they drew it out of the well and by the time it was placed in the hands of the governor of the feast, between there and there it had turned into the delectable ambrosia of the gods.
Now John says that is a sēmeion, it is a sign; there is a spiritual lesson in it. What is it? Again it is very plain and we must hasten.
Six, six is the number in the Bible for incompleteness. Six is the old dispensation. Seven is the number in the Bible for maturity, for completeness, the perfect number of God and of heaven, seven. The Revelation is a book of sevens.
Six is the number of incompleteness and it referred to the old ceremonies of the Jewish nation and the old covenant. And the Lord said, "Take the water and fill them up, all six of them, fill them up." And after they had filled them up, all six of them, then the Lord said, "Now take, draw out and bear to the governor of the feast".
The old ceremonial law is fulfilled. The old rituals and the old covenants and the old laws and the old decrees, all that the old covenant under Moses stood for and meant all of it is fulfilled in Christ. What it sought to attain, what it was pointing to, what it symbolized, what it foreshadowed, all of it is complete in Jesus. Now we have the new life and the new hope and the new way and the new glory and the new heaven and the new Savior and the new law of love, all that Jesus means to us. This is the meaning of the first sign.
Oh, those servants filled up those old Jewish ceremonial water pots. Those servants filled up all that those ceremonies stood for and pointed to in Jesus, and having filled them up they turned and walked away from them, bearing the new life in Christ, which is God’s spiritual parable for us, not to turn our faces back to the shadows for we have the substance in Jesus. No longer the ceremonies and the rituals, but we have the glory and the presence in our Lord and all that the old covenant meant and all that it typified and all that it adumbrated and all that it showed forth and all that it shadowed and all that it pointed to, all of it is fulfilled in our blessed Savior and we bear in our hands and in our hearts and on our tongues the new life and the new glory, fulfilled in our blessed, blessed Lord.
Is that not what it says? This beginning of sēmeion did Jesus and manifested forth His glory and His disciples believed on Him. No longer to Mt. Sinai that thunders and roars with the power of the wrath and judgment of God, but we are come unto Mt. Zion and to the new and heavenly city and to the church of the firstborn and to the spirits of just men made perfect and to the blood of Jesus that speaketh better things than that of Able.
Ah, the glory and the happiness of us sinners who can come boldly to the throne of grace and find mercy and forgiveness in our hour of need. This is the gospel of the preciousness of Jesus, our Lord, and as John wrote it, that we might believe on Him.
Could I be the spokesman of the Holy Spirit tonight inviting you to a like faith in the Son of God, accepting Him in confession of sin as our Savior, trusting Him in the need of our life as an answer to all of our prayers, finding in Him the Lord of life who knows the end from the beginning, who can guide and help us in our way? If the Holy Spirit of the Lord bids you tonight, has spoken to your heart tonight, come, come, come.
While we sing our hymn of appeal, a family you, a couple you, one somebody you, turning in faith to the Lord Jesus, following Him as He shall open the door and lead in the way, make it tonight. Coming for baptism, coming on a confession of faith, coming in answer to a call of God, coming placing your trust in Jesus, putting your life and your letter in the fellowship of this dear church, however the Lord shall speak and say the word, make it tonight. Make it tonight. While we stand and while we sing.