The Beginning of Miracles
May 17th, 1970 @ 7:30 PM
THIS BEGINNING OF MIRACLES
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-17-70 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The First Miracle, or as the Scripture exactly speaks of it, This Beginning of Miracles. John chapter 2, and we shall read together the first eleven verses. John chapter 2, the first eleven verses; sharing our Bibles and all of us reading out loud together. And on the radio if you are listening where you have a Bible, get your Bible. Open it to the second chapter of John and read it out loud with us. John chapter 2, starting at verse 1 and closing with verse 11. Now reading 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 I suppose is one of the most famous stories referred to in all literature, the turning of the water into wine. Now you have it written in the King James Version out of which we read and from which I always preach, “This beginning of miracles” [John 2:11]; but it’s a strange thing: the Gospel of John never uses the word “miracle.” The others do, the Synoptics do, miracle, miracle, you’ll find it all through the Synoptic Gospels, the first three Gospels. But John never uses it. And the word that is translated “miracle” here in the King James Version is semeion, sign. And consistently, and without exception, all through the story of the life of our Lord as John tells it, he uses the word “sign,” semeion; “This beginning of semeion, this beginning of signs.”
Now the Gospel of John is framed in an unusual way. What he did was, he took seven signs, and with the act that Jesus did, and with the conversation that surrounded it, that’s the Gospel of John. He closes his Gospel, for example, with these words: “And many other semeion,” now this is the close:
Many other semeion, many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book:
But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you might have life through His name.
So what John did, he took the whole life of Christ, and out, and John says the material is so abundant that the world itself would not hold the books had he told everything that Jesus did and said. But he said [John2 1:25], “These signs, these semeion are chosen in order that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and believing you might be saved, you might have life in His name” [John 20:31]. Now the Gospel was framed like this. He would take, say, the sign of the opening of the eyes of the blind man, then he would record all the conversation that ensued from that wonderful miracle [John 9:1-41]. John would take the sign of the feeding of the five thousand and then the conversation that followed it, the sermon on the bread of life, as you remember [John 6:1-14, 31-58].
Then he would take the marvelous sign of the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead; then the conversation that surrounded it pointing to Jesus as the resurrection, and the life [John 11:1-46]. Now that’s the way the Gospel of John is made. And there are seven of those signs. And that’s what he means when he says, “This beginning of semeion did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth His glory; and His disciples believed on Him” [John 2:11]. Well, didn’t His disciples already believe on Him? Yes, but they believed on Him like this.
Do you remember when Jesus sat by the well and that woman from Sychar came to draw water, and He won her to faith in Himself? [John 4:5-29]. And she went back and told Sychar, told the villagers, that she had found the Lord, and that she was saved. And they believed from what the woman said; it was such a miraculous conversion. She was a woman of dark repute, but she was gloriously saved, and it moved the whole village. Then they came out to see the Lord; and after they had seen Him and heard Him, the villagers said to that woman, “Now we believe, not only because of thy word, but because we have heard Him ourselves” [John 4:29-42]. Now that is an exact thing that is written here about the disciples.
They had already believed because of the testimony of John the Baptist. These men were disciples of John the Baptist, and they believed on the Lord because of the witness and testimony of John [John 1:6-8]. But after this marvelous miracle [John 2:1-10], the spiritual insight of the disciples led them to see that not only is He the Christ of God because of the witness of the great forerunner, the Baptist preacher John [John 1:29], but now they believe because of the manifest glory of God in Christ Himself in “this beginning of signs” [John 2:11]
Now look what the author, what John, writes as he says, “This beginning of signs did Jesus in Cana, and manifested forth His glory” [John 2:11]. Well, if I understand it right, when he says “this beginning of signs,” and “this manifestation of His glory,” I have a right to deduce that this was the first one; which means that for thirty years the Lord did no miracle. This was the first one. For thirty years the Lord lived in obscurity. There was no haste in Him. There was no restless in Him to present Himself to the world. But He waited, as He said to His mother, “Mine hour is not yet come” [John 2:4]. He waited upon God’s will, and God’s time, and God’s call. And He gave Himself to the humble ministries of a daily life.
He worked with His hands. He was a carpenter [Mark 6:3]. They say He made ox yokes, and they were the easiest to bear. Sometimes I have seen pictures of the Lord where He was making children’s dolls and furniture for doll houses and things like that. However it was, for thirty years, in youth time He was obedient to His parents, and in manhood He was a carpenter, a lowly, humble, working man. For thirty years He did no miracle. Then I can assume, can I not, when it says, “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Galilee, and manifested forth His glory” [John 2:11]; then I can deduce, if He just manifested it there when He was thirty years of age in Cana, then the glory was before the world saw it and before the world knew it.
I have a right therefore to deduce; it is reasonable for me to say that the glory was in Jesus just as really and just as truly before it was manifest as it was when it was manifest: only before, you did not see it. So I have a right to believe, do I not, that the humble things that Jesus did were as fully the work of divine omnipotence and love and grace as these marvelous things that He did? The glory did not come to birth when we saw it in this glorious miracle, but the glory was in Him all the time, and it was just manifest, you saw it, when He wrought this miracle. But the glory was in Christ just as much in the days of His obscurity, when He did those humble menial tasks, as it was when He presented Himself in a miraculous and a glorious way before the world.
Now I want to comment on that about us. You know, we are so prone to think that God is only to be found and only to be seen in the astonishing, and in the overwhelming, and in the miraculous, in the thunder and the roar of the lightning! But we never think that God is no less found in the humble amenities, and ministries, and services of life. Oh, we’re impressed with the thunder and lightning! But I don’t suppose many people are impressed with a dew drop. Yet God is as much in the dew drop as He is in the thunder and the lightning. And oh, we’re so impressed with the great events that shake this earth, but the birth of an obscure little child nobody pays any attention. You see, we blind ourselves to the presence of God and the glory of God in all of the things of everyday life. Jesus did them for thirty years, and then this beginning of signs [John 2:11], but He was no less God and no less glorious in the humble ministries of life than He was in those great, miraculous demonstrations.
I want to specifically spell that out in the life of our Lord Jesus. You know, I can easily think––and I don’t think I’m mistaken in this judgment or persuasion––I can easily think how people could see, “Oh, this is the might and power of God!” when Jesus said, “I say unto thee,”—the paralytic all his life invalid, lying there on that pallet—“‘I say unto thee, Arise, take up thy bed and walk.’” Oh, that’s God! But it was no less God when the Lord first said to him, “I say unto thee, thy sins be forgiven thee” [Matthew 9:2]. But you see we’re not impressed with that, “Thy sins be forgiven” [Matthew 9:2]. What impresses us is that marvelous miracle when he was made to stand and walk [Matthew 9:6-8].
Or take again, the feeding of the five thousand. Oh, how we are impressed with the power and the demonstration of deity in the feeding of the five thousand! [John 6:1-14]. But I don’t know whether anybody would be impressed in the message that the Lord brought when He said, “I am the bread of life” [John 6:35]. Oh, how we are impressed with deity and power in the demonstration of the glory when the Lord said to Lazarus, “Lazarus, out of that grave come forth, and the dead heard His voice and rose” [John 11:43-44]. But I don’t know whether anybody’s impressed when He says, “I am the resurrection, and the life: and he that believeth in Me shall never ever die” [John 11:25].
Do you see what I’m talking about? We are so prone to think that God only is found in the astonishing, and the overwhelming, and the stupendous, and the miraculous when truly, the Lord was as much Lord in those days of obscurity––thirty years of it––doing the menial tasks of a household as He was in the most marvelous miracles the world ever saw.
Now, as we follow this story here, I want you to see how our Lord glorifies, magnifies, not deify, He glorifies, He sublimates, He elevates the humble ministries of life, the things that we do every day, our life as we live it. Well, here He is at a marriage. Now isn’t that something? He was delighted to accept the invitation to attend. And He is not only at this festive season at a marriage, but He is delighted to accept the invitation to the feast [John 2:8-9]. And He eats with them. Well, you don’t see what that is until you compare Him with John the Baptist.
The idea of a prophet in the eyes and in the minds of all Israel––and I suppose the whole world––but the idea of a prophet was a man who is stern and rigorous and ascetic, and he speaks with a thundering voice and with lightning in his eye. Now John the Baptist was the most typical prophet in the idea and unconscious definition and delineation in the mind of the Israelites that you could think for. John the Baptist, stern, ascetic, from the wilderness, he smelled of the wilderness. He had lived there all his life. He had no concourse with people at all. He was hidden in the desert until the time of his showing to Israel. That was their idea of a real prophet [Matthew 3:1-4].
Well, when Jesus came there was nothing of that in Him. There was nothing of asceticism in Him. There was nothing of the wilderness in Him. There was nothing of separation in Him. There was nothing of withdrawal in Him. Wherever the people were, there you would see Him mingling, walking in the villages, teaching the people. They would touch Him and press Him on every side [Luke 8:45]. They would bring their little babies to Him, and He would put His hands on their heads and bless them [Mark 10:16]. And He just lived among the people. And when they invited Him to come to eat, so far as I know, He never turned down an invitation. When Simon the Pharisee invited Him to eat, there He was [Luke 7:36]. And when the publican Zaccheus invited Him, there He was [Luke 19:1-10].
That was one lesson I sure learned good, I tell you. When I started out to preach as a young preacher, I ate breakfast in one home, I ate the noon meal at another home, I ate supper at another home after church, I ate a snack at another home, and stayed in another one that night; and the next day started it again. Nobody in the world ever had such a good time as I did. That’s the only thing that I’ve got against pastoring a big church. Oh dear, if I had my way about it, I’d love to be in everybody’s home. I’d love to know everybody’s children. I’d even like to know all the skeletons in their closets. I’d like to. Oh, that’s the Lord Jesus, how He lived. And He glorified common life—just like so many of these marriage ceremonies will begin with the fact that Jesus hallowed and sanctified the holy occasion by His own dear presence, at which He performed His first miracle [John 2:1-11]. But that was the Lord. The common things of life are as fully sanctified and glorified and divine as those stupendous things in life that we read in the miraculous ministry of our Lord.
All right, now look at this common thing that He did. They had a feast there and had wine. As you know, it was in the days of Napoleon that canning was invented. Napoleon had to feed his army, and they invented canning in order that Napoleon’s army might press on beyond its base of supplies. So that meant for one thousand eight hundred years in this Christian era alone, in our era, for a thousand eight hundred years there was no such a thing as preserving anything. It spoiled immediately. Now the only way that grape juice could be preserved was for it to ferment. There wasn’t any other way to keep it. So they put it in wineskins. They put it in goatskins, and there it fermented; and that was the way that they could keep it. There was no other way for them to keep it. There’s no other way to keep grape juice except that it ferment, and the alcohol would preserve it.
Well, what is it that Jesus did here when He performed this unusual thing of taking water and turning it into wine? [John 2 :6-10]. Well, what is that? Well, on the basis of that I suppose that ninety-nine percent of the world says that gives us liberty for all of the brewers and all of the distillers and all of the liquor factories. And that gives us basis in theology, and in the life of Christ, and in the Bible, and the Christian religion—that gives us basis for all of the drinking and the drunkenness that we see in this world. I cannot imagine a more perverted idea than that.
Now I want you to look at this very carefully because God writes these things for us. When this wine was brought to the toastmaster [John 2:7-8], the emcee you would call him, and he tasted it, he said, “I never tasted wine like that in my life. It is different. It is different” [John 2:9-10]. Well, how is it different? He had never tasted wine like that, this wine that Jesus made. Why, do you know what? It would be morally impossible for the Lord Jesus God to make something that would hurt a man’s body, addle his brain, unnerve him, make him drunk, orphan his children, destroy his home, ruin his life, God do that? No. It was the wine that that emcee said, “I have never tasted anything like this.”
You know what I think it is? At the marriage supper of the Lamb [Revelation 19:6-9], we’re going to sit down, and we’re going to eat, and we’re going to drink with the blessed Lord Jesus in the kingdom of God. And the wine that you’re going to drink at the marriage supper of the Lamb in glory someday is the kind of wine that Jesus made when the emcee tasted it and said, “I never drank wine like that in my life” [John 2:9-10]. I have never stumbled at this, knowing that God is true to Himself, and He didn’t do anything that would destroy or hurt a man’s body, the temple of the Holy Spirit [1 Corinthians 6:19-20], or a man’s mind in the image of God [Genesis 1:27]. It was a new thing [John 2:9-10], and it’s the same kind of a glorious new thing we’re going to share with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with John the Baptist and with all the saints at the marriage supper of the Lamb [Revelation 19:6-9]. Now we must hasten.
One other thing, do you notice that he says, “This beginning of signs, semeion”? [John 2:11]. Now what he meant was this, not using the word “miracle” but using the word “sign,” always the word “sign,” what John is saying is that what Jesus did is a parable. It’s what we would call miracle. His marvelous deed, John says, is a parable acted out. It is a great spiritual truth that is seen in action, not just the story as he might tell from his lips, but here is a parable, a great spiritual truth that is acted out. And that’s why he calls it a semeion, a sign. All right, what is this sign? It’s very patent.
“There were set there six waterpots of stone” [John 2:6], six of them. Now when you think of that, all of you think of those Grecian urns, you know, so graceful and beautiful with little narrow necks and beautiful handles and classic designs around. Now that’s what you think of when you read that story. Why, it wasn’t anything like that at all. What they were were great big stones that were hollowed out, and each one of them held twenty-seven gallons of water. And there were how many of them? Six. So if there were six of those stones, “after the manner of purifying of the Jews” [John 2:6], that is, they washed their feet in it, and they washed their pots and pans in it, and they washed their hands in it, it was for purification. And there were six of them. If each one of them held twenty-seven––it says here that there were two or three firkins apiece––well now a firkin is nine gallons, so if there were three firkins in each one of those things, there was twenty-seven gallons in each one of those great big stone lavers. And that’d be about a hundred thirty-five gallons, something like that.
Now that’s what Jesus did, now this is a sign, John says, it’s a great spiritual truth that He is acting out. So the Lord said, “Now you draw out of the well, you draw out of the well, antleō, draw out,” it means “drawing from way down deep,” “Now you draw out of the well, and you fill those waterpots to the brim” [John 2:7]. And so they filled all six of those great big stone lavers up to the brim. Then the Lord said, “Now you antleō. You draw out and bear to the governor of the feast” [John 2:8]. And as they went, the water, when it got to the governor of the feast, it was the wine that we’re going to drink at the marriage supper of the Lamb [John 2:9-10].
Now do you know what you think when you read that parable? Every last one of you think that the Lord turned into wine all of the water in those great big stone lavers. And you think those meticulous, scrupulous Jews drank that wine where they had just washed their feet, and just bathed their pots and pans and all that? Why, that’s ridiculous. That’s ridiculous. You think Jesus made a hundred thirty-five gallons of wine in all of those pots? Why, it’s just folly wide the mark. There’s nothing in the Bible that actually would present such a picture as that. It just isn’t here.
What the Scriptures say is, “and this is the sign.” This is why he calls it a semeion. This is a sign [John 2:11]. Those six waterpots, those six stone lavers holding twenty-seven gallons of water apiece, where all those that came to the feast washed their feet and purified themselves, now all of those were filled full, six of them, six of them; then antleō, then He says, “Now, antleō, now draw out and bear unto the governor of the feast, and they antleō they drew out from the deep and bore it to the governor of the feast” [John 2:7-8]. Now that’s the sign and do you see it? All of those stone jars, and there are six of them, and six is the number for incompleteness. Seven is the number complete, the perfect number. Six is the number incomplete. In the Bible, six always represents incompleteness.
These six represented the old ceremonial law. That’s what they were there for. The old ceremonial law of the Jews, the old dispensation, the old covenant, the Old Testament; this represented all of those multitudinous ceremonial rites, and rituals, and methods of approach and worship. All that was represented in the old covenant, all of it is represented there in those six water pots, those big stone lavers. And they were filled up to the brim [John 2:7]. You couldn’t put anymore in them. They were completely filled to the top. Then after they were complete and filled to the top, not one jot and not one tittle absent; they were filled as full as they could fill them. They couldn’t fill them any fuller. When they were filled to the brim, then the Lord said, “Now you draw out, and bear to the governor of the feast” [John 2:8], this new wine of the new covenant, of the new faith, of the New Testament, of the new promise; the Christian glory, the Christian religion, and the promise of our hope in Christ Jesus. Now that’s what John calls a sign, this is a semeion. It’s a sign, and the sign is that the Lord has fulfilled all of those ceremonial requirements, and they’ve all passed away [Matthew 5:17; Romans 7:6].
No more do we come before the Lord with the blood of a bull, or of a bullock, or of a lamb, or of a kid. And no more do we come before the Lord through the mediation and intercession of a high priest. And no longer do we come before the Lord only where His name is in the temple at Jerusalem. But in the new faith and in the new religion, all of those old ordinances and all of those old ceremonies have been fulfilled. They have accomplished their purpose. They’ve done the intention of God.
And now the Lord has done a marvelous new thing. This beginning of semeion, this new thing God is doing in Christ Jesus [John 2:11]; every man can now come to God for himself; don’t need any priest, don’t need any intercessor; don’t need any mediator, just come to Jesus for yourself and talk to Him for yourself. Just do it. Wherever you are is a sanctified place to call on the name of God. A kitchen corner is as good as a cathedral in which to bow down and pray to Jesus. “Neither in this hill,” the Lord God said to that woman of Samaria, “neither in this hill, Mount Gerizim, nor at Jerusalem but anywhere that men want to approach God in spirit and in truth, that is God’s holy tabernacle and God’s sacred temple” [John 4:21-24]. Isn’t that all right? That’s preaching the gospel, isn’t it? That’s the Lord’s truth. That’s the Book.
Oh, what the Lord has done for us! Just go to God for yourself. All of those ordinances are fulfilled. They’ve accomplished their purpose, and Jesus has opened a new and a living way in the sacrifice of His flesh [Hebrews 10:5-14], in the rending of the veil [Matthew 27:50-51], in the tearing of His flesh [Hebrews 10:19-20]. And there we have entrance into God for ourselves [Hebrews 4:14-16], our sins atoned for in His saving grace [Romans 5:11; Ephesians 2:8], in the love and mercy and goodness of Jesus [Galatians 2:20; Titus 3:5]. This is the new covenant, and the New Testament, and the new promise; our new hope, our new life, our new dream, our new vision, our new today, and our new tomorrow. It’s in Jesus, and that’s the sign. He acted it out, and John saw it and believed on the Savior [John 2:1-11].
Will you do that? Will you accept Him for you, asking God’s blessings upon you? And in the name of our blessed Lord, come in faith to God, would you do it tonight? A family, you, a couple, you, a one somebody, you, in the balcony round, you, a young man, you, a girl, you, as God should lay the appeal and press the invitation to your heart, would you answer it with your life? In a moment we shall stand and sing our hymn of appeal. Make the decision for God now. Do it now. And when we stand up to sing, stand up coming. On the first note of the first stanza, into that aisle and down here to the front, “Here I come, pastor. I have decided for God. I am accepting Jesus as my Savior. I am giving my life to the Lord, and I’m coming now.” Do it. Do it tonight, and when you stand up in a moment, stand up coming. And the Lord bless you in the way as you do, while we stand and while we sing.
THE BEGINNING OF MIRACLES
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Word “miracle” never used
1. John chooses seven signs to portray deity of Christ (John 20:30-31)
2. Recorded all the conversation that ensued from the miracles
B. His disciples believed on Him
1. First because of a testimony (John 4:42)
2. Now because of manifest glory of God in Christ
C. The beginning of signs
1. For thirty years He lived in obscurity, waiting on God’s time (John 2:4)
2. Glory in Jesus all along, just manifest at Cana
D. We are prone to think God is only to be found in the miraculous (Matthew 9:1-5, 14:15-21, John 6:35, 11:25, 43-44)II. The glory of Christ to sanctify, magnify the ordinary in life
A. John the Baptist was the prophetic ideal; austere, stern
B. Jesus never refused an invitation; accessible, approachable
C. The wine He made was different (Matthew 26:29, Revelation 19:9)III. John says the marvelous deed, the sign, is a parable acted out
A. Six waterpots represent old ceremonial law, old dispensation
1. Filled to the brim
B. “Now draw and bearâ€¦”
1. The new wine of the new covenant, the new way in Christ
a. The approach to God (John 4:21-24)
b. The sacrifice for sins