The marriage feast took place "the third day" after Jesus' baptism. Much can be learned from an examination of his miracle of turning the water into wine - about the personal habits of him, about the knowledge of Mary, as well as about the prohibition policies of some of the teetotalers who claim to derive their teachings from the Bible. Quite a number of people from Nazareth and/or Bethsaida and Capernaum, as well as the town of Cana, must have attended.
A wedding feast in those days was not unlike a Jewish wedding feast today. It probably featured many hundreds of invited guests, and there would have been feasting, a fair amount of drinking, and no doubt live musical entertainment with ample toasting, joyful camaraderie and good wishes on the part of family and friends for the bride and groom.
John focuses on one particular occasion near the end of the festivities when the large number of guests had finally exhausted the supplies of wine. It is necessary to mention here a few points about the English word "wine" and its Greek derivation.
The Greek word used in the inspired text is oinos, and it is used on at least two other occasions in the New Testament where the obvious meaning indicated the intoxicating effect of alcohol: "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit." (Ephesians 5:18), and
"with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and with the wine of whose fornication the dwellers on earth have become drunk" (Revelation 17:2, RSV).
In both of these accounts it is obvious the Greek word oinos is referring to a beverage which, when taken to excess, can make one drunk. Perhaps it is useless to point out that there was no refrigeration; that "grape juice" - as some would have the drink that Jesus created be - was kept either in stone jars and/or goatskin bags and would ferment quite rapidly in any event. But "grape juice" was not involved, nevertheless; it was wine.
Think about the implications of the biblical account. As was stated, Jesus' mother was apparently such a close friend or relative that she was helping serve in some fashion, for she came to Jesus when she discovered the wine had been exhausted and said, "They have no wine." There happened to be six waterpots of stone in the home which were used for purification rites or foot washing.
Judging by the number of stone jars (six) and the number of firkins in each (two to three) - which were either nine and one-half or twelve and one-half gallons apiece - the most conservative estimate is that there had to be at least 120 gallons. Allowing approximately eight normal glasses of wine to a quart, four quarts to a gallon, that means that about 3,840 glasses of wine were available. So unless that marriage feast was the most drunken orgy in history (which it wasn't), there had to be a minimum of 500 people there to drink all that wine. And to have already exhausted a normally provided supply and still to claim that they were out, there were probably more than that. On the other hand, since the wine cellar of the individual giving the wedding was possibly depleted, this may have been replenishment without implying any specific quantity that was drunk before the wedding was over. Also, it was common for weddings to last for several days, even a full week.
Jesus did not know everyone there, but there were guests and servants who would carry the memory of what He did for the rest of their lives and would talk of it to others. By the time they were elderly people, even if they never became converted and members of the church, they certainly must have told everybody else in their hearing about "the water becoming wine." They all probably told their grandchildren about that great miracle.
Jesus must have known the master of the feast and the young couple, one of whom may have been a member of His family. He could well have been chatting with them and congratulating them, talking with the other people around them - about marriage, about mutual friends, about the political situation.
When Mary came to Him, at least some of His disciples heard it - we know John did, since he wrote it down. Mary said, "They are out of wine." Why did Mary say that? What did she expect? Jesus retorted, "Woman, what in the world am I going to do with you? Don't you know it is not time for me to reveal who I am in public yet?" He spoke rather chidingly. though with respect (the King James English makes it harsher than the reality).
Mary was, nevertheless, quite assured that Jesus would respect and fulfill her request since she turned to the servants and immediately stated, "Whatsoever he says for you to do, do it." These surprising remarks show that Mary knew Jesus could do something about the wine situation if He wanted to. But how could she know with such certainty? Wasn't this his first miracle?
Mary's request to the servants, "Whatsoever he tells you to do, do it!" is as strong a statement of faith as any found in the New Testament; whether a Gentile officer asking for the healing of the servant, or the father of the lunatic begging for Christ's mercy.
Mary's statement is similar to the statement of the man that had the demon-possessed son who said to Jesus, "I know you can heal him; all you have to do is just tell me that it is your will." It is also similar to the statement of the Roman officer who said, "You don't have to bother coming home to heal my servant but if you just tell me I will believe it. I understand an order because when I tell a man to go, he goes, and when I tell him to come, he comes."
Marys statement, "Jesus, they are out of wine," conveys such absolute assurance of his ability to perform a miracle that it had to come from knowledge of his past experience. The miracle of turning the water into wine was indeed his first miracle recorded in the Bible. But the strong inference is that it was not the first miracle of His life! Mary's certainty of success couldn't have come from guesswork. It couldn't have come from supposition. It couldn't have come only from what she thought He might have been able to do. Obviously Mary was confident. She had to have known that he had miracle-working powers. No doubt during the course of the 30 years of Jesus' life, Mary had had at least a few occasions to witness such powers.
From her earliest moments of training the young child, Mary was urgently intent upon explaining to Jesus again and again all the events that had from the time of the appearance of the angel and his pronouncement to her; to her meeting with Elizabeth and the sudden leaping of the two babies in the wombs; to the muteness of John's father Zacharias, and the birth of John.
During His young boyhood, how many possibilities for accident or injury were there? After all, His father was a contractor of some note; his profession demanded the kind of labor which may have involved everything from obtaining raw materials to site preparation, laying of foundations, hewing out cisterns, waterways and drainage ducts, to the actual erection of smaller cottages and larger homes and buildings. In such a trade, there is ample opportunity for accidents which could cause crippling injury or death.
Had there been times when, just as a large stone might have toppled from a parapet upon one of Joseph's laborers, the young boy simply pointing at the stone said in a quiet but firm voice, "Stay still"? Had there been occasions when Joseph, Jude, Simon or perhaps one of the girls had come running to Mary, with a broken bone, dislocated arm, a smashed finger, or a deep cut? To presuppose that a family of at least seven children could survive all of those many years until the eldest son was age 30 without the usual run of household accidents, potential for accident and injury on the job, and the attack of disease, would be ridiculous.
I don't think any family of seven kids in the building industry in that kind of environment could grow up without incurring some injuries. Seven kids?
You could very easily imagine the scene if Jesus' brother Joses came running in one day when he was 11 and Joses was only 6, holding his little arm with a strange bow in it and crying at the top of his lungs. Realizing that he had broken his arm, he may have walked up to him and said, "Don't cry, Joses," and just reached out and healed it. This would have had to have been very private, just within the family. But His mother surely knew about it.
One can imagine that there might have been times when a disfiguring scar might have marred one of the girls' faces or when one of the boys might have had a crushed instep, and Jesus healed them. Or Joseph could have been bent over a load of mortar that Jesus had just delivered to him as they were working on a wall. When he was about to go up and take some to His brother James, He may have seen a bunch of bricks on the top of the parapet about to fall. Perhaps, as the bricks began to topple, he commanded them to stop.
Probably, in a quiet family environment, Jesus had prayed to His heavenly Father that close personal family members could be healed and they had followed His urgent admonitions that they tell no one else about it; keeping it very quiet, limited only to the immediate family. It is doubtful that any of his brothers would have taken His supernatural powers for granted; he certainly would have warned them against "tempting God." taking unnecessary risks, exposing themselves to either danger or disease merely for the novelty of quick healing when necessary.
Therefore, it may be safely assumed such miracles were few and far between, for even His own brothers refused to believe He was the Messiah later. But there had been sufficient experience for Mary to have such profound faith that even following Jesus' gentle rejoinder, she knew His love for her and respect for her request would override His reticence, and so she turned to the servants and told them, "Whatever He tells you to do, do it!"
The turning of water into wine at Cana may have been His first public miracle, but there is every reason to conclude that it was far from His first miracle! For one thing, stories were frequently told about Jesus that He was a "glutton and a winebibber," which resulted in His chiding the Pharisees on one occasion that they were never satisfied, no matter what He did.
He explained that they were like little kids who called the tune, but if you didn't dance to the precise tune they called, you seemed to be a misfit, and they were disappointed in you.
He told them that John the Baptist had come neither eating nor drinking, and the religious leaders claimed that He was demon-possessed; but that He, Jesus, had come both eating and drinking (as He did frequently in expensive homes with leading officials, Roman officers, religious leaders, or at marriage feasts such as this one) yet was criticized for being both a glutton and a "wine bibber" (meaning a wino").
The Bible, of course, clearly condemns drunkenness. It clearly condemns excesses in anything, which would include, drinking too much water! There are sins of commissions and sins of omission, and there are sins of excess.
However, there is not one word in either the Old or the New Testament which forbids a human being to drink either strong drink (tirosh in the Hebrew, meaning liquor), or wine or beer, so long as it is taken in appropriate moderation on appropriate occasions, and is never abused. Jesus did enjoy a glass of wine from time to time. Do you? If you do, then you probably know that wine tends to aid not only in digestion, but in conversation and humor as well.
There is no doubt whatever that Jesus, entering into animated and laughing conversation with other guests at that feast, also enjoyed the wine with them too.
What an insult it would have been for Jesus. who was head of the family business, whose younger brothers and mother were there together with His students, to sit mournfully in a corner with nothing but a level,, steady, vacant gaze in His unblinking eyes! The leader of the feast, together with the bridegroom and the bride would all think the man was a little odd, and it would have cast a dark cloud over the festive occasion.
He was an animated, healthy, robust, outgoing and effervescent personality. He could throw His head back and laugh to the very depth of His being at some humorous incident. He was totally well rounded in personality with that combination of sincere interest in others, deep empathy for their frailties and misunderstandings, combined with lively interest in their lives. Jesus was the kind of scintillating conversationalist who would have been an absolute joy to have at any party.
Battle with Satan
Jesus spoke at great length, in private, to His disciples about His encounter with Satan. The accounts of both Matthew and Luke, together with Mark's one paragraph establishing the chronological place of the event (just before the beginning of His ministry and just after His baptism), prove that Christ discussed the event in detail with His disciples. Obviously, there, were, important lessons to be learned.
Mark said that the "Spirit immediately drove Him out into the wilderness" - showing that the very strongest spiritual compulsion was within Christ; that He knew the confrontation with Satan was necessary; that He had to overcome and conquer the world-ruling spirit (Ephesians 2:2), Satan the Devil. Jesus was qualifying to take over rulership of all of the governments of the world - and He had to defeat the present ruler at his own game, according to his own rules, on his own battlefield. It was to be the supreme battle, and the enemy had all the weapons.
Previously, named Lucifer ("shining star of the dawn," or "light-bringer") this great being had formerly been one of the three named archangels, and a personality extremely close to the God family, an individual known from the beginning. Jesus said "I saw Satan as lightening fall from heaven." He was there, and took part in an earlier battle with Lucifer (Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 28) which had literally convulsed the heavens, rent the earth, exploded stars and planets, and filled space with the junk of a gargantuan, titanic battle.
Anyone who wants to take the Bible literally as an actual communication to man from outer space, from God, would see the results of Satan's rebellion and battle against God in the panorama of universal destruction that is evident in the bleak, crater-pocked face of the moon; the desolate, lifeless waste of Mars; the impenetrable Venusian atmosphere; the billions of asteroids, meteors, and comets; all the space dust and gas. All the universe gives testimony to the primal war in space that defies human imagination.
Satan had been confined to the earth - been "chained" by God's decree (in a state called "hell" in one place, but translated from a Greek word, tartaroo, which is used in only one place), but was allowed to hold sway over the earth. Satan was a prince over total destruction, when that Person who was later to become God in the flesh came upon the scene as outlined in the first chapter of Genesis.
Once, the earth had teemed with billions of creatures, The atmosphere was completely different from today; almost universally tropical, with no polar ice caps, and with abundant, thick, luxuriant foliage providing both food and shelter for billions of creatures. Lucifer was originally given the earth as his responsibility. But the Bible says he tried to use earth as a base for his attempt to overthrow God from His throne. He failed, and, as John wrote in Revelation, his "tail" (comet-like?) drew a third part (of course! there are only three archangels mentioned in all the Bible) of the "stars of heaven" (a common Bible symbol for angels) and "cast them down to earth" (read Revelation 12:3-9).
The total destruction of the earth was the result; and the massive burial of whole continents teeming with plant and animal life, multiple billions of creatures, resulted in the storage of fossil energy for the use of man in the countless thousands of years yet in the future.
If scientist believe the earth to be 4 1/2 billion years old, there is no quarrel with Scripture - neither does 10 billion years make any difference.
There was, according to the Bible, an earlier, perfect creation. Also included were the spirit beings, among them Lucifer. But the resultant cosmic battle literally wrecked a good portion of the universe. Frustratingly to Lucifer, even in the destruction on earth he was to provide future fuel and energy sources to God's greatest creation of all - mankind - destined to rise ultimately to a position even greater than that given to Lucifer and his angels.
John's twelfth chapter of the apocalypse (meaning "to reveal," not "to destroy") is a quick summary of the whole time period from the conception of God's plan for His church, Satan's rebellion and earth's destruction, Satan's attempt to destroy Christ through Herod's decree to kill all children, and the encounter in the wilderness with Jesus personally .
"And another portent appeared in heaven; behold a red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth; she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne." (Revelation 12:3-5).
Jesus knew what Satan looked like; both in an earlier beautiful state, and in a later, more grotesque and ugly condition. He is called a "serpent" and a "dragon," as well as "the cherub that covereth" in the Bible.
When Ezekiel saw the strange creatures covering God's throne he "knew that they were cherubs." Most people believe cherubs appear as naked babes with cupid's bows and arrows - and few realize that cherubs appeared to men in ancient times; that some of them were tremendously famous from the time of Adam until Noah as the guardians to the garden of Eden.
Cherubim were able to manifest themselves as lions, oxen, men, and eagles; or as an aggregate of all four. Ancient mythology preserves these huge spirit creatures in stone as the "winged bulls of Bashan" on ancient Assyrian king's palaces, and newer discoveries of even greater civilizations in ancient Syria, a wooden bull with a man's head overlaid in gold was recovered from ruins believed to be contemporaneous with ancient Sumeria. Search the great museums of Britain, France, Germany, and Egypt, and you will see hundreds of examples of the worship of "the host of the heavens" in the form of men with eagle's heads (common in the inscriptions of ancient Egypt, and in Egyptian tombs). as "gods"; winged bulls featuring the heads of men and lion's claws and other assorted mixtures of these four.
When God placed two cherubim with "flaming swords" to guard the way to the tree of life, they remained there from that day until the destruction of Eden in the flood.
Remember that means about one-sixth of all recorded history - a considerable time! The tales repeated down through time from the children of Noah, all of whom had seen those cherubim, gave rise to the mythologies about winged dragons, flying serpents whose mouths breathed fire, who guarded mysterious castles at the top of craggy hills filled with fabulously valuable treasures.
Giants and their mythical treasures, St. George and the Dragon, the winged flying serpent which was worshiped by the Incas and Aztecs (Quetzalcoatl, meaning "flying serpent") - these are all mythological tales, endlessly repeated and embellished, stemming from human encounters with cherubim.
When God told Moses to decorate the interior trappings of the tabernacle in the wilderness with "cherubim," Moses didn't ask God, "Yes, but what do they look like?" He knew, especially since he had come from a background of the royal courts of Egypt.
Jesus knew exactly what to expect when he encountered Satan. He knew Satan didn't appear as a funny, mischievous man in a weird red body-stocking complete with pointed ears, a tail with spears' tip, and a trident in hand. He knew Satan could appear as a man, or as a cherub, or as a winged flying serpent.
What is a "dragon," after all, but a "winged flying serpent"? When the devil appeared to Adam and Eve they weren't at all startled to hear a strange-looking creature having serpentine, dragon-like form (but probably standing upright, like a tyrannosaurus ) speak to them in audible voice; for they had no standard of comparison. The fact that God, using serpents as a type of Satan, cursed, the serpent and from that time decreed he was to "crawl on his belly" in the dust of the earth strongly indicated there were serpentine creatures that stood upright prior to that time.
Jesus knew that He was meeting one of the most powerful spirit beings in the universe; He knew that He would have to used the test of the most appealing, magnetic, powerful personality on earth; that He was going to match wits with the vilest, most subtle, cleverest, most cunning, and superbly (if perverted) intelligent creature in the universe! He knew that humanly, of Himself, He didn't have the strength and will to overcome a spirit being of such power. He would need superhuman strength , spiritual strength from a righteous source, and the very help of the Father Himself, as well as the power of friendly angels.
Jesus intended to overthrow Satan. He was to combat the "prince of the power of the air" and conquer him! He was to meet the "lord of the dead" and displace him! He was to allow Himself to be subjected to the greatest test of His human life to date, and had to depend utterly on God the Father for His help to over come!
That's why He had fasted for so long! The Bible says Christ "learned by the things which He suffered," and Christ intended to come to know that weaknesses can be overcome with enough help from God! Read the account of his confrontation with Satan just prior to the beginning of His ministry. The story is revealed in the fourth chapter of the book of Matthew.
"Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil" (Matthew 4:1).
When Jesus was "led up of the spirit" it is obvious that He had been, by this "sixth sense" of the awareness of the spirit world, in such close communication with His heavenly Father through prayer that He knew that it was time for the great confrontation - the supreme battle of will between the fallen archangel, Lucifer, and the One who was coming to unseat this Satan and qualify to be the World Ruler. (Perhaps He had received either a very vivid dream, a vision, or even heard an audible voice from an angel. Or He might have just "sensed" it was time.)
Jesus, with His brilliant mind and the outpouring of God's Holy Spirit "without measure" no doubt knew the Scriptures as no man before or since! He was, after all, the "Word personified," as it were, and so was very thoroughly aware of the examples of fasting just prior to a great crisis or a great event in the Bible. He knew that Moses had fasted 40 days and 40 nights, prior to receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.
He knew about Elijah's 40 days and 40 nights of fasting, and knew this would also be required of Him in order to utterly divest Himself of any reliance whatsoever on any material crutch, upon any remote temptation to depend upon a false feeling of "self-reliance," but, in this weakened state, after having spent countless hours in deep and soul-searching prayer, would be equipped to withstand the worst temptations Satan the Devil could throw at Him.
It says, "And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered."
The word "hungered" in context implies much more than just "hungry" the way it may appear to us. No living human being today could have the willpower and self control, together with the physical stamina and strength to endure a full 40 days and 40 nights fast.
Jesus was nearly at the point of death; he had almost starved by the time Satan the Devil came to Him and hurled every conceivable temptation His way. After the initial temptation of trying to get him to obey his whims by converting stones into bread, Jesus made one of His most important pronouncements. (And a statement that is almost universally misunderstood by millions of professing Christians today, who would rather live by "some," and not "every," word of God.). He said to Satan, " . . . It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God!" Then Satan began. to probe to find if there was any ego there, any vanity, selfishness, or desire for power or self importance. Finally he gave a command, and the Devil was forced to obey!
"Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve" (verse 10).
Now read the next verse! Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him." What does "ministering" mean? What would you do if a person who was very dearly beloved to you were discovered in an emaciated, starving state, a condition of almost complete physical and mental exhaustion?
Remember, these angels did not appear like little pink cheeked bare babies with bows and arrows - but as mature, kindly, competent and swiftly efficient men!
From the time the One who became Jesus Christ of Nazareth - who was the God of the Old Testament - appeared unto human beings Himself (He wrestled in the dust of the earth with Jacob, sat in the shade of Abraham's tent on the plains of Mamre, talked to Moses from a cloud on Mount Sinai), to the other accounts in the Old Testament of angelic appearances, you can learn that angels always appeared to human beings as men! The two men who were the objects of the perverse lusts of the citizens of Sodom, and who had to drag Lot and his family out of the city just prior to its destruction, were angels, Manifesting themselves as strong, human men.
Jesus had no doubt slumped to the ground or was seated with His head in His hands, following this exhausting encounter when a strong arm encircled His shoulder and a deep resonant voice said, "Here, take a sip of this." When You "minister" unto a person in this state of exhaustion, you will no doubt provide warmth in the form Of blankets and a place to lie down, and give sparing amounts of something appropriate like beef broth or some other richly nutritious and easily digestible food.
This encounter also serves to illustrate the fact that, when it was needed, angels, who were always around Jesus in unseen, spirit form, would manifest themselves as human beings, and give him even the physical sustenance and protection that He needed, and that He was constantly attuned to that "other dimension" of the heavenly presence of His Father and His righteous angels. So, in the greatest spiritual battle ever fought, a battle that was absolutely necessary in the plan of God for Jesus Christ to overcome Satan, the Captain of our Salvation qualified to take over rulership of Earth from Satan.