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
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
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
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
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 now."
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. 26:29.
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
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.
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
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
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.