God has gifted His church with many excellent teachers. The old word for such men were “doctors” that is, teachers. It has been suggested that the greatest doctor in Western Christianity is none other than St. Augustine (AD 354-430). In one of his sermons, Augustine proclaimed, “the humility of Christ is the medicine of man’s swollen pride.” The Lord Jesus heralded the beginning of His kingdom-establishing ministry by an act of humility at the wedding of Cana. Here, rather than make a public spectacle of himself, the Lord Jesus was content to inaugurate His “new order” by means of others.
At Cana, the Lord Jesus performed his first miracle or sign to point to the coming of His kingdom. His very first miracle occurred at a wedding, to which He and His disciples were invited. Weddings in those days looked a bit different than weddings today. The Jewish wedding was a multi-day affair and as such was rather costly. Should a wedding feast fail to provide for those guests, it would be a mark of great shame. Jesus had already been baptized and tempted and as such, Christ has been declared the Messiah in His Spirit-wrought anointing, and His Satan-fought fasting. But now, at the cusp of redemption, by His first sign the Lord Jesus, in symbolic form, portrays to us the dusk of the old age and the dawn of the new.
The account of the first miracle comes to us in John 2:1-11. When we come to the text of Scripture it is possible for us to simply read the story and live there in our considerations. There is enough spiritual food for us to sit and marvel at the miraculous work of the Lord Jesus. His divinity is put on full display as the Word turns water into wine by His word. Contrary to those who wish to deny the historic Christian faith, an actual miracle occurs. Contrary to my teetotaler brethren, Jesus actually produced real wine (hence the Greek word for “wine”), though not for the purpose of drunkenness. The miracle is marvelous indeed, but it points to more than merely Jesus’ ability to do the impossible. We learn something about His person and work as the fulfiller and fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies.
The first thing we note concerns the person of Christ, specifically when the Lord Jesus became man. In this act, He did not surrender His divinity. He existed eternally in bliss with the Father and the Spirit. In His incarnation, when He dwelt in the virgin’s womb, He did not surrender His divinity. To do so, would be an impossibility. Again, we do well to turn to St. Augustine who said, “Man was added to Him, God not lost to Him.”
The next thing we note is the work of the Christ. The water of purification turned to wine was a symbol of the coming Messianic Age whereby God the Son inaugurated the climactic season of Jubilee for His people (cf. Amos 9:11-13; Matt. 9:15-17; Luke 4:18-19). This was promised in the words of Amos the prophet who after foretelling of God’s promise for a future restoration of David’s throne said, “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the LORD, when . . . the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.” One of the signs of the new coming kingdom was an abundance of wine, which would be a symbol of God’s restoration. It was fitting then that He who instituted marriage in the beginning (Gen. 2:24), and promised to consummate the end by imagery of a wedding feast (Eph. 5:22-32; Rev. 19:6-9; 21:2) commenced His ministry at a wedding.
The wine, as is still used in many churches today, is a sign and symbol of God’s gospel portrayed in visible form in the Lord’s Supper. That simple token symbolized the entirety of Christ’s work. Like wine as well, the gospel message brings joy to men’s hearts. These two images of joy and wine are linked throughout the Scriptures and are meant to be combined even here (cf. Eccles. 9:7; Isa. 16:10; 24:11; Jer. 48:33).
If you are not accustomed to seeing the Scriptures in their biblical theological web, it may be overwhelming. But the larger image is still the chief image: the Kingdom of God had come to earth. It has commenced and it continues (cf. Matt. 12:28). There is an already-reality to the Kingdom of God. Every time we gather in public worship as God’s people on earth, and especially when we participate in His glorious sacrament of bread and wine, spiritually feasting on His body and blood by faith, we profess to the world that Christ’s Kingdom has already come but not-yet in its fullness.
Why is this all very good? The promises of Christ are as sure as the miracles of Christ (cf. Mark 2:10). As Christ’s mission began with ordinary water which by His power became wine, so we too as ordinary individuals by the Word and power of God can be made into something new. The new wine of heaven abounds within us, as the Gospel of the Lord Jesus resonates in our hearts.