When the King Came: Stories from the Four Gospels - George Hodges

The King Goes to a Wedding

Our Lord had no intention of returning to the carpenter's bench, but he wanted to go home. He wanted to see his mother, and his brothers and sisters. He had now been away a long time, and they would be anxious about him; they would be wondering what had become of him. And he wanted to tell them. So he started in that direction, probably taking Peter and Andrew, and James and John, and Philip and Bartholomew with him. The way led through Cana, where Bartholomew lived. And when they came to Cana, our Lord found his mother there and other Nazareth folks, who had come to a wedding. The village was full of people with happy faces, and there was music and dancing. In that country everybody lives out of doors, and the pleasure of one family is shared by all the others.

Our Lord was acquainted with the bride and groom. His family and theirs were such old friends,—perhaps relatives,—that his mother was quite at home there, and went in and out of the kitchen, where they were preparing the wedding supper. So the King was invited to the feast, and all his new friends with him. You see how pleasantly and naturally Jesus Christ began his new life; not as a hermit like John the Baptist, and not even as a priest in the temple or as a preacher in the synagogue, but just like other people, taking part in the simple joys of his neighbors. Even now, coming to them as the Son of God, he did not make himself different from them, but sat down in the old way at the table; and not a boy or a girl stopped laughing because he was there. They had a better time than ever.

But in the middle of the feast, our Lord's mother came behind him and whispered to him. "They have no wine!" she said. She had been in the pantry, and had found the family in much distress. Here were all the people, and not wine enough! It was probably a little wedding, and the seven unexpected guests had made a difference. Let us remember that in that country everybody drank wine. It was almost as common as water. Life was much more simple than it is at present; and, the people living out of doors as they did, wine did not do them so much harm as it does here. The drinking of wine was one of the joys of social life. And now the wine was giving out; the skin bottles looked like big toy balloons out of which the gas has escaped; and the party would be spoiled. So the mother of Jesus came and told him, not knowing what he would do, but hoping that he might do something. It shows how she was accustomed to depend upon him when things went wrong at home. It was he who always made them right. "Yes," he answered. "I see. I will attend to it presently." And she went back and told the servants, "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it."

Now there stood there, out of sight of the wedding guests, six stone jars for water,—large jars, like those in which, in the Arabian Nights, the forty thieves were hidden. For while the Jews used little water at dinner, they used a good deal before dinner. They poured it on their hands to make them clean before they ate, and were very particular about it. Having so many guests, the family had borrowed water-jars from their neighbors, and so much water had been taken out of them that they were almost empty. There they stood against the wall, a line of empty jars, when our Lord, rising from the table, went out and found them. "Fill them with water," he said to the servants. And they filled them up to the brim. "Now," he said, "draw out and carry to the master of the feast." So in they dipped their buckets and drew them out all dripping. But do you know what it was which filled the jars, and dripped from the buckets, and gleamed in the glasses on the table? It was wine, red wine! And the master of the feast tasted of it, and he said, "This is the best wine that ever I drank." And he lifted a shining glass in honor of the bride and groom, saying, "Most people bring in the choicest wine at the beginning, but you have kept it until now."

This is what is called a miracle. The King of Glory did many miracles, of which this was the first.

There was a time when people thought that God was very far away. They knew that God had made this world, but they thought that after he had made it he had gone back again into heaven, where he had stayed, for the most part, ever since. But sometimes things happened here on earth which were so wonderful that they said, "God must have come back and done that:" and these wonderful things they called miracles.

The truth is, as we know now, that God has never gone away at all. He is here always and everywhere. Everything that happens in the world of nature, even though it happens every morning, like the rising of the sun, is done by God. What wise men call "laws of nature" are only God's usual ways of dealing with us. So when we come upon some new and marvelous thing, like talking without wires across hundreds of miles, or turning water into wine, or making sick people well by speaking to them or praying for them, we do not ask, as men once asked, "Did God come down and do this, or is it only the work of man?" We ask, "Does this belong to the usual or to the unusual ways of God?" That is, is this the sort of thing which happens only once, by which God suddenly makes his presence known, or is it done in accordance with such a "law" or custom of God that many people might learn to do it if they were only good enough or wise enough for God to teach them? Our Lord said, "The things that I do shall ye do also, and greater things than these shall ye do." And that has come true,—at least, the first part of it has come true,—with regard to curing the sick.

There are some of our Lord's wonderful works, however, which we cannot explain by any knowledge which is known to us. When we come to such miracles, as we do just here at the wedding in Cana, the thing for us to say is that all our largest knowledge is very, very small. One of the wisest men who ever lived said that with all his wisdom he was like a child picking up pebbles on the shore of a vast ocean. Even now we know but little about the world we live in, or about God who lives in the world and in our souls.

Jesus turned the water into wine. That is all we know about it. The Son of God could do it, and he did it; to add to the happiness of the guests at a village wedding.