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John 2:1-11

1. Three days after, 4444     “Tertio die;” — “trois jours apres.” there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there. 2. And Jesus also was invited, and his disciples, to the marriage 3. And when the wine fell short, the mother of Jesus saith to him, They have no wine. 4. Jesus saith to her, What have I to do with thee? my hour is not yet come. 5. His mother saith to the servants, Do whatever he shall bid you. 6. And there were there six water-pots of stone, placed according to the Jewish custom of cleansing, containing each of them about two or three baths. 7. Jesus saith to them, Fill the water-pots with water. And they filled them to the brim. 8. And he saith to them, Draw out now, and carry to the master of the feast; and they carried. 9. And when the master of the feast had tasted the water which was made wine, (and knew not whence it was, but the servants who drew the water knew,) the master of the feast calleth the bridegroom, 10. And saith to him, Every man at first sets down good wine; and when men have drunk freely, then that which is worse; but thou hast kept the good wine till now. 11. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and displayed his glory, and his disciples believed on him.

 

1. There was a marriage in Cana of Galilee. As this narrative contains the first miracle which Christ performed, it would be proper for us, were it on this ground alone, to consider the narrative attentively; though — as we shall afterwards see — there are other reasons which recommend it to our notice. But while we proceed, the various advantages arising from it will be more clearly seen. The Evangelist first mentions Cana of Galilee, not that which was situated towards Zare-phath (1 Kings 17:9; Obadiah 20; Luke 4:26) or Sarepta, between Tyre and Sidon, and was called the greater in comparison of this latter Cana, which is placed by some in the tribe of Zebulun, and by others in the tribe of Asher. For Jerome too assures us that, even in his time, there existed a small town which bore that name. There is reason to believe that it was near the city of Nazareth, since the mother of Christ came there to attend the marriage. From the fourth chapter of this book it will be seen that it was not more than one day’s journey distant from Capernaum. That it lay not far from the city of Bethsaida may also be inferred from the circumstance, that three days after Christ had been in those territories, the marriage was celebrated — the Evangelist tells us — in Cana of Galilee. There may have been also a third Cana, not far from Jerusalem, and yet out of Galilee; but I leave this undetermined, because I am unacquainted with it.

And the mother of Jesus was there. It was probably one of Christ’s near relations who married a wife; for Jesus is mentioned as having accompanied his mother. From the fact that the disciples also are invited, we may infer how plain and frugal was his way of living; for he lived in common with them. It may be thought strange, however, that a man who has no great wealth or abundance (as will be made evident from the scarcity of the wine) invites four or five other persons, on Christ’s account. But the poor are readier and more frank in their invitations; because they are not, like the rich, afraid of being disgraced, if they do not treat their guests with great costliness and splendor; for the poor adhere more zealously to the ancient custom of having an extended acquaintance.

Again, it may be supposed to show a want of courtesy, that the bridegroom allows his guests, in the middle of the entertainment, to be in want of wine; for it looks like a man of little thoughtfulness not to have a sufficiency of wine for his guests. I reply, nothing is here related which does not frequently happen, especially when people are not accustomed to the daily use of wine. Besides, the context shows, that it was towards the conclusion of the banquet that the wine fell short, when, according to custom, it might be supposed that they had already drunk enough; for the master of the feast thus speaks, Other men place worse wine before those who have drunk enough, but thou hast kept the best till now. Besides, I have no doubt that all this was regulated by the Providence of God, that there might be room for the miracle.

3. The mother of Jesus saith to him. It may be doubted if she expected or asked any thing from her Son, since he had not yet performed any miracle; and it is possible that, without expecting any remedy of this sort, she advised him to give some pious exhortations which would have the effect of preventing the guests from feeling uneasiness, and at the same time of relieving the shame of the bridegroom. I consider her words to be expressive of (συμπαθεία) earnest compassion; for the holy woman, perceiving that those who had been invited were likely to consider themselves as having been treated with disrespect, and to murmur against the bridegroom, and that the entertainment might in that way be disturbed, wished that some means of soothing them could be adopted. Chrysostom throws out a suspicion that she was moved by the feelings of a woman to seek I know not what favor for herself and her Son; but this conjecture is not supported by any argument.

4. Woman, what have I to do with thee? Why does Christ repel her so rashly? I reply, though she was not moved by ambition, nor by any carnal affection, still she did wrong in going beyond her proper bounds. Her anxiety about the inconvenience endured by others, and her desire to have it in some way mitigated, proceeded from humanity, and ought to be regarded as a virtue; but still, by putting herself forward, she might obscure the glory of Christ. Though it ought also to be observed, that what Christ spoke was not so much for her sake as for the sake of others. Her modesty and piety were too great, to need so severe a chastisement. Besides, she did not knowingly and willingly offend; but Christ only meets the danger, that no improper use may be made of what his mother had said, as if it were in obedience to her command that he afterwards performed the miracle.

The Greek words (Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοὶ) literally mean, What to me and to thee? But the Greek phraseology is of the same import with the Latin — Quid tibi mecum? (what hast thou to do with me?) The old translator led many people into a mistake, by supposing Christ to have asserted, that it was no concern of his, or of his mother’s, if the wine fell short. But from the second clause we may easily conclude how far removed this is from Christ’s meaning; for he takes upon himself this concern, and declares that it belongs to him to do so, when he adds, my hour is not yet come. Both ought to be joined together — that Christ understands what it is necessary for him to do, and yet that he will not act in this matter at his mother’s suggestion.

It is a remarkable passage certainly; for why does he absolutely refuse to his mother what he freely granted afterwards, on so many occasions, to all sorts of persons? Again, why is he not satisfied with a bare refusal? and why does he reduce her to the ordinary rank of women, and not even deign to call her mother? This saying of Christ openly and manifestly warns men to beware lest, by too superstitiously elevating the honor of the name of mother in the Virgin Mary, 4545     “En la vierge Marie.” they transfer to her what belongs exclusively to God. Christ, therefore, addresses his mother in this manner, in order to lay down a perpetual and general instruction to all ages, that his divine glory must not be obscured by excessive honor paid to his mother.

How necessary this warning became, in consequence of the gross and disgraceful superstitions which followed afterwards, is too well known. For Mary has been constituted the Queen of Heaven, the Hope, the Life, and the Salvation of the world; and, in short, their fury and madness proceeded so far that they stripped Christ of his spoils, and left him almost naked. And when we condemn those horrid blasphemies against the Son of God, the Papists call us malignant and envious; and — what is worse — they maliciously slander us as deadly foes to the honor of the holy Virgin. As if she had not all the honor that is due to her, unless she were made a Goddess; or as if it were treating her with respect, to adorn her with blasphemous titles, and to substitute her in the room of Christ. The Papists, therefore, offer a grievous insult to Mary when, in order to disfigure her by false praises, they take from God what belongs to Him.

My hour is not yet come. He means that he has not hitherto delayed through carelessness or indolence, but at the same time he states indirectly that he will attend to the matter, when the proper time for it shall arrive. As he reproves his mother for unseasonable haste, so, on the other hand, he gives reason to expect a miracle. The holy Virgin acknowledges both, for she abstains from addressing him any farther; and when she advises the servants to do whatever he commands, she shows that she expects something now. But the instruction conveyed here is still more extensive that whenever the Lord holds us in suspense, and delays his aid, he is not therefore asleep, but, on the contrary, regulates all His works in such a manner that he does nothing but at the proper time. Those who have applied this passage to prove that the time of events is appointed by Fate, are too ridiculous to require a single word to be said for refuting them. The hour of Christ sometimes denotes the hour which had been appointed to him by the Father; and by his time he will afterwards designate what he found to be convenient and suitable for executing the commands of his Father; but in this place he claims the right to take and choose the time for working and for displaying his Divine power. 4646     “De bosongner et desployer sa virtue Divine.”

5. His mother saith to the servants. Here the holy Virgin gives an instance of true obedience which she owed to her Son, 4747     “a son Fils.” when the question related, not to the relative duties of mankind, but to his divine power. She modestly acquiesces, therefore, in Christ’s reply; and in like manner exhorts others to comply with his injunctions. I acknowledge, indeed, that what the Virgin now said related to the present occurrence, and amounted to a declaration that, in this instance, she had no authority, and that Christ would do, according to his own pleasure, whatever he thought right. But if you attend closely to her design, the statement which she made is still more extensive; for she first disclaims and lays aside the power which she might seem to have improperly usurped; and next, she ascribes the whole authority to Christ, when she bids them do whatever he shall command. We are taught generally by these words, that if we desire any thing from Christ, we will not obtain our wishes, unless we depend on him alone, look to him, and, in short, do whatever he commands On the other hand, he does not send us to his mother, but rather invites us to himself.

6. And there were there six water-pots of stone. According to the computation of Budaeus, we infer that these water-pots were very large; for as the metreta 4848     The exact size of the firkin cannot be easily ascertained. If μετρητὴς be here used by the Evangelist as a purely Greek word, we must conclude it to be an Attic measure, which was nearly equal to nine English gallons. If, again, it be placed here as a substitute for the Hebrew word בת, (Bath,) as the Septuagint has done in 2 Chronicles 4:5, it will probably be rated at seven gallons and a half. — Ed (μετρητὴς) contains twenty congii, each contained, at least, a Sextier of this country. 4949     “De ce pays de Savoye;” — “of this country, Savoy.” Christ supplied them, therefore, with a great abundance of wine, as much as would be sufficient for a banquet to a hundred and fifty men. Besides, both the number and the size of the water-pots serve to prove the truth of the miracle. If there had been only two or three jars, many might have suspected that they had been brought from some other place. If in one vessel only the water had been changed into wine, the certainty of the miracle would not have been so obvious, or so well ascertained. It is not, therefore, without a good reason that the Evangelist mentions the number of the water-pots, and states how much they contained.

It arose from superstition that vessels so numerous and so large were placed there. They had the ceremony of washing, indeed, prescribed to them by the Law of God; but as the world is prone to excess in outward matters, the Jews, not satisfied with the simplicity which God had enjoined, amused themselves with continual washings; and as superstition is ambitious, they undoubtedly served the purpose of display, as we see at the present day in Popery, that every thing which is said to belong to the worship of God is arranged for pure display. There was, then, a twofold error: that without the command of God, they engaged in a superfluous ceremony of their own invention; and next, that, under the pretense of religion, ambition reigned amidst that display. Some Popish scoundrels have manifested an amazing degree of wickedness, when they had the effrontery to say that they had among their relics those water-pots with which Christ performed this miracle in Cana, and exhibited some of them, 5050     “Qu’ils avoyent entre leurs reliques de ces cruches, esquelles Christ avoit fait ce miracle en Cana, et en monstroyent.” which, first, are of small size, and, next, are unequal in size. And in the present day, when the light of the Gospel shines so clearly around us, they are not ashamed to practice those tricks, which certainly is not to deceive by enchantments, but daringly to mock men as if they were blind; and the world, which does not perceive such gross mockery, is evidently bewitched by Satan.

7. Fill the water-pots with water. The servants might be apt to look upon this injunction as absurd; for they had already more than enough of water. But in this way the Lord often acts towards us, that his power may be more illustriously displayed by an unexpected result; though this circumstance is added to magnify the miracle; for when the servants drew wine out of vessels which had been filled with water, no suspicion can remain.

8. And carry to the master of the feast. For the same reason as before, Christ wished that the flavor of the wine should be tried by the master of the feast, before it had been tasted by himself, or by any other of the guests; and the readiness with which the servants obey him in all things shows us the great reverence and respect in which he was held by them. The Evangelist gives the name of the master of the feast to him who had the charge of preparing the banquet and arranging the tables; not that the banquet was costly and magnificent, but because the honorable appellations borrowed from the luxury and splendor of the rich are applied even to the marriages of the poor. But it is wonderful that a large quantity of wine, and of the very best wine, is supplied by Christ, who is a teacher of sobriety. I reply, when God daily gives us a large supply of wine, it is our own fault if his kindness is an excitement to luxury; but, on the other hand, it is an undoubted trial of our sobriety, if we are sparing and moderate in the midst of abundance; as Paul boasts that he had learned to know both how to be full and to be hungry, (Philippians 4:12.)

11. This beginning of miracles. The meaning is, that this was the first of Christ’s miracles; for when the angels announced to the shepherds that he was born in Bethlehem, (Luke 2:8,) when the star appeared to the Magi, (Matthew 2:2,) when the Holy Spirit descended on him in the shape of a dove, (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; John 1:32,) though these were miracles, yet, strictly speaking, they were not performed by him; but the Evangelist now speaks of the miracles of which he was himself the Author. For it is a frivolous and absurd interpretation which some give, that this is reckoned the first among the miracles which Christ performed in Cana of Galilee; as if a place, in which we do not read that he ever was more than twice, had been selected by him for a display of his power. It was rather the design of the Evangelist to mark the order of time which Christ followed in the exercise of his power. For until he was thirty years of age, he kept himself concealed at home, like one who held no public office. Having been consecrated, at his baptism, to the discharge of his office, he then began to appear in public, and to show by clear proofs for what purpose he was sent by the Father. We need not wonder, therefore, if he delayed till this time the first proof of his Divinity. It is a high honor given to marriage, that Christ not only deigned to be present at a nuptial banquet, but honored it with his first miracle. There are some ancient Canons which forbid the clergy to attend a marriage. The reason of the prohibition was, that by being the spectators of the wickedness which was usually practiced on such occasions, they might in some measure be regarded as approving of it. But it would have been far better to carry to such places so much gravity as to restrain the licentiousness in which unprincipled and abandoned men indulge, when they are withdrawn from the eyes of others. Let us, on the contrary, take Christ’s example for our rule; and let us not suppose that any thing else than what we read that he did can be profitable to us.

And manifested his glory; that is, because he then gave a striking and illustrious proof, by which it was ascertained that he was the Son of God; for all the miracles which he exhibited to the world were so many demonstrations of his divine power. The proper time for displaying his glory was now come, when he wished to make himself known agreeably to the command of his Father. Hence, also, we learn the end of miracles; for this expression amounts to a declaration that Christ, in order to manifest his glory, performed this miracle. What, then, ought we to think of those miracles which obscure the glory of Christ?

And his disciples believed on him. If they were disciples, they must already have possessed some faith; but as they had hitherto followed him with a faith which was not distinct and firm, they began at that time to devote themselves to him, so as to acknowledge him to be the Messiah, such as he had already been announced to them. The forbearance of Christ is great in reckoning as disciples those whose faith is so small. And indeed this doctrine extends generally to us all; for the faith which is now full grown had at first its infancy, nor is it so perfect in any as not to make it necessary that all to a man should make progress in believing. Thus, they who now believed may be said to begin to believe, so far as they daily make progress towards the end of their faith. Let those who have obtained the first-fruits of faith labor always to make progress. These words point out likewise the advantage of miracles; namely, that they ought to be viewed as intended for the confirmation and progress of faith. Whoever twists them to any other purpose corrupts and debases the whole use of them; as we see that Papists boast of their pretended miracles for no other purpose than to bury faith, and to turn away the minds of men from Christ to the creatures.


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