by: Rev. Dr. V Kurian Thomas, Valiyaparambil
Next Sunday is "Kothanae Sunday", also known as the day when Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding feast in Cana. This is the first Sunday of the Great Lent. Gospel reading is from John 2:1-11.
First Sunday of the Lent:- We enter the Lent recalling the miracle at Cana (John 2: 1-11), in which the Lord converted the insipid liquid (water) into a tasty wine. Jesus was on a mission to save the world, the greatest mission in the history of mankind. Yet He took time to attend a wedding and take part in its festivities.
Scripture: John 2:1-11
Miracle of the marriage feast at Cana of Galilee, known as 1st sign of the gospel of St. John, is one of the most important and theologically profound miracles that the Lord worked. To many people, the miracle at Cana of Galilee looks to be an ordinary miracle, just like any other miracle. But the fact is that it is one that has far reaching spiritual and theological implications. Let us explore some of the meanings of this sign, with which our Syriac Orthodox Churches Great Lent always starts:
The wedding narrative (in St. John) has symbolism for the calling out of the physical nation of Israel, the sacrifice of Messiah, and the drawing out of people who would make up the body of the Church.
The wedding narrative correlates to mankind's redemption. It shows that Christ is essential, crucial, and central key to the plan of salvation. The wedding depicts Gods covenant in progress. We see how it still continues and is given to the Church, the servants of God. The wine running out in the narrative alludes to the animal sacrifices coming to an end, and the new wine portrays the new covenant that the Church partakes of through the blood of the incarnated God.
The story begins in John 2:1-11.
1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.
2 Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.
3 And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine."
4 Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come."
5 His mother said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it."
6 Now there were set there six water pots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece.
7 Jesus said to them "Fill the water pots with water." And they filled them up to the brim.
8 And He said to them, "Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast." And they took it.
9 When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom.
10 And he said to him, "Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!"
11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him. John 2:1-11
We will look at each verse independently, in a commentary format, beginning with verse one of St. John, chapter 2.
John 2:1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee,
The miracle performed at the wedding in Cana is denoted as the first of seven signs performed by the Lord Jesus Christ according to the Holy Gospel of St. John.
On the third day: there are many instances in the Bible that refer to events occurring on the third day. The most notable is the resurrection of Christ to life on the third day. We are able to draw out a theme of deliverance, salvation or life, associated with the third day.
According to the church cycle, it is a starting point of the dispensation of our Lord, after His Baptism and Temptation by the Satan. Thats why St. John the apostle starts his 2nd chapter with on the third day, which means the third work of the Lord during His dispensation.
Weddings in ancient times often lasted many days and here we see a symbolism often used in the seven-year cycle, where many things are commenced in the third year of the sacred cycle. There are similar overtones with ancient Israel, who were gathered together and arrived at the wilderness of Sinai in the third month after leaving Egypt to enter into a covenant with God (Ex. 19:1). The events in Exodus chapter 19 are comparable to the wedding attended by Christ and His disciples. The congregation was to wash their clothes, which is related to ones wedding garment and the white robe of overcoming this world (Rev. 6:11; 3:5) clothed in humility (1 Pet. 5:5).
The congregation was asked to be ready by the third day (Ex. 19:11,15). For it was on this day that God, which was Christ, came in the sight of all the people (Ex. 19: 11), to enter into a covenant.
Then the Lord said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes. And let them be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. Exodus 19:10
Likewise, Christ, accompanied by His disciples, came to the wedding, where a covenant between a bride (equivalent to the Church) and the groom (comparable to Christ) was to take place. Christ was to reveal Himself through His first sign to the servants, picturing those called.
The first sign starting with a wedding, means that the heaven and earth were happy with the salvation of our Lord to the mankind by His coming to save us.
Cana of Galilee: the Lord Jesus Christ began His first supernatural of signs in Cana in particular, because of largely Gentile populated, and must have been a priority for the Lord. The first sign profoundly symbolized the Kingdom of Heaven's imminent need to be spread into the entire world for both Jews and Gentiles.
John 2:1 "and the mother of Jesus was there"
Mary (which is Mariam) was most likely related by bloodline to the bridal party. Thus, no invitation was required. Her primary role would have been to assist in the hosting of the wedding, carrying out tasks and duties for the bridal party. She would have also instructed the servants what to do.
We can assume that Mary was alone. (There is no further mention of Joseph following the story in the temple when Jesus was 12 years old.) Therefore, Mary would have depended on Jesus, who was not only a carpenter's son (Matt 13:55) but a carpenter himself (Mark 6:3).
The gospel of John never refers to Jesus' mother as Mary. This is to draw out a distinction, as we will see later. As we know, a woman represents a church or nation (Rev. 12:4-6). In this account, we can interpret the mother of Jesus to represent the physical nation of ancient Israel and the Levitical priesthood through the seed of Abraham.
John 2:2 Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.
To be part of the wedding feast, one must be invited. It is God who does the choosing. Christ does not give the invitation so to speak. Father draws the person, and gives them to Christ His Son (John 6:39).
When we view it as a covenant in progress, we see that Christs invitation takes on a dual purpose. His invitation was sent thousands of years beforehand through Abraham (Gen. 12:3, 22:18).
"And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws." Genesis 26:4
The accepting of the invitation requires something on our part. Abraham took up his invitation to enter into a covenant with God, by adhering to all of Gods commandments, statutes and laws. He considered Gods laws as a treasure to be desired. We must also do likewise, if we are to accept the invitation of God. We are to continue to obey Gods word and commandments, if we are to retain His Holy Spirit, and enter the wedding feast. The parable of the five wise and the five foolish virgins shows that those who still had oil in their lamps burning, were able to enter into the wedding feast. Outwardly, they all looked the same. But it was those who treasured the word of God and had the Holy Spirit, who were able to enter when the bridegroom returned.
"[There is] treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spends it up." Proverbs 21:20
All people, of all nations were assured of salvation through Christ.
"And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "In you shall all the nations be blessed." Galatians 3:8
God the Father chose us before the foundation of the world and has placed us into the body of Christ.
"Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love." Ephesians 1:4
We have been given a great invitation (Isa. 55:1-13) at no cost (Rev. 22:17) to become sons of God. Philip for example was given an invitation to follow Christ (Jn. 1:43). It is an invitation to take up the cross (Mk. 10:21). It is an appeal to become living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1). Many have declined the offer (Lk. 14:15-24). But it is not too late (Joel 2:12-13); for those who take up the invitation will be blessed (Mat. 25:34).
John 2:3 "And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine"
Mary may have thought that because she was His mother she had some special hold on or control of Jesus as a miracle worker. She may have seen this as an opportunity for Him to reveal Himself to the world, she knowing in her heart who He truly is. Jesus however, mildly corrects her, No man or woman has to interfere in what He has to do as God.
In Scripture, wine is usually associated with joy and glad tidings. When Mary said, "They have no wine", she may also be referring to the fact that they were not able to experience the joy because of lack of wine (1Thes. 1:6).
Mary had faith in her son. From the very start of the first miraculous sign, we gain insight into the predominant role of the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ. St. Mary's gift of intercession is immediately made known when she speaks to her Son on behalf of the need for more wine as the water pots become depleted.
This is showing that all animal sacrifices the priesthood performed for purification of Israelites would end and pointed to Christ. We could assume the wine that ran out during the course of the wedding feast pictured the redemption process, which was sought through the animal sacrifices used by the Levitical priesthood. The course of the wedding parallels the course of mankind's redemption. The sacrificial system had to come to an end in order for the new system to take its place. The blood of bulls and calves was to be fulfilled in Christ, who was appointed to die once and for all (Heb. 7:27, 9:24-28, 10:10,12,14; 1Pet 3:18). God opened the way to salvation through Christ. That is why Jesus mother goes to Him. We have to contemplate the concept that Mary symbolized the nation under the physical priesthood. The way in which Mary signifies her concern for the wine, draws attention to the fact the priesthood knew that a blood sacrifice was required.
John 2:4 "Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come."
Jesus' way of addressing His mother, "Woman," is not considered an endearing term or disrespect word, but that is how He will speak to her from the cross (19:26). So perhaps it is not as harsh or disrespect as we might think. It may be that He was addressing her in the same way a woman is addressed in the today's English as "Ma'am." Or He doesn't want her to interfere in His work as God.
Jesus further responded saying; "My hour is not yet come" meaning that He would conduct His ministry in His own time. Jesus was affirming that He would not be influenced by men or woman. He would conduct His life as directed by God's plan.
(Christ directs His reply to His mother. Christ uses the word woman to figuratively refer to physical Israel and address the physical priesthood.
But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law. Galatians 4:4
We could figure out that Christ is saying to the priesthood that they do not recognize what He is about to introduce to the existing covenant, and that the sacrificial system they perform would be fulfilled in Him. Christ is highlighting the distinction between the physical religious structure of the day, and what He was accomplishing, a rebirth of a spiritual body [Church] (John. 3:5).
John 2:5 "His mother said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it."
The words of Mary to Jesus and her instructions to the servants indicate that she expected something from Her son.
(These words of the mother of Jesus relate to the words spoken by Moses to physical Israel concerning the Messiah.
"The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him." Deuteronomy 18:15 )
His mother, who represented ancient Israel, understood that the commandments had to be kept (Deut. 26:17-19). The sacrificial law was integral to the whole law (Ex. 20 to 34). The sacrificial law pointed to Messiah and was fulfilled in Him. The law was not removed by this act. The sequence of the system of worship was not altered. The symbolism merely took on another meaning. Jesus Christ says:
"Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:17-19
These are the last recorded words of the mother of Jesus Christ. We see that it is only the servants that are told to obey Christ. She did not direct the servants to any other. For it is through Christ we are to be saved (Acts 15:11). We see that Christ takes over from His mother from this point. This also alludes to the fact that the responsibilities and oracles had been taken from the physical priesthood of ancient Israel and are given to the Church, Gods servants. They were now in the care of the Church.
We may speculate that this theme can be seen being carried over to when Christ places His mother, into the care of the "disciple whom He loved".
We should be aware that the term the disciple whom He loved takes on a greater meaning. He loved those given to Him by His Father. He laid down His life for His friends (John 15:13). The disciple He loved can be figuratively used to describe the Church.
"When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple He loved, He said to her, "Woman, this is your son." And He said to His disciple, "She is your mother." And from then on this disciple took her into his home." John 19:26, 27
When we view this text in light of whom these two persons may portray, we see Christ was pointing out to the Levitical priesthood that the Church He had established was its son. It was with this son that the inheritance lay. Christ is also telling the Church that it should recognize and honor the covenant ancient Israel kept. We will see this has connotations to the fifth commandment, Honor your mother and your father (Ex. 20:12). From Christ's death, the Church was responsible for the covenant ordinances, commandments and statutes of God.
Christ's mother did not ask for everyone's assistance at the wedding. She doesn't ask everyone to pitch in and give a hand. Only those who were there to serve were chosen for the task. Those who obey God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ are portrayed in Scripture as servants. (2Chron. 24:9; Titus 1:1; Jude 1:1; Jas. 1:1; 2Pet. 1:1). For that is our purpose, to serve, not be served.
"This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God." 1Corinthians 4:1
John 2:6 "Now there were set there six water pots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece."
Jewish tradition required several kinds of ceremonial washings. Strict Jews washed their hands before a meal, between courses, and after the meal. This purifying extended not only to washing ones hands, but also to washing ones cups and vessels (Mk. 7:3, 4).
Christ expands on this concept when He refutes the Pharisees. Christ was teaching that we should clean first that "which is within the cup" that the outside may be clean also (Mat. 23:26). The cup is used because it is an instrument that can hold water, and therefore is symbolic of a vessel.
(The prophet Ezekiel spoke of the transformation of these vessels with a heart of stone, into vessels filled with Gods Holy Spirit, with a sincere desire to abide by Gods word.
"Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart with new and right desires, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new, obedient heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so you will obey my laws and do whatever I command." Ezekiel 36:25-27
Ezekiel is speaking of the sprinkling clean water by the Holy Spirit. We will be given a new heart, so we will obey Gods laws. Gods laws, which were written on tables of stone, will be written in fleshly tables of the heart (2 Cor. 3:3).
We are to cleanse our hands of wickedness, and purify our hearts.
"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. " James 4:8
These vessels for purification are still in use today. We must be able to see that we are vessels of the Most High God and His Holy Spirit. (Mk. 7:8). )
We should be more concerned about purifying our hearts in obeying Gods laws in all truth.
"Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart," 1Peter 1:22
This world is set up to draw us away from God. We should be thinking about our repentance and contemplate being baptized, for the washing away of our sins (Acts 22:16). Those who are baptized should continue to purify their hearts in obedience to Gods laws. By drawing close to God, He will draw closer to us (Jas. 4:8).
John 2:7 "Jesus said to them, "Fill the water pots with water." And they filled them up to the brim."
Now Christ only addressed the servants, since they represent the Church. He is commanding us to fill the water pots. We may presume that Christ is telling us to fill the people of the nations with the water, which we may take to mean the word of God. So the water pots, which were filled for washing the hands and cups, are filled with water to symbolize the washing of the nations through the word of God (Eph. 5:26).
"Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." Hebrews 10:22
Source: Excerpted from "Kothanae Sunday and the Great Lent" from "Syriac Orthodox Resources" of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch.
by HG Yuhanon Mor Meletius
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