“This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee,” by Louis A. Dole

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“This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.” – John 2:11

Readings

Exodus 16:9-21 · John 2:1-11 · Psalm 147

Sermon

Though this miracle was done at the beginning of the Lord’s ministry, it discloses the purpose for which the Lord came into the world. Beginnings have their origin in a purpose, and the purpose of anything is the end for the attainment of which a beginning is made.

The beginning of many miracles wrought by our Lord in the days of His flesh was the marriage at Cana of Galilee. To bring about a marriage between Himself and the Church, and a marriage of faith and charity in those who form the Church was the very purpose of His miracles. To unite in a heavenly marriage the will of man with his understanding, his knowledge of truth with the love and practice of it, to unite heaven and the Church on earth is the purpose of all revelation, to confer on men grace and power, that the Lord’s qualities may be embodied in them and His work of redemption carried out in them and His glorification in finite measure fulfilled in them. Symbolic of this – and of much else besides – it is written, “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory.”

“In Cana of Galilee.” Why there? The natural reason is that a kinswoman of Mary the mother of Jesus dwelt there and that one of her children was to be married. So Mary was present, and Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. Galilee was the home of a considerable non-Jewish population, for which reason it was known as Galilee of the Gentiles. Galilee thus represents the external of the church, as Judea represents its internal. Galilee also represents the state of those who are not of the church, a state resulting from ignorance of what the church is but a state well-disposed toward it when its nature and purpose become known. The Church which the Lord was about to establish was to be established among the Gentiles. But its inception was among the faithful remnant in the decadent Jewish Church. The rudiment of every new church is formed out of the remnant of the old. The first followers of our Lord were members of the Jewish Church. The first disciples of the Lord at His Second Coming were members of the consummated Christian Church. To represent this principle in respect to both the First and the Second Christian Churches this “beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee” at a wedding feast and, as this narrative states, and for a purpose, on “the third day,” that is, in the fullness of time, when all the necessary means had been Divinely provided to bring one dispensation to a close and to provide that a new and better one should begin.

It is recorded that “the mother of Jesus was there.” We should note that it is not said that Mary was invited to be present, but that she was there. Mary stands as a representative of that in the church without which no new beginning can be made. She symbolizes the love of truth, and of truth for the sake of a good life. That love survived in a remnant of the people of the Jewish Church and was present also among the Gentiles, and thus it served as a means whereby the Lord could be present with men, and a means, moreover, by which the new wine of spiritual truth could be given to those who would receive it.

Now as to the miracle. It is introduced by the statement “The mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.” We recall the miraculous manner of the Lord’s birth, and that Mary, amazed at what the angel had told her, “kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” Surely she must have thought that some wonderful thing would be accomplished through Him. And she had found Him at the Temple at the age of twelve confounding the doctors of the law with His wisdom.

Some eighteen years had elapsed since that time. No incident is recorded of these years; yet Mary still “kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart,” and she came to the Lord with the statement “They have no wine,” and said to the servants at the feast, “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.”

So it is with all who believe in Him, even though all the world and the church of the period are unbelieving. In the Jewish Church, as later in the Christian, the wine of spiritual truth had failed. Once it was abundant, but with the loss of love for it and practice of it a state of hypocrisy ensued, which is wonderfully pictured in the circumstance of giving the guests at this wedding inferior wine when they had become incompetent to judge its quality.

But at this wedding the good wine was to be kept until the last, and it was to be produced as and when it could be used. The water was changed into wine as it was poured out. So had it been in the ancient days with the giving of the manna in the wilderness. So it was when the loaves and fishes were multiplied in the very act of being distributed to the multitude.

And so it is with the Word. No more of the water – its literal sense – is converted into wine – its spiritual sense – than we are willing to use to the amendment of our lives and to our growth in goodness.

For the water pots at the marriage in Cana represent the letter of the Word, as it was with the Jews, as it was with the First Christian Church, and as it is with us. Its laws and precepts, its prophecies and apocalypses, its songs of triumph, and its cries of despair are water pots, the vessels which carry an abundance of universal truths. These truths, like the water in the water pots, “after the manner of the purifying of the Jews,” are given for the purifying of our thoughts and affections, as well as for quenching our thirst.

“Fill the waterpots with water.” That was our Lord’s instruction to the servants. That, too, is the purpose of our Sunday Schools, our study groups, and our summer assemblies. Fill to the brim our memory with lessons from the Word. For the more of the water of natural truth from the Word there is in the mind, the more the wine of spiritual truth can be multiplied for use.

We can never know too much of the literal sense of the Word of God. It is the basis, containant, and support of all its interior senses of Divine truth itself. It is the means of our entering into the understanding of its spiritual sense and drinking the new wine of the New Church.

We cannot enter into the details of this story, but we should be able to see its application to the purpose for which we are gathered together. We are here because we rejoice in the belief that the Lord is now raising up a Church which can be truly “the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” We are the guests at the marriage feast. We perceive the lack of wine. We know that there is a great lack of spiritual truth among men. We have come here because we know that the Lord is even now establishing His New Church.

And we should remember that the water was turned into wine only as it was used. The use of what we learn here is use not only to ourselves but to our fellow men in the Church throughout the world. By means of what we learn here the Church is established and built up within us that we may serve the Lord’s purpose in helping to build up our various societies and through them bring the new truths to the world.

If our motives are these, all our meetings will be a marriage feast, a union of our souls with the Lord, and of the Church with Him who is her bridegroom and husband.

And as we make use of what we learn, the Lord will begin to manifest His glory. The glory of the Lord is His Divine truth. Truth is light, and truth is the form of good, the radiance of love. To those who are eager to learn of Him and who cherish His truths in the heart He will manifest His glory, and we shall go our several ways with a new fervor, to share with all who will accept it the new gospel which we ourselves have received and to whose truth we are called to testify as witnesses.

Amen

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