What better reading can we take for a Sunday exhortation than a chapter from John’s Gospel. - any chapter, but here we are today at chapter 2. Fascinating thing about John’s accounts is that they are deliberately short on detail of the natural accounts but crammed full of spiritual significance. John doesn’t acknowledge it even in:-
John 21: 24-25
There are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. (this one and not just others)
It’s rather like precis which we had to do in the old “English Language” O-level - take a dozen paragraphs of a composition, and edit it to leave just two small paragraphs. One is left aching for an extra chapter or two not for any new events, but just for a bit of “filling out” on the physical detail as well as the spiritual. Still, a lot can be done by making a leap of faith and then seeing if it harmonizes with the spiritual. (God has left us to tease it out).
For example, the woman caught in adultery. Why was only the woman brought to Jesus for a pronouncement? - where was the man? And was the situation legal? After all Moses commanded both to be stoned. And what did Jesus write on the ground that led to all those men walking away from a potential stoning of the woman ?? - try Psalm 51 and see how well it would convict their consciences.
So here we are in Ch 2 - so much detail unrevealed. All the frenetic business of serving at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. How little we know about it apart from the presence of Jesus & the 6 and Mary his mother - a rare glimpse of her in Charge of the serving. “They have no wine” says Mary. Jesus says in effect “It’s not the right time to ask me”. We don’t know why the wine had run out were there more guests than anticipated or had someone let them down or was it just sheer poverty? There was a lot of it about in there hard times. John here is at pains to show the spiritual lessons, not the mundane reasons. The name Cana means “The vineyard”. They were in the vineyard, yet there was no wine. What a wealth of information comes from names and it doesn’t stop there because this wedding is undoubtedly a follow on from chapter 1. It was the master of ceremonies or president who had called for the wine and was acting on behalf of the Brides father if (as the host) if it was an espousal or the Groom’s father as host if it were a wedding. This was probably an espousal. Was the father of the bride related to Jesus? And would the Father of the groom have the name Tolmai or in the Greek Tholomew? And could it actually have been his son Ben -Tolomai who was actually the bridegroom?? (or Bar-Tholomew in the Gk?) It’s a guess and quite unprovable, but it would make quite a few things add up. It is generally accepted that the Bartholomew of the synoptic gospels is the Nathaniel of John’s gospel, so strongly implying that his full name was Nathaniel Bar Tholomew (just like Peter for e.g. was Simon Bar Jona) Nathaniel had been and still was Phillip’s friend and mentor. They are inseparable in all the gospel records.
The name Tolomai is fascinating because it means “a hidden thing” or “a secret thing” So Nathaniel was literally son of a secret thing.
All this homes in on Deut 29:29
The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but tthose things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.
When Jesus asked his critics ‘John’s baptism - was it from heaven or of men?’ “we cannot tell” they said - literally, it’s a hidden thing! …
The psalmist knew this when he said
Though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death. If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god; Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart.Jesus had indeed fulfilled Nathaniel’s name:
The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me.
Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!
“An Israelite indeed in whom ….”
Who ever heard of a stranger giving out a character reference? Breaks all the rules! Against the law in this country yet Jesus could give an immediate character reference ‘An Israelite indeed in whom there is no guile’ what did we read today? ‘he knew all men and needed no one to bear witness of man; for he knew what was in man’ Nathaniel hadn’t twigged that this character ref. Had not somehow been relayed to him because he says ‘how do you know me’ and this is where the record becomes cryptic. What was so special about sitting under a fig tree in the heat of the day?? Galilee was full of vines and fig trees - clearly other detail was revealed which absolutely clinched things for Nathaniel remember even the woman at the well in ch4 says that “when Messiah comes he will reveal all” all those hidden things all those secret things that are hidden outside the revealed word. So he says ‘you are the son of God you are the King of Israel’ - what a changed man from the sceptic of a few moments ago - ‘can any good thing come out of Nazareth?’ It was a universally despised town. Even a brief mention in the OT hardly lends it a good character ref.! Yet its name means “Town of the Branch”
Could a Doctor at law like Nathaniel one of the few learned men in Jesus’ entourage it seems, miss the connection with Joshua the high priest who came to save his people by taking their sins upon him shown in symbol as filthy garments and then they are removed and replaced with clean ones and the prophecy goes on to say ‘I will remove the guilt of this land in one day and every one will invite his neighbor under the vine and under the fig tree because of the one called the branch. Here was the man from the Town of the Branch revealing the secret things known only to God and on a mission to save Israel from their sins. And if it was Nathaniel’s forthcoming wedding perhaps his thoughts had been on that journey of Jacob to find a wife in the land of Haran at his kinsman. The guile and deception that went into receiving the birthright and the deception and double deception between Jacob and Laban with the wrong bride and the appropriating of his cattle. Disturbing thoughts for an honest and straightforward man like Nathaniel. Yet the covenant was confirmed to him at Bethe-el. Jacob had said “Surely the Lord was in this place and I knew it not - it is none other than the house of God and the gate of heaven” and now Jesus has identified himself as that link with God and that link with heaven. “Hereafter you shall see angels ascending and descending upon the son of man …….” There were much, much greater things to come said Jesus to Nathaniel this is nothing to what will be revealed.
The secret things …
The promise of Deut 29:29 has been turned upside down he has ascended into heaven as it were to bring God down and reveal him to men - hidden things are now revealed by the LJC
1 Cor 2:7ff ..
we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit:
No-one has ascended into heaven save he which…. John 3:13
Do we sit with the lord Jesus who opens heaven for us, and knowledge too much for us to grasp? Do we choose that good part that the sister of Martha put higher than serving at tables? So easy to be caught up in the needs of daily life particularly the additions and complications that crowd out spiritual thought.
Here was a case of need to stop this happy occasion becoming a disaster. If it was an Espousal celebration, the proceedings would have started with the bridegroom greeting the Father of the bride with the highest financial offer he could put together coupled with a marriage contract and if the Bride’s Father approved, this was sealed by drinking wine from his own Father’s vineyard. All three drank of the wine, a trumpet was sounded and then all the other guests drank and wine was freely available on this happy occasion. This trumpet was only sounded a second time when the Bride was summoned to the wedding at the House of the Groom’s father (commonly called The Last Trump!) after he had prepared his place. Was it the right occasion to use the Holy spirit power? Was it any more right to change water into wine as to turn stones into bread? “Woman what have I to do with thee for mine hour has not yet come”. Yet the Lord was able to save this wedding from disaster by a kind and thoughtful making up of that which they lacked yet only revealing to the disciples and Mary the miraculous means of making up their shortfall. The servants only, knew the source of the wine. It left the porch as water yet came to the table as choice wine
This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.
John is at pains to show that the guests generally were unaware of the Miracle but only those privy to the facts of the miracle. This strongly suggests that the servants (helpers not slaves) were none other than the disciples.
Now why was it so important spiritually speaking to to have the choicest wine? ---
1000 shekels +20% for the overseers may have been the commercial rate for this event!
Solomon has a vineyard in a place called Baal-Hamon there the husbandmen who rent it from him pays a 1000 silver coins. Solomon is welcome to his 1000 coins, and the husbandmen to their 200 as their share for I have a vineyard of my own!
Two vineyards one left to servants for tax revenue (Solomon was always working out new ways to overtax his people). Solomon was hardly the True Bridegroom with his 300 wives & 700 concubines. The Bride had seen him travelling his kingdom and was impressed with his display of pomp and Kingship - but it was True Love for her dearly beloved Bridegroom which easily won her desires. “Solomon is welcome to his money and pomp” says the groom “I have a vineyard of my own and its wine is without equal - the very best”
The Bridegroom who puts in all the work himself and expects nothing less than the choicest of wine.
Isaiah picks up this theme in Ch 5:1-7
Now will I sing to my well beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My well beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? And now go to; ……………… I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgement,(Justice) but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.
cf Isa 27:2
“In that day sing ye unto her, A vineyard of red wine. I the LORD do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day. Fury is not in me: who would set the briers and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together. Or let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me. He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.”
Here was the Glory that Christ revealed to his disciples – that in manifesting God's name, Christ would battle against all the thorns stopping Israel bringing fruit even to battling a crown of thorns. Ultimately it was a vineyard of people one Branch would become many branches bringing forth the very choicest wine! Better even than the choice vineyards of Solomon.
“Abide in me, and I I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and they are burned. …. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified…”John 15:1-17
Jesus the man from the Town of the Branch shows greater things A True Vine with many branches without the branches there is no vintage without the Branches the struggle to enable our way is in vain. The Crown of Thorns was endured for no result. We have no fruit in ourselves then we put him again to an open shame and trample him underfoot. As we partake of this bread and wine let us remember the extremity to which he went in order to make a way for us.
Let us ponder upon the wine and the Glory of it which first made itself manifest and no longer hidden to those 6 disciples and his mother at this happy occasion. And then ponder more upon it when he used those words of the Bridegroom at the Espousal when he said “… I go to prepare a place for you and if I go I will come again and receive you unto myself” And again at the last supper (did you know?) holding up the wine as a bridegroom saying this is my blood of the New Testament that contract accompanied by the high price. Not the high financial cost like Nathaniel Bar-Tholomew nor the 14 years of serfdom willingly entered into by Jacob. But the precious life of service given to us by the Son of God even to a Crown of Thorns and worse.
Exhortation given 11th April 2004
Edited by Lectron, 21 December 2008 - 10:18 AM.