Thursday, June 25, 2009

Miracle at Cana (Jn. 2:1-11)

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong on 21 June 2009 in True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 2:1-11

John 1 gives us a clearer understanding of our relationship with God. The chapter started with the Word of God. Verse 14 says the Word become flesh and dwelt among us. Verse 18 says nobody had ever seen God except the only Begotten Son, who is at the Father side, has made Him known. The last verse says the angels would ascend and descend upon the Son of Man. God is in heaven and men are on earth. What is the relationship between God and men?

The most important concept in Chinese culture is the vision that heaven and earth would be one. The greatest cultural achievement is when we can be united with heaven. But how could we achieve that since we are so fallen? Confucius said that the true gentlemen would seek after Logos, not just things on earth. This is a very high concept. In the 20th century, Mao Zedong said we would surely have victory over heaven. He even said more ridiculous stuff, such as it is enjoyable to fight against other people and against heaven. What is there to fight and what is the purpose? When men fight with themselves, with others, with nature and with God, there is great chaos. Mao had great ambition but his liberal concept resulted in the most decadent China during the cultural revolution.

John 1 shows that the grace of God far surpasses the achievement of sinner. Nathanael said 3 important things about Christ in one sentence which no other person ever did: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God, the King of Israel.” Israelites had studied for thousands of years but have not acknowledged Christ that way. No other Pharisee called Jesus Rabbi other than Nicodemus. Angel Gabriel is the first one to mention Jesus is the Son of God. At the most important moment, Peter confessed that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God, representing believers of all ages. But Peter only made that conclusion after following Christ for a long time. In contrast, Nathanael made this confession in his first meeting with Jesus. More than that, he also called Jesus the King of Israel. This is not confessed by all other disciples and apostles. At the very first time of meeting Jesus, Nathanael displayed this threefold understanding of Christology.

So Nicodemus called Christ Rabbi. Peter confessed He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. But nobody else had said He is the King of Israel. The Jews accused Him, not confessing him. It is Jesus’ own acknowledgement before Pilate that He was the King of Israel. So Jesus declared that Nathanael would see greater things than this. What is the greater thing? That Jesus is the Intermediary. He would see the Son of Man between heaven and earth as the Intermediary between God and men. Christ came from heaven to earth, God became Man, hence He is both God and Man. So Jesus is the only Intermediary between God and men. Christ came not to judge us but that we would be saved through Him. That is how John 1 ended. It bring about understanding that Jesus is the only Savior, the only Intermediary between heaven and earth. John was the youngest disciple but he wrote such an important teaching. Do not despise the youngest as they might become the greatest. Apart from people with high social status, Jesus also called a young man like John. He followed Christ when his memory was the clearest. He also lived the longest. When he wrote the gospel, Peter had died for 20 years. In his old age when he wrote the gospel of John, he was the only person worthy to defend Christianity in that era. This chapter 1 alone give us such profound understanding. John placed emphasis on Jesus as the Son of God, so he never recorded how Jesus was born. That is how he finished chapter 1.

There are 2 important events in John 2. The first relates to mercy and goodness, the second relates to righteousness and judgement. We see how God-Incarnate walked as man on earth. In the first incident, He helped others in need. In the second incident, he displayed His authority.

In the first incident, Jesus, His mother and His disciples were invited to a wedding and they went. It is a very simple description. It tells us that Jesus placed emphasis on wedding. The Chinese consider national interest and wedding as important matters. Chinese concept of an intellectual is a person who is concerned about profit and loss of the nation. The second important thing is a wedding. Marriage is important because family is the basic unit of a society. If you choose the wrong wife, you will have a difficult life. We are responsible to our parents, to ourselves and and to nation. And we cannot choose our parents, siblings, and children but we can choose our partner. A lot of people are great in many things, but bad at choosing partner.

Jesus Himself did not ignore wedding. He placed emphasis on family life. If Jesus is Lord of the family, there would be less unnecessary conflicts. Many people will seek Jesus for all sorts of things, except their love life. It shows how little we honor the Lord. Very often our will dictates our reason and our decision directs our prayer. Because of our own will, we make use of God. Our marriage is not blessed because from the beginning we have not allowed the His Lordship.

The gospel recorded only once Jesus coming to a wedding, and this wedding also contained the first miracle. The gospel recorded 35 miracles performed by Jesus. The first is not about calming the storm, healing the sick, resurrection of the dead, feeding the five thousand, but it was performed at the wedding. In His image and likeness He made man and woman, that man should not be alone so woman is created for him. The union of man and woman is not about conquering each other. The power of love can make us reject all temptation and enable us to let go of advantageous position. The purpose of love is to be one with the person we love. Such great emotions we cannot comprehend. When union is contained in a marriage, it becomes most glorious, most honorable. But if it is only for sexual desire, we become like animals.

Jesus’ mother was no ordinary person. She was a woman who cared for others’ needs. She would observe situation and was willing to help. In a few incidents, Mary’s feelings and thinking were really inspiring. God picked Mary to be the mother of Jesus because she was a person who truly honored the Lord and was willing to be humiliated to honor God. She would be with a child, but she was not married. She would conceive by the poewr of the Holy Spirit. She said her heart praised the Lord and she rejoiced in God her Savior. She took the humiliation. People would consider her a shame. It never happened in history that a woman would be pregnant without a man, how could people believe that her pregnancy was the will of God?

Women in general like to be praised. Few women are like Mary, who would rejoice in her humiliation. Simone said she would be hurt so much that it would be like a sword piercing her soul. She was submissive in sufferings. She had a son when she was still very young. People questioned who the father was. When Jesus was 12, He stayed in the temple and His parents lost Him, and finally found Him after a few days of frantic search. His response: “Why do you look for me? Don’t you know I must be in my Father’s house?” How would a father feel if his lost child reacted that way when he was found? People would be confused by that response. But Joseph knew he was not Jesus’ father. Mary knew that too. Jesus’ public response “Don’t you know I must be about My Father’s business?” would raise question about His questionable birth. Mary’s song “My soul glorifies in God” is considered a manifesto by early church fathers. It expressed deep spirituality that glorified God. She rejoiced in God in her humiliation.

In this incident, the wine ran out. Some people might start to criticize that the person who invited them to the wedding was not sincere. But Mary did not criticize. She was willing to help. A person who sees his / her own weaknesses when seeing others’ sufferings and failures is a good person. Why should we criticize when our brother is in weakness? Why do we think we are better? Or do we think that the suffering he goes through will be absent in our life? Do we then loudly spread the news? Mary is not like this. When she heard that the wine ran out, she did not go around spreading the news. Whenever she appeared she was ready to help. Cana is far from Nazareth, and there was no time and money to buy. Mary prayed. She went to Jesus. But Jesus is her son. She told him there is no more wine. And Jesus said, “Woman, what do I have to do with you?” This sounds really rude to speak to His mother that way. John’s gospel is unique in this way. This is the only part that speaks this way.

What is the meaning? We need to understand from theological angle. Jesus knew they ran out of wine. He came to the wedding not only because He honored family life, but He was also preparing to perform a miracle. He did not need Mary to tell Him. When God wants to perform miracles, humans have no part unless He passes the responsibility to us. That day, Jesus Christ manifested His divinity and power. We cannot join Divine Jesus and human Mary as co-workers in ministry. It is the work of God to be done by God only. Jesus and Mary could understand, but many people would be mistaken. Jesus knew He is God and Mary is a human. Mary also understood that she is a human being and Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit. She was reminded that Jesus was the Son of the Living God. Mary remembered, this is the Son of God, not her son. She had no part in the miracle. She was reminded of the words of angel. So she said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” She cooperated. Her spirituality is very great.


At 1:21 AM, Blogger Jason said...

thank you very much for typing out the sermon.

God Bless,

At 12:08 AM, Anonymous John said...

Wow, so fast. thank very much


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