On Signs

John 2:6-12

Waterpots in Jewish teaching were made of stone, unlike the leatherskins used for wine, so that they would not be corrupted and thus made impure. There was very little water in Cana, thus these waterpots would never have had anything other than water placed within them. It’s important to understand this, because it’s imperative to the integrity of the miracle that we see Jesus perform here. See, were there any chance that there was already any amount of wine contained in the pots, then anyone could have claimed that the wine was already there and then merely diluted with the water, diluting but multiplying. When I was a child, my father would do the same with ketchup, he would use the bottle until it neared emptiness, and then add water to increase the yield from the bottle. However, in this instance, since the pots were filled by others, and there was no chance that there were anything contained beyond whatever water was already there, then it serves to preserve the integrity of the event that occurred. It is for this reason also that our Lord converts the water which others had brought in, rather than merely creating the wine out of thin air, or even creating the water Himself and then converting it; either of which would seem to be the greater miracle. No, in seeking the labor of others to fill the pots, those who had done so become unintentional witnesses to the miracle being performed.

And note what the apostle tells us, these pots were reserved for “Jewish purification.” Thus, the waterpots themselves represent the Law, the Prophets, the Jewish traditions. That there were six (one less than the heavenly number of perfection, seven), illustrates that the Law itself was incomplete, imperfect, unable to bestow life. The six waterpots themselves served their purpose, but were unable to satisfy the needs of the wedding feast until the coming of Jesus. Being filled with water, then converted to wine at the feast illustrates the old covenant being fulfilled in the new, with the water of the Old Covenant being brought to completion in the wine of the New Covenant, through the intercession of Jesus Christ, Who alone is able to bestow life and bring all things to completion. The sheer amount of wine that He brings forth displays the overflowing, abundant grace that He offers to any who would partake.

And notice that the master of the feast, when he had tasted the wine, did not call the servants, who knew from whence the wine had come, but rather, upon the bridegroom. See, many times in Scripture, we see Jesus perform a miracle and tell the recipients of that miracle to not speak of from whom they had received it. Here, we see a similar fact, for He knew that it was not yet His time to make all known. Thus, while He had created the servants to be unintentional witnesses to the miracle He had performed, He did not yet wish that miracle to be revealed.

So often in our generation, we seek for signs and miracles to help us to solidify our faith. We seek for evidence, that what we are believing is true. We want to understand our faith in our rational minds, rather than following in true faith. We seek the red sea in our swimming pool, the raining of fire at our cook-out. So many in our generation just feel as though they just need this one bit of evidence and then they will believe; that if they could only witness a miracle, then they would just believe. And yet, when presented with a miracle, they seek to explain away the miraculous. They observe a natural disaster and seek to explain it with weather patterns and the like, disregarding the miracle of those patterns themselves. So often, we say that we will only believe in what we can taste, hear, smell, touch, see; and yet as St Paul teaches us, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for.” (Hebrews 12:1) and in his letter to the Romans, “hope that is not seen is not hope, for who hopes for what he has seen?” (Romans 8:24). If faith itself is the assurance of things hoped for, and hope that is seen is not hope, then faith in something that you have seen is no longer faith. Knowing that I have a pencil in my hand requires no faith, for it is something that I can physically see. Faith therefore, by Paul’s definition, is that very thing intangible, that very thing supernatural. That very thing that cannot be explained in human terms. Faith is joining into the liturgy and being assured that you are joining into the choir of angels singing and praising His holy name. Faith is taking the Eucharist and knowing that you are partaking of the body and blood of our beloved Lord. Faith, by definition, requires mystery; and not a mystery that we undertake to solve, but a mystery that we accept we will never understand. Our Lord Himself warns us that “this evil and adulterous generation seeks a sign and no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah.” (Matthew 12:39;16:4).

See, we always seek these signs, this empirical evidence, before we will believe. But time and again in Scripture, we see the exact opposite. Time and again in Scripture, it is once someone believes that they see the miracles. Consider how many times, in the Gospels, we hear the statement of Jesus, “your faith has made you well.” Consider that Jesus admonished the multitudes who had returned after the feeding of the five thousand, “I say to you, you seek Me not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.” (John 6:26). Consider His admonishment of Thomas, “because you have seen you have believed, blessed are those who have not seen yet still believed.” (John 20:29). Now, put this into a modern context, how many times have we heard, or perhaps even said ourselves, “Jesus, if You do this, I’ll believe,” or “Jesus, if you give me this, I’ll go to church.”

See, so often, we do it backwards. We dismiss everything that we don’t understand, and accept that which we can grasp and call that faith. We demand the miracle be performed as the foundation of our faith rather than having the faith and then seeing the miracle that follows. To have true faith is to believe in those very things which we can not understand and grasp. It is only through the true light of the Gospel, the true light of Jesus, that we can see the miraculous heavenly things. St Paul teaches us that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of those who do not believe, lest the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ should shine on them.” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Jesus doesn’t seek those who demand signs and miracles to believe in Him, He shows those signs and miracles to those who do. To a cynic who demands miracles, every sunrise is just another day, but to those who are zealous in their faith, they see every sunrise as the miracle it is, and every day as another gift given to us to do His work, to spread the joy and the light of the Gospel to others. And we see it all through Scripture, signs and wonders and miracles done through men and women who first held great faith. Noah believed God, obeyed Him, and was saved. Elijah believed God, prayed unto the Lord, was able to call forth fire from the heavens. But with each of them, faith was first, followed by the miracles. May we call forth those great witnesses and ask their prayer that we would be the same. May we have faith in the unseen, that, by the grace of God, our eyes may be enlightened to the things of the Lord.

The peace of the Lord be with you all, my beloved brothers and sisters.

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