|Witness of John the Apostle|
|In the long trek to Galilee, Philip and I were walking some distance ahead of the others. We were enjoying a wonderful discussion about our newly found Rabbi when we paused to slake our thirst with the refreshing waters of a wayside spring. It was there that we met Nathanael.|
After our formal greetings, Philip took the initiative in the conversation.
He said to Nathanael, "We have found him of whom Moses in the law and the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."
Nathanael was deeply interested, but perplexed: interested, because that very morning he had turned aside from his travels and found a fig tree beneath which he sat to read, meditate and pray.
He had read from the law of Moses, diligently meditated upon the experience by which the angel had changed Jacob to Israel, and prayed for God to make him the same type of Israelite in whom there was no guile. Interested, too, because he was one of the many who had heard John the Baptist preach and who was looking for the coming of Israel's king.
Perplexed was he because Philip had said that he was Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. Almost too well was he acquainted with Nazareth. He knew the customs of this town, its people, and its prestige. To his knowledge no person of greatness ever hailed from there.
His perplexity became more pronounced than his interest; thus he said to Philip, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"
"Come and see," Philip said.
Leaving the wayside spring, we walked only a short distance back to the road where Philip pointed Jesus out to Nathanael. Before there was time for formal introductions, Jesus made a statement that took Nathanael by surprise.
He said, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!"
Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?"
Jesus answered him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you."
Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!"
Jesus answered him, "Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these. The time will come when you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."
The conversation between Jesus and Nathanael preoccupied our reasoning from then until we arrived in Cana of Galilee. How could he have seen Nathanael beneath the fig tree and know his thoughts and the state of his soul when the two were miles apart? Could it be that he was actually there in person observing Nathanael as he read the Scripture, meditated and prayed?
Could he have been the one who heard and answered the prayer of Nathanael, making him an Israelite, indeed, in whom was no guile? How can these things be? Is he the Son of God? As Son of God, does he possess the attributes of God? Is he present everywhere? Does he possess almighty power? Is he unlimited in knowledge?
Nathanael called him the King of Israel. When and how will he take over the government? Will he gain possession by war? By some great miraculous event of judgment? Or by a wise display of divine power? When he establishes the kingdom, what position will we hold?
His revealing the innermost thoughts and spiritual ambitions of Nathanael constituted the basis of Nathanael's confession of Jesus as Rabbi, Son of God, and King of Israel. Jesus accepted Nathanael's confession but directed his attention into a totally different channel in which he clearly stated that one day Nathanael would behold the angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.
The statement regarding his being the Son of Man gave us cause for wonder.
Was he by purpose directing our attention away from his being King of Israel and Son of God to his humanity? Was his a voluntary humiliation that would lead through struggle and suffering? What actually did he mean in his reference to himself as the Son of Man? Could it mean that he was a human being as we? And subject to the weaknesses and limitations of the flesh?
That he was selecting now to veil the truth of his divinity and allow us to learn of him as one who was both meek and lowly? At least, these unanswered questions were still on our minds when we walked into Cana of Galilee.
This was the hometown of Nathanael, the Israelite, indeed, in whom there was no guile. He invited Jesus to his home as guest. Jesus responded and entered, not only his home, but his life.
And Nathanael, "the God-given", also called Bartholomew, was added as the sixth of our Lord's disciples. His entering this home brought to a close his activities on this first day of the week.
On Wednesday of this week, we attended a marriage in Cana.
To our Jewish people, weddings were considered to be quite sacred. The pious often fasted and confessed their sins before the festivities. By some, it was believed that an entrance into the marriage relationship carried the forgiveness of sins.
This relationship of husband and bride was frequently compared to Jehovah and his people and particularly to the union between Jehovah and Israel. All plans for the wedding were developed with much care so as to convey the impression of purity and gladness. Always preceding the wedding was the betrothal, which began by a ceremony and continued for a period not to exceed twelve months.
On the evening of the marriage, the husband awaited the bride who was led from her paternal home to his. The march began with the merry sound of music. Preceding her went those who distributed to the people wine and oil, and to the children dried figs and nuts. Accompanying her were companions and close friends of the bridegroom.
She was bedecked in beautiful array, wearing the wedding veil with her long hair flowing gracefully and loosely about her shoulders. The nearest of kin in the procession carried myrtle branches and bouquets of flowers. Others had torches or lamps on poles.
Every person was expected to arise and salute the procession or join in the march. Lavish were to be the compliments about the beautiful bride and her dress. Arriving at the new home, she was led to the bridegroom and given to him with a benediction of divine blessings. Together they signed the legal document pledging their love and loyalty, and he promising to work for her, to honor, keep and care for her in life and in death.
This was a marriage of a close friend, or maybe I should say a relative of Jesus. Aunt Mary was a special guest. It seems that she was partially instrumental in securing the invitations that were extended to Jesus and the rest of us.
The marriage proceeded according to strict Jewish customs. The great reception room was festively decorated. Well-dressed servants kept vigilant attention regarding their duties to see that all details were conducted in a masterly way. Water pots were neatly and properly arranged in the covered gallery for the purification of hand washing prior to and following meals.
Near these and also outside of the reception room were six stone pots containing the wine for the occasion. Each pot held from twenty to thirty gallons (which ordinarily would have been sufficient had it not been for the extra guests who attended). The dining room was brilliantly lighted with beautiful candlesticks and lamps. Some of the guests were seated on chairs around tables while others were lounging on couches covered with soft cushions and tapestry. The laughter and gaiety of the group became rather pronounced at times during the evening festival, though at no time was the light merriment unwholesome.
The evening festival was hardly half over when Mary appeared at the door of the dining room, which led to the gallery and beckoned for Jesus. The servants had just informed her of a very embarrassing situation.
She said to Jesus, ''They have no wine."
Jesus said to her, "Oh woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come."
His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
He observed his mother as though she misunderstood him. He then looked at the stone vessels and gave orders to the servants to fill them with water. When his orders were obeyed, neither asked them to draw some out and take it to the steward of the feast. This they did. To the amazement of all who drank with one accord they agreed that the last wine was better than the first, though customarily the best wines were served first.
Jesus had brought us to Galilee to learn of him. His purpose had not been in vain. We learned that his program was different from John the Baptist. John dealt primarily with the masses; Jesus primarily with individuals. John came neither eating nor drinking; Jesus came both eating and drinking. John was now to decrease; Jesus to increase. John led people to the door of the kingdom; Jesus took them into the kingdom. John greatly stressed judgment; Jesus emphasized mercy. John performed no miracles; Jesus performed miracles.
We learned that for thirty years he had been subject to the will of Mary and that she had looked upon him with confidence as one meekly obeying her suggestions and capably solving her problems. But from his conversation with her, we understood that she was exerting her motherhood unduly over his personality and that he would allow no person, not even Mary, to interfere with what he believed to be his Father's business.
Jesus was neither derogatory nor harsh to her, yet he would correct her tendency to pride and delusion. She was his mother, but not his God. In her relationship to him in divine matters she was to him a woman. He seemed now purposed to take his leave of home authorities and launch out fully in doing the bidding of his heavenly Father.
The greatest lesson that we learned was the fact that he turned water into wine by his miraculous power. This was his first miracle. Its memory remained in our minds like the glow of a morning star.
It was not an act of magic, nor arbitrary power, it was an act with moral purpose, giving witness to the glory of his person and the dignity of his work. This miracle furthered our faith in him as the Son of God. His visit to the marriage and his participation in the interests of people led us also to believe in him as the Son of Man.
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