Lessons From the Miracles of Jesus
“NOW on the third day a marriage feast took place in Cana of Galilee . . . Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the marriage feast. When the wine ran short the mother of Jesus said to him: ‘They have no wine.’” This incident set the stage for Jesus’ first miracle.—John 2:1-3.
Was not such a problem too insignificant, too trivial, to bring to the attention of Jesus? Explains one Bible scholar: “Hospitality in the East was a sacred duty . . . Real hospitality, especially at a wedding feast, demanded a superabundance. If the supplies had [run out] at a wedding feast, the family and the young couple would never have lived down the shame.”
Jesus therefore took action. He observed “six stone water jars sitting there as required by the purification rules of the Jews.” Ritual washing before meals was customary among the Jews, and a good deal of water had been required to serve the needs of those present. “Fill the water jars with water,” Jesus ordered those serving the guests. Jesus was not “the director of the feast,” but he spoke directly and authoritatively. Says the account: “When, now, the director of the feast tasted the water, [it] had been turned into wine.”—John 2:6-9; Mark 7:3.
It may seem odd that something as commonplace as a wedding would be the setting for Jesus’ first miracle, but the incident reveals much about Jesus. He was a single man, and on subsequent occasions he discussed the advantages of singleness with his disciples. (Matthew 19:12) However, his presence at a wedding feast revealed that he was far from being antimarriage. He was balanced, supportive of the marriage arrangement; he viewed it as something honorable in the eyes of God.—Compare Hebrews 13:4.
Jesus was not the dour ascetic that church artists later made him out to be. He clearly enjoyed being around people and was not averse to socializing. (Compare Luke 5:29.) His actions thus set a precedent for his followers. Jesus personally demonstrated that they were not to be unnecessarily solemn or glum—as if righteousness meant joylessness. On the contrary, Christians were later commanded: “Always rejoice in the Lord.” (Philippians 4:4) Christians today exercise care to keep recreation within reasonable bounds. They find their joy in God’s service, but following Jesus’ example, they occasionally find time to enjoy one another’s company in a social setting.
Observe also the tenderness of Jesus’ emotions. He was under no obligation to perform a miracle. There was no prophecy in this regard that had to be fulfilled. Evidently, Jesus was simply moved by his mother’s concern and the plight of the couple getting married. He cared about their feelings and wished to spare them embarrassment. Does that not build your confidence that Christ has a real interest in you—even in your mundane problems?—Compare Hebrews 4:14-16.
Since each jar was “able to hold two or three liquid measures” of water, Jesus’ miracle involved a great volume of wine—perhaps 390 liters (105 gallons)! (John 2:6) Why such a huge quantity? Jesus was not promoting drunkenness, something God condemns. (Ephesians 5:18) Rather, he was demonstrating godlike generosity. Since wine was a common beverage, any surplus could be used on other occasions.—Compare Matthew 14:14-20; 15:32-37.
Early Christians imitated Jesus’ example of generosity. (Compare Acts 4:34, 35.) And Jehovah’s people today are likewise encouraged to “practice giving.” (Luke 6:38) However, Jesus’ first miracle also has prophetic import. It points to a future time when God will generously provide “a banquet of well-oiled dishes, a banquet of wine kept on the dregs,” completely eliminating hunger.—Isaiah 25:6.
What, though, of the many miracles Jesus performed that involved physical healing? What can we learn from them?
Doing Good on the Sabbath
“Get up, pick up your cot and walk.” Jesus spoke these words to a man who had been sick for 38 years. The Gospel account continues: “With that the man immediately became sound in health, and he picked up his cot and began to walk.” Surprisingly, not all were pleased by this turn of events. Says the account: “The Jews went persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things during Sabbath.”—John 5:1-9, 16.
The Sabbath was intended to be a day of rest and rejoicing for all. (Exodus 20:8-11) By Jesus’ day, though, it had become a maze of oppressive, man-made rules. Scholar Alfred Edersheim wrote that in the lengthy Sabbath-law sections of the Talmud, “matters are seriously discussed as of vital religious importance, which one could scarcely imagine a sane intellect would seriously entertain.” (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah) The rabbis attached life-and-death importance to frivolous, arbitrary rules that regulated virtually every aspect of a Jew’s life—often with cold-blooded disregard for human feeling. One Sabbath rule decreed: “If a building fell down upon a man and there is doubt whether he is there or not, or whether he is alive or dead, or whether he is a gentile or an Israelite, they may clear away the ruin from above him. If they find him alive they may clear it away still more from above him; but if [he is] dead, they leave him.”—Tractate Yoma 8:7, The Mishnah, translated by Herbert Danby.
How did Jesus view such legalistic hairsplitting? When criticized for healing on the Sabbath, he said: “My Father has kept working until now, and I keep working.” (John 5:17) Jesus was not performing secular work in order to enrich himself. Rather, he was doing the will of God. Just as the Levites were allowed to continue their sacred service on the Sabbath, Jesus could rightfully carry out his God-assigned duties as the Messiah without violating God’s Law.—Matthew 12:5.
Jesus’ Sabbath-day cures also exposed the Jewish scribes and Pharisees as being “righteous overmuch”—rigid and unbalanced in their thinking. (Ecclesiastes 7:16) Certainly, it was not God’s will that good works be restricted to certain days of the week; nor did God intend the Sabbath to be an empty exercise in rule following. Jesus said at Mark 2:27: “The sabbath came into existence for the sake of man, and not man for the sake of the sabbath.” Jesus loved people, not arbitrary rules.
Christians today thus do well not to be overly rigid or rule oriented in their thinking. Those in authority in the congregation refrain from burdening others with excessive man-made rules and policies. Jesus’ example also encourages us to look for opportunities to do good. For instance, never would a Christian reason that he will share Bible truths only when he is formally engaged in the house-to-house ministry or when he is on the public platform. The Christian, says the apostle Peter, should be “always ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you.” (1 Peter 3:15) The doing of good has no time restrictions.
A Lesson in Compassion
Another outstanding miracle is recorded at Luke 7:11-17. According to the account, Jesus “traveled to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd were traveling with him.” To this day, burial sites can be seen to the southeast of the modern Arab village of Nein. “As he got near the gate of the city,” he encountered a noisy scene. “Why, look! there was a dead man being carried out, the only-begotten son of his mother. Besides, she was a widow. A considerable crowd from the city was also with her.” H. B. Tristram noted that “the mode of conducting a burial has not changed” from ancient times, adding: “I have seen the women preceding the bier, led by the professional mourning women. They fling up their arms, tear their hair, with the wildest gesticulations of grief, and shriek forth the name of the deceased.”—Eastern Customs in Bible Lands.
In the midst of such noisy chaos walked a grieving widow whose very visage must have been pain itself. Having already lost a husband, she viewed her son as, in the words of author Herbert Lockyer, “the staff of her age, and the comfort of her loneliness—the support and pillar of the home. In the loss of her only son, the last remaining prop had been swept away.” (All the Miracles of the Bible) Jesus’ reaction? In Luke’s eloquent words, “when the Lord caught sight of her, he was moved with pity for her, and he said to her: ‘Stop weeping.’” The expression “moved with pity” is drawn from a Greek word that literally means “intestines.” It means “to be moved as to one’s inwards.” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words) Yes, Jesus was moved to the depth of his very being.
Jesus’ own mother was likely a widow at this time, so he probably knew the pain of bereavement in losing his adoptive father, Joseph. (Compare John 19:25-27.) The widow did not have to implore Jesus. Spontaneously, “he approached and touched the bier,” in spite of the fact that under the Mosaic Law touching a corpse made one unclean. (Numbers 19:11) Through his miraculous powers, Jesus could remove the very source of uncleanness! “He said: ‘Young man, I say to you, Get up!’ And the dead man sat up and started to speak, and he gave him to his mother.”
What a stirring lesson in compassion! Christians are not to imitate the loveless, cold attitudes manifest during these “last days.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) On the contrary, 1 Peter 3:8 exhorts: “Finally, all of you be like-minded, showing fellow feeling, having brotherly affection, tenderly compassionate.” When an acquaintance experiences a death or a serious illness, we cannot perform a resurrection or heal the sick one. But we can offer practical aid and comfort, perhaps simply by being there and weeping with them.—Romans 12:15.
This dramatic resurrection performed by Jesus also points to the future—a time when “all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out”! (John 5:28, 29) Earth wide, bereaved ones will personally experience Jesus’ compassion when departed mothers, fathers, children, and friends return from the grave!
The Lessons of the Miracles
Clearly, then, the miracles of Jesus were more than thrilling displays of power. They glorified God, setting a pattern for Christians who are urged to ‘glorify God.’ (Romans 15:6) They encouraged the doing of good, the showing of generosity, the displaying of compassion. More important, they served as a preview of the powerful works to be performed during Christ’s Millennial Reign.
While on earth, Jesus performed his powerful works within a relatively small geographic area. (Matthew 15:24) As glorified King, his jurisdiction will extend earth wide! (Psalm 72:8) Back then, those who received his miraculous cures and resurrections eventually died. Under his heavenly kingship, sin and death will be removed entirely, opening the way for everlasting life. (Romans 6:23; Revelation 21:3, 4) Yes, Jesus’ miracles point the way to a glorious future. Jehovah’s Witnesses have helped millions to develop a real hope of being a part of it. Until that time comes, what a marvelous foretaste of what will soon take place is provided by the miracles of Jesus Christ!
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Jesus turns water into wine