At what point did Jesus begin working miracles? The natural thought is at Cana, right? Since everyone knows that it was at Cana that He worked His first miracle at His mother’s behest. But when did Cana take place? At what point in His life did He work His first miracle? Was it at the beginning of His ministry… or perhaps a matter of years after He began preaching?
John 2:1-2 And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.
This is the introduction to the story of the turning of water into wine at Cana. But notice! Jesus ALREADY HAD DISCIPLES BEFORE this miracle!
Verses 3-4 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.
Jesus said that it is not TIME for Him to start doing this sort of thing! So there was a TIME, a time AFTER He had disciples, at which He intended to begin working MIRACLES. His mother knew He was able to, as of course did He, but He wasn’t READY to do miracles. But since moms can be pushy (say it isn’t so!) He gave in and did turn the water into wine this once.
Verses 11-12 This BEGINNING OF MIRACLES did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him. After this he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples: and they continued there not many days.
Now this story tells us several key facts. That this was absolutely His FIRST miracle. That He had disciples BEFORE He did that first miracle, and therefore was preaching BEFORE He had the miraculous signs following Him. And that He was not READY to work miracles on a large scale – YET.
Now the book of John was written to fill in the gaps in the other gospels, since John’s gospel was the last to be written by perhaps 50 years. He wanted to make sure details didn’t get left out of the story. So because of this his gospel is not linear – events told in sequence didn’t necessarily happen in sequence. Because of this John jumps ahead in the next few chapters to talk of miracles that Jesus did much later in life, and then in chapter 4 brings it back to His early ministry again with this story:
John 4:46-47 So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death.
This nobleman from Capernaum was almost certainly present at the wedding where water became wine. This wedding was a big affair, and every important person in the area, indeed probably much of the town, was invited. That can be proved easily by the fact that John 2:6 says there were 6 pots each containing 3 firkins – meaning roughly 120 GALLONS of water was turned into wine. And when you figure that people had “already well drunk” (verse 10) before this had happened, and had used up a massive amount of wine already… there were certainly hundreds, and could easily have been thousands present at this wedding.
So people could not have missed the miracle of water becoming wine, especially when the servants no doubt gossiped about it for years – as verse 9 says “but the servants which drew the water knew” (where the wine had come from). And so when Jesus came back into that same town, and this man’s son was sick, He knew that a man which could turn water into wine could also heal the sick. And so He turned to Him for help.
But not because of the truth Jesus taught! Not because He believed the words which Jesus had already spoke in his area! But because He was desperate for help. And so, knowing this…
John 4:48 Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.
Now why would He say this? What would prompt such a response? The statement itself tells us that this man had not SEEN major signs and wonders! This statement marks a change in Jesus’ campaign policy. No longer is He saying “my time is not yet come”.
John 4:54 This is again the SECOND MIRACLE that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee.
So this was his SECOND miracle! He had had enough time to be baptized, begin preaching, gather disciples, choose the twelve, go into Judea and back into Galillee – which could have taken anywhere from a few months to a few years – and now, finally after preaching all that time, NOW He is saying, in effect “Fine! If you won’t believe me because of what I say, believe me because of the works that I am about to do”. A thought He later verbalized in…
John 14:11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.
Jesus WANTED people to believe Him because He spoke the truth. He wanted people who would believe Him, not because He zapped them with lightning bolts and flames of fire, not because He raised the dead or healed the sick, but because the words He spoke were TRUTH! He wanted people who loved truth for it’s own sake! And HE STILL DOES! But He is willing to settle for less if He must.
Luke 16:30-31 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
In this parable, the rich man argues that if his family was taught by someone who had risen from the dead, they would BELIEVE! And Abraham said in the parable that even if one went to them from the dead, they would not believe! Not TRULY believe! Oh, sure, they might repent – but they wouldn’t BELIEVE! They’d just be awed by the miracles, but not CHANGED by the TRUTH! And God doesn’t WANT people who are just scared of Him, or impressed by Him, He wants people who LOVE WHAT HE LOVES!
Psalms 119:97 O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.
David, a man after God’s own heart, LOVED what God loved! He LOVED God’s law! He didn’t love God because God raised the dead! He didn’t obey God because He saw fire come down from heaven! He loved God’s law because God’s law made SENSE! It was PERFECTION!
Psalms 119:96 I have seen an end of all perfection: but thy commandment is exceeding broad.
David said He had seen an end to EVERY perfect thing! But God’s law was so large, and so perfect, that He had NEVER found an end, never a flaw in it’s perfection! This is what God wanted! But all too often, what God actually GOT was…
John 6:26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.
He doesn’t WANT sycophants following Him because He hands out free food like the salvation army! He doesn’t WANT suckups who hang around Him just so He can heal them when they get sick, or save them from tribulation! And so Jesus did not BEGIN His ministry with miracles! He BEGAN it with TRUTH, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth!
Matthew 4:12,17 Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee; … From that time Jesus BEGAN to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Notice that this is how Jesus BEGAN to preach, immediately after His baptism and temptation!
Mark 1:14-15 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The TIME IS FULFILLED, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.
Believe the GOSPEL! Not the mighty works! Not YET, anyway! Now remember, He was preaching after John was cast into prison here (and presumably before he was cast in prison, since John and Jesus were baptizing at the same time at Jordan (John 4:1-3). And we don’t yet know how long that was, but it must have been a considerable span of time, a matter of months at the least. And then, finally, after He began working miracles in Nazareth, John heard about them!
Matthew 11:2-3 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?
Consider; John and Jesus were cousins. They were not strangers. They baptized in the EXACT same spot at the same time for a long period – long enough for people to start flocking to Jesus and being baptized by His disciples, and for the Pharisees to hear that Jesus baptized more people than John. So they knew each other, presumably fairly well… And yet John had NEVER heard of Jesus’ “mighty works” (Mark 6:2), His amazing and plenteous miracles, until He was put in prison!
Think about that! That makes it VERY likely that Jesus didn’t WORK any miracles until after John was put in prison. And keep reading, for the news of those miracles didn’t make it to king Herod until after John DIED!
Mark 6:14-16 And king Herod heard of him; (for his name was spread abroad:) and he said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him. Others said, That it is Elias. And others said, That it is a prophet, or as one of the prophets. But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead.
Now think about this! WHY would Herod think that Jesus was a resurrected John the Baptist, BECAUSE of the miracles? John the baptist never did ANY miracles (John 10:41)! So why would Herod connect them BECAUSE of the Miracles?? Read it again!
Mark 6:14 and he said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and THEREFORE mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.
Herod specifically connected the resurrection of John to the reason why Jesus was NOW doing mighty works! WHY! Well, to explain that we have to back up a bit. Herod was sensitive to the Jews and humored them in many of their traditions, even going so far as to mint coins without faces or deities on them, to fit in with the commands about idolatry. He was also very inquisitive about their religion, and desired to see Jesus once He’d heard about the miracles (Luke 9:7-9). So Herod was very likely familiar with the story of Elijah and Elisha.
At the time, many people thought John the Baptist was Elijah – which he was, despite his denial of that fact. And if you’ll recall, Elijah did mighty works in the old testament. Remember also how Elijah was taken up in the whirlwind, and for practical purposes was “dead” to Israel (even though He was just moved to another location on Earth, not to heaven as is usually supposed). But after Elijah died, his disciple, Elisha, wound up with a DOUBLE PORTION of his spirit! And to someone like Herod, since Jesus was baptized by John, that made Jesus John’s disciple. And since John was now dead, and John was the Elijah, then that would make Jesus the Elisha, with a double portion of John’s spirit! and so now that John was dead, Jesus had TWICE the power of John, and THEREFORE mighty works showed forth themselves in Him!
That’s not what actually happened of course. But that’s what Herod and many others – apparently the majority – thought.
Luke 9:18-19 … and he [Jesus] asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am? They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again.
And why would they think that He was John the Baptist, or in the Spirit of John the Baptist? When they clearly had both been working at the same time? The ONLY plausible reason is that Jesus was ONLY preaching – keeping a relatively low profile. Speaking to those who would listen, and trolling for people who wanted the truth WITHOUT needing to see miracles to confirm the words He spoke! And THEN, after perhaps a year, when John had been cast into prison He knew it was TIME for a change! A TIME for Miracles! And He had seen that without miracles, many just WOULD NOT BELIEVE!
John 4:48 Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.
You see, there was a very important reason why Jesus didn’t just blast out onto the scene, working signs and wonders right and left. He WANTED to ease into it – for the sake of the disciples. See, God wants to know what sort of faith you have. He WANTS you to believe in Him because you love the truth – not out of fear, or hope of reward, or coercion. A follower of truth is infinitely more valuable than a follower of power. But had Jesus worked miracle after miracle in front of the disciples right up front, THEY WOULD NEVER HAVE HAD A CHANCE TO FOLLOW TRUTH!
They would certainly have followed Him! But He would have ROBBED them of the opportunity to follow him MERELY for the truth’s sake! They DESERVED a chance to follow Him for the RIGHT reasons FIRST, and then those who wouldn’t follow Him for the WORD’S sake, well, He would settle for them following Him for the WORK’S sake!
But the world DESERVED a chance to follow Him for the right reasons FIRST!
John 20:25-28 The other disciples therefore said unto him [Thomas], We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. …. then came Jesus, … Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
Thomas had had a CHANCE to believe Him because someone else saw Him! But Thomas WOULD NOT BELIEVE! So then when Jesus came, He SHOWED him absolute PROOF! And THEN Thomas did believe!
Verse 29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that HAVE NOT SEEN, and yet have believed.
But Jesus said that those who had NOT seen and STILL believed, THEY were blessed! Thomas could NEVER be blessed as much as someone who had NOT seen, and DID believe! And had Jesus just appeared to Thomas, and DENIED Thomas the CHANCE to receive a greater blessing, by denying him the CHANCE to believe without seeing, He would have CHEATED Thomas! And so it is with all of us, who have chances to see God and believe Him for the WORD’S sake, before we see the WORKS! And so Jesus DID NO MIRACLES at the beginning of His ministry – to give the world a CHANCE to believe Him, for no other reason than because His words were Truth.
John 6:68-69 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the WORDS of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.
His other disciples in that crowd were all there because they saw His WORKS, and because He FED them (John 6:26)! And so when the going got tough, those people who were there for the wrong reasons disappeared! But the twelve were there from the begining because they believed his WORDS, which He had given them LONG before they saw the first miracle!
The bottom line is this. Your eternal position and reward will be inversely commensurate with the amount of force and proof required for you to obey God.
If it requires massive arguments, proofs, miracles, beatings and punishments, but you finally obey God – GREAT!
But if you just believe God just because He makes SENSE, regardless of what you personally might have to sacrifice or change…
If God just says “do this” and you DO it! … well, you are one of those who will be blessed much greater than Thomas. And God owes you the chance to make that choice.
In fact, you have that chance right now. Don’t force Him to use more proof, and diminish your reward.