09. The First Of The Signs – Water To Wine I (2:1-11)

And on the third day a marriage took place in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. And Jesus and His disciples also were invited to the marriage. And being short of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, They have no wine. Jesus said to her, What is that to Me and to you, woman? My hour has not yet come. His mother said to the servants, Whatever He says to you, do. And there were six stone waterpots standing, according to the purification of the Jews, each containing two or three measures. Jesus said to them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them to the top. And He said to them, Now draw out and carry to the master of the feast. And they carried it. But when the master of the feast tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know from where it was (but the servants drawing the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom, and he said to him, Every man first sets on the good wine, and when they have drunk freely, then the worse. You have kept the good wine until now. This beginning of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee. And it revealed His glory, and His disciples believed into Him. (John 2:1-11)

by “three” in the Word in the spiritual sense is meant what is complete and perfect; and also the whole simultaneously. And as this is the signification of the number three, it is employed in the Word whenever any such thing is marked out for notice. (Doctrine of Sacred Scripture 29)

‘And his mother took for him’ means the affection for truth. This is clear from the meaning of ‘mother’ as the Church, dealt with in 289. And because the spiritual Church which is represented here is governed by the affection for truth, and it is this affection which makes it a Church, ‘mother’ here therefore means that affection. (Arcana Coelestia 2717)

in the Word ‘father’ as well as ‘mother’ means the Church; but ‘mother’ means the Church so far as truth is concerned, and ‘father’ the Church so far as good is concerned. The reason for this is that the Church is a spiritual marriage formed from good as the father and truth as the mother. (Arcana Coelestia 5581)

The changing of water into wine is said to be the first or beginning of the signs that Jesus did, and it occurs in Cana of Galilee. This sign revealed His glory and His disciples, the Scriptures declare, believed into Him. Being the first of signs means that this sign is not just the first in time, as regards the order in which it comes in the story of John’s Gospel, but it is also the first in the sense of being the principal sign from which, and to which, every other sign has reference and takes its meaning. To understand what the signs of the Gospel point to we need to be able to understand this sign of signs. It is foundational to our coming into a fuller understanding of the Word and its operation in our lives.

Everything in the Word is about our relationship to the Word or the operation of the Lord in our life by means of Divine Truth. Its signs describe our own inner processes as we struggle to open our lives up to the Lord so that we can be healed and made whole. We have now seen from our exploration of the Chapter 1 of John’s Gospel that the Lord is the Word, and that it is the Word that works within the mind to put it into an order that is more fully receptive of the life of love and wisdom which flows from the Lord into every person. We have seen how our understanding of the Word undergoes a transformation when we set ourselves to order our external lives in obedience to its teaching and then from that, look to have it shine on our motives, thoughts and affections.

All this is done by the Lord to make us whole, to deliver us from the natural life of selfishness into which we are born. He begins by planting within us remains of good and truth. These form the essence of what is receptive of the things of heaven. They sit within the human mind waiting for those states of life to become active in our response to truths, so that we can be awakened to a spiritual dimension for our life. We are not born whole; we are born fragmented and disjointed. For we are born into the natural man who is not aligned with the spiritual man and who seeks only its own way, a way of being which is naturally opposed to the things of the spirit. So, the process by which the Lord brings us to wholeness is often described in terms of a marriage, the marriage of good and truth.

This marriage is a spiritual marriage that takes place within the higher and lower regions of the human mind and involves having the truth of a higher level married to the good on a lower level. In other words, this marriage, which is how the Lord saves us or makes us whole, only occurs as we take spiritual truths and principles and use them to govern and weigh what presents to our consciousness in the thoughts and affections of our natural man. As we do this, we are to be progressively purified of the evils and falsities that flow from self-love and the love of the world and the natural mind begins to be reformed being able to receive into itself what is higher. This reception of what is higher into what is lower is what is understood by the spiritual marriage. This is what living a spiritual life involves, and it is by means of living this life that the Lord can save us. This is stated according to the appearance of how the process is experienced by us as we take truths and live from them but in fact good is higher than truth, being within it and is what motivates this work. We see then the importance of the first of signs and why it is described in the context of a marriage. We can also see why it was stated in the previous chapter that the Lord desired to go out into Galilee or to move from what is more internal to what is more external.

So here Jesus arrives in Cana which, given what we have just said, represents the state of life in which this marriage or wholeness can come into our life. Cana means the place of reeds. Reeds are a water plant, and as plants or vegetation in the Word has a general correspondence to intellectual things, the reed must represent something of the intellect that grows from water. We know that water corresponds to truths that can cleanse and bring life to our spirits, so a reed spiritually corresponds to a simple form of life that has its roots in and draws its life from truths. In Scripture, reeds are also connected with measuring and weighing things and in this sense correspond to external truths of the literal sense of the Word which we can take and measure and weigh the life of our desires, thoughts, and actions.

By stating that it is the third day we are introduced to the idea that Jesus’s presence in Cana with His disciples, and having been invited to a marriage, is a state of fullness or completeness and as such is a time that precedes a new state of life regarding our relationship to the Word. As far as our regeneration or spiritual growth is concerned the Lord never forces us against our will. He can only work within us when He is invited to do so by our willing response to His Word. This is what it means when we read that He was invited with His disciples to the marriage. The Lord’s presence in the Word is opened to us when we use the Word as a measuring reed to remove the evils and falsities that blind us. This state of working spiritually is a state of preparation that culminates in a marriage and as such as we prepare we are becoming conscious of something being not quite right within us. We know that the Word promises a full and abundant life to those who live from it, a fullness of joy and happiness represented in the idea of a marriage. Yet when we look at our lives and weigh them against what is promised we can see the discrepancy that exists between where we are at, and what the Lord desires for us. This gives rise to a perception that something is lacking.

This sense of something lacking in our life is voiced by the mother of Jesus. She comes to Him and makes Him aware of the state of affairs that exist in this marriage celebration.

And being short of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, They have no wine.

Of course, the Lord being God knows all things so this process is described from how it appears to us. On one level everything seems to be going ahead smoothly, in externals nothing necessarily appears to be lacking – but there is a crisis looming. For on a deeper level, there is a sense of unease, a perception that something needs to be done. The mother of Jesus represents this deeper perception within us. Now, this is a good time to remind ourselves not to think in terms of people here, but in terms of our own inner processes. For Jesus is the Word in human form and so is our understanding of the Word. In the Gospel, He represents the Divine truth understood within the limits of our finite human consciousness. So His mother can be seen as that state within us that has nurtured and brought forth our understanding of Divine truth and as such represents our love of the Word and spiritual teachings drawn from it. And in our readings today, she is said to be the church with regards to the affection for truth. So, when we feel a spiritual lack in our lives and look to the Word for answers, we are operating from that within us that is represented by the mother of Jesus.

But we see that the Word is not immediately responsive to fulfilling what we perceive as our need, the answers we want don’t come when we necessarily want them to.

Jesus said to her, What is that to Me and to you, woman? My hour has not yet come.

This is because all things must be done in order. Preparations must be made, we have a responsibility to act and do and set things in place so that the Lord as the Word can bring about its transformation within us, and positive spiritual outcomes can be realised. If we have gained an understanding of spiritual principles through our application of them to life, then we have what is able to move this process along.

Now some might look at Jesus’s response to his mother as being cold or harsh, but His response captures a fundamental principle regarding spiritual life and work. We have teachings that can assist us to come to the Word as the agent of transformation. We sense a need in our life, a desire to be more loving and understanding in our responses to the demands that life presents us with. This is a desire to bring the wisdom of the Word to life and the term used to describe this desire or affection is simply woman. Woman is a spiritual term that refers to an inner affection to make the wisdom that we have acquired from the Word a matter of life. In the literal sense of the Word, it appears that Jesus is rejecting His mother’s advances for Him to remedy the situation.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.

But spiritually this exactly describes a our experience of coming to the Word and seeking answers as to how it relates to our life. The question the Word asks of us, and we ask of it as we seek for answers is, How does our concern, our desire, relate to what the Word teaches?

Woman, what does your concern have to do with me?

This question is addressed to the affection for the Word, to the woman, and it describes the process whereby a person is inspired to seek for spiritual answers. The statement that follows,

My hour has not come…

doesn’t refer to an inability on the Lord’s part to meet our needs. It instead refers to the that fact that our state of life has yet to undergo a series of preparations before we are ready to see the power of the Word flow into those areas of our life in which we are struggling. The Lord can’t come where He is not invited, and to invite the Lord in is not a case of verbally asking Him – it’s a case of taking the truths of the Word and living from them. When we understand this and respond then we act from those truths that take the form within our mind of what is represented spiritually by Jesus’s mother.

The order by which any of us can come into an experiential understanding of the processes involved here can only come about through being in the effort of connecting the Word to life. This type of work introduces us to states of life where that affection for the Word, as represented by Jesus’s mother, will look to acknowledge the Text as having authority in our life. Then we will be able to respond and take the necessary steps that will allow those truths that can act as servants to bring things together in such a way as to see the breakthrough come forth. Hence, we see the mother, our affection for bringing the Word into life, taking charge, and ordering what needs doing. She says…

Whatever He says to you, do.

Whatever the Word says to you, do this. Here we see the bedrock truth of spiritual life – obey your understanding of the Word, act on it, don’t put it off any longer for today is the day of salvation. Through applying truths to life, you will see the transformation which you desire come about but understand that all transformations have much in the way of preparation behind them.  And so next time we will look at what must be done if we are to know in our own experience what this transformation of water into wine represents.

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