20. On the Third Day (John 2:1-11)
20. On the Third Day
And so we come to the first of Jesus’ signs. It happens at a wedding at a place called Cana and we can read about it in John chapter 2 and we are told it happens “on the third day”.
“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.” (John 2:1-2)
What does that mean and why does John frame the story that way?
It seems plainly obvious that John wants us to experience the wedding at Cana narrative as part of his opening message, his introduction to the gospel. We noticed that right from the beginning there is a similarity between John 1 and the opening account of Genesis. Not only does he begin with an expanded version of the Bible’s opening statement (“In the beginning God” becomes “In the beginning was the Logos and the Logos was with God and the Logos was God”) but references to Genesis 1 continue throughout John 1.
Here are some examples:
• After being introduced to God we are then introduced to the concept of light and darkness. In Genesis 1 there is a separation between the light and darkness. In John 1 the light is introduced not as a supernatural phenomena but as a Person and His light comes into the middle of the darkness, which tries to overcome it, but can’t.
• In Genesis 1:2 we are introduced to the Spirit who “hovers over the waters” waiting for the Word of God to come which releases Him to bring creation to birth. In John 1:32-33 we meet the Holy Spirit again coming down upon the waters, this time of baptism. This time He is not waiting for the Word of God from heaven but He is waiting for the Word of God to come up out of the waters of this present creation, releasing Him to herald the arrival of a new creation.
• Throughout Genesis 1 we are carefully told what happens on each day and each day introduces us to fresh revelation and insight into the new creation that is coming to birth. The same thing happens in John 1:
o Before the first day we discover that Jesus is:
The Word (Logos)
The One and Only of the Father
Jesus Christ (Jesus the Anointed One, Messiah)
The One and Only of God
o “The next day” (John 1:29) we are introduced to Jesus by name but then also as:
The Lamb of God
The Son of God
o “The next day” (John 1:35) Jesus is revealed to us as
o “The next day” (John 1:43) John introduces us to Jesus as:
Jesus of Nazareth, Son of Joseph
The King of Israel
The Son of Man
Now in John 2:1 we get to “the third day”. Taken purely on face value, this would put the wedding at Cana on the same day as Jesus meeting Nathanael.
What happens on the third day in the creation account of Genesis 1? The emergence of land from the water and plants and fruit appear on the earth.
“And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.” (Genesis 1:9-13)
The water is gathered together and dry land appears. Out of that dry ground, the earth, comes a multitude of shrubs, flowers, trees, vegetables and fruits, including grapevines. By the command of the Word of the Lord. From nothing. Water to juicy grapes in a day.
This is what happens on the third day of creation. Here in John 2 we have Jesus turning water to wine, on the third day. Coincidence? Maybe. But there is good reason to believe that the Holy Spirit is reminding us that the Word of God that brought vines from dry ground is still very much alive and at work. He is still in the creation business, it did not stop at the end of Genesis 1. But He is now taking things to a new level, this is recreation.
At Jesus’ baptism, we can see that the Holy Spirit is still brooding with pregnant purpose over the earth, as He did in Genesis 1, but this time it is over the new promised land that emerges from the waters of baptism. In fact, more than hovering over it, He comes to rest upon it in the form of a dove. That land is not an “it”, like the earth that appears in Genesis 1, but a person as the One and Only of the Father, the Lamb of God, the Gateway of Heaven on earth, the Logos rises out of the water of this sin created chaos.
Out of the first earth God forms humankind, breathing life into them. Out of this new emerging “earth” God is going to bring to birth Sons and Daughters, not just made in the image of the God of the creation and placed in creation but recreated in God Himself, out of this very “earth” that we have come to know as Jesus, the Messiah.
God is moving everything forwards and to another level. This is why, in Christ, we are not simply going back to the garden of Eden. This is the next stage of God’s plan to reveal His glory, it is not merely trying to mop up the mess we all made of His first attempt.
And so we come to Cana, in Galilee. Jesus, the Word of God, the Logos, gives His first command, not to the chaotic chaos but to sinful broken mankind. He speaks specifically to servants, those that will obey Him.
“Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.” (John 2:7)
Speaking to those human servants, He orders that water is gathered together into six stone jars till they are filled to the brim. Is there an echo here of “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place” (Genesis 1:9)? It is happening on the third day.
Then He gives His second command, to the same servants, which is to take some of that water to the master of the feast.
“And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it.” (John 2:8)
And what happens?
“the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew)” (John 2:9)
The water instantly turns into wine. On the third day of creation, God calls firstly dry ground to rise out of the waters and then vegetation, resulting in mature grapevines amongst all the other trees and bushes. If there is going to be wine, then Adam and Eve are going to have to figure out that it is possible to make a drink from this fruit and then work out how to make it. That will take a while. Then they actually have to go through the process of making it, which will take even longer. We don’t hear of grapes being made into wine in the Bible until Noah after the flood in Genesis 9:20-21, although he may well have learnt the craft from others before him.
The point is that on the third day of creation, the cosmos obeys the command of the Logos and we have grapes from water. Now, on the “third day”, sinful mankind finally obeys the commands of the Logos and we don’t just have grapes from water, we have wine. And not just any wine:
“the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.’” (John 2:10)
Do we get the point? Jesus, the Logos, has moved beyond being the Word of God speaking over the darkness, but has become the Word of God come down right into the middle of an even greater darkness than pre-creation. And He has come to lift us out of the darkness and chaos of our own making, into a whole new era in world history, the appearing of the true children of God. Jesus is going higher and further than He did in creation. This is beyond water to grapes. We can go instantly from water all the way through to wine, the finished product. And it is not just any wine, this wine is the best wine of them all.
All this happens “on the third day”.
If you think I may be stretching the meaning here beyond what the Holy Spirit meant when He inspired John to write these words, let me remind you of other stories that happened in the Old Testament on the third day. The common theme is that on the third day day there was a sign of a wonderful life changing salvation and deliverance that was coming for those to whom it was given. The sign would result in a fresh revelation of the glory and grace of God and enable those people to believe and put their trust in Him. Let’s begin with the second mention of the term “on the third day” in the Bible and a narrative that I referenced in a previous chapter.
Genesis 22:4 “On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar.”
What did Abraham see from afar on the third day? The mountain where God was going to supernaturally provide for him in the hour of his greatest need.
“So Abraham called the name of that place, ‘The Lord will provide’; as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’ (Genesis 22:14)
And what was the great provision that Abraham “lifted us his eyes” to see, on the third day? It was a lamb, that God would provide, who would be sacrificed to preserve the life of his only son Isaac and, with him, all the lives of the children of promise that were yet to come after him. As Abraham said to Isaac:
“Abraham said, ‘God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.’” (Genesis 22:8)
Abraham had lifted up his eyes to see a physical place, where God would supernaturally provide. But Abraham’s eyes have also been lifted up in the Spirit and He is seeing beyond, to a promised provision that has a significance that he could not even imagine, God’s lamb. When Abraham saw the fulfillment of that promise on the mountain, he will have remembered the words that came to him on the third day and been encouraged in his faith and trust in God’s ability to lead and take care of him.
Later in Genesis we read the story of one of those descendants of Isaac, his Grandson Joseph who, having been rejected and betrayed by his own brothers, was in prison after being falsely accused. Two former servants of Pharoah were in the prison with him, the lead baker and the lead cupbearer to the King. They were both in prison because they had committed an “offense”, seemingly together, against the King (Genesis 40:1).
Whilst in prison, they both had dreams and Joseph gave them interpretations. Both interpretations would come to pass “in three days” (Genesis 40:13 & 18). For the baker it didn’t end well. But for the cupbearer, he was restored to his previous position.
Genesis 40: 20-21 “On the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, he made a feast for all his servants and lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants. He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.”
And what was his previous position? It was bringing the drinks to the King. This included tasting them beforehand and ensuring they were of the very best quality. Does that sound familiar?
God had promised, through Joseph that something would happen “on the third day” that would see this servant, who had sinned against his master, restored back to his previous position. It was a sign to the servant. Beyond that, though, it was given as a sign to Joseph that he too would be released from prison. And he saw the sign fulfilled “on the third day”. When he saw it, it would have given him faith to hold on for the fulfillment of the greater promise, his eventual freedom, even though he had to wait a lot longer for it to happen. The glory of God was revealed that enabled His servant, Joseph, to put his trust in Him in a whole new way.
Another “on the third day”. God told Moses to instruct the people to get themselves ready because “On the third day” He was going to reveal Himself to them.
“the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.’” (Exodus 19:10-11)
On the third day God powerfully revealed His glory to them by coming down onto the mountain. Although it was only Moses who was allowed up the mountain to meet with Him, it was a sign to all of God’s people, then and now, that His desire was to have a relationship and live with them. The glory of God to enable them to believe in Him.
Later on in the Old Testament Bible narrative, God told King Hezekiah that He would give Him a sign that the King would be healed of his terminal illness and go on to live another fifteen years. The sign would happen on the third day.
“Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord, and I will add fifteen years to your life.” (2Kings 20:6-7)
When he walked up the steps to the temple on the third day, Hezekiah would have no doubt in his heart that it was the Lord who had healed him and deliverered him from certain death. It was again a sign of the glory of God and it enabled Hezekiah to trust God at a deeper level.
Finally Queen Esther asked her people, the Jews, to fast for three days and pray that the King’s edict to destroy them all would be overturned (Esther 4:16-17). “On the third day” she stood before the King and he extended his sceptre to her as a sign that she would be received in favour.
“On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, in front of the king’s quarters, while the king was sitting on his royal throne inside the throne room opposite the entrance to the palace. And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.” (Esther 5:1-2)
“On the third day”, Esther and with her all the people of Israel, received a sign that indeed God was going to rescue and deliver them. The glory of God was revealed to them and it awoke a greater level of trust and hope in His people.
Five times in the Old Testament, God used the third day as a moment to release a sign, a promise of deliverance and salvation from death and destruction, an opportunity for the glory of God to be revealed and an enabling for God’s people to put their trust in Him.
Interestingly John ends his narrative of the wedding in Cana saying just that:
“This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” (John 2:11)
We cannot miss the point. John goes straight to the wedding at Cana from his introduction for a reason. It all happens on the third day for a reason. It is water into the very best wine for a reason. It comes from broken, sinful humanity obeying (instead of disobeying) the commands of the Logos for a reason. This is Jesus taking things to a whole new level. This is recreation and it will be even better than what came before. This is a sign to all of us that things are about to radically change. It is an invitation into a new life, a new way of living, a life really worth living.
God wants us to walk into this new life. He knows that it is our natural resistance to receiving and believing in Jesus that will hinder us from finding this life. So He sends us supernatural signs to enable us to receive and believe. This is key. He not only wants us to have life with Him in Jesus Christ, which is itself an incredible act of grace and kindness, but He is going to enable us to believe and receive. He knows we will never make it on our own. If Adam and Eve couldn’t, and they started off pure and holy and without sin, then we have no chance by ourselves. If we are going to come into the fulness of life that He is offering us in Jesus, then it is going to have to be from Him (“in the beginning was the Logos”) and through Him (“in Him was life and the life was the light of men”). There is no other way. There is no other hope.
But God gives us hope. On the third day.
Of course there is a third day yet to come. It will be the day when all these signs will be gathered together into one glorious reality. Jesus will rise from the dead and, in Him, the whole of creation will be given the opportunity to experience resurrection life. Old creation recreated into something totally new. And we will discover that He kept the best wine till last.Posted on: June 2, 2018Peter Todd