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SERMON OF THE WEEK
March 06, 2011
by: Rev. Dr. V Kurian Thomas, Valiyaparambil

Next Sunday is "Kothanae Sunday", also known as the day when Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding feast in Cana. This is the first Sunday of the Great Lent. Gospel reading is from John 2:1-11.

 

(The article presented below is a reproduction (with permission) of an article on  "Kothanae Sunday and the Great Lent" in its entirety from the official publication "Syriac Orthodox Resources" of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch.)

 

What Is Lent?

This 50-day period of Lent is a time of abstinence from foods, primarily and most importantly with a purified mind and heart. Abstinence from certain foods alone is a way of achieving virtue, because God is requesting the heart of the man (Joel 2:12,13). During the period of the Great Lent and other periods of fasting throughout the year, an individual makes a special attempt or connection to reach our God, and evaluate his calling as a Christian, to listen to the voice of the Gospels and heed its commandments.

 

It is very important to note that fasting is an essential element of the Christian life. Our Lord Jesus Christ fasted and taught men to fast. Blessed fasting is done in secret, without showiness or accusation of others (Mt 6:16; Romans 14). One has to enter the Lenten period with great devotion and love. Lent has a goal of purifying our lives, the strengthening of our human powers of love for God and man, informing us of our entire being for communion with the Holy Trinity.

 

Another purpose of fasting is to remind us of the Scriptural teaching. One important verse is found in Deuteronomy, Chapter 8 verse 3, Man does not live by bread alone. This verse implies that physical nourishment is not sufficient for a healthy life, man also is in need of spiritual nourishment. The needs of the body are nothing compared to the needs of the soul. We are always in need of God. It is He who provides everything for both the body and the soul. So it is through fasting that we learn to depend on God more fully.

 

Fasting in the Old Testament

 

God Almighty, enforced fasting on the first man when He commanded Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden saying "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (Gen. 2:16,17).

Adam did not listen to God's command and disobeyed Him, dam doubted Gods word, and that is why he believed Satan and obeyed him. Therefore, by eating the forbidden fruit Adam and Eve were sent from the Garden of Eden to the land of suffering and torment. It is important to say that the food of the first man was free of meat and limited to cereals, beans and fruits in the Garden of Eden. This is supported by God's address to Adam and Eve: "Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed, to you it shall be for meat." (Gen. 1:29). It was only after the flood that God permitted man, represented by Noah, to eat meat. (Gen. 9:3).

 

Fasting in the New Testament

 

In the New Testament, it was the Lord Jesus Who set the law of fasting in Christianity when He fasted forty days and forty nights (Matt. 4:2). "He did eat nothing, and when they were ended, he afterward hungered." (Luke 4:2). The Lord Jesus was not in need of fasting but fasted as an example for us. He imposed fasting to show us its powerful spiritual impact especially when coupled with prayer.

 

When the Lord replied to the question of John's disciples, who wondered why His disciples did not fast. Our Lord said, "Can the children of the bride chamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken from them and then shall they fast in those days." (Matt.9:14&15. Luke 5:35) The Lord's words were deemed as an authorization. He vested his disciples to set dates for fasting. Accordingly, the Holy Apostles and the righteous disciples started fasting ten days after the Lord's Ascension to heaven, when they accept the Holy Spirit from heaven. They fasted on diverse occasions and in different ways.

 

How it was determined when Easter would be Celebrated

 

Every Sunday's worship is a celebration of the risen Lord, but a special day for the Resurrection has been part of the life of the church from its early days. When Constantine became emperor and Christianity was no longer illegal, it was possible to consider more carefully the date of Easter. One of the purposes of the Council of Nicea in 325 AD was to settle that date.

Constantine wanted Christianity to be totally separated from Judaism and did not want Easter to be celebrated on the Jewish Passover. The Council of Nicea accordingly required the feast of the resurrection to be celebrated on a Sunday that falls after and never on the Jewish Passover. Easter was to be the Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox.

 

Our Faith

 

We all know that prayer and fasting are two of the basic Christian and Lenten necessities. However, many young adults often realize they cannot keep the strictest Lenten regulations of the Church. An individual can sometimes feel frustrated, lost and without guidance when he/she cannot follow the Lenten regulations.

 

As mentioned earlier, one must enter the Lent with devotion and love. If you cannot follow the Lent regulations then practical guidance and advice would be: to do what you can. Knowing that the essentials are prayer and fasting, an individual can pray more often, try to fast as fully as possible, and giving to others when asking nothing in return. Again, know that all of your fasting, prayer, and giving to others in need must be exercised in secret. A deeper love for God and for those around us is the only real goal and purpose of Great Lent.

 

His Holiness Mor Ignatius Zakka I, in his 2010 Lenten Encyclical stated: "The apostles commanded the faithful to fast. The church abided by it and organized all fasts. The history of the church shows that from the dawn of Christianity, Christians fasted the Forty Days Great Lent, the week of Passion, and Wednesdays and Fridays of every week. The church imposed severe penalties on clergy and laity who broke the fasting commandment. Elders, children, babies, sick, nursing, pregnant women, were exempted out of necessity. Saturdays and Sundays during which the holy Eucharist is celebrated, are excluded. After service the faithful will have fasting food. Our Syriac church doesnt start any fast on Sundays in honor of the Day of the Lord. We start Monday morning thus the number of days that year is one day shorter.

 

During lent, the holy church does not forbid eating foods out of having lawful or unlawful foods, but it aims at subjecting the will of the faithful to God Almighty by sanctifying and by practicing esteemed virtues specially the virtue of obedience to Gods commandments issued by His servants, the Metropolitans of the church which they were given by Him to bind and loose, and legislate the rules and regulations for the benefit of the faithful and the glory of Gods holy name. Since the church is a compassionate mother and righteous teacher, she does not want to lay heavy burdens remembering the Lord, saying, Woe to you also, lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers (Luke 11:46).

For this, his holiness the late Patriarch Elias the Third - God bless his soul - (+1932), allowed the eating of fish during the Great Lent and also allowed the faithful in America to fast the first and the last week of the Lent in addition to Wednesdays and Fridays.

 

Also his holiness the late Patriarch Ephraim the First Barsom - God bless his soul - (+1957) allowed the same for the faithful in India in addition to softening other fasts for all in 1946.

 

His holiness the late Patriarch Jacob the Third - God bless his soul - (+1980) also allowed fasting the first and last week of the Great Lent only, in addition to Wednesdays and Fridays for the clergy and laity during which he allowed them to have all kinds of foods in 1966 and also allowed celebrations, weddings, baptisms, Eucharist, and memorials during days in between.

 

Our fathers, Patriarchs of the holy church permitted this out of mercy and compassion to avoid breaking the commandment and be exposed to the wrath of God. God forbid, He who abides by these exceptions does not commit sin but will be considered among those who didnt break the rules. But whoever fasts the whole period his reward will be multiplied."

The Passion Week can be set aside for a greater and more concentrated Lenten effort. You can attend the Liturgy that week and be faithful in Christs gospel in every word, action, and thought.

 

Great Lent in the Syriac Orthodox Church

 

The Lent period is the third cycle in the Liturgical year. This cycle is known as the cycle of forgiveness and it consists of eight Sundays the same as all other cycles. During six consecutive Sundays the church discusses or celebrates Jesus miracles, beginning with the wedding feast in Cana and ending with the healing of the blind man, and Raising Lazarus from the Dead on Saturday prior to Palm Sunday. The seventh Sunday is Palm Sunday and the eighth is Easter. Sundays Melodies of this cycle are as usual eight: the wedding feast in Cana is Qadmoyo (the first) and it continues on until the Palm Sunday, which is Shbioyo (the seventh). Easters melody starts on Saturday evening with Tminoyo (the eighth) and morning with is Qadmoyo (the first) and not Tminoyo (the eighth) because of its nature. The rest of the Lents days have a special tune of repentance called Gushmo. It was decided that the melodies of bigger holidays have to be Qadmoyo (the first), which are joyful type of tunes. And the Passion Week has special tune of grief.

 

During this cycle we will discuss the content and the theme of each Sunday which are arranged as follow:

1. The wedding feast in Cana

2. The healing of the Leper

3. Healing the paralyzed man

4. Healing the Canaanite's daughter

5. The parable of the Good Samaritan

6. Healing the blind man, and Raising Lazarus from the Dead.

7. Palm Sunday

8. Easter

 

The first Saturday of Lent is designated for the memory of St. Ephraim (for his repentance life). The twenty-fourth day of Lent, which is always Wednesday, (the middle of Lent) is designated for the Lifting the Cross on the mid of the church, and memory of King Abgar IX (Abgar Oukomo) who converted to Christianity at Edessa in the second century A.D. as a first kingdom became a Christian.

In this Period, it is noteworthy to list three special events:

 

1- Before the celebrant steps the altars step to start the Divine Liturgy. The choir sings a special hymn called Ho Edono La-sloutho (it is time to pray). This hymn calls the believers to forgive each other and elevate their heart and thoughts with the celebrant to celebrate the Divine Liturgy and before exchanging the sign (or Kiss) of peace in the Liturgy. It is sung during the masses of the six Sundays of the Lent cycle, after saying the last sentence of Abo Ahid (The Creed), and before the deacon declaration which is the Stowmen Qalous Qoury Layson (Let us stand well, Lord have mercy) in obedience and ask for mercy. You may mention that the priest doesnt go up to the higher step of the altar until the verse of the hymn, which says It is the moment where priest go up to the higher stair to present offers for our forgiveness. This hymn has been assigned specially to this period to emphasize the element of forgiveness.

 

2-  A special ceremony which takes place on Sunday evening is a collection of wonderful texts of forgiveness written by St. Jacob and St. Ephraim and other church fathers. This ceremony is repeated during these six Sundays.

 

 The daily afternoon prayers are substituted by the forgiveness prayers of St. Ephrem.

 

This will be a good period to recount ones sins and try to forgive during this period of forgiveness.

 

Here we will look at the Parables and Miracles we observe on Sundays during the Great Lent:

 

The Holy Lent is a season of renewal and reformation: "do not be conformed to this world," St. Paul said, "but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Romans 12:2) It is a time for the casting out of devils, the unmasking of the perversions of our spirits, a time for the nurturing of our souls by the word of God revealed in Christ our Lord. The Holy Lent is a time of death and resurrection with Christ our Lord.

 

This is a brief knowledge about the Holy Lent Sundays in General in our Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch. The Sundays in the Holy Lent are noteworthy for the readings prescribed by the Antiochean fathers.

 

First Sunday Wedding in Cana

 

On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "O 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." Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast." So they took it. When the steward 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), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, "Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now." This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (John 2: 1-11)

                                            

1st Sunday:- We enter the Lent recalling the miracle at Cana (John 2: 1-11), in which the Lord converted the insipid liquid (water) into a tasty wine. Jesus was on a mission to save the world, the greatest mission in the history of mankind. Yet He took time to attend a wedding and take part in its festivities.

 

Scripture: John 2:1-11

 

Miracle of the marriage feast at Cana of Galilee, known as 1st sign of the gospel of St. John, is one of the most important and theologically profound miracles that the Lord worked. To many people, the miracle at Cana of Galilee looks to be an ordinary miracle, just like any other miracle. But the fact is that it is one that has far reaching spiritual and theological implications. Let us explore some of the meanings of this sign, with which our Syriac Orthodox Churches Great Lent always starts:

 

The wedding narrative (in St. John) has symbolism for the calling out of the physical nation of Israel, the sacrifice of Messiah, and the drawing out of people who would make up the body of the Church.

 

The wedding narrative correlates to mankind's redemption. It shows that Christ is essential, crucial, and central key to the plan of salvation. The wedding depicts Gods covenant in progress. We see how it still continues and is given to the Church, the servants of God. The wine running out in the narrative alludes to the animal sacrifices coming to an end, and the new wine portrays the new covenant that the Church partakes of through the blood of the incarnated God.

 

The story begins in John 2:1-11.

 

1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.

2 Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.

3 And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine."

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

5 His mother said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it."

6 Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece.

7 Jesus said to them "Fill the waterpots with water." And they filled them up to the brim.

8 And He said to them, "Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast." And they took it.

9 When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom.

10 And he said to him, "Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!"

11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him. John 2:1-11

 

We will look at each verse independently, in a commentary format, beginning with verse one of St. John, chapter 2.

 

John 2:1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee,

 

The miracle performed at the wedding in Cana is denoted as the first of seven signs performed by the Lord Jesus Christ according to the Holy Gospel of St. John.

 

On the third day: there are many instances in the Bible that refer to events occurring on the third day. The most notable is the resurrection of Christ to life on the third day. We are able to draw out a theme of deliverance, salvation or life, associated with the third day.

 

According to the church cycle, it is a starting point of the dispensation of our Lord, after His Baptism and Temptation by the Satan. Thats why St. John the apostle starts his 2nd chapter with on the third day, which means the third work of the Lord during His dispensation.

 

Weddings in ancient times often lasted many days and here we see a symbolism often used in the seven-year cycle, where many things are commenced in the third year of the sacred cycle. There are similar overtones with ancient Israel, who were gathered together and arrived at the wilderness of Sinai in the third month after leaving Egypt to enter into a covenant with God (Ex. 19:1). The events in Exodus chapter 19 are comparable to the wedding attended by Christ and His disciples. The congregation was to wash their clothes, which is related to ones wedding garment and the white robe of overcoming this world (Rev. 6:11; 3:5) clothed in humility (1 Pet. 5:5).

 

The congregation was asked to be ready by the third day (Ex. 19:11,15). For it was on this day that God, which was Christ, came in the sight of all the people (Ex. 19: 11), to enter into a covenant.

 

Then the Lord said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes. And let them be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. Exodus 19:10

 

Likewise, Christ, accompanied by His disciples, came to the wedding, where a covenant between a bride (equivalent to the Church) and the groom (comparable to Christ) was to take place. Christ was to reveal Himself through His first sign to the servants, picturing those called.

The first sign starting with a wedding, means that the heaven and earth were happy with the salvation of our Lord to the mankind by His coming to save us.

 

Cana of Galilee: the Lord Jesus Christ began His first supernatural of signs in Cana in particular, because of largely Gentile populated, and must have been a priority for the Lord. The first sign profoundly symbolized the Kingdom of Heaven's imminent need to be spread into the entire world for both Jews and Gentiles.

 

John 2:1 "and the mother of Jesus was there"

 

Mary (which is Mariam) was most likely related by bloodline to the bridal party. Thus, no invitation was required. Her primary role would have been to assist in the hosting of the wedding, carrying out tasks and duties for the bridal party. She would have also instructed the servants what to do.

 

We can assume that Mary was alone. (There is no further mention of Joseph following the story in the temple when Jesus was 12 years old.) Therefore, Mary would have depended on Jesus, who was not only a carpenter's son (Matt 13:55) but a carpenter himself (Mark 6:3).

 

The gospel of John never refers to Jesus mother as Mary. This is to draw out a distinction, as we will see later. As we know, a woman represents a church or nation (Rev. 12:4-6). In this account, we can interpret the mother of Jesus to represent the physical nation of ancient Israel and the Levitical priesthood through the seed of Abraham.

 

John 2:2 Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.

To be part of the wedding feast, one must be invited. It is God who does the choosing. Christ does not give the invitation so to speak. Father draws the person, and gives them to Christ His Son (John 6:39).

 

When we view it as a covenant in progress, we see that Christs invitation takes on a dual purpose. His invitation was sent thousands of years beforehand through Abraham (Gen. 12:3, 22:18).

 

"And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws." Genesis 26:4

 

The accepting of the invitation requires something on our part. Abraham took up his invitation to enter into a covenant with God, by adhering to all of Gods commandments, statutes and laws. He considered Gods laws as a treasure to be desired. We must also do likewise, if we are to accept the invitation of God. We are to continue to obey Gods word and commandments, if we are to retain His Holy Spirit, and enter the wedding feast. The parable of the five wise and the five foolish virgins shows that those who still had oil in their lamps burning, were able to enter into the wedding feast. Outwardly, they all looked the same. But it was those who treasured the word of God and had the Holy Spirit, who were able to enter when the bridegroom returned.

 

"[There is] treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spends it up." Proverbs 21:20

 

All people, of all nations were assured of salvation through Christ.

 

"And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "In you shall all the nations be blessed." Galatians 3:8

 

God the Father chose us before the foundation of the world and has placed us into the body of Christ.

 

"Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love." Ephesians 1:4

 

We have been given a great invitation (Isa. 55:1-13) at no cost (Rev. 22:17) to become sons of God. Philip for example was given an invitation to follow Christ (Jn. 1:43). It is an invitation to take up the cross (Mk. 10:21). It is an appeal to become living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1). Many have declined the offer (Lk. 14:15-24). But it is not too late (Joel 2:12-13); for those who take up the invitation will be blessed (Mat. 25:34).

 

John 2:3 "And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine"

 

Mary may have thought that because she was His mother she had some special hold on or control of Jesus as a miracle worker. She may have seen this as an opportunity for Him to reveal Himself to the world, she knowing in her heart who He truly is. Jesus however, mildly corrects her, No man or woman has to interfere in what He has to do as God.

 

In Scripture, wine is usually associated with joy and glad tidings. When Mary said, "They have no wine", she may also be referring to the fact that they were not able to experience the joy because of lack of wine (1Thes. 1:6).

 

Mary had faith in her son. From the very start of the first miraculous sign, we gain insight into the predominant role of the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ. St. Mary's gift of intercession is immediately made known when she speaks to her Son on behalf of the need for more wine as the water pots become depleted.

 

This is showing that all animal sacrifices the priesthood performed for purification of Israelites would end and pointed to Christ. We could assume the wine that ran out during the course of the wedding feast pictured the redemption process, which was sought through the animal sacrifices used by the Levitical priesthood. The course of the wedding parallels the course of mankinds redemption. The sacrificial system had to come to an end in order for the new system to take its place. The blood of bulls and calves was to be fulfilled in Christ, who was appointed to die once and for all (Heb. 7:27, 9:24-28, 10:10,12,14; 1Pet 3:18). God opened the way to salvation through Christ. That is why Jesus mother goes to Him. We have to contemplate the concept that Mary symbolized the nation under the physical priesthood. The way in which Mary signifies her concern for the wine, draws attention to the fact the priesthood knew that a blood sacrifice was required.

 

John 2:4 "Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come."

 

Jesus' way of addressing His mother, "Woman," is not considered an endearing term or disrespect word, but that is how He will speak to her from the cross (19:26). So perhaps it is not as harsh or disrespect as we might think. It may be that He was addressing her in the same way a woman is addressed in the today's English as "Ma'am." Or He doesn't want her to interfere in His work as God.

 

Jesus further responded saying; "My hour is not yet come" meaning that He would conduct His ministry in His own time. Jesus was affirming that He would not be influenced by men or woman. He would conduct His life as directed by God's plan.

 

(Christ directs His reply to His mother. Christ uses the word woman to figuratively refer to physical Israel and address the physical priesthood.

But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law. Galatians 4:4

 

We could figure out that Christ is saying to the priesthood that they do not recognize what He is about to introduce to the existing covenant, and that the sacrificial system they perform would be fulfilled in Him. Christ is highlighting the distinction between the physical religious structure of the day, and what He was accomplishing, a rebirth of a spiritual body [Church] (John. 3:5).

 

John 2:5 "His mother said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it."

The words of Mary to Jesus and her instructions to the servants indicate that she expected something from Her son.

 

(These words of the mother of Jesus relate to the words spoken by Moses to physical Israel concerning the Messiah.

 

"The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him." Deuteronomy 18:15

 

His mother, who represented ancient Israel, understood that the commandments had to be kept (Deut. 26:17-19). The sacrificial law was integral to the whole law (Ex. 20 to 34). The sacrificial law pointed to Messiah and was fulfilled in Him. The law was not removed by this act. The sequence of the system of worship was not altered. The symbolism merely took on another meaning. Jesus Christ says:

 

"Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:17-19

 

These are the last recorded words of the mother of Jesus Christ. We see that it is only the servants that are told to obey Christ. She did not direct the servants to any other. For it is through Christ we are to be saved (Acts 15:11). We see that Christ takes over from His mother from this point. This also alludes to the fact that the responsibilities and oracles had been taken from the physical priesthood of ancient Israel and are given to the Church, Gods servants. They were now in the care of the Church.

 

We may speculate that this theme can be seen being carried over to when Christ places His mother, into the care of the "disciple whom He loved".

We should be aware that the term the disciple whom He loved takes on a greater meaning. He loved those given to Him by His Father. He laid down His life for His friends (John 15:13). The disciple He loved can be figuratively used to describe the Church.

 

"When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple He loved, He said to her, "Woman, this is your son." And He said to His disciple, "She is your mother." And from then on this disciple took her into his home." John 19:26, 27

 

When we view this text in light of whom these two persons may portray, we see Christ was pointing out to the Levitical priesthood that the Church He had established was its son. It was with this son that the inheritance lay. Christ is also telling the Church that it should recognize and honor the covenant ancient Israel kept. We will see this has connotations to the fifth commandment, Honor your mother and your father (Ex. 20:12). From Christ's death, the Church was responsible for the covenant ordinances, commandments and statutes of God.

 

Christ's mother did not ask for everyone's assistance at the wedding. She doesn't ask everyone to pitch in and give a hand. Only those who were there to serve were chosen for the task. Those who obey God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ are portrayed in Scripture as servants. (2Chron. 24:9; Titus 1:1; Jude 1:1; Jas. 1:1; 2Pet. 1:1). For that is our purpose, to serve, not be served.

 

"This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God." 1Corinthians 4:1

 

John 2:6 "Now there were set there six water pots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece."

 

Jewish tradition required several kinds of ceremonial washings. Strict Jews washed their hands before a meal, between courses, and after the meal. This purifying extended not only to washing ones hands, but also to washing ones cups and vessels (Mk. 7:3, 4).

 

Christ expands on this concept when He refutes the Pharisees. Christ was teaching that we should clean first that "which is within the cup" that the outside may be clean also (Mat. 23:26). The cup is used because it is an instrument that can hold water, and therefore is symbolic of a vessel.

 

(The prophet Ezekiel spoke of the transformation of these vessels with a heart of stone, into vessels filled with Gods Holy Spirit, with a sincere desire to abide by Gods word.

 

"Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart with new and right desires, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new, obedient heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so you will obey my laws and do whatever I command." Ezekiel 36:25-27

 

Ezekiel is speaking of the sprinkling clean water by the Holy Spirit. We will be given a new heart, so we will obey Gods laws. Gods laws, which were written on tables of stone, will be written in fleshly tables of the heart (2 Cor. 3:3).

We are to cleanse our hands of wickedness, and purify our hearts.

 

"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. " James 4:8

These vessels for purification are still in use today. We must be able to see that we are vessels of the Most High God and His Holy Spirit. (Mk. 7:8). )

We should be more concerned about purifying our hearts in obeying Gods laws in all truth.

 

"Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart," 1Peter 1:22

 

This world is set up to draw us away from God. We should be thinking about our repentance and contemplate being baptized, for the washing away of our sins (Acts 22:16). Those who are baptized should continue to purify their hearts in obedience to Gods laws. By drawing close to God, He will draw closer to us (Jas. 4:8).

 

John 2:7 "Jesus said to them, "Fill the water pots with water." And they filled them up to the brim."

 

Now Christ only addressed the servants, since they represent the Church. He is commanding us to fill the water pots. We may presume that Christ is telling us to fill the people of the nations with the water, which we may take to mean the word of God. So the water pots, which were filled for washing the hands and cups, are filled with water to symbolize the washing of the nations through the word of God (Eph. 5:26).

 

"Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." Hebrews 10:22

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