One of the Bible’s best known places is Cana. The precise location of this first century Galilean village is still the subject of scholarly debate, but the miracle said to have taken place there has passed into popular folklore:
The Gospel records that as a result of the miracle, “the disciples believed in him”. Of course, sceptics might say Jesus had performed a party trick, albeit a pretty spectacular one. But if it was just a trick, there were some pretty strange elements to it. Magicians revel in the bafflement of their audience, whereas Jesus doesn’t tell anyone what he has done.
But perhaps it is no wonder Jesus keeps his miracle quiet. Once again, this miracle has shocking symbolic power. What Jesus did revealed even more explicitly who he believed he was. John’s Gospel makes a special point of mentioning that the water jars were overflowing with a superabundance of new wine. The miracle had produced huge amounts, in fact it has been calculated at something close to 120 gallons.
But this superabundance had a symbolic meaning. The disciples would have been familiar with the Jewish prophecies, which described a time in which there would be plentiful food for everyone and an end to illness and impurities. It was the time they’d all been waiting for, when the rule of Satan would be replaced by the rule of God. It would be nothing short of a return to Eden. And it was clear from the Jewish scriptures and the Dead Sea scrolls that only one person would usher in this new age of plenty. It would be God himself.
Turning water into wine; walking on water; exorcising demons – these were all the actions of a man by now certain of his identity. Much more than that, they were acts that first century Jews expected only God to perform.
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In his own time, Jesus was famous as a miracle worker. The miracles shocked those who saw them – not because of the spactacle, but because of the dangerous message they carried about Jesus. In these pages we follow the new BBC series, The Miracles of Jesus, and try to decode three miracles to find out what they were all about.
Images copyright BBC / Religion 2006
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