Seven years ago we planted a Vine in our garden, and threaded the tender shoot through a hole in the brickwork into our conservatory. Each year we have watched the growth, and in the last two years gathered grapes. But this year we have seen the first of really mature bunches of grapes hanging from the verdant greenery across the roof of the conservatory. Yesterday we picked our first bunch of sweet black juicy fruit, and thanked the Lord for His handiwork. As we sit out there on sunny days and look up, we are reminded of the coming days of security in the Kingdom of God, when ‘nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more, but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and none shall make them afraid.’ (Micah 4:4) This may be a far cry from present world conditions, but we believe God’s word to be true, and feel confident that the Mican prophecy will surely come to pass, and our expectation is for the near future.
Friends of ours gathered bunches of last year’s vintage, and made some wine. But the fruit has only reached its proper maturity this year. Once again, we have been reminded of God’s word, when He spoke about the planting of fruit trees. ‘In the fifth year you may begin to eat of the fruit, that it may yield more richly for you.’ ‘(Lev. 19:25)’ Certainly the fruit has matured well since the fifth year and this year has been a wonderful vintage.
In today’s supermarkets one finds numerous varieties of red and white wines from many countries. However, it is difficult to find wine that had been bottled more than two or three years before. But those who are connoisseurs, and who have the wherewithal to pay for it, would be looking for wines that have been allowed to sit for ten or more years. We have never had the privilege of sampling such vintages, but accept the word of those who say that the longer a wine is left, the sweeter and rounder is both the bouquet and the flavour.
All this brings us to the story of the wedding feast in John’s Gospel, chapter 2. Let’s read the delightful tale once again.
And on the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and Jesus’ mother ‘was there. And both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. And when the wine had run out Jesus’ mother said to Him, ‘They have no wine.’ And 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 tells you, do it.’
Now there were six stone water pots resting there, after the fashion of those used by the Jews for purifying, each having a capacity of two or three measures. ‘[NB. A firkin was nearly 9 gallons. Each water pot would have about 20 gallons. 6 such pots would hold about 120 gallons.]
Jesus told them, ‘Fill the pots with water.’ And they filled them to the brim. And He said, ‘Draw from these and carry to the master of the feast.’ And they did so.’ And when the director of the feast tasted the water-which-had-become-wine, and did not know whence it derived, (but the servants who had drawn the water knew) the master called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘It is the normal practice to set forth the good wine first, and when they have had their fill bring out that of a lesser quality, but you have kept the good wine until now.’
And this which Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, was the beginning of signs, and He manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.
Jesus converted water into wine instantaneously. Normally water travels up the stems of the vine in spring-time, and swells the grapes. In due time the grapes ripen, are picked, crushed in a vat, strained,’ allowed to ferment for some months, and then decanted from the lees and stored (in those days) in skins.
The wine that Jesus made was said to be ‘good wine.’ In other words it was not just of a superior vintage, but also of long standing, which always improved the flavour. And so a time interval of perhaps seven years may be attributed to the whole process, which had been collapsed into a moment of time in the operation of the miracle. I have suggested seven years, but there is nothing ‘magic’ in that number. I could equally well have said eight, or even twenty! ””
Is the point appreciated? This miracle was one of creation, and the created thing suddenly possessed all semblance of age.‘ In the purposes of God, this miracle of some 2,000 years ago is now finding a most important function, one that would never have crossed the minds of those who witnessed it. In those far off days creation was taken for granted by the whole house of Israel, but we are now living in a society with a vastly different mental outlook. Almost every book, magazine, radio and television programme devoted to ‘beginnings’ speaks about evolution. Furthermore, time has become the symbol of a road stretching back ages into the past. Whereas the Bible seems to indicate a time of creation not so very far distant in the past, we are now being told that the Universe is several billion years old.
Can this simple tale in John’s Gospel help us? The master of the feast was fully persuaded that the wine was of the best quality. If someone had said to him, ‘Excuse me sir, but this wine has only just been created by a miracle,’ he would have laughed the idea to scorn, and said, ‘What preposterous rubbish! A person in my position is well qualified to assess the quality of wine, and I’m telling you that this is a magnificent vintage from perhaps a decade past.’
Doesn’t that sound reminiscent of exponents of evolutionary theory today? If we as Christians declare a belief in a young earth, shall we not receive the same scornful and somewhat patronising answer from ‘those who know‘? It takes quite a lot of courage today to stand by the Bible in respect of creation, and this is especially so with young believers, accosted by peer pressure and the militant way in which evolution is now forced on the world.
But if the wine appeared to be several years old, and to have derived from ‘natural processes’, then why shouldn’t our Planet, and even the whole Universe have derived from a stupendous divine creative fiat which gives us the impression that it is ‘as old as the hills’? And if I had arrived in the Garden of Eden just too late to witness the various acts of creation, I would expect to see trees as they are now. And if I should cut one down, it would have tree rings, because that is how trees grow. If I had met Adam, I would expect to see his navel, because that is how all human beings appear. And on looking at the environment, it would give me in all respects the appearance of age. Furthermore, there would be no consensus as to age. Huge mature trees would look hundreds of years old, whereas cornflowers in the grass would seem to be of this year’s growth, and so on.
‘But the servants knew.’‘ Yes, that’s the whole point. Someone was in the position of an observer, and as such could vouch for the creative miracle. But what about the creation of the earth? Do we have the good offices of an observer? The answer is yes, we do. In the first chapter of Genesis the Lord, the Creator, Himself declares to Adam and Eve exactly what He did, and therefore we have more than adequate authority for assuming a miraculous creative act rather than ‘natural processes’, whatever that expression could possibly mean.
Please don’t allow anyone to persuade you that this is a rather juvenile argument, hardly explaining anything, but just begetting a mountain of further questions. The walk of faith is quite different to the walk of intellect. The way of the intellectual mind can lead to the broad way that ends in the destruction of truth, and the establishment of the lie, whereas the way of the tree of life is the way of faith, and it is always prepared to put sacred writ first, before allowing human reason to get to work on it!.
Believers are expected to accept their Master’s words as authoritative. Take this as an example. On one occasion our Lord spoke about marriage and said ‘In the beginning God made them male and female.’‘ The reference was to the creation of Adam and Eve. If the Master implicitly believed and accepted the early chapters of Genesis, how can we hold up our heads in His presence and say that we, with our modern scientific knowledge, know better, and that Adam and Eve were merely mythical figures?
Likewise Paul made a very definitive statement, saying ‘As by one man sin entered the world, and by means of sin came death, and death passed through to all men.’‘ No one can doubt the existence of death!’ But do all so readily accept the entry of sin through Adam and Eve?’ Was Paul mistaken? If he had lived in our day and age, would he have made such a statement? No one can mistake the force of Paul’s argument. ‘As by one man’ cannot be fictionalised to mean a gradual falling away amongst primitive people. Someone might then maintain that he had derived from an unfallen individual?
No, as Paul said elsewhere, ‘If One died for all, then all were dead.’ There is a strong ring of finality in Paul’s words that call for belief rather than debate.
Over the years my wife and I, and now also our grown family, have relied on these Scriptures, and held fast to them, and quoted them at times when we have had to answer for our beliefs. And so we now pass on to our readers the amazing truth that lies behind the story of the wine that was made out of water, and its application to the divine fiat of creation. This is only the beginning of this search, which will take us into many strange areas before we are through. Sooner or later we shall have to examine the first chapter of Genesis, to see what it is actually telling us about age.