When the New Creation Isn't Here Yet

This year we are studying the Gospel of John in our women’s bible study. For twenty weeks (ten in the fall and ten in the spring), we are immersing ourselves in John’s account of Christ’s first coming, his life, his death, and his resurrection. I team teach with another woman in our church, so every other week I get to spend additional time in the text for the week. 

A couple of weeks ago, I taught on John 2, where Jesus turns the water into wine at Cana and also cleanses the temple. Both of these instances are quite familiar with all who have grown up in the church, or even have a basic understanding of the Gospel accounts. As one friend, “turning water into wine is one of the easiest miracles for children to grasp. They know what wine is and they know what water is—and they know they aren’t the same.” So we learn about it early on in our time in church. The same is true for the temple cleansing. As my kids call it, this is the story about angry Jesus. He is angry. All who filled the temple with commercial endeavors were using God’s house for selfish and sinful purposes. His zeal for his Father’s house is compelling and just. 

But what struck me last week is not what I knew about these stories, but what I didn’t know. I had never noticed that the miracle at the wedding feast in Cana is the beginning of a section that ends with another miracle in Cana (the healing of the official’s son in John 4). The themes that begin at the feast are carried through Jesus’ interaction with Nicodemus, his interaction with the Samaritan woman, and ultimately his interaction with the official. They all build on each other. 

I had never noticed that his turning of water into wine was actually the fulfillment of prophesy, where the Messiah ushers in the new creation by making wine flow in abundance and by bringing his people into a new land filled with peace (Is. 25:6-9; Joel 2:21-29; Amos 9:11-15). I learned all that a couple of weeks ago and the connections astounded me. 

What stayed with me, though, was not that his miraculous sign began the dawning of the new creation, but how hard it was for all to see that what he was doing was exactly what was prophesied. It was hard for many reasons—unbelief, sin, blind eyes, God’s sovereignty. But it was also hard because when he inaugurated his kingdom it was only the beginning. It wasn’t fully consummated. So they missed it. Because the Messiah didn’t come and make all things new right then and there, they didn’t get it. Instead they got angry with him and didn’t believe he was who he said he was. 

So what’s the connection to us? 

Just like the Jews in Jesus’ day, we also live in a yet to be consummated kingdom. It’s what theologians call the “already, but not yet.” So we too live with a lot of evidences that this world is groaning for redemption (Rom. 8:22) and don’t have any clear answer of when that final redemption is coming. We live in a world with jars filled with wine, but also still thirsty all around us.

The Old Testament passages that spoke about the miracle Jesus performed at Cana are painting a grand feast, wine covering the whole earth, basically a land flowing with milk and honey. Just consider Amos 9:14-15:

They shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land I have given them.

This is the prophecy they were hoping the Messiah would fulfill. While it was utterly astounding that he filled all these empty jars with wine (who else but God can do that?), it wasn’t a complete fulfillment. They miss it, as we often do, because it’s a glimpse of what he is doing—not the full picture. He is doing this in Cana, not Jerusalem, and definitely not the whole world. The promised Messiah was supposed to make the wine cover the earth, not some jars in a small town in Galilee. The kingdom of God starts small, like a mustard seed (verse). The wine is abundant here (as was promised), but not over the whole earth (as was promised). Jesus has already come, but has not yet fully consummated all he came to do. It’s not all right yet. We see the dawning of the new creation in the water turning into wine. He is the one through whom God created the world and he is the one that even the water obeys and becomes wine. Just think again about the prologue in John 1:3 “All things were made through him.” Even wine. The Messiah is here. He is Lord of creation and he is here. 

The danger for the Jews, and for us, is that we fail to trust him as the promised Messiah because we haven’t seen the final consummation of all that he said he would do. We live in this same in between. We live lives that are not yet what God said they would be—sin still lingers, our bodies fail us, life is hard. Don’t miss him. He is ushering in the new creation, it’s just not all here yet. He came once and is coming again. The promised messiah is here and we must believe in him.

This has tremendous implications for all of us as we long for things to be made right in this world. His first coming, and all he did to prove that he was and is God (turning water into wine, walking on water, feeding the five thousand, healing the blind, the sick, and the lame, transforming hearts from stone to flesh, raising dead men to life, and even walking out of that tomb on the third day)—all of this is the guarantee that what he began at a wedding feast in Cana he will complete when he makes all things new and the wine flows in abundance in the new heavens and new earth. Until then, we wait and trust.