Jesus saith unto them. Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. (John 2. v.7).
EVERY NEED SUPPLIED
“Mount Zion” Chapel, Mr. H. Crowter.
21st June, 1969 (Evening).
“Jesus saith unto them. Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.” (John 2. v.7).
As most of you are acquainted, this afternoon I spoke from the third verse of this chapter,* introducing the subject of the first miracle of the Lord in Cana of Galilee, associated with a marriage, how that the Lord was invited with His disciples. God sanctifying the occasion to the shewing forth of the glory of Christ as we have recorded in the l1th verse: “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee and manifested forth His glory.” We spoke of the deficiencyÂ—”When they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto Him, ‘They have no wine.’.”
“They have no wine”. My friends, it is good for us to acknowledge our deficiency, our great need. It was wisdom in Mary the mother of Jesus to take the prevailing need to the Lord Jesus Christ. There was none other in the company sufficient to meet the need. She was a wise womanÂ—she did not go to the disciples. She had proved in the thirty years they had been together, that the place to take a need was to the Lord Himself. Have you proved that? We read later on of one who was troubled and took his case to the disciples, the case of the dumb spirit which needed casting out. (Mark 9. 17 & 18). The question was asked, “Why could not we cast him out?” (v.28). The Lord Jesus Himself proved sufficient for the need, even the devils were subject unto Him, and a real deliverance was wrought. There is a direct relationship between our needs in both providence and grace, and the all-sufficiency of Christ to meet those needs. Need viewed graciously will discover the ability and infinity of the One who can supply all need. You say: “My life is full of needs.” What a comprehensive view of Christ’s ability, as God may sanctify that to your understanding, for He is able to supply all our need without exception (Philippians 4.19), as He sovereignly sees fit to do so for our good and for His glory.
As we said this afternoon, there was a great need, they had no wine. Their impotency, their inability, and their infirmity was clearly defined by the mother of Jesus when she came to Him and said, “They have no wine”. You will never dishonour Christ by making your needs known to Him. He knows what things we have need of before we ask, but it is to be observed again and again in
the miracles of Christ’s earthly life, that drawn from the heart of the subjects of miracle was a confession of their need personally or relatively either in words that were uttered or the cases brought. It is right and proper that we should present our needs before the Lord; present them in faith as Mary presented this case. There is a glorifying of Christ, believing He is able to meet the need as He sovereignly sees fit so to do.
We again confess before the Lord tonightÂ—pulpit and pewÂ— “we have no wine”. We are here gathered seeking profit for our souls, that our hearts may rejoice under the preaching of the gospel, but we know in and of ourselves we have no wine. Let Christ bless our assembly, bless His own ordinance of gospel preaching, bless His own word, bless the singing of His praises, and it will be wine to our immortal souls. Without such blessing, all is in vain.
In the exercise of prayer before the Lord you may sometimes have to confess you do not know what to say. Well, tell the Lord you do not know what to say. The Lord knows more about the desolations of our hearts through sin than we can ever know because He is infinite and we are finite. The Lord knows the completeness of our ruin and the completeness of our need. He is not displeased with our confessions, for the knowledge of need is a fruit of His Spirit’s teaching. Our confessions of need glorify Him, as they are the fruit of His Spirit revealing to us the utter ruin of our souls. The difference between the Pharisee and the publican in the temple was that the publican knew his need and confessed it, whereas the ignorant Pharisee said. “I thank God I am not as other men are.” There was no need. The publican glorified Christ in the confession which he made when he smote upon his breast saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” My friends, do not be hesitant in your confessions, pour them out before the Lord, make your worst condition known.
The Lord answered His mother, “Woman, what have I to do with thee, mine hour is not yet come.” He related her need to the purpose of His incarnation, and there is a relationship between ‘our need’ and ‘that hour’. Our hour of need and the hour of Christ’s passion are always related in the purposes of God. That is marvellous! You may say, “What is your authority for saying that?” Well, the promises, for the promises are the fruit of Christ’s passion. Had not Christ suffered, we had not received the help of God in the gift and fulfilment of the promises. I recall visiting a dear old saint, a man of considerable stature in the things of God and I was but a little striplingÂ—I visited him because I loved him for Jesus’ sake. He was situated in a home for the blind, deprived of many earthly comforts, for the Lord was weaning him from earth, and it was not many days before he was safely landed on the heavenly Canaan’s shore. In the midst of his trying circumstances his conversation had great effect upon my spirit, and he said to me, “Harold, where was this promise bought for us, ‘I will never leave thee nor forsake thee’ ” (Hebs. 13.5)? I was ignorant
and so turned the question back to him, saying “Mr. M. you tell me.” The dear old man replied, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me”, (Matt. 27.46), that is where that promise was bought for us.”
Mary, His mother, said unto the servants, “Whatsoever”Â— without question, without exceptionÂ—”Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it.” Have you ever applied your mind to that? The unreserved freedom of this woman who was so well versed in the knowledge of the perfection of Christ’s spirit, power and purpose, that she could say, “Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it.” In thirty years’ experience she had proved the purity of His motives, so sound, so good, so beautiful, that whatsoever He saith unto you, it is always your wisdom to do it, for it will ever lead to a good issue, and is consistent with a loving and gracious purpose. He never leads a person wrongly, never counsels anyone unwisely. He never falters and never fails. In essence she testifies that whatsoever she had done according to His direction it had worked together for good, had been most profitable in the issue. Those of you present here this evening who have been in a profession far longer than I have, has the Lord ever told you to do anything that proved unprofitable to you? Can you look back and ever charge God with foolishness that He has commanded you to do anything unprofitable? Our trouble is our disobedience, our unbelieving reluctance, a wayward spirit, wherein we search for alternatives and make excuses.
“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love.”
Here is the secret of the trouble! Not that the Lord has ever told us to do something unprofitable, for in the keeping of His word there is great reward. (Psalm 19.11.). “Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it.” Do not procrastinate. You will never prove that He counsels you falsely. Never, never.
“And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.” (v.6). These were large stone vessels, each holding between twenty and thirty gallons of water, used with regard to the Jewish tradition that the fingers must be clean when partaking of food. They were not outwardly attractive, their attraction being in their use. These vessels stood there empty. They were open-necked, so that one could look right down into them; there was no question of them containing anything secretively or unobservable! Nothing could have been deposited in them unseen which could have been a secret cause of the change of water into wine. There is nothing magical or secretive in real religion; there is no room for superstition. Everything is open, and a look into the vessel will immediately dispel all notions of a superstitious character. The simple explanation of real religion in the exercise of it is the blessing of Christ resting upon the appointed means of grace. This changes the water into wine. O the superstition which surrounds professing
Christianity, the magic, the mystery; it is an abomination to our minds. We say, “Away with such rubbish, we want nothing to do with it.” When secretive things find their way into a professing church, we may conclude that Christ is not there. He is not the author of such practice. No, there is nothing mysteriously secretiveÂ—it is clear and open. They were open-necked vessels, large in character, their quantity or capacity is wonderful, twenty to thirty firkins apiece, multiplied six times. “And there were set there six waterpots of stone”, set according to the purposes of God for a specific purpose that through their instrumentality the glory of Jesus Christ should be manifested. He was present here, blessing the means.
In further consideration of the command we would notice that servants were there, “His mother said unto the servants”. “Jesus saith unto them. Fill the waterpots with water” (v.7). You ask, “Why did He give that command?” He who turned the water into wine could have caused these vessels to be full, or even filled with water without the use of servants. My friends. God uses means. God’s servants have a responsibility to attend to His revealed will. God could bless your souls without bringing me to Watford. I could have stayed at Old Hill today; you could have congregated here and God could have blessed your souls without my coming, but God uses means. He says to His servants, “Fill the waterpots with water.” We need to prayerfully consider the will of God concerning us. Some people fatalistically say: “Well, the scripture saith, ‘Without Me ye can do nothing’, therefore what can I do towards my own salvation? I can only wait for the electing, predestinating purposes of God to unfold.” With arms folded they fall into hell. That is the position and end of the fatalist. Faith acknowledges the sovereign will of God, and consistent therewith Christ Himself used means. “Fill the waterpots with water”.
“They have no wine”. How are we going to fill the waterpots with water? Well, within the limited power God has given us we are going to attend to the commands of Jesus Christ, to fill the waterpots with water. We are not going to half fill themÂ—we are humbly resolved to fill them up to the brim. We are going to attend to the commands of Jesus Christ so far as we are able, and not going to leave anything undone. This is the approach of faith to the commands of Jesus Christ. Let me ask this questionÂ—”Are you filling the waterpots with water, filling them up to the brim?” Are you paying close attention to the precepts and commands of Holy Scripture, and doing those things which the Word of God enjoins upon you? Are you assembling yourselves together with the people of God, and not forsaking this? The apostle Paul writes to the Hebrews, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is.” (ch. 10, 25). Are you filling this waterpot with water, that whenever the chapel is open you are here? Your pastor can rely upon you being present, and when he does not see you he is concerned, knowing it must be illness or adverse circumstance which prevents, for your seat is never empty when you are
well and everything is in order? I know from experience that consistent attendance upon the public means of grace gladdens a pastor’s heart. The regulars are invariably the backbone of a cause, they fill the waterpots with water.
Another practical aspect of this subject. You read and hear of godly persons receiving a word from the Lord, Scriptures applied, promises given, and as you examine your own experience you are obliged to confess, “Never do I get one.” What about that dusty Bible on the shelf in your home? How long since you moved it, since you read it prayerfully? You are not filling the waterpots with water. You reply, “I reckon to read a chapter every Sunday morning, and a few verses, usually a short Psalm before I go to bed.” This is not filling the waterpot with water, doing all in your power to keep the command of Jesus Christ, “Search the Scriptures” (John 5.39.).
Again, you say, “There is not much real union and communion amongst those attending our chapel. We meet on Sundays and in the week, but after services we break up and do not see each other until the next time appointed for public worship, and I am disappointed at the lack of fellowship nowadays.” Do you ever leave your home and go to the other person? Do you always sit down expecting others to come to you? Is it true of you that you sometimes arise from your armchair, although tired in body and mind after a heavy day in business or in the house, saying to yourself, “It is a long time since I called to see old Mrs. So-and-so.” and you pay her a visit? You have filled the waterpot with water. It occasions energy, personal sacrifice, to keep the commandments of the Lord Jesus. “Fill the waterpots with water, and they filled them up to the brim.”
Further upon the point of relationships which I mentioned this afternoon, especially the relationship between husband and wife. Are you filling the waterpots with water? You complain, “My wife is not doing for me all which she ought to do.” Are you doing all you ought to do for her? Is all the shortcoming in your marriage relationship her responsibility, or is some of it yours? You reply, “She is far from a perfect wife.” Are you a perfect husband? Is there no abundant room for improvement in your position and attitude toward your partner? Look at yourself first. You will then find enough to attend to before dwelling upon the shortcomings of your partner. In addition we have the relationship of parents and children. The Lord has left explicit instructions about these matters, and we do well to pay attention to His commands and precepts.
We can only prosper spiritually as we attend to them. What about the attitude of children to their parents? “Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.” (Colossians 3.20). “Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” (Ephesians 6. 2,3.). What about the relationship of parents to their children? Fathers
are given instruction (and mothers) how they should bring up children, (Ephesians 6.4., and Colossians 3.21.). My friends, there are fruits and effects of our disregard of and disobedience to these things. We tend to blame the Lord for the withdrawal of His Spirit from us, that we do not enjoy the wine as formerly. Have we neglected to fill the waterpots with water? Have we failed to do what the Scriptures enjoin upon us? We cannot justly blame GodÂ— the fault is ours, ours. “Fill the waterpots with water, and they filled them up to the brim, to the brim.”.
Let us consider relationships within the church. Do you blame your pastor because he does not preach as you consider he should? You think, “If I had opportunity to go to a certain town or locality, there is a ministry which would suit me much better than the one I now sit under.” Could it be that you are not doing your part toward your dear Pastor? We all incline to sloth and indifference to our personal responsibility naturally. Do you pray for your Pastor, and hold up his hands to the going down of the sun? (Exodus 17.12.). Are you untiring in your support in secret before the Lord for the success of his ministry, for the unction of the Holy Ghost to rest upon his labours? He may be filling the waterpots up to the brim in caring for your souls, laying one case after another before the Lord. If he is a real Pastor he watches for your souls, and everything reflects upon himself. If he sees any of his flock straying, allowing something which grieves him, he feels to have failed in giving the necessary warning. The responsibility invariably comes home. Sometimes he may feel to be at wit’s end, and cannot possibly continue because of personal failure, inconsistencies within his flock adding considerably to his burden, whetting a very keen edge on the devil’s weapon of temptation. Ah! my friends, you do not know what you cost your Pastor in the night season as well as in the daytime.
He said to all the servants, without exception. “Fill the waterpots with water”, and they “filled them up to the brim”. What was the sequel to their obedience to the Divine command? He saith unto them, “Draw out now.” As soon as they had filled them up to the brim. He said, “Draw out now”. Was water drawn out? No. Why not, what had happened? He commanded His blessing, and that turned the water into wine. Everything needful was in that blessing. If the servants fill the waterpots with water up to the brim, the Lord command His blessing, and there will be wine to draw out. If He bless, we shall be blessed. If He bless not, there is only water and nothing else. The secret is in His blessing. There is nothing magic, nothing superstitious about this. The servants filled the open-necked vessels with water according to the command of Jesus Christ, He condescended to bless the same, and the great quantity of water was made into wine. You may say, “There is little blessing realised today.” My friends, there is but little water in the pots. We are so carnal, busy with worldly things, temporal things, that the things of the spirit are being neglected. There is a solemn withholding of the Spirit of God, we live in times of gross
spiritual declension, and can we blame God? We are not filling the waterpots with water, we do not pay strict attention to Scriptural precept and commandment, we are dilatory servants of God, neglectful disciples of Jesus Christ. We cannot blame the Spirit of God for the state of things, we are obliged to confess, “My leanness, my leanness, woe unto me!” (Isaiah 24.16).
“Draw out now”Â—what a wonderful time was the time of drawing out after the Lord had blessed. It is a wonderful time when the dear Lord grants us a taste of the wine which is the fruit of His blessing. Here then is experience which is understood and known by the church in all ages. We confess we have no wine, but filling the waterpots with water, waiting upon Christ Jesus for His promised blessing, there is provision made, yea enough and to spare. None could complain of a deficiency of wine now. When the Lord commands His blessing there is an overwhelming. In John 6 it is recorded of the five loaves and two fishes that five thousand men partook, with twelve baskets filled of fragments which remained. Our Lord Jesus Christ is by no means niggardly in His bestowals, in the provisions which He makes, they are copious.
The disciples, invited with Christ Jesus to the marriage feast, had eventually to go forth into the public ministry as the apostles of the Lord. In this first miracle were lessons written on their minds and hearts, proving useful to them all their days. The initial situationÂ—”They have no wine.” Wine was needed, but they had none. The need, and their impotence, shut them in to Christ who alone had the power to supply that need. This is just where we are. Christ did not provide without using meansÂ—let us have this fact fixed firmly in our minds. He gave to them a commandment what He would have them to do, and when they obeyed to the limit of their power and ability. He commanded His blessing, and immediately their whole need was abundantly, richly and fully supplied.
In these days of spiritual declension, may we be enabled to think and meditate on these things. Many are twisting and turning in an endeavour to explain away the cause of places of worship closing down, why ministers of the gospel are not being thrust out as in days past, why conversions of sinners are not brought to the light, why congregations are depleting and young people scattering. God is the same to endless years; Christ Jesus is possessed of all power as of old, for He is the same yesterday, and today, and will be for evermore. We have the sacred Scriptures as did our fathers. My friends, is not the trouble within? I feel it to be so, and I put it to you. Are we filling the waterpots with water, filling them up to the brim? Neglect is the forerunner of decay naturally and spiritually.
May our gracious God sanctify these few remarks. I need stirring up, my dear friends. We are so carnal in our thinking and our acting today. We shelter behind excuses in attending to the need of our bodies, of our homes, of our businesses, but what about our immortal souls, and what about the Church of Christ?
“And they filled them up to the brim.” God help you and I so to do by His grace, and as He may condescend to command His blessing,
let us rememberÂ—”They have no wine”Â—and all the glory shall be His.
*The afternoon sermon appeared in January, 1971 issue of Gospel Tidings.