I made a vegetable lasagna once that turned out well, but was way too big. I took over half of the leftovers to my women’s class potluck and it got rave reviews and several requests. So I went home and started typing the two page recipe containing at least two dozen ingredients. The typing required a careful reading of the recipe so I wouldn’t give anyone wrong amounts or directions, and as I did so I discovered that I had completely forgotten one ingredient and had missed one of the procedures. Just imagine how good it would have been if I had done the whole thing correctly.
Too many times we try to read the Bible like I read that recipe, especially the passages we think we already know. I have said many times to many classes, the biggest hindrance to learning is what you think you already know. Today I am going to prove it to you.
Have you ever said, or even taught, that turning the water to wine was the first miracle Jesus ever did? I know, it’s what all the Bible class curricula say. Well, it’s your job to check out those lessons with your own careful reading. Most of the time that means reading far beyond the actual lesson text. This isn’t even hard to see, but you do have to think about what you see. Some time today when you have the time—okay, make the time—read the following verses.
John 1:45-51—Jesus tells Nathanael that he saw him before it was possible for him to see him. This was enough of a miracle that it brought a confession from Nathanael: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel”, v 49.
2:11—“This is the first of his signs” (water to wine)
2:23—“Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed on his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.” (Notice, this is an unknown number of signs,)
4:16-19—Jesus tells the woman at the well all about her life, a life he could not have known about except miraculously. She would later tell her neighbors, “Come see a man who told me all that ever I did. Can this be the Christ?” v 29. She certainly thought she had seen a miracle.
4:46-54—Jesus heals the nobleman’s son, which John labels “the second sign that Jesus did.” What about John 1? What about 2:23? What about Samaria?
For years I read “first” and “second,” knowing full well about the other signs before and between them, and didn’t even think about what I was reading. I was reading it like a recipe, a quick once over because I already knew the story. Now, having seen all the passages together, you can see that “first” and “second” in John 2:11 and 4:54 obviously do not mean the simple chronological “first” and “second” you might think at first glance. You need the entire context of John to figure it out.
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name, John 20:30,31. Right there John tells you not only why he wrote his book, but that he simply chose certain signs to discuss in detail. If you do a careful study of the entire book, you will discover that he chose seven, each making a particular point about the power of Jesus that proves his Deity. No, I am not going to list them for you. You need to take up your Bibles and figure it out for yourself so you know firsthand.
When John says “This is the first,” and “this is the second,” he is simply referring to the list of seven he intends to discuss more fully. Turning the water to wine was the first on his list, NOT the first miracle Jesus ever did, and all you have to do is read earlier in the book to see at least one more—Nathanael’s. In fact, you cannot even count the number he did in between the “first” and the “second,” 2:23.
So, be careful what you believe. Be even more careful what you teach because that could affect many others. Pay attention to the details and don’t pull events and verses out of context. Do you want to know why so many false doctrines spread? Because people read the “proof texts” like a recipe, a quick scan instead of a careful reading, if indeed they read them at all.
Don’t skim the Word of God. Give it the attention it deserves.
And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 2 Pet 1:19.