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The Six Waterpots in John 2

Jun 28, 2010

The book of John contains eight miraculous "signs" whereby Jesus "manifested forth his glory" (John 2:11). These eight signs were designed to prophesy details of the eight days of the feast of Tabernacles.

Likewise, the structure of these signs shows that the first correlates with the last, the second correlates with the seventh, the third with the sixth, and the fourth and fifth are tied together in the middle to represent "the midst of the feast" (John 7:14).

The eighth sign, of course, is the one where the disciples gather 153 large fish into their net (21:11). The number is significant, because it is also the numeric value of the Hebrew term beni h' elohim, "Sons of God.." So the story is not just another fish story, but is really about gathering the mature Sons of God.

As I said, the eighth sign correlates with the first, where Jesus turned the water into wine. It is the Sons of God whose nature will be changed according to this promise. So we might expect to find the number 153 in that first miracle. It is there, but it is hidden, so it requires some digging.

The sign is recorded in John 2:1-10. Jesus was at a wedding in Cana, and the guests ran out of wine. Jesus' mother was there, and so she told Him the situation. Verse 6 says (NASB),

"Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each."

Of course, in those days they did not know what a "gallon" was. They used firkins. A firkin was the equivalent of 10.2 gallons (American), or 8.5 Imperial gallons (British). So when the KJV reads "two or three firkins apiece," the NASB rounds it off to twenty or thirty gallons.

It is odd, however, that John would be so non-specific. I mean, are these two firkins each, or three? Or were there different sizes of waterpots? We are not told. But let us suppose that the waterpots held three firkins each, and let us convert this to Imperial gallons for the moment.

Six waterpots times three firkins would be 18 firkins total. Each firkin is 8.5 Imperial gallons. Let us multiply it: 18 x 8.5 = 153 Imperial gallons.

So it looks like Jesus turned 153 Imperial gallons of water into wine. But let us figure it another way, using American gallons. Since we are told that the waterpots contained two or three firkins apiece, let us suppose that they averaged 2.5 firkins apiece and that they were filled to the brim.

Six waterpots times 2.5 firkins comes to 15 firkins total. Each firkin is 10.2 American gallons, so let us multiply it: 15 x 10.2 = 153 American gallons.

So by two ways of reckoning, we find that John's non-specific description of the size of the waterpots seems to have been written for us today, so that we would know that this was about the Sons of God (153). The 153 gallons correlates with the 153 fish in the eighth sign of John.

Now I find it interesting that the Gulf Basin is a large cauldron or waterpot. (See the previous blog for 6/26/10.)

The waterpots in John 2 were for the purpose of "purification" (2:6). There is death in the Gulf Cauldron. It has been rendered unclean by the oil spill. But Elisha's eighth sign is to put barley meal into the pot in order to purify it. His eighth sign is the equivalent of John's eighth sign (153 fish), which also correlates with the first sign (153 gallons in the cauldron).

Even as Elisha turned the poisonous meal into good food, so also did Jesus turn the water into wine. Both signs signify resurrection from death to life and also transformation from flesh to spiritual bodies.

I think, then, that it is significant that we would be led to make a trip to the headwaters of the Mississippi River, the "River of the Holy Spirit" (old Spanish maps). As our act of faith, we will be casting some barley meal (flour) into the headwaters leading to the Gulf, as we speak a word of life and healing, resurrection and transformation.

This will have far more implications than just the natural disaster that we see in the Gulf. Elisha's sign and Jesus' sign also had far more meaning than just the local situation. All of these, including our sign on July 9, carry essentially the same meaning, because they are all based on the same biblical principle. Since "July is like September," we can say that July 9 is like September 9, which is Rosh Hoshana, the prophesied day of resurrection.

As of now, we only have a limited view of how this will all work out. In fact, there is no need to know all the results. God seldom reveals His hand ahead of time. He reveals just enough so that we will know what to do and have some understanding of its meaning. The revelation of His Word is sufficient to instill Faith as we hear the Word (Rom. 10:17). But in order for Faith to be complete, as James says, it must lead to active obedience. But for obedience to be true obedience, it must go against or beyond one's human nature and/or carnal mind in some way. God usually accomplishes this purpose by leaving us with some lack of understanding.

Of course, the act of driving four hours just to throw some barley meal into a river with a few words does not exactly make much sense to one's natural understanding. In fact, to the natural mind it is downright silly, if not a symptom of low-grade mental illness. But I have learned by experience over the years the value of hearing and responding by Faith. It has usually taken time to prove these things, but eventually the proof is seen. The results usually come to the surface on specific time cycles from the act of faith, showing the cause-and-effect relationship between the two events.

Even then, however, one must have some knowledge of timing and the meaning of numbers in order to really get an understanding of how this stuff works. So that is why I teach these things, and I have been gratified that so many people are actually listening and learning.


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Dr. Stephen Jones


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