On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water” ; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days. – John 2:1-12
I have been looking forward to this reach of the river. It is such an interesting mixture of miracle, metaphor, and mystery. There are also many layers and nuances of meaning here. Let’s dive in!
The miracle part is pretty obvious, it is not every day someone is able to instantaneously change water into wine. Jesus performs this miracle in a quiet way out of the spotlight so He is clearly not seeking to gain fame from His actions. Most of the miracles that Jesus chooses to do have some connection to building a stronger relationship with either the recipient of the miracle or people looking onto the miraculous event. It seems like this miracle was mainly for the benefit of the disciples who were with Jesus at the wedding. It was a start toward changing their worldview and convincing them that they are seeing something new and different.
Of course the miracle of turning water into wine happens every day all around the world. The difference in this case is the rate, complexity, and director of this changing process. In order to make really good wine, as is described in this passage, requires a master vintner who has many decades of experience, good raw materials and supplies, and patience. Jesus’ instantaneous transmutation of the water into wine required none of these things. Turning all of us flawed followers into faithful children God, on the other hand, requires a master vintner indeed.
The metaphorical meaning here is that Jesus is changing the water baptism of John the Baptist, and all the old practices and traditions, into new wine. This part of the metaphorical meaning is highlighted in the containers for the water that was changed “Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing”. Jesus was taking the former practices of making oneself “clean” and turning them into something much better and more complex, wine. Not just any wine but wine that clearly was superior to other wines that people might consume. Jesus is using this event to teach His disciples that He will be doing the same thing with them and all those who choose to follow Him in the future.
It is also interesting that this miracle takes place at a wedding given the common imagery of bride and groom between God and Israel. Jesus’ mother says to Jesus “They have no more wine”. In many ways this was an apt description of the religious leaders of the day. The keepers of the old treasures are not interested in the new song that Jesus is bringing.
The people who witness Jesus’ miracle is also an important detail to the story. The author makes it clear that the “master of the banquet”, AKA the religious leaders, “did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.” This is an early example of the way that Jesus will overturn many of the power and privilege structures in favor of common people willing to drop everything and follow Him.
Jesus was hesitant to perform this miracle as “My hour has not yet come.” I am not sure why His mother was pushing His early coming out as the Messiah. Perhaps she was merely proud of Her son and interested in demonstrating his divinity. I am not sure. I suspect that Jesus did not want to distract from His core message of transformation by a dramatic transmutation.
The passage ends with a clear explanation for why Jesus changed the water into wine, “What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him”. Jesus will reveal his glory in many other ways to help His disciples, and all subsequent seekers, to believe. God really does believe in us and wants to make us into the most amazing wine ever. Unfortunately His disciples, and many of us subsequent seekers, will have difficulty seeing and understanding these revelations so that we can be changed.
Prayer: God help us to see Your miracles and revelations so we can be turned into the new wine that You want us to be.