Sign #1 – Water into Wine

Sign #1 – Water into Wine

Sign #1 – Water into Wine.

This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed His glory. And the disciples believed in Him.” (John 2:11).

Cana. A tiny village about nine miles north of Nazareth in the Galilee region, Cana was about midway if one where traveling from Nazareth to Capernaum. We know that Nathaniel, also known as Bartholomew and one of the first disciples, lived in Cana. The Orthodox tradition is that the groom for this wedding was none other than Simon the Zealot, a future disciple of Jesus. Since the village was relatively small, there is no doubt the whole town was invited to the wedding festivities.

The Third Day. This first miracle of Jesus was on the “third day.” St. John here is referring to a kind of countdown in his head regarding this early week in Jesus’ ministry. Immediately after His baptism, on the “next day” (1:35) Jesus calls Andrew, then John, then Simon Peter. Then “the following day” (1:43), Jesus calls Philip and Nathaniel. Now comes “the third day” (2:1), when Jesus takes a handful of disciples to Cana for the wedding festivities. So it looks like the opening events in John are all within a week’s time. For some reason, John does not mention the Temptation of Christ, so we don’t know how that episode in Jesus’ life fits into John’s timetable.

Celebrate! Jewish weddings were a highlight of the year. The wedding itself affirmed the union of man and woman during God’s creation. Marriage was an act of obedience to God’s command to be fruitful and multiply should God bless the couple with children. And the wedding was a symbol of God’s union with His bride Israel, the marriage covenant being made at Mt. Sinai long ago with Moses officiating. So that is something to celebrate, for sure. The wedding feast following the wedding was a week-long celebration of the joining of two people, and the joining of two families as well. The feast was more like a festival, and was seen as a foretaste of the Messianic Feast at the end of the age. The Messianic Meal was a raucous celebration of the beginning of God’s rule in the world, the successful presence of the Messiah. So every wedding feast was experienced in that light, an echo of when the whole world would celebrate the defeat of wickedness and the joy of life eternal with Yahweh. Isaiah 25 was on the minds of everyone at the Jewish wedding feast. “In Jerusalem, the Lord of Hosts will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world. It will be a delicious banquet with clear, well-aged wine and choice meat. There He will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Yahweh will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mockery against His land and people. Yahweh has spoken!” (Isaiah 25:6-8)The wedding feast was an important picture of the joyful destiny of the Jewish people, and so the wedding guests invested themselves in the merriment wholeheartedly. It’s not surprising that one would hear someone exclaim this common sentiment at a wedding feast: “What a blessing it will be to attend the banquet in the Kingdom of God!” (Luke 14:15). Just as wine at the Messianic Feast was prophesied center stage, woe unto any wedding host that ran out of the wine for the feast! That borders on anti-biblical!

Joy. For all these reasons, joy was the common denominator at Jewish weddings. Festive dancing and singing was the order of the day and expected of all guests. This joy was irrepressible, and it was biblical. Jeremiah loved to talk about the “joyful voice of bridegroom and bride.” (Jer. 7:34); “the happy singing and laughter” of the wedding (Jer. 16:9); “the sounds of joy and laughter.” (Jer. 33:11). At the feast, the more the merrier, with the whole village being invited. So the fact that Jesus was present at a wedding was significant. He not only confirmed the sanctity of marriage, affirming it as being an honorable institution, but this event reveals a Jesus who enjoyed social interaction. He went out of His way to celebrate friendship, fellowship, interaction with others. Jesus was indeed full of joy, and He wants us to enjoy life as well. “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with joy. Yes, your joy will overflow.” (John 15:11). Jesus desires for each of us to live with a spirit of merriment, just like Him. Joy is a quality that is mentioned right after love in the “fruit of the Spirit,” in Galatians 5. How can we describe this quality that is so important in the Christian life? Where does joy come from? Joy is a settled assurance of God’s love and Lordship. Joy is a deep-seated delight, a confident pleasure of the soul. Joy is an encouraged understanding of God’s presence and faithfulness. Joy is an inner gladness based on spiritual realities. Joy is a quality of holy optimism, a foundational light-heartedness. Joy is an abiding satisfaction that all is well with God. Joy is a hopeful sense of well-being that rejoices in gratitude. In many ways, joy is our most dependable and accurate foretaste of heaven. In the miracle of Cana, Jesus knew how to spread the joy.

Wine. In the Hebrew Bible, wine was a symbol of joy, of celebration. So if there was any unwritten rule of hospitality at the top of the list at a wedding feast, it was this… Don’t run out of wine! Every wedding feast was a foretaste of the Messianic Banquet, in which wine was a featured part of the epic meal. To run out of wine practically meant it’s not a biblical feast! So when Mary told Jesus that the host had run out of wine, it was no small matter. It meant the host, usually the groom’s father, hadn’t planned well. It was humiliating, a major blunder. It’s interesting that to discourage drunkenness at the wedding feasts, the host always diluted the wine that was offered to the guests: one part wine to three parts water. With that in mind, where wine didn’t even have to be at full strength, this situation was more than embarrassing for the host. He had no excuse. It was almost as if the host didn’t care enough for the wedding guests or the biblical reference to have this all planned out properly.

“Woman.” Some see this word from Jesus to His mother as a rebuke, a put-down putting her in her place. It was nothing of the sort. In His culture, the words was a combination of a term of endearment with a title of respect. Jesus often said this term in John to give dignity to womanhood: the woman at the well (4:21); the adulteress (8:10); Mary Magdalene (20:15); and once again to His mother, at the cross (19:26). Jesus always held up and honored womanhood, and at Cana He wanted to confirm His respect for Mary. “Woman” would not be offensive at all, it would not put her off-balance or embarrass her in anyway.

Jesus’ Response. When Mary told Jesus that the host had run out of wine, she made a statement of fact. It wasn’t a direct request, but it was certainly implied. Mary knew better than anyone the miraculous conception, the angels, the shepherds, the Magi, Simeon, Anna, her cousin Elizabeth. All of these incidents in the past confirmed in her mind that Jesus was indeed Messiah and the very Son of God. So  Mary knew that if Jesus wanted to, He could make things right with the wine. Was she asking Jesus to perform a miracle so the host could save face with all the wedding guests? Yes, I think so. Consider Jesus’ response to His mother, “What does your concern have to do with me?” Other translations include, “What concern is that to me and to you?” Jesus is wondering why she would want to intervene and ask for Jesus’ help, especially since in Jesus’ mind it wasn’t necessarily the time to reveal Himself publically as the Messiah. Despite Jesus’ light resistance, Mary expected Jesus to act, to do something. For Mary then said the words that have stood the test of time. She believed in Jesus, so she pointed the servants directly to Him. She said, “Whatever He says to you, make sure you do it.” (2:5). She directed people to Her Son, not to her or anyone else. If we can take one word from Mary at this time and apply it to our lives, this is it… Do whatever Jesus says for you to do. Obey Him.

Stone Pots. John the author was very careful with these details. There were six waterpots at the site of the feast, and they were used for the ritual cleansing of hands for purification. The rabbinic tradition stated that a Jew could become ritually unclean through contact with normal everyday contact with household items. So Jewish homes always had stone jars for ritual cleansing, because the rabbis clamed that stone couldn’t contract ritual impurities. These six jars were very large, containing 20-30 gallons each. The ruling priests at the time said that only two cups of water was needed for the ritual cleansing of 100 people. Only one of these waterpots would have been more than enough. But six jars? Over the top. That poor host overestimated the amount of water needed, and underestimated the wine needed. It’s almost as if the host wanted enough water to symbolically cleanse the whole world.

Divine Extravagance. This is the term often used for the overflowing grace and blessing offered in Christ. Jesus’ turning water into wine in all these stone jars is a powerful picture of the superabundance of grace and truth in Jesus. Providing this much wine went far beyond more than enough. It was extravagant. It was abundantly generous. All the pots were reportedly full to the brim with water, which means 120-180 gallons of wine was produced by Jesus. That amount is equivalent to 600-900 standard-sized bottles of wine today! This was insanely more than was needed. God is not economical when it comes to grace. It  is immeasurable, it surpasses all forms of measurement. God is not stingy with His blessings. He has an endless supply of grace and joy and forgiveness. Cana wine is like crucifixion blood… more than enough. Enough for the whole world. Beyond measurement. A flood of wine in Cana, a flood of blood at Golgotha. Cana wine is like the showers of blessing coming from the hand of a merciful God. He provides more blessings than we need, He seems to almost waste precious blessings in His generosity, spiritual riches without measure. And it wasn’t just quantity of wine, it was the quality as well. Jesus made first-class, expensive wine for the end of the feast. Jesus continued to work in creation as He rearranged the atomic elements, created the crushed juice, and totally bypassed the time of fermentation, producing a vintage wine without touching a thing. All it took was a word to work this amazing miracle. He didn’t need to touch or do anything, a word was all that was needed. The wine grape didn’t need to grow on the vine, or mature to the right time, or be harvested, or crushed for the juice, or wait a long time to be fermented. Jesus accelerated that whole process out of thin air. But where did the grapes come from for His wine? Do you need to ask? He is the Vine, after all. (John 15:5).

Moses. There is a rabbinic tradition that the Messiah would come and duplicate many of the miracles of Moses. Scholars who have compared the lives of Moses and Jesus in great detail have found as many as fifty similarities between the two in their life and mission. Here at His first miracle, there are a couple of similarities: 1. Moses turned water into blood to symbolize judgment, and Jesus turned water into wine to symbolize joy and celebration; 2- Moses brought water out of rock, while Jesus brought wine out of stone, those stone waterpots. It would be interesting to consider other ways in which Moses anticipated the ministry of Jesus… the bronze serpent lifted up for salvation; the blood of the sacrifice and the New Passover; deliverance from slavery and the exodus of the soul from sin; controlling the sea; the living water from the Rock of Christ. There are many more, and it would be a great project to study. (Please refer to the post “The Gospel According to Moses.” in this blog.

Glory. John mentioned that this first miracle of Jesus was “the beginning of signs Jesus did.” (2:11). Signs point the way, they identify something. And John believes the many miracles, or signs, point to the power and grace of the Lord and identify Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of God. John said this miracle in Cana “manifested His glory, and the disciples believed in Him.” (2:11). Glory is the radiant presence of God, the honor due His stature and Name, the dignity of His character and Being. Glory is the heavenly weight of His splendor that causes people to believe in Him. And this marvelous miracle of turning water into wine, to keep the wedding host from being humiliated and to keep the party going, reveals the power and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. One wouldn’t think an isolated miracle like that in a backwoods village with a relatively small number of people would constitute a revelation of glory. But it did. Jesus certainly deserves some extended applause after that demonstration of divine grace. Glorify His Name! Applaud His glory!

Wedding Supper of the Lamb. Through this miracle at the wedding feast in Cana, was Jesus giving us a picture of the future wedding feast of the Lamb in the Kingdom? Was He giving us a preview of when Jesus will drink with us at the Feast, when the Church His bride will celebrate eternal union with the Bridegroom? “Let us be glad and rejoice and give him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write: Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.” (Revelation 19:7-9).