Home‎ > ‎Opening the Bible‎ > ‎

Water into wine

In the second chapter of his gospel, John records for us a miracle by Jesus that is interesting and insightful.  He tells us it was the first of Jesus’ miraculous signs (2:11).  The word sign is an important word in John’s vocabulary (see 20:30-31).  Signs are miracles but they are more than simply astounding acts --- they are imbedded with deeper meaning.  For example, in John 6 there is the miraculous feeding of the multitude and then the message that Jesus is the true bread of life.  The same thing is true in John 11 in regard to the resurrection of Lazarus, and Jesus’ claim that He is the resurrection and life.  The miracles John records signify some deeper truth that the reader is to look for and contemplate. 

At Cana, Jesus finds Himself in the middle of a potentially embarrassing situation at a wedding to which He and His disciples have been invited.  According to the tradition of hospitality, to run out of food or drink was shameful (see Luke 11:5ff).  And yet, that was exactly what had happened (v. 3).  In a small village such as Cana, where everyone would be at the wedding, this had the potential to set tongues wagging for years and bring lasting dishonor upon the bride and groom and their families.

It appears that Jesus’ mother might have been involved in the wedding since she seems to speak to the servants with some authority (v. 2).  Jesus’ response to her is suggestive of many things.  First, John has already shown that His ministry has begun so He has left home and her authority.  I think this is the reason his, “Dear woman, why do you involve Me,” response, while sounding strange and abrupt to us (especially in the son/mother context), is actually quite understandable.  He has entered into His ministry and no longer “belongs” to her as He once did (all parents know a little of this feeling when their children leave, don’t they?). 

More important in the context of John is His statement that “My time has not yet come.”  Again, this is a phrase laced with meaning and has to do with Jesus’ mission as the Messiah ---- especially as it involved His destiny of the cross (see 7:8,30,8:20,11:55,13:1).  From this, it appears that He’s telling His mother that “doing weddings” was not part of the path that was plotted out for Him.  Nevertheless . . .

This is a miracle of abundance.  The wine is gone and nothing is left.  Jesus steps in and where there is nothing, He makes something (Isn’t He great?).  More than that, He brings abundance.  It is an incredible amount of wine that He makes (somewhere around 150 gallons!).*

This is a miracle of transformation.  Although He could have made wine from nothing, He didn’t choose to.  Instead, he worked with the jars of water that were there.  They were for the ceremonial washings that the Pharisees practiced and had become so much a part of Jewish life.  He turned the water in those jars into wine. 

This is a miracle with meaning.  The allusion to Moses is one of many made by John.  It’s not hard to see in John’s gospel a constant (though not always obvious), comparison between Jesus and Moses. 

*      Moses brought the law, while Jesus brought grace and truth (1:17). 

*      Moses wrote of the Messiah, Jesus was the Messiah (1:35). 

*      Moses lifted up the serpent; Christ lifted Himself up (John 3).

*      Moses walked through water (Exodus 14), Jesus walked on water (John 6).  

*      Moses fed the Israelites manna, Jesus is the bread of heaven (John 6:35). 

Here, the contrast is between Moses’ first miracle (plague).  He turned the water of the Nile into blood; Jesus turns it into wine --- the blood of the grape (Genesis 49:11).  Jesus takes the water reserved for the ritual of purification and turned it into the wine of celebration.

What a wedding announcement Jesus made at Cana!  This is the Messiah John wants us to see --- the One who turns the ceremonial water of our life into sweet, flavorful wine.  He brings abundance, transformation, and celebration.  This is the Messiah we need. 

*Anyone who thinks this is the alcohol laden stuff manufactured today needs to look more closely into “wine” and its usage in Scripture (i.e.,“wine” is used in the Scripture generically to refer to everything from grape juice to intoxicating wine, as opposed to our culture where the word almost always denotes something containing alcohol.  See Matthew 9:17 where "wine" is used to refer to grape juice and as well as fermented drink). 

Perhaps more to the point, anyone who thinks it really doesn’t make any difference what the “wine” was here, needs to think again.  Jesus made 150 gallons of something!  If it contained the highly intoxicating, addictive, psychoactive depressant, ethyl alcohol; then we need to be prepared to explain how/why He could/would make a substance that inherently robs man of his rational faculties (see Proverbs 20:1, 23:30ff).  Christ was our sinless example!  I know of nothing in the text lexically, semantically, or otherwise that would force us to the conclusion that Christ made fermented wine.      
Back to Home