JOHN 2:1-11 (NIV) | "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."
As I write, I am two months from finishing the preparation of a 40-gallon batch of homemade wine to be used at my wedding. As I taste my wine with each passing month, examining its readiness to drink, I cannot help but think of this passage.
This passage, though, is about much more than making up for poor banquet planning. In verse 11, John says, “This was the first of the signs through which [Jesus] revealed his glory.” In Greek, the word used for “first” is arche, which means primary or first in importance, not chronologically first.
In John’s perspective, this is Jesus’ most important miracle. In order to understand why that is, we must grasp that the book of John is filled with metaphor: using normal events to communicate profound truths about who Jesus is and what he came to do. Let’s look a little closer:
1. Jesus was at a wedding. In those days, weddings were feasts lasting seven to ten days, and all Jews understood that the Messianic age would be inaugurated with a great banquet, like that of a wedding (Isaiah 25:6-8). John hints to his Jewish readers that Jesus is inaugurating the Messianic age and the coming of the Kingdom of God.
2. To run out of food or wine for your guests would bring shame on the host family. John, however, uses this problem and the exchange between Mary and Jesus to point to a greater reality: “Woman … My hour has not yet come.” Mary is not simply asking Jesus to run to the supermarket. She is prodding him to get on with his Messianic mission. Jesus’ use of the word “woman” reminds us of the first woman, Eve, and the promise that her offspring would one day “crush the ancient serpent’s head” (Genesis 3:15). Jesus knows perfectly well that his mother, the second Eve, knows who he is and is confronting him, the second Adam, with her desire to drink of the “new wine of the Kingdom”.
3. Jesus turns ceremonial water into wine. The empty stone jars were normally filled with ceremonial water, used to cleanse people of their uncleanliness under Jewish law. In asking the servants to “fill the jars to the brim with water”, John is again using the scenario as a metaphor for Jesus’ ability to fulfill the requirements of the law, not through ceremonial washing but by way of his blood, the alternative cleansing agent of the new covenant.
What does all of this mean for us? It means that Jesus’ most important miracle is the inauguration of a new age of abundant banqueting with God (symbolized by a wedding); an age where the deceiver, Eve’s old enemy, is crushed under our Savior’s feet; an age where blood-bought cleanliness and freedom triumphs over the keeping of religious laws (symbolized by turning ceremonial water into wine).
We are no longer under law but grace. Jesus came to serve by inaugurating the greatest miracle of all: a banquet-ready, triumphant, blood-bought Bride who stands clean before her Father.
QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION
- If God were to have a banquet with you sitting next to him as his honored guest, what would you want to say to him? What would you ask him? Write down what you would say, and listen for God’s response.
- If you were to toast one of the other guests (another follower of Jesus), who would it be and what would you say about them? Write a note of encouragement to someone in your faith community letting them know how they have impacted you.
- Since God has invited you to the greatest banquet of all, who can you invite to your home for a meal who has not yet experienced the miracle of being a part of God’s family?
This reading is a part of our "Small Feet Big Shoes" devotional series. You can also sign up to receive these meditations by email.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephen Grindle and his new wife, Rachel, live in Joplin, Missouri. At the time of this writing, Stephen was completing an apprenticeship with :Beta: Communities in Long Beach, California.