The Wedding at Cana
1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. – John 2:1-11 ESV
Signs and wonders
We will see that when John reports the miracles of Jesus, he habitually refers to them as “signs”. This week we experience Jesus first sign. John concludes this section with the statement:
This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. – John 2:11 ESV
The Greek word translated as “sign” here is sēmeion (say-mi-on), which refers to an object or act that points to a spiritual reality. There were signs in the Old Testament, which included natural phenomenas, monuments, miracles, and prophetic acts. In the New Testament signs occur most often in reference to Jesus’ actions.
Signs have come to also mean miraculous or supernatural confirmations of the existence and power of God or the miraculous demonstration of spiritual authority on the part of an individual. Thus, John is saying that Jesus did His miracles not for their own sake but to point the observer and the reader beyond them to something that was significant — to Himself as the One who spoke the unvarnished word of truth. That is, the miracles represented God’s accreditation that Jesus was sent from Him. But Jesus said that His signs pointed not only to His person, but to His work of bringing the kingdom of God.
Have you experienced any God divine miracles? How did your miracle represent God’s accreditation and point to the kingdom of God?
It is important for us to understand the reference to miracles as we focus on John’s record of the very first sign that Jesus did. It was a sign that took place, surprisingly, at a wedding, and it seems almost profane in that it involved the transformation of water into wine for thirsty guests.
Weddings of a different day
Today we attend weddings and they are customarily a couple hours long and done in a presentable way, but it was so much different in the days when Jesus was walking around. A wedding feast lasted for seven days; the host was responsible for providing wine throughout the feasting period.
Responsibility was rampant at weddings, not only could a guest have legal action taken against him for failing to provide an appropriate gift, but the groom could face a lawsuit for not providing provisions during the entire wedding event. That’s how serious hospitality was and continues to be treated in the Middle East.
In their culture weddings were of incredible importance for families and individuals. A successful event would have brought honor to the groom, his family, and the village where he lived. Running out of wine would have dishonored the guests and brought shame not all those involved.
John describes in detail how this miracle (sign) came about. It was not a big scene, the groom might not have even known. John tells us that only Jesus’ mother and the servants who drew the wine knew what had happened. (v.9); not even the steward was aware. Secrecy was imperative to avoid bringing dishonor on the family.
Can you imagine and describe what it might have been like to have to deliver the water to the master with faith that it was now wine? Do you think the servant tested it first? What would you have done if you were in that servant role?
What Mary did not do at the wedding is Cana may be as significant as what she did do. She didn’t tell Jesus what to do or how to do it. She didn’t tell Jesus what to do or how to do it. She simply identified the problem and got Jesus involved.
The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.”– John 2:3 NLT
This is such a real situation and such a lesson to be learned. Time after time we experience situations where something has gone astray and being the men that we are, we rush to a solution, create a plan or even change the situation. A value of Mary’s actions can be learned in our own life. How often do we go to God and confirm He knows the situation, but request Him to execute the plans we have devised. We have determined the whole situation and evaluated all the circumstances and have determined what He needs to do.
Do you have an example where you rushed to Jesus with your solution? Did He provide in fashions you expected?
In typical Jesus fashion, he doesn’t just meet a need, but he provides a blessing. Besides Jesus preventing the groom from enduring shame, by providing wine, Jesus creates premium wine. The story climaxes when the groom was publicly honored for his over-the-top hospitality and for saving the good wine for last. This is the first of many situations in John’s Gospel where Jesus restores something to better-than-original condition. It also reveals Jesus’ deep concern for meeting people at their point of need, no matter how inconsequential that need may seem.
No wine bottles
Another detail in this story is at first irrelevant, but so profound.
Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. – John 2:6 ESV
When bringing the whole community together for this wedding, the festivities would include the ability for those arriving to cleanse themselves. There would literally be an area for the guests to wash up and be cleansed, as not to tarnish the wedding ceremony. The revelry was rampant and they had consumed all the initial wine and now needed some more wine.
Jesus asks the servants to go grab the jars from the washroom and fill them with water. In our tiny minds we may think that He just told them to grab whatever you got, but in hindsight, it plays into the glorious miracle to be giving as a blessing to the wedding.
We grossly underestimate the God who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine. And maybe that’s why Jesus starts His miraculous ministry with water, to show what He can do with next to nothing. If we step back and see the mosaic of the picture: a huge city celebration of a wedding with a moment of tragedy on the brink, six washing jars and water are brought to Jesus and look how it turned out!
By starting with water, Jesus demonstrates His ability to take the simplest thing on earth and turn it into something even more beautiful, something even more flavorful.
In this beginning point of His ministry, He was not truly known by the masses. It was not like the wedding stopped and the whole congregation turned to Jesus and He got on stage to perform some magic trick. Just like the picture depicts, and the scripture outlines, their were some servants directly involved, but it may have been behind the scenes. This first miracle is a fine example that Jesus came to have a relationship with individuals. It was about building the trust and faith of the disciples, not showing off to the masses. Jesus allowed the miracle to transform and then sat back and watched the results impact the masses. His first miracle was more for His followers than for the bride and groom. God does this still today, showing us His miracles directly and impacting others that are oblivious to His actions.
Can you describe a time when God has involved you in, shown you a miracle and the effects radiant out and no one really understands what you witnessed?
An interesting response Jesus has to His mother’s request…
“Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” – John 2:4
Many people jump right to the use of the word ‘Woman’ in this verse and believe Jesus snapping back at his mother or disrespecting her. That is a typical way we take words we are familiar with and put history into our context. The use of the word ‘woman’ in context to the verse is not slang, but a simple, informal form of address.
Jesus presents a very sobering question to the one that knows him best, the one that raised him. Jesus is likely petitioning His mother to consider whether the request is really the type of thing He should be addressing with His power; He probably wants her to consider His purpose.
Then He makes the odd statement; “My hour has not yet come.” There are multiple references used in the book of John that Jesus uses this reference to a specific hour.
What is your thoughts on Jesus reference to his hour not being now?
So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. – John 7:30 ESV
These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come. – John 8:20 ESV
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come – John 13:1 ESV
The notion of Mary bringing a need to Jesus was like a little nudge. As we see in His response, He was not ready yet, or He just did not feel like getting started yet. Mary didn’t know that the miracle road was a one-way street to the crossroad called Calvary. Jesus knew full well. He knew that His first miracle would trigger the countdown clock to the crucifixion. And that’s part of what makes this first miracle so remarkable. It is the by-product of Jesus trusting someone else’s instincts! Mary had a sixth sense that this was His moment.
Many times we miss miracles in our life because we are simply too close to the situation. We need someone to put a spotlight on something that is in our blind spot. Most miracles take a nudge. Sometimes times we have to be elbowed out of our assumptions, out of our complacency, out of our fears, or out of our failures. And it helps to have a relationship of trust with the one doing the nudging.
Can you share a time when you may have gotten an uncomfortable nudge, shove or push from someone you trusted and ended up doing something you would not have normally done?
Can you share a time when you got a similar nudge, shove or push from someone you did not have a relationship with, and what was your response?
It is an interesting thing that the same provocation from two different people can actually result in two different responses.
Cooperation & Participation
The miracle of turning some water into wine also presents a practical lesson in service for God. The water turned into wine because the servants cooperated with Jesus and obeyed His commands. Several of the signs in John’s gospel involve the cooperation of man and God: the feeding of the five thousand (John 6), the healing of the man born blind (John 9), and the raising of Lazarus (John 11). Whether we pass out bread, wash away mud, or roll away the stone, we are assisting Him in performing a miracle.
It is significant that the servants knew the source of this special wine (John 2:9). When Jesus healed the nobleman’s son (John 4:46–54), it was the servants who were in on the secret. We are not just His servants; we are also His friends, and we know what He is doing (John 15:15).
What is God up to in your life? What Kingdom activities does God have you involved in? How is that shaping your life?
- The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
- Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
- Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.
- Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.