Water in to Wine
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In John 2:1-11 we read an account where Jesus rescues a wedding by turning an enormous amount of water into an extraordinary quality wine. This is the first of a number of miraculous actions Jesus performs, that John labels as signs, first sign. Perhaps this is the beginning of the greater things promised in Jn 1:51? It is a narrative chockfull of significant detail. Let’s look at a few of these.
The set-up is quite simple. Jesus and his disciples have been invited to a wedding in the town of Cana. The mention of the third day is intriguing and links this narrative to the sequence of days in John 1. Depending on how we count we end up with either 6 or 7 days. Either way it is around a week and the connection with Genesis 1 in John 1:1 reminds us that it looks like we are being reminded of the week of creation that begins the Bible as a frame for Jesus’ ministry.
A wedding feast in those times could last a number of days and was a significant social occasion for which the bridegroom’s family was responsible. It was a major inconvenience, and a major humiliation is looming when the wine runs out. In verse 3, Jesus’ mother takes responsibility and speaks with Jesus about it.
Jesus’ reply sounds harsh to our ears. ‘Woman, why do you involve me, My hour has not yet come.’
These words force a re-evaluation of their relationship. Jesus will do his Father’s will and he will do it in his own time. This exchange will be echoed at the cross when Jesus again addresses his mother, this time to provide for her care beyond his death in John 19:26.
Jesus’ enigmatic statement that his hour had not yet come sets in train another theme that will run through the Gospel. This hour will be referred to regularly through the narrative and be seen as the hour of his death and resurrection. There is a plan, a timetable, in place.
As for the miracle itself, one of the significant details is that the water is contained in jars used for Jewish purification. This purification would be done in obedience to the Old Testament law. Jesus changes the water used to fulfil the Old Testament requirement, gracious as it was, into wine which represents the fulfilment of those promises in the coming of God’s kingdom. As Leslie Newbigin remarks, “The water removes uncleanness but it cannot give the fullness of joy”.
The wine represents the joy that Jesus can give, and his generous provision anticipates the wine that will flow when the joy of God’s kingdom comes. This will be celebrated according to Revelation 19: 7, with the wedding feast of the Lamb, with all the joy, and sense of fulfilment of promise that it represents.
In this incident Jesus is showing what he has come to do: to bring life and to bring it in abundance. Just as Jesus made a vast quantity of the best wine, so he offers his followers long (that is eternal) life, of the best quality, in relationship with God. Jesus’ ministry is to be the lifegiving Son of God.
This simple incident reminds us of Jesus’ compassion and grace on the smallest scale and on the largest scale. On the smallest scale he has saved a nameless couple’s dilemma at a small village wedding. On the largest scale this incident has pointed to Jesus’ ministry of offering joyous life both now and into eternity.
Let's be thankful that for Jesus’ grace in all things.
Our Father, we thank you for your grace and compassion in matters both great and small. We thank you for the life that Jesus offers to all and we pray that you will help us enjoy the life that only your Son can give and seek to share that life with others. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.