Don’t you love weddings! They are such joyful occasions! I’ve heard people say that they didn’t like going to funerals, but I’ve never personally heard anyone say that they didn’t like going to weddings. There is the beautiful ceremony, the exchange of vows between the bride and groom, and those words: “I now pronounce you husband and wife . . . You may kiss your bride.” Then there is the reception afterward: all the good food and drink, the joyful conversation, the photos taken, and the wonderful memories.
THE SETTING (verses 1-2)
The setting for this passage of Scripture is a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Verses 1 and 2 tell us that “Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and His disciples had also been invited.” Jesus and His mother must have been friends of the bride and groom. Notice that John uses the term “mother of Jesus“. He never calls her “Mary” in his Gospel. In all the Scriptures the place of preeminence is always given to Jesus and not to Mary.
First-century Jewish weddings differed in many ways from our typical American weddings, but the receptions were similar. The three stages to a first-century Jewish wedding are: the “betrothal” (for a year – somewhat like an engagement), the “procession” (led by the groom, who goes to her parents’ home and takes her to his parents’ home where the marriage is consummated), and “the feast”. This passage is talking about the wedding feast. This feast could go on for several days, a week, or even longer.
What would be one of the worst things that could happen at a marriage feast? What would cause the most embarrassment for the families of the bride and groom? What would provoke anger among the guests and cause many of them to leave? Running out of food and drink, right? That would destroy the joy of this happy occasion because it would be saying to the guests, “We don’t want you here any longer!” “Go home!”
II. JESUS’ CONVERSATION WITH HIS MOTHER (verses 3-5)
Mary may have been helping with the feast because she knew that they were out of wine before the guests realized it. In verse 3 she said to Jesus, “They have no wine”. Was Mary expecting her Son to perform a miracle? I don’t think so. The apostle John tells us that this was His first miracle (see verse 11); so Jesus did not perform any miracles during His childhood. Based on her previous experiences with her Son, I think she had a different reason for bringing this need to His attention. In Luke’s Gospel, chapter 2, and verses 41-52, Jesus is 12 years old and went with His parents to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover feast. Afterward. without their knowledge, He stayed in Jerusalem. When they searched for Him, “they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.” When His mother expressed their concern, Jesus said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” Jesus did return with them to Nazareth, and “Mary treasured all these things in her heart”. Verse 52 says that “Jesus increased in wisdom”. I believe that Mary brought this need to Jesus because she was convinced that He had the wisdom to come up with a solution to this problem. I don’t think that she was expecting a miracle from Him. That’s my opinion. If it is right, Mary witnessed much more than she expected.
His response is, “Woman, what do I have to do with you? My hour has not yet come.” This is a very controversial passage of Scripture. I read it in 20 English versions so far. Many of the translations and paraphrases seem disrespectful on the part of Jesus, and a few of them are brutal. This is not the first time that this expression appears in the Scriptures.
After studying verse 4, I’ve personally come to the conclusion that this was a private conversation between Jesus and His mother. John records it because he was there at the wedding, always stayed close to Jesus, and must have witnessed that conversation. He wrote it down because this was the first of Jesus’ signs, pointing to His true identity as the Messiah, the Son of God (John 20:30-31). Mary did not make a request of Jesus. She merely presented a need. His response was respectful and, judging from her reaction, she realized that Jesus was willing to do something about that need. I believe that Jesus always did the right thing. Rather than trying to imagine the exact meaning of His words and the tone of His voice when He said them, I am content to treat verse 4 as a private conversation, spoken in Hebrew, and look, rather, at the results of it. Let’s move on to verse 5 and see what happened.
In verse 5, Mary obviously understands, from His response to her concern, that Jesus is willing to respond to this situation. So she tells the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” Those are Mary’s last words spoken in the Gospel of John. Her words are good advice for us today, aren’t they? “Whatever He says to you, do it.” By saying those words, Mary was stepping back so that the focus would be on Jesus, and so that He could deal with the situation in His own way.
III. THE MIRACLE ITSELF (verses 6-10)
I agree with Warren Wiersbe when he says that this is a “quiet miracle”. Mary, His disciples, and the servants may have been the only ones who witnessed this event and realized that Jesus performed a miracle. It’s quite a contrast to the last miracle of Jesus recorded in John’s Gospel: “And He cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth’. He who died came forth . . . “. Let’s take a look at this miracle here in John chapter 2. It raises some questions and teaches some lessons. Verse 6 says, “Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each.” There is a reason for John’s detailed description of the waterpots. These pots were part of a religious tradition. The Mishnah was a collection of the traditions of the elders passed on from generation to generation and then put into written form in six large volumes. The largest volume was devoted entirely to the subject of ceremonial washing of hands and vessels for eating, not to remove dirt but to make them “ceremonially clean”. They had to perform these washings before and after every meal. The Scriptures did not require this practice. Only the priests were to cleanse themselves (Leviticus 22) before offering a sacrifice or eating consecrated food, and only if they had come in contact with a leper or an unclean animal or person. So the Jewish traditions had expanded God’s Law way out of proportion, and they insisted upon their observance very rigidly. A Rabbi named Rabbi Akiba, who was imprisoned by the Romans and given scarcely enough water to sustain life, preferred to use all that water for his ceremonial washings and to die of thirst. This may seem like a long side-track but you will see how it fits into this passage of Scripture soon.
In verse 7, “Jesus said to them (the servants), ‘Fill the waterpots with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim.” Those six waterpots now contained a total of 120 to 180 gallons of water; maybe even more since they were now filled to the brim. That’s a lot of water! If you drank a gallon of water a day (and most of us drink about half that much in a day), the water in those pots would last you from four to six months, or even longer! Jesus had a reason for telling the servants to fill those pots to the brim. He wanted there to be no doubt that there was “only” water in those pots, and that there was no room to add wine to them. There was no way that those servants, or any people nearby, could come to the conclusion that this was a trick, or that wine had been added to the water.
When those servants completed their task and had returned to Jesus, He said to them in verse 8: “Draw some out now, and take it to the headwaiter.” The Scripture says, “and they took it to him”. They obeyed Jesus’ request, but can you imagine what they must have been thinking to themselves and saying to one another as they were taking this “water” to the headwaiter for him to sample. “Is he going to be angry with us and make fun of us for bringing him water to taste?” That brings up my first question: When did the water become wine? John does not record that Jesus touched the water, or spoke words such as “become wine”, and he doesn’t record any “waving of the hand” by Jesus to indicate the moment of transformation. When do you think it happened? We don’t know for sure, but I’ve changed my personal opinion as a result of my study of this passage. I now believe that it didn’t become wine immediately after they filled the pots. It didn’t become wine when the servants drew the water, nor as they were on their way to the headwaiter. I personally believe it became wine an instant before the headwaiter tasted it. I have reasons for this personal belief. For one thing, I don’t think there was a smell of wine after the vessels were filled. I think that six vessels holding a total of 180 gallons of wine would have given off quite an aroma (or “bouquet”). I also don’t think it was wine when the servants were carrying it to the headwaiter. If I were one of those servants, I would try to hold the ladle or cup up near my nose to smell it, and also look at it to see if there was a change in color. If I could get away with it, I might even take a sip, and that’s a no-no! So the suspense must have been unbearable as they watched the headwaiter bring it to his lips, take a swallow or two and call out to the bridegroom, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. But you have kept the good wine until now!” So I personally think that the water from the waterpot didn’t become wine until just before the headwaiter tasted it. Verse 9 says that the headwaiter did not know where it came from, so he was able to be impartial in his response. His proclamation to the bridegroom indicates that Jesus not only turned water into wine, but into aged wine; performing in an instant what would normally have taken many years to happen naturally.
Second question: How much of all those waterpots full of water actually became wine? We don’t know that for sure either, but I have my recently-formed opinion on that question also. I don’t personally believe that any of the water in any of those pots became wine until it was drawn out for use. Whatever was not drawn out for use remained water. That may sound ridiculous, but based upon Warren Wiersbe’s comment that this was a “quiet miracle”, if Jesus performed the miracle in this way, the only people who would have known that this was truly a miracle would have been His mother, His disciples, and the servants. The headwaiter and even the bride and groom may not have known that a miracle was performed by Jesus. If His miracle had been performed in this manner, there would be no traces of a miracle left behind – no stone waterpots still full of wine, and no empty waterpots having the smell of wine. Maybe this was part of the intent of Jesus’ words to Mary in verse 4 – “My hour has not yet come.” It wasn’t the time yet for some people to be proclaiming that He is the Messiah while others are seeking ways to kill Him.
Does this theory still seem farfetched? You may want to read chapter 6 of John’s Gospel. The five barley loaves and two dried fish were being multiplied as Jesus was breaking them up and putting them into baskets for the disciples to distribute. Once again, the miracle itself was not visible to anyone except His disciples. Only the results were visible to others. Amazing, isn’t it? I think it makes the miracle even more amazing if it was truly performed by Jesus in this way.
IV. RESULTS AND CONCLUSION (verses 11-12)
Verse 16 says, “This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.” It appears that the Lord Jesus’ primary audience for this miracle was His disciples, who were with Him and watched the whole event up-close. The intended, and actual result was that they saw a manifestation of His glory and “believed in Him”.
You may be wondering when I’m going to keep my promise and return to the topic of purification: the ceremonial washing of the hands and vessels for eating – the reason those large waterpots happened to be there. Is there more to be learned from this miracle of Jesus? Let’s find out. Psalm 104:14-15 speaks of God’s goodness and generosity to mankind. It says, “He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the labor of man, so that he may bring forth food from the earth. And wine which makes man’s heart glad . . . ” Wine represents joy, celebration, and festivity. That’s why it was so important to the wedding feast. But there was no true joy in Palestine at that time. The daily ceremonial washings and other rituals made life tasteless for the people. It took their focus away from their personal relationship with God. Have there been times when going to church and attending Bible studies has been little more than a ritual for you? Have there been times when it seemed that there was nothing to be joyful about? We’ve all experienced those moments, haven’t we? If we know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior we have every reason for joy. What we need is a fresh realization of the glory of God. Psalm 16:11 says, “In His presence is fullness of joy . . . “. He is always present with us, and in us if we are His children, and He always desires to have fellowship with us. When unconfessed sin, or circumstances, people, things, or worry rob us of joy, let’s pray David’s prayer in Psalm 51:10-12 and allow the Lord to put our lives back into proper focus: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, . . . Restore unto me the joy of my salvation.”
Amos 9:12-15 and Joel 3:18 tell us that an abundance of wine is also a symbol of the presence of the Messiah. That was certainly true of Jesus’ first public appearance! “The mountains will drip with sweet wine”. Let’s remind ourselves of His coming, why He came, what He did for us and what He is continuing to do for us as our High Priest. Let’s also remind ourselves that the greatest wedding and wedding feast is soon to come. Revelation 19:7.9 says, “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. . . . Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” Participation in this marriage and marriage feast in heaven is by invitation only, and the joy of this event will last forever. Is your name on the invitation list (The Lamb’s Book of Life)? If not, become a child of God through a life-changing faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior today (John 1:11-13).
I’d like to see you there, at the marriage supper of the Lamb. That is my prayer. “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all. Amen.” (Revelation 22:21)
Thank you for visiting this construction site. I hope you will come back to view some of the other sermons on this site. May the joy of the Lord be your strength today.