The book of John is a fascinating read. It was written years after the other gospels which allowed John time to reflect more deeply on the events of Jesus’ life. As he taught and reviewed the totality of Jesus’ ministry, meaning and symbolism that wasn’t initially clear became clearer. And when it came time to pen his letter he made sure to record these discoveries.
One example is his retelling of Jesus’ first miracle–the turning of water to wine at the wedding in Cana found in John 2:1-11. In verse 11 he purposefully calls what Jesus did a sign and not a miracle. This is a key distinction because miracles are supernatural works but signs are supernatural works with symbolic meaning.
He opens his narrative in verse 1 with the phrase "On the third day" hoping to stir thoughts of Jesus’ resurrection. In addition, he’s bringing to remembrance old testament prophecies such as "...on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live before Him." (Hosea 6:2) So, Jesus’ death and resurrection and our death and resurrection with Him should be at the forefront of our mind as we read his account.
John continues "there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee." Weddings in those days were different in that the groom, not the bride, was the focus. He was also the one who paid for everything. Are you seeing the picture? Jesus paid for everything through His death and subsequent resurrection so that we could die and be raised with Him becoming His bride.
We next learn Mary, Jesus, and His disciples are guests at the wedding. The wine has run out and Mary says to Jesus, "They have no wine." It’s difficult to know exactly what Mary wanted, because she didn’t make a request only stated the problem.
Jesus replies, "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come." Is He chastising her? I don’t think so, because, one, He does something about the wine, and, two, the use of "woman" is a term of respect–He uses it later from the cross in John 19:26 "Woman, behold your son!"
So what is He saying? Based on His reply, it would seem that Mary intimated more in her statement than was actually communicated. Maybe it was her tone of voice, inflection, a look in the eyes. Whatever it was, Jesus graciously lets her know that the outcome she’s expecting, the "more" she was looking for, beyond remedying the issue of the wine, will not transpire, because it’s not the right time.
Mary, a women of faith we can learn from, understands that although this is her son, He’s also the son of God. In response, she humbles herself, sets aside her expectations, and says to the servants, "Do whatever He tells you." What a powerful example!
Jesus sets to work selecting 6 purification jars and telling the servants to fill them with water. He then directs that water be drawn and taken to the master servant. The master smells it, swirls it around the glass, takes a sip, swishes it in his mouth, spits it out, and exclaims, "This is excellent wine!" Turning to the groom he says, "Everyone serves the best wine first and then the poor wine. But you’ve kept the best wine until now!"
There’s so much here! First, Jesus’ selection of purification jars which were used for ritual cleansing by those who’d become unclean. Because John encouraged us to think of life after resurrection, it makes sense that the jars were chosen. The temporary cleansing they offered became obsolete when permeant cleansing became available to us through Jesus (1 John 1:7).
Furthermore, Jesus didn’t just cause wine to appear in the jars. He first had them filled with water, a central ingredient to making wine. Then He took that water and accelerated it’s transformation into wine. After resurrection, it’s much the same for us. God takes who we are naturally (water), and as we trust Him by faith, infuses us with His supernaturalness transforming us into something extraordinary (wine).
Finally, when God does a work He goes far beyond what’s required. In making wine He didn’t just make average wine but the best. The same is true of His work in our lives. He doesn’t want us barely getting by but finding in Him an overflow for all we need. In humbling ourselves, as Marry did, He’s able to work, meeting our need, and revealing His glory to us and others. And what will follow, just as it did with His first sign, is belief in Him.
If I can encourage you in any way please don’t hesitate to contact me. As always our web site (elmco.org) is full of resources. And if you’re interested in bringing a conference to your area, please call, I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time, enjoy living life in a post resurrection era!
Mike Roncaglia, Executive Director