Reader: “This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee”
Response: “was the first time Jesus revealed his glory.”
Scripture: John 2:1-11
The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.”
“Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”
But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” When the jars had been filled, he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions.
When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!”
This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
There are so many dynamics to this most familiar miracle it’s hard to know where to start. As we have mentioned previously, John’s gospel is not always set in chronological order. His purpose is always in pointing to who Jesus is so that people might believe that he is the Messiah, the Son of God (John 20:30-31).
With this idea in mind, John describes seven (perfection in Jewish thought) signs: changing water to wine, curing the nobleman’s son, healing the paralytic, feeding the five thousand, walking on water, opening the eyes of a blind man, and raising Lazarus from the dead. Each of these acts pointed beyond the immediate event but to the truth that the Kingdom of God had come among them in the person of Jesus Christ.
There are several “next days” in the preceding verses of chapter one (29,35,43). On each of those days a significant event occurred, each one pointing to Jesus as the Messiah (baptism of Jesus, calling of the first disciples, and calling of additional disciples). We have people being attracted to following Jesus, but nothing overt has yet happened in terms of outward public action, until we come to today’s pericope.
John mentions that this event occurred on “the third day.” Why mention that it is the third day. Some scholars have reasoned that Jesus was symbolically ushering in a new creation, similar in concept to his resurrection on the third day. Many Jewish weddings occur on Tuesday even today, the third day of the week because on the third day of creation, God said, “It is good” two times and the brides took that expression as a double blessing on their marriage!
Cana in Galilee was a tiny village a few miles north of Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth. So it would be a short trip for his mother to attend. Mary is referred to in this gospel only as the “mother of Jesus.” What may seem to us as a rather blunt response in referring to her as “woman,” was not so in Jesus’ day. Rather, it was an address of respect and distinction. Mary appears in only one other story in John’s gospel and it is at the foot of the cross. We read the same address of women elsewhere. While hanging on the cross Jesus addresses his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son.” Likewise, following his resurrection, Jesus speaks to Mary Magdalene at the tomb with the words, “Dear woman, why are you crying?”
What is established in this pericope is that the relationship between Jesus and his mother is now different. Jesus responds to his heavenly Father, not his earthly mother. Apparently Joseph had died by this time since he is not mentioned. When Jesus says at the wedding, “My time is not yet come,” that is a clear indication that he is not operating on an “earthly clock.” We hear this phrase from Jesus’ lips often. Though not referred to here, it is very likely that Jesus conferred with his Father in heaven before performing the miracle since elsewhere John records Jesus’ words: “I can of myself do nothing . . . I do not seek my own will, but the will of the Father who sent me (John 5:30). Jesus was tuned to his Father’s will which meant he was always in exactly the right place at the right time doing the right thing bringing glory to God. Apparently Jesus’ time had come and his public ministry began with the changing of the water to the best wine ever created on earth!
Can you imagine your daughter getting married, hosting the wedding reception dinner for 150 of your closest friends and running out of food because you went with a cheap caterer? How embarrassing! The problem at this wedding was much larger. Jewish weddings in Jesus’ day were grand festive occasions, sometimes lasting a week or more! The host was expected to serve food and wine in abundance. It was a significant challenge for poor families to provide adequately. Apparently, that was the situation here. Running out of wine was considered a social disaster of major long-lasting humiliation for the brides’ family and a bumpy start to a new marriage. Jesus, responding to his Father’s will, solved the problem in abundance! He produced between 120 and 180 gallons of the best wine ever made on earth! Someday we’ll have a chance to drink it perhaps! Here again, we have a reminder of the overwhelming sufficiency of the Savior. Jesus’ obedience to the Father never faltered.
While much more could be said, we need to stop. What is there for us in this account? Notice how Jesus didn’t tell anyone what he had done? He let the results of what he did speak for themselves. He asked the servants to do something (fill the jars) which they did in obedience. He worked a miracle and told them to take a sample to the wine steward. The servants were the ones who witnessed the miracle, not the wine steward. Which people were more impacted by what Jesus did, the guests, wine steward, the bride’s family, Mary, or the servants? Bottom line, people who are tuned to the Savior see the hand of God at work. Tune your heart today to the Father and watch.
Today’s song comes from the Sacred Harp tradition from the mid-1800’s having begun in the late 1700’s. There are sacred harp groups still singing today in the southern United States. This is an Epiphany song making reference to the magi.
Music: “Brightest and Best”
Bonus: clip of Jesus changing the water to wine from “The Chosen”
This is a scene in episode five of Season One portraying today’s passage. You may want to watch the whole episode. I highly recommend watching “The Chosen” beginning with Season One episode one if you are unfamiliar with this free series.
Lord Jesus, may we pay attention to what you are doing today. Forbid it Lord that we should ever minimize anything you do or anything you offer. We confess how very often we are consumed with ourselves, our perspectives, and our inflated opinions. Forgive us for our arrogance and dull spirits. On this day set aside that we might gather as the body of Christ, may we truly encounter you for the sole purpose of worshiping you. All too often we have come as greedy children wanting to be fed with no thought of offering worship to you. We have made ourselves the center of the service. Too often our main reason for going to church is to get a spiritual boost, an emotional uplift. Like those attending the wedding, we can easily be thrilled with the marvelous wine of worship and be oblivious to you, the Messiah, in our midst. Lord Jesus, you are the worship leader, our High Priest, who through the Holy Spirit transforms and carries our offerings to the Father. Have mercy on your children as we seek to know you better and give ourselves wholly to you day after day. These things we pray in the name of Jesus our Redeemer. Amen. ―Daniel Sharp