Society of Fellows
Men do not customarily like to attend weddings. From my vantage point in conducting weddings, I often see in the congregation women coupled with other women and only here and there men or boys who have been coerced to attend. Maybe it was different with men in the first century when there was feasting instead of finger foods and wine instead of pink or purple ginger ale punch which is neither hot nor cold. In any case, Jesus attended a wedding at Cana of Galilee because "...He was called, and His disciples, to the marriage." 1 Had the author of the Gospel of John been a woman instead of a man, we would have been informed of every detail of the wedding including the attire of the bride, mother of the bride, and the bride's maids - enough, I am sure, to fill two or three columns of the society section of the "Cana Sun." John's interest, however, was not in the wedding but in what happened at the wedding when Jesus' mother said to Him: "They have no wine." 2 Thus, John records for us what Jesus did, what was said about what He did, what it meant, and why he included the event in his gospel.
I. WHAT JESUS DID. The problem of the wedding host was dumped on Jesus. His response: "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" 3 is understandable. Do you like for other people's problems to be dropped on you? Jesus' reply sounds curt in English, but shows no disrespect in the Greek. What ever Mary meant by presenting the wedding host's problem to Jesus, He faced it as one of the mountain peaks of his ministry. Here was more than a man-sized challenge. It was a God-sized challenge because the embarrassment of the host and the newly marrieds could not be solved by a quick camel hop to the nearest Kroger. They must have felt as my kitchen coordinator did when more people than had bought tickets showed up at a Thanksgiving banquet. There was embarrassment, worry, and franticness as he went on a fruitless search from restaurant to restaurant trying to buy large quantities of already prepared food. It is hard to water down turkey and dressing and some people never got even a little.
The key to understanding Jesus' reluctance to do something right now is His statement: "... Mine hour is not yet come." 4 Ken Grice wrote: "Jesus hesitates because He knew that if He meets this need by supernatural means life will never be the same. Never again could He turn back the clock." 5 Philip Yancey adds: "A clock would start ticking that would not stop until Calvary." 6 Jesus had to think this through.
There is no reason for me to speculate on what Mary meant when she responded to Jesus' hesitation by saying to the servants: "Whatever He says to you, do it." 7 I can tell you, though, that it was good advice then and it is good advice now. In those few minutes of awkwardness Jesus made a decision. Spurgeon said: "When Christ is about to bestow a blessing, He gives a command. To a blind man: 'Go to the pool of Siloam and wash...', to Lazarus: 'Come forth.'" 8 Jesus commanded the servants to fill the six water pots that were there. It may be significant that there were six water pots. Six is the number of man. While the pots may not have been empty, they were not full which is suggestive of the futile lives of men without the touch of God. Jesus' command was for the pots to be filled and the servants filled them to the brim. Wine was lacking, but Jesus asked for water. The water pots were used "... after the manner of the purifying of the Jews...", 9 but Jesus put them to a higher use. They were instruments aiding Him to be seen not as a godly man, but as the God-man. There is nothing yet to stagger our imagination in this event at Cana of Galilee, but there is a sense of wonder that is tweaked by His concern over filling empty water pots.
The servants had responded readily to Jesus' command to fill the pots, but now they were requested to take of what they had recently put into the pots to present it to the ruler of the feast because he had no wine. I can imagine their refusal, but no! They obeyed. Was it blind obedience? Could they see a change in the color or consistency of the water? We are only told that they took the liquid to the governor of the feast and he proclaimed: "... but thou hast kept the good wine until now." 10
II. WHAT WAS SAID ABOUT WHAT HE DID. It was not just wine, but was proclaimed to be good wine - the best wine. It was not just good wine, but good wine in abundance. There was between 120 and 180 gallons of good wine. Do you have a problem with the Bible's claim that Jesus turned water into wine? Grice said: "Without a word from His lips, without a touch from His hand, Jesus simply wills the water to become wine and in the sacred presence of that thought, the water prostrates itself and obeys." 11 R. G. Lee said: "I accept the fact of an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God - and that makes all miracles credible, makes it so that nothing in the Bible staggers me."12 Godet said: "He now displays His glory before their eyes in a first act of omnipotence..." 13
When the governor of the feast remarked that it was good wine, he knew what it was, but he did not know what it had been. He knew who brought it, but he did not know who made it. He knew how it tasted, but he did not know what it meant. He knew that his need had been met and the blush of his embarrassment had dissolved, but he did not know that a move had been made that would end at Calvary where a greater need would be met and the scarlet of his sins could be as white as snow.
III. WHAT THE FIRST MIRACLE MEANT. Something extraordinary had occurred. John called it a sign. The changing of water to wine is only a sign, it is not the reality. Jesus, the Son of God, is the reality. On the old Johnny Carson show Ed McMann, night after night, would introduce the host of the show: "Here's Johnny!" This miracle says: "Here's Messiah!" John observes that in this sign Jesus "... manifested His glory..." 14 He was Omnipresence in a robe and sandals. He was Omnipotence in human skin. He was Omniscience in a man. He was the God-man. It not only manifested His glory, but also suggested his purpose in the world. Clovis Chappel said: "He is here to transfigure and to transform." 15 When the wine, a symbol of joy, in your life runs out - and it will - what will fill the empty vessel of your soul? Lost person, you have drunk of the wine of a God-rejecting world and "there is no more wine." Sin gives its best at the beginning for man to enjoy. It is only when one has been emptied by responding to the lusts of the flesh that pleases only for the moment that life turns from pleasure to pain, from joy to sorrow, from freedom to slavery, from sunshine to darkness - there's no more wine. The words of the ruler of the feast to the bridegroom surely can be applied to Jesus: "...but thou hast kept the good wine until now." 16
He can change the common water of life that runs out into the abundance of the good wine of salvation that is eternal. In Jesus life gets better at the last than it is at the beginning. The best is always yet to come. We will only realize the best at another wedding when Jesus and His bride, the Church, sit down at the supper of the Lamb.17
IV. WHY JOHN RECORDED THIS MIRACLE. None of the other gospels record that Jesus turned water to wine at Cana of Galilee. It is only in John 20:31 that we learn why John reported this miracle and the other miracles recorded in the Gospel of John. He says: "But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name." It must have worked for John said of the first miracle: "... and His disciples believed on Him."18 It will work now. If you believe in Jesus, you will have life through His name. Jesus is the miracle worker. He can transfigure and transform. He can work the miracle of a new birth for you so that you have spiritual life that is eternal.
Written by Hoyt Wilson
1 John 2:2
2 John 2:3
3 John 2:4
4 John 2:4
5 Ken Grice, Miracles, Incredible Moments With the Savior (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990, p. 4.
6 Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), p. 168.
7 John 2:5
8 C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 26 (Pasadena: Pilgrim Publications, 1980), p. 495.
9 John 2:6
10 John 2:10
11 Grice, p.6.
12 R. G. Lee, Lord, I Believe (Nashville: Sunday School Board of the SBC, 1927), p. 10.
13 Frederic L. Godet, Commentary on John's Gospel (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1978), p. 342.
14 John 2:11
15 Clovis G. Chappel, Sermons From the Miracles (Nashville; Cokesbury Press, 1937), p. 26.
16 John 2:10
17 Rev. 17:19
18 John 20:31
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Hoyt Wilson has been pastor of First Baptist Church in Lexington, Tennessee since 1978. He holds a BA degree from Union University, a M. Div. from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a D. Min from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. he and his wife Nancy have three grown children and nine grandchildren.