John 2:1-11. Water to Wine

1    On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there,  2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.  3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

4    “Woman,  why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

11    What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Signs are only important because of their function. They relay attention upon something else. The sign saying, “Welcome to Sydney” is not Sydney itself– it simply announces that one has arrived at the edge of the emerald city. Presumably, if you keep on travelling along this road, you will come to the Harbour, the Bridge and the Opera House. You will find beautiful beaches, traffic jams, high rise overdevelopment and infrastructure projects in various states of repair. The sign is only important because it directs our attention to something much greater.

Jesus’ action of turning water into wine is only important because it is a sign announcing something far more significant. The passage has several clues to help us understand the message.

First of all, there is a timing issue. Jesus’ “hour” has not yet come (v4). Fulfilment is near but not yet. Further, the timing of the wine is back to front. Somehow, God has saved ‘the best’ wine in abundance until what seems like ‘the last’– the end. God is surely doing something wonderful, right now.

Next, the sign involves a significant transformation. The ordinary water for Jewish purification is changed to beautiful wine. The purification rituals of the Old Testament seem now to be surpassed by a great celebration. Traditionally, wine was always associated with blessing and abundance, good times and celebration. The water foreshadowing purification has become the fulfilment of the harvest, i.e. wine.

And finally, post-resurrection reflection upon this first of Jesus’ signs reminds us that the great wedding banquet of the Lamb is imminent.

Rev. 19:9    Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”

Rev. 21:1    Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”  for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’  or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Lord Jesus Christ, I praise you that you have replaced ritual purifications and washings with the celebration of your victory over sin. Thank you for inviting me to the great wedding banquet, where the best has indeed been reserved for last. Please shape my living now in anticipation of that great day. Amen.