John 2: 1 – 12 Changing water into wine
This is a very well-known story. I wonder if I’ll find something new to say about it?
On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. (John 2: 1 -2)
St John sets the scene. Time has passed. Jesus has his own disciples now.
When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, ‘They have no more wine.’
‘Woman, why do you involve me?’ Jesus replied. ‘My hour has not yet come.’
His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ (John 2: 3 – 5)
My bible (the NIV) tells me in a footnote that the Greek used when Jesus addresses his mother as ‘Woman’ does not denote any disrespect. I’m rather glad of that! I note, though, that St John doesn’t refer to Jesus’ mother as Mary. What significance that has – if any – I don’t know.
There is no wine left for the wedding banquet. The lack will spoil the celebration and shame the host. Jesus’ mother suggests to Jesus that he should help. At first he demurs but his mother tells the servants to ‘do whatever he tells you’, and Jesus changes his mind.
What absolute trust Jesus’ mother shows! She is completely confident that he can deal with the problem. She gives us a great example of faith.
Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from eighty to a hundred and twenty litres.
Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water’; so they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.’
They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realise where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 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.’ (John 2: 6 – 10)
Look at the amount of water turned into wine. Six hundred litres! That’s 158 US gallons, or 132 UK gallons, or 800 standard bottles of wine. It is an abundance of wine. Furthermore, it was top quality, better than anything that had previously been served at the wedding feast.
St John has written this story as though it’s true, but it’s also a parable. The water was in jars for ceremonial washing. This represents the old covenant of the Law. The wine represents the new covenant, where the Holy Spirit will dwell in all those who follow Jesus. The new wine is better than the old, and given in abundance.
And maybe a parable is all it is, but I personally don’t think so because St John takes care to tell us who witnessed the miracle. Jesus’ mother asked him to act, and would have known what happened. The servants who had filled the jars with water and seen it turned into wine were witnesses. Jesus’ disciples were present. Many people saw the miracle and could bear witness to it, says St John.
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.
After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days. (John 1: 11 – 12)
Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for the new wine of your Holy Spirit. Fill us with that wine so that we may rejoice in your love and pass it on to all those with whom we meet. Amen.