This miracle is the first recorded by John and is unique to his gospel. Only this miracle and the healing of the official’s son also in Cana (4:43-54) are explicitly referred to as miraculous signs. The disciples at the wedding with Jesus presumably are the men introduced to him in 1:35-51 – i.e. John the gospel writer / Andrew / Peter / Philip / Nathanael. Jesus’ public ministry begins in a semi-public setting of a wedding where on one level the miracle saves the groom from social embarrassment but on another level it reveals Jesus’ divine glory and produces faith in his followers – “He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him” (v. 11b). A wedding celebration could last as long as a week and it was the groom’s responsibility to ensure that there was enough wine for the guests.
The dialogue between Mary and Jesus is intriguing. The fact that Mary turns to Jesus in this situation is probably because she has come to rely on him as her eldest son in times of practical need. It is unlikely that she expects him to perform a miracle because she presumably as yet does not know that he is capable of one, after all John tells us this is Jesus’ first miracle. Jesus’ reply to his mother’s inferred request for help, “My time has not yet come” (v. 4) is presumably a reference to the fact that the time to display his miraculous power and thus launch his public ministry according to God’s divine timetable has not yet arrived.
Jesus would have no doubt made the connection between the setting of a wedding and the shortage of wine with various prophetic associations of the messianic age as a time when wine would flow freely – i.e. figurative language for a time of great divine blessing (e.g. Jeremiah 31:32 / Hosea 14:7 / Amos 9:13&14) and he himself adopts the wedding as a symbol for the consummation of the messianic age (e.g. Matthew 22:1-14 & 25:1-13). Jesus probably has in mind here the idea of himself as the one who will be the messianic bridegroom supplying the abundant wine of the new messianic age inaugurated by his death and resurrection but only ultimately consummated at his return and in this sense he is right to say that his time has not yet come. Jesus supplies the wine for the bridegroom at Cana as an anticipation of the way that he will ultimately fulfil the role of messianic bridegroom.
The conventional take on the practical measures described in verses 7&8 is that the water in the refilled ceremonial jars is then changed into wine. An alternative explanation is that water drawn separately from a well is actually the water turned into wine following the initial re-filling of the jars. The symbolism of this second view is obvious enough: Jesus has come both to fulfil and supersede the ceremonial requirements of the Old Covenant and institute a New Covenant of grace.
Where custom was to use the best wine first, the guests all realise that the new wine following the miracle is better than what came before. How can we apply this to our lives? Well, praise God for his ultimate expression of grace in his Son; remind yourself that nothing in the world satisfies like Jesus, and let’s believe that our experience of Jesus is going to one that deepens more and more because he wants us to know his great grace and love granting us joy and strength like no beverage can – the best is yet to come!
Prayer: Psalm 34:8 says ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good’. Take a little bit of honey, syrup or fruit. As you consider the goodness of God, taste it and thank God that he has been so good to you, and that the best is yet to come!
Song: Goodness of God