Early in our Lord’s public ministry, He attended a wedding in Cana of Galilee. In John 2:11 we read that Jesus did His first miracle at this wedding feast. Changing the water into wine was not only His first miracle, but also the first of the seven “sign miracles” in the Gospel of John. The sign miracles were specifically selected to prove the deity of Jesus Christ and to show that salvation is found in Him alone. “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples, but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life through His name” (Jn. 20:30-31). Let’s look at this miracle at the wedding reception in Cana and see some of the lessons the Holy Spirit intended by this first sign miracle.
When you visit Cana today, you will see at least four churches that commemorate this first miracle of Jesus. Each church is supposed to be situated right over the place where it happened! We don’t know the exact spot of the miracle, but we definitely know that it took place in the small town of Cana, near Nazareth in Galilee. John 21:2 tells us that the disciple, Nathanael, came from Cana. The Nathanael connection may be one of the reasons Jesus and His disciples were invited to this wedding.
From Embarrassment To Miracle
A major social embarrassment took place at this wedding reception – they ran out of wine! That’s like inviting people to a dinner party today, and running out of food before everyone is served. Mary, the Lord’s mother was so concerned about this embarrassing situation that she asked Him to do something.
The Lord’s response to His mother sounded harsh: “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” Although it sounded abrupt, it was not harsh. It’s similar to the words the Lord said to Mary when He was on the cross, “Woman, behold your son” (referring to John, the disciple), and to John, “Son, behold your mother.” In His reply, the Lord’s point was that He was subject to the will of His heavenly Father, and not His human mother. Mary recognized this, and simply said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”
The six stone water pots (2:6) were used for ceremonial washings. These ritualistic washings were practiced in Judaism (both then and now). Each water pot held 20-30 gallons. The Lord changed all that water to wine. That’s a lot of wine! Could this wine make them drunk?
Some people would say that the “wine” mentioned in John 2 was only good grape juice. But if that were the case, the master of ceremonies wouldn’t have said to the host: “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” (2:10). This wasn’t just wine. This was excellent wine, aged miraculously! This was quite a miracle.
But why would Jesus change water into wine that could make people drunk? The basic answer is that there is nothing intrinsically evil about wine, so there is no problem with the Lord making wine. In fact, wine is used as a symbol of joy throughout the Scriptures. Problems with wine arise because of what we do with wine. The Bible is clear that we are not to get drunk with wine (Eph. 5:18). The Bible is also clear that we should not hinder the Christian growth of weaker or more sensitive believers by the improper use of our Christian liberty, including our use of alcoholic beverages (Rom. 14:13-15:2).
As to the amount of wine, you might ask, “Why so much?” Six water pots of 20-30 gallons each is a lot of wine! We should keep a couple of things in mind here. First, this was a very large wedding reception. You don’t have six large ceremonial pots of water for ritual washing if you have only a small group. Furthermore, we should remember that wedding receptions in that day didn’t last just a couple of hours – they sometimes went on for an entire week!
Note that 2:11 says that this was the “beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee.” This was His first miracle. This statement rules out the so-called “childhood miracles” Jesus supposedly performed, according to unreliable, extra-biblical, apocryphal sources. The Bible says, “This beginning of signs … manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.”
God’s View Of Marriage And Weddings
The Lord blessed this wedding and reception with His presence and His first miracle. We know from Genesis 1 that God approves of marriage, and sexual relations within marriage. But marriage, as ordained by God, is between one man and one woman, in a permanent, life-long relationship (Gen. 2:24).
What constitutes a marriage? Is it just a man and a woman suddenly deciding that they are in love and saying some secret vows to each other?” No! As we follow marriages throughout Scripture, we find that the marriage vows are a public declaration, not just before God, but also before other people and the civil authorities. Marriage vows are to be made before God and in the presence of witnesses who can attest to the vows before governmental authorities.
Remember that civil authorities are ordained by God according to Romans 13:1-7. So a secret agreement between a guy and a girl, that they will be true to one another, does not constitute a marriage. A wedding is the celebration of a marriage – a public declaration before God and the civil powers that this man and woman have made covenants to each other, and are now man and wife. The fact that Jesus attended this wedding in Cana supports the biblical truth that God approves of marriage and weddings.
Judaism And Christian Joy
All the miracles of Jesus have teaching associated with them. It was not by chance that He chose to do this miracle by using six Jewish water pots! The Lord could have snapped His fingers and created the wine, but He didn’t. He specifically chose to use those ceremonial pots when He changed water into wine, because of the teaching that is associated with the miracle.
In this miracle, the water pots represent Judaism. They represent what the Old Testament Law had become, with all of the additions and traditions that the Jews had added to it over the years. Like the empty water pots (Jn. 2:7), Judaism had become an empty shell, powerless to produce joy. Without the miracle, those water pots could produce no wine, the symbol of joy. Joy could only come through the coming of Jesus and the miracle of new birth.
The new wine of Christianity is not Old Testament Judaism repackaged, even though Christianity is based on the Old Testament and is its fulfillment. The pots were empty but the empty rituals of Judaism ended with the coming of Jesus. He didn’t ask the servants to throw away the old water pots. He simply asked them to fill them with water. Then He performed the miracle. He filled those pots with something new. The servants drew out new wine!
In Matthew 5:17 Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.” The Lord did not discard the teachings of the Old Testament or the principles taught in the Mosaic Law. He fulfilled them! He filled them with new joy and meaning. Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament, and true joy is only available in Him. Judaism could never produce the joy of Christianity.
Responses To Jesus’ Work
The joyful results at this wedding reception were in contrast to what happened a few miles away and a few months later, in Nazareth. There the Lord’s ministry was rejected. The people even tried to kill Jesus by throwing Him over a cliff (Lk. 4:14-30). These two contrasting events represent the range of responses to the Word and the work of Jesus today.
On the one hand, some people are filled with rage when they hear the truth. They totally reject the Lord, as did the people in Nazareth (Lk. 4:28-29). On the other hand, those who respond eagerly to the truth and put their faith in Jesus will see the Lord’s glory revealed, as did the disciples at the wedding reception in Cana (Jn. 2:11).
Jesus Invited To The Wedding
The Lord Jesus accepted the invitation to the wedding in Cana. His presence brought joy to all who were there! If the Lord is leading you to get married, invite Him to your wedding and He will bless you and others through you.
What does it mean to invite Jesus to your wedding? First it means that you want your marriage to be biblical – that is two believers married in the Lord. It also means that you want to place the Lord first in your relationship. You want to have a Christ-honoring relationship, family and home!
A Christian marriage is a wonderful reflection of the relationship between Christ and His Bride, the Church: “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for her” (Eph. 5:25). The love relationship between Christ and His Church is to be reflected in the marriage relationship of two believers. A Christian marriage can greatly advance the kingdom of Christ as the spouses dedicate themselves to serving the Lord together, in a loving relationship that reflects the relationship between Christ and His Church. What a challenge!
Come As You Are!
We have already seen that there is a wonderful picture of new birth in Christ in the miracle at the wedding in Cana. Notice how our Lord went about performing this miracle. He didn’t ask that the water pots be cleaned up first. He just said, “Fill them up with water.” Then came the miracle.
There is a divine principle here for salvation. The Lord doesn’t ask us to first get our act together, get all cleaned up and then come and present ourselves to Him saying, “OK Lord, I’m all cleaned up. Now You can save me.” No, He asks us to come just as we are!
The filling up with water may represent the importance of God’s Word, the Bible, in the process of salvation. Often water represents the cleansing effect of God’s Word. Ephesians 5:26 mentions “the washing with water by the Word.” And Romans 10:17 says that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” If the water represents His Word, this is a great lesson in how to evangelize.
We can’t do the miracle. Only the Lord can! But we can obey His command and fill the pots with water. We can share the Word of God. That’s our job. Then God works the miracle of new birth. What a great lesson!
Maybe you’re like one of those water pots before the miracle – empty and just going through the motions of rituals and religious ceremonies. The divine remedy is to come to Christ as you are, receive the Word of God and experience the miracle and joy of salvation.
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org