Turning water into wine is the first miraculous “sign” in John’s gospel. It confirms that Jesus is the Messiah promised in Scripture, while pointing to the glory that will be revealed when Jesus pours out his life in love through crucifixion.
The disciples who accompany Jesus to Cana have been following because they have heard that he is the Lamb of God (John 1:35-37). They have also come to believe that he is the Messiah foretold in the Law and the Prophets (John 1:45, 49). The wedding provides an occasion for Jesus to confirm what they believe by his actions. Six stone jars, which were used for Jewish rites of purification, are filled with water. Each jar holds twenty-five to thirty gallons and Jesus transforms the water into wine. The action recalls that according to the law the messianic ruler who came from Judah would be able to wash clothes in wine (Genesis 49:10-11), and the prophets added that when the Davidic kingdom was restored the hills would flow with wine (Amos 9:11-13). The sign confirms that Jesus is God’s promised ruler.
The wider context of John’s Gospel also shows that the glory Jesus reveals in a preliminary way at Cana (John 2:11) foreshadows the glory he will reveal more fully by his death. At Cana his hour has not yet come (2:4), but at the cross the hour arrives. At Cana Jesus begins his ministry by giving the best wine (2:10), and at the cross he completes his ministry by drinking the sour wine (19:29-30). If the sign he performs at Cana reveals the glory of divine power, the cross will reveal the depth of divine love.
2On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, They have no wine. 4And Jesus said to her, Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come. 5His mother said to the servants, Do whatever he tells you. 6Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, Fill the jars with water. And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward. So they took it. 9When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10and said to him, Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now. 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org
10 February 2011