By Sam E. Stone
Last week we studied the introduction to the fourth Gospel, the Prologue. John told next how Jesus began his ministry by being baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River (John 1:19-34). Then he began choosing his disciples. Andrew and Peter were the first to follow Jesus (vv. 35-42). Next he called Philip and Nathanael (vv. 43-51). Today’s text immediately follows these events.
Hope for a Miracle
On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Cana was the hometown of Nathanael, and was only a few miles from Nazareth where Jesus grew up. The presence of Jesus’ mother could indicate that she was just another guest or friend of the family. It seems more likely, however, that she was a relative, perhaps one assisting with the wedding feast. A. T. Robertson notes, “Mary feels some kind of responsibility and exercises some kind of authority for reasons not known to us.”
When she told Jesus that the wine was gone, he replied with courteous respect, but not obedience. His response could be translated, “What is that to us?” Then he added, “My time has not yet come.” This indicated that God came first with him, not human relationships (compare Matthew 12:46-50). Several times in John’s Gospel his time is mentioned, leading up to the supreme moment when he would die on the cross (see John 7:6, 8, 30; 8:20). Jesus did what God wanted him to do, when God wanted him to do it.
Mary was completely submissive and remained confident that Jesus could correct the situation. She instructed the servants, “Do whatever he tells you,” calling for their unlimited obedience. This is a wise principle for all of us to follow!
Nearby were six large stone jars, each capable of holding a large quantity of water. J. W. McGarvey points out that this illustrates the Lord’s bounty. “As 12 basketfuls were left after feeding the 5,000, there was doubtless here a like sufficiency, and the surplus would serve as an acceptable gift to the married couple.”
Hope From a Miracle
Jesus instructed the servants to carry some of the water from the large jars to the master of the banquet. This person’s job was something like that of a toastmaster. He knew nothing about where the wine had come from—only that it was of a quality superior to any he had tasted. He complimented the groom, remarking that most people put out their best wine at the first, but in this case he had obviously saved the best till the last!
Some wonder if Jesus made intoxicating wine. The Scripture does not affirm this. If Jesus were to have done so, it would be the only time he ever used his power to provide something potentially destructive to people. Rather, it indicates that what he made was of exceptional quality.
Seth Wilson explains, “Wine was regularly an important food item in these times. Grapes were the third most important fruit of the land. Jesus ate and drank in a normal manner, in contrast to John the Baptist. He was even abused for it (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34). Their wine was not always strongly intoxicating, and seems to have been called wine when it was not intoxicating at all. When it was intoxicating its use was restricted or forbidden; excessive drinking and drunkenness were definitely condemned (Proverbs 23:29-32; 1 Corinthians 6:10; 1 Timothy 3:3, 8).”
The Gospel writer concludes, “This, the first of his miraculous signs . . . thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.” John always refers to Jesus’ miracles as signs. In chronological order, this was the first one. Miracles are proof of the divine authority of the one performing them. When Jesus multiplied the loaves (John 6:14, 26, 30), it drew attention to the fact that he is the Bread of Life. When he opened the eyes of the man born blind (9:26), he affirmed that he is the light of the world (v. 5). A sign always points to the one who performs it. John, like the other disciples whom Jesus selected, was able to bear witness to what he had seen and heard. His words are a powerful testimony to Christ’s deity (v. 30).
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.