We are beginning chapter 2 of John's gospel where Jesus will go public with His ministry in a first demonstration of His power and authority.
Wedding at Cana
Until this time Jesus' ministry is largely practiced among the disciples of John the Baptist and within the confines of His home area and family. There is little, if any resistance to Jesus at this point, just as there is little resistance at our efforts to confess Christ so long as it is confined to the church building and our own Christian family. It is when we reveal ourselves publicly that the trouble starts, and so it was with Jesus when He began His public ministry at Cana.
Wedding feasts were great and joyous occasions during those times. Life revolved around the religious calendar and family events. A betrothal (engagement) meant that the couple were legally joined as man and wife, but usually remained with their families until co-habitation was arranged. The wedding feast signaled that the couple would begin actually living together as husband and wife. Many times the groom and his party would parade through the streets in order to fetch his bride and bring her to the wedding feast from which they would eventually leave to spend their first night together in their home. The feast itself could be an elaborate event which lasted seven days or more as guests arrived to wish the couple well. This type of celebration required an ample supply of food and drink. It was to such a feast Jesus was invited along with His disciples in Cana.
Vs. 1-3 – On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine."
Cana in Galilee was near Jesus' adult home located in Capernaum. Mary was at the wedding as friend and helper, it could well have been some family member being married. The wine ran out early and losing the main beverage so soon would spoil the feast and embarrass the family. Mary comes to Jesus (rather than the host) and states the problem, and in so doing intimates that He should solve this problem.
Vs. 4-5 – And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it."
"Woman what does that have to do with us?" literally means never mind; do not worry about it; this is my affair, not yours; what common thing do we share in this?
Her question contains a suggestion that she expects her action to move Him to a solution. His answer reveals that He is aware of what is going on and in control of the situation. He does not act because of her insistence. His time is not yet come; God initiates His actions, not man. Note also that the term "woman" is not a harsh or derogatory term for that time. See John 19:26 for comparison "Woman, behold your son."
His mother understands His response and since she was there as a helper, she gives instructions to the other helpers to follow His directions. Note that she leaves the problem in His hands after stating it. Many times we add solutions along with our prayers, but God's solutions to our prayers are not always the same as ours.
Vs. 6-8 – Now there were six stone water pots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. Jesus said to them, "Fill the water pots with water." So they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, "Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter." So they took it to him.
Water pots were needed for purification as well as the washing of utensils, etc. as was the custom of Jesus before eating. Jesus has them filled with water and then had a sample taken to the host for a taste. Note how effortlessly the miracle is produced: Jesus only intentioned it and it was done.
Vs. 9-10 – When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, and said to him, "Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now."
When the host or head-waiter tastes, he compliments the groom on the excellence of the wine. A side benefit of the miracle is that it not only saved the family from embarrassment and maintained the joy of the feast, but also blessed the groom in the eyes of his guests.
The head-waiter's compliment rested on the common practice of serving the sweet, fresh wine first and after much eating and drinking the taste buds are dulled so then they would serve the older, less tasty wine which would, by that time, not be noticed. The groom was complimented on serving good wine at the beginning and then the best at the end.
There are several comments I would like to make about this first miracle of Jesus at Cana.
The secretiveness of it
Only a few (His mother and a few of the servants along with His disciples) knew that a great miracle had taken place. Jesus managed to demonstrate His power to a few people without upsetting or overshadowing the happy moment that this couple and guests were sharing.
The miracle would be spoken of for all time, but for that precious moment, Jesus limited its impact to accommodate his hosts, while providing a witness to His disciples.
The nature of the miracle
The basic nature of the miracle is that Jesus transformed water into wine with only His will.
Many debate whether the water turned into pure grape juice or wine with an alcohol content. The argument is based on the Greek word OINOS and if it only refers to fermented wine or to grape juice or both. Here are some links to arguments for both sides of this issue so you can read and decide for yourselves:
For our study I simply want to point out that whether it was grape juice or wine with 3% alcohol content, or 6% content… the important thing to remember was that this was a great miracle.
Vs. 11 – This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.
John notes that this was His first sign. The Greek word for miracle is "sign." The point is that a miracle is not done to amaze but rather to point to someone or something or to reveal something. In this case, the sign points to Jesus as someone with supernatural power. The sign manifests His glory, His glory as the God/Man.
John mentions that these disciples believed in Him because of this sign; a brief show of one of the three strands of his narrative.
Vs. 12 – After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and they stayed there a few days.
We see from this verse that the feast was probably a family affair because even Jesus' brothers were at the event. They, however, were not privy to the miracle because John separates them from the disciples and there is no word from Mary either.
Jesus returns to His home that was in Capernaum. (Some think He may have lived with Peter.)