Series: Reflections From John
“On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. … When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, ‘They have no more wine.’” (John 2:1,3)
The account of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana has provided background material for numerous jokes and generated lively debates through the centuries. Christians disagree over whether the wine that resulted was alcoholic, or simply unfermented grape juice. The answer to that question usually depends upon one’s view toward the social consumption of alcoholic beverages. Personally, I’m convinced it was the real stuff!
On the surface, one cannot help but wonder why John even included this account in his gospel. It seems to be a strange miracle with little divine purpose. No other gospel writer found it worthy of telling. Jesus even seemed initially reluctant to address his mother’s concern that the wine had run out, telling her “Dear woman, why do you involve me? … My time has not yet come.” (John 2:4)
Neither did this miracle appear to serve a great public purpose at the time. In fact, only Mary, Jesus, the disciples, and the servants likely knew that a miracle had even taken place. Jesus generated no great spectacle surrounding the event. He didn’t stand over the water pots, wave his hands over them, or utter some powerful prayer. He simply gave instructions to the servants to fill the pots and serve the contents.
Given that John elected to detail only seven miracles in his gospel, why include this one? Although some have tried to use this account to justify their consumption of alcoholic beverages, I don’t believe John’s purpose was to resolve this debate among Christians.
Mary’s instructions to the servants to “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5) certainly serve a great spiritual purpose, reminding us of the importance of being sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives and obeying him promptly when his directions are clear. This lesson has served me well through the years taking me down many worthwhile paths I might have avoided otherwise – a topic I covered in “The Paths Of Life”.
Mary’s actions also provide a picture of effective prayer. All of us are likely guilty of suggesting to God how he should respond to our prayers, as though we know what is best. But we don’t see what God sees and his solutions often far exceed our wildest expectations. I doubt that Mary had any idea what was about to take place, any more than we do when we bring a problem to him in prayer ourselves. She doesn’t suggest what to do or how to do it. She just brought her problem to Jesus, trusting him with the solution.
While these are worthwhile spiritual applications to be taken from this account, I don’t believe John was thinking of either of them when he decided to include this miracle. I believe John’s sole purpose for including this miracle among the seven he details is stated clearly in verse 11. “This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.”
John likely recorded this miracle simply because it was the first miracle he saw Jesus perform, thus sealing in his mind once and for all that Jesus was more than a teacher or prophet – he was the Son of God, just as John the Baptist had proclaimed. John concedes at the end of Chapter 20 that Jesus performed “many other miraculous signs” which he did not record. But he chose seven specifically “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in his name.” (John 20: 30-31)
All of us have a story to tell. If you are a follower of Christ, you have your own “gospel” story – a term that simply means “good news”. You too can point to a time in your life when the veil over your heart was first lifted and Christ revealed himself in a way that was undeniable and that forever changed your heart, renewed your outlook on this life, and transformed your expectations of life beyond this one.
Share your gospel story with someone this Easter season. As Mary commanded the servants at the wedding, do whatever The Lord tells you. Jesus has commissioned us all to be his “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) That hour you first believed might not have resulted from something as dramatic as the miracle John witnessed, but it is no less life-changing. And it is likely just as compelling to someone desperate for the hope they see in you – a hope that only God can provide.
“How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.” – Amazing Grace, John Newton
Note: All Scripture references from the New International Version (NIV)