There was a wedding in Cana of Galilee. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, he said, “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.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. [John 2:1-12]
How fascinating this “first sign,” of Jesus. Why this? It seems so petty. So materialistic. The record of each and every other miracle Jesus performed involved people directly: the deaf hear, the lame walk, the blind see, the dead come alive. Why wine? It ran out the first time. It will run out again. What was Jesus doing? What is the author attempting to convey?
The author (strongly presumed to be John the apostle) tells us at the end of his gospel that he has selected these stories so that the reader may believe Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) and thus have life in Jesus’ name. Interestingly enough, the author places a key clue in this text. Did you catch that last line? “And his disciples believed in him.” It is assumed that at least five guys had just met this “Lamb of God” a few days prior while attending a wild prophet’s traveling baptismal (John the baptizer). These guys then joined Jesus on a 70-100 mile trek to attend a wedding in one of their home towns (Nathaniel in Cana). What can happen in three days? Apparently, plenty. And then they watched as Jesus took water, normally used to clean the outside of a body, and turned it into wine that affects the inside of the body and brings joy.
Who knew about this water into wine miracle? A mother, some servants, and these five, maybe six, men. But were these ordinary men? At least two were students of John the baptizer. Andrew brought his brother, Peter, and Philip also brought Nathaniel, claiming “we found the Messiah!” And Nathaniel, Jesus proclaimed, was an Israelite in whom is no deceit (go read Genesis 28). They were familiar with the stories of old. They were looking for someone to whom these stories pointed.
So, this miracle. Water into wine. Should we conclude the disciples watched as the worldly resource (wine) was depleted (it always does) and Jesus not only replenished but actually made abundant their depletion? Sure. That sounds great, but it does seem a bit petty. Could there be something else?
I happened to be reading the Exodus story as I have been pondering this miracle (fascinating how God arranges these happenings). Israel is a large group of people but had been enslaved in servitude to Egypt’s king. Moses was a miracle child who survived a massacre of kindred, male babies. He was then raised in the king’s household but ran away to the desert after a really bad decision. Much older now, the Lord appears to Moses and sends him back into the heart of Egypt to lead Israel out of captivity in order to redeem God’s “firstborn” (Israel) from the person whose firstborn would soon be killed. The very first sign that God moved Moses and Aaron to show Pharaoh is this:
Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and of his officials he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the river, and all the water in the river was turned into blood. Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said. Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart. Seven days passed after the Lord had struck the Nile. [Exodus 7:20-25]The first sign.
Water turned to…blood. Red.
Pharaoh did not take even this to heart. No belief.
Seven days. The typical length of a wedding celebration in Cana.
What does John record about Jesus? The first sign. Water turned to…wine (Red or white wine? Let’s picture red, like the blood). And what did this do for those who observed? They believed in him. In contrast to Pharaoh, these guys with Jesus took this to heart.
As the background blurs and the camera zooms in on their faces, what might these five or six newbies be thinking? “This so reminds me of something…Moses! Wait. A. Second. Moses is great and all but he didn’t have power in himself to do this. It came from YAHWEH, the flame in the bush, the One who is with, the God of the living and not the dead. This Jesus, with a word, just changed this water not into something that brings about death and destruction but joy and unity. Could one greater than Moses be among us? Pharaoh did not believe when he saw this. Am I like Pharaoh? What will I do? Who has YAHWEH come to set free in my land?
If this was the first sign and hyperlinks us to Moses and the Exodus story, we must look at the entire story of Jesus and ask, “what then is the final sign”?
The one that takes the firstborn son and sets God’s people free.