Water into Wine – by Mark Knoles
Wine in New Testament times was common at social events and in personal use. Most scholars agree that this was due to the poor taste of the water in the time and area. It was not typically fermented, for the main concern was flavor. The inclusion of grape juice covered the brackish taste of the water in that area of the world.
The wedding was a significant occasion in this culture. Jewish weddings were likely one of the largest social events in a town, especially a smaller town like Cana. It’s not entirely known why Mary “was there” (v. 1), but it is very likely Christ and His disciples were invited because of her, or even that Christ personally knew the married couple.
The loss of wine was significant. To run out of wine would certainly be a disappointment if not an insult to those invited. It seems that Mary was in some respect involved in the planning or conducting of the wedding feast, because it does not appear that the lack of wine was widely known among the guests. Upon finding the wine gone, she approaches Jesus with this information.
Why she does this is not entirely known. John records this as Christ’s first miracle, so it doesn’t seem likely that she expected a supernatural resolution to the problem. Perhaps she felt that He could in some way aid the servants. Regardless, Jesus agrees to assist her. His response in 2:4 in the original language is actually an affectionate response. In reality, Christ is seeking to honor His mother by getting involved.
It is interesting Christ takes an interest in this problem at all. While Christ’s focus is always on the spiritual, His involvement here demonstrates a very real awareness of cultural and social matters where His mother is concerned. There is no blame, no hesitation. Christ simply goes to the servants, tells them to fill the six water pots of stone, and commands them to take it to the master of the feast.
Perhaps the servants were initially bewildered with these instructions. What good would it do to bring water to this man? But at some point, the water becomes wine. When brought to the master, he did not know where it came from, but called the bridegroom over and commended him for keeping the best, meaning the most flavorful wine, until later in the feast.
Perhaps on the surface, this miracle appears as any number of other miracles that Christ performed. It is certainly significant being His first; but for that reason, perhaps it has even greater significance in another respect. He is honoring a marriage. His focus remains centered on His relationship with the Father (2:4).
The unexpected lack of beverages creates a problem for those who had planed the celebration. For those who center their lives on celebrations and parties will be continually disappointed – and empty and dry as well.
Christ did not come to interrupt culture. He did not stand and let everyone know that the wine was gone and that they would just have to do without it. In fact, it is because He recognized the dependence of the master and the guests upon the wine that He became involved.
Christ was not dependent upon the wine as the others were. His response to Mary in 2:4, while certainly an affectionate response, may infer He had other matters on His mind. It is not stated that Jesus, in fact, drank any of the wine.
Christ’s actions and comments were altogether different from what anyone might have expected. Mary brought Him to the servants expecting Him to do something, but again, it was unlikely she expected the supernatural. The servants certainly couldn’t have anticipated this. Indeed, what could their response have been when Jesus’ only instructions were to fill the pots with water and then bring some to the master of the feast? Had someone else been tasked with the wine, they may have simply said, “Go order more,” or “Send the guests away.” But Christ’s solution, while altogether different, proved to be the one solution that did not detrimentally affect the proceedings—indeed, it served to enhance them. Christ did not demand everyone leave because their source was gone—He became the source. Interestingly, He used the most humble means: water. And while His method of provision was different, it was only different because it relied upon the supernatural provision of God. Christ simply used what He had to work with—namely, foul-tasting water—and God provided supernatural wine.
When the master of the feast tasted the wine, even though he did not know where it came from, he recognized it had a greater quality than anything previously provided. This is a significant point. Then something is done according to God’s timetable – it is always the best. This wine is not simply good – it is better than anything else previously provided.
The world may not immediately recognize where the provision has come from, but when they partake, they will certainly recognize the quality. Note the perfect timing: “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have had plenty, then the inferior. But you have kept the good wine until now!” Only the “wine” God provides, only His influence, can fulfill the deepest longings and desires of the soul.
Christ was not credited for His work here. The master of the feast credited the bridegroom for the wine, not Christ. Interestingly, the servant who brought the master the wine doesn’t seem to offer any correction. Why is it that Christ would do this to manifest His glory (2:11) and yet, since no credit is given Him at least initially for it, what purpose did it serve? This paradox may offer some insight. While believers are called to have quality influence in culture and society, they are also responsible for making known their Source also. The servant did not speak up, when the manifestation of God’s supernatural influence came, – but Believers must. When society asks us what makes the difference, our unhesitating answer must be that it is Christ’s unparalleled touch, and encourage them to come and drink of His wine,His flavor, and His life.
The final point I’d like to make is the Apostle John’s final statement about these happenings: he recorded them as being “this is the beginning of the signs Jesus did”. Such a miracle is only the start of the supernatural influence God has provided and called His people to enjoy. All the Lord’s supernatural acts serve to call attention to the eternal purposes of God.