The Wedding at Cana
1On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10and said to him, “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.” 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
12After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they remained there a few days.
John is a story of the love and self-proclamation of Jesus, focusing more on the spirituality of faith than in the synoptic gospels. At the time of its writing, Jewish custom made weddings grand, important events, and having the food and drink to feed the guests was expected. Jesus and Mary were at this specific wedding because it could plausibly have been a family member getting married. When the wine ran out, there was a state of panic; the chief steward would have wanted to protect his, and the couple’s, honor. Mary, often portrayed as compassionate in the Bible, sees this struggle and wishes to help. Telling Jesus they are out of wine can be looked at in different ways. Mary may not have expected a miracle from Jesus, and simply wanted to see if he had any ideas to help. But perhaps she was specifically looking for one, knowing that he was the Son of God as much as her own son, and encouraging him to begin his ministry. Jesus’ time is based on God’s wishes rather than his mother’s, so his response isn’t a lack of obedience to his mother, but rather a complete obedience to his heavenly Father.
Perhaps because, in John, Jesus is portrayed as always being in control of the situation, despite what happens to him–including the crucifixion–he decides to help. He tells the servants to fill up the purification jars, which were used for ritual bathing of sorts. There is no verse where Jesus gives a command or performs an act that turns the water into wine, which is interestingly contrary to God’s words beginning creation in Genesis 1, and which can prompt the question of whether the story is to be taken literally or symbolically. When the steward states that they have saved the good wine for last, against normal practice, it gives readers the idea that Jesus is the “good wine.” The Eucharist, remembering the Last Supper and Jesus’ sacrifice, also employs wine as Jesus’ blood shed for the forgiveness of sin. Using similar symbolism, the later miracle of feeding the 5,000 could allude to Jesus’ claim, “I am the bread of life.” Unlike the Synoptic gospels, where this would be called a “miracle,” John uses the words “sign” and “work” to explain what happens here. “Miracle” has a connotation of a showing of power that work and sign do not. Jesus reveals some of his glory here, but it is for the purpose of belief, as illustrated by his disciples, rather than a demonstration of power. His disciples come to believe, for the Messiah is foretold as having saved the good wine for last in the Old Testament. Jesus doesn’t fully reveal this power and this purpose until the Passion.
Brown, Raymond E., The Gospel According to John (i-xii). The Anchor Bible. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc, 1966.
D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John. GrandRapids, Michigan: Willian B.Eerdmans Publishing company, 1991.
Interlinear Bible. Glassport: Bible Hub, 2014. http://biblehub.com/greek/1411.htm (accessed December 2, 2016)
Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010.
Kretzman, Paul. The Popular Commentary of the Bible. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921. http://www.kretzmannproject.org/ (accessed December 2, 2016).
Smith, D. Moody, “John.” In HarperCollins Bible Commentary, edited by James L. Mays, 956-986. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 2000.