Miraculous New Wine
The Gospel of John tells some stories that are not in the other Gospels. One of them is the story of the wedding in Cana of Galilee:
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “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, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and 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.” (John 2:1-11)
This story fits perfectly into the Season of the Epiphany. We are examining how God has manifested himself unto his people. The miracle of the feast was a sign from God. Signs are meant to direct us to something. The Gospel of John wrote about these signs for a reason. From the twentieth chapter of John we read:
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)
Why did Jesus turn the water into wine? There were obvious reasons. Who can resist a Jewish mother? Then there was the embarrassment of the bridegroom who had run out of wine to serve his guests. Jesus cares about us in every area of our lives. Then there is the more obvious:
Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (John 2:11)
But as is usual in the Gospel of John, there is more here than meets the eye. We have a transformation of water into wine. Surely this demonstrates that Jesus is the agent of creation and transformation. From John chapter one:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. (John 1:1-3)
The water that transformed to wine at the wedding in Cana was from six jars which were used for ritual purification. Jesus, in his coming ministry, would transform and fill these jars with something better.
The Jews were aware of how sinful, how unclean they were before their God and how much they needed to be cleansed from their sins. Ritual purity was very important to Jewish people at this time.
We see it when the Pharisees question Jesus about his disciples eating without washing their hands in Mark 7. They weren’t thinking of personal hygiene, but religious purity. Those who did not follow the strict teachings concerning ritual purification were considered, by the Pharisees, less holy than those who did. Using jars that represented ritual purity at the expense of relationships, Jesus was seeking not to transform just water into wine, but attitudes of exclusivity based on fear of contamination. Jesus didn’t empty the jars…they were already empty. Jesus filled and transformed rituals that spoke of separation into wine that speaks of celebration and unity.
At the beginning of story about the wedding in Cana we have this phrase: “On the third day.” Surely this could suggest the transformation of Jesus at the resurrection.
God is ready to transform us. Jesus said:
“Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” (John 6:52-56)
The psalmist wrote:
How priceless is your love, O God!
your people take refuge under the shadow of your wings.
They feast upon the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the well of life,
and in your light we see light. (Psalm 36:7-9)
Amen. (See Eucharistic Preaching.)