As we saw in the previous post, Jesus, his mother, and his disciples were all together as guests at a wedding in the village of Cana. The wine ran out, a situation that would have caused lasting embarrassment for the host, who may have been a member of their extended family.
Mary reported the situation to Jesus, knowing he could do something about it. His initial response sounded like a refusal, but she was undeterred, and instructed the servants to do whatever Jesus told them.
And then, of course, a miracle happened.
John gives us the eyewitness details. The miracle involved large jars used to hold the water needed for ceremonial cleansing, such as washing one’s hands before a meal. The jars were made out of stone; there were six of them; they held twenty to thirty gallons each, but weren’t full (John 2:6-7).
Jesus tells the servants to top off the jars, and when they had done this, to take some of the water to the headwaiter to taste. At that point, John tells us, the water had simply become wine (vs. 9). When, exactly, did the transformation happen? How? We’re not told, nor does it seem to matter.
What does matter to John, however, is the quality of the wine. Again, we’re treated to a nice little social detail. A rich person might be expected to serve good wine at such a celebration, as a mark of the host’s wealth and largesse. Later, the host could freely trot out the cheap stuff, because everyone would be too drunk to know the difference.
The headwaiter, however, having tasted the wine that Jesus made, chided the bridegroom: “Why have you saved the good stuff until now?” (vs. 10).
Reflecting on the miracle, many commentators over the centuries have wanted to make something out of a symbolic contrast between water and wine. The water of purification signifies the old covenant; the wine signifies the gospel and the new covenant. And so it might be.
But the way John tells the story, the message seems simply to be: Jesus brings the good stuff.
In the previous post, we noted how Jesus had a clear sense of mission that, at least at first, had little to do with his mother’s request that he do something to save the host from a shameful faux pas. Jesus always did things in obedience to his Father, not to satisfy the demands put on him by others.
Yet there it is: Jesus supplies over 100 gallons of wine to help the host save face and keep the wedding guests happy.
And never mind that the guests are too drunk to know the difference — Jesus brings the good stuff.
That in itself should be a sign to us of what it means for God’s kingdom to miraculously invade our imperfect world.