The story of Jesus turning the water into wine has always been a little bit strange to me. The dialogue between Jesus and Mary is difficult, it seems odd that Jesus would turn water into wine, and this just isn’t that impressive as far as His miracles go. Why would this be His first one recorded in John, why does John even bother to tell us about it at all, and why are there so many details?
I’ve had some time to look it over this week, and while I don’t have every answer, I do think it makes more sense. It’s important to remember that John writes to prove that Jesus is the anointed One of God. He is God’s Son and the Word at the same time. It’s also important to remember that “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” (1:11) and even when He was standing with them they didn’t know Him (1:26). He did, however, convince a few chosen followers to come after Him, and it’s at this point that our story begins:
And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: 2And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. 3And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. 4Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.
This is part of that confusing dialogue. Why is she worried about the wine? Why does she think Jesus can solve the problem? Why does He give her such a strange answer? The answer, I think, lies in keeping this within view of the main context. Mary knew who He was (Lk. 1:31-32; 2:14-19); she was like the other Jews who waited for the Messiah to come and take over David’s throne. And now she’s done with the waiting and she wants Him to act.
But look at His response to her: “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” It does come across a little condescending in English, but let’s not forget John’s main goal: who is this man? He’s not the Son of Mary; He’s the Son of God. When the woman tries to impose her will upon God, God reminds her that she is only a woman. She may be blessed among other women, but she is still just a woman.
“What have I to do with thee?” Literally He says, Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί (Ti emoi kai soi) or “What to me and to you?” There’s a similar statement used in Matthew 8:29 when Jesus confronts the demons. They ask Him “What have we to do with thee”; Τί ἡμῖν καὶ σοί or (Ti emin kai soi) “What to us and to you?” They may as well be saying, “What business do we have?” Or, as I think Jesus means with Mary, “What do we have in common?”
Mary is ready now to reveal His purpose and glory, but Jesus refuses telling her “My hour is not yet come.” That hour will come when Jesus prays “Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee” in John 17:1, but it’s not here yet. Don’t get confused because He goes ahead with the miracle; apparently she’s ready for Him to show the world He’s the King of Israel, but right now He’s focused on showing His disciples His glory (:11).
Apparently Mary understands enough to let it be and she backs off to let Him handle it:
5His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. 6And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.
You know that the Jews washed habitually from tradition (Mk. 7:3), and here’s these six waterpots set out in a convenient place. Now, there are plenty of commentators who try to find the meaning of six pots and why they’re made of stone, and why they’re empty and all, but it feels a little subjective to me. Maybe this is an illustration of Jesus talking the empty vessel of stone and filling it with the wine of joy and maybe it’s not. At the least, it’s not John’s main point:
7Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. 8And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.
The governor is the head-waiter. I suppose he’s like the wedding planners of our day and this puts him in charge of the wedding.
9When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, 10And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.
Well, I guess we’d better address it here since some are undoubtedly wondering: the Greek word for “wine” means “fermented wine” and “men have well drunk” is just one Greek word. It simply means to have been filled or intoxicated or drunk.
Compare the following:
“set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk”
τὸν καλὸν οἶνον (oinon) τίθησιν καὶ ὅταν μεθυσθῶσιν (methusthosin)
“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess
καὶ μὴ μεθύσκεσθε (methuskesthe) οἴνῳ (oino) ἐν ᾧ ἐστιν ἀσωτία
Look these words up in a Greek concordance and you’ll find that they share the same root words and mean the same thing.
I’ve heard probably every argument trying to make Jesus a teetotaler (including one that says they were all spitting it out after every drink!), but none of them add up to the plain words. This is real wine for real Jews at a real wedding. But it’s sad that we’re so easily distracted by modern forms of legalism. I seriously doubt John ever bogged down in these arguments, and undoubtedly understood the main point:
11This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.
The Greek word for “miracles” means a “mark” or an “omen”. This is the first recorded miracle in John. It was the first mark of His divinity, and it demonstrated His glory. The men who followed already believed He was the Messiah, and now they see His glory for themselves. The result is wonderful: they “believed on Him.” They trusted in Him and decided to stay with Him wherever He went!
Let’s close with a few thoughts:
#1- God works on His own schedule.
#2- God works through the processes of time and order.
#3- God is sovereign over nature.
#4- God’s purpose in working is to demonstrate His glory.
#5- The result of His work is belief in His people.