Summary: The passing of old things, and the ushering in of new.
NEW WINE WITH JESUS
The Gospel of John provides us with an unashamedly theological overview of the person of Christ. We are introduced to our Lord under the Genesis motif “in the beginning” (John 1:1), and as the Word made flesh (John 1:14). Throughout the book, John’s preferred word for what is translated as “miracle” is more accurately “sign”.
John 2 begins with the sign of Jesus turning water into wine under a thoroughly Biblical “third day” motif (Hosea 6:2; 1 Corinthians 15:4). This motif may also link with the “days” already mentioned in the previous chapter (John 1:29; John 1:35; John 1:43) to give us a new creation week, culminating in a wedding feast. Whilst the wedding in Cana is most certainly historical, and no doubt belongs here at the end of Jesus’ first week of ministry, we are put in mind of another wedding feast mentioned by John (Revelation 19:7-9).
The “week” motif is also, of course, thoroughly Biblical. Seventy weeks of years (literally “sevens seventy”) are carefully measured from the end of the seventy year exile of Jerusalem (Daniel 9:2) to the baptism of Jesus (Daniel 9:24). This forms a vital link in the Bible chronology which, added to our own less reliable calculations of the number of years since the “year of our Lord” (A.D.), places us on the threshold of the seventh millennium.
For us every new week dawns with a reminder of Jesus’ ministry on our behalf, and the communion reminds us of the wine which we will drink anew with Him in His Father’s kingdom (Matthew 26:29).
1. JESUS WAS CALLED TO A MARRIAGE (John 2:1-5)
It is important for a couple to call upon the name of Jesus on their wedding day, but also throughout their married life. The disciples of Jesus were also called to the feast, just as we are also called to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9). The mother of Jesus was already present, and she approached Jesus with a dilemma.
Sometimes the celebrations could go on for as long as a week, but it reflected badly on the bridegroom if the wine ran out. Mary’s request consisted in a mere statement of the facts as she saw them: “They have no wine.” Prayer should be like this, laying out our needs rather than our demands. This is true intercession.
The response of Jesus to His mother may at first seem quite shocking, but “Woman” was not so much a term of reproach as a term of endearment. It was echoed in a tender moment in the midst of the anguish of the Cross (John 19:26).
At first Jesus delayed in His answer to this prayer, for His hour of self-offering was not yet come. Mary, however, gave expression to her faith by instructing the servants to “do whatever He tells you” - an exhortation we would all do well to heed.
2. THE BEST WINE LAST (John 2:6-10)
The stone jars so ready to hand were usually used for ceremonial cleansing in accordance with the tradition of the elders (Mark 7:3). These things were about to pass away. Purification by water was all very well, but Jesus was to usher in a more thorough cleansing through His own blood shed upon the Cross (Hebrews 9:27-28).
It must have seemed strange to the servants to be told to fill the jars with water, draw out, and bear it to the master-of-ceremonies. Sometimes the answers to our prayers, miraculous or otherwise, come by means of clear-cut commands. Don’t expect answered prayer if you are not willing to obey!
The first indication of the transformation was when the servants obediently bore the water-made-wine to the governor of the feast. We can understand the sign when we realise that in Christ we have a new covenant, a more perfect sacrifice, the prospect of the passing of old things and the ushering in of new. The best wine was kept to the last: the law was fulfilled in Jesus (Matthew 5:17).
3. THE PURPOSE OF THE SIGNS (John 2:11)
Miracles are not an end in themselves, but do demand a response. It is on account of the consequent manifestation of His glory that the disciples were willing to put their trust in Him. We must do likewise.