Summary: A look at the wedding in Cana in it relation to the first wedding in Eden and the final wedding feast of the Lamb.
MSNBC reported on an archaeological dig in Cana, Israel in 2004. The article read: “Among the roots of ancient olive trees, archaeologists have found pieces of large stone jars of the type the Gospel says Jesus used when he turned water into wine at a Jewish wedding in the Galilee village of Cana. They believe these could have been the same kind of vessels the Bible says Jesus used in his first miracle, and that the site where they were found could be the location of biblical Cana. . . . Israeli archaeologist Yardena Alexander believes the Arab town was built near the ancient village. The jar pieces date to the Roman period, when Jesus traveled in the Galilee.”
I reference this archeological dig to say that the story of the first miracle of Jesus at the wedding in Cana is firmly rooted in the real world. It is grounded in history. History is “his story.” This wedding and miracle are inextricably connected to what God is doing in the world. It is linked to what God did in the beginning of world and what he will do at the end of the world, as we shall see.
It is interesting that Jesus performed his first miracle at a wedding. And what is even more interesting is the nature of the miracle he performs. It raises puzzling questions. What would you do if you were Jesus and you were about to begin your ministry? What kind of miracle would you perform? The devil gave Jesus a few ideas during his temptation in the wilderness: “Hey Jesus, how about turning some rocks into bread? The crowds will love it. Or, how about this, throw yourself from the high point of the temple over the Kidron Valley. Let the people see the angels come to scoop you up just before you hit the rocks. That will get their attention!” Now there are some miracles for you! But Jesus begins his ministry with a miracle in a nondescript remote town of Galilee, and he performs the miracle in a way so as not to bring attention to himself. No one actually saw him do anything.
The miracle itself mystifies American Christians who have the prohibition movement as part of our history. Many Christians have very strong feelings about any use of alcohol whatsoever. So this passage is problematic for many American Christians — not so much with Christians elsewhere in the world. And the more you study this passage the more problematic it becomes. If a pastor brought a bottle of wine to a wedding it might cause a stir, but Jesus not only turns water into wine, he makes a lot of it, and after the guests have had too much to drink. As John tells the story, he says that there were six stone jars containing 20-30 gallons each. Average that out to 25 gallons, and multiply it by six, and you have 150 gallons of wine. That’s a lot of wine, and this is not some sort of grape juice, otherwise the master of the banquet would not have pronounced it the “best” wine.
In fact, it was not until 1869 that Dr. Thomas Bramwell Welch, a physician and dentist by profession, successfully pasteurized Concord grape juice and made non-alcoholic wine possible. The company his son started is still called Welch’s grape juice. Dr. Welch was an ardent prohibitionist and the communion steward at his local Methodist Church. He wanted to have non-alcoholic communion wine available at his church.