KC Tsai—Toronto, Canada
At the start of Jesus' ministry, after He had chosen five of His disciples, He attended a wedding in Cana of Galilee. This is where He performed His first miracle:
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine." Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it." Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. Jesus said to them, "Fill the waterpots with water." And they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, "Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast." And they took it. When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. And he said to him, "Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!" This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him. (Jn 2:1–11)
Some may read this passage and think that this was an impressive but inconsequential miracle—a wedding may be an important day for a bride and groom, but running out of wine is not a matter of life or death. However, there is always a spiritual significance in the miracles Jesus performs, and this is no less true for His first one. What can we learn? What actually happened at the wedding in Cana?
REMOVAL OF THE WATER
Jesus is the kind and loving God who never ceases to care for His people, blessing them with grace and happiness. But some would ask, “Why was His first miracle not performed to save lives, heal the sick, cast out demons, or even calm the waves of the sea? Why would it be turning water into wine?”
Turning water into wine was unlike most other life-changing miracles recorded in the Bible. However, it did serve to manifest Jesus’ glory to the disciples at the launch of His ministry.
Wine is the focus of this miracle, but the transformation of the water in the six waterpots, representing the ceremonial ritual of Jewish tradition, is also significant. The waterpots would have contained water for ceremonial washing, but Jesus asked the servants to top up these pots with more water. After the miracle, the water in those six stone waterpots was replaced by wine. In the new covenant brought by Jesus, the old practices of ceremonial washing that belonged to the old were eliminated. This may be the significance of Jesus’ first miracle—proclaiming the coming of the “new wine,” the gospel preached by Jesus, which would eliminate the Jewish practices of ceremonial washing. The very purpose of Jesus’ words, which is the truth, is to set man free from the bondage of old (Jn 8:31–32).
Let us look into this passage in greater detail.
INVITE JESUS INTO YOUR MARRIAGE
The Bible says that the mother of Jesus was at the wedding (Jn 2:1). She was likely there to assist in the wedding banquet, as she would later instruct the servants to do whatever Jesus told them to, and the servants followed through.
Jesus was also invited to the wedding, and this invitation turned out to be the cause of a great blessing. An embarrassing situation was averted, and the joyful celebration could continue. In ancient times, the wedding feast (seudah) after the marriage (nissuin, meaning, “to take”) might have included seven full days of food, music, dancing, and celebrations (Judg 14:10–12). As narrated in the passage, sometime during the banquet, the wine ran out. It could have been a disaster for the family, but because Jesus performed a miracle to turn water into wine, the wedding ended in joy and thankfulness. Jesus’ presence was the reason for a successful wedding.
A wedding is the beginning of a marriage. If we invite Jesus into our marriage, from the wedding and beyond, it will be a happy and blessed life indeed.
Society today emphasizes fairness and equality between the couple in the marriage, a departure from biblical principles. Within a marriage established in the Lord, equality is not an issue. Jesus teaches us that marriage is when a man leaves his father and mother to be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh (Mt 19:5). For equality or inequality to exist, there must be at least two parties involved. Yet, the husband and wife become one body in matrimony if they are willing to follow the teachings of Jesus.
For two people from different families and backgrounds, becoming one is no easy task. Not only does married life necessitate sharing all things material and emotional, but it also requires both partners to make adjustments in terms of faith and principles. All of these involve mutual learning. Besides demonstrating trust and forgiveness, sparing a thought for each other is what a new couple must work on. Only when they invite Jesus into their life together, not as a guest but as the Master, and both are determined to walk toward Him together, can they become one.
THE LORD’S TIME
Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” (Jn 2:4)
Mary was Jesus’ mother. How could He call her “woman”? It is certainly inappropriate for an ordinary man to address his mother in this manner. Yet Jesus was not only her son but also the Messiah who had a much more important work to do. When Jesus said to her, “What does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come," He spoke these words in His authority as the Messiah. Mary understood this and was not offended. Instead, she said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it” (Jn 2:5). Perhaps she expected Jesus to do something that only the Messiah could do.
According to the flesh, Jesus was born of the seed of David. He was a man. Yet, according to the Spirit of holiness, the eternal Spirit (God being Spirit), He is the Son of God (Rom 1:3–4). He is the eternally blessed God (Rom 9:5).
Jesus had a specific time to do His work and be glorified—when He died on the cross, resurrected, and ascended to heaven. For this reason, He came into the world: to realize the salvation plan. His life on earth had a clear direction and destination—Jerusalem—and some events had to happen in the lead-up to that point (Jn 7:6; 8:20). His time came when, before His arrest, He spoke these words: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You” (Jn 17:1).
By calling His mother “woman,” Jesus showed us that the time to reveal Himself as the Messiah was entirely under His control. No one, not even His biological mother, could interfere in the chronology of His mission on earth.
Jesus is the Sovereign God, of whom the Bible says:
“He does great things past finding out,
Yes, wonders without number.
If He goes by me, I do not see Him;
If He moves past, I do not perceive Him;
If He takes away, who can hinder Him?
Who can say to Him, ‘What are You doing?’ ” (Job 9:10–12)
IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH
Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. (Jn 2:6)
The water prepared for the ceremonial washing of hands was essential for the wedding banquet. In a separate incident, the Pharisees found fault with some of Jesus’ disciples after witnessing them eat bread with defiled (unwashed) hands (Mk 7:1–2). The passage provides further background:
For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches. (Mk 7:3–6)
In the marketplace, one might come in contact with people considered unclean under the Mosaic Law—for example, someone suffering from a bodily discharge or eating an unclean animal's meat. Therefore, water was prepared for guests to wash their hands for purification before entering the wedding banquet.
Jesus said to those Pharisees regarding their demand for ceremonial washing:
“Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ” (Mk 7:6–7)
Jesus came to the world to preach the gospel of the kingdom of God, but first, He had to address these Jewish traditions. Under His salvation grace, practices such as the ceremonial washing of hands had to be removed. Jesus introduced a more excellent internal cleansing of one's heart by His word.
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. …whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Mt 5:21–26)
To those of old, a man’s heart could harbor hatred and jealousy toward his brother. As long as he did not kill, he had kept the law. However, Jesus taught that this is not enough. He would bring about the grace of salvation, which was like new wine, and He wanted man to prepare a new wineskin to receive it (Mt 9:16–17).
When He was in Samaria, Jesus said to a Samaritan woman:
“Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. …God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Jn 4:21–24)
Jerusalem was where the temple of God stood, the gathering place for the chosen people to worship God. Yet after Jesus came, worshipping God was no longer limited to Jerusalem or any specific place. It is not about the place. It takes genuine faith in one’s heart to truly worship and serve Him. The Pharisees taught in the synagogues according to the rules and ordinances of the law and Jewish tradition. Even so, most of them were hypocritical, which displeased God.
Today, likewise, we know we have to observe the Sabbath. We may come to sit in the church hall on Sabbath days, but do we come with a heart to worship in spirit and truth? Or do we just come to show ourselves to others and socialize? After the worship service has ended, do we truly follow the teachings we have learned from God’s word? Jesus performed the first miracle in a wedding banquet to remove the mask of hypocrisy. A true worshipper must also do the same—first remove the manner of false formality to offer the genuine self to serve God.
ABOUT THE LAW
But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:23–26, emphasis added)
In the Old Testament, God’s people were kept safe under the jurisdiction of the law. But this was in effect only until Jesus brought about the grace of salvation, which we inherited through faith. Today, we observe the Ten Commandments, but we are no longer under the ordinances of the law. As the apostle Paul writes:
Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Gal 4:1–5)
HOW COULD YOU KEEP THE GOOD WINE UNTIL NOW?
When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, he called the bridegroom and said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” (Jn 2:10).
Yes, the new wine is so much better than the old. This new wine is the truth of salvation, which came through the precious blood of Jesus, setting us free from Jewish tradition and the ordinances of the law.
The progression of salvation in the Old Testament was yearning for Jesus’ new wine. The master of the feast’s exclamation echoes this sentiment: “How could You keep the good wine until now?”
 Nissuin derives from naso, which means “to lift up.” As when Jesus said, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself” (Jn 14:3a). When Jesus comes again, He will take us to Himself.
 “Ancient Jewish Wedding Customs and Yeshua’s Second Coming,” Messianaic Bible, accessed February 25, 2021, https://free.messianicbible.com/feature/ancient-jewish-wedding-customs-and-yeshuas-second-coming/.