Jesus, water, and wine. Studying John 2:1-12

Summary: In John 2, Jesus and his disciples attend a wedding feast. The feast runs out of wine. Mary, the Mother of Jesus, approaches him about the situation and after saying that his time has not yet come, he performs a miraculous sign when he turns water into wine. 

  1. Conflict

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”

Jesus is at a wedding feast in Cana, which is a town in Galilee. And the feast runs out of wine. This was a serious faux pas and huge social embarrassment at the time. Now the groom was responsible for the financial burden of the wedding.

In the first century, in this region, weddings could last over a week. Many in the town would have been invited. They were huge parties. So Mary approaches Jesus, saying “they have no wine.” She seems to feel some sense of a burden to try to help out. 

Jesus gives a seemingly abrupt response in verse 4. Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”

Some translations like the NIV try to soften the language by saying “Dear woman,” but what he literally says is “woman.” 

Now if my mom had asked me for something and I said, “woman,” I would have gotten backhanded. But it’s a different culture than our culture, and this should not be taken as a sign of disrespect. 

Towards the end of this gospel, when Jesus is on the cross, he entrusts the care of Mary to the Apostle John and he again uses the same word.  

John 19:26: 

 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”

So while it may sound odd to our ears and language, Jesus is not disrespecting Mary. 

The hour

Back in our passage, Jesus asks “what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 

Throughout John, Jesus refers to his hour, and the hour is referring to the time of his death.

To give just one example. John 17:1, Jesus is praying shortly before his arrest:

“Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,

In Verse 5, after Jesus gives his response to Mary, Mary is undeterred. There’s no offense in what he’s said. 

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 

As I said a few moments ago, we don’t know exactly what she expected. 

We all face situations where we have to trust in Jesus and where we don’t know exactly how he will work things out, but we have to trust him, nevertheless. 

We have situations with our health, where we don’t know how things will work out. But we have to trust in Jesus. We have situations in our hearts where we struggle with brokenness, despair, depression, but where we must turn to Jesus, even when we may be tempted to think that even he can do nothing. We have situations in relationships where there is so much brokenness and damage that all hope seems lost, but we must turn to Jesus, and depend on Jesus, and lean on Jesus. 

He says to Mary my hour has not yet come.

It’s the beginning of his ministry. Everything Jesus does is building up to the crucifixion. 

That’s the purpose of his ministry. His hour. His death for a sinful humanity. And part of that seems to also be captured in Jesus’ response to Mary. 

This story is showing that Jesus operates based on the will of God, not of Mary. He is not here at the whims of man or of the world. He is here for the divine mission and the divine mission. 

2. Resolution 

The text tells us in verse 6 

 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.

So they find six stone water jars. Not just any jars, but jars that were used for Jewish rites of purification. At this wedding feast, water would be poured out onto the hands of the Jews for washing before they ate. Jesus tells them to take these jars of water and to fill them up. Six jars, 20-30 gallons. Upwards of 180 gallons, or by modern standards, roughly 900 bottles of wine or 150 boxes of Franzia. 

And Jesus instructs the servants: 

“Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.

Verse 8: And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it.

Now the story doesn’t explain the process by which Jesus turned the water into wine. We just see the result. 

Verse 9: When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew),

So the servants were aware that Jesus had made the wine. 

“the master of the feast called the bridegroom10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

What the master of the feast is saying is that they would normally use the better wine first and then go to the cheap stuff, but when he tastes the wine that Jesus made, he says that it’s the better wine. 

Think about that for just a moment. Hundreds of gallons of water. And somehow, Jesus turns it all into premium wine.

Out with the old, in with the new  

And we have seen something else of theological significance. 

Jesus is showing a transition of the old to the new. He’s using the jars of water used for Jewish purification rituals to do his mighty work. It’s symbolic of the Old Covenant and the New Covenant which Jesus is ushering in. 

That’s not saying that he replaced the old covenant in that action. That’s not saying that the people who saw this miracle grasped the significance at the time. 

But it’s not just about turning water into wine, Jesus does this miraculous act to point to something greater. 

Jesus is Lord of the big things and the small things

Something else that’s important in this passage. I mentioned earlier that running out of wine would have been a huge social embarrassment. But let’s keep in mind, that Jesus intervenes here. It’s not like this was a life and death situation. It’s not the end of the world.

Jesus is Lord of the big things and of the small things. And of everything in between. We need to trust him in all situations and seasons of life. Big and small. And to know that there is no situation that’s too inconsequential for us to approach Jesus. It’s not like we’re nagging him, and if we come to him in the small things, we’ll wear him down in the big things. That Jesus is fully of grace and goodness.

Obviously we turn to Jesus, look to Jesus, pray in the big things, but never feel like something is too small to bring to our Lord. 

It’s common after a football game to hear a player thank God when talking to the media. Some people mock this and say “does God really care who wins a game?” 

God isn’t a part-time God, he’s a full time God. 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says: 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 

It doesn’t say to rejoice only when things are good, to pray only for the big things, to give thanks only in the victories. But we should live a life that is devoted to Christ and is lived with a focus on Jesus to the Glory of God. Jesus is the Lord of all things.