Jesus' First Miracle
The unmistakable miracle recorded in John 2: 1-11 is of great importance for several reasons. This miracle of Jesus turning the water into wine was Jesus' first miracle (Jn. 2: 11). This initial miracle prepared Jesus' disciples for the great work they were to do. As a result of the miracle we read, " and his disciples believed on him" (vs. 11). The miracle also illustrates the nature of true Bible miracles and can be easily distinguished from the "lying wonders" of the First Century and today (cp. 2 Thes. 2: 9). It is regrettable that this wonderful miracle has been abused to advocate social drinking. Please consider the miracle and then we shall comment on it.
"1: And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: 2: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. 3: And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. 4: Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. 5: His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. 6: And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. 7: Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. 8: And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. 9: When 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, 10: And 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. 11: This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him."
Comments on verse one. Was this the "third day" after Jesus' conversation with Nathanael (Jn. 1: 45-51)? Some scholars suggest the following breakdown: Day one (Jn. 1: 29); day two (Jn. 1: 35); and day three (Jn. 1: 43). Hence, the "third day" of John 2: 1 would be the same as John 1: 43. We are told that Jesus was in "Bethabara beyond Jordan" (Jn. 1: 28). If the "third day" (Jn. 2: 1) is the same as the "day following" (cp. Jn. 1: 43), Jesus was probably in Cana near Jericho. If, however, the "third day" is three days removed from John 1: 43, it would have given Jesus time to have journeyed the 20 hours (70 miles) needed to be in one of the sites which claim to be the scene of this first miracle (there appear to have been several Cana's, even in the province of Galilee).
The author (no doubt, John) adds that Jesus' mother was present. John consistently omits reference to himself and close relatives. Mary was probably an assistant to the wedding. Weddings in the East were often major productions, involving much work. It is important that John mention that Mary was present, as we shall see.
Exposition of verse two. The invitation to a wedding in Jesus' day was a very serious matter. Along with this invitation, there were consequential considerations (see Matthew 22: 1-24 and Manners and Customs of Bible Lands, pg. 61 ff., by Wight). Jesus was not an Ascetic or member of the Essenes (a group of isolationists). In this matter, Jesus was unlike John the Baptist (Matt. 11: 18, 19). God himself had instituted marriage and it would only be appropriate that Jesus attend (Gen. 2).
Consideration of verse three. The American Standard Translation has, "And when the wine failed." In other words, the wine had been consumed. Some picture the scene as that of gluttony and drunkenness. The New International Version has in verse ten, "guest had too much to drink." Some say Jesus and his disciples were the cause of the wine shortage, they had consumed it; hence, Mary comes to Jesus with the problem (they use Matthew 11: 19 in their argumentation, see more later). It must be remembered, though, that Jesus and his disciples had been invited (vs. 2). Those in charge calculated the amount of food and drink, depending on the number invited. However, these calculations could be difficult, sometimes weddings would last up to a week, Manners and Customs of Bible Lands, pg. 134). Mary said to Jesus, "they have no wine."
The teachings of verse four. Jesus' address of Mary as, "Woman" has been viewed as disrespectful by some. However, Jesus was sinless and was, therefore, the perfect son (Heb. 4: 15, Lk. 2: 51, 52). By using the vocative "woman," there is no unfilial harshness (cp. Jn. 19: 26). Mary must not simply think of him as her son (notice Jesus did not say, "mother"). Jesus did not view this wedding circumstance as the perfect time to do what he would later do, fully reveal himself as the Son of God. Thus, the language, "mine hour is not yet come."
The teachings found in verse five. Mary seemed to have believed a circumstance was about to arrive that would allow her son, Jesus, the opportunity to display some of his divine powers. Therefore, she instructs those in charge as follows: "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." Would that man would learn this simple truth today. Jesus is the author of salvation "unto all them that obey him" (Heb. 5: 8, 9).
An examination of verse six. There were present six waterpots of stone. These containers were evidently used in the Jew's purification practices (cp. Mk. 7: 3, 7, 8). They had the capacity of "two or three firkins apiece." Scholars are not agreed as to the exact volume each water-jar held. However, a safe estimate would be a minimum of one hundred gallons, total. The amount is probably stated to show the magnitude of this miracle, "one hundred" (a large amount) of wine.
Jesus' instruction found in verse seven. Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the waterpots with water." They are doing what Mary told them, obeying Jesus. Jesus' teaching is clear in this case and in general. Man makes Jesus' teaching unclear and ambiguous.
An examination of verse eight. Appreciate again the explicit nature of Jesus' language and instructions. They understood Jesus and they understood Jesus alike. Jesus also said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mk. 16: 16). Many in the First Century had no trouble understanding (see Acts 2: 36-42).
Comments on verse nine. The "ruler of the feast" was the master or person in charge to see that all the particulars of festivity were properly executed. The ruler had a surprise when he "tasted the water that was made wine" by Jesus. In this first miracle, Jesus displayed his abilities as God's Son. Jesus had power over nature itself. The miracles of Jesus can be divided into different classifications. Jesus in this miracle changes the liquid from water to the juice of the grape. This transition can only be explained as miraculous, not only suspending natural processes, but also actually working against them. It is, then, no wonder that this miracle "manifested forth his glory" and "his disciples believed on him" (vs. 11).
Exposition of verse ten. In verse ten, the ruler of the feast states what was evidently a common practice. The practice was the "worse" was saved until later. The taste buds are initially more sensitive and discerning; hence, the superior juice is served first. Jesus not only performed a miracle in changing the water into "wine," but Jesus provided superior "wine." All that pertains to Jesus is vastly superior, including the manner of life taught by Jesus (cp. Heb. 5: 8, 9).
It is sometimes contended that the "wine" of verse nine is the same as the wine of verse three, except for quality. It is believed that both wines were intoxicating or fermented. Some use the language of the New International Version that reads thus, "had too much to drink" (vs. 10) to teach that the first wine was definitely fermented. If this is correct, then Jesus not only turned water (pure) into fermented liquid (impure; hence, the miracle would have resulted in degradation), but he would have provided intoxicants (about one hundred additional gallons) for people who had already had too much to drink! Methuo is the Greek word translated "well drunk" in verse ten. In this setting, I believe methuo simply suggests they had indeed had plenty to drink (accounts for them running out), but does not address the matter of intoxication.
Some, though, insist: "It says Jesus made wine out of water." Beloved, the word wine is oinos. The Greek word oinos is generic and does not necessarily mean fermented juice (see Bible Wines, by William Patton, pg. 89). It must also be remembered that even fermented wine in Bible days does not compare to our strong drink in alcoholic content. Again, I stress: If the wine Jesus made had been fermented, he would have not simply been engaging in what some call the temperate and social use of alcohol, but he would have been involved in providing more liquor to people who had already had "too much to drink." They would have the sinless Son of God participating and providing for a drunken orgy!
In this vein, some introduce Matthew 11: 18, 19. They understand the statement regarding Jesus, "came eating and drinking" to mean Jesus was a gluttonous and a winebibber. However, there is a point of comparison being made between John the Baptist and Jesus. John had evidently taken the vow of the Nazirite and lived a rugged and mostly isolated life. To the converse, Jesus lived mostly a normal life.
I shall conclude our study of Jesus' first miracle by quoting from Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible:
"The miracle itself was turning water into wine; the substance of water acquiring a new form, and having all the accidents and qualities of wine. Such a transformation is a miracle; but the popish transubstantiation, the substance changed, the accidents remaining the same, is a monster. By this Christ showed himself to be the God of nature, who maketh the earth to bring forth wine, Ps. 109:14, 15. The extracting of the blood of the grape every year from the moisture of the earth is no less a work of power, though, being according to the common law of nature, it is not such a work of wonder, as this. The beginning of Moses' miracles was turning water into blood (Ex. 4:9; 7:20), the beginning of Christs miracles was turning water into wine; which intimates the difference between the law of Moses and the gospel of Christ." (For more related information, you are encouraged to read, "The Miracles of Jesus" and "Strong Drink, a Major Cause of Grief," simply click on to visit.) (For a detailed study of Bible wine, click on "An Exchange on the 'Wine' of John 2."