HG029-30. John 2:1-12
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. After this He went down to Capernaum, He, His mother, His brothers, and His disciples; and they did not stay there many days.
Today we start to get an insight into the life and times of Jesus, Son of God, Son of Man. In the previous passage Nathaniel declares Jesus to be the Son of God and the King of Israel and Jesus speaks of Himself as the Son of Man. The two are never far apart for He is both equally and always both fully God and fully Man. This declaration of Son of Man is clearly an allusion to the fact that this is the descriptor given by Old Testament prophets of the Messiah, whether it is Isaiah or Daniel or Ezekiel. Son of Man was always code for the One that God was going to send and Jesus declares that He is there, among them right now.
And so we then go straight into the story of a wedding in Cana. This was probably not the first wedding Jesus had attended but this one was after His baptism and He had taken a number of His disciples with Him. We only know of Andrew, Peter, Philip and Nathanael at this stage. He and they had not gatecrashed but had been invited. After all they were all Galileans and were probably all known to the bride and bridegroom and relatives.
Cana, Galilee, is in the north of Israel, where is the Sea of Galilee which is a large lake fed by the Jordan River. Cana is about 67 miles from Jerusalem as the crow flies which is where Jesus was headed soon after this event.
This was some crazy wedding - they ran out of drinks, the bar was dry. Someone did not employ a wedding planner. Sounds like they had way too many guests and just not enough to go round. Or, they were having such a whale of a time that they were drinking inordinate amounts of wine. Mary, who was obviously concerned, as only women really worry about these kinds of things, that the wedding was going to be a wash out.
But she knew her Son was special and mentioned the predicament to Him. Interesting, I think. Mary had faith in Him that He could resolve the issue and not because they were rich and had money to buy more wine! Jesus, though, replied; what has this to do with me?
Jesus calls His mother, ‘woman’, which I have heard said was not very nice but actually it is a term of endearment for when Jesus was on the cross He said to His mother: woman, behold your son, referring to John, and to John, behold your mother and from then on Mary lived with John.
Well, it seems that Mary ignored her son when He said that it was nothing to do with Him and said to the servants a very necessary thing: do what He says.
Jesus gave up arguing with His mother; a good thing I think. You can never win when you argue with your mum! I do not recall ever winning with my mum! So, Jesus said to the servants to fill up the six stone water jars: These water pots would have been used for the ceremonial ritual cleaning that they did before eating, drinking and other things. Well these jars were enormous - Imagine, if you will a 6-pint carton of milk, the largest one you can get in the supermarket. Now imagine 240 of these! Well, filling them is a humongous task - they had to fetch the water from somewhere, probably a well, there were no hose pipes or taps. If ever you have seen a baptistery filled or swimming pool for you lucky ones know it takes forever.
When they were told by Mary to do what Jesus said, the servants had no idea what was about to be asked of them: Take a cup, fill it and take to the master of the feast whom we can only surmise must be the head waiter. I can imagine the servants going ugh!
Well, the master drank and boy, he thought it was amazing. He’d never had tasted such good wine! How is it that it has been kept till now? How did I not know about this store of wine? I’d have given it out first. This was some amazing miracle and frankly the superabundance of it meant that there would have been plenty left over…even if you have 200 guests that is 7 pints each and even the Germans with their propensity for beer do not drink that much and we are talking about beer but wine.
What do we think about this wine? I have heard it said that this water into wine was non-alcoholic for it would have been the first fruits before it had fermented. But then, no one calls this wine but juice. This position cannot be sustained biblically, I’m sorry, even if you have been told with a passion that it does, scholars cannot be convinced that this was anything other than proper wine. We cannot get around the fact that this was wine of the alcoholic kind.
Wine in the Old Testament is wine where people can get drunk, just read Proverbs, just read about Noah (who was just drinking first fruits of the wine, by-the-way, and still managed to get drunk), just read about Lot who committed incest with his two daughters, unknowingly I might add! So, wine in the New Testament is wine, just as in the Old Testament, upon which people can get drunk.
We can talk about the evils of drink especially that put forward by the abstinence and temperance movement of the 19th century and understandable when there are the stories of Noah and Lot in heh Bible. But there is no getting around the fact that Jesus changed water into wine. So, is wine evil? Would Jesus do an evil thing? Should we never drink alcohol? Scripture is abundantly clear. Alcohol is not evil. Alcohol is allowed.
No, at ancient Greek weddings people would get very drunk on wine but although there was alcohol at this Jewish wedding getting drunk at a Jewish one would have been frowned upon; they did not normally get hammered. Our own Lord and Master and Saviour had no issue with alcohol. It is, however, also abundantly clear that the quantity drunk matters. Drunkenness is expressly forbidden in many places in Scripture.
This evening we will even read one of those verses that speak of this in:
And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,
We have a ‘take it all’ or ‘not at all’ kind of mentality because it is easier but actually a middle ground is struck in Scripture. There are times when it is advised: Paul uses wine medicinally with regards to Timothy and his constant stomach troubles though it seems like strange advice to us today but even in our proud NHS doctors say that red wine is good for the heart though they also say the quantity needs to be limited.
I have freedom to drink alcoholic drinks or not and so do you. Please do not enforce any view on others. Indeed have a discussion in a gentle-spirited way. But don’t let your freedom in Christ mean that you cause others to be emboldened to excess. I know why the teetotallers think their way is best, though, with caution and respect, I say that this is not quite biblical as Jesus Himself demonstrated in His very first miracle. But even if you thought this was not alcoholic then what of the Last Supper at which there was wine and bread on the table.
Remember that only Jesus and His disciples were present and Jesus did not prevent wine from being drunk but, the very opposite, this bread and this wine became emblems in which He said take ye, all of you. His disciples drank the wine and it was alcoholic. Communion wine has always been alcoholic until recent times where, in some Churches, we are now serving Ribena. This does not meet the standards of Scripture nor tradition. Until recently the Church not only served alcoholic wine for communion for the sake of killing infections along that with a semi-precious container but because this is what was used at the Last Supper; they all shared in one cup representing His body and the body of the Church. The word used for ‘wine’ here, by the way, is the same as that which we heard earlier from Ephesians: do not be drunk with wine. Note that it did not say do not drink wine but don’t get drunk on it.
However, if you know there are those who have weak consciences in regards to drink don’t rub it in their face, says Paul. In one place he says:
It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.
We need to keep in mind those who have struggled with drinking habits.
We might also say that society is worse now than then especially when we see our streets on Friday and Saturday nights but many of the problems today were the problems of then: people had parties and got drunk and then there were those who drank responsibly and often in a social setting with food. Wine is not intrinsically evil, just as sex is not, just as money is not - but how we use them can be for evil.
Martin Luther said that we must not reject or condemn anything because it is abused. Wine and women, he said(!), both bring man to misery and make a fool of him so we would need to kill all women and pour out all wine.
Notice also that in the Romans 14:21 verse that meat was also mentioned along with wine - does this mean that no one should eat meat either? I don’t think there are many here who would advocate this! Just as there is no biblical standpoint to be a vegetarian there is no biblical standpoint for prohibition of alcohol. In fact, it can be argued, the opposite is true.
There is, however, a biblical rule for leadership: the greater your responsibility the less you should drink. We have to be aware that drink can lead to ruined testimonies and a whole lifetimes’ work can go down the pan. Even in the last couple of weeks a famous, reputable, evangelical Pastor in the States was fined for driving under the influence and resigned his position as a result.
Let us judge wisely but know that each of us, according to conscience, have to be settled in our understanding. And then there is the rule of love which says don’t do anything that will cause others to possibly fall. Let us not be proud either way of our positions for it is better not to drink than to tempt others beyond their consciences. Please do not let your freedom offend your brothers and sisters.
The servants who had filled the pots with water could not believe their eyes and ears. The pots had never left their sight and they had drawn the liquid from the well as water but something, somehow had managed to happen by the time they gave it as a drink. No wonder His mother had to tell them do what he says otherwise they would never have done it. I suppose they were thinking at least we can blame Jesus for the fact they were giving out water at the feast! But now, they could blame Him for something completely different, bringing the best to the wedding; a gift of wine. To reveal how far attitudes have changed: Wine, throughout the ages of the Church as well as in Jewish times, was accepted as a gift from God for it makes the hearts of people glad.
We are not told what the bridegroom thought of where the wine had come from but probably had other pressing matters on his mind. We are not told whether anyone else found out about what Jesus did but He was glorified before His disciples and before the common man. Note that the bride does not get a mention even once in this story - how unusual is that! No mention of her dress, nothing! There is a reason…it was to glorify Jesus not the bride.
This was the first of His signs. John did not talk of miracles for John has a thing about signs. Signs about what? That Jesus is Son of God and Son of Man. Very much human, very much involved in the wedding party and then very much God demonstrating something that only God can do, a miracle first class, changing the elements. He demonstrated that He is the creator and the One who gives good things.
But this was to be a hidden sign contained among a handful of people for His hour had not yet come. It was not yet time for Him to be fully revealed. In fact, the other Gospels allude to this but especially in Mark where it is not really until the middle of his gospel that the glorified Jesus is revealed. But throughout the Gospels there are continual glimpses showing that Jesus was not just another preacher making his rounds. All the signs John points out concerning Jesus are that He has come to fulfil the will of the Father and go to the cross - the hour for which He came - to open up the way to the Father for us.
The purification pots in which the water was symbolises the attempt of people trying to get themselves clean before God but the hour for which Jesus came was to take away the sin of the world, to be cleansed by His blood, the very same colour of the wine taken out from the pots to be given out to all. It is He who takes away our impurity and gives us forgiveness of sin, not by our effort but by His. It is He who also transforms us from the inside out.
Jesus showed His power at this wedding and yet there is another wedding to come in which new wine will be drunk in the Kingdom of God, and we will be there joining Him in the celebration of Bride and Groom and with the same superabundance he provided for at the wedding at Cana.
Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”
Again it will be the bridegroom who will eclipse the bride.
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Edersheim, A. (1896). The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. New York: Longmans, Green, and Co.
Haenchen, E., Funk, R. W., & Busse, U. (1984). John: a commentary on the Gospel of John. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
McGee, J. V. (1991). Thru the Bible commentary: The Gospels (John 1-10) (electronic ed., Vol. 38). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
(2011). The Lexham Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament. Logos Bible Software.
Exported from Logos Bible Software, 12:54 08 July 2017.