Monday, July 18, 2011

What's Wine Got to Do with It?

Why was Jesus’ first miracle turning water into wine?

Has anyone else wondered this?

It seems that this miracle has been grossly misinterpreted by some (think of country songs that portray Jesus as a “good ole boy” who drinks wine), and largely ignored by many. Surely there is a reason for this miracle, and a reason for its primacy in Jesus' ministry?

Before I divulge into my conclusions, allow me to remind you that I am not claiming to have a new idea. I have not unlocked some secret that no one else has noticed or written about. In fact, I deserve no credit for any idea, since I am always inspired by many a preacher, professor and commentator. Nevertheless, I write praying that, whether these thoughts are old or new to you, you relish in the beauty found in this passage!

Let’s begin by reading John's account of the first miracle.

John 2:1-11
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.

When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine."

And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come."

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

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast." So they took it.

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) the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serve the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now."

This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manisfested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. 

There are many things we could discuss from this passage, but I would like to focus on three: 1) the Six Stone Jars, 2) the Wine and 3) the Wedding.

Six Stone Jars

In scripture, six is a number often associated with man's labor or effort (and the inadequateness thereof).[1] These stone jars were used for the purification ritual under the Old Covenant (Law). Try as they might (human effort), no man could cleanse himself of sin through the rites and rituals. The Old Covenant Law was incomplete for salvation, meant to be made complete by the Messiah.


What do we know about wine? Did Jesus say anything about wine that might help us understand its significance?

Mark 2:22 “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins--and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”

Luke 5:39 “And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, 'The old is good.'"

Referring to the wine shared at the last supper, Jesus said, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many." (Mark 14:24)

Jesus used wine to refer to the covenant between God and man. Specifically, he used “old wine” to refer to the Old Covenant (the Law) and “new wine” to refer to the New Covenant, established through his blood.

The Wedding

This miracle was performed at a wedding. Weddings are a celebration of a covenant. From scripture, we see that, in the New Covenant, Jesus is the bridegroom of the Church.

And Jesus said to them, "Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast." (Mark 2:19)


Verse 11 ends the account by stating this was the first of his signs. This is significant as a sign “points to some deeper truth beyond itself.”[2]

The purpose of the first miracle was not to “meet the needs” of the wedding party. The first miracle was not  to demonstrate that Jesus could "throw a good party." The point of this narrative is not to show that it’s ok to enjoy wine at weddings.

The purpose of the first miracle was JESUS and the New Covenant he would bring.

The first miracle announced that the time of the New Covenant had come. The Law was insufficient to offer salvation, BUT the Messiah had arrived to complete the Law, so that he could bring salvation through the New Covenant of his blood. Doesn’t that make your heart jump with emotion?

Do you remember the words of the master of the feast?

John 2:9-10.
"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), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 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 truth he spoke! God saved the “best” until his appointed time. The Law was not the “good wine.” The Law was not meant to save, but to show man his need for a Savior. Jesus is the “good wine” whom God revealed at his appointed time. It is by his blood that we enter the New Covenant. Praise the Lord!


[2]Carson, D. A.: New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition. 4th ed. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA : Inter-Varsity Press, 1994, S. Jn 2:1

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