John 2:1-12 – The Wedding at Cana

I have been arguing that the miracles in the Gospels are intended to reveal something about Jesus. In Mark 2:1-12 Jesus reveals that he has the authority to forgive sin, and in Mark 6:30-44 Jesus intentionally evokes the stories about Israel in the wilderness to present himself as a new Moses, the Messiah. Some miracles were only witnessed by the disciples or others very close to Jesus. In the case of the feeding of the 5000, no one knew where the food came form except the disciples. When Jesus turns water to wine in John 2, only a very few witnessed the miracle, even though it announces to the reader the beginning of Jesus’ messianic ministry.

Jesus, his mother Mary, and a few disciples attend a wedding in Cana. This was an occasion of great joy, and Jesus will use this occasion to announce the beginning of his ministry. It is sometimes difficult to understand this wedding in a first-century context. Much of what people think they know about Jewish weddings comes from relatively contemporary sources. People see Fiddler on the Roof and assume that Jewish weddings are more or less happen as we see it in the movie. (Do people watch “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and think that Socrates got married the same way?)

With this warning, we can be confident that a wedding celebration was the social highlight of the year for a small village in Galilee. If the family hosting the wedding was one of the more wealthy families, then the banquet was even more memorable. Weddings were occasions for great feasting and joy for whole communities. Food and wine was provided in abundance, perhaps the best meal that an ordinary villager in Cana would expect to enjoy. Music and dancing would have been common as well. The cost of such an event could be high, and the groom was responsible for paying for the wedding feast. In Matt 22 it is the father the of groom who “makes the feast,” so it is possible to think of this as a responsibility of the groom’s family.

Because weddings were common events in the life of a community, Jesus uses wedding imagery in several parables (Mat 22:1-12, 25:1-14). In both wedding parables in Matthew, Jesus is describing an invitation to enter into the Kingdom of God. In Matthew 22, the Jewish nation has been invited to participate, but the ones invited (the Pharisees, etc.) have refused the kings invitation so the wedding banquet was filled with “the rabble,” likely referring to Jesus’ disciples and other followers. In Matthew 25 those invited to accompany the bridegroom into the wedding banquet were unprepared for his delay and some did not enter as a result.

In other texts Jesus refers to himself as a bridegroom, drawing on the rich tradition of the Hebrew Bible which describes Israel as God’s bride (Mark 2:18-20). Jesus is not the bridegroom in the sign in John 2:1-12, but that the announcement that Jesus will begin his ministry takes place at a wedding is an important hint at who Jesus claims to be.

Understanding the point of the wine in this first sign is critical. Wine was certainly a part of the culture of the first century, especially so at a wedding banquet. Over-drinking was common enough, and usually it was not considered disgraceful. To have a wedding without wine was impossible in this culture.

The over-abundance of wine in this sign is important. The Old Testament prophecies of the messianic age predict an abundance of wine, an image of the celebration expected at the time of the Messiah (Gen 49:10-11, Amos 9:13-14, Isa 25:6-8). The mountains will drip with new wine in the coming messianic age! The reason that wine and abundant food are used as a metaphor for the coming age is that it takes a significant time to cultivate a vineyard and even longer before it can be used to produce an excellent wine. The messianic age is therefore a time when vineyards can be cultivated because it is an age of peace and prosperity.

Abundance of food and drink accompanied by joyous music and dancing at a wedding make the occasion an excellent metaphor for the coming messianic age. The mourning of the exile will be over, revered into the joy of a wedding as God’s marriage to his bride Israel is restored. Jesus therefore intentionally chose to “reveal his glory” to his disciples at this wedding to highlight the messianic nature of his ministry.

13 thoughts on “John 2:1-12 – The Wedding at Cana

  1. Is there a progressive nature to the miracles? If not through the four gospels what about just in John? My thought is if, and this is another yet related thought, the Messianic banquets in Luke are progressive in nature, are miracles equally progressive in their revealing the nature of Jesus?

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    • Yes, in John there certainly is, they get “more spectacular” through the seven sign, ending other Lazarus, a man four days dead! In John we know that he is God, as the reader, but that is being teased out over the first 12 chapters.

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  2. If a wedding is an exciting memorable event that everyone anticipates and food and wine are a core element to the event, I find it interesting that at a banquet like this the wine would run out. But, when the wine is gone, Jesus fills the need and provides wine for the party. I find verses 3-4 intriguing, “When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” (John 2:3-4) Verse 3 infers that Mary 1) probably was important in the wedding, maybe a hostess of some sort. This assumption is based on her knowledge of the wine being gone and her initiative to tell someone (Jesus) about it. 2) she knew that Jesus could do something about the situation. Verse 4 is even more surprising. Jesus’ response to his mother seems quite rude and very disrespectful. For me to address my mother like that would not result in anything positive. But, that was Jesus’ point. He didn’t want to address her as his mother. He didn’t want it to seem like he was going to do a miracle or provide wine for the wedding merely because she asked him to. He wanted to make sure he got the point across that he wasn’t obligated by anyone to do anything. He was going to provide out of grace and mercy and to ‘reveal his glory’. “The reason that wine and abundant food are used as a metaphor for the coming age is that it takes a significant time to cultivate a vineyard and even longer before it can be used to produce an excellent wine. The messianic age is therefore a time when vineyards can be cultivated because it is an age of peace and prosperity.” Jesus provided an abundance of the best wine out of water. There was more than enough wine to satisfy the people at the wedding. Through this miracle, Jesus reveals the beginning of his ministry and provides testimony to the present kingdom of God.

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  3. I’ve read this chapter before, and I never really thought about it as being the introduction to his messianic ministry. But now that I read this, it makes sense for it to be. I think that the fact that not many people knew where the wine had come from, other than the servants (John 2:9). I always pictured this being a bigger deal to the public and as a sign of God’s power. But now that I read it in this view, it’s obvious that Jesus wanted to keep this miracle under wraps in order to show his disciples the first of many signs of his glory. “..and his disciples believed in him.” (John 2:11). And, as P. Long said “The mourning of the exile will be over, revered into the joy of a wedding as God’s marriage to his bride Israel is restored.” Meaning that, since this miracle happened at a very joyous occasion, a wedding, that it fits perfectly with the introduction of Jesus’ ministry. Since Jesus’ ministry was the one that would symbolize the end of the exile and would “provide testimony to the present kingdom of God” as John stated.

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  4. The parables of the wedding have always been kind of confusing to me I know in the Bible it says that drinking wine is not a problem it is when we over indulge that it becomes a problem. I really never understood why Jesus would turn the water into wine knowing that people had a tendency to over indulge during the wedding feast. I know there was different meaning but after reading this post and seeing that it was common for there to be over drinking it seems that a different type of miracle could have been performed just a thought. I just didn’t understand that part in the blog that talked about over-drinking. “Over-drinking was common enough, and usually it was not considered disgraceful. To have a wedding without wine was impossible in this culture.” I know there was some spiritual meaning behind this I just didn’t understand the whole meaning.

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  5. “Moses’ first miracle was to turn water into blood; there was a severe destructive element in it. But Christ’s first miracle was to turn water into wine; there was a soothing, solacing element in it” (Believer’s Bible Commentary). It seems to me that there is to much read into this first sign. Jesus was invited to this wedding with the disciples (whom he had thus far chosen) and his mother. The wine had run out, Mary told Jesus, “they have no wine” to which Jesus replied “Woman, what does that have to do with me?” The servants are instructed by Mary to do whatever Jesus tells them to do (was Mary already aware of Jesus’ supernatural abilities?) and the servants are instructed by Jesus to fill the six water jars with water (which they do), the water is turned into wine, and the wine is presented to the master of the feast and when he tasted it he discovers that this wine was better than the wine they had already consumed. They text goes on to say that “his disciples believed in him”. End of story. Passages can be referred to in both testaments about wine but it seems to me that to much is being read into the text. Do the six water jars symbolize the “six days of creation”? Perhaps there is more to this parable than what I have read in the blog and the different commentaries I looked at pertaining to this portion of scripture but, it seems that Jesus’ sign was to show the disciples he was who he claimed to be. I am open to constructive suggestions.

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  6. I really get excited about the idea that Jesus didn’t do what he said because someone told him to, (by the authority of his mother) but by his own authority. “He didn’t want it to seem like he was going to do a miracle or provide wine for the wedding merely because she asked him to. He wanted to make sure he got the point across that he wasn’t obligated by anyone to do anything. He was going to provide out of grace and mercy and to ‘reveal his glory’.” (John Caprari) I don’t think this was the main point of why Jesus’ actions but it really seems like a major concept in the conversation between him and his mother.
    Jesus looks to be doing things in for the soul purpose of teaching a lesson. I don’t know if the objective was to show the disciples who he was or if it was a way of showing great imagery on of the nature of his messianic ministry. I think it could be both. Wine was a very big part of culture back then, “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.” Jesus gave them better wine then they had before. he gave them the best. This shows us Jesus’ nature, and how he gave what he had openly and selflessly. They could drink freely of the wine he gave them.

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  7. This was an excellent way to introduce his ministry. The fact that Jesus was at a wedding and his miracle was turning water in to wine and lots of it is so awesome. “What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him (John 2:11).” he revealed his glory in a miraculous way and it caused the disciples to put their faith in him.
    Jesus seems so humble and and almost frustrated that he is asked to do something (John 2:4), but he comes through in a big way. This was truly a sign that not only was Jesus a humble man but he was very clutch. He always came through. I liked how the King questioned why the best wine had been brought out last because at that point in the wedding, the cheap wine was normally brought out (John 2:9-10). This was also a sign that Jesus brings his best out at the end (death and resurrection). His ministry continued to get better and better from the initial wedding in Cana miracle.

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  8. I find it interesting that the Christ begins his ministry with a feast related miracles. Especially in light of his kingdom theme. Perhaps I am making an illegitimate connection, but I am reminded of the victory banquet seen throughout the Hebrew scriptures. When a king found victory, he hosted a celebratory banquet. The king provides for his guests. Or, if we want to stick to the wedding banquet, the bridegroom (and family) provide for the feast. And here we see Jesus starting his kingdom ministry by providing the guests with wine. And we see the bridegroom providing for the guests.

    In Psalm 23, the bridegroom (God the Father), “prepares a table before me [David] in the presence of my enemies.” Now Jesus as bridegroom begins the ministry that will lead to the ultimate victory; achieved in the midst of his enemies at Calvary.

    We also should see the significance of the banquet. Sure, banquets were/are times of celebration, but they have deeper social significance as well. Banquets were often very politically expressive. They were times of reflection on the political/social standing of the time. And the amount of wine one was given was respective to one’s social standing. If you are more important, you received more wine. Yet Jesus creates what seems like an over abundance of wine. everybody is free to drink of Christ’s blessings. There is no person more important than another because Jesus pours out his wine for all.

    And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

    (Matthew 26:27-29 ESV)
    banquets= times of reflection on social standings and who is who. The amount of wine you recieved showed your standing, yet Jesus provides more than enough wine for everybody (verse?)

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  9. Jesus turning water into wine is a good way to introduce his ministry. I like how above Chris Anderson talks about Moses first miracle and Jesus, and how that is similar. I never had thought of it like that, and i think that is an interesting comparison. I do not understand exactly why he preformed this miracle when people indulging in wine was a problem possibly I know that it was common and most always an occurrence to have wine at weddings, but it confuses me why Jesus would support this. Jared makes a good point above thought talking about how important you were, the more wine you get. And how everyone everyone is free to drink of Christs blessing he says.Jesus may have had many intentions with this miracle.

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  10. Now we haven’t had class on this yet (I believe we are talking about the miracles come tomorrow yes?) but I wonder if Christ’s miracles can be looked at as metaphors. I know for the parables we try and avoid looking at them as metaphors, so is the same done with miracles? Either way, I find that this is a great metaphor for what Christ did for us!
    First, the people at the wedding ran out of wine. Now this wine was probably a main attraction for everyone, and it was probably their favorite part of the wedding. Plus, the wine that Christ provides is the best wine that they have ever had and they enjoy it a ton! So, could we see the wine as the covering of our sins? A may be a stretch buy bare with me a second. Before Christ’s death, the Israelites covered their sins with sacrifices that they provided. However, the sacrifice that Christ gave us is much sweeter and much more satisfying than anything we could provide.
    Does this make sense? Is it to much of a stretch? What do you guys think?

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  11. This miracle always intrigues me because He never states why He did what He did, or gives any points or analogies for His miracle. There is no real reason for Him to do this miracle but because He simply saw a need and provided. I believe that it was just a preview of His ministry, as He says, “if anyone is thirsty, will you not give them something to drink?” Jesus saw a need and provided. He knew the importance of the occasion and knew the importance for someone to provide for the special occasion, and it was a great way to show that He is the messiah. Since a wedding was a bid deal during that time, it was a very good opportunity for Him to do this miracle. I think that with a wedding being a great and joyous celebration, it was a great opportunity for Him to start His ministry. Jesus not only provided wine through a miracle, but the best wine. They usually serve the good wine first, but Jesus shows that He will provide the best and the God will satisfy. This is a great display of the nature of Jesus, that He provides the best and provides abundantly, till all are satisfied.

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  12. “If you are more important, you received more wine. Yet Jesus creates what seems like an over abundance of wine. everybody is free to drink of Christ’s blessings. There is no person more important than another because Jesus pours out his wine for all.” – Jared Kusz
    I couldn’t possibly love this connection more. I was reading and rereading the passage and the post and the comments and couldn’t think of an interesting thing to contribute or any connections to make. They were all there, and they were all ones I had heard before, and quite plain. But this point, though I am not sure of its validity or if its intention was meant to be drawn to this conclusion, is beautiful. Whether at a political type of banquet hosted by a king or even a modern day wedding banquet (reception), one is bound to be put into a certain class, standing, rank, or relation to the hosts or society itself, by table at which one has the privilege of sitting. Indicated by who gets to get up to eat first, by who gets to make speeches, by who one sits and talks with. And even today, you can tell the class of person by the quality wine or cost of the alcohol they drink. But Jesus allows all to drink of his choice wine, and in abundance. I can’t believe that! So amazing that this is how he starts his ministry, foreshadowing the pouring out of his blood that we will ALL be able to drink, in abundance and freely, if you will, in order to take part of his life and joy that comes in redemption and the Kingdom. Connection to be made about the joy and life that people celebrate at weddings and thus in the wedding celebration we will get to have as Jesus claims his bride again and brings her to him in finality.
    I am aware that none of this is new, but I am so happy that I made that connection and found something so insightful and wonderful to be happy and excited about when I was at a loss for what to say or think about this before. God is so good, so clever, so connected, and just so worthy of a fantastic celebration, but HE gives that to us. Amazing. I say we ALL drink of the cup of blood of the covenant which has been poured out for forgiveness of sins in the ministry and life of Jesus, in abundance, as we joyfully await the drinking of the vine with Jesus again in our Father’s Kingdom!

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