Reading: John 2; Jeremiah 13
Do you ever wished Jesus would have shown up at your wedding? People might not have noticed the limited budget when He was finished. I have three daughters—two married, one engaged—so I know the concerns of balancing budget against desiring to provide an enjoyable experience for all. So I have an appreciation for Jesus turning water to wine on a practical level.
Some wrestle with the text because Jesus is turning water into... well, uh... wine. One time I heard someone say, “I don't know if I could have a pastor who drank [alcohol].” I assured them that if they were a Christian they already did since the great Shepherd admitted to having drank alcohol (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34).
The miracle of turning water into wine has never bothered me but it has always puzzled me. I say puzzled because I have never been able to put a finger on the message behind it. The miracles or signs in John's Gospel always have a message behind them. Although I've heard and even thought of several possible messages behind this sign, none have been fully satisfying. So allow me to propose one more possibility. Don't get me wrong, I am okay with Jesus turning water to wine just because He is cool with weddings and marriage. I just don't think that's why He did it.
6Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they filled them to the brim. (John 2:6-7)
These are huge water jars. Carrying them would require two men and would still be difficult, especially if filled to the brim. The intended use was ceremonial washing which was a symbolic act representing our cleansing from sin or uncleanness. Once they were filled with wine, they would be useless to be used for cleansing. And don't miss the note that they filled them to the brim. They didn't just fill them. They didn't just get it most of the way to the top. It was all the way to the top!
Does the Old Testament provide any background to this miracle?
"Say this to them: This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Every jar should be filled with wine. Then they will respond to you, 'Don't we know that every jar should be filled with wine?' 13And you will say to them: This is what the LORD says: I am about to fill all who live in this land–the kings who reign for David on his throne, the priests, the prophets and all the residents of Jerusalem–with drunkenness. (Jeremiah 13:12-13 HCSB)
Through Jeremiah the Lord tells the people of Jerusalem, “Every wine jar should be filled with wine,” meaning, “I am about to fill all who live in this land with drunkenness.” Is it possible that Jesus is communicating a similar message to the people through the filling of their huge water pots to the brim with wine?
Of course the obvious objection is that Jesus didn't come to condemn (judge) the world but to save the world (John 3:17) and what I am suggesting above is that the water to wine miracle is essentially a judgment scene. However, the reason Jesus came to save the world is because the world was condemned (judged) already (John 3:18; see also John 12:47-48). In the context of the Bible's story line, the Gospel comes to a nation that has been judged. That is why the Gospel is such good news (for those with ears to hear). John's Gospel is not a stranger to this fact and the Gospel hardly starts before pointing out that Christ came to His own only to be rejected by his own people (John 1:10-11; 12:48).
Additionally, the context in John 2 seems to fit the idea of a judgment scene as this account is immediately followed by the cleansing of the temple (John 2:14-22) which is clearly a judgment scene. In each of the other Gospels judgment on the unbelieving nation is referenced by quoting Isaiah 6:10 (Matthew 13:14, Mark 4:12, Luke 8:10). That judgment came in the form of blindness and inability to hear or understand. Later Isaiah connects it to a kind of spiritual drunkenness (Isaiah 29:9-10). Is John making a similar point by recounting this miraculous event in Cana? Drunkenness, or a drunken stupor is a familiar image of God's judgment on people in the prophets (See also 63:6; Jeremiah 25:27; 48:26).
Though the text doesn't say they were drunk, the implication is certainly there (John 2:10) since the guests already had too much to drink and now the really good wine has been brought out—and lots of it! Could the message of this miracle be, “The time for cleansing (through the law) is over and for drunkenness has begun for all who reject Christ since cleansing can only be found in Him.”
What does this mean for us? Judgment or Salvation? That all depends on what you see when you look at Jesus. Do you see His glory? Do you see who He is and place your faith in Him? Or do you fail to recognize Him and therefore reject Him?
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 was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God... (John 1:10-12)
If what I present is the right understanding of the text, it sets up the account of Nicodemus perfectly in John 3. To look at that more closely go to Does Nicodemus Think He is Simon Cowell?
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