And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: and both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. 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, 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. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.
Throughout John’s gospel the word translated “miracles” means signs. There are only eight mentioned in this gospel. Each one is for a very specific purpose, as when, for instance, Jesus healed the palsied man by the pool of Bethesda. We see in Him the One who has almighty strength, able to impart power to those who have none of their own. And here in this first sign recorded in the gospel, the Lord Jesus is seen in a very definite character. He comes before us as the Creator of all things. John has already told us that doctrinally, when he said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (1:1-3). But now in this sign, we have a visible manifestation of this: the putting forth of His creatorial power so that He does in one moment of time what ordinarily is done in weeks and months.
Notice the occasion of the miracle. “The third day [after the calling of Nathanael] there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee;…and both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage” (2:1-2). In John 21:2 we read that Nathanael was of Cana of Galilee. So evidently, in the course of their journey up to Judea, they stopped at Nathanael’s hometown, where this wedding took place. Some have supposed that it was the marriage of Nathanael himself, but there is no proof of this. The names of the bride and groom are not given in the Word. The important thing is that we have the blessed Lord’s approval of that intimate relationship, which is so often dishonored today. It carries our minds back to the time when, at the dawn of history, God gave our first parents each to the other: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they [twain] shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). It was God who instituted the marriage relationship, and we have Christ blessing and sanctifying it.
Alas, that in our day marriage should often be so degraded through the willfulness and wickedness of men and women! How careful we as Christians should be to recognize its sanctity! Take the terrible evil of divorce, increasing on every hand these days. Surely it is something that a Christian ought to have a conscience about. Of course, there are cases where no self-respecting woman could continue to live with a certain type of man, but Scripture tells us that if people must be separated, they are not to be remarried to someone else, unless that divorce was because of infidelity on the part of the other party. In such a case our Lord Jesus Christ has said, “Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, except it be for fornication, committeth adultery against her” (see Matt. 5:31-32; 19:9; Mark 10:11). We recognize the exception that He has made, but outside of that we do not find any other ground for the remarriage of divorced people. Things are in such a confused state today, and oh, the terrible effect of divorce upon children!
So I take it here that the Lord Jesus was putting His approval upon marriage when He accepted the invitation to attend the wedding. The mother of Jesus was present. That would suggest that she was well acquainted with the family. In fact, she seems to have had a certain measure of responsibility. (Might I digress again to say that it is a delightful thing at any marriage if Jesus and His disciples are called to attend it. It is a pitiful thing if people cannot invite Jesus. How precious it is to have the fellowship of those who love Christ, as one enters upon this relationship!)
But now we consider the occasion of this miracle, and, first, we will notice the conversation between Jesus and His mother. We read, “When they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it” (vv. 3-5).
Wine is, in Scripture, where rightly and wisely used, the symbol of joy. We read of “wine, which cheereth God and man” (Judg. 9:13). The fact that the wine was giving out at a marriage feast suggests that Israel had so far departed from God that her joy had disappeared in large measure. Nothing much remained but empty forms and ceremonies, as pictured by the empty water pots. But the Christ of God was there, and His mother felt instinctively that He could do something to remedy the situation. Naturally the bride’s mother would be put to confusion by the scant supply of refreshment, and the guests would wonder at the lack of proper preparation. Mary was, in all probability, an intimate acquaintance, if not actually a relative. She was a resourceful woman and, as such, felt that a word to her Son would be all that was necessary. How much maternal pride may have been mixed with this, we do not know. But she evidently longed to see Jesus give some manifestation of His power, and so cause others to realize something of His mysterious divine-human personality.
So, we are told she turned to her Son and said, “They have no wine.” She did not actually request Him to do something about it. She carried in her bosom a secret that other people never would have understood. She had been waiting for the time when this wonderful Being, whom she had carried beneath her heart as a babe, should manifest Himself as indeed the Son of God, and it is very likely that she saw here an opportunity for Him to do this. But Jesus turned to her and said, “Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.”
Some people have thought that the Lord spoke a little bit roughly, but we may be sure He never did that. We may be quite certain that He never said one thing to her that the most dutiful son might not have said. What He did say loses a little by our translation. We distinguish between “lady” and “woman.” Lady, at one time, was simply the wife of a lord or knight. The word woman in our day has come to seem a little less respectful than the word lady, and so we think of the Lord saying, “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” as though He were reproaching His mother. The term He really used was one that any woman might glory in. He said to her, “My lady, what have I to do with thee?” or really, “What is there between thee and Me?” That is, “What is it that you would have of Me? What is the thing that you have in your heart?”
Then He adds, “Mine hour is not yet come.” All through this gospel He has before Him this “hour.” He had human brothers. One time His brothers wanted Him to go up to the feast, but Jesus said to them, “[Mine hour has] not yet come, but your time is always ready” (John 7:6). And we read in the eighth chapter of this gospel, “These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come” (8:20). And again, “Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things” (8:28). They were going to lift Him up, but the hour had not yet come.
Then in John 12 when the Greeks came, saying, “We would see Jesus” (v. 21), He answered saying, “The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified” (v. 23). He recognized in their coming to Him the beginning of the hour when His glory was to be manifested following His crucifixion. In chapter 13 when He was about to wash His disciples’ feet, we read, “Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father” (v. 1). And in chapter 17 where He spoke to the Father, we read, “These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee” (v. 1). It was the hour when He was to go to the cross; when He was to bear the sin of the world; the hour when He was to be raised up upon the tree, and following that God was to raise Him from the dead and glorify Him openly.
This was not His hour, and when His own dear mother tried to press Him to act ahead of time, as it were, He says, “What is there between thee and me? mine hour is not yet come.” It is very evident that His mother, knowing His heart, was not in the least disturbed over His answer to her. She turns to the servants and says to them, “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.” Here may I point out to those who pray to the blessed Virgin and ask her to intercede for them, that her own Son did not immediately answer the petition she asked of Him. Mary said to the servants, “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.” In other words, the mother of Jesus turns us away from herself to her blessed Son, Jesus Christ.
We read, “And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece” (2:6). That is, they held about a barrel of water each. They had to do with Jewish ceremonial cleansings. They were connected with outward purification. They were all empty, like the forms and ceremonies of the law. But the Lord Jesus turns to the servants and says, “Fill the waterpots with water.” In obedience to His word they fill them to the brim. We can see a picture here of the living water of the truth of the gospel poured into the typical ceremonies of old. Everything is changed when the water pots were filled with water. Jesus said unto them, “Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast” (v. 8). And as they poured the water out, lo, and behold, in the very act of pouring out, it became wine! It was a wonderful miracle, and yet, after all, it was just a duplication of what our Lord Jesus Christ has been doing for millenniums on ten thousand hillsides, changing water into wine. When this wine was brought to the ruler of the feast, he tasted it and exclaimed, “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” (v. 10). God always reserves the best for the end of the feast.
The only comment the Holy Spirit makes on this sign is in verse 11, “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.” That might well be linked up with 1:14. There we read that our Lord Jesus Himself “was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” The word dwelt is really “tabernacled” among us, “And we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” That verse gives us the key to all the wonderful symbolism of the tabernacle in the wilderness. It was a house of curtains, and inside, in the holiest of all between the cherubim, a glorious Light was shining, which was the visible manifest presence of God. The people could not see the glory. But if you can imagine, for a moment, the curtains parting and the brilliant light revealed between those golden boards, it would be the glory shining out. Well, that is what we have here in the miracles of Jesus. It was like drawing back the curtains of the earthly tabernacle to expose the Shechinah, for “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” (2 Cor. 5:19).
So this first miracle shows Him as the Creator, the One who upholds all things through His power, the One who provides for us everything that we need. The wonderful thing is this, that this great Creator became our Savior. He was always God from eternity. He, by whom all things came into existence, came down into this world to suffer for our sins that we might be saved and have everlasting life.
One word could have filled those water pots if it had been His will. It took more than a word to save our souls. It took the work of the cross. But because of that work, one word “believe” brings life and peace. “Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart” (Ps. 95:7-8). “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom. 10:9).