Gospel of John Bible Study Notes, Week 5

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.
When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  John 2:1-5 (NIV 2011) 

Jesus’ Family

Mary’s husband Joseph is not mentioned in the Scriptures apart from the accounts of Jesus’ birth in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, and indirectly in the story of Jesus’ Temple visit at the age of 12 (Luke 2:41ff).  From this we can assume that, by the time Jesus began his ministry at about 30 years of age (Luke 3:23), Joseph had died.  (See also Mark 6:3 where there is no mention of Joseph.)

According to the custom, as the eldest son of the family,[1] Jesus would have assumed a role of responsibility.  Jesus must have done an excellent job in this role because when a problem arose at the wedding at Cana[2], Mary instructed the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them to do (John 2:5).  Mary obviously had great faith in Jesus’ abilities even though, up to that point, Jesus had not done any miracles (John 2:11).

The Wedding at Cana

A Jewish wedding was a week-long celebration; however the festivities at Cana were in peril when the wine ran out.  Wine was an extremely common drink, with few alternatives, in 1st Century Israel.[3]  In a culture that regarded hospitality almost as a sacred duty, running out of wine would have been a shameful, social disaster, and an insult to the guests.

Extra-biblical sources indicate that Mary was a relative of the groom. If so, the success of the wedding, and the happiness of the wedding couple, would have been particularly important to her.

Jesus’ reply of “woman” does not translate satisfactorily into English (John 2:4).  It was actually a term of respect, and not devoid of warmth.  The phrase, literally translated, in John 2:4 as: “What is it to me and to you?” is probably an idiom.  It seems that Jesus is asking why he, or him and his mother, should get involved.

Jesus informed Mary that his hour had not yet come (John 2:4).   Jesus knew his purpose, he knew the plan and he knew its timing.[4]  He was dedicated to his mission as Messiah and Saviour and avoided distractions; however Jesus chose to use this occasion to reveal a Kingdom truth.

Jesus instructs the servants to fill six very large stone water jars with water which he then miraculously transforms into fine wine (John 2:7-9).  The host is surprised about the late appearance of this fine wine (John 2:10).

I have always thought that this miracle seemed a bit frivolous, yet Jesus never performed miracles without a reason.  What was the significance of this sign?

Water into Wine - John 2

Wedding in Cana, © Cook Communications Ministries. Source: Visual Bible Alive

A Jewish Perspective of the Miracle

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.
Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”
They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”  John 2:6-10 (NIV 2011)

John explains that the six stone water jars were used by the Jews for ritual cleansing (John 2:6).  In Hebrew, the number six stands for incompleteness and imperfection.  It is also the number for man, i.e. human beings or people.  Perhaps these six jars represented the Jewish Law that was powerless to completely cleanse and purify people from sin.    In this sign, Jesus symbolically replaced the Jewish law that was powerless to save, with the “late appearance” of the more excellent and powerful Gospel.

Jesus turned the water into more wine than any wedding party could possibly drink. He fulfilled the need with abundance and liberality. And he fulfilled it with quality. Jesus made fine wine. Jesus has graciously and generously given us the gift of an excellent salvation and an abundant life (John 10:10) and freed us from the law.

A Greek Perspective of the Miracle

The Greeks had many stories about water turning into wine through Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. While the influence of Greek philosophers had made their mark on society, mythology was still embedded in the Greco-Roman culture. John chose to record this sign in his gospel and use it to reveal Jesus’ divinity to his Greek readers. John showed that whatever the Greeks dreamed their gods were capable of, Jesus could really do, but even better – with abundance and quality.

From Cana to Capernaum

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.
After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.  John 2:1-12 (NIV 2011)

According to John, turning water into wine was Jesus’ first sign and it revealed Jesus’ glory.  John notes that Jesus’ disciples believed in him when they saw the sign (John 2:11).

After the wedding at Cana, Jesus went to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they stayed there for a while; literally “for many days” (John 2:12).  What were they all doing together in Capernaum?


Endnotes

[1] Mary had other children after Jesus.  Jesus’ brothers are mentioned by name in Mark 6:3 as: James, Joseph, Judas and Simeon.  Jesus’ sisters are also mentioned in this verse.  (See also  Matt. 13:55-56; John 2:12, 7:3-5; Acts 1:14; 1 Cor. 9:5 and Gal. 1:19.)  The belief that Mary remained a virgin after Jesus’ birth is totally unscriptural.  (See Matthew 1:24-25.)

[2] The village of Cana was near Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth.

[3] There were no soft drinks in Jesus’ culture, so it was either water or wine, or occasionally a milk drink.

[4] Jesus knew his “hour”.  (See Matt. 26:18,45; Mark 14:41; John 2:4, 7:6, 8; 12:23.)


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