Having heard the testimony of the apostle John, John the baptizer, and of the other disciples that Jesus was indeed “the Son of God,” we now turn to His own works to gather more clues to his full identity.
Starting in John 2, we find Jesus and His disciples invited to attend a marriage celebration in a town called Cana of Galilee, just a few miles from His home town of Nazareth. Cana and Nazareth both were modest little towns and the hosts of the wedding and many of the guests probably would have known Jesus for much of his life. We find also in John 21:2 that Nathaniel, the disciple of Jesus that we just met at the end of John 1 was also from Cana, so these were more than likely people whom Nathaniel would also have been well acquainted.
Marriage was a sacred thing in Jewish culture. The preparations would take nearly an entire year before the celebration day. John’s work in telling this story however is not to highlight the marriage as much as to tell what Jesus accomplished at the wedding.
In Ancient cultures, Jewish included, it was understood that the water that flowed in streams and rivers was contaminated and could make a person sick. A common practice was to dilute the water with fermented wine because the alcohol in the wine would kill the bacteria and other harmful things in the water. At a wedding, this was a problem, because if the host ran out of wine, there would be nothing to drink, and the guests couldn’t drink water because it was contaminated. Starting our story today, this is the dilemma that faced the wedding party here at Cana. They had no wine.
Immediately, Mary directed the servants to follow the leading of her all-wise son, Jesus, to resolve this issue. Jesus instructed the servants to fill the six water pots that were for “the purifying of the Jews.” These pots served a very specific purpose. They were to be used in the ceremonial cleansing of the guests, and of the dishes, and of everything that owner of the house would have. Filling them up with water would not have been unusual, but filling them up for drink would have been incredibly strange. The Jews would not have drunk any water by itself, and furthermore, you certainly wouldn’t have drunk water out of these pots.
Jesus then told the servants to scoop from the pot and take it to the head servant of the wedding. As the head servant tasted, he was so astounded that he remarked to the bridegroom about it. Many arguments have fallen about the alcohol content of the wine. The point of this story is not about alcohol or no alcohol. The point of the story is this: when the pots were filled, impure water was put in them; when the drink was scooped out, the purest wine that ever flowed came forth. Jesus had done the miraculous. A theology of drunkenness built off of this miracle of Jesus is nonsense. The point John was trying to get across was that Jesus is God. He has power to change water to wine.
He can do that which no one else can. He has supernatural power. It is sad that men would seek to dogmatically preach anything less from this text. Jesus came as God and did things that only God could do. The servants and the disciples saw this. They could truly know that He was God, even as John and the other disciples had testified. Now, we can look at the testimony and instead of being distracted by the details, we can rejoice that as He promised, God had come in the flesh.
Food for thought: Was the wine alcoholic or not? What is the real point of Jesus turning the water into wine?