The Wedding at Cana: Jesus’ First Miracle
The life of Jesus Christ was marked not only by his infinite compassion and remarkable example but also by the many miracles he performed. Throughout his ministry, he demonstrated his divine mandate, making the impossible possible, and teaching eternal truths in ways that his disciples (and even his detractors) could not ignore.
But among his many awe-inspiring acts, there is one that seems to stand out as somewhat mundane, or even trivial: turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana. What can we learn from Jesus’ first miracle, and how can it help us better understand not only Jesus’ mission, but also give us a glimpse into the man that he was?
Jesus Turns Water into Wine: Background and Summary
The account of Jesus at the wedding of Cana is found in the second chapter of the Gospel of John.
1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
4 “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.
7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.
8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, 9 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 10 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.”
11 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.
View an excerpt from The Chosen, episode 5 of season 1, depicting this event.
The account takes place at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and is one of the earliest accounts of the Savior as an adult. But perhaps even more interestingly, it is one of the few accounts we have of Jesus in a social setting. Although he had certainly already begun teaching in some respect (he is there at the wedding with some of his disciples, after all), he was not there as a teacher, but as a guest. He was also there as a loyal and loving family member, accompanying his mother.
And when the wine ran out, Mary wanted to prevent embarrassment and shame from falling upon the hosts, she then approached her son to ask for his help.
It’s important to note here that Mary wasn’t merely asking Jesus to help find more wine; she was requesting divine assistance from the man she knew to be the Son of God. Jesus’ response, that his “hour is not yet come,” implies that they were both aware of the gravity of what was being asked. But was Jesus’ hesitance because he wasn’t ready, or was it because he knew that by performing his first miracle, he would be setting in motion a series of events that could never be undone?
Jesus Turns Water into Wine: the Miracle and the Metaphor
To understand the meaning and symbolism behind this miracle, let’s consider two important factors: the water Jesus used, and the wine it became.
While today we often think of water as something pure and clean, this has not always been the case. The water available at the wedding at Cana had likely been used by guests to wash their hands, and may have been very dirty. At the very least, we must recognize that water was considered an inferior substitute for wine, particularly at a wedding feast. We can think of the water as representative of the sullied and impure state of the sinner.
Wine, on the other hand, was a joyous drink meant for celebration. It was also one that carried with it religious significance for the Jewish people. Throughout scripture, the Israelite peoples are compared to vines that produce fruit, and the Passover feast includes the arba kosot — four cups of ritual wine that are dunk by individual participants during the Passover service. Wine would later take on greater significance in Christ’s own life and in early Christian traditions, represented by its color and consistency to the blood that Jesus shed for the world.
As such, the water to wine miracle was representative of the culmination of his work on earth, when he would eventually take the impureness and uncleanliness of humanity upon himself, and through his blood, produce something wonderful.
Jesus Turns Water to Wine: The Savior as a Dutiful Son
Scriptures teach that in all things, Jesus differed his own will to the will of his Father. Here, we also get to see the respect he has for the wishes of his dear mother. When she asks him to use his power, it is not to raise the dead or cure someone’s blindness; it’s to help out a friend in need. And although Jesus had not arrived at the wedding with any intention to perform a miracle, he was willing to go out of his way to serve the woman who had birthed raised him.
Jesus Turns Water to Wine: The First Miracle
It is widely known that Jesus was raised by a carpenter and had even practiced the trade himself. However, the term ‘carpenter’ may have slightly different connotations in the scriptures than is recognized today. In fact, rather than working exclusively with wood, Jesus may have worked heavily with stone and other materials. If one looks at Christ’s ministry through the lens of a stoneworker, then the miracle at the wedding feast can be compared to the very first cut into the rock. Once this cut is made, the rock is forever changed, and the only thing to do is to continue to shape the stone until it reaches its desired conclusion.
As Jesus prepared to perform his first miracle, he likely saw this significance. He would face many trials ahead, enduring pain and ridicule before his great work would be complete. And the seemingly-small miracle to help his mother would be the first, irrevocable step on that path. It was probably a very anxious moment, one filled with solemn gravity that the servants could not comprehend. This was the deep breath before the plunge, and for a moment, all of existence waited in anticipation.
When Jesus turned water into wine at Cana, he demonstrated his true nature as the son of God. And from that day on, he never once turned from that responsibility.
Jesus Turns Water to Wine: Significance Today
To the guests, the couple, and the master of the banquet, Jesus’ wine was a treat worthy of praise. But it’s importance has endured for millennia, and can help us today to come closer to Christ.
In our own lives, we are often faced with problems that we might think unworthy of the Savior’s attention. But this miracle demonstrates that Jesus not only cares about us, but he also cares about the things we care about. His miracles aren’t only there to redeem souls; they’re also there to help us out in our everyday lives. When we come to him with anxieties and problems, no matter how small, he will be there, and we can count on him to take on those burdens as assuredly as he takes on our sins, and help us become something remarkable. And just as the master of the banquet remarked at the quality of the wine, with Christ’s support, we can become more than we ever thought possible.
Experience the miracle at the wedding at Cana like never before. Watch The Chosen, and bring Christ more fully into your life.