Jesus’ first miracle at Cana was not to promote the consumption of alcohol but to manifest his glory while also helping the wedding host. During Biblical times, diluted wine was essential to avoid sickness from drinking contaminated water. “Alcohol, a natural disinfectant, can reduce microbial activity in water. As a result, it was common for Romans, Greeks and Jews – among other wine- drinking cultures – to drink a mix of 50% water and 50% wine. Not only did it clean up the water, but it also prevented people from getting drunk. After all, wine was commonly drunk for breakfast, lunch and dinner!” (https://covenantwines.com/blog/ truth-in-wine-water-into-wine/). Mary, as a housewife, could foresee the disgrace of the wedding host when the family ran out of wine. She intervened, rising to the occasion without waiting for the host to request help. When Jesus helped the family, he won the confidence of his disciples and appreciation of the wedding guests. They initially did not know that the later supply of wine was from the miracle of Jesus. Once they realized it, they might have communicated the glory of Jesus to the public.
(John 2:1) On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee and the mother of Jesus was there. (2) Jesus was also invited to the wedding with his disciples. (3) When all the wine provided for the celebration had been served and they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” (4) Jesus replied, “Woman, what do you want from me? My hour has not yet come.” (5) And his mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” (6) Nearby there were six stone water jars meant for the ritual washing as practiced by the Jews; each jar could hold twenty or thirty gallons. (7) Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them to the brim. (8) Then Jesus said, “Now draw some out and take it to the steward.” So they took it. (9) The steward tasted the water that had been turned into wine, without knowing from where it had come, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. So, he immediately called the bridegroom (10) and told him, “Everyone serves the best wine first and when people have drunk enough, he serves that which is ordinary. Instead you have kept the best wine until the end.” (11) This miraculous sign was the first that Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. In this way, he manifested his glory and his disciples believed in him.
(1) On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee and the mother of Jesus was there.
On the third day
John the Evangelist starts his gospel with the counting of days. On the first day, John the Baptist testified to the Levites and the priests that he was the one crying out in the desert (Jn 1:19-28). He testified on Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world on the second day (Jn 1:29-34). On the third day, John directed his disciples Andrew and Simon to follow Jesus (Jn 1:35-42). Philip and Nathaniel met Jesus on the fourth day (Jn 1:43-51). Then the evangelist starts the second chapter saying “on the third day” that means the seventh day. Jesus needed three days to travel from River Jordan to Galilee and to the village of Cana that was eight miles north of Nazareth, where Jesus and Mary lived. The seventh day, according to Biblical numerology, is a day of perfection, and Jesus chose that day to manifest his glory through his first miracle.
According to the order of creation, the third day is Tuesday. Every day after creation, God said, “it was good.” However, only on the third and sixth days of creation, God said ‘good’ twice. So, Israelites selected Tuesday for unifying two good, the groom and the bride, in marriage.
Jewish wedding was a one-week celebration when the host provided lodging, food, and drink to the guests. Jesus’ presence in the wedding, along with his mother and disciples, showed the value Jesus gave to marriage and family life. The family should imitate the love and unity of the Most Holy Trinity. Family life is sacred when its members experience and share God’s love as one team.
The mother of Jesus
John never mentions Mary by name in his gospel. According to Jewish culture, John was not using her name out of respect. Mary was there because she might have been a relative of the host. Cana and Nazareth were small neighbouring villages to each other, where people knew one another. So, it was natural that all the villagers were relatives and friends and the host might have invited them all for the wedding.
(2) Jesus was also invited to the wedding with his disciples
Some interpreters say that it was the unexpected presence of the disciples of Jesus that caused the shortage of wine at the wedding feast. However, the gospel states that the host had invited the disciples. There is no reason to think more than expected guests came because of Jesus’ presence. He became popular only after the miracle at this wedding.
(3) When all the wine provided for the celebration had been served and they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine”
Wine was an integral part of the Jewish meal. During those days, there was no purification of water. Since sickness could happen because of contaminated water consumption, authorities asked people to drink water mixed with wine (1 Tim 5:23). To get drunk from wine was a disgrace. So, Mary and Jesus were not promoting alcohol consumption but compensating for the lack of popular healthy drink for the banquet.
The wine ran short
The wedding celebrations used to last a week. So, it is not surprising that they ran out of it within that time. A banquet without wine was a disgrace to the host, and so he and his family were in a tight situation. Only Mary knew that her son could do a miracle to resolve the issue. So, she approached her son to help the host before the guests came to know of the shortage.
“They have no wine”
When Mary said this, she was expecting her son to perform a miracle because there was no other way to save the host’s honour in that difficult situation. Shortage of food or wine during a wedding celebration was a huge embarrassment in the Jewish culture, as in many others.
(4) Jesus replied, “Woman, what do you want from me? My hour has not yet come”
There are cultural differences in saluting others. Jesus calling his mother “woman” was a normal, polite form of address and had a formal implication. The reference is to the book of Genesis where God declares enmity between the “woman” and the serpent (Gen 3:15). Jesus used the same term “woman” when he entrusted Mary to the Apostle John while he was on the cross (Jn 19:26).
What do you want from me?
The literal translation of this is: “What is this to me and to you?” Demons used the same expression to Jesus (Mk 1:24; 5:7). The translation, cultural difference, and tone of speech make the difference in the meaning of expressions.
My hour has not yet come
Jesus’ hour was his glory displayed in his passion, death, resurrection, and ascension (Jn 13:1). The miracles of Jesus were not to help himself or his family. They were to manifest God’s glory and to manifest himself as the Messiah so people might accept his gospel and attain salvation (Jn 20:31). Jesus’ miracles were related to his hour. He made use of his mother’s request for a miracle at Cana as the time to manifest his glory. Another translation for “my hour has not yet come” is a question: “Has my hour now come?” This was not according to the schedule of his Father. John 12:27 shows that his Father determined his hour. However, he performed the miracle to respect his mother’s request. Saint Mary might have thought it was time for Jesus to manifest his glory.
(5) And his mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you”
Mary’s instruction to the servers is a sign that she had responsibility in the wedding arrangements. She was sure that her son would not decline her wishes, even though he thought it was not yet time to manifest his glory. Mary was concerned for the honour of the family because she herself had faced hardships in the household.
(6) Nearby there were six stone water jars meant for the ritual washing as practised by the Jews; each jar could hold twenty or thirty gallons
The Jews washed feet upon entry into a house because they were walking on the muddy or dusty ground. Washing hands before and in between each course of the meal and cleaning all the utensils meticulously with water were ceremonial rituals. So, they had large water jars available with plenty of water.
Six stone water jars
Six, according to Biblical numerology, is an imperfection because creation became complete only with the seventh day that God made holy. Jesus perfected the water in the six jars through his first miracle.
Stone jars each holding twenty to thirty gallons
That means Jesus made 120 to 180 gallons of wine for that single wedding. Thus, he made an excessive quantity of wine. This abundance of wine recalls the prophecies of abundance in the last days (Am 9:13-14; Hos 14:7; Jer 31:12).
(7) Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them to the brim.
Jesus told the servants to fill the jars with water, so they became witnesses to the miracle.
(8) Then Jesus said, “Now draw some out and take it to the steward.” So they took it.
A steward can be a friend or a family member in charge of food distribution. Jesus wanted him to confirm the quality of the wine.
(9) The steward tasted the water that had been turned into wine, without knowing from where it had come, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. So, he immediately called the bridegroom.
The servers who had drawn the water knew.
Jesus did not make the miracle a public event. Instead, he did that in private to protect the host’s reputation. So, only the servants knew where the wine came from, and they might have publicized the miracle to the guests at the wedding and then to the public.
(10) And told him, “Everyone serves the best wine first and when people have drunk enough, he serves that which is ordinary. Instead you have kept the best wine until the end.”
You have kept the good wine until now.
This assures that the wine Jesus made through his miracle was to the best
(11) This miraculous sign was the first that Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. In this way, he manifested his glory and his disciples believed in him.
Though John acknowledges that Jesus performed many signs or miracles (Jn 20:30), he documents only seven which is a perfect number according to the Biblical numerology.
Revealed his glory.
Besides helping the family from their disgrace, according to John the Evangelist, Jesus needed to manifest his glory. That helped people to identify Jesus as the Messiah and have faith in him. John concludes his gospel stating the purpose of his documentation: “that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name” (Jn 20:31).
His disciples began to believe in him.
Jesus did this first miracle before he selected some disciples as apostles. The faith of the disciples in Jesus increased because of this miracle.
1. When Jesus helped the wedding host in his misery, Jesus himself gained because his disciples believed in him. The people acknowledged the glory of God and the helping mentality of Jesus and his mother. When we help others, we also gain blessings from God and recognition from the public.
2. Jesus compared the wedding feast to the messianic kingdom (Mt 8:11; 22:2). The wine is symbolic of the joy and blessings of the Kingdom of God (Mt 26:29). The wine made at the wedding feast was not to promote the use of alcohol but to symbolize the sanctity of marriage and its joy in this world and the world to come.
3. Mary, whom Jesus entrusted to John as his and our mother, is always watching over our difficulties as she did at Cana. She does not perform any miracle. She intercedes to Jesus for us when we are in distress. Her message to us is what she said to the servants at the wedding of Cana, “Do whatever he tells you.” So, let us follow the teachings of Jesus, and then he will take care of the rest.
4. The six stone jars with water stood for the imperfect interpretations of the Law. Jesus came to perfect the old with the new covenant of grace. So, he made use of the old and converted it to a higher level. Jesus can change our present imperfection and dissatisfaction to the perfection and joy of heaven if we undertake whatever he tells us to do.