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.”
This story is significant because it reveals something about first-century parties.
The story begins with Jesus, an invited guest, attending, supporting and loving those whose big day it is. In what seems to us a remarkable twist, the wine runs out, which would have caused considerable embarrassment to any host. Jesus doesn’t want to get involved (he is not simply a miracle worker, even if that is what Mary wants), but he agrees to his mother’s desire, directing the servants to fill the foot-washing jars. Mary and Jesus must have had. considerable influence (or been very close friends of the family) for the servants to do this but it is excellent advice, as the wine that materializes turns out to be ‘good’ wine.
“Good wine” meant wine in which the amount of exposure to air had been well judged. The carbon dioxide produced as the sugar in the grape juice ferments is forced, to the surface, which bubbles. The carbon dioxide must be allowed to escape but there is a risk that the exposed liquid will be contaminated by fungus, which turns the wine into vinegar. In biblical times, resin from the terebinth tree was sometimes used to prevent this chemical reaction from spoiling the wine. The wine that Jesus produced was ‘good’ – indeed better than the wine that had already been served, which, like much poor wine of that period, was pretty close to vinegar. It seems it was the best that the host had to hand, (indeed, it was all he had).
And just as he changed water into wine, so Jesus is going to change people. He is going to change ordinary people like you and me into the greatest vintages in the kingdom, of heaven. In John’s Gospel, this story is the first major event in Jesus’ ministry of healing, preaching and change. That ministry begins at his baptism, when Jesus is drawn into a different kind of relationship with everyone around him. Just as the baptism involved water, so too does this first miracle. John also points us forward to the wine of the Passover cups, one of which Jesus describes as his blood.
Changeless Jesus Christ, may you change us more or more to become like you. Amen.