John 2: 1-12 is one of the best-loved passages of the Gospels, not only because it depicts Jesus performing his first miracle, but because of the greater promise that it holds for all of us.
It all began when they ran out of wine…
As we remember from John’s account, Jesus and the disciples were invited to a wedding in Cana. Mary was already there, leading Bible scholars to speculate that she was somehow connected with the wedding, as she seemed to be the first to know that the wine was running out, and she was comfortable directing the servants. Perhaps the wedding was a family event, and to run out of wine was a source of embarrassment to Mary or to her relatives.
We don’t know why the wine ran out. Was there not enough purchased? Did people drink more than anticipated? Did unexpected guests show up? Perhaps the bride and groom were unable to afford more than they had already bought.
Mary didn’t ask Jesus to perform this miracle, she merely stated that they had no wine. Still, it is obvious that she wanted him to do something about it. Jesus rebuked Mary, saying that his hour had not yet come. He had only called the disciples in the past week, and He knew that God would reveal the time in which to manifest His miracles. Certainly, He would not have performed His first miracle at this time if He hadn’t known that God was in favour of His doing so. Thus begins a change in their mother-son relationship, as He prepares for His public ministry. Mary is wise enough to understand that He will not do her bidding, but God’s.
Mary told the servants, “Whatever He says to you – do it,”which, curiously, are the last recorded words she speaks anywhere in the Bible. By these words, she is showing that she submits to whatever Jesus decides to do about the matter.
Perhaps Jesus saw that Mary showed the same faith she had shown three decades earlier, when the Angel Gabriel first came to speak with her. Although Jesus had rebuked Mary, He still granted her this wish that was trivial to him but so important to her. Jesus asked the servants to fill six stone pots with water, and they filled them to the brim. John tells us that the stone pots held 20 to 30 gallons of water, so we know that they were much too heavy to lift. It must have taken a long time for the servants to fill them one ladle at a time. Still, they persevered, bringing the water from the well, and we wonder what they thought as they did so. They must have really wondered what was going on when he asked them to draw some of it. They knew that the water was used for purification, and not intended for drinking. John does not tell us that Jesus touched the water, so as far as the servants were concerned they were drawing ceremonial water for everyone to drink. Still, they obeyed without hesitation. Jesus took that water and turned it into wine. Not just any wine, but wine of the finest vintage. John does not tell us how the servants reacted, but that moment is sure to have changed their lives.
It was customary to serve the good wine first, and the inferior wine after the good wine had run out. But Jesus had saved the best for last, perhaps a prophesy of the time when he would turn wine into blood.
And so it is with all of us. Every one of us “runs out” at one time or another. We run out of time, we run out of energy, we run out of resources. If, like Mary, we have faith that Jesus can replenish what we run out of, we bring Him the stone pots of our lives, filled ladle by ladle with the things we have done and the words we have said. By the time we fill the pots, the water is very murky. Jesus takes our pots of murky water and turns them into wine of the finest quality.
The water that was intended for purification of the body represents an external cleansing, but Jesus is the Living Water. He purifies our souls and fills our hearts to the brim with the joy of the Holy Spirit. The true purification is to be found in the blood of Jesus that washes away the sins of the world.
Because it was they who had filled the pots, the servants at Cana knew where the wine came from. The bride and groom, the guests and the master of the feast – the important people – did not. This will become a recurring theme throughout Jesus’ ministry. Let us be like them, humbly doing His biding without question, and sharing the inside knowledge of the work he has done in the world and in our hearts. If Jesus can turn water into wine, imagine what he can do in our lives!