[The master of the feast] said to Him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now’ (John 2:10).
In the Gospel of John, Jesus’ first public miracle took place at a wedding in Cana, in Galilee. As a summary, Jesus turned six large stone water jars (20-30 gallons each) into wine at the wedding after the previous wine had run out. Not only that, but the wine that Jesus made was far superior to anything that had been served up to that point.
While there are many secondary lessons in the passage, John said in verse 11 that “This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory. And His disciples believed in Him.” I have often thought on this verse and wondered what about the transformation (of water to wine) reached the level of a messianic sign (σημείων - a sign or indication, typically given to confirm or collaborate).
This week I was reminded anew of two ways this miracle was a sign of Jesus as Messiah, or Christ.
First, Jesus turned the water into wine. Throughout the Old Testament (and into the New) wine is used as a symbol of both the presence of the Holy Spirit and the joy of salvation that the Lord gives to the believer. Some examples are: Leviticus 23 and the seven feasts; Isaiah 55:1, and; Micah 4:4.
By turning the water into wine Jesus demonstrated that He is the Messiah because He is the One who gives life where there is no life. Earlier in his Gospel, John wrote “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (1:12). Jesus took what was not wine (water) and transformed it into wine. He did not do this by adding a grape mixture to the water; this would have made Kool-Aid. No, Jesus substituted wine for the water that was there.
So why fill the pots with water? Was the water necessary?
He could have filled the six pots with wine without the involvement of the servants or the presence of water. However, no one would have been completely sure if He bought the wine or created it. By filling the pots with water first, Jesus eliminated all possibilities that wine was provided by any other source than His miraculous intervention.
As Messiah, Jesus fundamentally transforms enemies of God (Romans 5:8) into children of God (see above). He doesn’t do this by adding something to the believer; instead He makes them an entirely new creation. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
Secondly, Jesus turned the water into the best wine. When Jesus transformed the water into wine, He did not create regular wine. The text tells us that He made “good” wine. When the master said good (καλὸν) he meant “attractively good, that which inspires, praiseworthy.”
Jesus made wine so delicious that it was worthy of bragging about. Symbolically, this is a picture of the new covenant’s (salvation by faith) superiority over the old covenant (works of the Mosiac Law).
What does this mean? The new wine was better than the water because the water would never satisfy the desires or requirements of the wedding attendees. The same is true for Jesus as Messiah: faith in Him is greater than works of the Law because works of the Law does not satisfy God’s requirements. As the writer of Hebrews said – “But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent that the old as the covenant He mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second” (8:6-7).
Therefore the quality of the wine was a picture of the greatness of the new covenant, made through Jesus’ blood (which is symbolized by wine in the Eucharist or communion/Lord’s supper).
When these two thoughts are combined it creates a beautiful picture of Jesus the Messiah’s work in the life of the believer. Just as Jesus transformed the water into delicious wine, He fundamentally transforms those who place their trust in Him.
I need to be regularly reminded of what Jesus has done for me. I was born God’s enemy due to my inherited sin nature. However, God did not leave me in that state; instead, He allowed His Son to pay for my sin (2 Corinthians 5:21) through His blood by His death on the cross.
By trusting in Christ Jesus, I do not earn my transformation into a new creation. Like the water, I have been changed into something new, something better. This sinner has been made a child of God.
What a picture of God’s amazing grace.