"On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it to him. When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, 1and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him." (John 2:1-11)
It was the first public miracle, yet only a few people knew what had happened. Mary, the disciples, and the servants saw. Mary already knew He is the Messiah. The disciples already suspected He is the Messiah. The servants only knew that something miraculous had happened. So what was the point of the miracle?
I have heard one interpretation that since fermenting wine is a timed process and that there is nothing man can do to hurry it along, Jesus instantly changing the water into wine demonstrates His mastery of time and space. Other interpretations teach that it reveals His glory, that He is the best wine kept back until now, that He pours forth His blood freely, that Mary was showing her humility by leaving the initiative up to Him ("Do whatever he tells you") or that ritual purification jars will no longer be needed because Jesus will wash us clean once for all, etc. They are all plausible and they are all lovely, especially the interpretation where Jesus demonstrates His mastery over time by fermenting wine instantly. But while plausible, none of these interpretations settled my puzzlement over its the inclusion in John.
Why this miracle, especially since John tells us in verse 21:25 that "there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written." Why did the Holy Spirit impress this event onto the writer's mind for inclusion in the bible, when there were so many other miracles and signs to choose from? Because, remember, John said it was a sign. A sign is given to authenticate. So what was being authenticated here?
I was thinking about that today and one possible interpretation came to me. In the bible, wine is used as a symbol of holy joy. Isaiah uses it frequently, alternately showing that wine's absence is a symbol of desolation (Isaiah 24:11). If wine is a symbol of holy joy, and its absence is a symbol of desolation, then Mary's words to Jesus at the beginning of the miracle: "They have no more wine" (John 2:3) takes on new meaning.
Taking focus off the wine itself for a moment, look at the event: a wedding. In Isaiah 25:6-7 we read,
"The LORD of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain;
A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow,
And refined, aged wine.
And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples,
Even the veil which is stretched over all nations."
The preparations made in the gospel for the reception of repentant sinners with God are often in the New Testament shown by the illustration of a feast, as seen above and in Mt. 22:1, "The parable of the Marriage Feast." All peoples are invited to partake of His salvation upon His 'mountain', or, His church, to feast upon the glory to soon come in the form of the holy sacrifice of Jesus and the swallowing of the veil that separates us from God. And we will drink wine, not just any wine, but Isaiah carefully notes, aged wine. As John notes, 'the best wine.' As the bible closes out the last of known human history-yet-to-come, we are promised another wedding-
Marriage of the Lamb
"Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready." It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, "Write, 'Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb '" (Rev 19:7-9).
The tribulation is a time when Jesus pours out the winepress of His wrath (Rev 14:9) because they have drunk wine of the passion of their immorality (Rev. 14:8). But for His children He promises the best wine. We have holy joy in this.
We're promised a wedding in Isaiah, Jesus opens His ministry at a wedding in John, and we close out the bible with a wedding in Revelation. Wine is at all times understood to be a central component of the blessed event practically, spiritually, culturally, and symbolically. Compare the miracle at the wedding in Cana with the end times event of the Marriage supper of the Lamb and perhaps we can understand a glimpse of His purpose in this sign that John shares with us. Throughout the bible, the symbolism of weddings have prominence. He and the Apostles continually call the church His bride. Human history closes with a wedding banquet. It is fitting He opened His ministry and performed His first sign at a wedding. It is fitting that He showed His deity through changing water into wine. He IS the wine, and we are His bride. Thank you Jesus! You are saving the best for last!