This first recorded miracle of Jesus’ is perhaps my favorite in all the Scriptures, because it seems so out of place. What’s the grand purpose? No one is given back their sight. No one is raised from the dead. Instead, Our Lord makes a bunch of wine out of water, surely a great thing for people who are already tipsy to maintain their buzz! But there’s got to be something more going on.
Verse 1 tells us that “on the third day a wedding took place in Cana in Galilee.” If we look back in John 1 we get a hint as to what this “third day” refers to. In John 1:29 we find Jesus coming out of the wilderness and being seen by John the Baptist, who declares, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” A little further we get to verse 35, which says that “the next day John was there again with two of his disciples.” One day after Jesus came out of the wilderness He is walking by again, and this time two of John’s disciples decide to follow Him. In verse 43 we read, “The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, He said to him, ‘Follow me.’”
So, John the Baptist sees Jesus. One day later he sees Jesus again, and some disciples follow Him. Two days after coming out of the wilderness Jesus finds Philip and then Nathanael. And then we get to our passage in John 2. “On the third day a wedding took place.”
Notice then what verse 2 says. “Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and His disciples had also been invited to the wedding.” He wasn’t a plus-one. Jesus is invited. It makes me wonder what kind of person Jesus must have been to have been invited to a wedding three days after coming out of the wilderness? What kind of person are we? What kind of impact do we have on others by our presence, let alone our actions and our words? An entire sermon series can be spent on how we ought to live and love like Jesus.
But back to the miracle. Mary, the mother of Jesus, tells Him that they are out of wine, and she then turns to the servants and gives a beautiful, simple, sentence summary of the Christian life: “Do whatever He tells you.” Would that each of us was more faithful to follow those words!
In verses 6 and 7 we find Jesus telling the servants to fill the jars used for ceremonial cleansing with water. Why would He not simply refill all the empty wine vessels? The wine had run out, the vessels, the amphorae, were empty. Why not reuse them? Why ruin containers meant to hold water for ceremonial purity by filling them with wine, staining them forever?
Simple. It’s because any vessel can be used for any purpose in the hands of our God. Any vessel. We too often want to protest that we’re too young, or too old, or too uneducated, or too whatever. No. Any vessel can be used for any purpose in the hands of our God. Do you have a criminal past? So did many of the heroes within our Scriptures. Any vessel can be used for any purpose in the hands of our God. Are you a woman, who has been told that you cannot be in ministry over men? Our Wesleyan/Arminian heritage rejects that, because we affirm that any vessel can be used for any purpose in the hands of our God.
As the passage ends with verses 8-11, the master of the banquet gives the groom praise for saving the best wine until last. The groom, of course, has no idea what is going on. He had nothing to do with the new wine. But he still gets praise and credit.
And isn’t that just about the perfect definition of grace? We all get credit for something we neither did nor deserve. We probably can’t even really explain what happened, or how exactly we are saved. We just find ourselves being credited as righteous, being in a restored, renewed state. And this happens when we simply accept the gift that Jesus has given us through His work.
That, I believe, is the purpose of the miracle. We are saved by grace. Any vessel can be used for any purpose in the hands of our God. Do whatever God tells you. And consider what kind of person you may be. It’s certainly a lot more than just a story about water and wine!