Long long ago when Johnny Carson was the host of The Tonight Show he interviewed an eight year old boy. The young boy was asked to appear because he had rescued two friends in a coalmine outside his hometown in West Virginia. As Johnny questioned the boy, it became apparent to him and the audience that the young man was a Christian. So Johnny asked him if
he attended Sunday school. When the boy said he did Johnny inquired, "What are you learning in Sunday school?" Well, came his reply, "Last week our lesson was about when Jesus went to a wedding and turned water into wine." And while the audience roared, Johnny tried to keep a straight face as he said, "And what did you learn from that story?" The boy squirmed in his chair. It was apparent he hadn't really thought about this. But then he lifted up his face and said, "If you're going to have a party, make sure you invite Jesus!" And he was certainly on to something in a simple yet profound way.
Jewish wedding feasts lasted for 7 days, and to run out of wine so early would have been embarrassing to say the least. That’s probably why Mary asked Jesus to get involved in something that was really not their concern.
And lastly the stone jars held water normally used only for ceremonial washing, a symbolic act of cleansing from sin, not for cleaning off the dust of the road or other dirt. They were placed at the door so a person would not enter a friend’s house in a ceremonially “unclean” state and contaminate the house. By dipping their fingers into the water and wiping them dry, a person would symbolically “wash away their sins” and be ceremonially clean. When we say, “I’m washing my hands of this matter,” we really mean we’re trying to absolve ourselves of any responsibility for it. The phrase comes from this practice, which was soon to be immortalized by Pontius Pilate in the matter of Jesus’ trial and conviction.
1On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, 2and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine." 4"Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied, "My time has not yet come." 5His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." 6Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they filled them to the brim. 8Then he told them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet." They did so, 9and 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 10and 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." 11This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.
The occasion was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, the home of Nathanael, a town around 10 miles from Mary and Jesus’ home city of Nazareth. We can assume that because Mary, Jesus, and His disciple’s were invited, the wedding was of a close friend or a relative. We have no way of telling when it happened, but Joseph must have died at some time after Jesus’ twelfth birthday, the last recorded time he was with Mary and Jesus (Luke 2:41-51). It is very likely that at whatever time Joseph had died, financial responsibility rested on Jesus, as the eldest, to be the breadwinner for the family until His brothers had grown up. We are told that Mary had four sons after Jesus’ birth and at least two daughters, and that Jesus was known as the carpenter’s son (Matthew 13:54-57). We don’t know who was responsible for the catering of the wedding at Cana, but it is logical to assume that Mary felt some level of care and responsibility for she was the one who was told that the wine had run out instead of the master of the banquet. The master of the banquet certainly knew nothing of the problem, as evidenced by his lack of knowledge when the water was changed into wine (Verse 9). The way the stewards looked to Mary for direction is perhaps an indication that the wedding was the occasion of a relative or close friend. Certainly she was giving instruction to the servants when the wine had run out as to what to do about the problem.
Hospitality was, and still is a big thing in the Middle East. In that culture it was the groom that was responsible for the wedding expenses. The family could be sued by the bride’s parents if people left the festivities unsatisfied, or thought that the catering was under par. People would drink wine because it was safer to drink than water due to the purifying process it went through; water was more suspect. One never knew what had happened to the water upstream. Wine was essential to a marriage celebration in the Middle East. The Bible says that, “Wine gladdens the heart of man (Psalm 104:15). In the Jewish culture, wine symbolized joy. Rabbi’s had a saying: “Without wine, there is no joy.” Being drunk was frowned upon however, and often the wine, if strong, was watered down, but wine with dinner and festivities was and is the norm for adults in the Mediterranean region and Middle East. I
At the wedding that Jesus attended in Cana, there was great joy, but a problem developed. There was a shortage of wine. Not only was that a social embarrassment, it was also a symbol or sign of things to come in Jewish culture. For a wedding to run out of wine was an omen that there was little chance of this particular marriage reaching its full potential, and that maybe joy was not meant for this couple.
Going back to our wedding ceremony in Cana, the lack of wine at the wedding was a problem that could have disappointed those at the celebration. It was a dilemma that needed a solution. Mary did something about the problem. She went to Jesus and said, “They have no more wine.”
What do you think Mary was expecting Jesus to do about the problem?
Did Mary know what Jesus would do about this problem? Remember, this was His first miracle, as we are told in verse 11, so we do not know if she expected anything miraculous, only that she was relying on Him in a tight situation, hoping that He would have an answer.
Perhaps she was expecting Him to make up a decent excuse to those attending. It’s possible that she was expecting Jesus to give a speech of some sort to get people’s minds off of drinking while the bridegroom went to buy some more wine.
Perhaps at this wedding she wondered if it was finally time for his fate to become apparent to others. Mary was confident that Jesus was more than capable of fixing the problem. In responding to Mary, however, Jesus’ answer at first seems to be negative; "Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied, "My time has not yet come"(Verse 4).
Mary’s only response is to instruct the servants “Do whatever He tells you” (Verse 5).
Jesus saw six stone water jars that were used for ceremonial foot and hand washing. Each one of these jars held 20 to 30 gallons of water. Jesus told the stewards to fill each jar to the brim and then take some of this water to the master of ceremonies. They must have wondered what He was thinking! Why would they serve the guests water which they were meant to wash with? Imagine the surprise of each steward who had bucketed water from the stream to each water pot. When a ladle was dipped in, out came wine, and not just good wine, but exceptional wine! The master of ceremonies was quite surprised at the quality of this wine and was so impressed, that he said to the bridegroom: "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."
Jesus was to reveal the everlasting God, some established customs and rules needed to broken. At Cana, Jesus used six large stone jars as carafes for new wine…jars that were normally filled with water for
purification ceremonies, for the ritual cleansing of dirty Jewish hands. Jesus claimed the
authority to break the rules, and put those jars to another use. And for those who knew what
he was doing, it was disturbing, to say the least.
Imagine if someone threw a party and we all went. And while the crystal punch bowl is being carried to the center of the room, it accidentally slips and smashes to the floor. Daren says, “Don’t panic. I know something we can use.” He goes out of the room and hoists the washing dish and carries it to the kitchen where the caterers fill it with water and the washing bowl becomes our serving bowl! Get the picture? It goes against the grain, it’s disruptive...like what Jesus did behind the scenes at the wedding in Cana.
It goes to show there’s no telling what rules Jesus Christ will break in order to disclose the presence and power of God. All we can be sure of is that God’s glory will not be reduced to traditions and rituals. According to John’s gospel, Jesus Christ is not interested in maintaining stale religious customs and established patterns.