Better Wine

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I’ve always wondered why the miracle of changing the water into wine at the wedding in Cana was Jesus’ first miracle. It has always seemed so out of sync with all the other miracles. Though He fed the multitudes on several occasions, those miracles were always connected with His teaching. But here in John 2, it doesn’t appear the Jesus had the opportunity to teach—at least from the part of the story we have recorded for us.

But the Lord never did anything without a reason, without an eternal purpose. As I sat and thought about this passage this morning, an idea occurred to me. I could be stretching the passage beyond its meaning but here is where my mind went.

I thought about what Jesus said about putting new wine in old bottles in Matthew 9:17, and wondered if that was the lesson here.

The host of the wedding had served his best wine at the beginning of the wedding feast. That was customary. While the guests were capable of appreciating the bouquet and the expense, they were treated to the best the family could afford. Then the cheap stuff appeared when the guests didn’t really care one way or the other what they were drinking.

But the guests in the story of the wedding in Cana were greedy (or the host sadly miscalculated how many were coming to the party) and the wine disappeared quickly. So Mary, Jesus’ mother, “volunteers” him to fix the problem. Jesus’ rebuke of his mother is mild, but it is an indication that He doesn’t do miracles at anyone’s command except when His Heavenly Father does the commanding!

But then he responds to her request by turning ordinary water into better wine than the host of the wedding feast had offered at the beginning of the party. John comments: “This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him” (John 2:11).

We don’t know if Jesus followed this miracle up with any particular teaching but at the risk of spiritualizing too much, I see this miracle as being a symbol of what Jesus had come to do. The first wine served at the party was good wine. Like the Old Testament system of law and sacrifice, it did what it was designed to accomplish. But now, like new and better wine, Jesus had come to do what the Old Testament law and the endless sacrifices could not do. He was “better wine” described in Hebrews: “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy...there is no longer any sacrifice for sin” (Hebrews 10:11-14, 18).

The best had been saved for last, just as in that first miracle.

The fact that this miracle is described in John as revealing Jesus’ glory, not just His ability to do miracles; coupled with the fact that the disciples are described as putting their faith in Him because of the miracle, leads me to think that the Lord did explain the reasoning behind His actions at the wedding.

In any case, my reasoning, faulty or not, satisfies me as I read this story. That first miracle, significant simply because it was the first and would set the standard for all that was to follow, had to have a significance other than to satisfy a bunch of half-tipsy wedding guests. That it announced the arrival of the “new wine” of a sacrifice made once and for all time, and the beginning of a new era of relationship with God, would indeed reveal God’s glory and implant the seeds of faith.


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