What do a Jewish wedding and fine wine have to do with an epiphany, a surprise divine appearance?
Let’s encounter the kingdom of God as pictured in a marriage and God’s abundant provision.
Let’s examine the description of a wedding at Cana in John 2:1-11 and how it portrays an epiphany of the kingdom of God for us.
John 2:1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” 4 “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, 9 and 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 10 and 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.” 11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
1. What was a Jewish Wedding?
Jesus and his disciples were invited to a marriage feast at Cana. Weddings then were family arrangements, not state or church weddings. The parents approved the marriage and the engagement was as binding as a marriage contract is today. Once agreed to, the groom may have taken a year to build a house or addition onto his parents’ home. Then he came for his bride. With great celebration they entered their new dwelling to consummate the marriage. Only then did the festivities begin, and lasted a week. The whole community celebrated. A large amount of food and wine was needed. That’s why Jesus’ first sign of turning water into wine needed to supply perhaps as much as 120-180 US gallons.
2. What Hour had not Yet Come?
At Cana Jesus provided abundantly for a relatively trivial need. He reminded his mother that his hour had not yet come. What hour? Later, authorities could not arrest Jesus because his hour had not yet come (John 7:30; 8:20) and much later Jesus said that his hour to be glorified had come (John 12:20-24). It was his hour to leave this world (John 13:1). He prayed about that hour of great difficulty and yet also glory (John 12:27-28; 17:1). The wedding wine at Cana reminds us of the communion cup in remembrance of his death. This miracle reminds us how Jesus is able to do immeasurably more than we ask (Ephesians 3:20).
3. What does Wine Symbolize?
Abraham was blessed by Melchizedek, the priest of God, serving wine and bread (Genesis 14:17-19). Wine is a blessing (Genesis 27:28; Deuteronomy 33:28, Isaiah 36:17) from God (Deuteronomy 11:14), an offering (Exodus 29:40) which pleased God (Numbers 15:7), imbibed at festivals in his presence (Deuteronomy 14:23, 26, Proverbs 31:6). It gladdens the heart (Psalm 104:14-15) and life (Ecclesiastes 10:19). New wine ferments, needing new wineskins (Matthew 9:17). John abstained from wine, but Jesus did not (Luke 7:33-34), turning water to wine (John 2:3-9). Paul encouraged Timothy to take a little wine (I Timothy 5:23). Mountains dripping with sweet wine symbolize God’s kingdom (Amos 9:13-14).
4. How is Cana an Epiphany?
The wedding at Cana was the first of Jesus’ signs. That sign was an epiphany, a revelation of who Jesus Christ was. Turning water into wine was the first sign through which he revealed his glory. The result was that the disciples believed. The water turned to wine is an epiphany of the waters of baptism turned into blessings that will appear when Jesus comes again to set up his kingdom. The water which was regularly used for symbolic purification and symbolizes our baptism, becomes a Christian ritual performed only once as Jesus’ sacrifice was once and for all. Like that water, the water of baptism is miraculously changed into the power of the Holy Spirit and fire of Pentecost.
Grace is potentially dangerous, like guns and wine. If used rightly, they can all be blessings. If grace is used to continue sinning without repentance, or guns are used for murder and wine is used for drunkenness, their potential for good becomes abuse. Jesus said that he will drink wine with his disciples in his kingdom. At Cana, we have a foretaste of the great wedding feast of the Bridegroom who comes for his Holy Bride, the Church. This epiphany is made more obvious by God’s abundant and miraculous provision.