This miracle is only recorded in John.
We can track this miracle biographically by following the conversations between Jesus and others involved in the miracle account.
Chronological context - There are four separate references to “day” in the context 1:19, 29, 35, 43 and 2:1 Some suggest that this is the third day after the 4th day. Thus this is the seventh day. John’s book also ends with a record of seven days. Perhaps these are “book ends” to the book. From Jerusalem up to Galilee was about a two or three day journey. So perhaps this is just a reference to the third day since Jesus was in Jerusalem.
Conceptual context - John has just presented Jesus as the creator in John 1:3. Now we will see him creating in chapter two. I think this is the most important contextual clue to consider.
The wine gave out. That would have been a social embarrassment in that culture - or any culture for that matter. What is Mary doing hosting this wedding ceremony? She is from Nazareth. This is happening in Cana (20 miles away). Chances are this is a relative’s wedding. She goes to Jesus and tells him the wine is out. Why does she approach Jesus? He hasn’t performed any miracles yet. Because He hadn’t performed any miracles yet, some say that Mary didn’t expect Him to perform one here, but you must remember that she knew who He was. He was a perfect son. She knew He was the Messiah. Perhaps she had heard about His baptism and the Voice coming out of heaven. Perhaps she thought it was time for Him to go public with His identity. Perhaps she is just going to him, expecting him to bail her out of her social predicament or give her advice as some suggest, but I think she might have even expected something supernatural - a miracle. I think that because of what Jesus says.
Jesus says, “Woman, what do I have to do with you?” Literally, “Woman, what to you and to me.” This sounds a little rude to us. This is a Semitism which is either a hostile answer or an intentional disengagement. Another way to translate it might be “Why do you involve me?” or “What do you want with me?” By addressing his mother as “Woman” he is distancing himself from her. He uses the same term of address in John 19:26 when he is hanging on the cross and about to leave her. I think in John 19: he is indicating that his earthly existence is over and with it, the mother-son relationship. Why does He say that here? Because, with the Baptism by John, His ministry has begun, and with it His responsibility to the Father and accomplishment of His mission has now taken even more of a priority than before.
His response is that His time has not yet come. This introduces the theme of “the hour” in the gospel of John. The hour is the hour of his passion. When he gives the bread to Judas, he says his hour has come. So, when He says here that His hour has not yet come, He is saying the time when he would be glorified has not yet come. It is this statement by Jesus (who knows what people are thinking) that makes me think this is what His mother is expecting—that He get with it and show everyone who He is.
Why does he balk at her question and then go ahead and perform the miracle? What Jesus is saying is, “Nobody writes in my daytimer.” Mary was trying to dictate when Jesus was to start manifesting Himself as the Son of God. This doesn’t mean He can’t help her. He is just pointing out that she doesn’t control when He reveals Himself. Later in John His brothers tell Him to go up to Jerusalem and manifest Himself at the feast. He tells them it is not his time and then later goes to the feast in His own way - not to manifest himself as the Christ. Both of these events make it look like Jesus says one thing and does another, but when you understand this concept, it clears up the confusion.
After saying all this, it is in fact time for Jesus to begin manifesting that He is God and so He does a miracle.
Nearby stood six stone ceremonial water jars. Water pots could not be ceremonially clean unless hewn out of stone. These pots held between 30 and 40 gallons.
He tells the servants to draw water and fill the jars. This is the miracle proper (vs. 6-8).
He told them to put water in the pots first and then draw it out. He does this so that they would know that there was nothing in the pots beforehand. There was not a can of juice concentrate or a freeze dried package of wine in the bottom which became wine when the water was added. It removed all doubt that this was miraculous.
If you were to fill a ceremonial pot with just any old water, what would happen to the pot? It would become unclean and unfit for ceremonial use from then on. We will come back to this.
Did Jesus touch the water? Did he speak magic words over the water? One of the things we will see as we study the miracles is that there is no standardized way that Jesus performs miracles. There is very little “hype” in his miracles. People who claim to perform miracles usually surround the event with much “hype.” In all of His miracles there is almost a disengagement from the miracle event so that we can focus on the meaning. I think that is important to remember when we later discuss the current charismatic, signs and wonders movement. One of the questions to ask is “Where is their focus?”
The bridegroom would have been responsible for providing the wine for the celebration. The headwaiter points out that usually people serve the good wine first and bring out the bad wine after everyone is a little too tipsy to tell the difference. vs 10 can literally be translated “usually you bring out the lower quality wine after everyone has become drunk...”
This miracle debunks one common teaching in certain Christian circles. Some try to teach that everyone in that culture drank diluted wine. Therefore, any wine or beer that we would drink today is much stronger than the wine of Jesus’ day and therefore sinful. However, it was common for people to get drunk on the wine of that day. The headwaiter said so, and Paul wouldn’t counsel against being drunk with wine in Ephesians if that was true.
John says in vs 11 that this was the beginning of Jesus’ signs. Indicating that this miracle had significance or meaning. What was the purpose or significance? There are several:
In my research on this miracle I checked out the web site that contains many of Ray Stedman’s sermons. He wrote the following:
In his very helpful book Miracles, C.S. Lewis has pointed out that every miracle of Jesus is simply a kind of short-circuiting of a natural process; a doing instantly something which in general takes a longer period of time. Lewis says, “Each miracle writes for us in small letters something that God has already written, or will write, in letters almost too large to be noticed, across the whole canvas of nature.” That is what Jesus is doing: he is overleaping the elements of time, of growth, gathering, crushing and fermenting. He takes water---an inorganic, non-living, commonplace substance---and without a word, without a gesture, without any laying on of hands, in utter simplicity, the water becomes wine, an organic liquid, a product of fermentation, belonging to the realm of life. Thus he demonstrated his marvelous ability to master the processes of nature.
C.S. Lewis and Ray Stedman are usually very good, but here I have to disagree. If you filled a pot with water and put it on your front porch, it could sit there for a 1000 years and never turn into wine. Not only is this impossible, it misses the point of the miracle. In John 1:3, John said, “All things came into being by Him...” Now John is recording a miracle in which Jesus demonstrates that He is the creator. He creates wine. He doesn’t speed up the natural process.
So, the purpose in the context is that this is a miracle of creativity.
Why would the production of wine be important to a Jewish audience? There are many passages in the OT that predicted that when the Messiah came there would be an abundance of wine. cf. Amos 9:12-15. Wine is a symbol of the presence of the Messiah. The opening sign of the ministry of Jesus is the production of wine that proclaimed that the Messiah was present and ready to establish the kingdom.
Jesus demonstrates himself to be the Creator and Messiah. He revealed his glory (John 1:14).
This also confirmed the faith of the disciples. It says so in vs 11.