The time had come for the most important work in human history to begin…the ministry of Christ. But He didn’t go it alone. During His final days at John the Baptist’s encampment, John continually pointed out to his own followers that Jesus was the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. This lit a fire under some of the men and they went to Jesus, seeking Him as their rabbi. Their names were Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip and Nathaniel. They left with Jesus on His journey from the Jordan River up north to the region of Galilee. It was over 60 miles away. Their journey would have taken about three days. Imagine walking with God…literally. Wouldn’t it be interesting to listen in on their conversation as they made their way north?
When they arrived, the Lord went to a wedding in a town called Cana. It was on the west bank of the Sea of Galilee. The Bible doesn’t tell us whose wedding it was, but we know that His disciples and His mother went with Him.
At some point during the wedding feast, all of the wine ran out. In the culture of the Jewish people, providing guests with plenty of food and drink was crucial. It was an important part of their honor as the hosts, and a terrible disgrace to fail. It would be a source of lasting, public shame for the entire family. Jesus’ mother wanted to save the family from this terrible humiliation, so she turned to Jesus for help. She went up to Him and said, “‘They have no more wine.’”
Jesus knew his mother wasn’t just telling Him the facts. She was asking Him for a favor. She wanted a miracle! He looked at her and said, “‘Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come.’” But Mary knew what her Son was capable of. She was sure that He would listen to her. She turned to the servants and said, “‘Do whatever he tells you.’”
There were six large stone jars close to where they were standing. They were normally used by the family to wash themselves and make themselves ritually clean as part of Jewish purification rites. Each jar could hold between twenty and thirty gallons. Jesus told the servants to fill them up with water. Then they were to take some of the water and give it to the master of the banquet. By the time he tasted the water it had turned into wine! The master didn’t know where it came from. He thought the bride’s family had brought it out. He declared, “‘Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, he brings out the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.’” When Jesus transformed the water in to wine, he made the finest wine of all.
Imagine the relief of the bridal family when they realized their crisis was over! Did they wonder where the wine came from? Did they know that it was Jesus who saved them from their shame?
This is the first miracle recorded about Christ. It is interesting that John is the one that tells us this story because he will also explain how Christ is the great Bridegroom who comes at the end of time. The book of Revelation tells about a great wedding feast between the Messianic King, the Lamb, and His beautiful bride:
“ ‘Let us rejoice and be glad and give glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.’ It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. “Then he [an angel] said to me, ‘Write, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”’ And he said to me, ‘These are true words of God.’”
The Bride of Christ is an image or metaphor for the Church. She is made up of all those who put their faith in Jesus.
Throughout the Old Testament weddings were used as expressions of God’s impassioned love towards His people. One of the best ways to explain God’s deep care was to compare it to the fervent devotion of someone who has fallen in love. In Isaiah 61, the prophet tells about an Anointed One, the Messiah, who would come and bring salvation and transformation to His beloved:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is on me,
Because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to prisoners.
To provide for those who grieve in Zion,
To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
The oil of joy instead of mourning,
And a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
A planting of the LORD, for the display of his splendor.
I will delight greatly in the LORD;
My soul rejoices in my God.
For He has clothed me with garments of salvation,
He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
Isaiah 61:1, 3, 10
(NIV except for v. 1c and 10b
which are NASV]
For hundreds of years, God wooed the nation of Israel and longed for their faithful love in return. But the hearts of the Jewish people (and the whole of humanity) are so imprisoned by our bondage to sin that we can only return His love if our hearts are set free. We all need a Savior to come and save us from the captivity we have pledged ourselves to.
A little bit later on in His story, Jesus will explain that He is the Anointed One of Isaiah 61. The miracle at Cana was more than a kindness to the friends of Mary. It was a quiet, subtle declaration. The Groom had finally come to the nation of Israel, and He had brought His blessings with Him. Would they allow Him to break through their bondage to sin? Would they accept His love? What would this Messiah have to do to bring salvation to His Bride?