Wine in Time
John 2:1-12; 4:46-54; 21:2
In Nazareth, the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce the coming birth of Jesus. In this “annunciation,” Mary is told, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32). Indeed he is great, though his first miraculous sign was performed privately in the presence of only a few and had an almost mundane, utilitarian quality to it (John 2:1-11).
The meaning of this seemingly simple sign, however, points to a turning point in God’s salvation plan for humankind—a turning point that hinged on Jesus Christ himself as our divine Savior.
The stone water jars likely held the water used for ritual hand washing. The practice of hand washing, particularly on entering a house or before eating, was a symbolic way of saying, “I am clean” in the ritual/ceremonial sense. Such water was stored in stone jars rather than clay because the former was less porous and thus better able to keep the water pure for its purpose.
Wine, of course, was associated with celebration and feasting. The consummation of the Messiah’s kingdom would be a time of great celebration for God’s people accompanied by wine and feasting. But that time was “not yet” for Jesus at the time of this wedding.
By changing the water to wine, Jesus made a highly significant statement, however. People will no longer try to wash themselves to be spiritually “clean,” nor will they need to declare themselves pure (impossible to do ourselves anyway, in reality). Instead, we celebrate the coming of our Messiah’s kingdom, in which we receive his true cleansing as a gift of grace. This transformation is pictured powerfully and beautifully at this wedding scene in Cana.