This morning we begin chapter 2, which is the start of Yeshua's public ministry. The shift from the Stairway connecting man and God to the wedding at Cana of Galilee seems like an abrupt shift. But since the Word has really pitched His tent among us, since Yeshua is really the stairway connecting God and man, then it really shouldn't be too surprising to find Him in a tiny town at a wedding.
If you were Messiah, the God/Man, how would you start your public ministry? You think He would have gone to Jerusalem during a feast day and performed some spectacular miracle so everyone would see who He was. But Yeshua began His public ministry at a wedding in a small village. His first sign was so domestic, so familial! With this sign He meets the need of a newly married couple. Care and concern for the common person characterizes Yeshua:
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Yeshua was there; John 2:1 NASB
"On the third day"—on the third day from what? On the third day from the previous day mentioned in 1:43, which was the fourth day. The fourth day (v. 43-51) plus three more days would make this the seventh day. Lazarus' references to succeeding days reflects his precise knowledge of these events. He's there, he's an eye witness.
So the third day is the seventh day. Day One: John 1:19, the day before Yeshua publicly arrives from the wilderness John meets with a delegation from Jerusalem. Day Two: John 1:29, John introduces Yeshua publicly for the first time. Day Three: John 1:35, John introduces Andrew and Lazarus to Yeshua personally. Day Four: John 1:43, Peter finds Philip and brings him to Christ, and Philip finds Nathanael and brings him to Christ. Day Five and Six: they are traveling to Cana. Day Seven: Yeshua arrives in Cana at the wedding.
The Jews regarded periods of seven days as reflecting God's creative activity.
Maybe Lazarus wanted his readers to associate this beginning of Yeshua's ministry with the beginning of the cosmos (Gen. 1), which also happened in seven days. If so, this would be another witness to Yeshua's deity.
"Wedding in Cana of Galilee"—Cana is probably the modern village of Keb Kenna, which is about four miles northeast of Yeshua's hometown, Nazareth. Cana is in the region of Galilee, about 12 miles west of the Sea of Galilee and about 15 miles east of the Mediterranean Sea. This would have been a two day walk from Bethany beyond the Jordan where John had been baptizing.
So they arrive at Cana for a wedding. What is the center piece at every wedding? The bride! The grooms aren't really that important, it's all about the bride. But at this wedding we aren't even given a clue as to who the bride or groom are. Yeshua's miracle is the focus of this wedding.
Most people in the little villages like Cana lived in considerable poverty and survived on just the basics. But the wedding was the one time that the limitations of economy were ignored as much as possible.
Jewish weddings had three stages. First was betrothal, which took place at least a year before the wedding celebration. This could not be broken except by divorce:
Now the birth of Yeshua the Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. Matthew 1:18-19 NASB
Notice that Joseph is called her husband. In Jewish thinking a betrothed woman is already the wife of the man to whom she was betrothed. Betrothal among the Jews was not like our present day engagement. It was far more serious and binding.
The bridegroom and bride pledged their troth, meaning:"faithfulness and loyalty" to each other in the presence of witnesses. According to the Old Covenant regulations, unfaithfulness in a betrothed woman was punishable with death (Deut. 22:23-24). A betrothed couple was considered as legally married, even though they did not live together or have any physical relationships. This period normally lasted twelve months and served as a period of protection to establish each partner's fidelity.
What was going on all that year? The husband was preparing a place for his bride. Normally he would build an extension on the family house. The bridegroom had full responsibility for all the cost of the wedding. And his job was to get everything ready, and then when everything was ready and the house was built and the house was furnished and all preparations were made, he would go and get his wife.
The second phase was the procession, it was the father of the groom who would decide when the wedding could take place. This was often done at night, when there could be a spectacular torchlight procession. The bridegroom and his friends would go and get the bride and escort her to the groom's house. The blowing of a trumpet (shofar) signaled the beginning of the procession (see 1 Thessalonians 4:16 where the shofar announces Christ the Bridegroom coming for His Bride, the Church).
The third stage, which is described in our text, was the wedding feast, which could last for as long as a week. It was a great celebration because the groom had been working hard for a year. The bride had been waiting and preparing for this, and finally the time comes, and it's just an immense celebration. It was a major social event for the community. According to the Mishnah, the wedding would take place on a Wednesday if the bride was a virgin and on a Thursday if she was a widow (Ket. 1:1).
There's a couple of passages in the Bible that give us a glimpse of this seven day celebration. The first is the marriage of Jacob and Leah in Genesis chapter 29. The second, and most instructive, wedding celebration is that of Samson in Judges 14:
However she wept before him seven days while their feast lasted. And on the seventh day he told her because she pressed him so hard. She then told the riddle to the sons of her people. Judges 14:17 NASB
Samson got mad over this and never consummated the marriage, and she was given to his companion. According to the ancient custom, it was on the 7th day of the feast that the bridegroom finally lifted the veil that covered the face of his bride. For the first time she would be fully revealed to him and the marriage could be consummated. In the first century this moment of revelation in the lifting of the veil was called "the apocalypse," which means: "the unveiling."
Recalling the "Creation" imagery from Genesis chapter 1 in John's prologue with words like "light" and "darkness" and the creative Word of God, some see a connection between Genesis' seventh day and the seventh day of John 2:1. Remember, I said that the third day was the seventh day, this wedding is taking place on the seventh day. In the story of Creation on the seventh day God rested. On the sixth day of Creation God created the beasts and Adam, and then knowing that Adam needed a companion God put Adam into a deep sleep and created the woman. According to Old Covenant Hebrew tradition, Adam and the woman awoke from their deep sleep the next day, the seventh day, and God joined them together. So this wedding may reflect back on the Creation account. On the seventh day of Creation, according to tradition, there was a wedding. This is why, in the Old Covenant tradition, a wedding celebration lasted seven days.
"The Mother of Yeshua was there"—it seems that Mary was helping with the arrangements for the wedding, she was in a position of responsibility. She may have been the food coordinator. We see this from her ordering the servants (2:5) and her concern over the wine (2:3). The most logical explanation is that she was related to one of the families in some way.
Since Joseph, the legal father of Yeshua, is not mentioned it is assumed that he has already died.
and both Yeshua and His disciples were invited to the wedding. John 2:2 NASB
Yeshua would have also been related. We find him here attending a relative's wedding with His disciples, it was customary for the disciples of a Rabbi to go everywhere he went. This event evidently transpired very early in Yeshua's ministry; before He called the Twelve. We do not know how many of Yeshua's disciples attended the feast, but from the information given in chapter one we know of at least five: Lazarus, Andrew, Peter, Philip and Nathanael.
When the wine ran out, the mother of Yeshua said to Him, "They have no wine." John 2:3 NASB
The wedding is in full swing and the wine ran out! Not good. Within the Palestinian wedding wine was a very essential part of the celebration. The Jewish Rabbis claimed, "Without wine there is no joy."
The place of wine was so significant that failure to provide enough would have created a serious breach of hospitality. Mary's report to Yeshua that the wine had run out was not just a comment about the level of the wine barrel. Yeshua would have immediately recognized that a young couple and their families would live in embarrassment for the rest of their lives for failing to provide adequately for the wedding celebration. Social failure is not easily lived down in a small town.
Why does Mary tell Yeshua about the wine? Maybe, as her firstborn, she knew that He would do whatever He could to solve the problem. I'm sure she had always been able to count on Him. Verse 11 seems to indicate that Yeshua had done no miracles up to this point, so it wasn't like she was used to Him doing miracles.
Let me give you another scenario. Mary knew that Yeshua was the Messiah, and she wanted Him to do something that would show who He was to everyone present. Mary had lived for approximately thirty years with a secret that only she and Joseph and our Lord could have fully understood. As far as the world was concerned, our Lord might well have been regarded as an illegitimate Son for thirty years. In fact, there are some evidences in the Fourth Gospel that indicate that that's the way the people regarded Him. And so she was anxious for vindication because when she was a young teenager, around thirteen years old, she was betrothed to Joseph and no doubt excited about getting married. Then an angel appeared to her:
The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Yeshua. Luke 1:30-31 NASB
Mary responds to this like any young girl would:
Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. Luke 1:34-35 NASB
The angel tells Mary that her child will be the God/Man. Mary gave birth to a child while still being a virgin. She knew how special He was. She had raised the Son of God, so it would be only human and natural for her to long for vindication. "Show them who You are, Son; show them You are Messiah." So it's possible that she was very anxious for vindication when she approached our Lord and said, "They have no wine."
I think that Yeshua's response to her tells us that she wanted Him to show everyone who He was. Notice His response:
And Yeshua said to her, "Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come." John 2:4 NASB
This verse is a stumbling block to Catholics who love Mary and cannot understand why Yeshua would speak so disrespectfully to His mother! He doesn't call her "Mom," but
"woman." Westerners would consider this as disrespectful, but this was an acceptable word to use in Yeshua's culture. It did not have negative connotations. He certainly would not dishonor His mother. Remember it was Yeshua who wrote:
"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you. Exodus 20:12 NASB
So He is not disrespecting or dishonoring her by calling her "woman." Calling His mother "woman" probably indicates that there is a new relationship between them as He enters His public ministry.
Similarly the words "What does that have to do with us?" sound arrogant to us, but they were a Hebrew idiom. This idiom should be literally translated: "What to me and to you?" which means: "What has it to do with you and me?"
This Hebrew idiom is used 5 times in the Tanakh. The phrase in Greek, "ti emoi kai soi" ("what to me and you"), is used 6 times in the New Testament. What is interesting is that the other five uses of it in the New Testament are all spoken by a demon to Yeshua:
And they cried out, saying, "What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?" Matthew 8:29 NASB
The phrase suggests a divergence of opinion. Since His ministry had commenced, Yeshua was differentiating Himself, the Son of God, from His human mother. He was
indicating to Mary that there was now a new relationship between them. He was now out from under her authority and was totally under the authority of His heavenly Father. His mother and His physical family would have no special advantage in His ministry. They, just like everyone else, must trust Him as Lord. This shift would not have been easy after thirty years of mothering. Notice what Yeshua says:
While Yeshua was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, "Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed." But He said, "On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it." Luke 11:27-28 NASB
In other words, people thought there would be a special spiritual advantage in being the mother of Yeshua, but Yeshua cut off that assumption, and focused attention not on physical relations, but spiritual relations:
A crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, "Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You." Answering them, He said, "Who are My mother and My brothers?" Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He said, "Behold My mother and My brothers! "For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother." Mark 3:32-35 NASB
Yeshua makes clear His new position. He was now no longer a stone mason and family man, He was, as God's chosen One, the foundation and central pillar of the new people of God, the new Israel, and it was with such that His loyalties now lay.
Mary, Yeshua's mother, had not been replaced in His affections, only in His mission. He would still provide for His mother when she needed it most (John 19.26).
Yeshua says to Mary, "My hour has not yet come"—what did He mean by this statement? Most scholars will agree that in the Fourth Gospel the reference to Yeshua's "hour" most often points to the "hour" of Christ's passion and death on the cross:
And Yeshua answered them, saying, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. John 12:23 NASB
In this Gospel the expression "my hour" on the lips of our Lord is a reference to the time of the cross. So Yeshua is saying, "It isn't time yet for Me to display my glory."
A Catholic commentary on John 2:4 says, "The purpose of this incident is to instruct us and to help us to understand the power of Mary's intervention, not just on behalf of the bride and groom at Cana, but her concern and power to intervene for all her children. The wonderful thing about Mary is that when we petition our holy Mother for her assistance she always prays for us according to the Father's will for our lives-not just according to our request." In opposition to this, the Scriptures say:
For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Yeshua, 1 Timothy 2:5 NASB
It is Christ and Christ alone that is the stairway to heaven. Mary is simply a woman who had the unique privilege of bearing the Son of God.
His mother said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it." John 2:5 NASB
Obviously Mary didn't feel rebuked by Yeshua's comments. She knew her Son and she must have felt that He would do something to help.
These are words of Mary that we all should pay attention to: Whatever Yeshua says to you, do it!
Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. John 2:6 NASB
It was customary to have these large water jars of stone in or near the room where a feast was being held so that water might be available for the ceremonial washing of hands prescribed before and after meals:
The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered around Him when they had come from Jerusalem, and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed. Mark 7:1-2 NASB
The word for "unwashed" does not refer to hygiene, but to hands that are ceremonially washed as a religious ritual. I want you to understand that this particular ritual washing described here was an addition to the Law, for it was nowhere commanded in the Tanakh:
(For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.) Mark 7:3-4 NASB
To the Pharisees, all Gentiles were unclean, for they did not observe any of the rules of cleanliness (Leviticus 11-15) and were not careful about contact with dead things. Furthermore, anything touched by them also became unclean. And the same was true, although not to the same extent, of "sinners." A "sinner" was someone who did not tithe rightly or follow the strict purification requirements of the Pharisees.
To come in contact with either of these two groups, Gentiles and "sinners," was to be defiled. Their views thus excluded them from close contact with the majority of people. So according to them, if a man went to the marketplace, he may well accidentally be "contaminated" by contact with such people (although he would make every effort to avoid them) and would therefore need to make himself clean in accordance with the teachings of the Pharisees. In order to do so, he would need to follow out the procedures for ritual washing before he ate his meal. It was a world of religious isolation.
We know that these jars held "holy water" because John tells us that they are stone vessels not the usual fired pottery vessels that held wine. Holy water was kept in stone vessels. Some scholars believe that the number six has symbolic significance. As one less than seven, the number for completeness or fullness, the water jars represent the incompleteness of Judaism.
Yeshua said to them, "Fill the waterpots with water." So they filled them up to the brim. John 2:7 NASB
Mary had told the servants to do whatever Yeshua told them so that is what they are doing. They don't have a clue why, they're just being good servants:
And He said to them, "Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter." So they took it to him. John 2:8 NASB
As far as they understand it, Yeshua is instructing them to serve water, ceremonial cleansing water, to the head steward. Normally people did not drink the water in those
pots, but the "headwaiter" did not know that what the servant handed him came from there.
What was going through the minds of these servants as they approached the master of the feast with water? This is going to cost us our jobs.
When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, John 2:9 NASB
Notice what happened here, "the water which had become wine"—how did this happen? Yeshua created the wine. This is a miracle of creation.
Think of what is happening here. When Yeshua was invited to the wedding He didn't say, "Well I think they're going to be drinking wine there, and I better not be associated with it, and so I won't go." And when Mary tells Him that they are out of wine,
He didn't say, "They've had enough fun. Let them drink water." No, He created wine, and lots of it! This would probably shock most American Christians. But the Scriptures teach that wine is a gift of God:
Now may God give you of the dew of heaven, And of the fatness of the earth, And an abundance of grain and new wine; Genesis 27:28 NASB
He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, And vegetation for the labor of man, So that he may bring forth food from the earth, And wine which makes man's heart glad, So that he may make his face glisten with oil, And food which sustains man's heart. Psalms 104:14-15 NASB
Wine is used as medicine (2 Sam. 16:2; Pro. 31:6-7). The abbis say, "Wine is the greatest of all medicine, where wine is lacking, then drugs are needed."
Wine in Scripture was associated with joy and gladness (Ps. 104:15; Judges 9:13). Isaiah 25:
The LORD of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, And refined, aged wine. Isaiah 25:6 NASB
In the reoccurring symbolic images of the prophets, drinking the best wine at a banquet in the presence of God, is the image of Israel in restored communion with her God:
and said to him, "Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now." John 2:10 NASB
"Drunk freely" here is from the Greek methusko, which actually means: "to become intoxicated or drunk." It is the same word used in Eph 5:18 "Do not get drunk with wine." So we are not talking about Yeshua creating grape juice, but real wine.
You can imagine the expression of the faces of the servants worrying that they will be blamed for bringing water to the head waiter of the feast instead of wine and then their amazement when he enthusiastically pronounces that they have brought him the most choice wine?
So what happens here is Yeshua creates wine out of nothing. We already know He is the Creator:
All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. John 1:3 NASB
Here you have a miracle in which the God/Man creates wine out of nothing. This is evidence that He is God. There was no visible exhibition of power. Christ didn't pronounce a magical formula. He did not even command the water to become wine.
The first miracle that Yeshua performed in His public ministry was semi-public. Apparently only Yeshua's disciples, the servants present, and Yeshua's mother understood what had happened. It wasn't His hour, so He kept the miracle quiet.
Many of the miracles of the Lord Yeshua are healing miracles. Miracles in which He performed some particular good for individuals. But this miracle is one that is often called a luxury miracle. Wine may be considered a luxury to us, but the groom would have felt differently. Remember what I said earlier about the groom providing for the wedding guests. This young couple and their families would live in embarrassment for the rest of their lives for failing to provide adequately for the wedding celebration. But Yeshua, who cares about us, took care of their need. This sign at Cana has no parallel in the Synoptic Gospels. The event is unique.
The author gives the point of the story, as far as he is concerned, in:
This beginning of His signs Yeshua did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him. John 2:11 NASB
The Greek word used for sign is semeion, which means: "a mark, an indication or a token." It can also mean: "an event that is an indication or confirmation of intervention by transcendent powers or miracle." It is used of miraculous acts as tokens of divine authority and power. These works performed by Yeshua are not just supernatural miracles, but are signs that unveil the glory and power of God working through Yeshua the Messiah. Since these "signs" or miracles are concentrated in chapters 1-12, many scholars call the first half of the Fourth Gospel the "Book of Signs."
Yeshua's miracles were not random acts, done on a whim and intended only to impress people with His incredible divine power. They were the Spirit acting through Yeshua, attesting to His deity. In Acts 2:22, Peter will say of Yeshua that He was:
"Men of Israel, listen to these words: Yeshua the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— Acts 2:22 NASB
So Yeshua turning water to wine was a sign. It was a miracle that had significance. Its significance appears to be that it showed that Yeshua had the same power to create that God demonstrated in the Creation. Thus it pointed to Yeshua being the Creator God.
The Greek god Dionysus supposedly discovered wine. He was also credited with
changing water into wine on some occasions when he was worshiped. These instances, which were first recorded about five centuries before Lazarus wrote his Gospel, may have been known to his readers. So Lazarus is saying it is not Dionysus who is the Creator, it is Yeshua. We see these jabs at other gods throughout the Scripture. For example in Ugaritic and Hebrew, Baal's epithet as the storm god was,"He Who Rides on the Clouds." But Scripture calls Yahweh the cloud rider:
The oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud and is about to come to Egypt; The idols of Egypt will tremble at His presence, And the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them. Isaiah 19:1 NASB
It is Yahweh, not Baal, who rides on the clouds. And it is Yeshua, not Dionysus, who is the Creator.
This is the first mention of the word "glory" since John 1:14. Obviously, Lazarus understands the miracle at Cana to reveal the glory of God. In 1:14 he said that we saw that glory in the Word made flesh. At Cana a small portion of the world understood that God was present. In a humble village wedding, with rough stone water jars, unobtrusively, God was there. Shortly after the first wedding mentioned in Genesis 2 the glory of God was lost. At Cana, the glory of God was back at a wedding again, a sign of a new beginning.
This sign, as many others, seemed to be directed primarily at His disciples! "His disciples believed in Him"—this does not refer to their initial faith act, but their ongoing understanding of His person and work.
When we see these signs throughout the Fourth Gospel we are to ask what does this sign mean spiritually, why is our Lord performing this sign? For example, one of the signs that Lazarus will talk about in the 6th chapter is the feeding of the five thousand. Now the feeding of the five thousand with the little pieces of bread and fish is not designed simply to show us that our Lord is all powerful, but to show us spiritual truth. And so John records the discourse that follows, which is the discourse on the bread of life: And the Lord says, "I am the bread of life." So the feeding of the five thousand with the loaves and the fishes, utterly impossible to do naturally, is designed to show that He is the bread of life. And that if we come to Him, and if we believe in Him, we will have everlasting life. So the miracle in the physical sphere is designed to represent the spiritual benefits that flow from our Lord Yeshua's work on the cross at Calvary, redemption.
So the signs, then, are miracles in the natural sphere that are designed to express spiritual life. It seems to me that first and foremost this sign put in the beginning of the Fourth Gospel is designed to indicate inauguration of the New Age with the coming of the Lord Yeshua; the age of the Law is passing away, the age of the fulfillment of all anticipated by the Law is now come. Lazarus said in the opening chapter, "The Law came through Moses, grace and truth came through Yeshua the Christ." And here we have one of the indications of that. We have the water pots used in the Jewish ritual, and now the Lord Yeshua transforms the water into the wine of the New Covenant grace with it's forgiveness of sins.
R. Brown states: "In view of this consistent theme of replacement, it seems obvious that, in introducing Cana as the first in a series of signs to follow, the evangelist intends to call attention to the replacement of the water prescribed for Jewish purification by the choicest of wines. This replacement is a sign of who Jesus is, namely the one sent by the Father who is now the only way to the Father. All previous religious institutions, customs, and feasts lose meaning in His presence." (Brown, The Gospel According to John, 104.)
The wine replacing the water in essence symbolized the replacement of the Old Covenant and the superabundance of the New Covenant—the temporal blessings of the Old Covenant with the eternal blessings of the New.
Leon Morris states (p. 176): "This particular miracle signifies that there is a transforming power associated with Yeshua. He changes the water of Judaism into the wine of Christianity."
Old Covenant Israel was Yahweh's vineyard, but they were disobedient and fruitless. But Christ, the New Israel, produces abundant fruit. Yeshua providing the best wine to a faithful remnant of the old Israel at a wedding banquet prefigures the promised restoration of the new Israel.