Manifested Glory

1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days. – John 2:1-11

With the dawn of each new day, John seems to provide another new testimony to Jesus’ true identity. The first day featured John the Baptist’s announcement regarding Jesus: “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me’” (John 1:15 ESV). On day two, John the Baptist made introduce Jesus as the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 ESV). The next day, Andrew had excitedly told his brother Simon, “We have found the Messiah” (John 1:41 ESV). The following day, Nathanael had boldly proclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49 ESV).

Now, according to John’s chronology, another day arrives that will bring yet more indisputable proof of Jesus’ identity. John refers to it as “the third day.” This could mean the events recorded in these verses occurred on the same day that Nathanael gave his testimony regarding Jesus, but it seems more likely that John is saying that the wedding took place three days later.

According to the closing verses of chapter 1, Jesus had His encounter with Nathanael in Bethsaida, on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. But chapter 2 opens up with Jesus in the town of Cana, some 22 miles west of Bethsaida. The three days provide ample time for Jesus to make His way to Cana in order to attend the wedding.

Seven days have passed according to John’s timeline, and now he records what he describes as “the first of his [Jesus] signs” (John 2:11 ESV). It is interesting to note that John began his gospel account by linking Jesus with the creation of the universe.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. – John 1:1-3 ESV

The book of Genesis provides its own timeline for the creation account.

And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. – Genesis 2:2-3 ESV

It is certainly no coincidence that John is describing an event taking place on the seventh day since Jesus began His earthly ministry. He has gone out of his way to establish Jesus as the Son of God. He is the Word of God who was with God at the very beginning when the earth was formed. But unlike the creation account, John describes Jesus as working, not resting, on the seventh day. Jesus is about to do something new. As the Son of God, He is going to exhibit His power by transforming water into the finest wine. He is going to re-create, taking that which is ordinary and turn it into something truly extraordinary and unexpected.

The events recorded in this chapter have nothing to do with the Sabbath, so Jesus is not violating the Mosaic law’s prohibition against work on God’s designated day of rest. John is simply using this occasion to further support his claim regarding the deity of Jesus. A wedding was a happy occasion, a time of new beginnings. And here, at the very onset of His earthly ministry, Jesus attended a wedding in Cana, just 9 miles north of His hometown of Nazareth. The fact that His other was in attendance hints that this was either the wedding of a relative or close family friend.

Because this event took place so early in Jesus’ public ministry, He had not yet had time to call all of His disciples, so when John mentions them in verse 2, he is probably referring to the five who were introduced in chapter 1.

To set the scene, John describes what would have been a disastrous situation for the groom and his family. The wedding feast was their responsibility and they had a social obligation to provide for all their invited guests. To run out of wine during the festivities would have been an unacceptable faux pas. Mary, the mother of Jesus, asks Him to intervene. John provides no insight into Mary’s thought process.

Mary had long known that there was something special about her son. Even before He was born, the angel had told 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 call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” – Luke 1:30-33 ESV

Her husband had received similar news regarding the identity of the baby in Mary’s womb.

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:21 ESV

But up until this moment, Mary had never seen Jesus perform any miracles or signs. As John has indicated, this would be “the first of his signs.” So, there’s no reason to believe that Mary’s request for Jesus to intervene was anything more than a mother’s desire to see her son help a friend in time of need. 

The response of Jesus seems harsh and disrespectful to western ears. When Mary announced to Jesus, “They have no wine,” He somewhat flippantly remarked, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4 ESV).

But the tone of Jesus’ response is far less sarcastic and disrespectful than it sounds. He is simply telling her that, while He understands the gravity of the situation, it had nothing to do with Him. Jesus came into the world for far greater purposes. His use of the phrase, “My hour” is a clear reference to His future crucifixion and death. That was why He had come. In fact, He made that point perfectly clear in the prayer He prayed to His Father in the garden on the night He was betrayed.

“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. – John 12:27 ESV

Jesus had a far more important calling than to find wine for a wedding feast. But He willingly obliged His mother’s request, telling the servants to fill six stone jars with water. These instructions must have left the servants scratching their heads. First, because the need was for wine, not water. Secondly, because Jesus told them to use jars that were reserved for holding the water used for ceremonial cleansing. Jews would not have considered this to be potable water.

But the servants obliged Jesus, using water from a nearby well to fill each of the vessels to the brim. Then, Jesus instructed them: “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast” (John 2:8 ESV). What happened next is the point of the entire story. The master of the feast, after having tasted the contents of the jars, exclaimed, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now” (John 2:10 ESV).

This wasn’t just any wine, it was a wine of the highest quality. In the master’s estimation, the groom and his family had saved the best for last. The disaster had been averted and the joy of the occasion continued unabated. But John simply states, “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him” (John 2:11 ESV). 

That is the real point of the whole story. As will be the case with so many of Jesus’ miracles and messages, this one was done so that His disciples might believe in Him. He manifested His glory so that His followers would come to know His true identity. As John made clear in chapter 1, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3 ESV).

Turning water into wine was nothing for the Creator of the universe. And this miracle would be just the first of many these men would witness over the ensuing years. But that Jesus could transform ordinary water into fine wine was nothing when compared with His plan to transform dead sinners into living saints. Jesus would later declare the goal of His incarnation: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 ESV).

The guests at the wedding would drink the wine that Jesus created. They would enjoy its superior taste and, perhaps, feel the effects of its fermentation. But the benefits of the wine would be shortlived. Any joy it may have produced would be far from lasting. And even the six jars would eventually be drained dry by the thirsty wedding guests.

But Jesus had come to provide real, lasting life – abundant life – a life without end. But as the grapes must be crushed in order to produce fine wine, so Jesus would have to be crucified so that He might offer new life to those who were dead in their trespasses and sins. Jesus came to manifest His glory.

…the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14 ESV

The miracle in Cana would be the first of many He would perform in order to display His glory – the glory of the Son of God – the Word of God made flesh, who came to bring light and life to those mired in darkness and marked by death. Something new was happening. The Messiah had come. And the next three years were going to be filled with further evidence of His glory.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson