Water into Wine



In the Gospel of John, I love that Jesus’ ministry starts at a wedding. Isn’t it great to imagine Jesus at this huge celebration, laughing with friends and relatives, dancing, and drinking wine? And this wasn’t like a modern wedding which is usually the good part of an afternoon and evening. This was a huge event. It was a celebration that involved the whole town. Family traveled from other places. Jesus and his mother travelled from Nazareth, which was about 3 miles away. That part isn’t hard to grasp- we understand big weddings. But this wedding would have lasted for several days. People would come and go, and new people would arrive, friends and family, neighbours, all to celebrate the new couple.

Hospitality was a huge issue in the Middle East. It still is. Your honour can be bound to your ability to be hospitable and welcoming. The preparation for this party fell on the shoulders of the groom. It was his job to talk to all his family and friends and neighbours and people who owed him favours to provide food and drink for all his wedding guests.

In our Gospel reading today we learn that the wedding runs out of wine. This isn’t just embarrassing. This is socially disastrous. It brought shame on one’s self and one’s family. It implied a lack of helpful friends, or even untrustworthiness. It might even be considered a bad omen regarding the marriage. How will he take care of a family if he can't pull off a wedding? This was a disaster for the couple as they begin their life together.

Mary, being sensitive to the impending disaster, comes to Jesus and says, “They have no wine”. Jesus’ mother knows the potential Jesus has. … Some have even seen Mary in this moment as the new Eve- the mother of humanity expressing humanity’s need to Jesus.

We then have this awkward moment. … Mary says” Jesus, they have no wine” To which Jesus replies, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not come.” I should say that calling his mother “woman” is not being hostile. It is somewhat distancing. Jesus will act in God’s time not anyone else’s. He can’t be manipulated into acting. 
But... maybe that is too strong.
Here we can feel the pause as Jesus and Mary look at each other.
I would love to see the look on their faces. What was said through their eye contact?
 Then Mary turns to the servants and says, “do whatever he tells you”. It is an odd moment. Is he going to act? In that moment some have seen Mary as standing with the prophets declaring to the people, “do whatever God tells you”. 

We stand with Mary saying, “Jesus, they have no wine.” Many have seen in this statement the universal declaration of human need. All of us have times when we have run out of wine. We balance on the edge of social disaster, or mental breakdown, or bankruptcy, or whatever- in those moments we are letting Jesus know we have no wine. We say it on behalf of others as we prayerfully come to Jesus declaring “they have to wine”. They are in need. We stand tugging on His sleeve, “Jesus, people are hurting. When will you act? When will you do something about this broken world?” We tug on his sleeve and he answers with surprising reluctance. “My hour has not yet come”. And we are left waiting. And we seem to hear him say, “My hour is not yet.”

When we face the suffering of the world and deal with God’s delay in supernaturally interceding we have to be careful how we interpret the suffering. Some have declared that the suffering of life is caused by God for some great purpose. It is part of the divine plan, but I think that is a mistake. We can’t say that God causes such disasters to bring about some greater good. The world is broken and people suffer because of it. When we look at a disaster we do not see the mysterious plan of God, we see the brokenness of the world. We see Eve’s children struggling to live East of Eden.

Mary points to the need of the couple. They have run out of wine. They are on the verge of disaster. Mary trusts Jesus’ timing and his word. She turns to the servants and says, “Do whatever he says”. As instructed, the servants take six large pots. They fill them, and Jesus turns the water into wine- A huge amount of wine- 120-180 gallons of wine. But, this wasn’t some pointless miracle. No, this miracle was a sign- it points to something beyond itself.

The water pots were used for ceremonial washing. The pots represent the Old Law- the Law that seeks to manage and control Sin. In a sense, the old Law didn’t give life- it just attempted to keep Sin under control. Jesus uses those old pots and fills them with the wine that represents blessing and abundance and life. This is way beyond controlling Sin. This is about abundant life. The old order of things is replaced by the new.


We are a people in need. We stand in a broken world, and the cracks in creation run straight through our hearts as much as anywhere else. The creation is broken and we are broken with it. … We don’t need someone to pat us on the head and say that it really isn’t all that bad. We don’t need someone to look at our personal sin and say, “well nobody’s perfect”. What we need is transformation. What we need is life poured into us. What we need is God.

We need a God to break into our lives and save us from the mess we are in. We need a God who will break into our lives and give us Himself. The wine Jesus made from the water is a sign. It points beyond itself. We read that this was the “first” of his signs. But it is deeper than that. It is not just the ‘first’ in a list of seven. This is the word arche, and can mean foundation, or form. This is the foundation of all that Jesus is about to do. This sign is not just about wine. It is bigger than that.

Wine in the Old Testament is often a symbol of abundant life and of the messianic age to come. This isn’t just about saving a groom from social embarrassment and dishonour. Through the Old Testament We hear about the stormy marriage between God and God’s people. The prophets often talk about the people as an adulterous spouse who turns against God. Here we see the marriage perfected in Jesus. The perfectly faithful human is united perfectly in love to their faithful God. Finally, the longing of God’s heart since the Fall, in the humanity of Jesus, humanity is reconciled to God. The cracks in Creation have begun the process of healing. And so it is time to celebrate. That wine is a symbol of this new age, the messianic age.

This wine never runs out. It overflows into Christian churches throughout the world. Christians meet and drink into themselves the God that they need so desperately. As St Augustine said, “my heart is restless until it finds its rest in you”. We have a void in us that can only be filled by God pouring Himself into us- filling the cracks in our souls. Even now that brokenness continues to be overtaken by the Kingdom where Jesus will raise up the victims, wipe away all tears from their eyes- “and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor any more pain, for the former things will have passed away, and he that sits upon the throne will say ‘behold I make all things new’. Amen.

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