Water Into Wine: The Meaning of Jesus’ First Miracle

The Water into Wine Parable is chronologically the first recorded miracle Jesus performed. John’s account awards it as the beginning of many biographical accounts, so it stands as the forerunner as a descriptor of all of the great things Jesus did while he was here on earth.

So this begs an obvious question: Why is this story significant enough to be the first among his great works? It seems pointless that Jesus is merely correcting a party fowl. (Running out of wine.) I contend there are more profound things to consider. For example, Jesus was at a wedding party, and like most people who attend weddings, he was thinking about his personal wedding. It was always on his mind.

Jesus' Wedding Was Always on His Mind

Jesus lived with an unrelenting resolve for the kingdom of God. It is what he taught about most, and several times he would compare the kingdom of God to a royal wedding (Matt 22:2). YAHWEH is Israel’s God in the Hebrew Scriptures, and He would often liken Himself to Israel’s husband. God wants a relationship so deep and rich with relational equity that it’s like a healthy marriage. God is jealous for us like a man who passionately pursues the one whom he loves.

Jesus does this with us the same way. He thinks of us as his bride he’ll one day unite with, like a royal wedding. For Jesus, this is a familiar image of the kingdom of God, and this is clearly Jesus’ life goal- to accomplish how this wedding will take place. So at this wedding party, his wedding (the kingdom) was obviously on his mind. I understand this to be the explanation for his very peculiar response to his mother’s urgency about running out of wine.

In the story, Jesus’ mother runs up to him (probably in a panic) and says, “They have no more wine,” and his response is, “Woman, why do you involve me? My hour has not yet come.”

With an unhelpful response to her situation, he responds deeply mused about his “hour.” Still, he proceeds to do what was on his mind and provide the wine out of water. But the wine (although literal) is also a symbol of something far more significant, a symbol that he will mention later in John’s account.

Jesus Provides the Wedding Party With Wine (A Foreshadowing)

The key to understanding the parable is the kind of water he used to turn into wine. It wasn’t ordinary water. The text says that the water was put in 6 stone water jars used by the Jews for “ceremonial washing.” This water would have been used for the Jews to enter the temple, where the presence of God resided. They needed this water to draw near to God, to come into his presence. They needed to be “clean” before they entered into His presence.

Jesus was intentionally using the water jars used for cleansing to foreshadow his blood as the ingredient for our requirement to draw near to God. But it was wine that filled the water jars, not his blood. Yet, it was a glass of wine that served as a symbol for his blood at the last supper. It’s my conviction that Jesus was communicating that it will be his wine (his blood) that will cleanse us, and bring us back to God, and that’s the connection.

Jesus Is the True Provider of the Wedding Celebration

The master of the banquet mentioned in the parable did not deliver on his job.  The wine initially provided wasn’t as good as what Jesus provided (John 2:10). This story was put here as a means to communicate that Jesus will ultimately be the provider of our wedding celebration. The day when He and his people will be united in perfect harmony. His bride will be his glory, and he will be our reward.

He has given himself as a means to provide all that we need for this celebration to be a reality. Our life was bought by his death, and our ceremony and glory will be given to us because of his humiliation and pain. Although we turn from God, he pursues us still in the person and work of Jesus.

We don’t deserve a wedding, but by the grace of God, we will have one most beautifully and powerfully, and we will be his forever. And in this relationship to come, we will be completely satisfied- as he is wholly glorified and honored.

The full reading of the parable:

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best for till now.”

This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.