Just imagine for a moment or two that you had been asked what you thought would be the most effective and dramatic way to ‘launch’ the ministry of Jesus. What would you have recommended? A spectacular miracle to coincide with one of the great Feasts of the Jews in the temple in Jerusalem perhaps? It is unlikely that we would have chosen a small village hidden away in Galilee as the location, with just a few to witness the beginning of the great work of our Lord in showing us his Father’s power.
Why is the location important?
Little is known about the village of Cana. It was the home town of Nathaniel, noted for its profusion of fig trees and is situated about four-and-a-half miles north of Nazareth. There is every possibility that Jesus had relatives in Cana and this would explain why Jesus and some of the disciples, who were his cousins, had been invited to the wedding. The brothers of Jesus would have been invited too. We imagine that it would have been a typical village wedding with the feast held outdoors in the evening. From the record, it appears that Mary had gone on in advance to help with the preparations for the event and as she was involved with the arrangements, she would have been the first to notice that the supplies of wine were running low! We need to read Matthew 4:12-16 which explains that the area containing the little village of Cana was chosen for this first miracle so that the prophecy of Isaiah could be fulfilled. So it was that the light began to shine in the village of Cana in the hill country of Zebulon and Naphtali.
The conversation between Jesus and His mother – John 2:3-5
At first reading, the way in which Jesus replies to his mother’s request appears to be rather abrupt: “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” In this instance, reference to some of the more modern translations can be helpful as they seem to indicate that Jesus is gently reminding his mother that from now onwards he had “ to be about [his] Father’s business” rather than be concerned with the material things of this life. What is interesting to note is Mary’s forthright instruction to the servants: “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.” These words of wisdom come down the centuries to us, for it is important for us to remember to ‘do’ whatever Jesus asks of us! Is it possible that Mary was herself remembering some similar words from the Pharaoh in the time of Joseph? (see Genesis 41:55). Joseph, once a lowly servant was to be elevated to a position of great power so that he could be a provider and a saviour for God’s people. Centuries later, the Lord God had sent Jesus to be a saviour for His people and to bring an end to the time of famine of hearing of the word of God.
The full extent of the miracle
It is easy for us to overlook the volume of liquid which was available from this miracle. The record in John’s gospel tells us that there were six water pots used for ceremonial washing. Each of these pots could contain “ two or three firkins apiece”. A firkin is an old English word meaning a quarter of a barrel, and a barrel could hold upwards of thirty-two gallons. On this basis, we can take it that a firkin was at least eight gallons and if the water pot could hold two or three firkins we could estimate that each pot would hold approximately twenty gallons. Therefore six pots would hold 120 gallons or at least 720 standard bottles of wine. What a miracle! We are being told that here indeed was a super-abundance of wine – much more than that required – there was enough for everyone and a great deal to spare. Did all of the water turn to wine at once, or did the change happen as the servants poured out the water into the wineglasses? There is a lovely picture here of Jesus telling his servants to fill the water pots to the brim and then instructing them to take the “water of life” to all who had been invited to the wedding feast. Later on, Jesus would send out his disciples to preach the good news of his resurrection and the gospel of the kingdom of God throughout the world (see Romans 10:14,15). Even today, the truths of the gospel remain as words on a page until their significance and beauty are explained through “the foolishness of preaching”. The water of the word of life becomes powerful to save men and women as its beauty and holiness is poured out in their presence. There is still a super-abundance of the supply of this goodness and there is enough for all.
This great miracle was on the third day – John 2:1
A mention of “the third day” triggers in our minds a connection with the resurrection of Jesus. Firstly, we need to do a little research. Please read John 7:52. This passage tells us how the religious leaders could not accept that Jesus was a prophet because, they said that no prophet had ever come from the region of Galilee. They were wrong! We need to check out 2 Kings 14:25. This passage tells us that Jonah the prophet came from Gath-hepher. I understand that Gath-hepher is the abbreviated title of a small hamlet which was situated between Cana and Nazareth. Its name means ‘the winepress by the well’. What an amazing coincidence. Jesus performed his first miracle involving water and wine near ‘the winepress by the well’, where the prophet Jonah was born. How fitting that Jesus would later say: “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:39-41). The evidence of the miracle of the risen Lord brings hope for all who are baptized into his saving name.
Who were the witnesses?
When we look at the record, there must have been only a few who were aware of the miracle. It rather sounds as though the ruler of the feast and the bridegroom were unaware of what had happened that day. Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the six servants who were each in charge of filling a waterpot were perhaps the only witnesses of the event. The word “servant” is interesting in that the gospel writer John does not use the usual Greek word doulas, meaning slave or bondservant in this instance, but uses a different word diakonos meaning deacon or minister. Is this a clue for us? Were the six servants none other than six of the early disciples? (James and John, Peter and Andrew, Philip and Nathaniel). If these six were cousins of our Lord, how natural it would be for them to be helping to serve the guests at wedding in Cana of one of their relatives. There is perhaps a further clue when we read of the outcome of this first miracle (see John 2:11). His disciples believed on him. That is what it had all been about. There is no mention of Mary believing. She was already convinced by the angel’s earlier message that Jesus was the Son of God. There is no mention of Jesus’ blood-brothers believing in him yet. They too would have been invited to the feast but they did not believe in him at this point. It was necessary for the disciples to witness the miracle so that they could come to believe that Jesus is the Son of God with power.
The events of this first miracle marked the beginning of the ministry of Jesus which would end at Calvary and have its culmination in the greatest miracle of all. The resurrection of Jesus proves for all following generations that he is the Christ:
“ And truly many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” (John 20:30,31)