What’s with the Wedding at Cana?

Pastor Luke Baker in Parkston, SD has graciously asked me to fill the pulpit at Memorial Baptist Church this coming Sunday. Not only that, but he’s letting me preach on whatever I want (as long as it’s in the Bible I presume). Almost immediately I knew that I wanted to preach from John 2, wherein Jesus attends a wedding and turns six stone jars of water into six stone jars of wine. It’s an odd story if you think about it. After all, it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with chapters 1 or 3. Chapters 1 and 3, in fact, have a lot of parallel and complimentary material. Then there’s this anecdote about Jesus at a wedding in Cana. How does this fit into the broader context of John’s Gospel?
I was at a wedding a few weeks ago where the minister explained that this passage proved that Jesus endorsed the institution of marriage. I’ve heard this at weddings before. I agree that Jesus thinks marriage is a good idea (it was his after all). However, I think you’ve flown past the point of this text at about Mach 3 if you think that’s all we can get out of it. “Seriously? You think John sat down and put pen to parchment between material like ‘In the beginning was the Word’ and ‘For God so loved the world’ to give us a quaint little story about how Jesus liked weddings?” I don’t think so.

So, with that, here are my initial observations about what this text is trying to show us.

Take a look at John 2:1-11,
“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 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.”

1. Jesus’ “Hour” of glory is not what Mary thought it was.
Mary knew her son was given to her from God and that he was the Messiah. However, it seems she wanted him to come out of the Messianic closet before it was his time and perhaps in a way that he never intended to be glorified during his earthly ministry. In the next chapter we see Nicodemus with a similar anticipation. He comes to Jesus just after the Passover (a Jewish holiday all about Israel’s freedom) to inquire as to whether or not Jesus is the long awaited Messiah. Jesus responds in a troubling way. He does not tell Nicodemus that he is the Messiah (that is obvious). Instead, he begins to explain that the Kingdom of God is coming first as a spiritual reality and that if he wants to see it he must be born again. He then goes on to explain that his moment of glory on this earth will be not on a literal throne but rather being lifted up on a cross (John 3:14).

I’m convicted by this on several levels. One level would be that I, like Nicodemus, am often more concerned with outward appearances than the condition of the heart. I can fool myself into thinking I’m totally righteous based on my own activity or theological knowledge. Unfortunately, neither of these things makes me born again. That’s something I have to trust and rely on God to do.

2. Jesus is God.
Sure, it’s an obvious statement but let’s consider all the signs and miracles that Jesus does in the Gospels. None of them serve mankind’s physical needs without directing us to our ultimate need, namely, to know and worship God. Here, just like everywhere else, Jesus does something to show his disciples who he is and win their faith, their trust and their affection. Jesus does this miracle in secret. No one at the party, other than the servants, know where this wine comes from and v. 11 tells us, “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” Jesus does miracles to “manifest his glory” and show us who he is. Think about the reaction of the disciples when he calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee in Matthew 8:27, “And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” Interesting, isn’t it? Not one, “how did he do that?” Not a single, “Hm, that’s a neat trick.” Instead they marvel at what sort of man this is.

3. Jesus will not be controlled and that frustrates our sinful hearts.
Mary wants Jesus to reveal himself. She wants her Messiah to be glorified. But Jesus knows what is best and it’s not time. He honors his mother’s request, but he does it in secret to win the affection and faith of his disciples. The master of the feast says something to the bridegroom in v. 10 that I had long misunderstood. He says, “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.” At first, it seems like the master of the feast is complimenting the bridegroom on his choice of wine, saying that it is better than the wine served earlier. But, I don’t think it’s a compliment. He’s telling the bridegroom that he doesn’t know how to throw a good party. He’s waited to serve the good wine until everyone at the wedding is too drunk to tell the difference. In other words, he’s wasted his good wine on drunks.
The frustration of the master of the feast is the frustration of every sinful heart that cannot get Jesus to do things the way we think he should do them. How many of us have suffered and waited and waited (and waited) for God to “show up” and do something about it? How many of us have lived our lives frustrated that God never seems to serve our interests or accommodate our schedules? That’s right. All of us.
However, Jesus knows what is best. He is God and he will not be controlled. In surrendering to Jesus we will taste what is best for us, for we will see him for who he truly is – glorious!


5 thoughts on “What’s with the Wedding at Cana?

  1. Great thoughts. It has always impressed me that Nicodemus comes thinking he is a believer only to be told he hasn't a clue. Then the crowd comes to make Jesus King by force (chap 6), thinking they are believers when they haven't a clue.

    It seems everybody misses the point throughout John's Gospel including Mary in chapter 11. So Mary missing the point in chapter 2 is no surprise either (Roman Catholic interpretations not withstanding).


  2. Exactly. John seems to have at least two different senses or ways he uses the word “believe”. The crowd at the end of chapter 2 “believes” when they see Jesus' signs…and yet, he does not “entrust” (believe) himself to them for he “knew what was in man”. And then what's the first verse of chapter 3? “There was a man…”
    John couldn't be more clear. There's intellectual acceptance and then there's being born again. The former doesn't save us.


  3. “There's intellectual acceptance and then there's being born again. The former doesn't save us.”

    I have been troubled by the phrase “intellectual belief” over the years. I think we often use James 2 as an example of intellectual belief where the devils also believe and yet are condemned. I am not certain that is what is being done by natural man.

    I think natural man can and does believe in Jesus. The problem is that natural man believes from a sphere that is alienated from God. Therefore the belief that is exercised by Nicodemus (the example you used) was not the “kind” of belief required for salvation.

    Natural man's “belief” is temporal an unspiritual. It is not able to see the reality of God's Kingdom as it really exists. It superimposes its own ideas upon God's truth and twists it by its own sinful perversions.

    This is why people are able to say they believe in Jesus and actually be very serious and excited for a time. However, if their faith is not Spirit-born, then…..

    I may need to Blog this thought, but I probably better think through it some more.

    God Bless


  4. Terminology is certainly negotiable. It just seems to me that Nicodemus demonstrates what I see among many Evangelicals. They've been raised to accept that the Bible is true and that God is real and not only that but that the Bible is good and God is good. As a consequence there is a level of shame or guilt when they sin but there is no saving faith demonstrated when they're called to repentance because…well….they don't. That's why I used the term intellectual acceptance rather than “belief.” However, John does seem to use the word “believe” for what the crowd thinks about Jesus when they see his “signs” at the end of chapter 2. So, the question then is what does John mean at that point by “believe” that is different than the belief of a “born again” Christian?


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