More wine, more glory

The story of the wedding at Cana in John 2, the account of Jesus turning water into wine, is one of the best known episodes in the New Testament, if not the whole Bible. The author, John, tells us that this was the first miraculous sign by which God revealed his glory (v. 11). Ever thought about what it means that the first sign God gives to reveal his glory, the substance of his character, is the production of alcohol?

Let’s set the scene. In the story, Mary, Jesus and his disciples are at a wedding. Some way through the celebrations, Mary alerts Jesus to the fact that the hosts have run out of wine, to which Jesus replies, “Woman, why do you involve me?” (v.4). I would love to know with what sort of tone Jesus said this, it seems like such a curious thing for him to say! Was he absorbed in a fascinating conversation that he didn’t want to wrench himself away from? Was he just generally tired of his mother’s interference?? I’m not sure, and we’ll never be sure, because his question is not answered. We don’t know why Mary involves Jesus here. She ignores his question, giving instructions to the servants simply to do whatever he tells them. They obey, filling some bath sized jars with water, which Jesus turns into fine wine.

How can it be that John associates this act with the revelation of God’s glory? I mean, seriously?? There’s a wedding. The party is in full swing, probably has been for days, and what started out as a copious amount of alcohol turns out not to be enough. The pressure is on the hosts to keep their guests fed and watered. Why should God help out?

Besides, by the time Mary intervenes, it’s quite likely that Jesus is surrounded by people who are drunk or heading that way. As the master of the banquet says to the bridegroom in verse 10, ‘Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink…’ The presenting problem in John 2 is that both the good wine and the cheaper wine have been consumed. It’s all gone. It’s in this context that Jesus says, ‘Okay, you’ve run out of booze. Why do you involve me?’

We don’t know why Mary thought her son should be involved in this domestic crisis. John merely tells us that this spectacular deed – turning water into wine – is the first sign through which Jesus, God in the flesh, revealed his glory. Basically, John is telling us that the glory of holy God is revealed first and foremost in an act of extraordinary, controversial and extravagant blessing, something designed not to put Israel on the map or tighten up the moral code; something designed to keep the party going, or perhaps to get the party truly started.

The wedding at Cana is not about taking care not to overdo it (that’s for another time and place). And it’s not a story to tell if you want people to believe that the emphasis in Christianity is on sin.

According to John, God’s first sign to the world, his first attempt to show people what he’s really like, is to give them more of something they really enjoy, more wine and more of the best, more goodness, more fun, more life, more reasons to celebrate. He gives them more when they thought they’d had enough. Not mindless excess, but the overflowing abundance of life.

Why did Mary involve God? We don’t know. But God got involved at her request. The wedding at Cana shows us not only that God isn’t afraid to associate his glory with something earthy, like wine, but that the divine Creator submits himself to be moved by his creatures. Jesus told Mary that his time had not yet come (v. 4) yet at her prompting, he acts. Wine for them, glory for him. In some mysterious way, God’s heavenly glory is intricately connected with good things on earth. Next time you order a bottle for friends, remember that.

Madi Simpson

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12 responses to “More wine, more glory

  1. Madi, such a good point that God’s glory is connected to good things here on earth. Good word to remember to see His goodness in earthy things. Indeed His creations is good and very good.

    But ordering a bottle…for friends? I was expecting to just read, “when you order a bottle.” However, I see the parallel ordering for friends makes to John 2, and perhaps that’s more the point: the giving of good things to others as an overflow from what He has given us.

  2. Hi Jeff, yes, perhaps it would have been better to leave out the ‘for friends.’ I wasn’t trying to make a point about ordering wine for others. My thinking was more along the lines of, ‘next time you get a bottle of wine out’ (for whatever reason!)… Hope that helps!

    Thanks for your comment,

    Madi

  3. I unfortunately read this post late last night. There was not a bottle of wine in the house so that I could toast God’s glory with good things here. I did have some good beer, so I contextualized. God is good.

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  5. I have been thinking about this post since I first read it right after it was posted. I appreciate Madi’s writing and perspective. I would offer another perspective for consideration. Maybe this miracle has little to do with the wine or the embarrassment that the family may have been experiencing. Maybe these are just elements of the event that happened, but are not crucial to the meaning or purpose of the miracle.
    What we know is that this takes place sometime during the first 18 months of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus was not in the limelight at this time, (John his cousin was), and Jesus ministered primarily in the Judean wilderness. John 3:22 gives us a clue as to what Jesus was doing during this time, spending time with the men he had called to be his disciples. He was building his team. I think that the purpose of this miracle is found in John 2:11. It was not done for the people at the wedding, it was not done to provide them with good or better wine, it was done to reveal his glory and it did, because the disciple put their faith in him! He had been hanging out with his disciples for some 18 months sharing with them about who he was, see John 1: 35 – 52, v’s 50 – 52 particularly point to Jesus showing them greater things, etc. Then we come to John 2, Jesus had been invited to this wedding, the story opens on the third day of the wedding. Had he been there the entire time or did he just show up on the third day? If I am right, he just showed up on the third day and he showed up to demonstrate and begin to fulfill Jn. 1:50 the greater things. So Jesus uses this wedding for a lesson for his disciples. He reveals his glory in that he has power over creation. He changes ordinary water to wine and it is confirmed by the MC of the wedding. The MC nor the guests seem to get the point, however the disciples did and they put their faith in him. It seems the entire point of this miracle is simply for Jesus’ disciple to see Jesus do something supernatural, one of many greater things he is going to do, they get to see and they catch the first glimpse of his glory. And they begin to believe. Seems to me that this was done for the sake of the disciples not the wedding party or the guests.
    I would suggest that I can not do that by buying a bottle of wine, even good wine for my friends, but I can share with those friends about the God who did do that, to reveal his glory and hep me and them believe. Who knows maybe this can even be done over a good bottle of wine or just a glass of water.

  6. Hi Jim,

    Thank you for your comments. You point out a glaring omission in my piece, namely that I have not discussed the impact of this miracle on Jesus’ disciples! This was deliberate however. As you suggest in your first paragraph, I was focusing more on the ‘elements of the event that happened’ that are not typically given much attention. I completely agree with you that the main point of this miracle was to reveal Jesus’ glory, hence my title and the central theme of the article. But I wanted to look at what else was going on, something of what this miracle tells us about God, and who else in the house experienced something of Jesus’ glory that day. My final sentence was an invitation to readers to remember and reflect on these things as they enjoy a bottle (of anything!) with friends.

    As with all things in John’s gospel, this story is ‘deep enough for an elephant to swim in and shallow enough for a child to paddle in’ and consequently impossible to do justice to it in one short article, though I do try… ;-)

    Many blessings, and thanks again!

    Madi

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  9. I do accept as true with all of the concepts you’ve offered in your post. They are really convincing and will certainly work. Nonetheless, the posts are too brief for beginners. May you please extend them a bit from subsequent time? Thank you for the post.

    • Hi Sarah,

      Thank you for your response to my post. I agree that we would do well to flesh things out a bit more from time to time but as contributors we are all given, and strive to work within, a 300-700 word limit. It helps prevent boring people to tears but can create other frustrations! I’m glad you enjoy the blog and appreciate your feedback very much.

      Blessings,

      Madi

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