The Gospel according to John was written so that we may “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that by believing we may have life in His name” (John 20:31). John, in our current section, is presenting the testimony of seven witnesses who testify that Jesus is the Christ. The first testimony was from John the Baptist who said that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and he has come to prepare His way. The second testimony came from Jesus’ first converts who said that they have found the Messiah and He is worth forsaking all and following Him. The third testimony comes from Jesus’ mother (Mary) who says: “Whatever He says to you, do it” (2:5). This testimony also occurs during the first of seven signs of Jesus.
The Setting: Wedding at Cana
In chapter 2, Jesus, his mother, and his disciples were invited to a wedding in Cana of Galilee. This wedding was possibly of a close relative or friend and weddings at this time could last as long as a week. The cost of the wedding was paid by the groom. The joyful mood of the wedding ends abruptly with Mary’s announcement to Jesus “They have no wine.” This might not seem to be a big deal to us, but, as D.A. Carson wrote: “To run out of supplies would be a dreadful embarrassment in a ‘shame’ culture; there is some evidence it could also lay the groom open to a lawsuit from aggrieved relatives of the bride.”
So, Mary makes Jesus aware of the situation. It is unclear what Mary expected from Jesus. Did she anticipate a miracle or hope He would figure something out? Most likely, Mary–knowing Jesus is the Son of God–wanted Him to perform a miracle and reveal Himself to everyone. What better place to begin–she reasoned–than to avoid a potential scandal for a friend/relative.
Jesus’ response to Mary’s request is best described as blunt, but not rude. Jesus replied, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come?” (2:4). What does Jesus mean? A good translation is: “Dear woman, I hear your request for me to intervene to help and to declare Myself as the Christ (Messiah), but it is not the proper time for me to publicly reveal this and my power is not to be used for anything other than the glory of My Father.” Mary turned to the servants and said: “Whatever He says to you, do it.”
The Sign: Water into Wine
Jesus did not declare Himself as the Messiah openly at this time, but He would graciously intervene in order to reveal His glory to His disciples so that they would believe. The result of the servants listening to Mary was Jesus’ first sign. Signs were miraculous events (sometimes public) that were meant to authenticate Jesus’ claim to be the Christ, the Son of God. The signs were verifiable proof that Jesus was sent from God (John 3:2). The first sign is turning water into wine. Jesus told the servants: “Fill the waterpots with water. Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter” (2:7-8). The waterpots were “six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each” (2:6). How were the pots utilized for Jewish purification? Mark 7:3 offers some insight, “For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders.” These pots were for religious traditions not prescribed in the Law of Moses. The headwaiter was the one in charge of the preparations and operations of the wedding. When the servants drew out the water (now wine) from the pots, they took it to the headwaiter who remarked on the high quality of the wine.
The Significance: Manifest His Glory
Jesus could not do exactly what Mary wanted, but He would use this as an opportunity to reveal His glory to His disciples. By turning the water into wine, Jesus demonstrated His power over creation to make it do what it would not normally do. Jesus performs a miracle: turning water into wine. In this miracle, Jesus showed His ability to transform. For example:
- Jesus transformed the shame of the bridegroom into praise.
- Jesus transformed the misery of Mary into joy.
- Jesus transformed the water of legalism (Mark 7) into wine for celebration.
In addition to this, the significance of the water into wine can be seen in the following ways:
- Jesus not only forgives us of our sins (water for purification) but grants us His own righteousness (wine for celebration).
- We get a look at how the “good wine” at the end (New Covenant) is better than the first wine (Old Covenant). See also Matthew 9:17.
- The transformation of water into wine is significant in that wine later came to symbolize His purifying blood (Matthew 26:28) of the New Covenant.
- Most importantly, we see Jesus’ glory revealed!
What Can We Learn from Mary’s Testimony?
The sign Jesus performed signifies that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Let us also remember that this sign is given in the context of John’s presentation of seven witnesses concerning Jesus. In John 2:1-11, we hear from Mary, the mother of Jesus, who testifies, “Whatever He says to you, do it” (2:5). Mary wanted Jesus to help with the wedding and knew that He would do something because He is gracious and merciful. Her testimony to the servants is that they should do whatever Jesus tells them to do. This is just as God the Father said at Jesus’ baptism: “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” (Luke 9:35).What can we learn from Mary’s testimony? We learn the necessity of obeying Jesus. Before Jesus ascended into heaven after His resurrection, He told His disciples that they are to make disciples and included in this command is “teaching them to obey all that I commanded you” (Matt 28:20). Who are you listening to? Are your decisions made through prayer and seeking God’s will for your life? Take time this week to review some of your most recent or consequential decisions. Did you intentionally seek wisdom from Jesus through prayer and Bible study? Or did you do what you thought was best? Would you rather do what you think is best or what God tells you is best? Whatever Jesus says to you, do it.
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