Thoughts on the Wedding at Cana in John Chapter Two
By Fred Pruitt
And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee.
First, a little something about the gospel of John, about its different quality from the others. Among the many things we could say about the synoptic gospels, one is that they are very much narratives of events and conversations told in a matter-of-fact historical-record kind of way, with an emphasis on Jesus’ fulfillment of all the OT Messianic prophecies. Of course they, too, are filled with surprises of the Holy Spirit unable to be seen with the natural mind of man, and are no less rich in Christ than is John.
But one major difference between John and the others is the treatment of the miracles and signs. While in the synoptic gospels the miracles are almost “reported” journalistically – these are the “things” which happened — the miracles in John, to me, are each richer in meaning and much deeper spiritually than the “temporal” miracle itself. The Holy Spirit is communicating something clearly beyond or over and above whatever the visible event is.
As far as the human writer is concerned, I am in great awe of the story he wrote. To me this seems purposefully put together, like one would make a very good film almost, using images as well as dialogue to tell the story, carefully weaving together every sound and sight to evoke the deeper Truth of John’s gospel through the Spirit. John’s small number of included miracles (telling us at the end that if he had written down everything Jesus said and did, the libraries of the world could not contain such a multitude of volumes), means that he is not focusing too much on the miracle itself, which happened way back then, but to communicate something greater than the miracle. The stories and miracles He did are presented in John as all being “signs” of the greater truth of eternal life and union with the Father through the Son and the Spirit. It is carefully put together, almost “crafted” we could say, to evoke deeper things. Each event or miracle evokes particular and different deeper things, at all times giving two different and simultaneous realities, the human and the divine, each fully 100% in the same living Man.
Even the gospel of John itself is that message. It takes us to the heights of divinity. And it takes us into the daily life of the Man who was the living embodiment of those heights of divinity. The Word – made flesh!
And then for me the icing on the cake, since I appreciate writers, I feel the human touch in its creation. Yes it was the Holy Spirit. Yes it was the Apostle John. And in some sense I think I have almost already encapsulated the whole gospel of John in this paragraph, because I think his aim was that his story would be something like a sacrament.
The definition I’m going by is the one I learned among my Episcopalians, and I like it. I learned it when I took confirmation classes when I was 13, that a sacrament was “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.”
I think everything Jesus does and says, as well as everything else in the gospel, is treated that way by John. It is fully human and has immediate human meaning. And it is completely divine and has immediate divine meaning. And they work together and are together as one. So on with the story.
First to mention, is that the wedding happens on the third day. The “third day” is very often mentioned in scripture. It is usually about resurrection. It has a great importance, though we only see it dimly. This is what Hosea 6:1,2 says:
“Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.”
In Genesis, Abraham heads for the mountains of Moriah, where God has told him to sacrifice Isaac. After they had journeyed two days, Gen 22:4 says, “Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.”
What happened there, is that Abraham had already performed his task in his heart. He gave Isaac over to death and into the hands of the Father, trusting that the Father would raise him up, and was about to do that which he had already purposed in his heart, when the Angel of the Lord prevented him, instead providing a ram whose horns were caught in the thicket, that just “happened” to appear at that moment.
That is the sense in which John reports that this wedding is held the third day. Something is afoot. This is more than Jesus and His mother and friends at a wedding where He just happens to turn water into good wine.
And the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.
And yet it is just that, a story of an event that every culture on earth can identify with, a wedding and celebration, a big party, joy for the new life that would emerge from the new union of man and woman. So I think that is the first thing we see. Jesus, his mother and his new friends, were invited undoubtedly a to friend’s wedding. Friends with Jesus, with the family, it doesn’t say. But he received an invitation apparently, and came along to join their celebration.
And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.
If this isn’t a regular problem I don’t know what is. Mind you, there is no one lame or sick in this story needing healing. No one has come for counsel about the things of God. A demon is not causing anyone to thrash about. We just have an age-old problem, no doubt encountered in every culture in some way, whether a wedding party or not. It’s when the refreshments run out before the party is supposed to be over. Somebody in back is wringing their hands saying, “I didn’t think they would drink all that up so fast!” Down in middle Georgia where we used to live, somebody would be appointed to go on a beer run. There’s even a popular song about it – “B double-E double-R-U-N, Beer Run, B double-E double-R-U-N, Beer Run!”
In Cana that day, Jesus’ mother must have overheard them talking about it, and turns to her son and says, “They have no wine.” Like I was trying to say above, this was not a “serious” problem – no one’s life was at stake. The greatest “damage” that could probably occur from their running out of wine, was the embarrassment to the host in the community. Primarily a loss of face.
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee?
Like most men of His time, (and perhaps our time, too), He seems to me to be doing a little grousing at her trying to involve Him in “woman’s stuff.” In modern terms, it is like his first reaction to her is something like, “Why are you telling me that? What’s their running out of wine got to do with me?”
This is all very “human” to me, at least up to this point. He goes to a wedding with His mother and friends, they run out of wine, and now his mother is pestering him to do something about it, and he’s a bit irritated with her.
That statement some might perceive to be “too far,” that I’ve made Jesus “too human.” We’ll acknowledge His humanity as far as we can perceive Him through the model of our imaginary perfect Jesus, but no one can believe He had normal human feelings just like we all do, and sometimes He expressed them, like we all do. The reason in our minds that we cannot “allow” Jesus to have the same annoyances and frustrations in the world as anyone else, feeling them like anyone else, and expressing them like anyone else could do, is because we believe those same kinds of things, feelings, thoughts, desires, etc., we find in ourselves, we wrongly judge to be sin in us, so He must not have had them, since He was “without sin.”
To me, it is liberation of the highest order to see this! This wedding scene is Jesus blessing humanity, sanctifying humanity, divinizing humanity, glorifying humanity, and He is the center, even in His humanity in this story, around which the whole story unrolls.
But then John puts in his twist.
Mine hour is not yet come.
Jesus replied to Mary, “Mine hour is not yet come.” In the light of Jesus’ mission, to “show Himself” to the world by performing a miracle changing water into wine at a wedding, hardly seemed to Him at the moment as a place to start. They were at a party, not a synagogue! Plus, if He did perform a miracle, and everyone knew it, HE would have become the focal point of the wedding, instead of the bride and groom. Basically, He is telling His mother that for Him to do something miraculous in this environment, seemed inappropriate and untimely to Him, and there would be a better opportunity for Him to “show Himself to the world” some other time.
But Mary keeps on. Another very human, and very female thing happens. She doesn’t even acknowledge His answer! She ignores it! She is His Mama, after all! And then she turns to the servants and says, “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.” Not only does she ignore what Jesus said to her, but she puts Him on the spot! I can hear him sigh under His breath, “Mother!”
Let’s consider her for a moment. This is the only story in the gospels that gives any details of her involvement with Him once He began His mission. She has known Who He is since His miraculous birth, but we are also given glimpses of her a time or two when He is growing up when she does not seem to be quite certain that the things she believed were true. It is a BIG thing to believe that one has given birth to the Messiah! Even though she accepted Gabriel’s Word and the Christ was born of her, like all of us it was still hidden to the outer man, so while she knew in her heart, her outer mind kept tallying up the evidence.
What did Mary expect Jesus to do about the situation with the wine? There seems to be no doubt in her, at this point. Not only does she seem to know Who He is, but she knows what He can do. He can perform miracles! How did she know?
It does not tell us. Did Jesus do little miracles around the house? Some stories say He did, but they did not make it into scripture. We just know from scripture, that by the time of Jesus’ baptism and His return to Galilee, she had come to fully believe in Him, that He was indeed Who she had believed Him to be since His birth. Somehow she knew, He could do something about this wine problem!
So she’s put Him on the spot, and now the servants are turned to him wondering what to do! I’m sure there’s nothing miraculous on their minds. They might think he’s got a stash of wine back at the house, and He might send some of them to go get it.
But no, what He says next takes it into a whole new level.Jesus has reconsidered apparently. It is almost like the Syrophoenecian woman, begging Jesus to heal her daughter. At first He is not moved to help her, until she expressed her faith. That got His attention! And Mary essentially did the same thing when she told the servants what to do. She was demonstrating her faith, and that is what moved Him.
Six Waterpots of Stone
“And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.”
“Who is this crazy guy?” the servants must have thought! But the lady said to do it, so they do what He says to do.
His next instruction must have really blown their minds!
“And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast.”
I’m really thinking of the servants at this point. What must they have been thinking? “How in the world is filling these pots with water going to help our wine problem?” might have been among their first thoughts. But as servants, I’m sure they were obligated to cater to the guests as much as possible, and they’ve humored Mary and Jesus thus far, but when Jesus told them to take a pitcher of it to the Master of Ceremonies, which as far as they knew was still water, it had to have at least put a little trepidation in them! Now THEY were on the spot! They’ve got to carry a pitcher of water to the MC and pour it in his cup, pretending it is wine served by the host! I’m wondering if they’re not the ones who had to have the most faith that day!
But amazingly, another miraculous quality about this story, the servants eat their fears and follow Jesus’ instructions, and pour the man a cup from what was water, and surprise, it is WINE! And not only is it wine, but it’s really GOOD wine, too! And he praised the host for saving the best wine until the end, when normally people serve the best first, and when people are less selective about their wine after they’ve imbibed a bit, then they pull out the cheap stuff. But, this host, the MC praised, kept the best wine until last!
So Jesus saved the day at the wedding, when they ran out of wine. He saved the host from embarrassment, and rejuvenated and kept the party going by miraculously providing better wine.
Is that all there is to it?
First it is a completely human stage and everybody and everything in it is “human,” and the issues are purely human. The presence of Jesus there sanctifies not just human marriage but all humanity in Him, justified and sanctified in Him. All that Christ-filled humanity, all its issues and problems, joys and sorrows, is blessed and divinized in Him. Of it He says, “He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them.” (Num 23:21)
But what the wedding feast also points to, is the wedding feast of our nuptials with Him, called in Revelation, “the marriage supper of the Lord.” The common evangelical view is that this is something to look forward to in the bye and bye. Well, I don’t know much about the bye and bye stuff, so if that is correct I am going to be thankful to be in the crowd.
But about 30 years ago I began reading Jacob Boehme, and he is quite insistent that this feast happens in the Spirit upon our entry into the kingdom, in the beginning, when we have this beginning sense or experience of being knit-together with God in its initial stages.
That is where Jesus promised He would drink the new wine of the kingdom with us, at that feast.
“But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matt 26:29).
I have realized, though I was resistant to it for quite some time, that Jacob Boehme who was writing about this 400 years ago, was right. I have already experienced that feast in the Spirit! Like all wedding feasts, it happened right after vows were spoken, but before the marriage is consummated (theoretically). The wedding feast precedes the “wedding night” and the honeymoon.
This marriage has already taken place. We’ve had the vows. We’ve had the party! We had our wedding night and our honeymoon! That all transpired between Jesus and us ages ago, an eternity ago. The New Wine, the GOOD Wine saved til last, is the full consummation of the Spirit. The New Wine broke the old bottles; they couldn’t contain it! But now this New Wine has been put into the New Wineskins of the Spirit in us, and this last we are even now experiencing, even while still in this human life, is better than we could ever have possibly imagined long ago. That New Wine from the beginning, has aged now into a desirable mature vintage, pleasing to the palate while warming one’s whole being. This is the wine the nations desire to drink, and God has made us the cup bearers!
Some of the exchange upon sending the above to a few friends:
From DeeDee Winter:
A thousand YESSES, Fred…..the last paragraph says it all!
There is SO much symbolism here in many directions. I was thinking on the numbers….three…six water pots….six, the number of man…..filled totally to the brim (leaving no room for a smidgeon of anything else) with a coming MIRACLE that only He can accomplish and bring into being. No amount of effort by those servants (us!) could make the contents be ANYTHING but water!
We are Jesus saying “Mine hour has not yet come” as long as we remain trying to turn our water into wine. We are the servants dutifully doing what the Lord has given us to do until our “hour” comes. But when the Holy Spirit performs the miracle…voila! We ARE wine to be drunk by all the wedding guests!
You have so aptly named our ‘being’….Cup bearers of the Desirable Mature Vintage…DMV DeeDee…Thanks DMV Fred!
From Harriet Wearren:
I love what you have written! There is always an underlying spirit message in all the stories, but the spirit message in the marriage feast had escaped me! Thanks for writing that. Also, I loved what you wrote about Abraham. He had already sacrificed Isaac in his heart, before going to the mountain. I had not really thought of it that way, but so true. When we say, Not my will but thy will be done!! This is what keeps the bible so interesting…..there are always new insights to be revealed by the spirit!!
From Judy Dunn:
This is awesome. Have you ever looked into the water pots? There were 6 (number of man) and they were used for purifying…that changed when the water was added then turned into wine.
I do love how the spirit shows this stuff. So everyday and so profound…
From Fred back to Judy:
Thank you, Judy! John is stuffed with goodies all through from beginning to end. Other people since I sent that out have pointed out other “hidden stuff” in the wedding. DeeDee sent me some great but different insights. I don’t think there can be an end to it. John himself tells us at the end, that these things he has included in his version of the story, represent a miniscule number compared to all the things Jesus said and did. John 21:25 – “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.”
That really excites me, because there is still so much left to see! It is endless. I think Norman said something like we’ve only got our big toe in the ocean of truth, there’s a lot more yet to see of the Living God Who is nothing but blessing and love.
The main thing I want to get across, is that these hidden treasures are not just inspiring or informative, nor are they about a separate Jesus coming from a separate God. When we see them like that, and I know you know this, then these things we can just write down and put in a notebook of the stuff that’s about the separate Jesus. Same things with OT types of Christ. But that’s as far as it goes. It goes into our library of interesting stuff that is about Jesus, and as we get more we keep putting it into our library on a shelf, never realizing the only reason we see something “about” Christ, is because that same Life is in us and all those “inspirational thoughts” are not just meant to titillate the intellect, but to work Christ in us toward revelation. Without this entering in, our library becomes a bottomless pit of “ever learning and never coming to the knowledge of truth.” (2 Tim 3: 8), since what goes in, never comes back out again.
But when we begin to see the stories, not as something “negative” about ourselves so we need the separate Jesus to come over and forgive us and fix us up, but as inner light from the Father opening Christ in us! Our very being is the stage for all of us. It isn’t just interesting or even “deeper” information about stuff that happened way back then. The types, whether Old or New Testament, are Spirit, and knowing them in the flesh, i.e., intellect only, “profits nothing.” Jesus said, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63).
These stories and descriptions the Holy Spirit assembled together and kept intact for us for several thousand years, are all His means of opening Himself in us in a substantial way. We live a long time, some of us, knowing God is “with” us – that’s the separate God. But Jesus pointed out to the apostles that He was sending “the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. (John 14:17).
Of course He isn’t talking about physical location, since God is both “nowhere” and “everywhere,” but instead a change of consciousness. Our consciousness changes from “He is with me,” to, “He is in me.” Every bit of this Bible stuff (as well as all the remainder of the cosmos) is geared to this one end, in the temporal world. It is Paul’s many prayers along this same line:
“The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.” (Eph 1:17-20).
That’s what Paul meant when he said, “Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” (Col 1:28,29).
I think we’re all still involved in Paul’s project, don’t you!