Today’s reading is John 2:1-25 (NRSV):
The Wedding at Cana
1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9 When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
12 After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they remained there a few days.
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18 The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
23 When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.
“But you have kept the good wine until now.”
The steward, unaware of the miracle he’s witnessing, has just tasted the wine that has been brought to him, and it’s so good that he quietly calls the bridegroom over to ask him what game he’s playing. And not only is the wine good, but there’s a ton of it! Jesus has the servants fill six stone jars “to the brim,” and each holds twenty to thirty gallons. Even if we go with the conservative estimate, that’s well over a hundred gallons of wine. To put that in perspective with some back-of-the-napkin math, one hundred gallons of wine roughly equates to five hundred bottles. Yes, you read that right. Jesus’s first public miracle is to supernaturally provide a wedding party with more than five hundred bottles of wine when they had already burned through their original supply.
So why does he do this? On the one hand, he does it simply out of submission to the will of his blessed mother, Mary, who comes to him and asks for his help. Jesus doesn’t initially see the need to intervene – “what concern is that to you and me?” – but the trust and respect he has for his mother guides him in obedience, and he comes to the newlyweds’ aid. I’ve often prayed to have the faith to, as Mary directs the servants, “do whatever he tells you.”
I want to argue, however, that there’s something greater going on here, although it’s difficult to see from the perspective of where we’re currently at in the Gospel narrative. Interestingly, John acknowledges this difficulty in the second story from today’s reading, that of Jesus cleansing the temple. When Jesus tells the members of the crowd (who are likely rather annoyed at him for disrupting the flow of daily life at the temple) his famous line that “destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,” they respond in confusion as to the meaning. But, as John tells us, “after he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this,” and they realized that “he was speaking of the temple of his body.” Just a few verses after the wedding at Cana and Jesus’s seemingly confusing actions, he again does something confusing in Jerusalem, but it all makes sense to his disciples years later, after he is crucified and comes back to life.
Let’s return to the end of the wedding in verse 11: “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” I want to argue that we can’t properly understand the miracle at Cana, just like the crowd can’t understand Jesus’s saying at the temple, until after we see what it is pointing towards: namely, his resurrection. Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians that “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died” (15:20). The “first fruits” of a harvest are both a celebration of what has been accomplished and an anticipation of what is still to come. Jesus’s resurrection is in itself an incredible triumph over death, but it’s merely the beginning, and that’s precisely how I (and many Christians before me) would argue Jesus intends his miracle at Cana to be understood: as being itself a sign of the coming first fruits of his resurrection. If the quality and quantity of the wine produced are any indicator, those fruits are delicious and abundant, shared for the good and delight of all. More importantly, though, they’re only a whisper of the goodness that is still to come: the resurrection not just of Jesus, but of all those who hope in him.
Marcus Powers ’17 is a Senior in Winthrop House studying Computer Science.