SESSION FOUR: THE WEDDING AT CANA (JOHN 2:1-11)
INTRO: What is the funniest thing you've witnessed at a wedding?
- Jesus is not known as a miracle-worker, so why dos Mary approach him (v. 3)? What do you learn about Jesus and his mother from this story?
- How does this passage affect your belief in the consumption of alcohol?
- What part does the function and size of the jars play in this story? How dos the quantity and quality of the wine demonstrate Jesus' glory?
- Where is the wine level (zest for life) in your life right now? Full? Half full? Empty? What is draining you?
- What area of your life seems like stale water in an old jug?
- How could Jesus bring celebration back into your life?
TAKEAWAY: What is your greatest takeaway from this passage? What specific life changes do you need to make? How will you hold yourself accountable?
COMMENTARY: THE WEDDING AT CANA (JOHN 2:1-11)
A SIMPLE "WATER" WEDDING...
This is a simple story with complex nuances. It’s a wedding story. A story between a mom and her messiah son. A story about new wine from stale water. But there’s also deeper meanings too.
First of all, this wedding takes place in Cana of Galilee. It was close enough to Nazareth (where Jesus lived) that you can see it. Only John records this amazing story, but it's part of an early WATER theme that bubbles throughout John's gospel. Jesus is, after all, THE LIVING WATER.
John 1: Jesus is Baptized in Water as Messiah
John 2: Water into Wine
John 3: Nicodemus and Being Born of Water and Spirit
John 4: The Samaritan Woman and Living Water
John 5: Healing of the Paralytic by the Pool
John 6: Jesus Feeds 5000 by the Sea
A FAMILY AFFAIR...
Some of the later gospels which never got into the New Testament add certain details to this story. One of the Coptic gospels tells us that Mary was a sister of the bridegroom’s mother. There is an early set of Prefaces to the books of the New Testament called the Monarchian Prefaces which tell us that the bridegroom was no other than John himself and that his mother was Salome, the sister of Mary. This would explain the vivid details of this story and why only John tells it. He was the GROOM. It was his wedding. At the cross, Mary and her sister will appear together again:
Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome (Mark 15:40).
“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister (Salome), Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene” (John 19:25)
There is no mention of Joseph. He’s likely dead by this point in Jesus’ life and that was not unusual. The lifespan of a male in the first century was around 40 to 45. Joseph was at least 20 when Jesus was born and Jesus is now 30.
A VILLAGE WEDDING...
The scene is a village wedding feast. In Palestine a wedding was a really notable occasion. It was the Jewish law that the wedding of a virgin should take place on a Wednesday. This is interesting because it gives us a date from which to work. After all, if this wedding took place on a Wednesday, it must have been the previous Sabbath day when Jesus first met Andrew and Peter, James and John (Matthew 4:18-22). If John is truly the groom, it's interesting to think Jesus invited him to be discipled and John followed on the cusp of being married. What a commitment! Jesus is the BRIDEGROOM and his disciples are the BRIDE (CHURCH).
The wedding festivities lasted far more than one day. The wedding ceremony itself took place late in the evening, after a feast. After the ceremony, the young couple were conducted to their new home. By that time ir was dark and they were paraded through the village streets by the light of flaming torches and with a canopy over their heads. They were taken by as long a route as possible so that as many people as possible would have the opportunity to wish them well. But a newly married couple did not go away for their honeymoon; rather thy stayed at home; and for a week they kept an open house. They wore crowns and dressed in their bridal robes. They were treated like a king and queen, were actually addressed as king and queen, and their word was law. Whatever they wanted, they got. It was their MOMENT. In a life where there was much poverty and constant hard work, this week of festivity and joy was one of the supreme occasions.
For a Jewish feast wine was essential. The rabbis said: “Without wine there is no joy.” Wine was not an abused drink in their culture. In fact, drunkenness was a great disgrace. Nevertheless it was essential to any celebration. It was actually consumed “watered down” (2 parts wine, 3 parts water). Hospitality was a key feature and a sacred duty. Jesus’ mother, being the aunt and sister, would’ve had that duty. It’s why she asks Jesus to deal with the problem of running out of wine. That act would’ve showed a failure to plan and was considered an act of inhospitality. It would’ve also been very humiliating to the bride and groom.
Jesus responds to Mary’s request with “Woman (Greek: gunai), why do you involve me?” Today, we would see this retort as disrespectful, but it was common in their culture to use that term interchangeably for both reproach and misunderstanding. It’s clear from the context that Jesus is choosing the latter. “It’s not his time” or “hour” to reveal his ability to work miracles. Mary knows he can do it. Jesus isn’t ready to open that can of worms. His answer was more: “Mom, let me handle this my way.”
Ironically, the word “woman” is the same word Jesus invokes from the cross to have John care for his mother as his own: When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home (John 19:26-27). It’s a bit ironic isn’t it that Jesus essentially begins his ministry with John and his mom at a wedding and ends it with John and his mom at the cross. They are bookend events. In the first, Mary’s sister Salome “gives away” her son John to Jesus. In the second, Jesus “gives away” his mom Mary to John.
Mary tells the servants at the wedding to do whatever Jesus tells them to do.
Nearby were six large jars for ceremonial washing. Each jar held about 20 gallons. A vase or basin was used to siphon from the jars for purification purposes. Water was required for two purposes at Jewish ceremonies and gatherings: 1) Cleansing of feet (which were sandy, dirty and muddy from walking the roads and paths barefoot or with open sandals). And 2) Hand washing. Strict Jews washed their hands before the meal and between each course. If the purification wasn’t done then the person was unclean.
Jesus told the servants to fill the jars to the brim. Essentially there were no added ingredients. No leftover wine mixed with water. No magic stuff added. Just water. He then told the servants to draw some water and give it to the head steward or “cupbearer.” When he tasted it who always tasted the drink first...to insure it was worthy and safe. The head steward was shocked. This was the FINEST wine ever. It was the BEST.
Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine is similar to Moses’ first miracle in Egypt of turning water into blood. It was a special, unique miracle. Moses was the first Messiah of the Israelites, leading them out of bondage from Egypt. Jesus was the final Messiah of all mankind, leading us out of bondage from sin. And both “messiahs” start with a water miracle. And Jesus’ new wine will be his blood.
THE JEWISH VIEW OF THIS STORY
Six water pots with water turned to wine. According to the Jews, seven is the perfect Divine number and six is unfinished, imperfect and human. God created in six days (human, earthly, physical) and rested on the seventh (divine, spiritual). Jesus works his best miracles out of ordinary, human stuff. He makes new, best wine out of old, stale water in crusty purification pots.
These water pots held 20 gallons of water that Jesus turned into wine. That was 120 gallons of wine. Even a large wedding party in that day couldn’t consume 120 gallons of wine. The point? When Jesus blesses, he blesses “beyond measure.” His grace is beyond imagination, greater than our sin, deeper than our understanding and the BEST thing our soul ever thirsted for.
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