John’s gospel account of the life of Christ contains seven signs. This miracle at a wedding in Cana is the first of those signs of which the primary purpose is to point us to the true identity of Jesus. Thus far Jesus has been baptized by John the Baptist and has already gathered about half of the men who would become his twelve disciples. He has not yet performed any miracles that would reveal his identity to the public.
The story opens with Jesus and his family in attendance at a wedding in Cana. We’re not told what association Mary and Jesus had with the family, but Mary’s concern over the lack of wine reveals that she was likely more involved with the planning of the wedding than a simple attendee. She wanted the wedding to be a success and so when the wine ran out, she turned to the one person she knew who could possibly solve the problem, her son.
Jesus initially seems as if he does not intend to perform a miracle saying, “My hour has not yet come.” This peculiar phrase is found a handful of other times in the Gospel of John: John 7:30, John 8:20, John 12:23, 27, John 13:1, and John 17:1. Jesus’ response could be a correction to the motivation of his mother who may have seen this lack of wine as an opportunity to launch Jesus’ ministry career. Jesus’ firm rebuke is less a word against performing such an act, and more a loving correction to his mother’s misguided intentions.
What happens in this miracle? Jesus commands six large purification jars to be filled with water. Purification jars like these likely held between eight and nine gallons of water. This miracle involves a lot of wine, fifty-four gallons worth. This might seem a bit much, but Jesus was intentional with every detail of his ministry. Here in this moment, the abundance of wine was a clear sign that the messiah was among them. The Prophet Amos speaking of the Messianic Age said, “Behold, the days are coming when…the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it (Amos 9:12–15).” The age of the savior would be marked by a deep and abiding joy, symbolized by an age of abundant wine.
But there is another layer that we must reflect on before this story ends. Jesus has taken six large jars used for ritualistic purposes under the Old Covenant, and he has converted them into jars teeming with a symbol of abundance and joy. Jesus Christ came, not to do away with the law but to bring its full meaning and full potential into our reality. The old ceremonies and rituals are being fulfilled by Christ, at a wedding feast of all places. For Jesus himself is the truer and greater groom who has come for his bride. In Christ, every true believer is united in a covenant, like that of Marriage, that cannot be broken. The groom has arrived.