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From water to wine: Thoughts on Jesus’ very first — and very real — miracle

The incarnate Jesus lived an amazing story. His early history — from the announcement to Mary of a divine conception to his baptism and until his triumph over Satan — prepares us to expect his work as Messiah to change the world. His teaching has been studied and valued by thinkers who do not accept his divinity. His sermon on the mountainside in Matthew has amazed and astonished people around the world because of its profound message of moral thoughts and actions. His miracles left the people of his generation awed and ready to believe.
The miracles, however, have been difficult for many to accept.
The first miracle, recorded only in John, tells about a wedding at Cana in Galilee Jesus and some of his disciples attended with Mary, his mother. John reports: “When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, ‘They have no more wine.’ ‘Dear Woman, why do you involve me?’ Jesus replied. ‘My time has not come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’”
Jesus then tells the servants to fill six stones jars with water, draw from the jars and take to the master of the banquet who considers the water turned to wine the best wine of the celebration.
Only the servants, Mary and the disciples know a miracle has taken place.
In the sequence of John’s gospel, this miracle shows the progression of Jesus’ power as he changes water to wine, multiplying matter (bread and fishes feed thousands), transforming lives (Samaritan prostitute, fishermen), healing blind eyes, crippled legs and leprosy, casting out demons and raising the dead.
Although the narrative is simple and direct, it raises several questions. What does Mary know that prompts her to turn to Jesus when the wine runs out? Has she seen something from Jesus’ early life that inspires her to think he can miraculously create wine?
Secular legends have several stories about miracles the child Jesus performed — clay pigeons he made that came to life and flew away or saving his brothers and sister when they were attacked by a bear and the boy Jesus caused it to die. Those legends seem to me to trivialize the majesty of Jesus and his work.
My personal belief is that Mary, who kept all the sayings of Jesus in her heart, was still treasuring the life of the person she knew was the Messiah. I imagine she had talked to Jesus about his experiences with John, his baptism, the wilderness fasting and temptations. Although Jesus seems to reject Mary’s overture, he does what she has asked him to do.  
The miracle of water to wine seems not to have the significance of other miracles recorded in the gospels, but at least Peter, Andrew, Philip and Nathaniel saw evidence that Jesus was “the Son of God” — as John had testified.
For many philosophers since the 18th century, the miracles have increasingly raised doubt. The growth of scientific thought has made it harder and harder for people to believe in the miracles of Jesus. The dependence on logic and cause-effect thinking eventually makes supernatural events and forces unacceptable. This naturalistic approach to the world removes from the life of man some of the most powerful values — freedom, love, human will, a foundation for spiritual life, community.
With the miracle of water to wine, Jesus affirms the value of mother-child relationship as he responds to Mary’s request. He also affirms the value of marriage and the community celebrating the event in Cana. He affirms the values of relationships with the men who have believed the testimony of John and those who passed the word about Jesus being the Messiah. The quality of the wine also affirms that Jesus seeks perfection of all things on earth. The simplest miracle by Jesus, whose incarnation is the greatest miracle of all, bears all the qualities that he seeks in redeemed mankind.  
Ultimately, as a believer in God, I trust the gospels and their accounts of Jesus and his teaching. I treasure the miracles, even those I don’t fully understand. It is clear that the power that gave the world shape and life a purpose is at work in Jesus to show the source of his teaching, his love and his miracles.
I question, however, the miracles of this age. Those claiming to perform miracles today do not act to glorify Jesus. Their teaching is not a reflection of Jesus’ message.  
Later we will explore how Jesus changed hearts and lives even as he turned water to wine.

  • Feedback
    Great article right up to your complaint against those who are “claiming to perform miracles today.” If you have seen a miracle that didn’t glorify God is was from a real Satan. If you saw a miracle that did glorify God then you’ve seen God alive and well. If you haven’t seen a miracle, then you perhaps need to get out more often
    April, 2 2009

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