[New to our exegesis of John’s Gospel? Try starting at The Beginning — see top menu for John 1:1-2].
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.
Καὶ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ γάμος ἐγένετο ἐν Κανὰ τῆς Γαλιλαίας, καὶ ἦν ἡ μήτηρ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ἐκεῖ· 2 ἐκλήθη δὲ καὶ ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν γάμον. 3 καὶ ὑστερήσαντος οἴνου λέγει ἡ μήτηρ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ πρὸς αὐτόν· Οἶνον οὐκ ἔχουσιν. 4 καὶ λέγει αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί, γύναι; οὔπω ἥκει ἡ ὥρα μου. 5 λέγει ἡ μήτηρ αὐτοῦ τοῖς διακόνοις· Ὅ τι ἂν λέγῃ ὑμῖν ποιήσατε. 6 ἦσαν δὲ ἐκεῖ λίθιναι ὑδρίαι ἓξ κατὰ τὸν καθαρισμὸν τῶν Ἰουδαίων κείμεναι, χωροῦσαι ἀνὰ μετρητὰς δύο ἢ τρεῖς. 7 λέγει αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς· Γεμίσατε τὰς ὑδρίας ὕδατος· καὶ ἐγέμισαν αὐτὰς ἕως ἄνω. 8 καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς· Ἀντλήσατε νῦν καὶ φέρετε τῷ ἀρχιτρικλίνῳ· οἱ δὲ ἤνεγκαν. 9 ὡς δὲ ἐγεύσατο ὁ ἀρχιτρίκλινος τὸ ὕδωρ οἶνον γεγενημένον, καὶ οὐκ ᾔδει πόθεν ἐστίν, οἱ δὲ διάκονοι ᾔδεισαν οἱ ἠντληκότες τὸ ὕδωρ, φωνεῖ τὸν νυμφίον ὁ ἀρχιτρίκλινος 10 καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ· Πᾶς ἄνθρωπος πρῶτον τὸν καλὸν οἶνον τίθησιν, καὶ ὅταν μεθυσθῶσιν τὸν ἐλάσσω· σὺ τετήρηκας τὸν καλὸν οἶνον ἕως ἄρτι. 11 ταύτην ἐποίησεν ἀρχὴν τῶν σημείων ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐν Κανὰ τῆς Γαλιλαίας καὶ ἐφανέρωσεν τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐπίστευσαν εἰς αὐτὸν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ.
12 Μετὰ τοῦτο κατέβη εἰς Καφαρναοὺμ αὐτὸς καὶ ἡ μήτηρ αὐτοῦ καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ καὶ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐκεῖ ἔμειναν οὐ πολλὰς ἡμέρας.
New Wine for New Wineskins
The idea of this little exegetical exercise each week is to find some fun Greek rock to turn over in the biblical text cited and explore what’s under it. I enjoy doing that. Why else have the Greek text next to the English above?
This pericope eludes me, though. Oh, there are plenty of Greek words here to examine. Also, an “embarrassment of riches” (Raymond Brown) theologically that could keep us occupied for months. For today, I’d rather stray from our mission and look at this event as a painting that begs us to stand back and experience it all together rather than peer too closely at brush strokes.
Notice John’s economy of words as he moves right through the scene, telling the story without great fanfare over new wine, but rather driving on to exhibit the glory of Jesus and the belief of the disciples — likely the intended point. The miracle isn’t the star of this picture. If this were a Rembrandt, the light would be upon Jesus and believing disciples. Some large water containers and a surprised maître d’ sipping wine would be in the background.
Jesus’ mother won’t appear again in John’s Gospel until his “hour” has come — at the cross. She appears to be telling him that the wedding party has a problem: not enough wine. Perhaps Jesus and his followers didn’t bring the customary wine gift to the wedding. She might be showing him the consequence of that. Jesus’ response to her is not rude in Greek; more matter-of-fact. He seems to be saying it’s not time for him to be glorified. Nonetheless, new wine appears out of water.
The six stone water jars were used for Jewish purification rites and were quite large. Six is the number of incompletion. Water is bland and plain. You could say Jesus took the symbols of an incomplete, colorless, tasteless, even stone-cold religion and from it cause new, vibrant — the finest! — wine to be drawn from it.
Nonetheless, it appears not to be a simple parlor trick or sleight of hand. It’s not really about the wine. The Word incarnate, Messiah, has come, who is the New Israel accompanied by the Twelve, who calls forth a new wine.
Now, if only we had new wineskins….(hint: Matthew 9:14-17).