John 2:1-11


But since this is a sign and not a miracle, the point is not, "Wow! HOW did that happen?" The point is, "Wow! WHO did that?"

Year C
Epiphany 2

Sunday between January 14 and January 20 inclusive

Read the passage at the bottom of this post: John 2:1-11, The Message   or   John 2:1-11, The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

Permission is granted for non-profit use of these materials. Acknowledgement in oral presentations is not required. Otherwise, please acknowledge source as, "David Ewart,"


This story is the first self-revelation by Jesus in John.

In John, these sort of actions - changing water into wine, for example - are not "miracles" - they are SIGNS. John does NOT want us to look at them; he wants us to look at what they point to. It is a complete mis-reading of this text to respond, "Wow! I wonder HOW he did that?" John wants us to respond, "Wow! I wonder WHO did that?" Wasting time discussing the sign is like going to a fabulous restaurant and spending the evening talking about the menu instead of enjoying the feast. (Click here to read my brief note giving an Introduction to John.)

Verses 1 and 2. "On the third day," is the first of two "on the third day's" that book-end John's telling us about Jesus.

The phrasing, "the mother of Jesus was there" at the wedding, and that "Jesus and his disciples had also been invited," suggests that his mother was there to help the women of the hosting household with the wedding preparations, and Jesus and his disciples were there as guests.

Assisting, being invited, and attending a wedding were social obligations that established / maintained / demonstrated one's social status and honour. Jesus, his mother, and his disciples are all there because of some existing family or neighbourly relationship.

Verses 3 and 4. "When the wine ran out ..." is not a comment on unusually heavy drinking at the wedding. It indicates that the host either has a shameful lack of friends who were socially obliged to bring sufficient wine as gifts (one of whom would have been Jesus). Or the host's friends have shamed themselves - and the host - by failing to provide sufficient wine.

Jesus' mother attempts to discretely redress this by speaking directly to Jesus. However, such an approach would break social taboos against women speaking to men in public places - especially since the topic is a woman's social responsibility - serving the food. The comment is certainly a challenge to Jesus' honour. And Jesus, at least initially, rebuffs her. (And remember that this "third day" is not that second "third day" which is indeed the time when Jesus' hour comes.)

Malina and Rohrbaugh (pages 67-68, see footnote below) make note of a pattern that appears in John.

Unlike Matthew, Mark, and Luke where Jesus almost always only takes action at the request of others; John is almost always the reverse - it is Jesus who initiates. And when others do make requests:

Jesus' response is always one of delaying reluctance, followed by compliance, and then conflict with hostile Judeans.
Page 67

We see this pattern 4 times: here (see Verses 13 and following); John 4:46 to 5:1 and 5:18; John 7:2-10; and lastly, the raising of Lazarus, John 11:1-8.

There is no explanation given in John for this pattern.

Malina and Rohrbaugh speculate, "Perhaps John uses this pattern to inform members of his (John's) group how to deal with their relatives and other natural in-group persons." (Page 68.)

My speculation is that it has more to do with Jesus' reluctance to perform signs for those who request them- and that it is precisely the performing of signs that increases Jesus' public profile and honour which bring him into conflict with the authorities.

Verses 5 to 10. Notice that the "sign" is "performed" in completely natural, normal actions. But it is "performed" at the direction of Jesus - as ordinary people do ordinary things that follow Jesus' commands. Nothing "magic" is said or done by Jesus.

The sign is also performed in plain sight but totally unobserved: Jars are filled with water, a sample is drawn out, the sample is tasted and found to be wine.

But since this is a sign and not a miracle, the point is not, "Wow! How did that happen?" The point is, "Wow! Who did that?" Which is precisely the point John makes in Verse 11:

Jesus did this, the first of his signs, ... and revealed his glory, and his disciples believed (into) him.

As Malina and Rohrbaugh comment:

In this Gospel (of John), a sign is something that reveals who Jesus really is. Jesus' signs are self-disclosures that provoke interpersonal affectionate adherence.
Page 69.

"Revealed his glory" means revealed Jesus' honour / his status with God. It demonstrates Jesus' loyalty to his followers - his commitment to them. And invokes a reciprocal commitment by them to Jesus.

As John himself says in John 20:31, his goal in writing down this sign is not that we should be amazed, or even that we should believe in Jesus. Rather his goal is that we should bond with Jesus / abide in Jesus - and receive for ourselves the life that is in Jesus. John's goal is that "seeing" will lead to life in all its abundance.

David Ewart,,
Short, easy to use, faith inspiring explanations of the meaning of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John for your sermon, homily, bible study, or reflection.

Note: Historical background information in this post is drawn primarily from Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social-Science Commentary on the Gospel of John, pages 65-72; and the writings of Amy-Jill Levine, et. al.

John 2:1-11 (NRSV)

   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.  

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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John 2:1-11 (The Message)

   1 Three days later there was a wedding in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there. 2 Jesus and his disciples were guests also. 3 When they started running low on wine at the wedding banquet, Jesus' mother told him, "They're just about out of wine."

   4 Jesus said, "Is that any of our business, Mother—yours or mine? This isn't my time. Don't push me."

   5 She went ahead anyway, telling the servants, "Whatever he tells you, do it."

   6 Six stoneware water pots were there, used by the Jews for ritual washings. Each held twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus ordered the servants, "Fill the pots with water." And they filled them to the brim.

   8 "Now fill your pitchers and take them to the host," Jesus said, and they did.

   9 When the host tasted the water that had become wine (he didn't know what had just happened but the servants, of course, knew), he called out to the bridegroom, 10 "Everybody I know begins with their finest wines and after the guests have had their fill brings in the cheap stuff. But you've saved the best till now!"

   11 This act in Cana of Galilee was the first sign Jesus gave, the first glimpse of his glory. And his disciples believed in him.  

Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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