What is a miracle? It is an event that is supernatural, that suspends the laws of nature. A miracle is not a violation of natural laws, but an occurrence that transcends natural laws. There are four Greek words that describe miracles: “Dunamis” emphasizes the power of God; “Teras” underscores the wonder of God’s character; “Ergon” relates to his deeds of mercy; “Semeion” speak of signs that teach spiritual truths. Christ’s miracles were performed for high purposes, not personal convenience. They were not confined to a single sphere of life, but involved nature, human beings, and demons, and were generally done in front of crowds. Christ’s miracles did not depend on the faith of those involved either. There are 35 miracles recorded in the New Testament. Today we look at His first.
The story of the miracle is one of separation (1-5). Jesus’ days of seclusion were over, this was a semi-private, semi-public event. Jesus gave full approval to marriage knowing that later in the church age some would dictate against it (I Tim 4:3). Jesus ought to be the honored guest at every wedding. Marriage was His idea and He is the sacrificial bridegroom soon returning to take His church to His eternal home. Think about the contrast: Moses (law) turned water into blood (a miracle of judgment); Christ (grace) turned water into wine (a miracle of joy).
This is the second of four public encounters Christ has with his mother (Luke 2:41; Mark 3:31; John 19:26) and all of them appear at first to be misunderstandings that need clarification. “Woman” sounds cold, almost disrespectful, but the title is more like our term “Ma’am” or “Lady.” Remember Christ at this point is transitioning from His family responsibilities to His public ministry. Running out of wine would not only leave a lasting social stigma for the newlyweds but could bring a lawsuit. It appears Mary oversaw some part of the reception. She was left helpless, not unlike us without God’s intervention. “My hour” is a recurring theme in John’s Gospel. It spoke of the “hour of redemption” which was coming. Jesus had to follow the perfect timetable of God, not man. In faith believing, Mary gives the servants a command that all of us should follow– “Whatever he says, do it.”
Then we see the significance of the miracle and its attestation to Christ (6-11). What took place? The water in the pots were used for ceremonial washing for the many guests. There were six pots containing 20 to 30 gallons each. Our Lord is never at a loss, He uses what is available. The servants did exactly what Christ commanded them, even though they did not realize what had happened to the water until the host boasted about the wine’s quality.
One question we need to consider is this: did Jesus make wine? It would be diminishing the reliability and accuracy of scripture to deny it! You have probably heard someone say, “Wine in the Bible was grape juice.” When someone says that they are either being willingly ignorant or purposefully deceptive. The word used here is the most common Greek word for wine: “oinos” refers to the fermented juice of grapes. The Septuagint translated “wine” from the two most common Hebrew words “yayin” meaning “to ferment” and “tirosh” meaning “to possess or control.” Drinking too much wine caused Noah’s drunkenness after the flood (Gen 9:21). Nabal’s intoxication during sheep-shearing was the result of too much wine (I Sam 25:36-37). There are many Biblical warnings about drunkenness. Yet the drink offerings at the temple were wine. Wine is synonymous with joy and celebration (Judges 9:13; Ps 104:15; Eccl 9:7). In the ancient world they basically had two drinks: water and wine. Their water was untreated coming from either a stream or a well – adding alcohol to the water helped kill the germs. Also, without refrigeration their juices would quickly ferment. However, as far as we know, distillation wasn’t used until the Middle Ages, so with only natural fermentation their alcoholic drinks did not have the high proofs that many of today’s beverages have. So to compare most alcoholic drinks today to the ancient world is comparing apples and oranges. Today we have a large variety of non-alcoholic drink choices. We must ask ourselves, “What is the motivation behind drinking alcohol today?” Many who drink become addicted. Often the places people go to drink puts them in a sinful atmosphere. We must be very careful.
So what did the miracle mean? A miracle is a sermon in action; “semeion” is a sign, pointing to and explaining something greater. This world’s joy always runs out, but Jesus provides unending joy. Just as wine represented joy in Old Testament, there is greater joy through the new covenant in Christ!
The pots had been filled to the brim for external washing. Neither Judaism nor any religion can provide internal cleansing or joy. When the servants cooperate with God’s commands great things happen. This miracle displayed the glory of God and was the beginning of the proclamation of who Christ was. It convinced his disciples to believe on Him. Have you believed on him?