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Jesus’ First Miracle

It has already been noted that of the nine miracles John records that Jesus did, only three by recorded in the synoptic gospels. The miracle of Jesus turning water to wine is recorded only by John in 2:1-11, and was done in a village called Cana where other teaching was done and miracles were performed.

There was a marriage there and Jesus and His disciples were invited. An embarrassing matter for the bridegroom occurred. He had not provided sufficient wine for the occasion and Jesus’ mother, acquainted with the circumstance, said to Jesus, “They have no wine” (Jn. 2:2). Jesus’ response to His mother was, “Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come” (Jn. 2:4). Much explanation and specific ideas have been given in various commentaries about Jesus’ comment to Mary. Some see a rebuke in these words, but the truth is, if there was rebuke in His words to her, Mary did not take His answer as a refusal to help the embarrassed bridegroom. Mary said to the servants which were there, “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it” (Jn. 2:5).

There were six water pots available for the ceremonial cleansings that the Jews went through. These water pots were large, containing 2-3 firkins each (a firkin was a Jewish measurement equal to 9 gallons). Thus each water pot would hold 18-27 gallons and since there six of them, that would be an aggregate of from 108-162 gallons. This was a huge amount of water (and wine, as it turned out) for a wedding feast! The servants were commanded to fill the water pots, then bring them to the ruler of the feast (Jn. 2:7-8). The servants did, filling the jars up to the brim, and bringing the wine to the ruler of the feast. The ruler was astonished when he tasted the wine (although he was not aware of the miracle Jesus performed), and said to the bridegroom, “Every man setteth on first the good wine and when men have drunk freely, then that which is worse. Thou hast saved the good wine until now” (Jn. 2:10). In John 6 Jesus fed a multitude of 5,000 men, beside women and children, by blessing five loaves and two fish. When all had eaten and were full, Jesus commanded that the remaining fragments were to be gathered up. When they were, twelve baskets were saved (Jn. 6:13). Jesus does nothing meagerly. He provided an abundance of loaves and fish, an abundance of wine, and most importantly, an abundance of grace!

This miracle has proven to be a “tug of war.” Some reference the miracle as “proof” that social drinking is not condemned; that Jesus turned the water to wine and since it was wine, He would not have done so if it was wrong to drink it. Others are just as certain it proves nothing of the kind. There are two reasons why the miracle does not prove that social drinking is acceptable. First, the argument that this “proves” social drinking is permissible does not pass the test of how one establishes something taught by the scriptures. There are only three ways by which we may determine a Bible truth: by a direct command or statement, an approved apostolic example, and a necessary inference. An inference is one thing; a necessary inference is another.

One might argue (as some do) that because the word ”wine” today means something intoxicating, He therefore approved drinking in moderate amounts when He turned water to wine. The problem with this argument is that while in the first century some drank “wine” which  sometimes was intoxicating, also in the first century people drank grape juice and called it “wine.” Thus to use John 2 to “prove” that we may drink “intoxicating” beverages because people did drink intoxicating beverages and called it wine really proves nothing. People drank “wine” in the first century which was grape juice and was non-intoxicating, but they used the same Greek word to describe both an intoxicating beverage and a non-intoxicating one. The same Greek word oinos was used to describe both. Was an intoxicating beverage inferred from the word “wine”? Yes. Was it necessarily inferred? No. So unless there was something otherwise in the text to indicate what would necessarily mean John had specific reference to an intoxicating beverage, no one can conclude from the simple fact that Jesus turned “water to wine” that it meant either something intoxicating or non-intoxicating.

The second reason why this miracle does not prove “social drinking” is that if it endorses social drinking, it would also have Jesus contribute to drunkenness. The ruler of the feast said that the best wine was put out first and when men had drank a lot, then the lesser wine was put out. If people had drunk freely already, then to provide more “wine” would contribute to drunkenness.

The miracle did have a number of purposes, however. First, as with all miracles, it “was written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God: and that believing ye may have life in his name” (Jn. 20:31). It was written to prove that Jesus created the world and all things therein, and He could still multiply material things just as He did in the beginning. And, yes, it proves that He had compassion on an embarrassed bridegroom by providing an abundance of what the bridegroom had failed to provide.

Jim McDonald

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