The Real Reason Jesus Turned the Water into Wine

Jesus' first miracle was kind of mundane as far as miracles go.

Yes, changing water into wine is, no doubt, an amazing feat, but it seems kind of out of place in the oeuvre of Christ. Typically Jesus' miracles involved meeting a deep need: healing, feeding, saving His disciples from storms.

But water into wine? No one was going to die if they ran out of wine.

Loci Lenar (CC)

Perhaps this is why Jesus was reluctant when his mom came to him for help. Providing more booze for an unprepared wedding party was hardly an urgent matter.

But I think Jesus saw it as an opportunity to make a larger point.

The real reason Jesus turned water into wine was to foreshadow the transition from Old Covenant to New, by His death on the cross.

There are five reasons why I believe this is true. But first let's take a look at the passage from John 2:

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.
Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”
They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”
Verses 1-10

So here are five reasons this miracle was about more than wine:

1. John uses the phrase, "On the third day . . ."

Sound familiar? From the start, John invokes the death and resurrection. This detail is not insignificant, but a foreshadow of what was to happen to Jesus: "God raised him from the dead on the third day" (Acts 10:40).

2. Jesus says, "My hour has not yet come."

In the context of John 2, Jesus means to say that it is not yet time to begin His ministry. But John uses this same language two more times (7:30, 8:20) to allude to His death.

3. Jesus used ceremonial jars meant for washing.

That Jesus had the servants fill ceremonial jars may seem like a small detail. But rest assured, it was no accident.

Chapters 11-15 in the book of Leviticus discuss in detail regulations for cleanliness in all manners of life: food, purification after childbirth, skin diseases, and so on. When a Hebrew became "unclean" Mosaic law invariably instructed him or her to wash with water. Take Leviticus 14:8 as an example:

The person to be cleansed must wash their clothes, shave off all their hair and bathe with water; then they will be ceremonially clean.

This of course is all part of the Law of Moses, the Old Covenant. These regulations culminate in an annual event called the Day of Atonement by which, through animal sacrifice and the release of a scapegoat, the high priest could atone for the sins of Israel. But before he could do so he had to put on the sacred garments. Oh yeah, and he had to wash too:

These are sacred garments; so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on. Leviticus 16:4

After offering sacrifices and casting out the scapegoat, he had to wash again:

He shall bathe himself with water in the sanctuary area and put on his regular garments. Leviticus 16:24a

By making use of the ceremonial jars Jesus show us that, where once we had to wash ourselves with water, now He will wash us by His blood.

(Think about it this way. Jesus didn't need water to make wine; He could have made wine appear from nothing.)

4. Jesus uses wine to represent blood at the Last Supper.

Jesus discussed the New Covenant in the upper room, comparing the wine to His blood which would soon be shed "for the forgiveness of sins" (Mat. 26:28).

It's not unreasonable that He would use the same analogy at Cana. His metaphor here is subtler since His hour had not yet come.

5. The master says, "You have saved the best till now."

The blood of animals for sacrifice was cheap. It only cost Israel a few meals.

The blood of our Lord, though, is precious. God saved His best, His own son for us.

The best part of the story is that it takes place in the context of a wedding. What is a wedding but a covenant ceremony?

Thanks to the provision of Christ, we can be joined to Him in a covenant relationship. He provided the blood for atonement. Where we lack, Jesus is there turning our water into wine.

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  1. I looked up the turning water into wine in researching why the religious leaders of the day didn't believe they needed to be saved, washed by the blood of Jesus. I am sooo grateful that your article came up in my search.The insightfulness of your article helped me tremendously to see the miracle of water turned into wine, a miracle I had never understood as significant til now, and how it related to the the Old Testament which I had neglected in my studies as irrelevent. Thank you!

    1. You're welcome! So glad I could be of help. John's gospel is a rich tapestry layered with meaning in nearly every verse.

  2. Andrew. Indeed your observation is very clear. I would also like to add - what began with water is also what finished his human death. John 19:34-36 “But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe.”
    ‭The gospel is true, God/Jesus Christ is the Alpha and the Omega. We need continual reminding, renewing until our time or his time has come

    1. Sometimes it's hard not knowing God's timing isn't it? Thank you for the comment!

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