The Sign of Wine



The Sign of Wine   John 2:1-12


Welcome to the wedding at Cana. Just as today the Hebrew wedding was considered to be the most grand event in life. Barclay: Typically the Hebrew wedding ceremony took place late in the evening following a feast. After the ceremony, the bride and groom were taken to their home in a torchlight parade complete with a canopy held over their heads. They were always taken along the longest route possible so everyone would have the opportunity to wish them well. Instead of a honeymoon they had open house for a week. They were considered to be a king and queen and actually wore crowns and dressed in bridal robes. In lives that often contained much poverty and difficulty, this was considered the supreme occasion. This is the occasion into which we step in this text.

John 2:1-12 (NRSV) On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 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.

This wedding feast was as important an event as a young Hebrew bride and groom could expect to enjoy in their lives. We cannot overemphasize the distress in Mary’s voice in verse 3 “They have no more wine.”  In Jewish wedding feasts, wine was essential. Not so guests could drink to excess but it was a symbol of exhilaration and celebration. Childhood dreams of the ideal wedding were about to dissolve in a nightmare. This moment provides the setting for the first miracle of Jesus. This is a joyous demonstration of the life-changing power of the Son of God.  The first sign. What does the sign say to us about Jesus?

1. What Does This Tell Us About the Family of Jesus?

Was this a family wedding? Perhaps since Mary was there and Jesus and his disciples were invited to be present. In John’s Gospel Mary is never named, only referenced as “the mother of Jesus”. In John we only see Mary here and then one more time at Jesus’ cross. The encounter between Jesus and His mother gives us only a slight insight – we do not read very much about Mary past the incarnation birth of Christ. She informs him that the wedding feast is out of wine. Jesus’ response has inspired volumes of writings as people try to understand his response. “We would love to have heard Jesus’ tone of voice here as in so many other places in the gospels.” (Bruner) Jesus’ hesitancy to act is ignored by his mother as she instructs the waiters to get ready to do whatever he says.

After this, verse 12 tells us, Jesus went to Capernaum with mother, brothers, and disciples. We know later that the brothers have a hard time believing Jesus to be Messiah. Jesus’ family was not perfect. His mother did not understand fully his mission. His brothers were not completely on board with his messiah complex.  His father seems to be missing after the initial birth stories, and it is is thought that Joseph has died. 

This is one of the few windows into the life of Jesus with his family that we have.

2. What Does This Tell Us About the Person of Jesus?

A rural wedding is the scene of Jesus’ first miracle, and we can appreciate that it was not a large demonstration. Bruner: There is a normalcy and wholesomeness about Jesus’ social life that deserves underscoring and imitation. … Jesus was clearly not a recluse, a hermit, or an unnaturally religions person. He was invited to meals and parties, and he came to a number of them.” This miracle of Jesus indicates his interest in the host of the wedding – that he not be embarrassed. For a Jewish feast wine was essential. “Without wine, there is no joy.” – saying of the Rabbis. More, he turned the water into a wine that was remarkable to the taste and abundant in quantity (150 gallons!).

Matthew 11:19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’

The friend of sinners – what a beautiful saying. Our challenge is to find something beautiful in every human being we encounter and encourage them to follow the Creator who made them. On an ordinary day, at an ordinary wedding feast, Jesus is about to do something extraordinary. Understanding Jesus as a real person who cared about people and spent time with regular people gives us insight into who he was.

3. What Does This Tell Us About the Mission of Jesus?

Jesus said to his mother, “My hour has not come.” We are reminded in the middle of this party that Jesus has a mission that transcends every other circumstance. “My Hour” is usually understood to refer to the coming crucifixion at Calvary. All through the gospels Jesus talks about his hour.

Jesus came into this world for a specific purpose. He steadily moved toward that hour for which he knew that he had come into the world.  (Barclay) 

John 2:11 “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.”

He revealed his glory. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,[d] full of grace and truth. ” (John 1:14)

The mission of Jesus to reveal to the world the love of God began to be seen at the wedding at Cana.

4. What Does This Tell Us About the Church of Jesus?

Though it will be some time before the church is established in Acts 2, it was a part of the plan of Christ to build His church… a gathering of people of faith to share the good news with the world. Jesus’ miracles in John’s gospel are ‘signs’ – they point to the truth of Jesus’ identity. They also inform the mission of the church. We follow in the footsteps of our Master and point people to Jesus. The glory that God gave to Jesus, he has passed along to us in some manner.

John 17:22 “The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one…”

The mission of Christ to save the world is our mission and we are the signs for an unbelieving world to see and follow.


In this simple story of a normal day in the life of Jesus we learn something about his family, his person, his mission and his church. The themes of abundance and joy run throughout this text. The Sign of Wine points us to the ideas…

*Jesus cares about our ordinary everyday struggles.

1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  

*Jesus is focused on his mission to save the world, and so we should be also.

*Jesus loves with extravagance … creating an enormous amount of wine;  it is still true that Jesus blesses us in enormous extravagant ways.

1 John 3:1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! …

*We shouldn’t expect little of Jesus, but pray BIG!

*Jesus is worthy of our trust. His mother said, ‘just do whatever he says’.

Psalm 104:14-15 (NRSV) You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use, to bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the human heart, oil to make the face shine, and bread to strengthen the human heart.


-Starting Wednesday January 24-

LifeGroup Discussion Questions

1. Every wedding seems to have something funny that happens. Maybe something went wrong or something was just funny. Was there something at your wedding that made everyone laugh – or something memorable that you always think of?

2. Sometimes we throw the word ‘miracle’ around loosely. What are some things that are sometimes called a ‘miracle’?  What constitutes a true miracle? What do you think of Erwin Lutzer’s clarification:

“A popular but wrong, definition is to say that a miracle is a point in time in which God intervenes in the world…. That definition fails for one good reason: It gives the false impression that God only occasionally intervenes in the world. … A miracle happens when God, who is continuously active in the world, breaks His usual pattern and does something extraordinary.” [Erwin W. Lutzer. “Seven Convincing Miracles.” (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999) pp. 16-17.]

3. What did Mary expect of Jesus in saying, “They have no wine”?

*Do you think that she understood him to be a person who could work miracles? 

*How do you ‘hear’ him calling her  ‘woman’?

*Why did Jesus remind Mary, “My time is not yet here”? How might she have interpreted that statement?

5. There are several passages that use the imagery of wedding / wedding feast to describe God’s love and relationship with His people. After reading the following passages discuss how each describes your relationship with God.

*Isaiah 62:3-5

*Matthew 22:1-14

*Ephesians 5:25-33

*Revelation 19:6-9

6.  Jesus’ brothers had a difficult time accepting him as “Messiah” (John 7:1-6; Mark 3:20-21).

*Can you think of some reasons why they struggled with this idea?

*What are some reasons why people sometimes struggle today to accept Jesus as Lord?

*What would you suggest to someone who did not believe? 

*What does our life have to do with the rest of the world believing?

*What does it mean to “believe in Jesus”?

When you have time check out Kelb Heitzman’s 6 minute lesson on this text. He always does a great job.

Next Week: John 2:13-25

Main resources for this week’s lesson:

Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of John  by William Barclay

The Gospel of John, A Commentary by Frederick Dale Bruner