As we continue through the season of Epiphany, this Sunday we revisit the account in John’s Gospel of the miracle at the wedding in Cana. (John 2:1-11) It only occupies eleven verses but reflection and discussion on the significance and resonance of every word and action within this story take up pages in the commentaries on John’s Gospel – far too much to explore here!
At the heart of the episode is the transformation by Jesus of water into wine, which John defines as the first of the miraculous signs by which Jesus is revealed in his glory and as a result his disciples put their faith in Jesus. As we look forward, therefore, to seeking out these signs and rediscovering again, over the coming months, with the disciples the meaning of putting our faith in Christ, it may be helpful to remember that this episode follows directly on from the baptism of Christ and the calling of the first disciples, as well as pointing us forward to the living wine of the Eucharist.
When the wedding servants take water drawn from the stone purification jars to the master of ceremonies, Jesus has transformed it into something urgently needed for the wedding guests and something uniquely special.
This water which Jesus uses at Cana to become wine – the best wine of the wedding – was placed in the jars used by Jews for ceremonial washing. This was washing prescribed in Jewish law, an outer purification conducted as recurring tradition. We can contrast this ritual purification with the deep inner cleansing of the heart and soul in baptism through which we are transformed from mundane into becoming lives adopted by God, called by name as disciples to be a part of the new thing that Christ is doing in the world.
I think it is lovely that this first sign takes place at a party, a community celebration marking a new beginning, and that the wine which is gifted is richer than all that has gone before. Water, wine and grapes are recurring imagery of Christ, of which this episode is a foretaste, but I think that this miracle also highlights that when we are transformed by Christ into something richer than we were before, he takes our ordinary selves and makes us into people who are called to be full of joy in him. I wonder, if we were wine at that party in Cana, would the master of ceremonies recognise us as something special? Can people see that ‘wine’ in us today?
Image under Creative Commons from pxhere.com