Jesus’ first miracle, interestingly enough, was performed at a local marriage feast. John 2:1-11 records the entire event, with v. 11 providing the ordinal information: “This beginning of His signs did Jesus in Cana of Galilee…”
This was a rather obscure event, or would have been, had it not been Jesus’ chosen venue to begin His miraculous work on Earth. This provided it fame for all time! All Bible scholars know of the “wedding in Cana.”
There is much we don’t know about this event—among other things, we don’t even know who the anonymous couple was. What we do know is that weddings are joyous affairs, times of celebration no matter the age or culture. Jesus attended the wedding, and stayed for the feast after—we might say today “the reception as well as the ceremony.” Here is a glimpse of Christ (and His disciples, v. 2) in a purely social setting, relaxing, enjoying themselves, celebrating with friends. We don’t often see this side of our Lord in the Bible, for the Holy Spirit had much more solemn issues with which to deal. But the occasional peek reminds us He was a real person, that when He “partook of flesh and blood”, Heb. 2:14, He was truly “made in all things like unto His brethren,” v. 17. He “had a life” just like the rest of us, had friends whom He loved socially (see John 11:3, 5), with whom He rejoiced at their life-milestones.
Make note: There’s nothing wrong with celebrating, rejoicing; Christianity isn’t the solemn, humorless, cheerless existence some charge us with. There is a perception that one can’t have any fun unless he’s drinking, carousing, generally living like the Devil. We can go a long way toward dispelling that notion by remembering to occasionally put aside our responsibilities—and they are grave—to relax and enjoy ourselves with friends in happy social occasions of all kinds.
There is also some interesting sort-of-related background that lends a little human interest: Consider for a moment the disciple Nathaniel who, when first told about Jesus of Nazareth said “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). Because of this, Nathaniel is often characterized as a social snob looking down his nose as a little provincial town in distant Galilee. But John 21:2, in listing several of the disciples, includes “Nathaniel, of Cana in Galilee”! Cana was Nathaniel’s home town; a quick look at a map of the times shows Cana and Nazareth only about 6 miles apart. There must have been a “home-town rivalry” between these two, even as we often experience today; Nathaniel’s disparaging remark may well have been a casual, offhand, even habitual response rather than a deep-seated prejudice. Nazarites may well have said similar things: “Can anything good come out of Cana?” with no real malice intended or construed. Minnesotans say today “The best thing to come out of Iowa is I-35!” with Iowa returning in kind (exactly the same “dig” is used between Oklahoma and Texas!). Perhaps we could be a little kinder in our estimation of Nathaniel, the “disciple from Cana.”
So that gives us a sense of familiarity with the atmosphere if nothing else. But of course none of that has anything to do with the wedding itself. Here are some things we do know about the event: Jesus and His disciples were there by specific invitation, v. 2, His mother having received her own invitation, v. 1, since Jesus had sometime before left home to dwell in “Capernaum by the sea,” Matthew 4:13. These, then, were close acquaintances, friends of the family, probably people of modest means even as was Jesus’ own family.
That may explain the unexpected shortage of wine: Perhaps working within a modest budget allowing only the minimum, no room for reserves, their estimate turned out to be a little low, and too soon “the wine failed,” John 2:3. So as the festivities continue, there’s no more wine—Can you imagine it? Surely an awkward, embarrassing, even mortifying development for the family! And Mary, perhaps the first to notice, “saith unto Him, They have no wine.” That’s all. She trusted He could fix it, but not how, and didn’t presume to tell Him. To the servants, she said, v. 5 “Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it.” “I don’t know what He’ll do, but He’ll do something.” A pretty good reminder for all of us: Bring your problems to Christ, and trust Him to find a solution! But how many times do we pray, “Here’s a problem I have, and here’s what I want You to do about it!” Mary didn’t say “You need to turn some water into more wine for them,” or anything like it. Just “Here’s a problem.” Think of another desperate need among Jesus’ dear friends, when Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus fell seriously ill: John 11:3 They sent the message to Jesus “He whom Thou lovest is sick.” Not “come lay your hands on him and heal him,” not even “come”—they simply described the crisis, and trusted He would do what was needful. So must we.
Some might think God couldn’t be bothered with the problem of insufficient provisions at a wedding-feast; that it would be trivial to Him. But some might not know our God well enough! God “clothed the grass of the field” in glorious array, Matthew 6:28-30, even though “today it is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven.” Luke 12:6-7 asserts “Are not 5 sparrows sold for 2 pence? And not one of them is forgotten in the sight of God…the very hairs of your head are numbered.” He is a God of great things, yes; equally so a God of small things. Nothing is beneath His attention.
“They have no wine,” His mother said. The purpose of miracles—all miracles, even this one—was to deliver and confirm God’s truth. Mark 16:20 and Hebrews 2:3-4 make this plain. But it is entirely in character for our Lord to choose for His first miracle, an occasion that would secondarily prevent great social embarrassment for a young couple just starting their life journey together. Consider it simply one more measure of His limitless compassion, even in seemingly insignificant things.
“They have no wine”—and notice what we don’t read of next: No fanfare, no show, no uttering mystical incantations, no waving of the hands, no dramatic staging at all: A miracle, performed virtually behind the scenes! He told the servants “Take these waterpots and fill them with water”; then “Now draw some out”—and just like that, it was wine; and not just any wine, but the best, v. 10. True miracles carried their own drama, impact; no need for special staging to bring attention to it. Those who follow so-called “miracle-workers” today might do well to take heed to that.
Here’s an interesting contrast: Not long after this, in the nearby village of Nain, Jesus would raise a grieving widow’s only son from the dead (Luke 7:11-15). At Cana, He added to the World’s joy; at Nain, He subtracted from the World’s pain. From Cana to Nain is not very far—each lies about 6 miles from Nazareth, in opposite directions. From a wedding to a funeral, from joy to grief, isn’t very far either, for any of us. If you are a Christian, here’s your blessing: Christ attends both—one, to add to your joy; the other, to take from your grief. He is the epitome of Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with them that rejoice; weep with them that weep.” Worthy footsteps for us to follow.
So what can we learn from a wedding in Cana?
God wants us to enjoy social events; they are very much a part of life. Even Christ’s did, while He lived here as a man. “Rejoice with them that rejoice,” Romans 12:15. Don’t be ashamed of having a good time with your family and friends!
God is a God of small things as well as great, Matthew 6:26-30. If a thing is of concern to you, no matter how trivial, it’s a concern to God too. If you would tell your best friend about it, you can tell God about it. Bring Him your problems, large and small—as well as your gratitude for even small blessings.
Let God come up with the solution to our problems, John 2:3; 11:3. Did you ever pray “God, here’s my situation and here’s how I want You to fix it!”? Sometimes our prayers become instructions instead of entreaties! Mary simply said “They have no wine”; Lazarus’ sisters “He whom Thou lovest is dead.” If you’re going to turn it over to God, let God take care of it—His way!
Learn from a wedding!