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.” (verses 6-8)
Changing water to wine is a remarkable miracle, one that easily gripped my imagination even as a child. No wonder the disciples couldn’t help but put their faith in this One they had only recently begun to follow.
But there’s more. More than just a raw act of power, water into wine is an acted parable.
The starting point is found in six stone jars, which John purposefully tells us were used by the Jews for ceremonial washing. Those jars, in their full weighty capacity, represent the oppressive obligation that bore down on that wedding feast, indeed on the whole society. The rabbis, in their right-minded desire to live holy, had come up with a wrong-headed system of doing so. Obsessive washing of hands and utensils resulted (as much as any COVID-19 protocols). Extra requirements settled on a celebration like a wedding, so that families went out of their way to procure vessels with abundant capacity to meet the need. This family had done well, providing at least 120 gallons of ceremonial capacity.
It was these massive, weighty jars which Jesus would now transform into vessels of new covenant outpouring.
Filled to the brim, they stood ready. “Draw some out and take it to the Master of Ceremonies,” Jesus said. The servants, puzzled but compliant, did so. The M.C., sipping and tasting, pronounced, in the bridegroom’s own hearing, the newness. “You have saved the best for last!”
Unbeknownst to the M.C., it’s a statement of God’s Kingdom purposes. Here, in the Person of Jesus, the new covenant is breaking into the world. The old obligations are transformed. New life has broken through. Jeremiah, prophesying about the impact of Messiah, had said: “they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord – the grain, the new wine and the oil” (Jeremiah 31:12). The prophet Amos, looking to that day, had said, “New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills” (Amos 9:13). And here, now, the wine is indeed flowing. Messiah has come.
We live in the reality of this new covenant. The fullness is yet to come, but the weightiness of obligation is already overcome by new life in Jesus. The wine flows. His glory has been revealed (John 2:11). We, like the disciples at that wedding party, put our faith in him.
Lord Jesus, thank you that in you everything is made new. The weight of unbearable obligation is dispensed. The wine of new life is here. The celebration has come. Praise you.
Reflect: With this powerful acted parable in mind, reflect today on this prophetic word from Isaiah 43:19 – “See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up: do you not perceive it?” Watch for the new things he continues to unfold before you, in Jesus.