John has taken the first chapter to prologue his story; telling us much of what we need to know about who Jesus was (Son of God/true Light/God’s Chosen One) and what he came to do in the world (baptize with the Holy Spirit/make transformation possible for human life.) The remainder of John’s Gospel is the fleshing out of Jesus’ story and all along the way John drip feeds his readers with little signs and hints of where Jesus’ story ultimately going.
There are so many minute details in these 12 verses that it would be very easy to get bogged down in them. Jesus has a strange conversation with his mother in which she points out the lack of wine, he asks her what it has to do with him, saying that his “hour has not yet come.” She seemingly ignores what he has said, looks to the servants and tells them to do whatever Jesus tells them. What is a reader to do with this strange conversation? Then there is the fact that this is a covert miracle. It appears that no-one knows what is happening until the servants take the liquid to the master of the banquet who is astounded at the quality of the wine he is sampling. What is a reader to do with such a hush-hush miracle? What are we to make of it? Like I said, the details are many in this story and if we allow them to, they will bog us down as we look for some kind of symbolic meaning in every one of them. To get trapped in the details here will be to miss the hints and signs that John is placing for us. This is just the beginning of the story and John has much more unfolding to do. As Beverly Gaventa states:
Instead of looking at the story as a puzzle to be “solved,” we might regard the elusive, vexatious, enigmatic character of the story as one of its primary functions. As “the first of his signs” (v. 11), the Cana miracle points ahead toward the mysterious story that is unfolding.
This story is a starting point. It is a sign post pointing to the things that are to come as John tells the story of Jesus. John has already stated in the prologue that this Jesus is the very Word of God; the Word who has become flesh and is making his dwelling among us. As these stories get told throughout this gospel we must know that John is making the point that in Jesus all the life of heaven has come down to earth and as a result a wonderful new opportunity is presented to humanity.
This story is about transformation. Jesus literally transforms water into wine and in doing so presents a hint of how different things can be when Jesus is present and, as N.T. Wright points out, when people do whatever Jesus tells them (as Mary had instructed the servants). In telling this story of substantial transformation John is pointing to the fact that this very same substantial transformation can take place in the lives of human beings. The same power of God which transformed the ceremonial washing water into the very best of fine wines is the very same power that can transform your life and my life too.
Stop there for a second and consider the need for transformation; your need for transformation. If Jesus can transform dozens of gallons of water into wine at a party is it possible that Jesus can transform your life too? The Cana miracle is only the first sign in this story to say that he absolutely can. I believe that is great news and I am excited to read on and see more signs along the way; signs which point to the fullness of who Jesus was and what he came to do.