From Ritual to Wine

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.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him (John 2:6-11)

Weddings Bells

Have you ever been to a really good wedding? If you have then it has probably left a mark on you. Likely your own wedding left a pretty good mark on you–hopefully in a good way. I have heard stories of people catching themselves on fire, while others locked their knees and passed out. These left a mark in a different way. Regardless of what happens, most weddings are redeemed by the joy that is shared between a bride and groom despite the rituals and blunders.

Jesus’ first miracle was at a wedding, and it is quite an unusual one compared to the ones attributed to his ministry later, but just as joyous. Here he changes water into wine. For years I wondered what the significance of this passage could be. And I certainly think one of the important things about it is that it “revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him” (v. 11). It showed that he was God, that he radiated the power of God, and encouraged the disciples to believe in him as God. However, I believe there is a deeper symbolism that John was trying to show us. One that reveals who he is and how we can approach him in worship.

From Ritual to Wine

The first thing to notice is that Jesus made the wine from stone jars for “ceremonial washing.” You see, the religious leaders demanded that your hands be washed before meals and other social gatherings, but this was never commanded by the Lord. Yet the leaders treated it as such and heaped a burden that God never intended for his people to carry. In fact, the only time ritual washing is ever commanded by the Lord was for the Levites who were entering the presence of the Lord (Exodus 30:17-19). The cool thing about this is that Jesus takes this extra-biblical, legalistic teaching and makes wine out of it. Wine in Hebrew culture was always a symbol for joy. So when the harvest was abundant it meant that God had provided, and something tasty was going to be made from that provision (Psalm 4:7).

Jesus turns the water of these ritualistic stone jars into wine and dispels the false theology that you must earn your way, or clean yourself up enough to come into God’s presence. His blood covers us and makes us able. He takes our empty rituals that do no good in making us closer to God, and says “you don’t have to do this junk to earn my love. You have it!” Instead we are granted free access into a joyful celebration with Jesus. Jesus is our wine, Jesus is our joy, and we celebrate that like a wedding each time we gather.

  • In what ways has your worship been an empty ritual? Have you tried to earn your relationship with the Lord?
  • Remind yourself that the gift of salvation is free from the burden of your works. Take time to thank and praise God for his salvation that is a free gift.

Chris Adkins, Worship Pastor