Signs & Wonders (John 2:1-11)






Imagine a world without signs.[1] Without signs we wouldn’t know what a box of cereal or a gallon of milk costs. Without signs we would not be able to navigate road trips and city highways. I cannot imagine trying to visit friends and parishioners in hospital buildings without sign navigation. Signs provide us information to guide us on our intended destination. If it were not for every day signs, then we would grow frustrated and lost.

Likewise, signs are important in the Bible. Biblical signs point to spiritual truths about God, life, and the journey of faith. The Gospel of John has seven specific signs of Jesus.[2] John uses the language of semia (signs), whereas the other Gospel writers describe Jesus’ work as miracles. Other common NT words for miracle are dynameis (mighty works) and terata (wonders, miracles). Scholar D.A. Carson says, “John prefers the simple word ‘signs’: Jesus’ miracles are never simply naked displays of power, still less neat conjuring tricks to impress the masses, but signs, significant displays of power that point beyond themselves to the deeper realities that could be perceived with the eyes of faith.”[3] Essentially, John’s point is that Jesus’ miracles have meaning. The miraculous works of Jesus are not the end but the means that point to something deeper and greater – that of the identity and power of God. Miracles in the Gospel accounts are not to impress the masses but to identify the Messiah. He has come in Jesus!

Today we will look at the first of seven signs that Jesus performed in effort to see more of the glory of Jesus. We will see 3 ways Jesus manifested His glory by turning water into wine.

EXAMINE John 2:1-11 Healing Failing Wine / How did Jesus manifest glory by turning water into wine?

1)   Jesus manifested glory in turning water into wine by revealing the believing (John 2:1-5).

John continues the Gospel by describing and revealing the identity of Jesus through a sign-miracle at a wedding. The wedding was at Cana, a brief distance from Jesus’ home in Nazareth. Jesus, with his mother and a few of His disciples were invited to attend the wedding. At the very least, the invitation to Jesus for this wedding implied His positive reputation in the community; and perhaps His joy for people, relationships, and marriage.

The wedding occasion for the Eastern world is different from Western mindset. [4] In Western world, the bride is the prominent character of the wedding. She chooses how the ceremony will be decorated, the guest list and music choices. In fact, when the bride enters the wedding everyone stands with all eyes on her.

But in an Eastern wedding, the groom is the featured character. He sends a friend of the bridegroom to conduct negotiations with the woman’s parents to establish a dowry for purchase. The reason for a dowry was the family would miss out on the workforce efficiency and required assistance for its loss (cf. Gen 29:18; 1Sam 18:25). So, the man pays for the wedding – – – which, as a father of four daughters I am herby instituting a policy #DowryForDadsOfDaughters!

After a dowry was agreed upon the wedding couple would enter a betrothal period; stronger than the modern version of being engaged. To separate from a betrothal period would have required a divorce (Mat 1:18; Deut 20:7). During the betrothal period, the groom would go prepare a place for his bride with the assurance that he would return to take her to himself (cf. John 14:2-3). On the night of the wedding procession, both parties would dress as elegantly as they could afford (Rev 21:2). The groom would come to the house of the bride and together they’d march through the neighborhood celebrating with music and dancing and joy. Friends would come along to help light the path at night (cf. Mat 25:1-13).

The wedding feast would last an entire week with guests coming and going. Again, the groom was financially responsible to host a huge feast of food and wine for the community (Mat 22:1-13). In return, the community dressed in wedding garments brought gifts to help offset the costs and to help the new couple get started establishing their family.

The wedding in John 2 shows the feast elements lacking with the wine running out and Mary taking notice. Mary approaches Jesus with the problem with expectant hopes that He would provide a solution. It is likely that Jesus has solved numerous problems for Mary previously, with the absence of Joseph probably for several years before this incident. Mary knew right where to turn.

However, Jesus’ response is abrupt: “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4). Jesus does not address Mary as “mother” but as “woman”. His response is not disrespectful but certainly isn’t friendly. In other words, Jesus was clarifying to Mary that if she expected Him to solve this problem she would have to relate to Him not as the authoritative mother-parent but as one who must profess specific faith in Him as God. Later after Jesus transforms the water into wine, additional disciples believed in Jesus too.

◊      The revealing those believing in Jesus is remarkable and glorious. Mary, the one who cradled Jesus in her arms, changed His diapers, and raised Him from boyhood to manhood, is now professing faith in Jesus as the Messiah. Her faith is reflected by instructing the servants “Do whatever her tells you” (John 2:5). Likewise, Jesus disciples have shifted from curiosity to a level of commitment in believing and following Jesus.

◊      Like Mary, when faced with crisis we must confidently approach Jesus as our only hope. While the crisis was small, it was significant to Mary. Further, we can observe that Mary’s patient but expectant waiting was an act of worship. We wonder how many times Jesus said, “My hour has not come”.[5] God cares about the small and the great issues of our life. (1Peter 5:7; Psalm 55:22; Php 4:6-7).

◊      Notice also that the wedding couple is mostly ignorant and impotent from solving the problem. The do nothing but receive the blessing of Jesus. We too add nothing to God’s salvation but our sin. God does all the work and we receive the blessing (Eph 2:8-10).

è Do you believe God for small & significant things? God hears and cares and all things are possible. “His arm is not shortened that it cannot save or his ear dull that it cannot hear” (Isa 59:1).
2)    Jesus manifested glory in turning water into wine by replenishing the empty (John 2:6-9). Mary was likely part of the wedding festivity planning being the one noticing the wine’s shortfall. The wedding was about to become an enduring embarrassment for the groom and bride. In fact, there’s an old rabbinic saying,”without wine there is no joy”.[6] Wedding guests of this small community of Cana would likely gossip and mock this couple for their cultural catastrophe. “[T]here is some evidence it could also lay the groom open to a lawsuit from aggrieved relatives of the bride.”[7]

Illus. My house running out of milk constantly. We go through about 2 gallons each week. Whenever my girls ask what I want for Christmas or Birthday present, I say a cow because consider how much money we’d save on milk! And it seems we often run out of milk at the most inopportune time… already poured cereal into bowl without checking the fridge for milk first… or when you’re eating reeses or freshly baked cookies… or when you need it for a recipe ingredient… Well, for this wedding party to run out of wine during their wedding was an even greater devastation.

Jesus responds to the crisis by instructing the servants to fill six stone jars, which held about 20-30 gallons each. Remember, six – in contrast to 7 – is a number of incompletion. Jesus does not send them to fill the wine vats but the jars of water used for Jewish purification rites; washing dishes, hands (cf. Matt 15:1-2; 23:25). Water was used sparingly; the amount of water needed for each person to wash each hand was minimal, about the size of an egg. So, providing 120-180 gallons of water would have been sufficient for a massive amount of people – symbolic of the whole world. And Jesus transforms the use of this water into wine, thereby implying the entire cleansing of sin for the world is available through the life and work of Jesus. The means of cleansing is no longer in Jewish OT Law but in the feasting in. Later in John’s Gospel Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:53-54). The point is to show how Jesus fulfills the incomplete; the gospel of Jesus and the NT fulfills the OT.

v  One question, why water to wine? Doesn’t Scripture warn against alcohol? YES, the Scriptures fully express the dangers of alcohol. Likewise, the wine cup can be an expression of God’s wrath. Yet, wine in itself – or drinking it – is not sinful. The possession and abundance of wine is a symbol of feasting in the blessing and provision of God.

YES – physically

Genesis 9:21; 1Sam 1:14-15; 2Sam 11:13; 1Kings 16:9; 20:16; Daniel 5:23; Hab 2:15; Eph 5:18

Proverbs 20:1 “Wine is a mocker, beer is a brawler, and whoever staggers because of them is not wise.”

Proverbs 23:30 “Do not associate with those who drink too much wine, or with those who gorge themselves on meat.”

YES – spiritual wrath

Psalm 75:8 “For there is a cup in the Lord’s hand, full of wine blended with spices, and He pours from it. All the wicked of the earth will drink, draining it to the dregs.”

NO – physical & spiritual communion

Proverbs 3:9-10 Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will be bursting with wine.”

Isaiah 25:6 “The Lord of Hosts will prepare a feast for all the peoples on this mountain – a feast of aged wine, choice meat, finely aged wine.”

Joel 3:18 “‘In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water.

Amos 9:13-14 “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when the reaper will be overtaken by the ploughman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills. I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit.’

Luke 7:33-34 – Jesus’ drinking was reflective of contentment and joy in relationships and God’s abundant provisions. 

è What “old wine” and old ways are you relying on for hope, joy, and forgiveness of sin? Jesus changed water to wine to alter drinking sources that lead to emptiness to one of abundance.

“[Jesus] performed this first sign to demonstrate that the old things were passing away and all things were about to become new in Him… the Old Covenant Judaism was ineffectual and about to crumble”[8]

3)   Jesus manifested glory in turning water into wine by renewing the abundance (John 2:10-11).

The master of the wedding feast takes notice of the wine’s exquisite quality. The custom was to start with the good wine and then once people have begun a level of inebriation, lead to the lesser quality wine. Wine in the ancient world was their main drink, in a sense to purify the water toxins; but was heavily diluted between one-third and one-tenth of its fermented strength.[9] The direct implication is that the Messiah has come to bring the fulfillment of God’s kingdom.

Isaiah 25:6 “The Lord of Hosts will prepare a feast for all the peoples on this mountain – a feast of aged wine, choice meat, finely aged wine”

Joel 3:18 “‘In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water.  

Amos 9:13-14 “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when the reaper will be overtaken by the ploughman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills. I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit.’

è  If Jesus can turn water into wine, then there is undoubtedly transformation that Jesus wants to do in your life.[10] Jesus desires to turn the desert places into gardens, dark nights of sorrow into days of contentment and joy, sin into forgiving grace, along with dying and death into new life.



John notes the transformation of water into wine is the first of Jesus’ signs, and He manifested His glory. And His disciples believed. In a sense, we are invited into this miracle story to see the sign and believe in Jesus.

–        Have you confessed your emptiness of wine; nothing to bring joy and nothing to remove sin.

–        Will you drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture (Rev 14:10)

–        Will you attend the wedding to come – the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:9)

–        Are you ready to drink from the water Jesus offers? “Let the one who is thirsty come – take the water of life without price.” Rev 22:17

–        Do you see the glory of Jesus?


– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


[1] Paragraph adapted from Anthony Selvaggio, The Seven Signs: Seeing The Glory of Christ in The Gospel of John – kindle location 55 of 1432.

[2] 7 signs of Jesus in John’s Gospel: 1. Changing water into wine (2:1–11), 2. healing the nobleman’s son (4:46–54), 3. healing the man crippled for 38 years (5:1–9), 4. feeding the multitude (6:1–14), 5. walking on water and the miraculous landing (6:15–25), 6. healing the man born blind (9:1–8), and 7. raising Lazarus (11:1–46). And perhaps an 8th sign (8 is more than the symbolic completion of 7) is Jesus’ own resurrection with the collective aim of all the signs to produce faith in Christ (John 20:30-31).

[3] D.A. Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary – The Gospel According to John, John 2:11.

[4] Insights from Fred H. Wight, Manners and Customs of Bible Lands, Chapter 14: Marriage Customs.

[5] Jesus’ hour/time was a significant theme in John’s Gospel relating to Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection (cf. John 2:4; 7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1; 16:32; 17:1).

[6] Quoted by R. Kent Hughes, Preaching The Word John commentary, page 61.

[7] Carson, John 2:3.

[8] Anthony Selvaggio, kindle location 268-269 of 1432.

[9] Carson, John 2:3.

[10] Inspired from Gary Thomas, Life At Ground Zero, p.48.

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