In chapter 2 of John’s Gospel, Jesus is at a wedding in Cana, along with his mother Mary as well as his disciples. It is where Jesus will do his first miracle, turning water into wine.
There are a few significant things about this event.
First, Jesus chose to bless a wedding both with his presence and with the first of his miracles. In the very beginning, in paradise, God created man and woman and instituted marriage. This union is good for husband and wife as they become one and learn the art of self-sacrificial love. It is also an image of the sacrificial love that God, through Christ, has for His people. Christ is the bridegroom and the Church is his bride, and he will give himself up for her to save her. So at this wedding in Cana and through the associated miracle, we see not only Jesus Christ continuing to sanctify and bless marriage, but also get a glimpse of how this blessing comes to His church through his blood. It foreshadows his sacrifice and the Eucharist which gives us the blessings of this sacrifice continually.
Second, we get a glimpse of the fact that Mary knows more than we normally give her credit for. She is the one who goes to her son on behalf of the wedding host. She believes that Jesus can do something about the fact that the wine has run out. She simply tells him, “They have no wine,” and then tells the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” In between these two statements, we see Jesus telling her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” We are tempted to take this statement as a rebuke, but in the culture and language of the time, calling someone “woman,” was a deep term of endearment. Jesus, the “seed of the woman,” addresses his mother in similar language and notes that the hour for his blessing through wine has not yet come; it’ll come after the resurrection and ascension through the Eucharist. For now, though, due to Mary’s appeal, Jesus will act at this wedding to manifest his glory as the Son of God.
Third, the master of the feast, after tasting the wine that Jesus has created, says to the bridegroom, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Perhaps you can relate to this master of the feast. When you’re at a party, in the very beginning, oftentimes there’s a big show of opening nice bottles of wine, decanting them, talking about their provenance. A couple hours in, though, the cheap stuff comes out, because the assumption is that no one will taste the difference. Yet, the master of the feast in our reading sees that the bridegroom has done the opposite. The bridegroom serves him the best wine last, the wine – in fact – that Jesus had created as a manifestation of his glory. Jesus brought the best for last; everything that preceded it paled in comparison.
So, what we can take away from all this is that the bridegroom of the Church, Jesus Christ, has come in person to achieve our salvation because he loves you, his bride. The best has now come. What we now call the Old Testament Scriptures, as great and as good as they are, serve the purpose of pointing us to this bridegroom, even as the ceremonial water jars in the reading served the purpose of nursing forth the wine. Moses, Elijah, Elisha, all the prophets – as great as they are – are like groomsmen in the great wedding feast that is coming and that we have even now in part. Likewise, the apostles. They all serve the purpose of pointing us to Jesus Christ, the long-awaited bridegroom who has come to redeem us, the Church, his holy bride. He has given us the good wine.
And what’s coming for us in the future is even better wine. Now we receive God mediated through Word and Sacrament. We behold Him in the waters of baptism, we hear Him through the preached Word of fallen men, we eat Christ’s body and blood veiled in bread and wine. Yet the day is coming when we will behold Christ directly. We will die and our souls will go to heaven, but there is still yet a better day coming when our bodies will be resurrected and we will be reunited with our bodies to live with the Lord and each other in a perfect, fully restored world.
For when he returns, you will feast with him in person in the great marriage supper when Christ, the bridegroom, and the Church, the bride, are united in person in the new heavens and new earth for eternity. All that had preceded will pass away. All that had seemed so good at the time will pale in comparison to the joys that will come on that day. And we will all exclaim in joy to Christ together, “You have kept the good wine until now.” Amen.
(Image: By Андрей Николаевич Миронов (A.N. Mironov) – Own work, Andrey Mironov See also ticket:2015070410013036, http://artmiro.ru/photo/religija_zhanrovaja_kartina/brak_v_kane_galilejskoj/4-0-729, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59507390 )