It was a Bible drill (Bible drill was a class we attended at church to learn how to find important passages in the Bible and memorize verses) question when I was in elementary school. “What was Jesus first miracle?” The answer; changing water in to wine. I grew up in a religious home where my family never believed in drinking, so this whole idea made me a little uncomfortable. I mean, if we weren’t supposed to drink, what is Jesus doing changing water into wine? Shouldn’t He be doing the exact opposite, changing Jack Daniels into water? It was difficult for me to understand that Jesus first miracle was to keep a party going.
While I could take time in this devotion to unpack thoughts on alcohol, there is a larger issue at hand in this story from the life of Jesus. But I will take a moment to share a few thoughts on the topic. First of all, the Bible does not have a strict prohibition against alcohol, but does contain all sorts of warnings about the drug contained in the drink. I remember having a Sunday School teacher tell us that this was nothing more than a strong form of grape juice, and that Jesus never consumed alcohol. Yet, it was pretty obvious, even from this story, that this is more than Welch’s in big jugs. Jesus turned water into wine. That being said, much care should be taken by those who choose to consume alcohol. Being drunk is a sin, and there is danger is the overuse and addictive nature of alcohol as a drug. Yet, sinning with alcohol is no worse than overeating or failure to take care of the environment. On the other hand, those who choose abstinence as a lifestyle choice need to understand that this position is not clearly stated in Scripture, so they should be careful not to judge those who hold a differing view. Whether you believe abstinence is the best position, or if you hold to a view of moderation (consumption of alcohol in moderation without getting drunk or addicted), be sure to hold your position in love for brothers and sisters in Christ. One more thing for the younger reader, if you are under 21 in America, the issue is moot because the Bible teaches us to obey the laws of the land (Romans 13:1-3).
But the issue of wine in this story is much greater than whether or not people at a wedding in the small town of Cana had enough to drink. Remember, I told you in the introduction that John uses the word signs when he refers to miracles. A sign points to something greater than itself. While Jesus miracle of turning six large water pots filled with water into wine is an amazing feat, there is also a much deeper meaning to this event.
Wine was a picture of the fruit of the grapevine. And grapevine imagery is used throughout the Old Testament to picture God’s covenant with His people (see Psalm 80:14-15 and Isaiah 5:1-7). In the Hebrew people, God had raised up a vineyard which He cared for and nourished. But that vineyard kept yielding wild, useless grapes. They did not honor their covenant with God, and did not trust and obey Him.
Still, God always had a plan for a New Covenant, a new vineyard, a new people (see Jeremiah 31:31-34). Jesus came and lived to introduce that New Covenant through His death on the cross. Whenever we take Communion, we drink the fruit of the vine which is a picture of His blood, which is the New Covenant. When Jesus turned water into wine, it was a picture of His purpose. Jesus was on earth to usher in a new time of God’s work among His people. God was doing a new thing, and that new thing was Jesus Christ.
While turning water in to wine may not seem as significant as raising a person from the dead or healing the sick, the deeper meaning is very important. The Messiah had come! God’s promised plan was here in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the new wine.