Obedient Son, Ultimate Purifier, All-Providing Bridegroom

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “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.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

You may recall that a couple weeks ago I said that what I choose to highlight as we move through the Gospel of John together is largely governed by John 1:14—“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” I think that John wrote this Gospel so that we today could be included in that amazing privilege “We have seen his glory.” The glory of the incarnate Son of God.

Show Me Your Glory

This seeing has huge effects. Verse 16 sums them up: “And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” When God gives us eyes to see the glory of Jesus—his beauty and greatness and worth—that seeing is the laser beam, as it were, along which great grace streams into our lives. Grace to love. Grace to rejoice. Grace to live forevermore.

So for every text I look at in this Gospel, I am praying: Show me your glory. Grant me your grace. Show me more of the greatness of Christ and grant me more likeness to Christ.

“Jesus Manifested His Glory”

Now in today’s text there is a verse that confirms that we are on the right track when we think and pray this way. After the story of the wedding of Cana in John 2:1–10, John says in verse 11, “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” So here John puts the focus again on seeing the glory of Christ. His disciples saw his glory, and they believed on him.

That’s why John is writing this Gospel. He wants to reveal the glory of Christ to us. And he wants us to receive the grace of believing. So it would be perfectly in accord with John’s intention if we ask now, What is the glory of Christ revealed in this story of the wedding of Cana?

Jesus’ Glory Revealed in This Story

I see at least three answers (I’m sure there are more): 1) The glory of an obedient Son, 2) the glory of an ultimate Purifier, and 3) the glory of an all-providing Bridegroom.

1. The Glory of an Obedient Son

What I have in mind here is that Jesus exalts his Sonship to the heavenly Father above his sonship to his earthly mother. So when I call him an obedient Son I mean the Son of his heavenly Father, not the son of his earthly mother. No doubt he was obedient to his earthly mother, but that is not the point here. In fact, I think Jesus’ words are intentionally chosen to reveal a radical allegiance to God’s will above his mother’s will—and above all human attachments and affections.

Let’s read John 2:1–4:

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”

That is a surprising response. I think Jesus knew it would be surprising when he said it, and John knew it would be when he recorded it. There was nothing cultural that says a man can’t call his mother by the title “Mother”—“Mother, what does this have to do with me?” (see 1 Kings 2:20). But Jesus says, “Woman.” His response isn’t disrespectful, but it is abrupt. It may be like calling her “Ma’am” in some contexts today.

Doubly Abrupt

This seems brusque not only because Jesus calls her “Woman,” or “Ma’am,” but also because he says, “What does this have to do with me?” That phrase (ti emoi kai soi) is used five other times in the New Testament, and every time it is spoken by a demon to Jesus. When Jesus intrudes in their domain and starts to exert power where they were in control, they say, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God?” (Matthew 8:29). The gist of this phrase seems to be: “I don’t want you pressing in here. You shouldn’t be coming to me like this. This is not your affair.”

So Jesus is doubly abrupt with his mother: He calls her “Woman,” and he says, “This is not your place to be calling out my power.” It does seem that his mother expected him to do something. We are not told what she expected, but we are told that Jesus did not approve of what she said.

Why the Stiff-Arm?

What makes this so significant is that Jesus goes right ahead and takes care of the problem by doing a miracle. So he could have said very gently, “Yes, Mother, I know. I’ll take care of it immediately.” That’s what he did, but that’s not what he said. That makes us ask why he spoke to her this way. If you are going to do what your mother has in mind anyway, why don’t you simply agree with her and then do it? Why the off-putting words?

I think the answer is that Jesus felt a burden to make clear not only to his mother and his brothers and sisters, but to all the rest of us, that because of who he was, physical relationships on earth would not control him or oblige him. His mother and his physical family would have no special advantage to guide his ministry. And his mother and physical family would have no special advantage to receive his salvation.

The reason is that Jesus was absolutely bound to his Father’s will in heaven and to no one on earth. This was the lodestar in his sky, and there could be no competing controls on his life. John 8:28: “I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.” John 5:17–19: “My Father is working until now, and I am working. . . . [T]he Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” His miracles are not at his mother’s disposal—or anyone else’s. He is entirely in the sway of his heavenly Father. He and the Father are one, and they have one will.

Followers, Not Family

Jesus had to work against the assumption of his day that his physical family had an inside track of influence and blessing. Recall the time that a “woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!’ But he said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!’” (Luke 11:27–28). In other words, people thought there would be a special spiritual advantage in being the mother of Jesus, but Jesus cut off that assumption, and focused attention not on physical relations, but spiritual relations.

Or another time the people called to him while he was speaking in a house: “‘Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.’ And he answered them, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers!’” (Mark 3:32–34). In other words, followers, not family, have a saving relationship with Jesus.

Faith, Not Pedigree

This is what we are seeing in John 2:4. “They have no wine. . . .” “Woman, what does this have to do with me?” (John 2:3–4). Your relationship with me as mother has no special weight here. You are a woman like every other woman. My Father in heaven, not any human being, determines what miracles I perform. And the pathway into my favor is faith, not family.

This is very good news for us. It doesn’t matter what family line we come from. Your parents may be the most ungodly people you know. That will not keep you from the favor of Jesus. Faith, not family, makes you his friend.

So first we see the glory of an obedient Son. Part of Jesus’ glory is his radical freedom from family partiality and his radical allegiance to his Father in heaven. “We have seen his glory, glory of the only Son from the Father” (John 1:14).

2. The Glory of an Ultimate Purifier

What I mean by this is that there is a reason Jesus chooses to use water jars that were appointed for “purification,” not for drinking, when he performs his miracle and fills them with wine. And the reason is that he means to point to his own death as the ultimate purification for sins that would nullify and replace the Jewish purification rituals.

“My Hour Has Not Yet Come”

Here are the pointers. First, Jesus says to his mother at the end of verse 4, “My hour has not yet come.” What is “his hour”? His hour is the hour of his death when he will die for sinners and make purification for sins.

  • John 7:30: “So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.”
  • John 8:20: “No one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.”
  • John 12:27: “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.”
  • John 12:23–24:“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

Jesus’ hour was the hour of his death when the Lamb of God would take away the sin of the world. This would be the ultimate purification, as John said in 1 John 1:7, “the blood of Jesus his Son purifies us from all sin” (the verb is katharizei which corresponds to the word katharismon in John 2:6).

He Goes Ahead with the Miracle

The second pointer is that even though Jesus rebuffed his mother’s request by saying “my hour has not yet come,” nevertheless he goes ahead and does the miracle. So it seems to me (and others) that what Jesus is doing here is saying, “No, the climactic hour of my death is not yet here, but I will give you a sign of my death. I will give you an acted out parable of my death and what it will mean.”1

Jars for Purification

The third pointer is that Jesus tells the servants to fill the purification jars with water. These were not used for drinking. They were used for bathing—for purifying. So it seems that Jesus wants to say that this is what “my hour” will be like: “I will take the purification rituals of Israel and replace them with a decisively new way of purification—namely, with my blood.” And keep in mind that in John 6:55, Jesus said, “My blood is true drink.” “Unless you . . . drink [the] blood [of the Son of Man], you have no life in you” (John 6:53).

So the second way that Jesus manifests his glory in this story is by giving a sign—an acted out parable—of how his own death, his own blood, his hour—will be the final, decisive, ultimate purification for sins. There is no ritual any more for cleansing. There is one way to be clean before God. John says it plainly in Revelation 7:14, “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” The glory of Jesus is that he alone, once and for all, made purification for sins. You don’t turn to ritual. You turn to Jesus.

3. The Glory of an All-Providing Bridegroom

In John 3:29–30, John the Baptist speaks one last time about the superiority of Jesus. He says, “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”

The last thing John says about Jesus in this Gospel is that he is the bridegroom who has the bride, his growing band of disciples. And the first miracle Jesus does is to complete what the bridegroom at a wedding could not do.

A Perfect Groom

John 2:9–10 shows that the groom was finally responsible for the wine as his wedding. Which means it was his shortcoming that let the wedding run out of wine. Verse 9: “When the master of the feast [not the groom but the head waiter] tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom [now you see who is really in charge of the wine] and said to him, ‘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.’”

And of course, the point is: No, he didn’t. He let the wine run out. That’s the way it is with grooms on this earth. All husbands fail to be all that we ought to be. But quietly, omnipotently, Jesus plays the role of the perfect, all-providing Bridegroom. Out of water comes wine—better than any husband could provide.

So the third way that Jesus manifested his glory at this wedding was that he showed himself to be the all-providing Bridegroom for his bride, the great assembly of all those who trust in him.

Glory Overflowing with Grace

Each of these three manifestations of glory—obedient Son, ultimate Purifier, all-providing Bridegroom—is overflowing with grace. From his fullness, we receive grace upon grace.

As the obedient Son of God, he is not swayed by family ties—not Mary’s and not yours. He is swayed by those who despair of pedigrees and trust his grace.

As the ultimate Purifier, he is not moved by religious ritual. He replaced all Old Testament ritual once for all with his own blood. There is one way to be pure before God—the hardest way for him and the easiest way for you: Wash your robes in the blood of the Lamb. Come to him. Live on him.

And as the all-providing Bridegroom, he never, never, never fails to give us what we need. The life-giving wine of his death in our place never runs out. He is the perfect, all-providing husband to his church.

Are You Washed in the Blood?

Therefore, as John says in Revelation 19:7, “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready.” Have you made yourself ready? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

  1. He does the same sort of thing in John 7:3–10. His brothers are going up to the feast in Jerusalem, and they know he can work miracles, and so they say to him (like his mother does in chapter 2), “If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” But Jesus says to them, “You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” But after they go up, “then he also went up, not publicly but in private.” The point is that the way they want him to show himself is not the way he means to reveal himself. So he does what they say but in a decisively different way. That is similar to the way he responds to his mother in John 2:1–10.