The Seven Signs: Water to Wine (John 2:1-11)

The number seven was a significant number to the Jews.  The Hebrew term for seven “comes from the Hebrew SHEVAH which means ‘to be full, satisfied, or enough’… Perfection and fullness are… symbolized in this number.”

The book of John contains seven signs (semeion).  These seven signs are set forth to convince us that Jesus is the Christ.  John writes, “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name (John 20:30-31).

The Setting

The location is Cana of Galilee, located about nine miles north of Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth.  The occasion is a wedding.  Whose wedding it is, we are not told.  However, Jesus’ mother, Mary, seems to be very involved in helping host the event.

The difficulty is “they ran out of wine” (John 2:3).  This is an embarrassing, awkward situation.  What can be done?  Mary turns to Jesus, “They have no wine.”  Why Mary turns to Jesus is not clear.  What is she expecting?  Jesus could do no miracles until the Holy Spirit came upon Him (Luke 3:22-23 cf. 4:18-19; Acts 10:38-39; Matthew 12:28).  Such had occurred only recently (cf. John 1:29-ff).  Moreover, the first miracle of Jesus recorded in scripture is what occurs here at Cana (cf. John 2:11).  Some have suggested that she is not expecting a miracle but is asking for help or advice – “Is there something we can do?”  But, such does not seem to fit Jesus’ response to her (John 2:4).  Others have suggested that she has heard of the events surrounding his baptism, and that while he may not have done any miraculous works on physical matter, he has demonstrated super-natural knowledge (John 1:47-50).  Whatever her thoughts, she does approach her son with the problem.

Jesus responds by saying, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with me?  My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).  The term “woman” shows no disrespect.  It’s a common manner of address (cf. John 4:21; 8:10; 19:26-27; 20:11-13, 15).  The words “what does your concern have to do with me” are a common wording in the Bible (cf. Judges 11:12; 2 Samuel 16:10; 1 Kings 17:18; 2 Kings 3:13).  Here, it is being used as a mild rebuke.  Robert Taylor, Jr., commented, “Mary was not… the director of His messianic mission” (Studies in the Gospel of John, p. 31).  The words “my hour has not yet come” indicates that she is pushing his timing.  The term “hour” has a specific usage in John (John 7:30; 8:20; 12:23-24, 27; 17:1 cf. Matthew 26:45).  The term “hour” has to do with His glorification.  Mary may have wanted Jesus to be glorified then and there.  However, a miracle at Cana was not the way to His ultimate glory.

The Sign

Jesus agrees to help.  He instructs that six water pots, each with a capacity of 20-30 gallons, be filled with water to the brim (John 2:5-7).  [Now observe these facts – (a) Jesus never touches the pots.   (b) The pots are filled to the brim.  This eliminates the opportunity for something to being added to the water.]  Jesus turns this water into 120-180 gallons of wine.  Moreover, this wine is superior in quality to the earlier wine (John 2:8-10).

Did Jesus turn this water into alcoholic wine?  (1) The term “wine” is “oinos”, a generic term which can refer to either alcoholic wine, or non-alcoholic wine (grape juice).  (2) The Proverbs warn men not even to look upon wine (Proverbs 23:31).  (3) “The Talmud indicates that drinking to the accompaniment of musical instruments on festive occasions such as a wedding was forbidden” (Bacchiocchi, Wine in the Bible, p. 42.  Citing – Sotah 48a and Mishna Sotah 9,11).  (4) Under the New Testament, we’re taught (a) to be sober (1 Thessalonians 5:6, 8; Titus 2:2; 1 Peter 1:13; 5:8.  “Nepho” lit. “not to drink”).  (b) Not to be drunk, Ephesians 5:18. [Methusko “an inceptive verb, marking the process (to intoxication, B.H.)” Vines’s]

Objections: (1) The references to superior quality seems to indicate that alcoholic wine is in view.  This is not true.  Grape juices differ in quality.  (2) “Well drunk” (John 2:10) indicates that intoxicating wine is in view.  The American Standard simply renders this “drunk freely”.  There is nothing in the word which suggests alcoholic wine.  Moreover, IF this wording means intoxication, then Jesus provided more alcohol for drunk folks!

In nature, water is drawn by the roots of a grapevine and over time a grape and juice from that grape is produced.  Jesus accomplished in a moment what takes months to accomplish in nature.


  1. It is okay to enjoy life (cf. Proverbs 5:18; 17:22; 1 Timothy 6:17).  Jesus’ first miracle was at a marriage feast.
  2. Jesus respects marriage (cf. Hebrews 13:4).  Not only did He attend the feast, His first miracle was performed at this wedding feast.
  3. Jesus demonstrates power over nature.
  4. Jesus brings good things to man.  While Moses turned water into blood (Exodus 4:9; 7:20), Jesus turned water into wine (John 2).  Moses brought a curse; Jesus brought a blessing.
  5. Jesus can change things.  He changed water into wine.  He changed a sinner into a saint (cf. Acts 22:16).

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
This entry was posted in Jesus, Miracles, Seven signs, Signs, Textual study, Wine and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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