John 2:1-12 (AD 27)
Not a healing, not a massive spectacle, not a resurrection. The first miracle of Jesus’ public ministry was making alcohol at a badly-catered wedding.
Wedding celebrations could go on for many days and everyone would be steadily drinking wine, with the good stuff coming out first and then a few days bringing down the cost and quality when most people were too relaxed to properly tell the difference.
Mary, the disciples and the servants at the banquet were the only witnesses to the miracle. Not the guests, not the master of the banquet or the bridegroom. Jesus was starting his mission as he intended to continue: having a special concern for those most neglected, revealing himself to those who had been shown least love by society. He also saved the public humiliation of the family putting on the wedding banquet, without them ever knowing he’d done so.
Jesus had started to reveal his identity. And although he did so to a small audience, it was not in a merely sheepish, ‘By the way this is who I am’ kind of way. Rather, he “revealed his glory” (v.11). He showed himself to be the Lord over chemistry, over nature, over what was possible, such that his disciples – in their developing way – “believed in him” (v.11).
The quality of the wine produced left no room for doubt at what had happened. This wasn’t merely water that had absorbed some wine flavours from semi-porous containers, but the best wine they’d tasted at the entire days-long banquet. The quantity of wine produced – probably in the region of 150 gallons – also quashed doubt. This wasn’t a misplaced amphora, it was an entire roomful. Praise God for the quality of everything he does, and thank him that he didn’t merely hint at who he was, he made it plain. (A theme we’ll return to many times in the gospels.)
This passage is the one example we have of Jesus asserting himself with his mother, perhaps symbolically demonstrating what was already the case: he was the authority in the relationship not her. And yet despite the put-down, Mary knew her son well enough to know that he would help the people in front of him who needed it, and persuaded banquet servants to obey her carpenter son in committing a fire-able offence: passing off drinking water as wine.
If they were prepared – with what little evidence they had – to obey Jesus in a way that totally exposed them financially, how much more should we trust the one who has saved us and been true to us all our lives.