From the January/February 2023 Discern issue of Discern Magazine

Jesus’ First Miracle: Water Into Wine

Jesus performed His first miracle at a wedding in Cana. What does the Bible tell us about His miracles? What can we learn from His changing water into wine?

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The Gospels record 37 miracles Jesus performed throughout His 3½-year ministry, and John tells us that He performed other signs that were not recorded (John 20:30-31; 21:25).

Some of His miracles included healing chronic ailments, casting out demons, calming storms, walking on water, feeding thousands and resurrecting the dead. Jesus’ miracles weren’t done to entertain or make a spectacle, but to give a witness to who He was and the power behind Him.

What is a biblical miracle?

A biblical miracle is when something happens that is impossible according to the laws of the physical universe. A human being cannot walk on top of liquid water or feed 5,000 people with a few loaves of bread and some fish. Miracles require a spiritual force to intervene in the physical world to alter, bend or completely suspend physical law.

The Bible doesn’t mention Jesus performing physics-defying miracles until He was around the age of 30.

Was Jesus born with superhuman powers?

Before we explore His first recorded miracle, we have to consider just how Jesus was able to perform miracles. Was He born with superhuman spiritual powers?

The Bible is clear that Jesus gave up the powers and privileges of spirit-composed life when He came to earth. He “emptied Himself” of eternal spirit life and was “born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7, English Standard Version). He ceased being spirit and literally “became flesh” (John 1:14).

Why is that so important?

Because it shows us that Jesus was not born with some superpower embedded into His body. If His body had been different, He would have been only partially human. But the Bible is clear He was “in all things . . . made like His brethren” (Hebrews 2:17, emphasis added throughout).

Not “some” things, but all things. He experienced the same physical limitations of life that you and I do. He didn’t secretly possess superhuman powers like the fictional Superman.

Jesus made this clear. He said, “The Son can do nothing of Himself” and “I can of Myself do nothing” (John 5:19, 30). Jesus was subject to the same physical constraints as other flesh-and-blood humans.

However, it’s important to understand that though He gave up the power and glory of a spirit being and became flesh and blood, He was still God—God “manifested in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16). He was divine by His identity and origin (John 1:1; 8:58; Mark 2:5-12; Luke 10:18).

He was both the “Son of God” and the “Son of Man.” (To learn more about Christ’s divinity, read “Jesus in the Old Testament,” “Was Jesus Created?” “Jesus, the Son of God” and “Jesus, the Son of Man.”)

How did Jesus perform physics-defying miracles?

Jesus gave the answer in John 14:10: “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.”

The miracles Jesus performed as a human being were done through the power of the Father working through Him. The apostle Peter would later explain that the Father “anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38).

Jesus was able to perform miraculous feats because the Father “was with Him,” empowering Him through the Holy Spirit. It was His faith and total reliance on the Father that gave Him the ability to make the impossible possible (Matthew 19:26).

Even though Jesus never ceased being God (1 Timothy 3:16), it was only after His resurrection from the dead that all His divine powers—the same powers He had possessed throughout eternity—were restored to Him.

The wedding in Cana

Let’s now consider His first miracle.

The setting was the small town of Cana, located in the northern Galilee region. Cana’s exact location is uncertain, but scholars believe it was a few miles to the west of the Sea of Galilee.

Jesus had already begun His ministry, which, at this point, had mainly consisted of choosing His disciples and preaching.

We are told that Jesus’ mother Mary was in attendance and that “Jesus and His disciples were invited” (John 2:2). It’s possible that either the bride or groom was a part of Jesus’ extended family.

We are not given many details about this wedding, but we are told that the wine ran out prematurely. Perhaps more guests showed up than had been planned for. Mary informed Jesus of this wine shortage (verse 3). Jesus’ initial response was: “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come” (verse 4).

This translation into English can sound a bit rude. But we have to be careful about reading into the text a disrespectful tone that wasn’t necessarily there in the original speech.

Today, it would be odd to address one’s mother, or any female, as “woman.” But, in that culture, it was actually a common way of showing respect and courtesy to a woman (Luke 13:12; John 4:21; 8:10). Some translations use “dear woman” to bring this out.

“This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.”Jesus was respectfully telling her that a wine shortage was not an emergency He was responsible to fix. He also had to be careful about drawing too much attention to Himself this early in His ministry. 

Instead of relenting, Mary simply instructed the servants to do whatever Jesus told them (John 2:5). Mary didn’t know exactly what Jesus would do, but she expected He would do something.

Water becomes wine

There were six stone waterpots at this wedding for the purpose of ceremonial handwashing—a tradition of the Jews at that time. Jesus instructed the servants to fill these pots with water and “draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast” (verse 8). The “master of the feast” was probably like a modern-day wedding organizer and emcee.

What came out of these pots was not water, but wine. And not just average, bottom-shelf wine, but wine of incredibly fine quality. It was so good that the master commented to the groom that it was unusual for the best wine to be served that late into the evening (verse 10).

According to physical law, water does not ferment. If sugar or other substances are added, there can be a form of fermentation over a long period of time. But even then, the result would be tasteless and clear, similar to vodka. It would never become red or be mistaken for even the cheapest of wines.

What happened was a miracle. The water was transformed from simple hydrogen and oxygen to fermented grape wine. Since this wine was created by God Himself, it was undoubtedly the highest-quality and finest-tasting wine.

Why did Jesus perform such a seemingly insignificant miracle? Perhaps it was driven by compassion for the organizer and the family—to save them the embarrassment of not being able to serve their own guests.

We are not given any more details other than the miracle’s significance: “This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him” (verse 11).

They saw not only that He was an inspired teacher, but that God the Father was clearly working through Him to do the impossible.

Lessons from Jesus’ first miracle

Though turning water into wine may not seem as life-changing as the miracles that Jesus later performed, it still holds lessons for us today. What can we learn from the miracle at Cana?

  1. Jesus honored His mother. Though He was initially reluctant to intervene, it seems Jesus did so mainly because His mother asked Him. Jesus perfectly practiced the Fifth Commandment to honor His parents. He treated His physical mother with concern and respect.
  2. Jesus was not anti-alcohol. The Greek word translated wine is oinos, which means fermented wine derived from grapes. Though a Christian has every right to abstain from alcohol, enjoying alcohol in moderation is not sinful. Drunkenness, however, is a sin that can keep someone out of God’s Kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:10). To learn more about this topic, read “Is Drinking Alcohol a Sin?
  3. God is a God of excellence and quality. One of the most interesting aspects of this miracle was the comment about the excellent quality of the wine. This wine was created by God Himself and didn’t come from any earthly vineyard or winery. God’s majesty speaks to His excellence and perfection (Psalm 18:30; Isaiah 33:21). Christians should also strive for excellence in their lives (Ecclesiastes 9:10; Matthew 5:48).
  4. God cares about us—even in the little things. This miracle shows us that there’s nothing too insignificant to take to God in prayer. Though no one’s life was threatened by a wine shortage, Mary still asked Jesus to help. We can take our concerns, both small and large, to God. Peter later encouraged Christians to cast “all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Jesus would go on to perform more than 36 other powerful miracles, many of which dramatically changed the lives of people for the better. But He started by turning water into wine by His faith in the Father’s power over the impossible. We can develop that same faith as we strive to . . .

Walk as He walked.

About the Author

Erik Jones

Erik Jones

Erik Jones is a full-time writer and editor at the Life, Hope & Truth offices in McKinney, Texas.

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