The Gospel of John records Jesus’ first public miracle. It is one often joked about in the modern world, as He turn water into wine. It is the circumstances of the event that make it also one of the most believable of the entire canon.
Looking closely at the event we see that Mary (Jesus’ mother) has been invited to a wedding, and Jesus and His disciples as well. While the scripture does not elaborate on this, it is easy to find some inferences. Why would Mary, a woman from Nazareth, be invited to a wedding in a village 10 kilometres or so
away (a considerable distance in the day)? The answer would be that it was a wedding of a friend or family member. So why Jesus? Here again, common sense can prevail. Joseph is not mentioned, and seeing that Jesus is 30 by this time, Mary may well be widowed. Jesus was therefore her escort to the event.
Weddings in ancient Israel could last days, and the entire village would be invited. It is not surprising that the wine gave out. It is this that gives us some more clues, to the story’s authenticity.
Even today, we make it a matter of pride to put on spectacular weddings. Who today, would tell the guests “Hey folks, sorry we have run out, so the bar is closed.” It is not something that many of us would do. So why would the shortage of wine be known to Mary? The answer again is she is a close friend or relative.
So lets develop this even more. The groom cannot leave the celebration, or the immediate family of the bride or groom, without drawing notice. If you look closely at John 2:1-11 you will see Mary goes to Jesus and tells him about the wine situation. If Mary is a close friend she may well have been trusted with this news. Can’t you see the mother of the bride going to her girlfriend and saying “Can you send your son, and his mates to go get more wine?”
In fact, Jesus’ response to the news hints at this: 4 “Woman,why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. Remember at this point Jesus is yet to do a miracle, so miracles are not likely to be in Mary’s mind when she informs Him about the wine. So Jesus’ continuation of “my time has not yet come” seems to suggest, He knew His abilities but did not feel it was yet time to manifest them. This much like His refusal during His temptations to make a spectacle of Himself at the temple pinnacle.
What he does, however, is low key. He instructs servants to fill six purification jars with water, and draw some out for the master of ceremonies. When they do, the water has turned to wine. A good wine as well, 120 to 180 gallons of it.
There is the scenario. Jesus shows power over nature, shortage, and quality – all in one act. He does it low key, but it is marked by those present. It is recorded by the disciple “who Jesus loved” – John. It has come down to us, and like most of scripture was not refuted by Jesus’ enemies. If it had not occurred might not his detractors found witnesses from Cana to deny it? After all archaeologists have referred to Cana as a “modest sized” village and as such would not have had that substantial a population. Add to this that Mary, The Twelve, servants, the master, and the groom all would have been easy enough to find and cross- examine. Yet, it does not seem to have happened.
Instead Jesus’ critics rather than denying popular and witnessed events, use attack instead (see Matthew 12:24, John 11:45-47). The leaders of Israel seek to denounce, and then destroy, but not deny. Josephus continues in Antiquities to affirm: “About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks.” See how, this Jewish historian closely mirrors John 11.
So the story lives on, low key but remembered. Jesus often told people to keep things quiet (Mark 5:43, Luke 8:56), but the story was too remarkable to keep quiet. Cana to me is a case study of belief. It is in the end a question of whether the scripture is trusted by the reader. I do believe. I have tried here to give some rational argument for those who doubt, but in the end “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb 11:1).” If you can see the merit of the Cana account, however, build on it – “[for] many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name (John 20:30-31 KJV).”