August 25 – John 2:1-12

by Aug 22, 2019Discussion Guides, Kingdom of Love0 comments

Passage Intro

It’s worth pointing out clearly and emphatically that this passage is not about the wine. Wine is a merry little secondary character in this story, showing up only to tell us something about the hero, Jesus.

As John documents in 2:11, turning water into wine was Jesus’ first sign. You might remember from the series intro that this begins the big section of John’s Gospel called the Book of Signs. While we read the word sign as a synonym for miracle, don’t miss what the word itself means; this supernatural work is meant to be a signpost pointing towards or indicating something significant. In this case that something isn’t just Jesus’ miraculous power. This is about the Messianic Kingdom. Jews in Jesus’ time understood that Kingdom to be marked by abundance and provision from God himself. Check out Isaiah 25, which talks about God’s kingdom in Zion after Judgment Day:

Isaiah 25:6-9

6 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
7 And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
8 He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken.
9 It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the LORD; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

This is reminiscent of the great feast enjoyed by the saints in Revelation 19. This picture of abundance tells us about God’s abundant grace towards us, not only did he save us from our sin, he plans to sit down at a table with us, a table full of good food and good wine where our hearts are glad in him.

Other aspects of this story elaborate add to this core message. Jesus performed this miracle in jars filled with water for ceremonial washings, placed by the entrance so that people could join the party ritually cleansed. He quite literally turned a symbol of lifeless ritual into a symbol of joy. The circumstance of the party running out of wine perhaps indicates the spiritual status of Jesus’ world, having entirely run out of and desperately seeking after something merely to gladden the heart, only to receive something so much more than mere wine.

What this passage says about alcohol
Considering the core of this passage isn’t about the wine, this isn’t the primary point of the passage. Nevertheless, we can in fact use this passage to better understand God’s attitude towards alcohol. There’s much debate about what the drink being enjoyed at this wedding actually was; some evidence points to first-century Jews watering their wine down, resulting in a much weaker alcoholic beverage than the wine we drink. But reading things like Psalm 104:14-15, “[God]…provides…wine that gladdens the heart of man,” points us in the right direction. The passage above from Isaiah indicates God himself serving a banquet in the coming Kingdom with refined wine. Based on these passages we simply can’t conclude that his general disposition towards wine, and by extension other alcoholic drinks, is contrary, either in the present or the coming Kingdom. This is a much longer conversation if we take into account beliefs about underage drinking, wisdom for those given to alcoholism, and how alcohol affects our evangelism in different circles. But for an overview we can say from scripture that God is not against alcohol, but is seriously against abusing alcohol; check out Galatians 5:19-24 for his attitude towards drunkenness. So while this passage can hint at how God relates to alcohol, it can even more effectively help us understand how we ourselves can relate to alcohol. If you drink, give this a shot (pun intended): the next time you have a glass of wine, consider what that glass can tell you about the coming Kingdom that Jesus was pointing to in this passage. God uses wine frequently in scripture as a symbol of his rich blessings. Imagine how blessed we’ll be on that day we’ve waited for, enjoying age-old wine in the presence of the King. Just like this passage isn’t just about the wine but something and Someone far greater, simple actions like enjoying a glass of wine among friends can turn into worship, going beyond appreciation of the gift to appreciation of the Giver.

Questions for Discussion

• Can someone read John 2:1-12 for us?

• What stood out to you from this section?

• What can this miracle tell us about Jesus?

• Turn to Isaiah 25:6-9. Could someone read that for us?

• Why do you think God is going to do this?

• How does this idea of feasting with God compare or contrast with your understanding of the Christian life?

• How does this passage relate to what Jesus was doing at the wedding in Cana?