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LIFE > Life in the World > Drinkers of Wine > Jesus and Wine > Wedding at Cana  


Custom at the time of Christ dictated that the bridegroom and his family provide wine and food, in reality, a feast which could last up to seven days for the wedding guests. Such hospitality was expected and greatly enjoyed by the friends of the bride and bridegroom. The master of the feast regulated the distribution of wine, and to give out of wine at this special time was a great embarrassment for him and especially for the family. It was a social disgrace, for a wedding must have wine. To the Jews wine was synonymous with festivity and rejoicing; it was part of their culture and was served at every wedding.

The Hebrew people enjoyed life and the good things of life; and a wedding was one of the occasions they celebrated life with merriment and joy. The wise man had observed: “A feast is made for laughter, and wine (yayin; see: Noah) makes merry” (Eccles. 10:19).

Jesus, His disciples, and His mother were invited to a wedding in Cana of Galilee. At the wedding, the wine gave out. Mary informed Jesus, saying to Him: “They have no wine (oinos)” (Jo. 2:3). She then told the servants to do what He said.

Upon His instructions they took six waterpots, filled them with water, and took some of the liquid from the waterpots to the master of the feast. Upon tasting the liquid brought by the servants, he said to the  bridegroom: “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine (oinos), and when the guests have well drunk, then that which is inferior; but you have kept the good wine (oinos) until now” (v. 10).

Jesus turned water into wine! And the wine was “good.” It was the best wine. Thus, the Son of God made wine for the wedding guests to drink and insured that the wine would be enjoyed by making it of such excellent quality; in fact, turning water into wine was His first recorded miracle. As a result of this miracle His disciples believed in Him, and Cana became known as the place where Jesus had turned water into wine (Jo. 4:46). This initial miracle reveals that Jesus did not deem the use of wine to be sinful, an attitude completely opposite of those conservatives who pride themselves on their righteous stand in favor of prohibition.

And, surely, Jesus Himself drank wine at the wedding, enjoying the festive occasion with the people. It is unthinkable that it would be sinful for Jesus to drink what He had just created, or that He would refuse to drink it. Is this when wine cheered both God and man (Jud. 9:13)?

The Greek word for wine is oinos, a word that appears thirty-three times in the New Testament and is always translated “wine” in both the AV and the NKJV. This word speaks of a fermented drink derived from grapes, the drink that was a common and daily beverage for the Jews of the first century just as it had been in the Old Testament era. It was the custom for wine to be served at weddings, as well as at ordinary mealtimes. In fact, it was one of the three drinks—wine, water, and milk—enjoyed by the people. When the people drank wine they drank oinos.

In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, oinos is used to translate the Hebrew words, yayin (see: Noah) and tirosh (see: Isaac and Jacob). So, all three words refer to the same type of drink. This means that the wine that Jesus made was like the wine that Noah had made and drunk after the Flood (though surely Jesus’ wine was much better), and that Melchizedek had served Abraham on his return from rescuing Lot. It is the same drink as one of the possible two drink offerings (yayin or shekar) that was offered with every burnt sacrifice (see: Sacrifice and Feasts); and it is the drink that Jacob served to his father, Isaac. Its intoxicating ability is without doubt, for it is the word used in Ephesians 5:18. To argue otherwise is exegetical foolishness.

Jesus not only turned water into wine, He turned a lot of water into wine. Six waterpots were filled “to the brim” (v. 7). Depending on the measurement the pots held twenty to thirty gallons each (v. 6); therefore, the Lord of creation turned 120 to 180 gallons of water into wine. Perhaps this was His very generous wedding gift to the couple! Only this couple received such a gift from the Giver of gifts. When the Lord gives, He gives the best; and He is not stingy. His grace is amazing, as well as sovereign!

Jesus created the wine so it could be enjoyed. It was His desire that the attendees at the wedding have a pleasurable experience, and a memorable one. A wedding was a festive time, and wine was the festive drink. Jesus created that which “makes glad the heart of man” (Ps. 104:15).

Yet today it is inconceivable to some that a Christian can drink wine without guilt, enjoy it, and look forward to the next time, all to the glory of God.

The modest water, awed by power divine,
beheld its God, and blushed itself to wine.
John Dryden

It seems utterly impossible, on any fair and honest interpretation, to reconcile the passage before us with the leading principles of what is commonly called “Teetotalism.” If our Lord Jesus Christ actually worked a miracle in order to supply wine at a marriage feast, it seems to me impossible, by any ingenuity, to prove that drinking wine is sinful. Temperance in all things is one of the fruits of the Spirit (J. C. Ryle).

He changes the water of Judaism into the wine of Christianity,
the water of Christlessness
into the wine of the richness and the fullness of eternal life in Christ,
the water of the law into the wine of the gospel.
Leon Morris

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