The Bridegroom Comes
What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. John 2:11
Have you ever wondered why Jesus chose to turn water into wine as his first miracle? Mary told her son about the wine running out. Did she expect him to do a miracle?
Jesus didn’t do the miracle to please his mother. He didn’t do it as a gift to the bride and groom. He did it as a sign to reveal he was the Messiah for whom Israel had been waiting.
Knowing more about Jewish customs in Jesus’s time is key to understanding the significance of the miracle at Cana. A Jewish marriage had two parts: (1) the betrothal (2) the wedding. The betrothal involved a ceremony where the couple legally became husband and wife.
After that ceremony, the bride continued to live with her family for a time, usually a year. Then the bridegroom and his friends came to her home with great ceremony, and the bridegroom took his betrothed to his home or the home of his father for the wedding feast. She then became his bride (she was already his wife legally).
Throughout the Old Testament, Israel was referred to as a wife. God had chosen Israel to be a unique nation, which he would guide and bless abundantly. But the nation was adulterous; the Israelites worshiped other gods.
The prophet Jeremiah said the voices of the bride and bridegroom would end in the land of Israel; that is, there would be weddings, but this imagery of God married to Israel would end (Jeremiah 7:30–35; 16:9). Israel hadn’t acknowledged God as their provider, so he would remove the grain and the wine he’d given them.
But God gives second chances. The New Testament picks up the theme of the bridegroom. Shortly after he baptized Jesus, John the Baptist said, “The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete” (John 3:29). The symbolism of wine is evident at the wedding in Cana—not with Jesus as the bridegroom but with his provision of heaven-sent wine.
Like the nation of Israel, we too are often adulterous, worshiping other gods such as money or celebrities. We also forget to acknowledge God’s provision. But aren’t you glad that Jesus, our Bridegroom, died for our sins so we could become his bride?
John the Baptist called himself the “friend who attends the bridegroom,” someone we would call the “best man” or “groom’s attendant.” Why does Jesus call himself the bridegroom in Luke 5:33–35?
In Revelation 19:6–9, for whom is the bride dressed? Who is named as the bridegroom? Are you invited to the wedding?
Toward the end of his ministry on earth, what additional symbolic significance did Jesus attach to wine? Read Matthew 26:26–28.
Nancy J. Baker
This devotion is included in Restore the Hope: Devotions for Lent and Easter.