The Wine

Catherine McNiel | November 6, 2019

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John 2:1-12

“The time will come,” says the Lord,

“when the grain and grapes will grow faster

    than they can be harvested.

Then the terraced vineyards on the hills of Israel

    will drip with sweet wine!

I will bring my exiled people of Israel

    back from distant lands,

and they will rebuild their ruined cities

    and live in them again.

They will plant vineyards and gardens;

    they will eat their crops and drink their wine.

I will firmly plant them there

    in their own land.

They will never again be uprooted

    from the land I have given them,”

    says the Lord your God.

                                                                                                                        —Amos 9:13-15


On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

                                                                                                            —John 2:1-5


It’s possible, I suppose, that Jesus attended a dinner at some point where the host ran out of bread, or meat, or candles. Perhaps on those occasions Jesus turned stones into bread or sticks into lanterns. Yet, John includes this story, and not primarily to show Jesus’ general power; it matters that the missing ingredient at this wedding was wine.

Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, wine is a powerful symbol. Wine, along with other daily staples such as grain and oil, is often used to symbolize God’s faithful provision to His covenant people. The prophets demonstrate these things being abundant, or scarce, depending on Israel’s obedience and the Lord’s blessing. Furthermore, as we see at the wedding feast, wine symbolizes not only provision, but joyfully abundant provision. Wine is a celebration, God’s blessing made tangible.

The prophet Amos writes starkly of the exile, the devastation and destruction—but also, the restoration, the rebuilding, the redemption. When the Lord’s redemption is at hand, the fields will drip with sweet wine, the vineyards overflowing!

Mary knows all this (remember the Magnificat?), and she knows Jesus. She tells Him, “It’s time.” (By the way, when Jesus addresses His mother as “Woman” it sounds disrespectful to our ears. In the language and culture of the time, however, this was a term of honor.) 

When Jesus replies “My hour has not yet come” the reader could be forgiven for giving an audible gasp. John’s point is not primarily that Jesus isn’t ready yet; the incredible implication is that Jesus claims to be the One who embodies this day of redemption


Questions for reflection and discussion: Where have you noticed wine as a powerful symbol in the Hebrew Scriptures? How do you see John using it to speak powerfully of Jesus’ identity here?

This week's devotions were written by Catherine McNiel. Catherine and her family have been part of WBC since 2008. Her husband, Matthew, is the director of Puente del Pueblo, our church’s ministry that serves residents of West Chicago. Catherine is the author of Long Days of Small Things and All Shall Be Well: Awakening to God’s Presence in His Messy, Abundant World.

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