Jesus’ ministry began because a friend needed help with a wedding. This is an important point to remember, because John has written a narrative so dense that its meaning eludes interpretation even as it inspires it. Some commentators, for example, believe John is presenting Jesus and Mary as the new Adam and Eve, signifying a new creation. Others see in this miracle a reference to Exodus, in which Moses’ first sign was to turn the waters of Egypt into blood (Ex 7:14-25). Others believe John is criticizing the Pharisees; Christ’s interpretation of Torah has replaced the “inferior wine” of their traditions. Still others find in this account a foreshadowing of the heavenly feast in which all Christ’s disciples will someday join. In fact, all of these interpretations fit John’s understanding of Jesus, and all may have been on the Evangelist’s mind as he composed this passage.
‘How does your concern affect me?’ (Jn 2:4)
How have you loved others the way God has loved you?
To whose needs does divine love draw your attention?
How can you share God’s love more fully?
In addition to these possibilities, the miracle at Cana is also a lesson in discipleship. This is why the church reads it near the beginning of the season of Ordinary Time. In this narrative, Christians can find a lesson for their own lives as they continue Jesus’ mission, which, according to John, began at this feast.
John’s understanding of Jesus is as simple as it is profound. God loves humanity and acted to save it from destruction (Jn 3:16). God told the Son—and only the Son—everything necessary for salvation (Jn 1:18; 12:49). The Son heard God’s message perfectly, since the two were united in a love so strong that they were as one (Jn 10:30). Everything that the Son learned from the Father he taught to the disciples (Jn 15:15). This teaching can be summed up in the washing of the feet and the commandment to love one another as Jesus loved us (Jn 13:1-15, 34). All who believe in the Son and pattern their lives according to his example and commandment will share in the same Spirit of divine love that Jesus knew. Becoming like Jesus is thus the way humanity can fulfill God’s dream that all “might not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).
God’s love hits a dead end in those who do not share it. Jesus experienced that love perfectly and shared it especially through the miracles he performed for others, but it was not only in these acts of healing and deliverance that Jesus shared God’s gifts. Divine love drew Jesus’ attention even to commonplace needs. A shortage of wine for a wedding does not symbolize the human condition as vividly as demonic possession or fatal illness, but a miracle’s dramatic potential was never among the considerations Jesus weighed. Instead, his friends’ predicament gave him an opportunity to share the love that God had first shared with him.
Jesus’ disciples today must seek similar opportunities to share the divine love they have received. It is not enough to place one’s faith in the Son and enjoy personal confidence in the Spirit that comes from belief. Believers must let that love draw their attention to others’ needs, so that through service, the divine love they have received can grow ever stronger.