Jesus’ first miracle—turning water into wine at the wedding of Cana—is ripe with symbolic echoes of the great themes of Scripture. Why should we expect otherwise? Jesus is not the type to do anything haphazardly. Moreover, John the Apostle tells us that this miracle is the first of several signs (John 2:11), all of which “are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31).
We should not, however, reduce the miracles of Jesus to mere signs of His power, as if miracles were nothing more than repeated demonstrations of Christ’s divinity. Instead, we ought to see them as signs of Jesus’ person and work, that is, signs of His divinity and signs of His divine intentions for the world.
In this way, the miracles of Jesus are not so much supernatural violations of “natural order” as they are supernatural restorations to nature ordered rightly, a picture of the way things ought to be. Thus, they point us to that day when sin and sickness and sorrow and death are no more, because Jesus will have made all things new (Rev. 21:4–5).
We can easily see this point in most of Jesus’ miracles, such as the feeding of the hungry, the healing of the lame, the exorcism of demons, and the raising of Lazarus and of Jairus’ daughter. But what hath Christ to do with Cabernet? Much in every way.
The Wine That’s Gone Too Soon
Throughout the Scriptures, wine is symbolic of God’s grace and our resultant joy (cf. Deut. 7:1–13; Jer. 31:5–12; Isa. 25:6–9; Joel 3:18). Unlike water, wine is unnecessary for life. Its superfluity is a picture of God’s superabundant grace. That is to say, our Lord is the kind of God who loves to give good things to those who don’t deserve them, superfluous gifts like “wine to gladden the heart of man” (Ps. 104:15).
Yet the great problem that attends life under the sun is the fleeting pleasure found in our idolatrous attempts to enjoy God’s gifts “apart from him” (Eccl. 2:25). This approach to life is a futile quest doomed to dissatisfaction. It is an attempt to get from God’s world what can only be found in God Himself (Rom. 1:21–25). It is a wine glass too soon empty. It is a party that runs out of joy (John 2:3).
The New Wine of the New Covenant
Enter Jesus, the Lord of the feast, the Master of the ceremony, the Vine and the Vintner. Notice how He does not follow the ways of the world, watering down the gifts of God as if to say that grace was scarce. No, our Lord makes the very best wine (John 2:10). Behold the fortified wine of grace, available to everyone who thirsts, without money or price (Isa. 55:1–2).