Serving good wine before its time

Wedding at Cana Jesus is depicted at the wedding at Cana in this 17th century work by Jan Cossiers. Jesus’ mysterious reply to the lack of wine at the wedding foreshadows another event in the life of the Savior. Wikimedia Commons

A wedding can be a complicated affair, even in the ancient Middle East. Jesus attended two wedding feasts in Scripture. The first is known to all, the wedding feast of Cana. The second is hidden behind the first. Confused? Let me explain.

Mary, Jesus and his disciples were invited to attend a wedding feast in Cana (John 2:1-11). During the feast, they ran out of wine. Mary told Jesus “They have no wine.” Jesus replies, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come” (John 2:3-4). Mary tells the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” They fill up six stone jars filled with water and gave some to the head waiter to taste. When he tasted the wine, he exclaimed, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now” (John 2:10). In a previous article, we explored the miracle of the changing of water into wine, but we didn’t look closely at verse 4. Jesus’ reply is sometimes skimmed over by the reader because it doesn’t seem to make much sense.

One bit of background information that is needed is that it was the duty of the bridegroom to supply the wine for the feast. We know this because in verse 9 it tells us that the headwaiter assumed that the bridegroom created a mistake by not serving the best wine first. When Mary turned to Jesus and told him, “They have no wine,” she essentially asked Jesus to provide what the bridegroom was supposed to provide for his wedding feast. With this in mind, let’s turn to Jesus’ reply.

Jesus responded, “My hour has not yet come.” These words imply that Jesus was planning on providing wine for a wedding feast when his “hour” comes, but at Mary’s request he would provide wine for this wedding feast also. But what did he mean by “my hour?”

Jesus references the “hour” throughout the Gospel of John. For example, Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that “the hour” will come “when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth” (John 4:23). In John 5, Jesus says that the hour is coming when the dead will hear his voice (John 5:25, 28). In John 7:30 and 8:20, John tells us that the Jews didn’t arrest Jesus “because his hour had not come.” Later, Jesus says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23). And when talking to his disciples about his passion and death, he likens their distress to that of a woman giving birth “because her hour has arrived” (John 16:20-22). The hour in John’s Gospel is the “hour” of the crucifixion. Therefore, Jesus’ words at Cana indicate that he will provide, like a bridegroom, the wine for his wedding feast on the cross.

Why a wedding at the cross? The cross is where Jesus establishes his covenant with us, and a covenant is a family bond. We are his bride, and through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, the two become one flesh. How? When Jesus’ side was pieced blood and water flowed from his side (John 19:34, cf. 1 John 5:6). These two elements signify the two sacraments by which we become one body in Christ: the water of baptism and the blood of the Eucharist.

Wedding feasts are also when two families become one, where one’s spouse’s parents become known as “mom and dad” and your parents become your spouse’s mother and father. If the cross can be seen as a wedding feast, then this also explains another out-of-place event at the foot of the cross. Jesus doesn’t tell the beloved disciple, “Take care of my mother.” But rather, “he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home,” (John 19:26-27). The beloved disciple represents all of Christ’s disciples. At the foot of the wedding feast of the cross, our union with Christ is so profound that Christ’s mother becomes our mother and we her son.

Gary Michuta is an apologist, author and speaker and a member of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Livonia. Visit his website at