SOON AFTER Jesus met the men who became his first followers he left the river Jordan, and with these men walked to the land of Galilee, to the village of Cana, about six miles north of Nazareth. This was the town where Nathanael, one of the first five followers of Jesus, lived.
At Cana a marriage was to be held, and Jesus with all his followers was invited. In that land, at a marriage, a feast was always given, and all the friends of the newly-married couple, with their friends also, and almost everybody in the village, were expected to come. The feasting and dancing and merry-making often lasted through a whole week.
Before the feast was over they found that the wine, which in those times everybody drank freely, was used up, and those who were giving the feast had no wine to set before their guests. This filled them with alarm, for at such times the wine was expected to flow freely, and not to have wine for the company at a feast was considered almost a disgrace.
The mother of Jesus was there as a friend of the family. She thought of a way to help those who were giving the feast, and called her son aside from the crowd, and said to him very quietly:
“They have no wine.”
She knew what very few knew, that Jesus was the Son of God, and that all power was in his hands. He had not yet done any of those wonderful works of curing the sick, making the blind to see and making the deaf to hear, which he did so often afterward; but Mary believed that he could do them if he chose. She thought that perhaps he would use his power to give the wine that was needed. It was with this hope that she said to him, “They have no wine.”
The answer that Jesus gave was not such in its words as to encourage her.
“Woman,” said he, “what have you to do with me in this matter? My time is not yet come.”
His speaking to his mother as “Woman,” instead of saying “Mother,” as a young man would among us, was not lacking in respect. It was the usage of that time for a son to say “Woman,” and not “Mother.” She saw in his face a look showing her that she had not spoken in vain. So she turned to the servants who were standing near. “Whatever he tells you to do,” she said, “do it.”
One of the usages of the Jews was to wash their hands before they sat down to a meal. This washing was not merely to make their hands clean; it was a sort of religious service, and the Jews were very strict in doing it. When so large a company met for a feast, a great deal of water was needed. In the hall were standing six large jars for water, each jar of a size to hold nearly twenty gallons. They were nearly empty, because all the guests had washed their hands before sitting down at the feast. Jesus pointed to these jars and said to the servants :
“Fill all those jars with water.”
They obeyed him and filled all the jars up to the brim. Then Jesus said again :
“Now draw out from the jars, and carry what you take out to the ruler of the feast.”
Wondering, the servants dipped their pitchers into the great jars which only a few moments before they had filled with water. How surprised they were to find each pitcher as it came out full of red wine! They carried it to the ruler of the feast. He tasted it and saw that it was wine of the very best kind. He did not know how it had been made, but supposed that it had been brought suddenly from some
wine merchant. He called the young man who had been married, and in whose honor the feast was being held, and said to him:
“Everybody serves his best wine at the beginning of his feast; and afterward, when people have been drinking some time, he brings wine that is poorer; but you have kept your best wine until now!”
The only ones who knew whence the new wine had come were the servants. But they soon told others, and the word was passed around the company that Jesus of Nazareth, Mary’s son, had wrought this wonderful work. His followers, the five or more disciples who had come with Jesus to the wedding feast, now believed more fully than before that their teacher was more than a mere man, that the power of God was upon him and that whatever he should say was the word of God.
Such a work as that of turning the water into wine, a work that no man could do without God’s power, was called “a miracle.” It showed that the one who wrought it was a man sent from God, doing God’s will and speaking God’s word. This was the first miracle or work of wonder that Jesus wrought; but after this we shall read of many miracles.
From the wedding feast Jesus went down the mountains of Galilee to the city of Capernaum, which stood on the shore of the Sea of Galilee on the northwest. With Jesus on this visit to Capernaum were his mother, some of his younger brothers and his followers.