John 2

Six Waterpots (John 2.5-8)

His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. (John 2:5-8)

The quantity of water here is, according to the handful of commentaries I’ve skimmed, somewhere in the ballpark of 120-135 gallons of water. I consider that there may be a link between the large quantity of this water-soon-to-be-wine and the large quantity of water-soon-to-be-living at Jacob’s well (compare John 2.6-7, 4.6-7); there may also be a link between the six tubs of water at the wedding and the single jar of water—seven ‘cups’ of water, all told—that the Samaritan woman adds to the well (John 2.6-7, 4.28-29), and the startled declaration of the party coordinator seems, therefore, to align with the overwhelming testimony of the Samaritan woman, especially through their testimonial consequences (John 2.10-11, 4.28-30, 39-41).

It is not unusual for the miracles—“signs”—in John’s gospel to mirror the nearby discourses and events of the larger narrative. John has given us these specific signs for a specific reason, and calls them ‘signs’ because they signify something greater than a simple work of wonder. A key to understanding this gospel is to approach the miracles as parables, understanding the characters therein to represent figures of the wider story. In this instance you can see the wedding motif which appears as part of this first miracle as part of the marriage discussion taking place between Jesus and the woman at Jacob’s well. This marriage metaphor dominates the relationship dynamic between Jesus and the female characters of John’s gospel, inviting the reader to see Jesus’ ministry as the restoration of Israel, to see Jesus as the bridegroom and the women of John’s gospel as “the Bride,” which is Zion.