John 2

The First Miracle (John 2.11)

This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him. (John 2:11)

John emphasizes the wedding as Jesus’ first notable miracle. The first major ministerial act recorded in Luke’s gospel is the synagogue reading of Isaiah (Luke 4.16-21), a quotation which situates Jesus’ ministry within the restorative vision of Isaiah 61, which bleeds right into the marriage-metaphor of Isaiah 62. Through their depictive references, Luke’s gospel and John’s gospel herald the beginning of Jesus’ ministry by situating him within the prophetic visions of Isaiah and other prophets, establishing a typological connection between Christ’s actions and the descriptive narratives of the prophets.

John’s typological structure formats the remainder of the miracle narratives; this gospel is careful to call Christ's miracles ‘signs,’ visible evidence that Jesus’ actions are the Father’s actions, that his teachings are God’s teachings (e.g., John 14.7-11). Stepping back from the specific events of the wedding and looking at the broader picture, the relatively simple miracles becomes parabolic depictions of a grander vision. The wedding becomes Israel's redemption; Jesus becomes the bridegroom for whom Israel has waited; Mary becomes the “Woman” impatient for the marriage; the ruler of the feast acts as those rulers unappreciative of God's timing and plan; the servants bearing the water-wine are those disciples who rightly divide the Word of God, and are spreading that Word abroad.

Succinctly, seen in Spirit, Jesus acts as God, Mary as Zion the Bride, the head of the feast as the spiritually blind leadership, the servants as the Church; this miracle is “the beginning of miracles,” that which transformed Israel, affecting the forgiveness of sins, and bringing to Jesus those who would obey his word (cf Luke 14.14-24; I like to think that John, being so deliberately liturgical, was written also with other significant scripture—especially eschatologically oriented scripture—in mind, and is therefore deliberately compatible with the broader gospel traditions).