John 2:1-11 | The True Bridegroom
by Lindsay Kennedy
The Bible begins and ends with a wedding.
In the first wedding, Eve is presented to Adam (Gen 2).
In the last wedding the New Jerusalem—the Church, the bride—is presented to Christ (Rev 19; 21–22).
John 2:1–11 also tells the story of a wedding; one that foreshadows the great wedding to come.
Miracle or Sign?
Matthew, Mark, and Luke record an abundance of miracles that highlight Jesus’ authority. Taken on its own, the story of Jesus providing wine at a wedding is a remarkable miracle, but there is more going on here. John is less concerned with telling us about Jesus’ many miracles. Rather, he is focused on “signs.” When John concludes this story, he refers to it as “the beginning of the signs” (John 2:11). Jesus was performing certain actions—most miraculous—that contained a deep symbolism about himself and his kingdom.
There are six acts of Jesus that are identified as “signs” in John’s Gospel:
- Water into wine (John 2:1–11)
- Healing the official’s son (John 4:43–54)
- Healing the paralyzed man on the Sabbath (John 5:1–18)
- Feeding the 5,000 (John 6:1–15)
- Healing the blind man (John 9:1–41)
- Raising of Lazarus (John 11:1–57)
Scholars debate—it’s part of the job!—about whether there are seven signs, and if so, the identity of the seventh. It makes sense that there would be one more: John is preoccupied with sevens in Revelation, there are seven days in creation, and seven represents completeness.
The two best contenders for the seventh sign are below:
- Jesus’ cleansing of the temple (John 2:12–25). Jesus’ opponents refer to a “sign” (John 2:18), so maybe this should be counted as a sign of Jesus. However, it is not necessarily miraculous.
- Jesus’ resurrection (John 20). This is the climax of the Gospel, so it’s a natural contender! However, it is not referred to as a “sign” by John. Maybe it should be seen as standing completely alone.
Either way, remember that John could have told us many more signs that Jesus did, but these were recorded that we may believe in him (John 20:30).
The Greater Wedding
So if Jesus’ turning water into wine was a sign, then what did it symbolize? This is what John invites us to consider, and so much could be said about it. However, the wedding theme is probably the most important aspect to highlight.
An important theme throughout Scripture is that of a coming banquet, sometimes seen specifically as a wedding banquet. This banquet would be brought by the Messiah, and wine is a primary symbol of it (Gen 49:10-11; Isa 25:6-8; Joel 3:18; Amos 9:11).
In Scripture, wine regularly symbolizes abundance and joy. By turning so much water into wine, Jesus foreshadows the abundance and joy of the coming kingdom of God. Jesus takes the pots—intended for ritual purification—and turns their water into wine. The water intended for cleansing is now a source of joy. This shows the supremacy of Jesus’ work. Not only is the new wine over-abundant, but it is better than the old wine. Jesus also reveals himself to be the true bridegroom (John 3:29).
When he institutes communion, Jesus will use wine to symbolize his blood. Wine in Hebrew is literally the “blood of the grape” (Gen. 49:11, Deut. 32:14). It is fitting to think of Jesus’ blood associated with the blood in the wedding story, since his blood alone brings complete purification. Just as it was the better wine, Jesus’ blood is a better source of purification.
Moreover, communion foreshadows the great wedding banquet. Communion is not only for looking at the work of Christ in the past, nor for reminding ourselves of his forgiveness in the present; communion also is a foretaste of the great banquet.
It is no wonder that John concludes that this sign revealed Jesus’ glory.