I. Jesus Brings About a New Genesis
The wedding at Cana from John 2:1-12 is Jesus’ first miracle. The account is pretty famous:
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” (And) Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.”
His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it.
And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”
Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him. After this, he and his mother, (his) brothers, and his disciples went down to Capernaum and stayed there only a few days.
The first thing to notice here is John’s cryptic phrase “on the third day.” I had always understood this to be “on the third day of the wedding,” but that’s not what it says. It turns out that this is part of a beautiful picture being subtly painted by St. John — a picture which Pope Benedict draws attention to in his writings (I think I read about this in Jesus of Nazareth, but my memory fails me). To fully get it, you need to read Genesis 1, and then read John 1-2. An outline of Genesis 1-2 looks like this:
- “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen 1:1)
- “the first day” (Genesis 1:1-5)
- “the second day” (Genesis 1:6-8)
- “the third day” (Genesis 1:9-13)
- “the fourth day” (Genesis 1:14-19)
- “the fifth day” (Genesis 1:20-23)
- “the sixth day” (Genesis 1:24-31)
- “Since on the seventh day God was finished with the work he had been doing, he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation.” (Genesis 2:2-3).
A beginning, and seven days. An outline of John 1-2 looks like this:
- “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” (John 1:1).
- “the next day” (John 1:29-1:34)
- “the next day” (John 1:35-1:42)
- “the next day” (John 1:43-51)
- “on the third day,” that is, three days later (John 2:1)
Now if He ordered the water to be poured out, and then introduced the wine from the hidden recesses of creation, He would seem to have rejected the Old Testament. But converting, as He did, the water into wine, He showed us that the Old Testament was from Himself; for it was as by His order that the waterpots were filled. But those Scriptures have no meaning, if Christ be not understood there.
So just as the water turned into something greater in the wine, the Old Covenant turned into something greater in the New. The New Genesis wasn’t an abrogation of the Old, but a fulfillment of it. In the same way, grace builds upon nature, and the flesh is united with the spirit to reach its fulfillment. As a result of this, the people of God are able to go from worrying about drawing away from the world under the Old Covenant (ceremonially washing themselves from the filth of the world), to joyfully engaging the world in the New (rejoicing with wine).