The Symbolism of Water into Wine
This miracle is rich in symbolism and ends by John explaining,“This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him” (John 2:11). The Greek word semeion is translated as miracles and could also be translated as signs. “This beginning of signs did Jesus in Cana of Galilee.” Which raises the question, what is the sign?
John tells us that Jesus performs his first miracle at a wedding by turning water into wine. In this story we read how Jesus told the servants to fill six stone pots with water. What is significant in this event is what these pots were used for: washing of the hands and feet. These six vessels were set in a convenient location, as guests came to the wedding. The Jews believed it was necessary to wash their hands before they ate. After a few people had washed in this water, we can just imagine how filthy the water in these pots must have been. No one would want to drink out of them!
Jesus has the servants fills these stone vessels with water. These pots could not be moved, due to their size and weight. Each pot contained about 18-27 gallons of used, filthy water. Some water had escaped these vessels after each guest had used them for washing. The servants had to bring small amounts of water and put it into the pots in order to fill them. This took some time. Think of the stone vessels as representing us. Jesus miraculously works in us to change that which is unclean into that which is joyous. Sanctification is a process that works in us over our entire lives.
The six waterpots could represent the idea that man is incomplete without God. Man was made on the sixth day (Genesis 1:27, 31). The number six is uncommon in scriptural numerology. Its meaning is deficit, imperfection, or failure to attain completeness. Since six falls short of the number of perfection in scripture- the number seven, it could represent man without Christ. 1
The stone pots could also symbolize the Jewish laws of purification- Jesus changes this dirty water into something joyous. The wine was something that would bring joy to the lives of those in the ancient world. As it says in Ecclesiastes, “Eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart…” (Ecclesiastes 9:7) Jesus takes that which is filthy, fallen and impure and makes it into something festive, that which is a cause to be merry. This is so much more than merely turning water into wine. It is a transformation of complete filthiness to perfect joy.
We can compare this miracle with one of the first miracles performed by Moses- turning the Nile River to blood. Instead of turning a life giving substance to death, the Savior turns the filthy water into life giving wine. Jesus’ crowning miracle, his resurrection, is the opposite of Moses’ tenth plague.
1. Alonzo Gaskill, The Lost Language of Symbolism, Deseret Book, 2003, p. 122. See also: Richard Draper, Opening the Seven Seals: The Visions of John the Revelator, Deseret Book, 1991, p. 121; Bullinger, Number in Scripture: Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance, London, Eyre & Spottiswoode (Bible Warehouse) Ltd, 123, 150. Bullinger’s commentary is insightful. He mentions that Jesus is accused six times of having a devil, six words used for man in the Bible, as well as six names of Satan. You can read a copy of Bullinger’s book online here.