Turning Water to Wine, A Creative Approach

Turning Water to Wine, A Creative Approach February 16, 2024

Turning Water to Wine, A Creative Approach.
Turning water into wine, painting by the author.

A question was posed, “Did Jesus really turn water into wine?” From. my perspective, this could be a very short article, one word, “Yes.” I’m pretty much a cut and dried guy when it comes to the Bible. I used to say, “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” I now realize that is an erroneous statement. I now say, “God said it. That settles it, whether I believe it or not.” The truth is belief is the reason for the miracle, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Instead I want to look at this from a creative approach. 

A Question of Belief

The account of this miracle, Jesus’ first recorded miracle, is found in the book of John, John 2:1-11 specifically. There is an overriding theme of the whole book of John, specifically John 20:31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. Everything John wrote in His Gospel points to Jesus and helping people to come to believe in Him and be saved. As a matter of fact, the word believe appears 222 times in the 27 books of the New Testament (ESV). 84 of those appearances, more than a third, appear in the book of John alone. It’s hardly coincidental that this would be Jesus’ first recorded miracle. Let’s look at it a little closer. 

A Mother’s “Request”

Weddings in first century Israel were a lot different than weddings in the 21st Century U.S. Weddings would last as long as a week. During that time the couple and their family would feed and care for the guests. In a society that placed such a high value on hospitality, running out of something, especially something like wine was a major “party foul.” Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding and by the time they got there, the wine vats were at their dregs. That’s when Mary came to Jesus and made a statement. “They have no wine.” It wasn’t really a request. It was a statement, but there was an underlying context—”You need to do something about it, my Son.”

A Question of Timing

At first glance, Jesus’ response sounds disrespectful. “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” Of course, we know that can’t be the case. Jesus is the sinless Son of God. This statement is not disrespect, it’s timing. He knows that once He begins to really go public, God’s whole plan is set in motion. For Jesus, this had to feel like the point of no return. And how is it set in motion? Not by raising the dead or healing the sick, but simply by helping a young married couple to save face before their wedding guests. I think this shows something. Jesus cares about the big and the small things. Further, while Jesus may seem resistant to his mother’s request, there’s an underlying context here too, and it’s clear that Mary caught it. We see that in her command to the servants. His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Fill the Jars

Imagine the scene. Jesus told the servants to fill the six water jars that were usually used to hold water for ceremonial purification rituals, with fresh water. The jars held between 20 and 30 gallons a piece. Jesus wasn’t just going to conjure up a little wine, He was going to act extravagantly. 120-180 gallons of water would become that much choice wine. It’s almost as if Jesus thought, “If this is how it begins, I am going to begin it right.” It’s also curious that there is an obedience component here. Mary told the servants to do whatever Jesus said. Jesus told the servants to fill the jars and verse 7 tells us, And they filled them up to the brim, but if you think that was obedience consider Jesus next command.   

John 2:8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When you hear master of the feast, think party planner. He was the one in charge of the feast—a party expert if you will. There is a very good chance that he was the one who hired these servants. Now Jesus told them to take some of the water they just used to fill the jars to this party expert. It had to seem crazy to them and yet, to their credit they did as they were told. 

The Best Ever  

Now we don’t know when the transformation happened. Did the water change instantly or on the way to the master of the feast, what we do have is his response. This much is clear. Jesus didn’t just do quantity, He did quality. Not only was there a lot of wine, but the wine was exquisite. John 2:9-10 (ESV) “the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 

Believe it  

Once again, it all comes down to belief. Jesus did this miracle, and what was the result? John 2:11 (ESV) This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. This simple basic miracle, the one that helped a bridegroom save face, had a tremendous impact. It helped the 12 disciples, men who would one day be responsible for starting the church to begin to believe. Did Jesus turn water into wine? You be the judge. It was the first sign that made these men believe. From there, eleven of them followed Him faithfully. They saw Jesus live, and do great things, and they saw Him suffer and die. Ten of them would be martyred for their faith, and not one of them recanted. They say seeing is believing. Turning water into wine was their first chance to see the power of Jesus. They saw and they believed. 

Getting Creative

So how would you express this story creatively. I will tell you two things that I have done as inspiration. 

I started my ministry working with the youth in my church as a volunteer youth leader. Just a short time before I started in ministry, I felt convicted of idolatry to my art career, and made the painful decision to lay that career down. Being free of that idol, I settled into ministry and felt really blessed, but there was a problem. I kept feeling led in prayer to use art as a teaching tool, and I finally submitted to God. The first lesson I taught after that was this passage. I divided the group into smaller teams and gave them each a portion to express. The groups had the option to express their portions in sketching, writing, even dramatically. I was amazed by how well each group did. I remember one young man who was amazed that Jesus made 120 gallons of wine, and made the assertion that “no one got drunk.” I’m not sure the Bible ever expressed that, but that is the problem many have with this miracle. 

The Alcohol Issue

Some folks take issue with the fact that Jesus’ first miracle involved alcohol. They would argue that Jesus would not make wine because it is alcohol. As a person who struggled with a drinking problem earlier in my life, I would be okay with that, but that’s not what the Bible says either. The Bible does not forbid alcohol, but rather drunkenness. Alcohol was medicinal, in some cases in that day it was safer than water.    We can’t forbid what the Bible doesn’t. On the other hand, this is not an excuse to overindulge, and if the Bible is also clear that if our behavior would lead someone astray, it is better to abstain. With my past, and in the position I hold as a pastor, I choose abstinence and will continue to abstain with God’s help for life. That being said to try to say that Jesus didn’t turn water into wine is to chip away at His first miracle and to discredit the teachings of God’s Word. 

The Painting

A dear friend and trusted mentor, asked me to depict this story in paint. I went with something very simple and direct (pictured above), largely because I feel the story is simple and direct. I depicted a water jar, filling another water jar and as that jar is filled to the brim, wine overflows. In a way, I think that is a metaphor for living as a Christian. If we let Jesus fill us with His living water, wonderful things will flow out. After all Jesus said, Luke 6:45 “for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” If we let Jesus fill us, good things happen. 

How would you use your artistic gifts to express this amazing miracle?

Browse Our Archives