No Wine Before Its Time

By Sujit kumar (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Sujit kumar (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

“We will sell no wine before its time” was a famous tag line from a series of commercials featuring Orson Welles in the 1970s. There were a number of “untimely” occurrences in the wedding at Cana incident where Jesus turns water into wine, which we considered this past Sunday in our pastor’s message on John 2:1-12:

  • The wedding wine was running out, an embarrassment to the bridegroom and his family.
  • When Jesus’s mother tells him about the problem, he responds, “my hour has not yet come.”
  • Mom ignores Jesus’s words and tells the servants to do whatever Jesus says.
  • Jesus tells the servants to fill up six 20-30 gallon containers used for hand washing with clean water and then take some to the banquet master.
  • The banquet master upbraids the bridegroom for his “untimely” saving of the best wine for last.

So what time is it when Jesus does these kinds of things at a wedding? What most impressed me was that turning ceremonial cleansing water to wine is considered the first of seven signs John records to point us to how Jesus will give life to those who put their trust in him. The question is: what is the reality toward which this sign points?

The ceremonial water pointed toward the Jews awareness that they were a people set apart by God and that they were to live this in all of life. Cleanliness really was next to godliness for these people–it represented outwardly what they wanted to be true inwardly–to be a people for God, to worship God in community with all the others who share in this solemn promise called a covenant.

The problem with washing your hands is that you have to do it over and over again–and cleaning up my outsides doesn’t necessarily clean up my insides. And this is the wonder of what Jesus signifies in this sign–that he is the giver of the new wine that replaces the ceremonial water. We drink of him and it transforms us from the inside out.

But wine does something more. As Psalm 104:15 says, “Wine gladdens the heart.” The wine Jesus gives replaces ritual adherence with the joy and celebration of the bridegroom who has come!

There is one other element of “time” to consider here–Jesus’s statement that his hour had not yet come. What’s that all about? It seems that what Jesus is acknowledging to his mother is that it is not yet time for him to die for the sins of the world and that what she is asking will actually put him on the path that ends at the cross. The sign of wine reminds us of the cup we drink in communion that signifies and ushers us into the blood-bought intimacy with God we enjoy.

Rich concluded with a question and statement that I am pondering this week.

The question: Do we drink deeply of Jesus?

The statement: Most often, what we need most of Jesus is Jesus himself.

This challenges me in the busyness of life, and even my “religious” busyness–am I still over at water jugs washing my hands or even fretting about all the things “running out” in my life? Or am I coming with all this to drink deeply of the wine of Jesus? How about you?

2 thoughts on “No Wine Before Its Time

  1. Thanks Bob for an interesting reflection on this famous story about Jesus. However, your comments have finally prompted me to realize a problem I have always had with this story, the part about Jesus saying “My time has not yet come”, paired with the best wine for last.

    Is it possible that Jesus was telling everyone that “His final time had not yet come”, and that in fact they were supposed to kick up their heels and get on with life? Not the life they were currently living, of course, always worrying about themselves, but the servant/ serving life He kept trying to tell them was the best life, the real life.

    I am reminded of Francis, Bishop of Rome [ the appellation which he prefers]. early in his new ministry –
    “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security”.

    Maybe Jesus is telling us His “end time” had not yet arrived, and in fact we are supposed to enjoy the best wine and get to work, doing the deeds of mercy to which He constantly called people.

    Of course, I could be wrong.

    John Mulholland

    • John, I think Jesus’s words about his hour signify to his mother what the cost of this transformation from the old to new covenant will be and that this will be far better–not even good wine as opposed to water but the best. Certainly, if we are gripped with the joy and richness of the new covenant life that Christ brings, we don’t want to keep this to ourselves but in fact show mercy, as you say, and invite others to the feast. Thanks for your comments! –Bob

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