Why did Jesus turn water into wine for His first miracle?
The account of Jesus making wine is documented in John 2:1-12, and is cited by John as Jesus’s first miracle (v11). He is at a wedding party, which customarily lasted for many days, and they ran out of wine. V10 states it is the point in the party where the “guests have had too much to drink”. Jesus not only makes wine, but he makes it for people that had already drank a lot of wine.
We cannot know for sure what Jesus’s intentions were for making wine. As Jesus’s first miracle, the question is “Why make wine?”, especially for His grand entrance where He first “revealed his glory” (v11)? Why not raise someone from the dead or heal a gravely sick person? Aren’t there more important miracles than making wine? Well, the answer may be rooted in the fact that good wine was a sign of blessing in the Old Testament, and the lack of wine (or watered-down wine) was a judgement from God [see Bible references below]. Perhaps Jesus was revealing Himself and communicating the message that He was bringing the world a blessing. He was at a wedding feast where the wine had been drunk and there was a lack of wine. In this moment of despair, Jesus brought a blessing by bringing wine to the party. However, He went one step further by taking water, which the wedding guests would may been forced to drink (unhappily) and turned the curse into a blessing! Jesus made the best wine of the party! It is absolutely brilliant, and surely a grand way to make an entrance with His first miracle.
Watered Down Wine and Bad Wine is a Sign of God’s Judgement
Isaiah 1:21-22 See how the faithful city has become a prostitute! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her—but now murderers! Your silver has become dross, your choice wine is diluted with water.
Deuteronomy 32:32-35 Their vine comes from the vine of Sodom and from the fields of Gomorrah.Their grapes are filled with poison, and their clusters with bitterness. Their wine is the venom of serpents, the deadly poison of cobras. “Have I not kept this in reserve and sealed it in my vaults? It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.”
Psalm 60:1-3 You have rejected us, God, and burst upon us; you have been angry—now restore us! You have shaken the land and torn it open; mend its fractures, for it is quaking. You have shown your people desperate times; you have given us wine that makes us stagger.
Psalm 75:7-8 It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another. In the hand of the Lord is a cup full of foaming wine mixed with spices; he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth drink it down to its very dregs.
Proverbs 4:14-17 Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way. For they cannot rest until they do evil; they are robbed of sleep till they make someone stumble. They eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence.
Isaiah 24:6-7 Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left. The new wine dries up and the vine withers; all the merrymakers groan.
Isaiah 24:9-11 No longer do they drink wine with a song; the beer is bitter to its drinkers. The ruined city lies desolate; the entrance to every house is barred. In the streets they cry out for wine; all joy turns to gloom, all joyful sounds are banished from the earth.
Isaiah 25:6 On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine — the best of meats and the finest of wines.
Jeremiah 25:15 This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. When they drink it, they will stagger and go mad because of the sword I will send among them.”
Zephaniah 1:12-13 At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent, who are like wine left on its dregs, who think, ‘The Lord will do nothing,either good or bad. Their wealth will be plundered, their houses demolished. Though they build houses, they will not live in them; though they plant vineyards, they will not drink the wine.
Good Wine is a Sign of God’s Blessing
Deuteronomy 11:13 So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul — then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.
Deuteronomy 14:26 [Regarding use of the Tithe offering] Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice.
Deuteronomy 33:28-29a [Moses blesses the Tribes of Israel] So Israel will live in safety; Jacob will dwell secure in a land of grain and new wine, where the heavens drop dew. Blessed are you, Israel!
Judges 19:19 We have both straw and fodder for our donkeys and bread and wine for ourselves your servants—me, the woman and the young man with us. We don’t need anything.”
2 Kings 18:31 “Do not listen to Hezekiah. This is what the king of Assyria says: Make peace with me and come out to me. Then each of you will eat fruit from your own vine and fig tree and drink water from your own cistern, until I come and take you to a land like your own—a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey. Choose life and not death!
Psalm 4:7 Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound.
Psalm 104:14-15 He [The Lord] makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate — bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts.
Proverbs 3:9-10 Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.
Proverbs 9:1-6 Wisdom has built her house; she has set up its seven pillars. She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her table. She has sent out her servants, and she calls from the highest point of the city, “Let all who are simple come to my house!” To those who have no sense she says, “Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of insight.”
Ecclesiastes 9:7 Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do.
Song of Songs 1:2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine.
Song of Songs 7:9 May the wine go straight to my beloved, flowing gently over lips and teeth.
Isaiah 36:16b-17 Then each of you will eat fruit from your own vine and fig tree and drink water from your own cistern, until I come and take you to a land like your own—a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards.
Jeremiah 31:11-12 For the Lord will deliver Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they. They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord—the grain, the new wine and the olive oil, the young of the flocks and herds. They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more.
Jeremiah 40:12 They all came back to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah at Mizpah, from all the countries where they had been scattered. And they harvested an abundance of wine and summer fruit.
Joel 2:19 The Lord replied to them: “I am sending you grain, new wine and olive oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations.
Joel 3:18 “In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the Lord’s house and will water the valley of acacias.