*Scripture verses covered in this section's commentary are noted in italics

John 2:1-5 meaning

Verses covered in this passage:

  • John 2:1
  • John 2:2
  • John 2:3
  • John 2:4
  • John 2:5

Jesus and His new disciples attend a wedding in Cana, but a problem arises when the wine runs out before the end of the celebration. Jesus’s mother, Mary, entreats him to intervene and solve this problem for the couple and their family. Jesus questions what the problem has to do with His mother and Himself, and insists that His time has not yet come. Despite this, Mary confidently tells the wedding servants to listen to Jesus and do whatever He says.

There are no apparent parallel accounts to John 2:1-5 in the Gospels. 

John 2 begins with Jesus and His new disciples attending a wedding at Cana in Galilee

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. (vs 1-2). 

John introduces this event with the phrase: On the third day. This phrase seems to connect the wedding in Cana with the series of events John described in Chapter 1. 

  • The first event was seven days earlier when the priests and Levites from Jerusalem questioned John the Baptizer in Bethany beyond the Jordan (John 1:19-28).
  • The second event was the next day, when John proclaimed Jesus to be “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29-34).
  • The third event happened the next day when Jesus invited Andrew and another of the Baptizer’s disciples to follow Him. Andrew also introduced his brother Simon to Jesus on this day (John 1:35-42).
  • The fourth event was when Jesus purposed to go into Galilee, (and possibly this wedding in Cana), when Andrew introduced Philip to Jesus (John 1:43-51).
  • The fifth event is this wedding. It was roughly a three-day journey from Bethany beyond the Jordan to Cana in Galilee which is likely why John says: On the third day. It was the third day since Jesus left Bethany beyond the Jordan. 

The above explains John’s functional reason for the phrase: On the third day, but there may be other thematic reasons for its use as well. Philosophical themes are frequently alluded to within John’s Gospel. 

On the third day could be an allusion to God’s work of Creation.

In the Genesis 1 account, God’s work of Creation is organized into six days. Genesis explains and specifies what God did each of those days. Jesus who is the eternal Logos and Creator of all things (John 1:1-3) is about to begin a new work. As we will see, this wedding (another act of creation) will be the occasion where Jesus performs His first public sign (John 1:11). The theme of creation is further explained in the commentary for the next section (John 2:6-10).

On the third day could be a thematic anticipation of Jesus’s Resurrection.

Jesus came back to life on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). 

It is possible that John had both the functional and thematic reasons in mind when he introduced this wedding as taking place on the third day.

Galilee was a Roman district in northern Judea, named for the ten-mile by five-mile, diamond-shaped lake in that area. The town of Cana was located ten miles west of the lake and only a few miles north from Jesus’s hometown of Nazareth. 

During the wedding banquet, something goes awry for the newlywed couple when they run out of wine at the feast: When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” (v 3). This would have been a social embarrassment for the groom’s family, who in ancient Jewish culture was responsible for putting on an extravagant feast, sometimes for up to a week. 

Mary introduces the problem when she approaches Jesus and simply says, they have no wine (v 3). This is not technically a question, but Jesus replies in such a way that makes it clear he knows that Mary is actually making a big request. And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with us? My hour has not yet come (v4). 

Jesus has no trouble hearing the true question in her statement. Mary is not asking Jesus for a grocery run—she could have asked anyone for that. She is asking for a miracle. And even though Jesus’s reply is a bit puzzling, He makes it clear that He didn’t originally intend to intervene in this situation. Jesus asks Mary what this situation has to do with the two of them because His hour has not yet come (v4), which hints that they are speaking in code: they are the only two people in the room who yet know the secret of Jesus’s divine identity. 

When Jesus states: “My hour has not yet come”—He likely does not mean that His death is approaching (this phrase will assume this meaning over the course of Jesus’s ministry); neither does He likely mean that His earthly ministry has not yet begun. Jesus’s ministry began when He was baptized by John (John 1:29-34), and He had also begun recruiting disciples to follow Him (John 1:43). Thus, it seems more likely that Jesus’s comment shows He is not ready to publicly reveal His divine identity, as a show-y miracle certainly would. This interpretation is supported by how Jesus commands His disciples and others to keep this “messianic secret” in several other places in the Gospels (Mark 1:43-45, 8:29-30). 

Instead of addressing His mother as “Mom” or something similar, Jesus addresses her as “Woman” (v 4). This may seem like an abrupt or gruff response. However, the Greek word translated Woman here was simply the standard word for a grown female, and in this context would connote respect, perhaps like the English word “Ma’am.” Thus, in this exchange, Jesus on the one hand seems to assert that His concerns and mission are not identical to Mary’s, while on the other hand is still treating His mother with respect. Indeed, while Mary cares primarily for her friends in this instance, Jesus must weigh her request within the context of His greater mission, to die for the sins of the world (Philippians 2:5-8, John 1:29). 

A key insight might be gained from this cryptic conversation by the way Mary ends it. After she hears Jesus’s reply, she says to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it” (v 5). She simply walks away and leaves the matter in Jesus’s hands. In other words, she gives up any illusion of control, and trusts that Jesus will do what is best. It appears that Mary understands who Jesus is, and that He cares for her. But in recognizing who He is, she leaves it to Him to decide what to do. She does not tell the servants exactly what will happen, but rather instructs them to do whatever He says. Mary’s faith at this wedding in Cana is similar to the faith she displayed when Gabriel announced to her that she would miraculously carry God’s Son (Luke 1:26-38). Mary’s response to Gabriel at that time was: “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done according to your word” (Luke 1:38). In both instances, she is accepting of what the God will do. 

Mary thus provides a model of faith in this instance: those who wish to follow Jesus must bring bold requests to Him (Philippians 4:6) yet must also relinquish control of their circumstances and trust that He will do what is best, even if Christ’s will does not agree with their sensibilities (Romans 8:28). In this instance, though, Mary does get her desire.

At the end of Jesus’s life, we will see Him practice similar faith in His relationship with the Father. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He will petition His Father for a way to accomplish His mission without dying on the cross, yet Jesus ultimately submits to God’s plan and will. Jesus will say “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). The words translated as “willing” and “will” in that passage from Luke are two different Greek words. Jesus’s statement to His Father most nearly means: “Not my desire, but Your plan be done.”

Gethsemane is an instance where we see both the true humanity and true divinity of Jesus in one moment. Specifically, it shows us that when Jesus’s human will and His divine will are in tension, He submits His human will to the divine. It is His complete trust in God which enables Him to live a sinless life, and therefore to present Himself as a blameless and acceptable sacrifice for the sins of the world (Hebrews 10:1–18).

Like Mary at Cana and Jesus at Gethsemane, believers ought to pray boldly and yet also relinquish control. We should always recognize that God’s plan is superior to our desires. Both praying expectantly and trusting God to do the right thing are vital to trusting in God. In this passage, we see evidence that somehow God is responsive to our prayers and yet completely sovereign at the same time. This mysterious and paradoxical truth obliges us to pray like Mary. We must bring big requests to God, confident that He is able to do even what seems impossible. Without faith it is impossible to please God, and anyone who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). But we also must be willing to entrust those requests to Him and give up control (Luke 22:42).

Biblical Text

1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; 2 and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”

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