It was the third day the disciples were with their new teacher, Jesus. He was invited to a marriage celebration at Cana, located on the picturesque Sea of Galilee, and they were also invited. It was probably the marriage of a family member or very close friend, as His mother Mary seemed to know the family of the bridegroom very well.
Wedding celebrations in those times generally lasted for seven days, during which time there would be feasting and dancing. This is alluded to in the story of Jacob and sisters, Leah and Rachel. Jacob had bargained with their father Laban to marry Rachel, the youngest daughter, with whom he was in love. He worked for Laban seven years, and the Bible says “it seemed like but a few days to him, so great was his love for her.” Talk about romantic! When the seven years were ended, Jacob went to Laban to claim his beloved Rachel.
But his father-in-law tricked him, and when he awoke on the morning after the ceremony, he was shocked to see Leah in his marriage bed. Furious, he confronted Laban who calmly explained that it was customary to marry off the elder daughter before the younger, but that he could still marry Rachel if he worked another seven years. What Laban said is interesting: “Fulfill her week…” referring to Leah's seven-day celebration, “…and I will give you Rachel also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years.” Jacob agreed, and Scripture says: “And he went in also unto Rachel…” This shows that this time he got Rachel up front, but first Laban wanted Leah to have her full week’s celebration to herself before Rachel became the center of Jacob’s attention (Ref.: Genesis is 29:16-30).
By the way: this is what prompted the ritual of the lifting of the bride's veil by the groom at the ceremony. Because brides were heavily veiled, when they went into the honeymoon tent, Leah was easily substituted for Rachel. After this, when the groom wanted to be sure he was getting the right girl, he lifted the veil before the marriage was consummated!
The End of the Line for the Wine
At what point in the wedding celebration Jesus attended, they ran out of wine, we don't know, but His mother came to Jesus and said: “They have no wine.” It would have been a huge embarrassment to the family of the bridegroom to run out of wine before the celebration was over. Jesus essentially responded to His mother that it was not time for His ministry to begin. Clearly, Mary thought otherwise. She knew Jesus had supernatural power, and she turned to the wedding servants and told them, “Whatever He tells you to do, do it!” Mary exercised her faith in Jesus by getting the ball rolling. She was not disappointed. This first of His miracles manifested His glory, and His disciples believed on Him. It also put His seal of honor on the marriage covenant. Imagine the story this couple would have to tell their kids!
Jesus instructed the servants to fill six water pots with water, and when they had done so, He told them to pour a glass for the governor (host) of the feast. When the governor tasted it, it was better than the wine they had been serving. Not knowing where the wine came from, he called for the bridegroom and said: “Normally, you would set out the best wine at the beginning of the feast and wait till the end to serve the worst. But you have kept the good wine until now” (John 2:1-11).
The best — first, but you: the best—last!
There is hidden in this statement a wonderful application for marriage. We tend to think the early days of marriage are best, when you are intoxicated on the wine of love, passion, and sexual pleasure—when you are young and full of vitality, fantastical dreams, exciting plans for the future, and limitless expectations. But just as the latter wine was better, marriage too can be better in the latter years of life, especially when Jesus pours in His joy! When husband and wife let the water of His Word produce the joy of His wine in their lives, married love grows sweeter with the years. When they are willing to do whatever He says, they will experience the best part of married life, growing older together.
Perhaps there is not the same passionate physical pleasure they had during the honeymoon years. Sometimes this is exacerbated by health problems, but everyone experiences a decline in sexual desire and need with age. Yet, their love can grow deeper, stronger, and more meaningful. The companionship aspect of marriage develops over the years through shared experiences, good and bad. In some cases, unexpected and sore troubles come, and the marriage is strained by the weight of losses, frustration, and even unhappy times. But when the couple turns to Jesus, willing to do whatever He commands in His Word, the touch of His presence brings strength which undergirds the relationship. The joy of first love is far surpassed by the resulting trust, security, and contentment that only those who have tasted all the wines of married life can know.
Truly, the best years are the last years we share together on this earth, when Christ is the source and center of our joy. When tough times or prolonged problems come against your marriage, you can either:
Leave or cleave—
Quit or submit—
Kiss and make up, or hiss and break up—
Get a divorce, or stay the course—
Say, “This is not working out for me!” or—“The best is yet to be!”