Jesus has a way of making the ordinary extraordinary.
For instance, in the second chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus, along with His mother, Mary, has been invited to a wedding in the Galilean town of Cana. While there, Mary learns that the host was running out of wine and mentions it to Jesus. After a brief interchange she then gives instructions, in verse 5, to the servants, "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." (Note: this is the only command ever given by Mary in the Bible.)
In verse 7, Jesus says to the servants, "Fill the waterpots with water." After the servants complied, He instructed them in the next verse, "Draw it out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast." When they did so, the governor tasted the water and found it to be the best wine yet to be served at the feast, saying in verse 10, "Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men had well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now."
Following that, in John 2:11, we read:
"This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him."
Now, let's break this extraordinary event down a little in order to understand how Jesus made this ordinary event extraordinary.
First, much about the event was very ordinary. Jesus and Mary were from the nearby town of Nazareth and apparently were acquaintances, if not friends or relatives, of those getting married so there was nothing unusual about them being there. Also, it was not uncommon for wine to run low as the marriage feast typically lasted a week and it was not strange for friends or family members to want to help. Finally, and you may be surprised at this, it was not unusual for water to become wine. In fact, it happens every day and I will prove that shortly. What was unusual, however, was the manner in which it became wine. And that, of course, is where the miracle occurred, where Jesus made the ordinary extraordinary.
But first, let me explain something about the word wine. In the King James Bible the word wine has a broad range of meanings. Today we tend to limit the word, wine, to mean fermented juice. In the 1600's, however, wine could mean anything from fresh grape juice to fermented grape juice. It could also mean grape juice that has been boiled down to a thick syrup or the mixture of said syrup with water to reconstitute it.
For instance, in Proverbs 3:10 we see a reference to grapes being pressed and their juice flowing out of the presses:
"So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine [Hebrew: tirosh]."
The Hebrew word, "Tirosh," refers to the newly pressed fresh juice of the grape, which we can clearly see in Proverbs 3:10. In total, it appears 38 times in the King James Bible and is translated 28 times as wine, 11 times as new wine, and once as sweet wine.
The most common Hebrew word for wine in the Bible, however, is "yayin." This word appears 134 times in the King James Bible and is used in reference to all forms of grape juice whether fermented or unfermented, boiled or unboiled. In Jeremiah 48:33, for example, we see unfermented wine referred to when God says He has "…caused wine [yayin] to fail from the winepresses: none shall tread with shouting…" On the other hand, in Genesis 9:21 we see a clear reference to fermented wine when we read where Noah "…drank of the wine [yayin], and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent."
In the New Testament, the word wine is translated from the Greek word "oinos." "Oinos" is essentially the Greek equivalent of "yayin" and also refers to grape juice in all its forms. Several times it even appears with the Greek word "neos" and we see the phrase translated as "new wine," indicating new or fresh grape juice. Jesus Himself makes this clear in Matthew 9:17 saying,
"Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved."
Since new wine is unfermented it is put in new wine bottles, which are made from new animal skins which can stretch as the wine ferments and causes them to swell. Old bottles have already been stretched out and therefore cannot swell as the wine ferments and consequently burst, causing the loss of both the wine and the bottle.
Now, let's get back to how water becomes wine. As I said earlier, it is not unusual and it happens every day. What was unusual was the fashion in which the water became wine at the wedding feast in Cana.
Let me explain. In nature the grapevine pulls water up from the ground through its roots. The water is transported through a series of vessels know as xylem from the roots to the leaves where it makes its way into the middle layer of the leaf tissue known as the mesophyll. The mesophyll cells contain chloroplasts, which are small organelles containing chlorophyll. Specialized cells called stomata open and close allowing air to enter the leaf where, along with the water supplied by the roots, an amazing photochemical reaction takes place in the chloroplasts when sunlight shines onto the leaf. This reaction is called photosynthesis.
During photosynthesis carbon dioxide and water are changed into oxygen and sugar. Essentially, six carbon dioxide molecules (6CO2) are combined with six water molecules (6H2O) by chlorophyll in the presence of sunlight to produce six oxygen molecules (6O2) and one sugar molecule (C6H12O6). This is the first step in how water is changed into wine every day.
The oxygen is released by the stomata into the air and the sugar is transported as sugary water from the leaves through another set of vessels, known as phloem. In the process amino acids, minerals, anti-oxidants, and a variety of other nutrients are mixed into the sugary water, some of which is transported to the roots for storage, some of which nourishes the leaves and growing vines, and some of which is transported to the developing grapes, causing them to swell with juice or, as the King James Bible puts it, new wine.
So, as you can see, water is turned into wine everyday thanks to the amazing process of photosynthesis. However, that is not what happened at Cana. There, something extraordinary took place when, in the presence of Jesus Christ, the Light (John 1:9), ordinary water was miraculously transformed into extraordinary wine without going through the ordinary process of photosynthesis.
In the same way that Jesus changed ordinary water into extraordinary wine, Jesus changed His disciples from ordinary men into extraordinary men. Seeing the miracle Jesus performed take place had a profound, transformational effect on His disciples. According to John 2:11, "…his disciples believed on him." Before, they knew Jesus was the Messiah because He fulfilled the Messianic prophecies and had been pointed out by John the Baptist twice saying, in John 1:29 & 36, "Behold the Lamb of God!" Now, they knew He was the Messiah because they had stood in the light of His glory.
So profound was the change in these men that later, after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, it was said of some of these men in Acts 4:13:
"Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus."
Jesus continued to have a transformational effect on those He came in contact with throughout His earthly ministry. The blind received their sight, the lame were made to walk, leppers were cured, and even the dead were raised back to life. But more importantly, He transformed the lives of those He encountered, bringing them out of spiritual darkness into the light of His glory and turning ordinary people into extraordinary people. In fact, after the miracle in Cana and the transformation of His disciples in John 2, we see the spiritual transformation of a rabbi, by the name of Nicodemus, in chapter 3, a Samaritan woman of loose morals in chapter 4, an infirm man in chapter 5, and a blind man in chapter 9. And, after His resurrection, we see the transformation of an ordinary rabbi, named Saul, into an extraordinary preacher and teacher of the Gospel with the new name of Paul in Acts 9.
Since that time, millions of ordinary men and women have been and are being transformed into extraordinary men and women after encountering Jesus Christ. We step from the darkness of sin into the glorious light of Jesus Christ our Saviour. God, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:6, "…commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." In doing so, God transforms the ordinary sinner, lost and alienated from God, into an extraordinary saint, cleansed, redeemed, and adopted into the family of God. Just as in photosynthesis, where we see carbon dioxide plus water in the presence of sunlight changed into oxygen and sugar, we see in salvation sinners plus the gospel in the presence of God's Light changed into saints.
Another transformation sometimes takes place in the lives of Believers as well. Ordinary Believers, standing in the light of Jesus' glory become transformed into extraordinary Servants of God. Take, for example, William Carey, born in 1761 in the obscure English village of Paulerspury, Northhamptonshire. Carey, who, as an ordinary lost sinner, responded to the gospel of Christ when the light of God shined into the darkness of his heart and he was gloriously transformed into a redeemed child of God. Later, while studying and thinking on the things of God and basking in the light of God's glory, he was transformed from an ordinary Believer into an extraordinary Servant of God. Carey was transformed from being an ordinary shoemaker quietly serving his Lord and Saviour in the British Midlands into the father of the modern missionary movement and an extraordinary preacher, teacher, Bible translator and scholar. Or, as fellow missionary, John Wilson, quoted in George Smith's "Life of William Carey, Shoemaker & Missionary' (1909), said of Carey after his death:
"Dr. Carey, the first of living missionaries, the most honoured and the most successful since the time of the Apostles, has closed his long and influential career. Indeed his spirit, his life, and his labours, were truly apostolic...The Spirit of God which was in him led him forward from strength to strength, supported him under privation, enabled him to overcome in a fight that seemed without hope. Like the beloved disciple, whom he resembled in simplicity of mind, and in seeking to draw sinners to Christ altogether by the cords of love, he outlived his trials to enjoy a peaceful and honoured old age, to know that his Master's cause was prospering, and that his own name was named with reverence and blessing in every country where a Christian dwelt. Perhaps no man ever exerted a greater influence for good on a great cause. Who that saw him, poor and in seats of learning uneducated, embark on such an enterprise, could ever dream that, in little more than forty years, Christendom should be animated with the same spirit, thousands forsake all to follow his example, and that the Word of Life should be translated into almost every language and preached in almost every corner of the earth?"
The same Jesus who changed the water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana continues to make the ordinary extraordinary today. He is still transforming sinners into saints and believers into servants. And, the amazing thing is, He wants to use us in His transformational work:
"Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. (2 Corinthians 4:1-5)"
Let us then be faithful to stand in the light of His glory and allow Jesus to make our ordinary extraordinary.