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John 1 describes in some detail Jesus calling his first five disciples - Andrew, Simon, Philip, Nathanael and presumably John. John 2 1-2 says that Jesus' mother was at the wedding and Jesus was there with his disciples. So there were six followers of Jesus at the wedding (his mother and five disciples), and six jars filled with the new wine.

This seems to be another one of John's 'sevens'. Jesus commanded the six jars to be filled with water at the wedding, and then turned the water into wine. In the same way Jesus filled his six followers (the number six can represent humanity) with the new wine of the Kingdom. He is the perfect seventh 'jar', from which all the other jars are filled.

The passage here forms a beautiful contrast with Jeremiah 13; 12-14 where people are also referred to as jars of wine. In the Jeremiah passage the people described were the prophets, priests and the kings who sat on David's throne, as well as all the people of Jerusalem. They were all sentenced to destruction.

At the wedding at Cana one man, who was a prophet, priest and the king who would sit on David's throne, filled jars with a wine of blessing instead of destruction. It was as if the old wine of God's judgement a ran out at the wedding, and was replaced with the new wine of His blessing.

I wonder if this, the first sign that Jesus did, set the pattern for the rest of Jesus' ministry - he filled the 12, then the 70, then the 3,000 at Pentecost. And these people, like the jars of new wine filled to the brim at the wedding, (John 2:7) went on to share the new wine they carried with others, spreading the gospel of the Kingdom far and wide.

Incidentally the amount of wine Jesus created (approximately 150 gallons) was enough to give 3,000 people a good measure. Could it be that Jesus was looking all the way to Pentecost when he created the wine?

This all makes sense to me, but I've not seen this referenced anywhere else, so I would be curious to know if other people see this as well?

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  • NO - such a connection is only possible IF the Scripture makes such a connection. No such connection is made.
    – Dottard
    Mar 13 at 9:22
  • John also notes that they caught 153 fish. Can't we just recognise that sometimes he specified some numbers because that's how many there were, without any deeper meanings?
    – curiousdannii
    Mar 14 at 0:46
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    I like this kind of connection and believe it is a completely valid approach. I also think there are other allusions as well. Just make sure that the certainty level in your reads is not too high. John frequently seems to allude to scripture and it would certainly have been in the minds of his jewish readers.
    – Gus L.
    Mar 22 at 12:59
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At this point, I can't say what the six stands for, but this is the symbolism of the jars within their context of John's Gospel. John does make the point that there were six jars, but note that these jars were for purification washing.

 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification,... (John 2:6a, ESV)

John had previously compared Jesus' earthly ministry to Moses.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. ... 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:14,16–17, ESV)

This was the first of seven miracles John recorded as signs of Jesus being the Messiah. This signs somewhat parallel the ten plagues in Egypt as far as purpose; the ten plagues, God superiority of the Egyptian gods, the seven signs, Jesus is the Messiah, Son of God. The first plague was changing water to blood. In the last supper Jesus used wine representing his blood. We are cleansed by his blood. Thus the jars for cleansing.

I hope this helps you find an answer.

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Although it is hard to say whether the six jars represent six specific disciples, there may be reason to consider the jars as representative of humanity in general or the disciples of Christ in particular:

  • So they will hang on him all the glory of his father’s house, the offspring and the descendants, all the least of vessels, from bowls to all the jars. (Is 22:24)

As the first of Jesus’ signs, the wedding at Cana is intriguing because of how different it is from all of Jesus’ other miracles. The OP’s question and interpretation prompts me to think about the symbolism in this story. Although not a parable, this story includes many of the prominent symbols of the New Testament. The wedding, the bridegroom, the stone, the jars, the water, the wine, the servants, etc. - each of these elements, whether singly or in combination, seem to point to something beyond itself.

Once I began thinking about the symbolism embedded in this account, the hard part has been how to stop. There seems no end to the connections that can be made. Almost every word seems to recall something from the past or foreshadow things that have yet to come. The OP’s interpretation focuses on the theme of multiplication and the spreading of the Gospel message. For me, what stands out is the symbolism of the water and wine, and the theme of transformation.

The setting is a wedding banquet, where there is “no more wine.” On one level, the wine represents the life of the banquet. Considered at a deeper level, wine, or “the blood of the grapes” (Gen 49:11), represents the life of the spirit; and the absence of wine represents a state of spiritual thirst and sin.

Mary says, “Do whatever he tells you.” She directs the servants to listen to and obey Jesus' words. By extension, her words can be seen as a plea to the servants of God to hear and obey the words of the Gospel. They echo statements from elsewhere in the text:

  • “Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Be attentive to him and obey his voice (Ex 23:20-21)
  • While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice from the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him!” (Lk 17:5)

Jesus tells the servants to “fill the jars with water.” Considering Mary’s words and how the water is poured and drawn leads me to think that the water represents the words of the Gospel. Consider that the servants of God have been pouring and drawing the words of the Gospel ever since and will continue to do so for generations to come.

Once the jars that are set for purification have been filled to the brim, the water is turned into wine. This miracle symbolizes the transformative and life giving power of the words of the Gospel acting in the soul of those who listen and obey:

  • The words that I have spoken to you are spirit, and are life. (Jn 6:63)
  • Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. (Jn 6:68)

Furthermore, when we consider that Jesus himself is the Word of God (Jn 1:14), then another level of meaning opens up. The transformation of the water into wine then becomes a foreshadowing of the hour when the wine will become the blood of Christ, the blood of the new covenant that is poured out for the forgiveness of sins:

  • And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is being poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. (Mt 26:27-28)

As the first of the seven signs recorded by John, the miracle at Cana seems to be a roadmap for Jesus’ ministry, and the overflowing wine, 25-30 gallons times six, serves to fulfill the words of the OT:

  • “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills, (Amos 9:13)
  • He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. (Gen 49:11)

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