Summary: First of a series of sermons in John’s gospel. The wedding at Cana.
In my early twenties I used to play in a ceilidh band, and was often called on to play at weddings. On one occasion, we were asked to play for a Palestinian Muslim wedding in the Grovenor Hotel in Edinburgh. Having played at many weddings before, I had never quite experienced one like this. So much of it was completely alien to me. Customs and traditions I had never encountered before, and like all Middle Eastern weddings it went on for ages. It was like I had entered a different world.
And to some extent that is what we need to do as we try to understand the story of the wedding at Cana. As we try and place ourselves in a different time, in a different culture with different traditions from our own. And as we follow the story I would like to focus on different characters as they each get a glimpse of who Jesus really is; we will consider how they respond and how we might respond too.
So let us begin by reflecting on Mary’s part in the story.
In the Middle East in Jesus’ day, weddings tended to be affairs for family and close friends only, so it is highly likely that Mary was a relative of the family hosting this wedding. And probably through his mother, Jesus is also invited along with his disciples to Cana, a short journey north of Nazareth, Jesus home town.
So Mary notices at some point that the wine had run out. Now for wine to run out at a wedding in Jewish culture was not just a minor mishap, where it could be rectified by send someone down to the off-licence for a couple of extra bottles. It was a major disaster, bring shame and dishonour to the host family.
And yet Jesus’ reply in v.4, “You must not tell me what to do, my time has not yet come.”, is surprising if not seeming to be very rude at first, although it is thought that how this was understood depended upon what tone of voice was used. Whether it was rude or not, it was still the answer, “No!”
Did this put Mary off? Absolutely not! Mary was not giving up, she told the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” Although at this point Jesus had performed no miracles, Mary seemed to recognise something in her Son to put her complete trust in him, that he would do the right thing.
As a mother she knew her son probably better than anyone, and yet there was something about Jesus still to be revealed to her.
And Jesus does as his mother asks. He tells the servants to fill up the stone jars with water, which would be set aside for ritual washing. And the water turned into wine as it was served. Mary trusted her Son completely, even though she did not know what he would do. And Jesus did not disappoint her, as Mary glimpsed for the first time the power of God within Jesus.
Maybe there are times when we cannot see what is ahead of us; we are in the midst of circumstances we cannot understand, but we know the Lord is with us, but we are afraid to trust him completely.
There is a story about a house that caught fire one night and a young boy was forced to climb on to the roof to escape. His father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, "Jump! I’ll catch you." He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see, however, was flames, smoke, and blackness. As you can imagine, he was afraid to leave the roof, but his father kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you." But the boy shouted back, "Daddy, I can’t see you." Then the father replied, "But I can see you and that’s all that matters."
And that is all that matters, that when we cannot see what is in front of us, and we do not understand what is doing, all that matters is that God knows.
Perhaps Mary has much to teach us in these times and situations, that we need to learn to trust the Lord completely. Even though we may have had faith in Jesus many years, situations will arise that test that trust to the limit. But, He will not fail us. He knows about every situation and trial that we face. And he has promised to be with us.
Now let us turn to the man in charge of the feast.
Now every wedding in Jesus time would have had a wine steward or master of ceremonies, someone who would be in charge of the food and drink. And it was to this man that the servants took a sample of the water from the stone jars, which turned to wine only as it was served. John tells us that although the servants knew exactly what had happened, the man in charge of the feast did not, but he knew enough about wine, to know good wine when he tasted it.