Summary: Jesus can transform everything. We would do well to heed Mary's directive: "Do whatever He tells you."
A Sunday School teacher shared this account of our Lord’s first miracle, and after church a parent asked what the lesson was about. The child said, “I learned that if you’re having a wedding, make sure Jesus is there!” Sound advice. Wise is the couple who invites Jesus to their wedding!
The same Jesus who fasted in the wilderness had no trouble enjoying a wedding party. He showed up as a guest at a wedding with His newly formed band of disciples; His mother came, too. Cana was a small village in Galilee, nine miles northeast of Nazareth and the home of Nathanael, one of the 12 disciples. Perhaps the invitation came through Nathanael. Our Lord’s attendance indicates His blessing on marriage. A wedding is a sacred transaction, a holy covenant.
“Jesus was always welcome among those who were having a good time” (Boice). We sometimes picture Jesus as so solemn we forget He knew how to have fun. He was not aloof or detached from people.
A typical Jewish wedding party would make a torch-lit procession through the streets, and then gather at the groom’s house for several days of feasting and dancing. Instead of a honeymoon, newlyweds had a week-long open house! Everyone who knew the couple was invited, and it was considered a grave insult to decline an invitation. We should view social events as occasions to show that Christians can have a good time, and as opportunities to connect with people. Even when we’re socializing, we can be making a spiritual impact.
Weddings in Jesus’ time had the same burden on family budgets that they do today. At one wedding I was handed a card that read: “I am the father of the bride. I am receiving no attention, but I’m paying all the bills.” This family in Cana was likely poor and made the minimum provision, hoping it would last. Wine at weddings was essential; it’s considered by Israel as a symbol of joy. Psalm 104:5 notes, “Wine gladdens the heart.”…and life without Jesus is a life without wine and joy.
There would hopefully be enough--otherwise the party would come to a halt, shaming the entire family. Running out of wine wouldn’t just be inconvenient; it would be a dishonoring social disaster, and a breach of hospitality, a major Middle Eastern social infraction that would cause the family to lose face in front of their guests. It would also be a bad omen for the bride and groom.
And so Mary quietly approached her son. She was likely assisting in the preparation of the meal, and knew the supplies were limited. She spoke as an advocate for the wedding party. Mary wanted Jesus to help, yet she was not specifically asking for a miracle. There was likely some distress in her voice as she whispered, “They have no wine.” We don’t know what she expected, or how much she knew of her son’s power. She didn’t tell Jesus what to do; she simply informed Him of the need and trusted that He will help out, however He saw fit. This is how we should pray. We should bring to God our needs and not be concerned as to how the answer will come.
I imagine most of us have felt uncomfortable with Jesus’ response in verse 4, particularly as expressed in the King James Version: “Woman, what have I to do with you?” The way Jesus addresses His mother sounds harsher in English than it reads in the original language. The word “woman” (in its cultural context) was a respectful form of address. The closest English equivalent is “Ma’am”. The NIV tries to capture this nuance by rendering it “dear woman.” Jesus likely said this with a warm smile. Note that Mary does not react to her Son’s words as if she had been rebuked.
Jesus explains that it wasn’t His time yet to begin His ministry…but He doesn’t say “no”. He makes it clear that His life was following a predetermined timetable. Jesus came “in the fullness of time”, according to plan (Gal 4:4). Yet something in His tone of voice tells Mary that He intends to do something. He works a private miracle out of compassion. Later on He would say that His time had come--John 12:23, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
Of all His miracles, this one was unique--He never repeated anything like it. At Cana the clock would start ticking and would not stop till Calvary.
Verse 5 shows Mary’s respect for her Son’s authority. We would do well to follow her directive: “Do whatever He tells you.” If you don’t remember anything else from this event, remember these important words.
The servants had no idea why they should draw water. When we pray, we trust Jesus to answer in His own way, even if His response seems to make little sense to us. We don’t know all the reasons for what He has planned, yet we are confident that He will lead us on the right path. We can trust Him to answer in His own, best way. His answers are wiser than our prayers.