Here we find another teaching moment inserted, this time recorded only by John.
John 2:1 On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; 2 Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. 3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him. 12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples; and there they stayed for a few days.
We’ve all heard this tale before, even if not in church it is certainly one of the most popular stories even outside of Christianity. But, why did John feel it important enough to include, and what did he feel was being taught. John is considered the Theological Gospel because he is not trying to convert non-beleivers, but is trying to educate believers. For that reason nothing is included in the Gospel of John without having a lesson to be learned. Let’s start at the beginning and see what is happening, and why.
John starts off by telling us that on the third day there was a wedding. People like to tie this back to what happened before (calling of the disciples) and say that this was the third day, when the calling was complete, but not so. If you outline the days preceeding you find day 1 as Jesus’ baptism; day 2 was the calling of the first disciples (Andrew, James, John, and Peter); day 3 was the calling of the remainder of the first disciples (Philip, Nathanel). But the wedding was on the third day, right? Yes, and no. The journey from where the disciples were called (Bethabara) to Cana entails 27-32 hours of walking. The third day spoken of here was the third day of the week (Tuesday). If you’ve read my tretise on Jewish weddings you know these are multi-day events, ending on Friday before the start of the Sabbath. John tells us of the start of the wedding feast as being on Tuesday, so by the time the wine runs low we are looking at the latter part of the wedding, Thursday or Friday. To run out of wine before the end of the feast was a insult beyond compare, the bridegroom was expected to provide food and drink enough for everyone for the entire feast, so when the steward says they have been drinking heavy, count on it.
Now, with the background set we get into the teaching.
The first lesson here is one that Jesus will pound into the people over and over again, and I think it is well that he not only talks about it, but demonstrates it as well. The feast has run out of wine, and Jesus’ mother not only notices it but feels it is important enough to bring to her son’s attention. Mary does what any good Jewish mother would do, she simply mentions the fact to her son, then when he questions her about it she ignores him and tells the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them – all that is missing from the story is mention of her grabbing him by the ear. Let’s grasp the entirety of what has happened – the wedding has run out of wine, and Mary has just told the creator of the universe to handle it! Think about this. She is not ordering just any son about, she has just given a command to the Alpha and Omega, and walked away from him when he balked.
Remember how Jesus will tell his disciples about the importance of faith? “For truly I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed…” Mary just demonstrated that faith, she gave a command to the Son of God and walked away with the full faith and knowledge that he would grant what she has asked. Faith, the power it holds if we could just muster it up!
We have a second lesson here as well, tied tightly to the first. Jesus has just explained to his mother why her request isn’t appropriate. The hour for his public ministry and the miracles has not arrived, what she is asking is not in God’s plan. But, she walks away without so much as a word of acknowledgement. What does Jesus do? This is the second lesson that he tries to get into our thick skulls – honor your father and mother. He will tell the disciples this, he will tell a young man who asks what needs to be done for righteousness. Even though what his mother asked is not something he wants to do, even though it goes against the plan for his ministry, he does as she asks.
But, did you catch this, he not only does what she asked, but he goes beyond her request. He doesn’t just turn the water into wine (Mary would have been happy with that) he turns it into the best wine the steward has ever tasted. He goes beyond mere compliance to putting forth his best effort to honor his mother’s request. How about you? If your parents ask you to do something you don’t want to do, do you do it anyhow? If so, do you do just enough to get by? Or do you do your absolute best to please them so that they are honored by your efforts?
Finally, do you take credit for the task? Jesus didn’t. Even the steward had no idea where this wine came from, only the servants did. Jesus didn’t run up to his mother and say, “Look what I have done, aren’t I a great son?” He didn’t tell the steward, “My mother said you were out of wine, so I am giving you this, isn’t it great? Aren’t you pleased with me?” What he did, he did so anonymously. And this is our third lesson – humility. To put forth your best effort, not for praise and adulation, but because it is what God would want of you. No matter how grueling or menial the task, put your best effort into it. And do it without taking any pride or credit in it, do it just because it is what God would want. “When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand does.”