(This is written as an early Lenten exploration, as described in an earlier post – I encourage you to comment!)
The Wedding at Cana
1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it.9 When the master 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 master of the feast called the bridegroom10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people 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 they stayed there for a few days.
This “first miracle” presents some questions. Was it the first miracle in Jesus’ public ministry? Or is it simply the first one in John’s telling? In v. 11, John calls it the first of the signs that Jesus did… at Cana in Galilee. Were there others, earlier but in other places? Was this the first miracle His mother had observed? She certainly seemed to expect Jesus to do something! Why? Or perhaps I should ask “What?” What did Mary expect? Part of me wants to think that she knew simply that her son seemed to have a knack for helping people out, of knowing insightful, wise and practical ways of easing difficulties.
I like to think that, but I have no data. It could also be that miracles had occurred, and that John either omitted earlier ones, or re-ordered the ones he did relate. Against this, we have the words of Jesus; “My hour has not yet come.” I think this must be the first. But what did Mary expect, and why?
And when I have done wrestling with this, I have to ask why Jesus acted even though his “time had not yet come?” Did God do something not on His agenda, and out of order? Well so it seems. What would that mean? At the least, it would mean that God is not fully programmed, Mary’s agenda and care mattered to Him because they were her cares, and not just because God had purposed for this hour from the foundation of the world.
I would not speak against God’s sovereign nature. The Father does see the end from the beginning. But this story tells us that even in his sovereign rule, he has a heart of compassion. The care of Mary brought about a real and direct change in the purposes of God;”What has that to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” High theology grappling with the nature of God is good. But perhaps a good principle is that theological speculation cannot out-authority pastoral truth. I must never forget that God does care, He does listen, and He does respond to prayer. Never, Never, Never forget!
Finally, why does John select this miracle to include? He only gives us seven, and he himself says that there were many more (John 20:30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book) He is very selective, very purposeful. So what does this miracle tell us? At first, it seems that, as Jesus seems to suggest, that it is an anomaly, not part of the main story. But John chose specifically to tell us about it.
Tonight I first saw what I think is the connection. I have long seen chapter 17 of John’s account of the Gospel as containing one of the clearest expositions of “what it’s all about” in the whole Bible. Jesus prays to his Father that “they (we) will all be one, even as you and I are one” In the SAME WAY that the three persons of the Holy Trinity are One. That will be explored more when we get there, but I think it appears here in the first of the Signs John shows us. The wedding at Cana recalls the first wedding, in Eden, where “The two shall become One” The people of God are frequently compared to a bride. I am settled that the unity in marriage is meant to be a sign, and a lab section to explore and explain the plural-unity that exists within the 3-and-yet-1 nature of the Godhead; and I think, in the full meaning of Jesus’ prayer, that is what He intends for us: first with each other, then ultimately with Himself.
If that glimpse has any validity, then it makes sense that the theme would arc through Genesis to the marriage of the Lamb in the Revelation, and that the most instructive account of the central act, this Gospel According to John, begin with the miracle at, and in, and of a wedding.