The biblical passage: Jn 2, 1-11
On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them. “Now, draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast.” So they took it. When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants how had drawn the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom 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.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
The wedding ceremony in Israel in the days of Jesus was an unusual event, so that people did not spare effort and means to prepare and celebrate it properly. There is no need to go into details, suffice it to say that the ceremony lasted seven days! Each day the same guests would come, and every now and then a new guest would arrive. Such a long time of the wedding must have been very exhausting for the bride and the bridegroom, let alone their parents, who usually bore the main burden of the organization of the ceremony. This custom will become more comprehensible once we realize that every feast, but especially a wedding, was a feast of hospitality and generosity, which were to symbolize the fullness and richness of life.
Our biblical text presents a problem that at first glance is not a serious problem at all. Well, today we would not be very distressed if during some family celebration, a kind of alcohol were to run out. But in the times of Jesus hospitality was treated with all solemnity. It was the duty of the host to take care of everything, especially before a ceremony as grand as a wedding. We do not really know why during the famous wedding in Cana they did not have enough wine. Did the host forget about something, did he expect fewer guests? The situation of the host was far from enviable, no doubt about that! What can you do under such hopeless circumstances?
In this situation, unpleasant for the bride, bridegroom and their parents, it is Jesus’ mother, Mary, who takes the initiative. She realizes that something is wrong. It is puzzling why she should address Jesus with the words, “They have no wine.” Is she aware of the fact that Jesus might find a remedy for the shortage of wine? She was not present when Jesus was baptized in the waters of the Jordan, she could not have heard the Spirit of God declare, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” (Mt 3, 17). Yet it seems that Mary knows very well that Jesus is the only person who could help the situation. Otherwise her words telling the servants to follow the suggestions of Jesus would be devoid of sense: “His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.” We know what happened later,… Yet Jesus’ reaction to the words of His mother is odd, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” The words spoken in a family may sound harsh, if not impolite, to our ears. Who knows, maybe Jesus wanted to tell His mother that He is not only her son, but that He is also, or above all, the Son of God who should carry out the mission of God the Father, and this mission cannot be confined to the solution of one problem of the shortage of wine. In spite of the severe behavior of Jesus, Mary is unmoved. She continues to count on Jesus, on His intervention: “Do whatever he tells you.” She does not only know that Jesus might intervene, she is certain that He will. She counts on God’s intervention in this world through Jesus. And it happens: the right moment comes for Jesus to perform the first miracle. This extraordinary sign marks the beginning of His public activity. By the same token He reveals to everybody that He is God’s Son, the Messiah, Christ. Yes, I am a man, and at the same time God.
At one point Jesus tells the servants to “Fill the jars with water.” And this pure water becomes excellent wine. No need to mention that this course of events surprises all the wedding guests, eliciting great joy from them. One can imagine that the joy of the host and hostess of the wedding surpassed that of their guests, for their wedding almost ended in a disaster. In today’s text the wine stands for salvation. Something that in human terms was simply impossible, can now be experienced by everybody. If the transformation of water into wine evokes so much joy, then this too is a telling sign: the time of salvation is, or at least is meant to be, the time of joy, most closely connected with the person of Jesus Christ. Without Him there would be neither joy from the transformation of water into wine, nor any chance of salvation, which is now within everybody’s reach.
Let us remember that Jesus Christ wants to remain in community with us. If He wants to live with us, we should take His wishes into account, we should count on Him under any circumstances of our lives. It is worthwhile to trust Him and to follow Him. Although it may at times appear impossible that Jesus Christ might change our lives for the better, against this impression we boldly believe that “What is impossible with men is possible with God,” (Lk 18, 27). Amen.
Rev. Dr Dariusz Chwastek, translated by Dr Joanna Teske