Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
In this second chapter of John’s gospel, we follow Jesus and his disciples as he returns to his home. But wait– isn’t Jesus from Nazareth? Yes, he is, but Cana, the town where the wedding is taking place is very close to Nazareth. So that changes the dynamics of this wedding they attend. If Jesus was from Nazareth, he probably had family and friends in Cana, which explains his mother being at the wedding as well. Mary, Jesus’s mother, was probably one of the women who was helping prepare the food for the wedding celebration so she would know if the wine was running out. That explains her words to Jesus, and maybe his seemingly rude response, “Woman, what is that to you and me? My hour has not come.”
Jesus and his disciples were probably guests at the wedding. Maybe Jesus just wanted to participate in the celebration. He certainly would not want to ruin his friend’s wedding by doing a miracle in the middle of their celebration. Or Jesus could have been referring to his hour as the beginning of his public ministry. Jesus’s words to his mother may seem rude to us. If any of my children addressed me as “Woman” they would have been in a lot of trouble! When I read about this and why it sounds so rude to us, there were two opinions. One was that the word for “woman” should have been translated as “ma’am,” which would have perfectly acceptable. The second opinion was that Mary ignored what Jesus said because she knew he would do the right thing. That’s why she says to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” She knows Jesus will help, but in his own way.
One interesting thing about John’s gospel is that Jesus’s mother is only mentioned twice in John’s gospel, here at the wedding and at his crucifixion when he said from the cross, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother,” entrusting Mary’s care to the beloved disciple. Mary is only mentioned, and not by name, at Jesus’s first sign and at the end of his life. Jesus’s way of doing what his mother asks is to have the servants fill the large jars (used for purification) with water and send one of the servants to take some of it to the head waiter. When the head waiter tastes the water turned to wine, he is amazed and compliments the groom for saving the best wine for last, unlike the usual practice of serving the best wine first and following that with lesser quality wine—when people have been drinking for a while and are less likely to notice.
Weddings in that day were not just a private event, the entire village would be invited. And the wedding lasted a week. How could any host expect to have that much wine? Because it was the custom that family and close friends of the family attending the wedding were expected to contribute to the food and drink, so this may also be Jesus’s way of fulfilling his duty to the groom’s family.
But notice, Jesus does this first of his miracles (John’s gospel calls them signs) in the quietest way possible. No one knows where the wine has come from except his mother, the servants, and the disciples. And that’s kind of the point of this sign. “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.”
In John’s gospel we will see that the signs Jesus does are not just about healing people or feeding people. They are about revealing who Jesus is. That is why this reading is often used for Epiphany Sunday. Epiphany means to reveal something, or to recognize something. In this sign, Jesus is revealed to the disciples as the Messiah, the Son of God.
The other six signs, we will read about in John, become more public as Jesus reveals himself to more and more people. So what are we to do with the reading for our own lives? We are all called to love God and love our neighbor. But in this reading we see that it is not about gaining attention for ourselves. It about pointing to how great God’s love is for all the world.
In my previous congregation, we had a member who was upset that her rather generous gift to the church was not mentioned in the bulletin. She thought that it was only right that she should receive credit for her generosity. She didn’t understand that the gift wasn’t about the giver. The gift is about serving God and loving our neighbor. Some of you may be thinking, I can’t give a gift anywhere near the gift Jesus gave at the wedding. After all, Jesus changed 200 gallons of water into the finest wine. Imagine the cost of that much wine!
What we can do is give our gifts of service and charity so that we glorify God, not ourselves, in the process. In that way, we follow Jesus as his actions glorify God. May we so follow Jesus that our good deeds and serving others also point to God’s love for all God’s people. Amen.