February 4, 2005

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Jesus in the Gospels: Wedding feast at Cana

See John 2:1-11

Is anyone not familiar with the wedding feast at Cana when Jesus performed his first miracle by changing water into wine? Has there ever been a more famous wedding feast? What can we say about this event in Jesus’ life that hasn’t been said before?

Apparently, the married couple were close friends, perhaps relatives, of Jesus and his mother because Jesus traveled about three days from where he had been in order to get to the celebration. It would have been the second part of a Jewish wedding, after the espousal and at the time that the bride would begin living with the groom.

John’s Gospel says that Jesus and his disciples were invited, but we have to wonder about the five disciples. Jesus had just acquired them. Would the invitation have been the ancient equivalent of today’s “and guest” to a single man? But five additional guests? I’m not the first one to question whether the fact that they ran out of wine had anything to do with the arrival of the disciples.

It was Mary, of course, who came to the rescue by telling Jesus, “They have no wine.” When Jesus replied, in effect, “So what?” Mary merely told the waiters, “Do whatever he tells you.” These are the last words we hear Mary speak in the Bible. How could there be any better?

I probably should mention that John’s Gospel has only two mentions of Mary—at Cana and at Jesus’ crucifixion. In both instances, Jesus addressed his mother as “woman,” which seems strange to our 21st-century ears. Apparently it was not back then.

Jesus told Mary, “My hour has not yet come.” Later, Jesus’ “hour” meant the time of his death, but that’s not appropriate here. Now it indicates that it wasn’t time to demonstrate his power publicly. Never­theless, Mary proceeded anyway, obviously knowing that he would do what she wanted. Jesus then performed the ­miracle at his mother’s request, thus encouraging Christians from that day hence to ask Mary to intercede for them with her son as she did at the marriage feast.

Surely, both Jesus and Mary knew that things wouldn’t be the same after that. Cana, although larger than Nazareth, was still a small town and the news about what Jesus did began to spread throughout the area. It reached Nazareth, four miles away, and probably Sepphoris, where King Herod’s capital was located, also about four miles away. We know from Luke’s Gospel that one of Jesus’ followers was Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward, Chusa. Perhaps she first heard about Jesus from his occasion.

This miracle was unlike any other miracle. Nowhere else in Scripture do we hear about a miracle performed just to avoid a social embarrassment. The greatest significance, though, is the fact that Jesus did it at Mary’s suggestion, both of them knowing that from then on he would belong to the public.

And the effect upon his new disciples? “His disciples began to believe in him.” †


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