February 27, 2015

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Mary decides that Jesus’ public life should begin

John F. FinkJesus kept his promise to his mother to be back from his travels along the Jordan River in time for the wedding feast in Cana. John’s Gospel says that the wedding occurred “on the third day”(Jn 2:1), and that always seemed strange to me until I learned, while studying in Jerusalem, that Tuesdays were the traditional days for weddings for the Jews during the time Jesus lived. That still seems strange since Tuesdays were work days.

This wedding feast would have been the second part of a Jewish wedding. The first part would have been the betrothal, when the bride and groom exchanged vows. The second part, usually months later, was when the groom came to take the bride into his home. It was accompanied by a great celebration.

This wedding was in Cana, about five miles from Nazareth. Many people have theorized about whose wedding it might have been, but there’s no way of knowing.

Not only was Jesus back for the wedding feast, but he brought six disciples with him. Those mentioned by now in John’s Gospel were Andrew and his brother Simon, James and his brother John, Philip and Nathanael. Perhaps their addition to the list of those invited to the wedding feast happened at the last moment. And perhaps too, they might have had a lot to do with the fact that the wine ran out.

Then Jesus’ mother took over. Mary said to Jesus, “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3).

“How does your concern affect me?” Jesus replied, a bit flippantly, it seems to me. And he added, “My hour has not yet come” (Jn 2:4).

Mary didn’t reply to her son, but from what happened next we can infer a couple things. As a good Jewish mother, she probably thought to herself, “You’re now in your 30s, and you’ve brought some disciples with you. Yes, it’s time for your public life to begin.”

And she must have known, from experience in their home, that Jesus could do something about the wine if he wanted to because she turned to the wine servers and said, “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). Obviously, Mary had some authority over the wine servers.

Of course, we know what happened next. Jesus had the servers fill six stone water jars, each holding 20 to 30 gallons, with water, and he turned the water into wine. So they would have had between 120 and 180 gallons of wine, which should have been enough to last a long time. Also, according to the headwaiter, it was a better wine than the bridegroom had been serving.

I think we often overlook the fact that, by getting Jesus to perform this first of his “signs”(Jn 2:11), as John’s Gospel calls his miracles, Mary determined that it was time for Jesus to begin his public life. She surely knew that, once the word got out that Jesus had changed water into wine, there was no way he could go back to being a carpenter in Nazareth.

In point of fact, they didn’t go back to Nazareth. Instead, they went to Capernaum, where, according to the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus lived while proclaiming his mission. †

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