Do you remember Jesus’ very first miracle?
The Son of God was invited to a wedding in Cana, along with His mother, Mary. The hosts of the wedding reception had one job – to keep the wine flowing. The wine was perhaps the most important aspect in throwing a good celebration. It was customary to begin the party with the good stuff – you know, the more expensive wine.
As guests began to feel tipsy, the hosts would bring out the not-so-good stuff. The logic was simple. Once the guests were buzzed, they would not know the difference anyway, so may as well save a buck and give them cheap wine after a few hours of indulgence (never mind the pounding headache the next day would bring).
Anyway, during this wedding feast, the hosts ran out of wine. What an embarrassment this would have been for the hosts if Jesus had puffed out His chest and refused to submit to a woman. Sometimes, it is a woman who has the most compassionate idea. Let’s take a look at the narrative.
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Now standing there were six stone water jars 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 chief steward.”
So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him (John 2:1-11 NRSV).
Mary not only told Jesus what to do; she refused to take no for an answer when Jesus seemed to have preferred to allow the hosts to deal with their own problem. Mary obviously cared about the hosts of this wedding. Many scholars believe Mary to have been poor. Perhaps she knew what it felt like to have nothing to give to her guests – the humiliation, the guilt, the fear of judgement, the pain, and the injustice of not being able to do a thing about it.
In this case, Mary was convinced that she could do something about it, as she had the ears of the most powerful man ever to walk the universe. The hosts of this party were not going to feel one ounce of shame, not on Mary’s watch. Jesus was no longer a child and most likely financially supported His mother and sought to protect her in a culture that was dominated by patriarchy.
Jesus was not “obeying” his mother as some sort of immature man-child who forgot to cut the apron strings. No, he submitted to her, grown man to grown woman, out of love, respect, and trust. Mary had the best idea because it was the most compassionate idea. Jesus recognized this and did exactly what Mary asked Him to do. He fixed the problem that she knew how to fix but did not have the means to do it.
Jesus submitted to Mary’s idea, then Mary turned around and submitted to Jesus’ plan of action by encouraging all the servants to do as He said. They mutually submitted to one another and changed the outcome of this celebration. Not only this, but the two provided an example to all Christians throughout history.
When men and women work together and mutually submit to one another, they can turn water into wine.
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness (Psalm 103:8)