John 2:1-11 The Wedding at Cana
A stone purification jar at Cana
I have two daughters. They are in their twenties and so it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that one or both of them will be wanting to get married in the next few years. Putting on a wedding is an expensive affair and even more so in the first century where it was for the bridegroom to cover the expense and the festivities could go on for several days. It was of course deeply embarrassing to run out of wine at a wedding then, as it would be today.
There are two things that I would particularly like to draw our attention to in this passage today. What Mary says and how Jesus responds.
Firstly what Mary says: These few words of Mary have been described as a model of intercession – how we should ask God for things. All she does is to present the problem to him. “They have no more wine”. Why does she come to ask him? Her request has been described by one commentator as “a habit bred of long years of family dependence”. We learn in Mk. 6:3 that Joseph is no longer around and it is assumed that he had died before Jesus began his ministry. But in essence all she does is to present the problem to him.
Jesus seems a little reluctant to solve the problem “woman what concern is that to you and me?”. But what seems to be a rebuke (and it’s difficult to know why a rebuke would be appropriate) is immediately followed by Mary telling the servants “Do whatever he tells you”.
The model of intercessory prayer then shown by Mary is to present the problem to Jesus and then to do whatever Jesus says to do. This is so often different from our model of intercessory prayer which can often be a long list of the solutions to our problems which we would like; treating Jesus like the genie in the lamp – asking for more money or a salary increase, rather than presenting the difficulty of living within our means; asking for a new person to come into our life rather than presenting the problem of our loneliness.
If we pray in this way it is as if we are limiting the way that God can act to address our problems to the poverty of our own imagination of the possible solutions.
Mary’s approach is to present the problem and then do whatever Jesus says in response – however crazy it may seem.
Secondly how does Jesus respond?
We need a bit of context here. He instructs the servants to fill up all six of the water purification jars each holding 20-30 gallons. A usual provision for a four hour wedding today would be 80 bottles for 100 guests. This means he has converted the water into the equivalent of 728 top quality bottles of wine – enough for nine hundred guests or for 100 people for 9 days drinking. It is a colossal quantity of wine for a wedding in a small village – especially considering that they will have drunk their fill of (inferior) wine already.
It is an extravagant generous gesture which is totally over the top – way beyond what could possibly have been imagined by Mary or by the bridegroom. A gesture worthy of a Creator who is so totally generous to us in his provision for us.
So this is the lesson of the wedding in Cana. We are taught how to pray. To present our problems to our Lord, to listen out for his guidance and instruction and then to follow it. If we do so, then we will be prodigiously blessed, by the generous Lord of Creation.