Wednesday

21 June 2017

“Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” (v. 11)

Psalm: Psalm 22:1-21


Background

Mention of "the third day" (v. 1) is a cheerful place to start because it places us in resurrection territory. On the third day, Jesus defied the humiliation of crucifixion by rising again. Here, at a wedding, Jesus spares the host's shame by becoming the saviour of the feast. Culturally it would have been an absolute disgrace to run out of wine. Friends of the host family may well have donated some in advance to ensure things went with a swing. Too little wine might suggest too few friends.

Jesus restores honour to the family through the water into wine miracle; the first of this Gospel's special 'signs'. That term 'sign' or 'signs' appears 17 times and is hugely important. A sign points away from itself to something or somebody else. To gawp at a miracle is one thing. How did he do it, the water into wine trick? To grasp the significance it points to is quite another. And John's Gospel is very interested in the latter.

The role of Jesus's mother is well worth noting. John never calls her 'Mary' and Jesus addresses her as 'Woman' (v. 4), though that sounds ruder in the English than it would have been: see also John 4:21, Matthew 15:28 and Luke 13:12. Mother Mary only features in John's Gospel at the Cana wedding and the Cross (John 19:25-27), appearing to anticipate that latter, fateful yet glorious hour far too early. At the wedding she assumes her son can already save and redeem. "My hour has not yet come", says Jesus (v. 4), introducing us to another term John's Gospel loves. There are references to his 'hour' elsewhere (John 8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1; 16:2, 25, 32; 17:1). Jesus complies with his mother's request. She therefore becomes instrumental, early in the Gospel account, for the Father's glory being revealed through the Son to the world. The maternal elbowing of her son into action enables his disciples to believe. But how interesting that it's the servants (verse 9), who may have had responsibilities for footwashing - cue John 13:12-15 - who are the first ones actually to see the sign and be in the know.


To Ponder

  • What might cultural humiliation look like in your context and how might it be relieved?
  • John's account of the Cana wedding assumes the guests will get drunk. At weddings today is that generally the assumption too? What views do you have about that?


Bible notes author:  The Revd Dr Val Ogden

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