2:1 - 11--Water Into Wine
Most people are at least vaguely familiar with
this initial narrative (if nothing else than by the vernacular term
"turning water into wine"), though not as many people may be aware
that this was Jesus' first miracle. Even fewer understand the
underlying meaning to it, because the underlying meaning is much
debated. We will discuss those possible meanings next week; this
week, we concentrate on the interaction between Jesus and His
Jesus' interaction with His mother is of
particular interest--and perhaps confusion--here. First, it is worth
noting that Jesus' mother is never referred to by name in this
Gospel. Furthermore, she only appears twice: her first appearance
being here at the wedding; her next appearance at the foot of the
cross, when Jesus entrusts her to the care of a likewise unnamed
disciple, the author of this Gospel. Perhaps it is significant that
she is present at the beginning, and present at the end.
We're not entirely sure what Mary expected when
she came to Jesus with the situation about the wine. On the one hand,
the assumption is that she expected a miracle; on the other hand, if
this is Jesus' first miracle, it calls into question such an
expectation. To which one might counter: Mary knew, from the
beginning, about Jesus' special role on earth--i.e., she knows
what He is capable of (even if He has not yet manifested said
abilities); in response to this, though, we note that it is strongly
implied in all the Gospels that Jesus, during His ministry, had a
strained relationship with His family, who did not fully understand
(see Mark 3:21 for one such example). Which then puts us back to
square one: we don't entirely know what Mary expected, other than she
expected Jesus to do something--even if only to provide some
resourcefulness in an earthly manner.
Return for a moment to the subject of Jesus'
strained relationship with His family. It may very well be that the
strained family relationship began, in earnest, at this very moment
(or perhaps not, taking also into account Luke 2:48 - 49). Jesus'
address to His mother ("Dear woman" in the NIV) has a poignant
underlying tension not present in the English translations. It is a
term that conveys courtesy, but generally in the Greek writings of
the time it was not the warm language one expects between mother and
child. The next statement, Jesus' question, furthers this perception.
The manner in which the question is phrased in the Greek implies a
certain distance between the two parties speaking, perhaps even a bit
of a rebuke. Again, it is not a rude statement, but it is also
certainly not typical between mother and son.
D.A. Carson suggests that part of the issue here
might have been an underlying assumption on Mary's part: that, as the
one who raised Jesus, she is somehow entitled to an "inside track" to
the Messiah. Perhaps Jesus feels the necessity of making clear that
His life now must solely be focused on his role as Messiah, and
family ties can't play into that. Carson may be correct on this
point; Jesus will go on to make direct statements to that effect
(Luke 14:26 - 27). Furthermore, we note again Mark 3:21, and that
Jesus' family did not seem to understand what Jesus was doing. If
Mary is in that camp, then perhaps Jesus senses in this request a
misunderstanding about the nature and purpose of His ministry on
earth--and feels the need to speak sternly, so as to clarify what He
is, and is not, here to do.
This tension is paralleled later in John's Gospel,
7:3 - 10. Here, Jesus' brothers try to goad Him into going to Judea.
As with His mother here, Jesus initially rejects the proposal--yet
later reverses course and does it. Carson's suggestion is that Jesus
feels it important to do His ministry on His terms, not the terms of
His family: in chapter 7, He will go to Judea, but not in a way that
suggests it was in response to the teasing of His brothers; here,
Jesus does see merit in the act of providing the wine, but not in a
way that suggests it was because of his mother's request.
What, then, was the merit in this miraculous act?
We will discuss that next week. For this week, we close with a final
observation by Carson. When Mary initially approaches Jesus, she
approaches as a mother--and is rebuked. Irregardless of this, though,
she turns to the servants and says, "Do whatever He tells you." This,
now, is the response of faith--and it is this response Jesus honors
when He turns the water into wine. It can also serve as an
contemporary example, this message (however inadvertent) from Jesus'
own mother to us today: "Do whatever He tells you."
Mary's story is not yet done, and we will return
to her in chapter 19. Next week, we explore the theological
significance of the passage. See you then!
If you have anything of interest to add to
or you have general comments, questions, or ideas,
we welcome your
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