Clergymen are famous (or infamous) for complaining about weddings, or complaining about doing weddings. It’s not that clergymen are sourpuss killjoys that don’t like to work, it’s that in the weeks and months that lead up to the average wedding, we will receive any number of requests from the bride or her party, most of them bordering on comical. I have my own rules around weddings, and despite handing them a piece of paper that right up front tells them that a wedding here is done one way and one way only, they will still ask if they can hang streamers from the roodbeam or where they can put the screen with revolving pictures of the couple or if their uncle Bob (who, it must be said, is very spiritual) can bless the rings. One time I rejected a rather outrageous request from a couple, and the bride told me that the issue could be a dealbreaker; after reminding them that my name wasn’t Father Monty Hall, they got married somewhere else (I think).
So maybe it’s not the weddings themselves that get us clergymen down. Weddings are fun, really, and so is the party after the marriage ceremony. Jesus thought so, and He was presumably invited to lots of weddings. St. John tells us today of an important wedding’ important not for who was married, but for what happened at their wedding.
So after Jesus had chosen the first half dozen or so of His disciples, they went of to a place called Cana in Galilee, which was the hometown of Nathaniel, who if you remember, was the one that Jesus called “an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile.” According to Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament, the wedding banquet would have begun on a Wednesday evening, the proper time for a wedding banquet if the bride was a virgin, and another Virgin was there, the Virgin Mary, who was probably the actual connection Jesus had to the bride and groom. Sometime soon after the arrival of Jesus and His disciples the wine failed, they ran out of wine. For reasons unknown, Mary felt some kind of responsibility for this; I don’t want to say that Jesus and His disciples went straight for the wine when they arrived, but the story wants to tell us that. Mary’s “They have no wine” is then both a “hint and a request,” Mary demonstrating the subtleties of Jewish mothers.1
The next lines have been argued about: “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” Jesus, like every son, should be given a bit of latitude when dealing with His mother, and we shouldn’t strain to find any real disrespect here. Accordingly, Mary does what any mother would do in that situation, she basically forces her Son to do the thing she had originally tried to get Him to do on His own. “Do whatever He tells you,” she said to the servants. “The mother knew her Son.”2
We know her Son too. We know of His obedience, His mercy, His sacrifice. We know from today’s Gospel that He was willing to obey His mother, have mercy on the bride and groom, and begin the long walk to His ultimate sacrifice.
We know her Son; the hard part is doing whatever He tells us. What does that even look like?
To do what Jesus tells us to do, we first have to listen to Him. We listen to Jesus by reading and hearing Scripture, by asking Him in prayer to let us know how to best follow Him, by worshiping Him with others who are also listening to Him. While listening, we serve Him in others. We care for the poor, the oppressed, the captive and the sick, the aged and the young; we seek to see Jesus in everyone we meet, and to let everyone we meet see Jesus in us. While serving Jesus, we sacrifice. We sacrifice our will to the will of His Father, so that we might be like Him who did the same, even unto death. And while sacrificing, we celebrate, for there is unsearchable joy in following Jesus.
They ran out of wine at that wedding at Cana. We don’t even know whose wedding it was, but we know a few people on the guest list, and we all know what happened next. Jesus obeyed His mother, the servants obeyed Jesus, the wedding was saved. The wedding was saved because that mother knew her Son and because the servants did as He told them; may we become like those servants, and may we all come to know Him as she does.
1Robertson’s Word Pictures, John 2, both the quote and information in the paragraph.