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The IVP New Testament Commentary Series – The Glory Is Revealed in a Kosher, Domestic Setting (2:1-11)
The Glory Is Revealed in a Kosher, Domestic Setting (2:1-11)

This story begins the revelation of the glory and continues the presentation of examples of discipleship. Jesus' mother, who is never named in this Gospel, has the same essential characteristics as found in the other disciples. Indeed, the very fact that she, like the Beloved Disciple, is not named may be in keeping with her humility, a key aspect of discipleship in this Gospel.

A wedding is said to take place in Cana on the third day (2:1), a note that connects this story with those in 1:19-51. Many see this initial period as a seven-day cycle symbolizing the dawn of the new creation, though this idea is not made clear in the text itself (Schnackenburg 1980a:297, 325). In fact, even the pattern of a week is not clear (Robinson 1985:163). Be that as it may, it seems John loosely connects these events together primarily because they prepare for the revelation of the glory and then begin that revelation.

John says the mother of Jesus was there at the wedding and that Jesus and his disciples were also invited (eklethe de kai), perhaps implying that they got into town at the last minute and were invited to come along. Their unexpected presence at the wedding may account for the wine shortage. Since guests were to provide some of the wine (cf. Derrett 1970:232-34), it is also possible that the supply ran out because Jesus did not contribute, either because of his last minute arrival or because of his poverty.

When the wine runs out Jesus' mother says, They have no more wine (2:3). There are significant similarities between her statement and the way the first disciples relate to Jesus. The first two disciples took the initiative in following Jesus (1:37), and now his mother takes the initiative in speaking to him. The response of the first two disciples allowed Jesus to set the agenda (1:38), and so also his mother's statement does not dictate what he is to do about the problem that has arisen. The request that Jesus do something about the wine shortage is clear, but implicit. The implication is that she believes he is able to do something about it, but whether he will do something, and what it will be, her statement leaves open for him to decide.

Jesus' response to his mother is also similar to his way of relating to the first disciples. He responds to her with a cryptic saying that tests her: "Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied. "My time has not yet come" (2:4). The phrase why do you involve me? is literally "what [is there] to me and to you?" It occurs a number of times in the Septuagint (Judg 11:12; 2 Sam 16:10; 1 Kings 17:18; 2 Kings 3:13; 2 Chron 35:21) as well as in the New Testament (Mt 8:29; Mk 1:24; 5:7; Lk 8:28). An enormous amount of ink has been spilt trying to guard against the implication that Jesus is saying something uncomplimentary to his mother. Even the NIV's dear woman instead of simply woman (gynai) indicates such a concern. The word woman does not necessarily connote coldness, but the idiom "what [is there] to me and to you?" does express either a harsh rejection or a mild form of detachment, depending on the context. Here it expresses distance but not disdain. It is part of the larger theme that Jesus is guided by his heavenly Father and not by the agenda of any human beings, even his family (cf. Jn 7:1-10; Mk 3:33-35; Lk 2:49).

Here in Cana this aloofness is followed by an enigmatic statement concerning his time, literally, "hour" (hora). This hour is a reference to his death and the events that follow (Jn 13:1; 17:1). It will be mentioned a number of times in the story, but no one is able to comprehend what he is talking about. Not surprisingly, then, this first mention of Jesus' "hour" is quite unintelligible to his mother. It is an entirely cryptic saying and, as with the other cryptic sayings in John, it reveals everything and nothing. Those who know the whole story realize Jesus is saying all of his ministry, even his signs in Galilee, are to be understood as done under the shadow of the cross, resurrection and ascension.

But his mother grasps none of this. She responds by turning to the servants and saying, Do whatever he tells you (2:5; cf. Gen 41:55). That is, in the face of Jesus' thoroughly enigmatic statement she leaves the initiative entirely with him. His saying has gone over her head. It sounds like it is slightly, or even completely, negative, but since she does not know what this "hour" is she cannot really be sure of what he means. So she continues her request for him to do something about the problem, but she does so in a way that leaves him entirely free to respond as he will. So a key element in Jesus' mother's character, as in that of the first disciples, is her leaving of the initiative with Jesus. In this openness to Jesus' will, we see her humility.

This picture of the mother of Jesus is very similar to that which shines through in the Synoptic accounts, especially in the Lukan infancy narratives (Lk 1—2). Mary's response to the annunciation, "May it be to me as you have said" (Lk 1:38), and the spirituality of the Magnificat (Lk 1:46-55) express this same docility before God. She is entirely Godward. She is poor in spirit and thus has entered the door of the kingdom of God described in the beatitudes (Mt 5:3). It is as true now spiritually as it was true for her physically that a person with such a disposition is the one to whom God comes and implants his seed and begets divine life (cf. 1 Jn 3:9). All generations are to call her blessed (Lk 1:48) because of the ineffable honor God has bestowed upon her: she was chosen from among all women to carry in her womb the Word that became flesh. She bore in her body for nine months the one who bears the universe in his hands. It is not without reason that Mary has held such an important place in Christian thought and life, both as the one who bore God the Son and as a model of someone who lived a truly Christian life. It is a great tragedy that she has become a figure of controversy within Christendom.

While this story provides a powerful picture of true discipleship, the main point is that it reveals Jesus' glory (2:11). It does this in part by revealing something of Jesus' identity through associations with the Old Testament. Such a miracle might suggest, for example, the deeds of Elijah (1 Kings 17:7-16) or Elisha (2 Kings 4:1-7). More specifically, the promised time of restoration is expressed in the imagery of marriage (Is 54:4-8; 62:4-5) and of an abundance of wine (Is 25:6; Jer 31:12; Amos 9:13-14; 1 Enoch 10:19; 2 Apocalypse of Baruch 29:5). Indeed, in Hosea these images appear together (Hos 2:14-23). Thus, through both the supernatural power of the miracle and the imagery associated with it the disciples' confessions of Jesus in the first chapter are confirmed. Here indeed is the one they have been waiting for. He himself is the good wine that has been kept back until now.

The glory is also evident in the graciousness of this event, as the prologue has prepared us to notice (1:14). In response to a humble request Jesus provides wine in abundance, over 100 gallons. Here is a free, full, extravagant outpouring, and it is precisely the Son of God's gratuitous, gracious generosity that is the glory revealed in this sign. Throughout the Gospel the signs will provide windows into the ultimate realities at work in Jesus' revelation of God's glory, in deed as well as word (cf. Morris 1989:1-42).

In response to this sign it is said that his disciples put their faith in him (2:11). For John this means that they see what Jesus is doing and understand it, however dimly, in the context of God's revelation of himself in the Old Testament. They see in Jesus the very acts of power and graciousness that are like his Father's. Their understanding is very limited, but they see something of the Father in the Son and accept him as one come from God and align themselves with him. This effect of this sign on the disciples is in contrast to the experience of those who most directly reap the benefits—the master of the banquet and the bridegroom. Jesus keeps a very low profile throughout the story with the result that only the servants realize what has happened. How often something similar happens in our lives! God's grace constantly surrounds us; his love is constantly active in our lives. Yet often we fail to discern his love, seeing only the hands of those who give us the wine and not realizing where it comes from and the grace it represents.

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