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TURNING WATER INTO WINE

 

All Scripture references are to the New International Version UK edition unless stated otherwise.

 

Question: At the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee, Jesus turned water into wine (John 2: 5). His mother told the servants to “do whatever he tells you.” Did Mary know in advance that Jesus could or would perform this miracle?

 

Answer: John 2: 1-11 reads:

 

1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee, Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “they have no more wine.” 4 “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realise where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” 11 This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.

 

The Wine Had Run Out

That Mary was made aware of the fact that the wine was gone and there was need of more (v. 3), along with the charge she gave to the servants to do whatever Jesus told them (v. 5), suggests that she was closely related to either the bride or the groom.

 

Hospitality was considered a sacred duty in Israel, so running short in this way would have caused great anguish and embarrassment to the host and to the bride and groom. It would also have dampened the spirit of the festivities. Mary, although not personally responsible for this misfortune, apparently felt the need to inform Jesus, who responded, ‘what does it have to do with us’ (Greek, ‘me and you’; John 2: 4, New American Standard Bible).

 

In his Life of Christ, Dean Farrar suggests that perhaps the unanticipated attendance of the handful of disciples who came with Jesus were in part responsible for the shortage. Regardless, it is not surprising that Mary turned to Jesus. As His mother, and obviously informed by His miraculous birth and of Simeon’s great prophecy regarding His future, she knew that Jesus was no ordinary man. Watching Him grow and interact with the world around Him, Mary no doubt knew of His initiative, resourcefulness, problem-solving ability and His readiness to help others.

 

But did Mary expect that Jesus would in some unique manner solve the immediate crisis, perhaps by performing a miracle? It seems unlikely. During His thirty years of life He had never performed one. In fact, according to v. 11, this was His first. Rather, what Mary may have expected was that Jesus would take charge of the situation, perhaps by directing the household servants to the marketplace to buy more wine. It is possible that she was as surprised as anyone when her Son performed this feat, ‘the first of his miraculous signs’.

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