This story begins in my last blog post, where I shared about my husband’s surprising death in Accra, Ghana. In a matter of hours, my family of four had been reduced to three. Yet my son, Noah, followed a natural inclination to step up to new family responsibilities following in the footsteps of our Heavenly Father.
Jesus Is Our Provider
As I sat in a church in Cameroon during our Discipling Marketplace Leaders Foundational Workshop, I considered how Jesus nobly managed the responsibility for his widowed mother and at least six younger siblings after his father, Joseph, died. I started thinking about how Jesus, as the eldest brother, might have helped with all the preparations for his siblings’ weddings, which then led me to thinking about Jesus’ first miracle.
However, as I considered Jesus as our provider, a father-like figure to his younger siblings, I began to see this miracle in a different light as well.
A Wedding Celebration
This is what is reported to us in the Gospel of John 2:18:
On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.
Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”
What stood out to me in particular was the timing of this miracle.
Cana was about seven kilometers from Nazareth. Jesus was at this wedding, along with his mother and some of his disciples. Since Mary is mentioned only twice in the book of John (at this wedding and then at the cross), her role seems to be significant in this story.
Using my spiritual imagination, I wonder if they were together at this particular wedding because a family member was getting married. I specifically wonder whether this is the wedding of Jesus’ last single sister, thereby relieving him of his responsibilities and freeing him at last to start his more formal ministry.
It appears that Mary is assuming some responsibility at this wedding because she informed Jesus about a lack of wine. As the story hints, it was not culturally unusual for wedding celebrations to go for several days. Normally the quality of wine would decrease, with the best served first. And Jesus and Mary are still at the wedding festivities after three days.
“They Have No More Wine”
When Mary approaches Jesus with the news about the wine, she doesn’t ask Jesus to make more wine. She said, “They have no more wine.” If they were the hosts, she could be hinting for Jesus, as the elder brother/pseudo-father of the bride, to send everyone home. She could be signaling that it’s the end of the wedding.
Jesus’ response seems surprisingly harsh. “Woman…my hour has not yet come.” To our ears, this sounds disproportional to what Mary had said. Why that response?
If we imagine that this is Jesus’ last sister getting married, it makes much more sense. Mary, in her own motherly way, is letting Jesus know that the wedding is over. Mary has known all this time who Jesus is, so it is significant that she is the one who makes that announcement to her son. Her son, the Son of God, fully God and fully man, is now free from his cultural obligations to start the next phase of his ministry.
It’s Time. Your Hour Has Come.
What a moment! Maybe Mary and Jesus discussed this as they journeyed to Cana. I imagine Mary looking at Jesus and saying, “You know what this means, right? Once this wedding is over, you are free to go. You have been a faithful son and a good brother. But now it is time for you to start the next significant portion of your life.” I wonder if Jesus argued, saying, “It’s too soon. Who will take care of you? I still have responsibilities to tend to with the shop, with my siblings, with our home.” I imagine Mary saying, “No. It’s time.”
Could that have been the conversation that led to Jesus’ seemingly frustrated response of “Woman…my hour has not yet come”.
I can see Mary looking at her son, with whom she has shared so very much, with great love in her eyes, pride in her heart, and a knowing smile, saying to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Jesus’ shoulders slump a little. He knew this day was coming. He knew that it was bittersweet. Leaving his home, mother, siblings, shop, customers, suppliers, and the life he knew well. While raising six children with his mother was difficult, it was nothing compared to what was ahead.
The things to come would be exciting, fulfilling, and very good. But it was still a change for the fully-God and full-man Jesus, and change was likely as difficult for him as it is for the rest of us.
Then he stands, pulls his shoulders back, takes a deep breath, and starts. No need to delay. Mom was right. May as well start right now, in Cana, among family and friends. The order comes out of his mouth, “Fill the jars with water.” His ministry has begun.
A High Priest
Three years later, we read the following from John 19:25-27.
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
He is hanging on the cross, gasping for breath in agony. He sees his mother, with whom he has gone through so much—from hugs and kisses as a child, to working and raising the siblings together, to the challenges of the past three years—which has led to this moment.
As the first-born son, Jesus is legally responsible for his mother’s welfare in her widowhood.
We see the love and commitment that Jesus has for his mother and his obligations.
We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with us.
He understands the pain of death, as a child losing his father.
He understands single mothers, as he watched his own mother.
He understands struggling to put food on the table to feed a family of eight.
He understands feeling responsible for brothers and sisters, as the eldest child.
He understands the challenges of running a small business.
He understands the ethical temptations when sales fall short.
He understands the challenge of balancing ministry with family obligations.
He understands the care of an aging mother, a widow.
I thank God that Jesus is our high priest who understands.
Four years after Bob’s death, I remarried. I believe I sensed relief from Noah that someone else would love and care for me. And in a few weeks, my son Noah will get married, and a few months after that, my daughter Hannah will be married.
And while I continue to miss my husband and my children miss their father at these significant events, we know that we have a Savior who knows the pain of missing a father or the separation of death, and who understands these laments.