Although our Gospel readings in this liturgical year are taken from the account of Luke, the scene is set for the ministry of Jesus by the story of the first of Jesus’ signs in the narrative of John the evangelist, the well known episode of the marriage feast at Cana in Galilee.
The person first invited was apparently the mother of Jesus, to whom John never refers by name. The mother is accompanied by Jesus and his disciples, who have not yet come to a proper understanding of who Jesus is.
In the Bible, a marriage feast with an abundance of food and wine is used to symbolise the messianic kingdom in its completeness. The exhausting of the supplies provided is the occasion for the revealing of Jesus’ glory and the beginning of people putting their faith in him. The final manifestation of this glory comes with “the hour” of Jesus, which forms the core of his rebuke to his mother’s pointing out the need of the moment.
Perhaps we might concentrate on the unconditional faith, or trust, shown by the mother of Jesus. The main relationship in the Fourth Gospel is between Jesus and the Father: anyone else is outside of this. The point is that his mother shows unconditional trust in Jesus without any clue from the Gospel narrative as to why she should. She tells the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” It is her complete trust in Jesus which leads to his revealing his glory and the disciples putting their faith and trust in him. The scene is set for his ministry which will culminate in the full revelation of his glory on the cross.
We have to read each of the Gospel accounts according to its author’s understanding of Jesus and this will affect how the other characters in the story appear. We are not dealing with biography or history, but with expressions of faith. Thus the Jesus of the Fourth Gospel is different from the figure presented by the Synoptic evangelists. He is much more conscious of his coming from God and of his relationship with the Father.
There is a natural inclination to import details from other Gospel accounts into any of the versions, especially if we find passages difficult to understand, but in doing so we can dilute the meaning of the text in front of us. In the present case, we can think that it is about Jesus responding to the hint or request of his mother. But there is something more profound at work. His (unnamed) mother is the first person to show unconditional trust in Jesus. The more important words she says are those addressed to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
She has no idea what Jesus is going to do, but she trusts him. It is this trust (or faith) which leads to Jesus revealing his glory and to the disciples “believing in him”. This is far more important than rescuing the wedding party from their embarrassment
- In the biblical languages, the terms “faith” and “trust”, or “believing” and “trusting”, are often interchangeable.
- In the Fourth Gospel, the mother of Jesus and the disciple whom Jesus loved are never referred to by name.
- The changing of water into wine is a symbol of the arrival of the messianic kingdom in the person and ministry of Jesus..
Pour a glass or cup of water. Think of the first sign of Jesus and, like the disciples, put your trust in him.