I don’t think too much about what kind of a son Jesus was to Mary. We hear a lot about how Jesus is the Father’s Son, how he came to be about his Father’s business, how he was sure of his identity as God-made-flesh. But I think it’s important to also remember that he was a human, a flesh and blood human with all of the temptations we face every day, with a flesh and blood mother who raised him, who knew him.
Yes, Mary was meek. She “carried things in her heart.” No doubt she realized the grand depth of power within her firstborn son. She had seen and heard the angels. She actually gave birth as a virgin. She watched the wisdom of her son grow exponentially throughout his life. She understood the reason he was on the earth. If the gravity of Jesus’ salvation mission was lost on anyone, it was not his mother. And then, in the course of normal, ordinary events…mother and son find themselves together at a wedding in Cana.
And reading through the exchange that the two share at this wedding, I can’t help but giggle.
Mary notices the wine is out and she is concerned for the bridegroom’s family’s reputation. Fully aware that her son can fix the problem, she says, with the insinuation that she’s made the issue her son’s problem to fix: “They have no wine.” Kinda like, “Hey, the wine’s run out. Hop to!”
And then there is Jesus. He just cracks me up here. “Woman, what does this have to do with me?” He’s like, “Come on, Mom. I’m just here as a guest, and you know this. Just let me blend in and enjoy the party already.”
Then Jesus takes it a step further, pulling the serious card out: “My hour has not yet come.”
So Jesus, God made flesh, is telling his human mother, “Hey, I’m not supposed to start my ministry of miracles just yet. Remember I am on earth for a really big, grand reason—to SAVE the WHOLE WORLD. And I think I know how that should be timed a little better than you.”
But I can’t quit giggling when I read the next line. Mary doesn’t even acknowledge that her son spoke. If she did, it’s not recorded in the gospels. She doesn’t speak to him again at all. She speaks to the servants instead, telling them, “Do whatever he tells you.”
I see Mary, this Jewish mother in her late forties, standing at the party, concerned for her friends. She tells her son, “They have no more wine!” and then proceeds to look into the crowd for the servants. Her son is talking to her, but she’s not really paying attention to him. (Don’t ask me how I am familiar with this mothering tactic.) As soon as she spots a servant, she says, “Do whatever he tells you,” and points at Jesus, who in my imagination, is staring at his mother with loving eyes, slightly shaking his head, with a little smile on his lips, wondering if she even heard his protest that the wedding wine is not his problem and that he’s not supposed to start doing public miracles yet.
Or maybe he was frustrated. But he’s Jesus, so I think he was probably just full of grace and love for Mary. But he’s still sitting smack in the middle of a conflict. She’s asked him to fix the wine situation, and he’s told her it’s not time for him to be doing divine miracles yet. One will have to budge.
And Jesus does.
He gestures to the stone water jars and tells the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” The rest is history. The water turns into the best wine of the night.
So here I am, giggling, at this real life interaction between mother and son, and then my heart just melts. Jesus didn’t perform that miracle to help the wedding family avoid shame. He didn’t perform that miracle as a public act meant to display the glory of God to everyone at the wedding or to make someone whole again. He performed this miracle, his first miracle, to honor his mother.
Jesus, the Son of God, who is about his Father’s business, performed the first recorded miracle in order to honor his flesh and blood, earthly mother. She was counting on him, and he refused to undermine her value and position in his life in front of the wedding servants. He loved her. He honored her. He respected her. He submitted to her. He changed his plans for when and how his ministry (which was the salvation of every living being ever) was to begin to fulfill the commandment to honor his father AND mother. He did not sin. And he honored God the Father by obeying the commandment to honor Mary.
I don’t think Mary was trying to manipulate her son in any way. I think she was just sure he would do the right thing for this family. She wasn’t insecure and trying to flounce her ability to control her son. Not at all. I think she knew full well she couldn’t control him. But she was sure of her son’s integrity. She knew him.
We are so familiar with this passage, it’s hard to see it in a modern light. I’ve been imagining modern takes on the mother/son interaction for a day now. Here’s one I came up with.
Mother (to son): Mrs. Sanders’ yard next door really needs to be mowed.
Son: What does that have to do with me, mom? I’m getting a snack and finishing my devotion.
Mother (calling to her neighbor): Mrs. Sanders, this is my son. Just tell him where your mower is, okay?
Son (being good to his mama, lays down his book): Hi, Mrs. Sanders. Where is it you keep your mower?
The pattern of discourse is a common mother-son reality. Mother indicates she wants son to do such-and-such job, son protests, mother ignores protest, the good son honors his mother and fulfills her request.
At the wedding, Jesus makes so much wine. It won’t run out again. And when his earthly ministry ends, he submits again. He sheds all his blood, a new covenant, for us. He tells us to drink from the cup of his sacrifice, and we’ll never thirst again. He is enough. He is all we need.
Oh, how I love Jesus. And how humbled I continue to be when I see ways in which Jesus respected and honored the women in his life, showing the world their value, and beholding them with a tenderness and grace that just makes my heart melt. And I want to kneel and worship and thank my Lord for how he treated his mama, and how he treats me, and how he loves us all.
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.”