When we think of Jesus and His mother, it may be that the image that comes to mind is a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes (Luke 2:7, Luke 2:12). We often think of Mary as a teenage mother caring for the Son of God, concerned for His safety in cruel Herod’s jurisdiction (Matthew 2:13-14). Yet Jesus did not remain a babe in arms very long. We soon see Him as a budding teen beginning to spread His wings in the temple area (Luke 2:40-52). And ultimately Mary’s little Lamb became the Lion of Judah—a mature, capable adult.
In all stages of Sonship, Jesus maintained the proper relationship with His parents (1 Peter 2:21-22). We get a glimpse into this special grown-up relationship at a wedding they both attended the little village of Cana, near Nazareth where He had grown up (John 2:1-11). In this scene, His face bears the chiseled sculpting from His forty days in the wilderness. What can we learn from Jesus’ interaction with Mary on this occasion?
Let’s look at Mary first.
This story shows us very beautifully three things about Mary’s faith in Jesus.
Instinctively, Mary turned to Jesus whenever something went wrong.
Instead of going to the governor of the feast, or the bride-groom or bride, she went to Jesus, a guest. Mary was persuaded that Christ could solve the problem. Wringing her hands, Mary stated anxiously, “They have no wine.” Her implication is, “You have to do something.”
She knew Him better than anyone at this point, perhaps better than anyone else ever would. They had lived in the same house for the better part of two decades, perhaps even the full thirty years of His life. Before Christ was born, Gabriel informed her that He was no ordinary person. Since that miraculous birth, Mary had pondered the future glory of her Son. She had seen the visions, heard the angels, and witnessed His remarkable development. The Bible does not give much information on these years, but it says, “Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart,” and, “His mother kept all these sayings in her heart” (Luke 2:19, Luke 2:51; cf. Genesis 37:11).
There had always been something special about Jesus. When people saw Him as a baby, He made an impression on them: (Luke 2:25-29). There is an old Nazareth legend of the days when Jesus was a baby in Mary’s home. When people felt tired and worried, they would say, “Let us go and look at Mary’s child,” and somehow all their troubles rolled away.
She must have continued to observe Him closely through the teen and young adult years.
Can you imagine a Son who never once told a lie, got caught with His hand in a cookie jar it wasn’t supposed to be in, and never disappointed His parents in any way? Since Joseph is not mentioned after the trip to Jerusalem, most scholars believe that he died sometime during Jesus’ teen years. No doubt Mary had come to rely even more on Jesus after his passing. As a carpenter Jesus was good with His hands, so she turned to Him when something broke. Jesus was wise enough even as a preteen to astound the doctors of the law (Luke 2:47), so she doubtless turned to Him when she had a question. Even after this, Jesus continued to increase in wisdom (Luke 2:52), so she came to rely upon Him for life advice.
We are wise to take our problems to Christ as Mary did. “We may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:6). Jeremiah E. Rankin (1828–1904) wrote of this sentiment in “Tell It to Jesus”:
Are you weary, are you heavy hearted?
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.
Are you grieving over joys departed? Tell it to Jesus alone.
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus, He is a Friend that’s well known.
You’ve no other such a friend or brother, Tell it to Jesus alone.
Do the tears flow down your cheeks unbidden?
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.
Have you sins that to men’s eyes are hidden? Tell it to Jesus alone.
Do you fear the gathering clouds of sorrow?
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.
Are you anxious what shall be tomorrow? Tell it to Jesus alone.
When problems come, some tell everybody but Jesus. Some go to psychiatrists and psychologists[popover title=”More” title_bg_color=”” content=”There is value in counseling and medication for certain conditions, as there is in talking with friends, but those administering them need to come from the Christian perspective.” content_bg_color=”” bordercolor=”” textcolor=”” trigger=”hover” placement=”” class=”” id=””]*[/popover]; some call friends; some turn to drugs; some to illicit relationships, and some to alcohol. “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help” (Psalm 146:3). The Lord cares, and is a good listener: “The Lord thinketh upon me” (Psalm 40:17). “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
Mary had faith to trust Jesus, even when she did not understand what He was going to do.
Even when it seemed that He had refused her request, Mary still believed in Him. She turned to the servants and told them to do whatever Jesus told them to do (John 2:5). She may not have known what Jesus was going to do, but she was quite sure that He would do the right thing.
In every life, periods of darkness come when we do not see the way. In those times, we simply must trust God’s promise: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). The old song expresses it well:
Tempted and tried, we’re oft made to wonder
Why it should be thus all the day long;
While there are others living about us,
Never molested, though in the wrong.
Often when death has taken our loved ones,
Leaving our home so lone and so drear,
Then do we wonder why others prosper,
Living so wicked year after year.
“Faithful till death,” saith our loving Master;
Short is our time to labor and wait;
Then will our toiling seem to be nothing,
When we shall pass the heavenly gate.
Soon we will see our dear, loving Savior,
Hear the last trumpet sound through the sky;
Then we will meet those gone on before us,
Then we shall know and understand why.
Farther along we’ll know more about it,
Farther along we’ll understand why;
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine,
We’ll understand it all by and by.
This story also tells us something about Jesus.
Jesus, as an adult son, spent time with His mother.
Why did He attend this wedding? Perhaps there are several reasons, but one could have been to see His mother. We know that when He left, His mother went with Him (John 2:12).
Children must obey their parents only when they are under their tutelage and support (Ephesians 6:1), but they must always honor their parents (Ephesians 6:2). One part of honoring parents as adults is fellowship. We need to make time for our parents when we are out on our own. During the young adult years most children get married, move away, and have their children. They get busy with their own lives and careers, and too often neglect to spend time with their parents. An eighty-year-old widow in a small town where her married son also lived was asked how much she enjoyed having a son so close by. She replied, “He has not come to see me in ten years.” Someone observed, “When children are little they walk upon your feet; when older they are upon your heart.”
Many parents miss their children more than their children miss them at this stage. The parents have a lot invested in them, and their schedules are not as busy as they once were. What was said of Jacob could be said of most fathers: “His life is bound up in the lad’s life” (Genesis 44:30; cf. Mark 9:14-27).
Hardly any adult who looks back could not think of ways he could have honored his parents more. After parents are gone, many have regrets and say, “How much more I would respect my parents if only I had them back. I’d love to have just one afternoon to spend with them now.” We cannot bring our parents back, but—if we still have them—we can “give them flowers while they live.” Resolve this week to spend some time with your parents if this is possible. Send a card. Make a call. Talk a long time—you will not regret the long distance bill when they are gone and you cannot call them again.
Jesus, as an adult son, treated His mother with respect.
“Jesus saith unto her, Woman . . .” (John 2:4). “Woman” sounds disrespectful and abrupt to our ears, but the word from which it is translated often shows the opposite. For instance, this is the word He used to tenderly address Mary while Jesus was on the cross (John 19:26-27; cf. John 20:13-15; Matthew 15:28). In the ancient world, it was a title of respect. In Homer‘s writing, Odysseus used it to address Penelope, his well-loved wife. Augustus used it to address Cleopatra. There is not an English word that accurately translates it, but the word lady gives the sentiment of it. It was the equivalent to the French madam.
Jesus, as an adult son, maintained His autonomy in the presence of His mother.
Jesus responded to Mary’s request in a strong fashion. “What have I to do with thee?” is a correct translation of the words, but it does not give the tone. There are two possible meanings implied here, and perhaps Jesus meant to convey both.
First, this elliptical question when spoken gently could indicate a simple misunderstanding. Jesus could have been saying, “Don’t worry; you don’t quite understand what is going on, but leave things to me, and I will settle them in my own way.”
Second, this question could show indignation or contempt, as it sometimes does elsewhere in Scripture (Judges 11:12; 2 Samuel 16:10; Ezra 4:3; Matthew 8:29; Mark 1:24; Mark 5:7; Luke 8:28). In this case, it meant, “What need do I have for your advice regarding my ministry? What have we in common? I am the God-man; you are human.” As God, His thoughts were higher and deeper than hers (Isaiah 55:8-9). Keep in mind that rebuke, when done correctly, is a manifestation of love (Revelation 3:19).
Either way, Jesus was making it clear to Mary that He was no longer under her supervision (it is likely that Joseph was dead). His ministry was not under the authority of His earthly mother but under the authority of His heavenly Father. When a child, He had been subject to His parents (Luke 2:51), but that period was over. She was overstepping her bounds to involve herself in His ministry, which she did not fully understand and did not control. There had been a hint of this problem earlier (Luke 2:40-52), and it would again flare up when she and His brothers interrupted His public teaching (Matthew 12:46-50). As man, He was David’s Son and hers; as God, He was David’s Lord and hers. He is now acting as the Son of God, not the Son of Man, so it was not her place to tell Him when a miracle was needed.
There are three important implications in this question. First, Jesus is saying, “Do not presume upon your earthly relationship with me.” This conversation was also instruction to His other relatives (many of whom may have been present), that they must never expect Him to work miracles to benefit them or their friends. He could not allow His closest relationships to interfere with God’s scheme of redemption and plan for establishing the kingdom (cf. 1 Kings 2:21-25).
Second, Jesus lived by a heavenly timetable. For each act there was a stipulated moment. John introduces the idea of “the hour” when Jesus said to Mary: “Mine hour is not yet come.” His agenda was set by His heavenly Father, not His earthly mother. All through the gospel story Jesus talks about “His hour,” which showed it was time for something to happen.
Here, it was His hour to begin working miracles.
- In John 7:6-8, it is the hour of His emergence as Messiah.
- In John 7:30 and John 8:20, it referred to the time of His arrest.
- In John 12:23, John 12:27; John 17:1; Matthew 26:18, Matthew 26:45; and Mark 14:41, it is the hour of His crucifixion and death.
- In John 13:1, it referred to His departure from the earth.
At the wedding in Cana, Mary was concerned about the needs of others, and she knew that Jesus was too (Matthew 9:35-36; Acts 10:38). This is clearly seen in the purpose of Jesus’ first miracle. He performed it not to quench His own thirst but to satisfy the needs of others. He changed the water to wine to ease a dear woman’s anxiety and to save a couple of starry-eyed newlyweds from embarrassment.
Jesus, as an adult Son, followed His own timeline.
When His mother first made the request, He responded, “Mine hour is not yet come” (John 2:4). This may mean either that
- It was not time for Him to start working miracles; or
- It was not yet time for Him to work this miracle.
Mary seems to have asked Jesus to help as soon as the juice “began to fail” (so verse 3 may be understood),[popover title=”Source” title_bg_color=”” content=”http://biblebrowser.com/john/2-10.htm.” content_bg_color=”” bordercolor=”” textcolor=”” trigger=”hover” placement=”” class=”” id=””]*[/popover] but He wanted to wait until it ran completely out. Otherwise some might never have had their attention drawn to this marvelous sign of His power or appreciated His gift. Man’s extremity is always God’s opportunity. Also, this prevented any suspicion that water had simply been mixed with a little leftover wine.
With this decision to reveal His glory, Jesus crossed the Rubicon—the river of no return. The die was cast. The clock was ticking. Never again could He stop it. It began counting down to the final hour when His great heart would stop beating to its rhythm. The wine He made at Cana would eventually morph into the cup He drank at the cross (cf. Matthew 26:39). Ken Gire remarks,
The small-town seclusion of His life would be forever behind Him. For the next three and a half years, His only time to Himself would be stolen moments in an olive grove before dawn or snatches of quiet on a barren knoll after dark. Fellowship with His Father would come at the expense of sleep. . . . With scribal precision, every jot and tittle of His teaching would be tested against the touchstone of rabbinic tradition. Everywhere He would go communities would bob in His wake, sending unsettling ripples throughout Palestine.[popover title=”Source” title_bg_color=”” content=”Kenneth Gire, Incredible Moments with the Savior.” content_bg_color=”” bordercolor=”” textcolor=”” trigger=”hover” placement=”” class=”” id=””]*[/popover]
Jesus, as an adult Son, did not put His mother in any official capacity in His church.
Jesus showed that when it was time to act He would do it on His terms, not His mother’s. She was not to assume the role of advocate with her Son. He anticipated and answered the later religious error of giving her undue honor.
Roman Catholic doctrine teaches that Mary is a Mediatrix between Christians and Christ, and that she is the “dispenser of graces” by the power of the Holy Spirit—based upon the merits of her crucified Son.[popover title=”Source” title_bg_color=”” content=”http://www.catholic-pages.com/bvm/mediatrix.asp.” content_bg_color=”” bordercolor=”” textcolor=”” trigger=”hover” placement=”” class=”” id=””]*[/popover] Pope John Paul II (1978–2005) said,
Thus there is a mediation: Mary places herself between her Son and mankind in the reality of their wants, needs and sufferings. She puts herself “in the middle,” that is to say she acts as a mediatrix not as an outsider, but in her position as mother. She knows that as such she can point out to her Son the needs of mankind, and in fact, she “has the right” to do so. Her mediation is thus in the nature of intercession: Mary “intercedes” for mankind.[popover title=”Source” title_bg_color=”” content=”Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Redemptoris Mater: On the Blessed Virgin Mary in the life of the Pilgrim Church.” content_bg_color=”” bordercolor=”” textcolor=”” trigger=”hover” placement=”” class=”” id=””]*[/popover]
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says,
- “Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. . . . Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the [Roman Catholic] Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.”[popover title=”Source” title_bg_color=”” content=”CCC Para 969.” content_bg_color=”” bordercolor=”” textcolor=”” trigger=”hover” placement=”” class=”” id=””]*[/popover]
- “By asking Mary to pray for us, we acknowledge ourselves to be poor sinners and we address ourselves to the ‘Mother of Mercy,’ the All Holy One.”[popover title=”Source” title_bg_color=”” content=”CCC Para 2677.” content_bg_color=”” bordercolor=”” textcolor=”” trigger=”hover” placement=”” class=”” id=””]*[/popover]
The closing prayer of the rosary, which is usually the Hail Queen (Salve Regina) or sometimes called the Hail Holy Queen, also refers to Mary’s role as mediatix. This is the most commonly recited prayer in praise of Mary, after the Hail Mary itself, and was composed at the end of the eleventh century. It generally reads (although there are variants):
Hail holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn, then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.[popover title=”Source” title_bg_color=”” content=”http://www.catholic.com/library/Rosary.asp.” content_bg_color=”” bordercolor=”” textcolor=”” trigger=”hover” placement=”” class=”” id=””]*[/popover]
No such position is sanctioned in the New Testament. Mary is never told to “Monstra te esse matrem” (show that thou art His mother) or “Jussu matris impera salvatori” (lay thy maternal commands on the Saviour).[popover title=”Source” title_bg_color=”” content=”http://biblebrowser.com/john/2-1.htm.” content_bg_color=”” bordercolor=”” textcolor=”” trigger=”hover” placement=”” class=”” id=””]*[/popover]
Christ is the “one mediator” between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5), and there is no mediator between man and Christ. He assumed flesh so that He could become one of us (John 1:14), be touched with the feelings of our infirmities (Hebrews 4:15), and become our advocate at God’s right hand (1 John 2:1). He “ever liveth to make intercession for” us (Hebrews 7:25). It is through Christ that we “have access by one Spirit to the father” (Ephesians 2:18). He taught us to direct our prayers to His Father, not to His mother (Matthew 6:9). If the Son of God is interceding for us, is this not sufficient?
The New Testament is as silent on Mary’s rule as Mediatrix, as it is on praying to Mary (cf. Revelation 22:18-19). There is not one place in the New Testament where people prayed to Mary or the saints. The apostles never wrote of it; the early church never practiced it; the Old Testament never predicted it. The idea that anyone can go to the Virgin Mary and get something from Christ that they could not get by going to Him directly, is the equivalent of saying, “Dear tender-hearted virgin Mary, I tried to get something from your hard-hearted Son and had no success, so I’d like you to use a little inside pull for me.”
By accepting Jesus’ rebuke and directing the servants to do whatever Jesus told them, Mary showed she understood and accepted this role. Her example shows that we should as well.
Jesus was no longer Mary’s little lamb; He had grown to the lion of the tribe Judah (Revelation 5:5).