On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” John 2:1-5
Supposedly Jesus was around 30 years old when he mouthed off to his mother at the wedding in Cana. Reading the passage from John this week made me laugh out loud– perhaps the first time I have ever laughed a bible passage.
The reason for my laughter is Mary’s response to Jesus when he basically tells her that he’s not going to do anything about the wine situation. Instead of getting into a fight with him about his timing or his recalcitrance she just acts as if he graciously offered to help her by instructing the servants to do what he says.
This is such a universal ‘mom’ moment. I have a teenager of my own. He has many sterling qualities and is frequently both cheerful and helpful; however, like all parent-teen relationships, ours has had its ups and downs. There have been times when I told him to do something and he refused. I learned a long time ago that the best thing to do in those situations was to acknowledge the resistance, but expect him to follow my request regardless. Much like Mary in the quote above, I make it clear that I expect him to act on my request.
My son was a December baby, so I have felt kinship with Mary in the past, but this is the first time I really connected to her as a mom who has expectations of her son that may not fit his idea of himself
Much like the Canaanite Woman in John 15:21-28, Mary, in this moment, is pulling Jesus up short and encouraging him to really think about what he just said to his mother (possibly in front of all of her friends). She doesn’t get into a fight with him, she doesn’t call him on the carpet, she just pretends that he answered in the way she would expect a polite and dutiful son and guest to do.
In the chronology of John, Jesus already has some disciples and might be feeling much like a youngster out on his own for the first time– unshakable in his certainty and disdainful of his elders’ life experience. I still remember that feeling of ‘knowingness’ that carried me through my early twenties. Sometimes I even miss it. However, I also remember when my lack of life experience would prove that my parents still had a thing or two to teach me.
In this brief moment, we see Jesus choosing to respect his mother’s request. We see him realize that, while he may be God-made-man he still has to answer to his mother for his behavior in certain circumstances. We also see the beginning of a pattern where, when he is called out on his grand proclamations, he is willing to stop, think, and even reconsider his words and deeds in the light of another person’s experience.
This is a side of Jesus that I don’t think can be stressed enough. Even though he is the Son of God incarnate he is not immune from the errors of mortals. He is sometimes arrogant, definitely a know-it-all, and prone to believing he is always correct. These two, very different, women both stand and remind him that just because he is the Son of God doesn’t mean he has all the answers.
In these times of turmoil in both the world and the church, I don’t think it is a bad thing to believe in a God-made-flesh who we can stand up to and argue with. In fact, even in the Old Testament God has been willing to be argued with and talked out of some of God’s plans.
Going back to my own son, when he was little we would ask him if he would like to do “A” or “B” and most of the time he would say “C”. His third option was frequently better than the ones his father and I had come up with, so we learned to listen for ‘Option C’ before making up our mind. Perhaps God is also listening for that third option and we just need to be willing to speak up and maybe even argue a bit.
We would be in good company if we did so.
Bible quotes are from the NRSV on Bible Gateway
Kristin Fontaine is an itinerant Episcopalian, crafter, hobbyist, and unstoppable organizer of everything. Advent is her favorite season, but she thinks about the meaning of life and her relationship to God year-round. It all spills out in the essays she writes. She and her husband own Dailey Data Group, a statistical consulting company.
Image: Stained glass window at Saint Peter the Apostle Church, Baldwin Road, Parsippany, NJ, USA.