A Wedding At Cana In Galilee
Ordinary Sunday Week 2 Year C
A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
St. John 2: 1 — 11
The Christian Liturgical Year seeks, among other aims to do two things:
First — to present the life of Jesus and its various “landmark moments” in the
first six months;
and then —
Secondly — to spend the next six months presenting His teaching as recorded in the
The Wedding at Cana is celebrated by us on the first of the Sundays in “Ordinary Time”, following the Baptism of Jesus. This gives us a picture of the life of Jesus unfolding and marks the beginning of the public ministry of the Lord.
Most people who attend worship, or read the Scriptures know that some water was turned into wine. A minority can recall something about a difference of opinion between our Lord, and His mother. These do occur, but they are not the fundamental purpose St. John had in mind as he wrote. It is what they signify that is most important.
It is an unusual incident, but it has a very special function in the Divine Plan. Like the Cleansing in the Temple, this historical story acts as a parable via which St. John conveys essential information early in the Gospel.
Let’s take an overview of the event:
The accounts can be analysed as follows. Verses 1 and 2 indicate
the setting: Jesus and His disciples have been invited to a
wedding, and Jesus’ mother is also there. Verse 3 provides the
immediate occasion for the miracle: all the wine has been drunk.
Verses 4 and 5 indicate that Jesus acts independently of all
human authority, even that of His mother, and so even His
mother is obedient to Him in matters related to the revelation
of His true glory.
Verse 6 explains the presence and purpose of the water jars at the
feast, while verses 7 and 8 relate the words of Jesus that produce
the miracle, though the miracle is not actually indicated until
verse 9. Verse 10 gives the response of the man in charge of the
feast to the water that has now become wine, and the concluding
verse (11) indicates the true nature of the miracle (there He
revealed His glory) and its effect on His disciples. (His disciples
believed in Him). (Newman and Nida)
Some Reflections on our text
Verses 1 and 2
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee,
and the mother of Jesus was there.
Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.
“On the third day” after the meeting of Jesus and Nathanael (we would say two days
after ….. ) a wedding commenced in Cana (probably Khirbet Qana, now in ruins, about nine miles north of Nazareth) and continued for a week.
St. John records, “and the mother of Jesus was there”. We offer three responses to this observation to help set the scene. Sadly, this reading is one various Christian groups have fought each other over. The Hebrew background to the situation, however, shows that there is no need for excessive claims from any direction. The cultural custom integrated into the text is too beautiful to squabble over. Three short quotations will demonstrate this to us.
• “The mother of Jesus was there.” It is to be remarked that St. John
never mentions her by name, and designates her only by that which
made her “highly favoured“, “blessed among women,” as the Mother
of Jesus. In his mention of her place near the Cross, he speaks of her only
as the Mother of Jesus, and notices by name the other Maries. (Sadler)
• She is never called “Mary” in the gospel but preferably “mother of
Jesus,” a title which focuses on her Son and on her relationship
with Him as mother. In the Orient it is also a complimentary title
for a woman who has been fortunate enough to bear a son. (McPollin, S. J.)
• In the Old Testament, the kings of Judah (as in other Eastern
kingdoms) held their mothers in great esteem. In fact the king’s mother
was known as the gebirah, the “grand lady” or the “queen mother”
(1 Kings 15: 13), grandmother in this case (Jeremiah 29: 2. 2 Kings 24: 15;
10: 13. Jeremiah 13: 18). Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, was the first Great
Lady in Israel. Solomon’s first act as king was to rise from his
throne, bow to his mother, and place a throne for her at his
right hand (I Kings 2:19). It was not the king’s wife who held the position
of gebirah, rather it was the king’s mother. Jesus, as the new king of
Israel, seated on the eternal throne of David (Luke 1: 32), of whom
Solomon was a prefiguring, would most certainly esteem his Mother
at least as much as earthly kings had esteemed theirs.
(From, “St John’sGospel,” by Stephen K. Ray,
Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2002. Most highly recommended)
We are not sure how many disciples Jesus had at this time. The reference is not necessarily to those “chosen” by our Lord, but probably to any studying under Him at the time.
Verses 3 — 5
When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him,
“They have no wine.”
(And) Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern
affect me? My hour has not yet come.”
His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Our scenario is an intensely Jewish family moment, which gets “over-stretched” in some otherwise scholarly commentaries.
Apparently it was noticed the wine looked as though it was going to run out. Mary didn’t say to Jesus, “The wine is going to run out soon!” She said, with all the force of a most accomplished hostess in her own right: “They have NO wine!”
Our Lord’s reply is something like prolonged, “Motherrrrrrr !”
“Not nowwwwww !”
Joseph had already passed from this world, and so Jesus and His Mother were very close. The reply from Jesus in our text is a phrase used often in Scripture and chosen by St. John to convey a most significant moment.
At the Baptism of Jesus there is a passing of the prophetic role from the greatest servant and prophet in the Old Testament to the Servant of Servants in the New Order. Now, at Cana, a further transition occurs as Jesus steps from home life on to the world stage of His mission; and there will be no turning back.
Interestingly the divine choice for this moment to take place is in a truly family context — hospitality, friends, joyful noise, a lovely atmosphere, and, it has to be said, an unanticipated rather exuberant consumption of wine, whatever the quality! At a party today we might say, “Hey guys, take it easy. Slow down a bit!” Jesus didn’t!
The reply of Jesus to His most elegant Mother was, literally, “Woman; What is that to you and me?”
“Greek gune means ‘woman,’ but saying gune! to a woman in
Greek is not nearly as cold an address as ‘Woman!’ in English;
that is why I have rendered ‘Mother’ ….. Yeshua’s comment is
meant to aid her in the transition from seeing him as Him as
her Lord, to keep her from undue pride, and to indicate that
He as Lord sovereignly determines when He will intervene in
human affairs — He does not perform miracles on demand
merely to impress His friends, or even to give naches (a Yiddish
word that means ‘the kind of joy a mother feels’) to His mother.”
(From, Jewish New Testament Commentary, by David H. Stern.
Clarksville, Md.: Jewish New Testament Pubs., 1962. 163. Emphasis ours)
Two works from the Reformed tradition speak with simple clarity:
• “So far from any harshness, the compilation has something
solemn in it.” (Trench)
• “It is often used as a term of respect, or affection, —
mistress, lady.” (Lidell and Scott’s Lexicon)
Actually, our Lord’s use of a Biblical phrase would remind anyone with Hebrew-Christian education of a similar “difference of opinion” in Exodus:
Something similar are the words of God to Moses: “Let Me alone,
that My wrath may be kindled against them, and that I may
destroy them.” (Exodus 32: 10)
On that occasion, after remonstrating, granted the prayer of
Moses, just as on this occasion, after remonstrating, He yielded
to the suggestion of His Mother. (Macrory)
Two other scholars have something helpful to say:
In the first place, the term “woman” has nothing in it approaching
to disrespect. On the contrary, it is more than once associated with
great praise, “O woman, great is thy faith”. (Matthew 15: 28) It is the
word used by our Lord respecting His mother in the words on the
cross, by which He committed her to the care of St. John (John 19: 26)
What have I to do with thee? The words can be translated, ‘What is
that to me, and thee?’ i.e. Never mind, don’t be worried (Burkitt), or,
‘What is a little thing like that to you and me?’ (Souter); but the
common usage of the phrase supports the idea of intervention, and
it is conclusive that this corresponds with a similar treatment of
His mother in the early Galilean ministry (Mark 3: 33). The mother,
quick to see the needs of home life, knowing how in the home she
has always looked to Him when anything was wanted and He
always supplied it, turns now to Him, but He courteously puts her
aside. This is a wider sphere: He must be left to act when He feels
the moment has come. She presses Him no more, but is quite sure
that He will act and makes things ready for Him. (Lock. Emphasis ours)
In fact, despite her son’s very specific reply to her “mere reporting of an observation”, Mary hasn’t got time just now to listen to a sermon from Yeshua. She walks past Him and whispers to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you!”
It’s now over to Him!
We suggest the much quoted sentence from St. Justin Martyr is really the last word on our Lord’s carefully chosen reply to His Mother, as she busily helps her friends organise the wedding reception.
“He reproved not His Mother by what He said, who honoured her
by what He did.” (St. Justin Martyr C. E. 35 ― 117 approximately)
Verses 6 — 10
Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish
ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons.
Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled
them to the brim.
Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the
headwaiter.” So they took it.
And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become
wine, without knowing where it came from (although the
servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter
called the bridegroom
and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then
when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have
kept the good wine until now.”
The distinguished Biblical scholar, Ronald Knox, has an interesting comment on the significance of six water-pots — see Appendix “Six Water-pots“.
And so the miracle takes place; but initially, only two people, the headwaiter and one of the servers, are aware of what has happened. Jesus had intervened after all, and at the same time reversed the world’s standards: He honoured the bridegroom who was saluted for keeping the best wine until the lesser was used up.
Nothing needed to be said. The actions spoke for themselves. And the party rolled on without the slightest ripple!
Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and
so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.
St. John closes his account of the miracle at the wedding in Cana with one power-packed sentence. He refers to our Lord’s first sign. Two scholars share their insights with us:
“The two results” of this sign are typical of all the ‘signs’ which
John records, namely the manifestation of the glory of Jesus and
the development of faith in the disciples. Signs are of no
significance to those who have no readiness to see and hear.
(Guthrie. Emphasis ours.)
Jesus’ miracles are never simply naked displays of power,
still less neat conjouring tricks to impress the masses, but
signs, significant displays of power that point beyond
themselves to the deeper realities that could be perceived
with the eyes of faith. Jesus Himself in this Gospel refers to His
miracles and to His other activity as His ‘work’ or ‘works’
(e.g. 5: 36; NIV ‘miracle (s)’ in 7: 21; 10: 25).
By this sign, Jesus revealed His glory, ‘the glory of the One and
Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’ (1: 14).
His glory would be revealed in greatest measure in His cross,
resurrection and exaltation, but every step along the course of
His ministry was an adumbration # of that glory. The glory
was not visible to all who had seen the miracle; the glory cannot
be identified with the miraculous display (See notes on 1: 14). The
servants saw the sign, but not the glory; the disciples by faith
perceived Jesus’ glory behind the sign, and they put their faith
and trust in Him (episteusaneisauton see notes on 2: 23 — 25).
# adumbration― a foreshadowing
(From: “The Gospel According to St. John”, by D. A. Carson, Inter-Varsity Press,
England and W. B. Erdman Publishing Company, USA. 1991. Emphasis ours.)
This is the moment Jesus chose to give His mother’s homely hint a definitive significance. It is captured simply by a much esteemed scholar:
The great abundance of wine provided recalls the imagery of
Amos 9: 13 — 14. Most of all, the remark of the steward in
verse 10, “You have kept the best wine till now,” invites the
conclusion that the Messiah is now here. (G. MacRae)
Our Lord’s entry on to the stage of His public ministry is interesting. First He is baptised in a totally undramatic manner with lot of other people responding to the Baptist’s call. The special signs accompanying it were witnessed (or perhaps noted) by only a few. At the Cana wedding, Jesus is drawn into a second “entree”, again, noticed at least initially by just a few present. Only at His next visit to His former local synagogue will He complete His transition to the public arena.
For now we just rest in our reflection on the Cana event ― the Messiah has truly arrived.
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(Mark 16: 15)
The real Jesus, is the real answer to the real needs of the world!
Let us remember God’s Teaching, contained in His Word and in
A Wedding at Cana in Galilee
Ordinary Sunday week 2 Year C St. John 2: 1 — 11
1. The two chief players in the Cana Wedding incident.
This unusual event centres on a very special relationship between Jesus and Mary, His mother. What occurs between them is entirely consistent with the Biblical teaching of how a man born to be King will treat his mother.
“In the Old Testament, the kings of Judah (as in other Eastern kingdoms)
(From, “St John’s Gospel,” by Stephen K. Ray,
Mary’s response to her son’s remarks show s humble and total trust in His decision. Thus she says to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you!” Great advice for us too!
2. Miracles: just what are they?
A most distinguished theologian from the Reformed tradition wrote:
Jesus’ miracles are never simply naked displays of power, still less neat conjouring tricks to impress the masses, but signs, significant displays of power that point beyond themselves to the deeper realities that could be perceived with the eyes of faith. Jesus Himself in this Gospel refers to His miracles and to His other activity as His ‘work‘ or ‘works‘ (e.g. 5: 36; NIV ‘miracle(s)’ in 7: 21; 10: 25).
By this sign, Jesus revealed His glory, ‘the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’ (1: 14).
(From: “The Gospel According to St. John”, by D. A. Carson, Inter-Varsity Press, England
Christians are often intrigued that Jesus could use His power in such an unremarkable situation. But the Old Testament image of the Messiah is one of association with a very special banquet, much celebration, and an overwhelming sense of abundance. We don’t even know who the young wedded couple were ― only that He acted upon His mother’s advice to ensure the party proceeds without interruption. The first public miracle of Jesus demands in-depth pondering by all who would follow Him; or we may discover we are not following Him at all. This Messiah chooses some strange moments to advance His role. We have to look hard in order to perceive what is really taking place.
3. Our Lord is always very much at home receiving hospitality as it is offered to Him.
Whether it is family, or friends ― or both ― He uses situations to be seen as one of the group quietly being hospitable to others and enjoying their company.
Did Jesus and His team stay for the whole week? If they did, how come He gave that so much priority when He could have been curing the sick, helping the poor, restoring sight to the blind?
Jesus chose to “open His campaign” in a unique way ― it would be a family celebration of the start of another new family ― just a very ordinary one, of which we never hear again. This is the foundation of His Church which would display all the love, simple dignity, joyful spirit ― and above all, would symbolise the bursting forth a New Age of abundant blessings and restoration. This is the beginning of the restoration of the Household of God.
Let us pray for one another to follow our Lord’s directions on how to be acceptable as a member of this great family.
Why Six Water-pots?
Why were there exactly six water-pots? Why was no comment aroused, when the servants began (apparently) serving the guests with water from this source? Why was it necessary to produce a hundred and twenty gallons of wine, when the guests had drunk deep already? All these anomalies disappear from the narrative if we adopt Bishop Westcott’s reading of it. He points out that the word “draw” in verse 8 is normally (in the Bible, always) used of drawing water from a well or fountain. Which (he argues) is what the servants were told to do, and did. They filled the six urns, and then started drawing from the well again; “Draw out now“. If this view is right, we see the force of the six water-pots; it was the seventh draught from the well that was miraculous. Just so, it was at the seventh challenge that the walls of Jericho fell (Joshua 6: 15 ― 20), it was not till he had climbed Carmel seven times that Elijah’ servant saw the rain coming (I Kings 18: 43), and the leper must wash seven times in Jordan if he is to be cleansed (2 Kings 5: 10) (R. Knox)
The Reply of Jesus to His Mother
(We offer two comments)
This reply of Jesus to his mother is not discourteous or harsh; neither is it a refusal, because she did not ask anything of him; nor is it a reproach, because Jesus takes the initiative and works a miracle and Mary is not put off, for she asks the servants in words also found in Gen 41:55 to do all that Jesus will ask.
Moreover, the question is open to a negative and a positive response both of which are true for there is and there is not a rupture in the relationship between them. In questioning the relationship which united him so far with his mother, Jesus suggests that a change is to take place in this relationship. Negatively, a family relationship by which she can influence him as a mother and expect him to help, ceases. But positively, there is a new relationship between them, which transcends any human tie of flesh and blood (Luke 2:49; Mark 3:31 ― 35; Luke 11:27 ― 28). In this new relationship Mary allows herself to be influenced by him and her reaction to Jesus’ question is precisely this: she does not exercise her influence on him as a mother any more but she gives instructions to the waiters, thus allowing herself to be influenced by him and placing herself at his service. In that way she shows her disponibility # of faith and hope as regards her Son and, by accepting this imposed renunciation, foregoes her privileged position as mother and even invites others to be docile to her Son. Thus her position as mother of Jesus in the flesh gives place to a spiritual motherhood of the faithful and the “mother of Jesus” becomes woman. This title of honour expresses the dignity of her new relationship with Jesus in the order of faith and hope and therefore is far from being an offensive expression of undue reserve or distance on the part of Jesus towards Mary. (McPollin, S. J.)
# disponibility ― availability, placing at His disposal.
What Mary seemed to desire was that her Son should take this occasion to manifest himself openly as the Messiah, and she mentions the need of wine as her reason for suggesting such a Messianic manifestation. He knows that this is not the time or the place; it must be at the Passover and in Jerusalem. His “hour” had “not yet come.” He fulfills the need of the guests, he grants the request of his mother, while denying, and mildly, lovingly rebuking the deeper, larger desire of her heart. Yet in his denial he is admitting the truth that he is the Messiah, and that, as such, he will soon appear. (C. Erdman)
John 2: 1 — 11
Ordinary Sunday week 2 Year C
1 1 On the third day there was a wedding 2 in Cana 3 in Galilee,
2 Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.
3 When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him,
4 4 (And) Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern
5 His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 5 Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish
7 Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them
8 Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the
9 And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become
10 and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then
11 Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs 7 in Cana in
1 [⇒ 2:1-⇒ 6:71] Signs revealing Jesus as the Messiah to all Israel. “Sign” (semeion) is John’s symbolic term for Jesus’ wondrous deeds (see Introduction). The Old Testament background lies in the Exodus story (cf⇒Deut 11:3; ⇒ 29:2). John is interested primarily in what the semeia signify: God’s intervention in human history in a new way through Jesus.
2 [1-11] The first sign. This story of replacement of Jewish ceremonial washings (⇒ John 2:6) presents the initial revelation about Jesus at the outset of his ministry. He manifests his glory; the disciples believe. There is no synoptic parallel.
3  Cana: unknown from the Old Testament. The mother of Jesus: she is never named in John.
4  This verse may seek to show that Jesus did not work miracles to help his family and friends, as in the apocryphal gospels. Woman: a normal, polite form of address, but unattested in reference to one’s mother. Cf also ⇒ John 19:26. How does your concern affect me?: literally, “What is this to me and to you?” – a Hebrew expression of either hostility (⇒ Judges 11:12; ⇒ 2 Chron 35:21; ⇒ 1 Kings 17:18) or denial of common interest (⇒ Hosea 14:9; ⇒ 2 Kings 3:13). Cf⇒ Mark 1:24; ⇒ 5:7 used by demons to Jesus. My hour has not yet come: the translation as a question (“Has not my hour now come?”), while preferable grammatically and supported by Greek Fathers, seems unlikely from a comparison with ⇒ John 7:6, ⇒ 30. The “hour” is that of Jesus’ passion, death, resurrection, and ascension (⇒ John 13:1).
5  Twenty to thirty gallons: literally, “two or three measures”; the Attic liquid measure contained 39.39 liters. The vast quantity recalls prophecies of abundance in the last days; cf⇒ Amos 9:13-14; ⇒ Hosea 14:7; ⇒ Jeremiah 31:12.
6  Headwaiter: used of the official who managed a banquet, but there is no evidence of such a functionary in Palestine. Perhaps here a friend of the family acted as master of ceremonies; cf⇒ Sirach 32:1.
7  The beginning of his signs: the first of seven (see Introduction).
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised