To us, not being 1st-century Aramaic speakers, Jesus sounds quite rude when he calls Mary “Woman!” And when Our Lord says,“Mine hour is not yet come,” we might think he is making a grumpy exclamation of “leave me alone, mum!”
But, no: the wedding is just after Jesus’ baptism, at the beginning of his ministry as a rabbi, and he’s probably about thirty years old, so awkward teenage Jesus getting embarrassed by Mum does not quite fit the bill here. Actually, the Gospel writer is making very deliberate references. It’s just that youneed to know your Christian story and some Jewish history and context to understand them.
The turning of water into wine, Jesus’ first miracle, is the first of seven signs in the Gospel of St John that Jesus is the Messiah and is ushering in the Kingdom of Heaven. And what this miracle says about that Kingdom is that God takes what is natural and ordinary, and turns it into something supernatural and extraordinary. Water, ordinary stuff of the natural world, carries the potential for transformation into the supernatural, represented by wine.
So, if you’re sitting thinking that this turning water into wine is a load of baloney, an impossibility, a magic trick, then I’m sorry, but you’re completely missing the point. You’re not thinking hard enough. You’re missing the clues.
Take the first clue John gives us. The wedding takes place on the third day after Jesus’ baptism. Now, just like Jesus being lost for three days in the Temple as a child in the story we read last week, the three days motif should alert us instantly to the most important three days in the entire Christian story – because it was on the third day after Jesus died that he was resurrected from the dead: Easter day is the third day after Good Friday. So, John is giving us a clue that the story of the wedding at Cana is going to have something to do with resurrection, newness and fullness of life.
The next clue is the wine itself. Isaiah prophesies that there will be a Messiah, an anointed one, who will bring in a newKingdom, like a great feast for all peoples, abundant with flowing new wine. This is another Epiphany revelation of Jesus as the Messiah.
So, let’s go back to Jesus’ words to Mary. When he calls her “Woman,” he is not being rude. He is making another reference, this time, to God’s word back in Genesis to the serpent:
“I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”
Jesus is the New Adam, born of Mary the new Eve, and he will indeed crush Satan’s dominion of power and death, but not without being “bitten” first by his own death on the Cross. The Crucifixion is when the mystical marriage is complete, and Jesus’ hour has come. The Resurrection is when the fullness of life of the Kingdom becomes clear.
For now, in his first miracle, Jesus is giving us a sign of what that Kingdom is like. It is not like destroying water and replacing it with wine, but like taking water and perfecting it,making it from something that merely sustains life into something which gives joy.