Sign up for Weekly Study:
ONEFamily Outreach exists to "Connect Kids to Community and Communities to Kids." Have you considered having a mission week for your church? This is one of my favorite "in-depth" ways of reaching out with the Great News of Jesus Christ. Activities can include:
ONEFamily Outreach is primarily supported by your donations and by trainings, workshops, retreats and concerts.
“Whatever He Says to You, Do It”
January 18, 2004
[Jn 2:1] On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there;  and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.  When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”  And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.”  His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”  Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each.  Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim.  And He said to them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it to him.  When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom,  and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.”  This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him. (NAS)
[Jn 2:1] On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there;  and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.  When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”
There was a wedding in Cana
So begins the miraculous public life of the world’s Savior. Yet, it takes place under the strangest compilation of circumstances:
· It was a backwoods miracle;
Cana was a backwoods town off the beaten path from anywhere. Even today scholars debate where the real town might have been. For Christ to begin his ministry there was like opening a great play in Point Barrow, Alaska (no offense to Port Barrow—as city I truly enjoyed visiting) instead of on Broadway. Yet, is there anyplace too distant for our God to reach? Can we go anywhere that God hasn’t already been?
· It was an inconvenient miracle;
This miracle came about because of mismanagement and poor planning. The Middle Eastern emphasis on caring for every need of your guest was certainly at issue in this miracle. Quite frankly, the wedding planner blew it. On one of the most important days of this couple’s wedded life there would be a big grape-colored blotch. Many would see this as a curse upon their young life; a sign of troubles to come.
Yet, isn’t that where God revels? God loves it when we ask him into our failures, into our grape-colored blotches. It is the joy of the Shepherd to find the one lost sheep of ninety-nine. It is the celebration of the Father to see the wandering son return. God enters our grape-colored blotches and turns life into a testimony to beauty.
· It was seemingly a reluctant miracle;
Perhaps the strangest aspect of this miracle is that Jesus did it at all. From all perspectives, it appears that Jesus did the miracle because of his mother’s persistence rather than at his own insistence. She demands a response from Jesus; he, in turn, responds to her persistence.
Jesus has a great deal to say about persistence:
[Lk 18:3] “There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ “For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man,  yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’ “ (NAS)
Could this story of the persistent widow be based upon the wedding using Mary as his model of persistence? Could Jesus be reflecting upon his own mother’s determination as she, a Middle Eastern widow, raised her family alone?
Regardless of our conjectures we know one thing for certain; this was a miracle of persistence and there were many “miracles of persistence” in the life of Jesus: Bartimaeus, the blind beggar at the gates of Jericho; the Syro-Phoenician women who begged for her possessed daughter; even, the restoration of Lazarus was a test in Martha and Mary’s persistence.
However, the persistence demanded by these miracles is never out of a sense of pride or cruelty on the Lord’s part. Sometimes, recipients of the miraculous are asked to wait a little longer in order to strengthen their faith or the faith of those around them.
Am I persistent enough for the miraculous? In my mission work, I often notice that the biggest breakthroughs occur in the lives of the incarcerated ones whom I visit, not on the first time we are together, but the third, fourth, or even fifth time. Do I have the persistence to hang around long enough to see God’s work bear fruit? That is a pretty important question in a society so prone to immediate gratification. It is perhaps the reason we so less prone to the experience the miraculous than those in Jesus’ day—we don’t stick around long enough to see the results of sincere prayer.
“They have no wine.”
We have looked at what makes this an unusual miracle; let’s look at why John wanted to tell us about it.
It would be pretty accurate to say that John’s Gospel is written primarily to close any door on doubts about who Jesus was, the Messiah, the Chosen One of God. As a result, John focuses his Gospel on seven discourses and eight signs that testify to Jesus’ deity and purpose. When John speaks of the incredible works of Jesus, he uses the word, “signs” or “distinguishing road marks” [GSN4592 semeion] as opposed to the term for miracles or “dynamite power” [GSN1411 dunamis] used by the authors of the Synoptic Gospels. John is not trying to give us a biography of Jesus; he is giving us a testimony to the Messiah.
The eight “signs” of Jesus that are found in John are:
1. Turning water to wine (2:1-11);
2. Healing the Government Official’s son (4:46-54);
3. Healing the lame man at the pool of Bethesda (5:1-9);
4. Feeding the 5,000 (6:1-14);
5. Walking on water (6:15-21);
6. Restoring sight to the blind man (9:1-4);
7. Raising Lazarus from the dead (11:1-44);
8. Providing an overwhelming number of fish to the disciples after the resurrection (21:1-14).
And, although these are momentous signs, they pale in comparison to the one true sign of Christ’s Messianic title: His resurrection!
Each of these signs has their own special significance and John tells us that he chose these events in particular because he could not possibly have written everything that he witnessed Jesus perform [John 21:25]. We see Jesus displaying God’s power over illness, crippled limbs, blindness, and even death. We see our Lord’s power over natural forces and feeding thousands with a poor boy’s lunch. Yet, what about this miracle, this backwater, awkward, miracle at a cousin’s house, what does it tell us?
We have already learned that this miracle illustrates that no place is too remote for our Savior to reach, it represents that God is willing to step into our miscalculations and bring about wholeness and that God hears the cry of the persistent prayer.
However, this miracle also tells us some very important fundamentals about God:
1. He blesses the gathering of His people;
There was no celebration more inclusive of the Jewish community than a wedding; especially in an outlying town like Cana. People were invited from surrounding communities and sometimes they would all stay for a week. The wedding party itself would sweep through the town going up and down each alleyway to make sure that none of the Jewish people were left out (that would be a bad omen for the newlywed couple).
This is what God blesses, a community gathered in His name, which leaves no one aside. Jesus’ first miracle blessed a community, a body of believers gathered for a specific purpose. That is a significant sign about what God is desirous of blessing.
2. He blesses the sacred covenant of family;
Family was the building block of community and the model that Jesus uses for his relationship with the church. Jesus’ first miracle blesses the sanctity of the family and raises it to a level of the sacred in the process.
The church is the bride of Christ and God wants his family to embrace all of His children. As the bride of Christ, it is our responsibility to “make a home” for the littlest (meaning “least accepted” child:
 “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you he shall not lose his reward.” (NAS)
We also see, in this sign, the blessing of a community of gatherers rather than the cultural push towards individuality; we are called to community and Jesus comes to us in community:
 “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst.” (NAS)
It is a fallacy that we can call ourselves Christian and celebrate outside of a body of believers. To be Christian is to be church.
3. He wants His people to know that it is for our joy that He sent His Son.
There is only one thing a good parent truly wants to pass to a child: Joy. Not the trivial happiness that comes from materialism, not the shallow rut of sarcasm that passes for humor today. Jesus wants the unifying joy of families united in compassion, the joy that results from sharing in trials and triumphs together. He doesn’t want the sour wine that we drink to numb our mind and become oblivious to pain, instead, our Lord wants the finest of champagnes, the deepest joy, that waits for us as a result of a life well-lived; a life worth living.
 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’“ (NAS)
 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”  Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each.
“Whatever He Says to You, Do It”
People have tried to dummy-down this statement throughout the years and make it less assertive (aggressive) than it appears to be. The term “woman” was not abnormal to use in Christ’s time, it could even be interpreted as “dear woman.” However, what Jesus said after he said, “Woman,” was not normal for a Jewish child (even an adult child).
Our Lord admonishes Mary with the statement, “What does that have to do with us?” Or, as I have heard some people tell others; “Your crisis is not my problem.”
Yet, Jesus acknowledges that he can do something about it, he just states that the “timing isn’t right.” Literally, when he says; “My hour has not yet come,” it means; “This is not the time of my fullness.”
We have already seen how this is a miracle of persistence. This statement by Jesus brings out the steel backbone in Mary. It pushes Mary beyond asking for a miracle and into “chest-thumping action.” She looks right through Jesus and we can almost see her growling at the servants; “Get the jars, he will do it.”
And, what happens? Jesus does it! He transforms some one hundred and twenty to one hundred and eighty gallons of water into the finest wine.
However, he doesn’t do it because Mary asked. He does it because Mary acts on what she is asking for!
When will our prayers move us beyond mere asking? We pray, “Oh Lord, clothe the naked,” then we leave church and return back to a closet full of coats. We pine, “Oh Lord, feed the hungry,” and then we fill up huge diesel semi’s whose tanks could fill the bellies of a hundred kids with rice. “Oh Lord,” we cry, “Comfort the afflicted,” while we drive by shelters, jails, detention centers and rest homes on our way to brunch after church.
At what point does our asking become acting?
The Lord has hundreds of gallons of the finest joy ready to release upon our lives but are we ready to say; “Get the jars, he’ll do it?” Are we ready to act on what we are asking for?
 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim.  And He said to them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it to him.  When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom,  and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.”  This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him. (NAS)
So they filled them up to the brim
Jesus not only provides the best of wines (the greatest of joys), his own joy is also filled completely to the brim. To the point where the vessels could not hold one more drop!
This finest of wines, this greatest of joys, it is not meant for us individually. It was not given so that the wedding couple could open up a wine cellar and drink themselves silly for the rest of their married lives. This finest of wines, this greatest of joys, is meant to be shared by all. It is meant to overflow into the lives of everyone present.
What was almost a disaster became the greatest of celebrations; the dark cloud was lifted from over the festivity. Even the stuffy, old headwaiter had to pay a compliment to the bridegroom. I wonder if the bridegroom even knew who saved his skin. Or, was this a private joke between Jesus, the servants, the disciples and (the slightly less cantankerous) Mary.
I wonder how many miracles happen in my life daily because of the prayers of others. Miracles I am totally unaware of because someone is praying for my ministry in jail or on the streets. How many times has my “skin been saved” by the prayers of someone who lifts my name in love upon their lips?
Likewise, I am challenged. Am I willing to act behind the scenes, interceding for others, like Mary did for this wedding couple? Am I willing to act on another’s behalf, even if they will never know my prayers or actions worked in their favor? Whose name(s) will I lift in prayerful intervention today?
What we can be assured of is this: When God gives, it is in fullness and abundance. It isn’t enough to get by; it is enough for the entire banquet. There is plenty of joy for the entire community when prayer moves from asking to acting.
P.S. I love the thought of the servants sharing in this incredible private joke/miracle with Jesus. Can you imagine their smiles as they served the wine and the compliments flowed freely up to the Headwaiter instead of Jesus? Did he point to the Lord? Did he even know where the wine came from?
This beginning of His signs
It is so easy to pass over this statement by John. Yet, John actually uses this sign (miracle) to set a precedent for his book. John carefully chooses the following terms:
· The beginning [GSN746 arche]
This word also means the cornerstone, the chief principle. This sign was the “arche-sign,” signaling the “dawn” of humanity’s new day. The glory of the Lord had come to the earth and manifested itself in a backwater village. The miraculous had appeared in a most obscure corner of the world and world would not be able to remain the same. We might say that this sign was like a butterfly landed on a fault line and the whole world was about to shift but no one recognized it. Many of the guests (and maybe the headwaiter) continued to party oblivious to the change in the scope of the world that had just occurred. Perhaps that is a good sign for us to bear in mind due to our often “obliviousness” before the miraculous in this world.
· Manifested [GSN5319 phaneroo]
Here is a term that means: To render apparent, to declare, to make public. What is so amazing about this miracle is that Jesus seems to have just happened to be in Cana at this time. He was on his way to announce his mission in Nazareth after from cornering Satan in the wilderness. He was coming out of a defining moment and headed into his destiny; but, on the way, he stops to invite two teenagers to become disciples (John the writer of this gospel and Andrew, Simon Peter’s younger brother) and he tarries for a wedding “on the way.”
Jesus did not stage these events. They were given to him and he used them to bring glory to God. The mark of true faith is how we return to God the circumstances that He presents to us. Are we still waiting for “the right time?” Are we holding off for the “right place or circumstance” to stage our entrance into faithful discipleship?
In so doing, we would miss Andrew and John entirely. Instead, we might say, “I don’t have time for two teenagers, I am on my way to destiny.”
We might walk right by Cana, “Who has time for such frivolity with a bunch of no-name people?”
Those who see the divine in the circumstantial change the world. Are we ready to bravely take this moment, wherever we are, and apply God to it?
· His Glory [GSN1391 doxa]
This is a very rich word that the Holy Spirit gave John to define the event at the wedding feast. The term means honor and dignity. In this moment, Jesus manifested the honor and dignity of the Father and bestowed it upon an unsuspecting wedding couple. However, this word is also used for worship, praise, and glory. True worship occurs when we act in such a way that we bring the breathtaking to the circumstantial, when we bring the divine to the mundane.
For me, worship is the moment when a prisoner realizes he is no longer trapped by the walls that enclose him but he is freed to share the joy of Jesus Christ within those walls. At that moment, he moves from inmate to disciple, an empty jar of despair to a full vessel of joy. It is that “Alleluia” of tears and joy that is true worship.
Worship is the moment when Mary moved from asking to acting on behalf of this young couple so that they would not have to carry the embarrassing burden of an inadequate wedding feast for the rest of her life.
Let’s follow Mary’s example and get moving. Let us move our prayer from asking to action. Let us be brave enough to act like a butterfly upon a fault line. It is neither our weight nor our power that changes the world; it is our availability to God. The world changes when we commit to action and not just to walk by Cana or turn away when the good stuff runs dry. It is the times we persist when even Jesus seems to say; “That’s not my problem.”
There is so much to learn from Mary’s, “Whatever he says to you, do it.” But above all, we can learn that Jesus wants to build our persistence and move us from asking to acting.
About the Author
Jerry Goebel has worked with youth and young adults for over thirty years. Twenty of those years have been spent focusing primarily on reaching out to at-risk youth on the streets or in the juvenile court system. Jerry developed ONEFamily Outreach, which trains mentors to work with disconnected youth (incarcerated youth, youth in recovery, and youth who are expelled from school). Jerry travels extensively to teach adults how to become more effective in empowering young people to become a positive influence within their communities
To contact or book Jerry for a presentation in your area write or call:
Other Works by Jerry Goebel
The Deepest Longing of
Young People: Loving Without Conditions $14.95 (paperback)
Conversations: Helping Young People Live Meaningful Lives $14.95 (8.5 x 11 inch
spiral bound with printable worksheets)
Copyright © 2005 Jerry Goebel. All Rights Reserved. To reprint or quote from this article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scripture Quotations noted from NASB are from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD VERSION of the bible. Copyright © The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)
The New Testament Greek Lexicon based on Thayer’s and Smith’s Bible Dictionary plus others; this is keyed to the large Kittel and the “Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.” These files are public domain.
The Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon is Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Lexicon; this is keyed to the “Theological Word Book of the Old Testament.” These files are considered public domain.
NAS Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries. Copyright © 1981, 1998 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved. (www.Lockman.org)
Sign up for Weekly Study: