It took two days of steady walking for Jesus and His new followers to reach Nazareth in the mountains of Galilee. Jesus’ mother, Mary, was excited to see Him when they came dragging in at the end of the second day.
“I’m so glad you came home!” Mary said as she hugged her son. “And who are these?” she asked as she looked to the six men behind Him.
“They are friends who have traveled with me from Judea,” Jesus answered. “I have brought them here as my guests.
“Friends, this is my mother, Mary.”
“You’re all welcome,” she said with an inclusive gesture, “but I’m not sure what we’ll eat. We’re running around like chickens getting ready to leave for Cana first thing in the morning.”
“Cana?” Nathaniel questioned. “That’s my home. Why are you going there?”
“One of our cousins is marrying the son of Eliab, the merchant.”
“I know the family,” the son of Talmai answered. “Eliab is a very successful cloth merchant. Your cousin should be well cared for.”
“Don’t worry about supper,” Rock said to Mary as he walked in. “When we entered Nazareth, we purchased some loaves of bread, raisin cakes, and pickled fish.”
“Wonderful!” Mary returned. “I’ll have one of my daughters thicken up what’s left of the lentil soup we had at midday, and we can dip the bread in that. All of you get cleaned up, and Jesus, introduce your friends to your brothers.”
After an early start the next morning, the small procession made its way north for the two-and-a-half-hour walk through the mountains to Cana. The wedding was a big one, and many friends and family both from Cana and the surrounding villages were invited. When the ceremony was concluded and the celebration began, Mary was whisked away to help with the preparations, which she was delighted to do. The food was delicious and abundant, and many pitchers of wine were brought out to serve the large crowd. The singing was loud and enthusiastic, and the dancing was happy and energetic.
The party had been going on for several hours, but according to custom, it was just getting started. As Mary was bringing another large basket of sweet bread to set on the food table, she spotted several of the servants grouped by the storeroom having a very animated discussion.
“What is wrong?” she asked with concern when she joined the group.
“The steward told us to keep the wine available to all the guests, but there is no more wine!” one said in desperation.
“No!” Mary cried. “That can’t be!”
“But it is!” another cried. “This is the only storeroom! The old steward said everything was purchased for the wedding, but then he got into an argument with Eliab, and he was let go. He must have never bought all the wine, and the new steward didn’t know! This is awful!”
“It’s actually worse than not having enough food!” the first servant added. “People will talk about the disaster of this wedding for years! The family will never live the shame down!”
By now Mary was in tears, then suddenly a thought came to her. What had the angel said to her at the very beginning? You will conceive and bear a son, and name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Israel forever…. Both Elijah and Elisha the prophets caused almost-empty pots to continue flowing with oil and meal miraculously. Something better than Elijah and Elisha is here, she told herself.
“Have you told the steward yet?” Mary asked.
“No, we just discovered it ourselves. These pitchers we’re carrying are the very last of the wine!” the first servant returned.
“Don’t tell him yet,” Mary ordered. “I know someone who can help.”
It took her a few minutes to find Jesus in the crowd. She saw that one of the servants was just offering to fill His cup with the last of the wine. Hurrying over, she put her hand over His cup and said, “They have run completely out of wine! There’s no more, and what’s in those pitchers is the last!”
Jesus looked at His mother, fully comprehending what she was saying and what it meant to the family. Finally He said, “Madame, what to me and to you? (* See below) It’s not time yet.” Then He pulled his cup away from her hand, nodded to the servant, and allowed him to fill His cup with wine. Turning, he led his followers over to get in line to bless the bride and groom.
Mary stood there taking in what He had said. He had not addressed her as Mother or Mama. Instead He used the polite but formal term Madame. She had known that when He decided to take up His mantle as King of Israel, their relationship had to change. The King had gently let her know what her place was now. He had been her son, now He was to be her Lord. She had delivered Him as a baby, now He would be her deliverer. He had let her know that this was His business, not hers, and that He would deal with it at the proper time.
With confidence she turned to the servant holding the pitcher and pointed to Jesus. “Whatever He tells you to do,” she said authoritatively, “do it. And tell the others.”
A short time later Jesus approached the group of concerned servants standing near the entrance of the family home. There was a look of desperation on each of their faces. None of them wanted to be the one to tell the steward what had happened.
“Mary said you could help,” one of the servants said as Jesus and his followers drew near.
Close to the entrance of the house, Jesus spotted six large pots against the wall. All of the guests had used the water in the pots to perform the cleansing ceremony people traditionally did before they entered a home. Each container had held close to thirty gallons of water, but as Jesus glanced in, He saw that they were now almost empty. Turning to the servants, Jesus said, “Fill the jars with water.”
“Master, that’s going to take some time,” the spokesman for the servants said.
“It will be worth it,” Jesus returned with a smile.
“Get jugs from the storeroom to carry the water!” the first servant ordered as he led the way.
“How far is the well?” Andrew asked as he watched the group of servants hurry out the door.
“The public well is just down the street,” Nathaniel answered confidently.
“Friends,” Jesus said calling his followers to Him, “have you noticed that there are six jars here, and there are six of you. I want you to think of yourselves as My jars.”
“Look,” Rock said with a mischievous look, “the last pot is shorter than the rest. That must be you, John!”
Everyone laughed at that…everyone except John. He was red-faced and not happy.
“Don’t let that bother you, John,” a smiling Jesus said as he put his arm around His young follower. “What people say is unimportant. What is important is to know that my Father in heaven loves you very much and that I am your good friend.”
“Don’t mind him, Lord,” James said, still smiling. “That kid’s full of anger. I guess we both have short tempers.”
“Friends,” Jesus returned, “it’s not what you were; it’s what I will make you that matters.”
At this point the servants returned and began to dump the water in their jugs into the large pots.
“Your lives are like these large jars,” the Teacher explained. “They were mostly empty. But if you remain with Me, I will fill you.”
“With water?” Rock laughed.
“Yes, with water!” Jesus returned seriously. “But the water that I will fill you with will be like no water you have ever had. It will be a water from above…a water that gives life! It will be a spiritual water from My Father in heaven that will change you from within and make you into God’s true children. Then you will be a source of God’s life and love to others.”
Almost an hour later the last of the six large pots had been filled with water. The first servant set down his jug and turned to Jesus. “There you are, Master,” he said, still breathing hard from the exertion. “All of the large jars are filled to the brim, but how is that going to help us get more wine?”
Jesus looked into the man’s eyes and said with a confidence that demanded obedience, “Now draw some out and take it to the steward.”
The other servants looked at one another with relief. At least they would not have to face the steward with the news.
Nervously the first servant looked at the jars of water and back to Jesus. “Y…you want me to take some of the water to the steward?”
Still looking into the man’s eyes, Jesus nodded affirmatively.
The servant’s hands visibly trembled as he dipped a pitcher into one of the jars and turned to make his way cautiously across the room to the steward. He had to wait as the overseer finished his conversation with the groom’s mother.
“People are asking for more wine,” the woman said sternly to the steward.
“I will see to it, Madame!” When he turned to deal with the problem, he almost bumped into the servant with the pitcher.
“The guests need more wine!” he snapped at the servant. Without saying a word, the servant simply raised the full pitcher toward the steward. “I guess this is the reserve batch?” the steward asked. The servant nodded his agreement, unwilling to reveal anything.
“Well, let’s see how bad this stuff is!” As the steward spoke, he grabbed a cup nearby and presented it. Nervously the servant tilted the pitcher and watched the liquid pour into the cup. The servant gave an audible gasp and almost lost his grip on the pitcher when he saw that what came out was not clear but deep red.
“Careful, man! You almost spilled some on me!” With an annoyed look on his face, the steward tasted the liquid in his cup. As he did so, the look on his face changed. He smacked his lips and took another drink.
“My word! This wine is delicious!” Looking at the servant, he added. “You must have gotten the wine mixed up and served the reserve first.”
“No, sir!” the servant insisted. “I know for certain that the wine purchased to be served first has been. This is definitely the…uh…reserve.”
Looking around, the steward saw the bridegroom not far away, and he hurried over to him, waving the servant to follow. Pointing to the groom’s cup, he had the servant fill it.
“Master,” the steward began, “I am astonished! I have served many masters and have been the headwaiter at many celebrations, but I have never seen anyone do what you have done today! Everybody else serves the good wine first, and when the guests have drunk freely, then they serve the poorer reserve wine; but you have kept the good wine until now! I have never tasted wine any better than this!”
Not really understanding what had happened but being unwilling to sound ignorant, the bridegroom just smiled and nodded in agreement. He took a sip of the wine and turned to join his bride. “Umm, this is good!” he murmured to himself.
When the steward saw the servant still there, he barked an order. “Well, don’t just stand there…fill everyone’s cup!”
Still awestruck, the servant sniffed his pitcher and smelled the heady aroma of sweet wine. Looking up, he spotted the other servants staring at him from the entrance. With a large grin on his face, the first servant lifted the pitcher over his head and nodded excitedly at the others.
It was with an attitude of awe and wonder that each servant filled his pitcher with the wine from the large stone jars. Each one also took a moment to bow his head reverently before Jesus as they went to serve the crowd.
When the followers of Jesus realized what had happened, they grabbed cups and rushed to taste the water that had become wine. There were cheers, slaps on the back, and cries of amazement until they turned to look at the Teacher. They all became silent and stood in awe as they understood what the Jesus had done.
“You are my jars,” Jesus said as He looked each of them in the eyes, “and I will fill you.”
“He’s not just a teacher, is He?” Philip said to the Nathaniel.
“He said we would see greater things!” the son of Talmai said with a grin. “Get ready, Philip! We’re following the Son of God…the King of Israel!”
By Alan W. Harris
(Inspired by John 2:1-11, and Luke 1:26-33)
[*The phrase “what to me and to you” is a Hebrew idiom similar to when we might say something like, “It’s raining cats and dogs”. Unfortunately, no one today knows what was meant by this Hebrew idiom. Many translators have chosen to translate the phrase to mean “What have I to do with you?” or “What does this have to do with me?” But if you look in Scripture in the other places where it is used (Matthew 8:29, Mark 1:24), it seems to me that the most likely interpretation is, “This is my concern, not yours.” That interpretation seems to make more sense in the light of Mary’s response in this story.]