The Power of a Mother’s Insistence (John 2:3-5)

Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” — John 2:3-5 (NIV)

To me, this is one of the most astonishing incidents of the whole Bible. Jesus’ mother presents a problem that this newly married couple is facing: they ran out of wine for their wedding feast, which was a serious embarrassment and a problem, too. There is a strong hint that Mary is asking Jesus to do something miraculous, both in the way that Jesus replies, and in Mary telling the servants to do whatever Jesus says. But the astonishing part is that Jesus more or less tells His mother “No”; His mother persists in faith; and Jesus does it, even though he already said No”.

Some commentators suggest that Mary wasn’t really asking Jesus to do something miraculous. As I already wrote, her statements, along with Jesus’ initial reply, seem to suggest that these commentators are wrong. So what happened? Three possibilities come to mind. 1) Jesus’ responded to His mother’s faith expressed through persistence. 2) Mary understood the Father’s will before Jesus did. 3) Jesus listened to His mother because she was His mother.

The first interpretation is consistent with a parable that Jesus told about a persistent widow and the unjust judge in Luke 18:1-8. Because she was wearing the judge out by her persistence, the judge decided to give her the justice she was seeking. And Jesus comments that this is the kind of faith He wants people to show in their prayers to our righteous God — not giving up until they get what they ask.

The second interpretation seems plausible. I cannot think of anywhere in the Bible that suggests that it was impossible for someone to know the will of the Father before Jesus did. If this interpretation is correct, it means that you can be in God’s perfect will and yet not have a “continuous download” of God’s will in a given circumstance, so you may have to pause to perceive what the Father is saying. It suggests that two believers might have differing ideas about God’s will because one of them didn’t really hear from God about the issue yet, and is simply operating on her best understanding of the Bible and what God had previously said on related issues.

The third interpretation suggests the importance of relationship and authority in determining what actions we should take. While as an adult, Jesus technically wasn’t under the authority of His mother, the Ten Commandments also say to honor your mother and father — so perhaps He was honoring His mother. But would he have listened to her if the Father had said “No”? Of course not. But was the Father indifferent to when Jesus did His first miracle, and therefore it was because of Mary’s relationship to Him that He did the miracle? I think this third interpretation is the least likely of the three.

Whichever interpretation you prefer, John chapter 2 tells us that this was his first public miracle (the making of an extremely large amount of some “mighty fine wine” — in the words of Three Dog Night), and that it caused his disciples to put their faith in Him, because it revealed His glory. Miracles can indeed draw people to faith, but in other instances it seems that they can also be a distraction from finding true faith.

Originally posted on February 15, 2010


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