My writing through the book of John stalled last Autumn, when I came to the wedding at Cana. Just before Christmas I made a bit of progress, writing a post about the symbolism of the wine, connecting with it through Advent, but those words just made it to the draft folder. There was something I was missing. Probably there are a hundred somethings I’m missing, but I didn’t even have one something to go on. All the commentaries in the world couldn’t tell me what I was waiting for. I feel like, after spending time in the story this summer, I have a better grasp on what I was waiting for – this post speaks to it, a bit. But before I got that post written, these were my questions:
Why wine? Why a wedding? Why a miracle that has nothing to do with the “mission” – saving souls, healing bodies? Why is he saying it’s not his hour and then acting out the contrary, and why is he saying the problem isn’t his to worry about and then doing the miracle after all? Why the contradiction? Why the disrespectful tone to his mother? Why does it sound disrespectful to me when clearly it couldn’t have been in real life?
But of all the questions, my biggest question encompassed the first there – why is he doing this miracle at all?
There was nothing unintentional about Jesus’ life. From the cradle he lived the birth and life intended for him, and from maturity he intentionally lived out God’s intention. “What is that to me?” is followed by “my hour has not yet come” is followed by a mother who says “whatever he says to you, do it,” is followed by him doing the thing. Truly it must have been his hour, then, after all.
We puzzled over that at Bible study and I remembered puzzling over it in December, and here is what I wonder: in his life of intention, Jesus knew he was starting his ministry. Did he have in mind a way he thought it would start out? A way it would go? The big arrival on the scene?
Did the Holy Spirit surprise him?
The way he surprises us?
I mean, in the other Gospels we have Jesus in a synagogue reading from a scroll the prophecy in Isaiah that speaks about Messiah, and then telling the audience the hour is come, and the person is he. Now that’s a beginning. That’s a bang. That’s a note to start a symphony playing.
Maybe, did he know he was going to do that all along? Had the Spirit revealed that much to him, and had he been heading off to that synagogue post wedding to start the messianic ball rolling?
When Mary said they have no more wine, he knew what she was asking even if nobody else did. He knew exactly. She was saying, get on it, start your mission. Now.
“My hour has not yet come.”
She doesn’t even answer him! She just turns away and knows he’s going to defer to her and do it.
I think of how the Holy Spirit moves in our lives, how he calls us to a thing, and we think it will go down a certain way. But it ends up going not that way at all. Really his timing and ways are often not at all what we are envisioning. Often, the surprise is ours.