I love the story of Jesus at Cana and Mary’s request. I haven’t looked at this passage in depth for a while but I read it devotionally this morning. The timing of Jesus’ public ministry I think is mysterious for busy, pragmatic North Americans. When would be a good time to announce the end of the age of decay? Maybe YESTERDAY already?!!! Jesus lives an undocumented life for most of his time with us, doing ordinary things we imagine, things not recorded for the most part by the gospels.
Jesus not being in a rush may feel like negligence to us but faith seems to afford the fruit of the spirit one aspect of which is patience. Jesus waits. What was Jesus doing besides holding down a “day job” for 30 years (no small chunk of a lifetime for a first century commoner)? Learning, building relationships, growing in wisdom (according to Luke). Pondering on all of this might strengthen within us an orthodox Christology.
Mary comes to Jesus with a request and Jesus seems to gently put her off. She withdraws from the conversation seeming to ignore Jesus’ put-off perhaps with an attitude like “He’s my son, I know him, go ahead and do what he says because he can’t really refuse me.” (I’ve got a TC article coming that may touch on this a bit. I’ll link it when it emerges.)
What does this incident tell us about our relationship with God?
1. It’s relational. David Brook’s response to the Chinese mother discussion I thought was insightful. David notes that compared to mastering human relationship mastering the violin or advanced mathematics is child’s play. Despite the awe we are in of our gadgets and technological accomplishments people are still far more mysterious and complex. Why would we imagine that our relationship with God, a being of infinite complexity would be flat and uninteresting. Mary’s relationship with Jesus is complex and nuanced. Mary sometimes is a stand-in for the church.
2. God can be swayed. This is a shocking idea that only open theists dare to postulate but this story needs to be taken into the mix. God is not unmovable. He is not open to crass manipulation, but God is humble and willing to listen to our requests to reconsider a decision he has made. Again, this may seem like heresy for Calvinists, but Calvinists too need to deal with scripture. God is far from cold, distant and unapproachable in Scripture, although he is not to be approached lightly. Relationship is the context in which God presents himself to us and in that context of that relationship God engages us, our needs, and even our wishes. This wish seemed to be about the wedding likely of someone in Jesus’ and Mary’s relational circle. Mary likely felt for embarrassment of a friend and not wanting her friend to feel embarrassed asked Jesus to bend his plan (set for all eternity?!) to possibly do an early sign of some water to wine.
3. Because I work in Sacramento with the population I do I know some people who work in the political system. Politics is all about a network of personal relationships and an economy of favoritism. Is God in this economy? My initial instinct is revulsion, but perhaps this story makes me reconsider. Why would this pattern be so deep within humanity? Why would it be universal in our species? I know it is the seed bed for corruption, but all our truly great gifts from God are. So perhaps with God, it’s not what you know, but Who you know.
Yes, yes, yes, God could have had this in his plan from all of eternity as well, but that’s not the point. Whether God appears to condescend or condescends is moot. God clearly communicates to us our importance to him in this way and his desire to live in relationship with us. It is a deeply humbling and comforting thought.