One only needs a basic familiarity with the life of Jesus to know that His earthly ministry was characterized by two key things: preaching/teaching and miracles. Thus far in our study of John’s gospel, we have seen a little bit of our Lord’s teaching in His revelation of Himself as the way to salvation (John 1:51). In today’s passage, we begin to study the first of Jesus’ miracles, His turning the water to wine at Cana.
The setting was a wedding attended by Jesus, His disciples, and Mary His mother (2:1–2). Because both Jesus and His mother were invited to the celebration, the marriage was probably a family affair; one of their relatives likely was getting married. We should also note that in the first century, weddings lasted longer than they do today. The celebration could go for as long as a week, and the guests would stay for days. That Jesus would attend such a lavish party says something about the goodness of such events. Certainly, Jesus calls us to a life of self-denial (Matt. 16:24), but this does not require an austere lifestyle that has no place for fun or festivities.
In the course of the celebration at Cana, the wine ran out, as we see in John 2:3. This prompted Mary to come to Jesus for a solution to the problem (vv. 4–5). What Mary expected Jesus to do is not entirely clear. Given that His earthly father, Joseph, likely had been dead for some time and that Mary therefore had to rely on Jesus for support, it could just be that she expected Him to procure wine by ordinary means, or perhaps she was looking for a miracle. In any case, what we do know is that this story does not offer support for the idea that we should go to Mary and ask her to intercede for us, as the story is sometimes read in Roman Catholicism. There is no evidence that the hosts of the wedding celebration asked Mary to talk to Jesus for them, and the story is only about an episode while Mary was still alive. It says nothing about her role, if any, after her death.
What the episode does tell us, however, is that it would be Jesus who would determine when to perform miracles and what miracles He would do. We see this in John 2:4, where we see that Jesus told Mary that His time had “not yet come.” While Jesus would actually intervene to solve the lack of wine, He did not finally do so merely because His mother asked but because He made the ultimate determination as to when to begin His public miracles. As our Sovereign, Jesus determines when and how to answer every prayer.