Friday, January 18, 2002


In the Eucharistic Lectionary of "The Book of Common Prayer" (1662) for the Second Sunday after the Feast of the Epiphany is John 2:1-1. The American 1928 edition of the BCP has transferred this Gospel to the Third Sunday and made Mark 1:1-11 the Gospel for the Second Sunday. In 2002, due to the early arrival of Septuagesima John 2:1-11 will probably not be heard this year in those parishes which use the American 1928 Lectionary.

Certainly there was a marvellous Epiphany at the river Jordan after Jesus was baptized by John and this is why Mark 1:1-11 was chosen by the American revisers in the 1920s. The unique Sonship of Jesus was revealed and manifested by the Voice of the Father from heaven and by the descent of the Holy Ghost as a dove upon him.

What happened at Cana of Galilee after Jesus had been baptized, had spent 40 days in the wilderness and had called men to be his disciples is a further Epiphany, or shewing forth of his true identity and vocation.

As at the first Epiphany when the visiting Magi gazed upon the infant Jesus so now at this third Epiphany, the mother of Jesus is present. The scene is a Jewish home in Cana on a Saturday evening after the Sabbath had ended at dusk. There is a wedding feast to which Mary, Jesus and his band of disciples have been invited. Apparently, the band of disciples were not on the original guest list and so the wine intended only for a small reception did not last long!

Mary is conscious of the embarrassment of her friends, the hosts, and instinctively looks to Jesus for help. What kind of help he could provide she probably did not know, but help she knew was required. And so she bluntly tells him that "they have not any wine."

Jesus speaks to his mother in a way which, both in the Greek of the New Testament and in English translation, sounds harsh. Yet Mary did not seem bothered by that reply and proceeded to say to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." In fact Jesus used a Semitic idiom (see 2 Samuel 16:10; Mark 5:7 & Luke 8:28) and form of speech which expresses a desire to be left in peace and is not either harsh or rude.

"Woman, what I have to do with thee?" is best rendered as "Do not interfere with me, mother." And then the reason why this should be so is given, "Mine hour [time] is not yet come." What we do not have is the tome of voice and the facial expression of Jesus which must have been reassuring to Mary.

"Mine hour" or "my time" is a reference to the doing of the Father's will that will be fulfilled and completed by his death and subsequent glorification, which is the true "hour/time". Until that future moment his actions are signs of what is to be and his words are parables of what is to be. Thus what Jesus is really saying is that he is a man under the authority of his heavenly Father and he can only act at Cana in accordance with the will of his Father. He can only help the hosts if the Father directs him so to do.

And the Father directed him to act and to do so in a way that even Mary his beloved mother did not envisage. In what he did for those folks, Jesus also provided an Epiphany, a shewing forth of his true identity, as the Only-Begotten Son of the Father made man.

For this act of compassion and SIGN of his identity, Jesus made use of the six stone waterpots - now nearly empty - provided for the washing of the hands of the guests at the feast. He ordered the waiters at the feast to fill the six jars to the brim with water. When they had done so he asked one of them to pour out some "water" from one of the jars and take it to the head waiter for him to taste. He was most impressed with what he tasted and said to the bridegroom, "Every man serves the good wine first and the inferior wine when they are drunk; but you have kept the good wine until the present moment!"

The immense amount of water in the large stone pots that was turned into wine points to the fullness of life provided by the Gospel of the Father. And the statement of the head waiter that the new wine is better than the old points to the superiority of the Gospel era/New Covenant to that of the Law/ Old Covenant.

In the Fourth Gospel the revealing, redeeming and compassionate actions/miracles of Jesus are consistently named "signs" (2:23; 4:54; 6:2,14,26; 7:31; 9:16; 10:41; 11:47; 12:18,37; 20:30).

Those who to whom the true identity of Jesus has been manifested must choose how they respond to the One who is the Incarnate Son of God, Saviour of the world, the Lord of lords and the King of kings. Mary's word is thus
apposite: "Whatever HE tells you to do, do it!"

The Rev'd Dr Peter Toon January 17, 2002

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