Beginning to Understand Mary’s Important RolePosted: November 22, 2014
It was one of those glass-shattering moments for me when I really began to understand the significance of the wedding feast at Cana, as seen in John’s Gospel. It is the first recorded miracle performed by Jesus, when He turned water into wine, but Mary’s role in this event offers us an important lesson for our lives today.
Here’s the story:
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. -John 2:1-11
Jesus referred to his mother as “woman”. This seems strange to us at first glance. We know that Jesus would not have broken the 4th commandment and disrespected His mother. His phrasing recalls the prophecy in Genesis 3:15. Satan had been in the garden of Eden in the form of something like a serpent or dragon, tempting Eve to sin. And God said to him,
…I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.” -Genesis 3:15
Jesus’ reference to Mary as “woman” is significant, as she is understood to be the new Eve… the woman who would have a role in redeeming mankind from sin, which makes sense, as the original Eve had a role in bringing mankind into sin.
But let’s return to Cana. Here is the main question that strikes me regarding Jesus’ miracle there:
Would Jesus have turned the water into wine for the wedding guests if Mary had not interceded on their behalf?
John indicates Jesus was unwilling, and Mary’s influence seemed to make all the difference. This helps to explain why Christians so often turn to Mary when there is a need. It’s not always clear if Jesus is willing, but either way it can be a good idea to hope His mother might intercede with Him on our behalf.
It’s also noteworthy that John says that Jesus “revealed his glory” through this miracle, which shows us how Mary’s intercession ultimately brings glory to God.
Part of my spiritual development has been a deeper realization of why various things were recorded in the Gospels… especially John’s Gospel, which was written around 60 years after the events. We’re not talking about some old guy writing down his memoirs for the heck of it, saying “Oh, yeah… and there was this one time…” These stories carry specific lessons for Christians. One lesson we can glean from the story of the wedding at Cana is this:
Mary is observant, and she has a feminine concern for people who need help. If she felt sympathy in her heart for the problem at the wedding, imagine how much she would be concerned for people who are in serious crisis.
How does this apply to us today?
Well, Mary’s concern and ability to intercede is in no way diminished. On the contrary, she’s actually in a greater position to help more people, especially those loyal to her Son:
A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars… Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her children, those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus. -Rev. 12:1,17
There’s John referring to the “woman” again. But this time he’s given us a glimpse of her in a beautiful place of honor and power, as the mother of Christians.
John, as Christ’s loyal disciple, had a special understanding of Mary’s motherly role, as He was there with Mary at the foot of the cross and heard Jesus pronounce the words:
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. -John 19:26,27
As I strive to be loyal to Christ, I want Mary to know she is welcome in my home and I am happy to see God glorified through her intercession on behalf of us, her adopted children.
Scripture does not offer the whole picture of Mary’s significance, but we can definitely see enough to get us started in understanding her better.