The first sign in John’s Gospel is the turning of water into wine at a wedding. The wedding at Cana (John 2.1–11) presents the reader with a vivid set of images that set out the saving work of Jesus and the believers involvement in it. First, Jesus is a guest at the wedding; we are told that Mary, the mother of Jesus was invited and that Jesus and his disciples were ‘guests also’. Jesus is brought into the community formed by the wedding feast as a guest. He moves from the fringes of the action to centre stage as the banquet proceeds; but first he must be invited. The theme of invitation continues when the wine runs out and his mother invites him to help. Mary is the guest of honour here, Jesus is an ‘also invited’ person, but it is Mary who intercedes for the bridegroom seeking her son’s help.

Invite Jesus in

There are so many lessons here, if we would look and listen, about our own lives in Christ; we must continually invite him, we must bring to him our needs, we must remember that Mary is an honourable member of the company, who has a clear role in intercession. It is Mary who says to the servants ‘do whatever he tells you.’ These are her only words in John’s Gospel. In this sign we see clearly that Mary comes first, but only to make it possible for the Son to reveal the Father’s glory. A Christian spirituality that ignores Mary is seriously lacking a watchful friend who constantly draws the needs of the world into the heart of her Son. Jesus listens to his mother and changes his mind; intercession is not merely an expressing of God’s will, it is a working out of God’s will in a real partnership.

It is indeed significant that John tells us that ‘only the servants knew’ of the source of the wine. At Cana we see clearly that it is those who hear and humbly obey Christ that see the mystery and glory of his grace at work. It is the eyes that watch, and the ears that listen that partake in the working out of God’s will. Only a servant can know truly the will ‘of the slave of all.’ It is the servants’ task to carry the water and to draw the wine; they play a key role in the transformation of the community into one where celebration need not cease but continue in an ever-greater richness of experience.

The third day

On the third day of creation the waters give birth to dry land; on this third day of the new creation the waters give birth to another new environment where the grace of God can transform humanity’s need into a source for glory. The water is the medium for renewal as in baptism, and at Cana the water for ritual washing of the Old Covenant becomes the wine that manifests the presence of Christ. It is the ordinary made extraordinary – the heavenly revealed in the stuff of earth. And all this at a wedding. It is perhaps the greatest spiritual need of our society to invite Christ to be a guest at each wedding that they may become communities enlivened and enriched to share in God’s glory. A marriage is a place where God desires to make his loving purpose real. It was at Cana, John writes, ‘that he first revealed his glory, and led his disciples to believe in him.’

Andy Hawes is Vicar of Edenham with Witham-on-the-Hill and RD of Beltisloe