What’s Your Problem?
Dr. Jim Denison
Thesis: We should give our needs to Jesus as Mary did—
in simple faith and obedience
In the summer of 1994 the Associated Press reported a robbery which ended in a very unusual way. In Conway, Arkansas, Cindy Hartman was awakened by the telephone. As she started to answer it, she was stopped by a burglar. The burglar tore the phone cord from the wall and told her to get in the closet.
Cindy dropped to her knees to pray. She then turned to the robber and asked if she could pray for him. She told him that God loved him and so did she. She told the man that she forgave him for what he was doing.
How did this hardened criminal react? He fell to his knees beside her in prayer, and asked her forgiveness. He told the other burglar with him that they could not steal from a Christian family, so they unloaded everything they had taken He borrowed a shirt from Cindy and removed his fingerprints. He then removed the bullets from his gun and gave it to Cindy. Not that she wanted it—she had all the protection she needed.
Webster defines a “miracle” as “an event or action that apparently contradicts known scientific laws and is hence thought to be due to supernatural causes, especially to an act of God.” Cindy Hartman would agree. How can we receive such help in our lives?
We begin a study of the miracles of Jesus as found in the Gospel of John. Our purpose will not be a theoretical investigation of the miraculous, but a practical study of ways people like us experienced the miraculous power of God in their daily lives. We all need the help Cindy Hartman found. Perhaps, for you or someone in your class, the burglar is in your house right now.
Where do you need the miraculous power of God in your life today? Keep that problem or burden in mind as we study together. It may be that at the end of our story, it will include you.
Invite Jesus to your home
The first miracle performed by the Son of God began in a most inauspicious place: “On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee” (John 2:1). Cana was a village so insignificant that its location has not been determined with absolute certainty. Most archaeologists identify it as Kefr Kenna, 3.5 miles from Nazareth, though other locations are also possible (Robertson 33). It is mentioned twice more in John’s Gospel: Jesus performed a second miracle there (4:46, the event we’ll study next); and the disciple Nathaniel is identified as being from this tiny village (21:2). Cana of Galilee is found nowhere else in the word of God. If Jesus would begin his ministry there, he will continue it where you live today.
Our story unfolds on a Wednesday afternoon, the fourth day of the Jewish week, at a wedding. This was the day for the marriage of virgins, as prescribed in the Jewish law (Morris 178; Brown 98; Robertson 33).
When we trace the events of the week leading to the wedding, we learn that Jesus has been busy. He called James and John to be his first followers on the previous Sabbath (our Saturday) in John 1:39. Andrew and Simon joined him the following day (John 1:40-42). On Monday he called Philip and Nathaniel to discipleship, and “decided to leave for Galilee” (John 1:43). His fledgling group traveled on Tuesday, arriving late that evening or Wednesday morning (cf. Brown 98). This chronology will become important to our story momentarily.
Jesus’ group has come to a wedding, “one of the supreme occasions” of common life in ancient Palestine (Barclay 97). The marriage ceremony was celebrated late Wednesday evening, following an all-day feast. Then the couple was led to their new home under the light of flaming torches, with a canopy held over their heads. For a week they wore crowns, dressed in bridal robes, and were treated and even addressed as a king and queen. In lives filled with poverty and hard work, this was a joyous celebration for the entire village (Barclay 96-7).
Why did Jesus come? Later in our study we will explore the wonderful spiritual lessons found in the fact that Jesus chose to begin his public ministry at such a party. For now, let’s focus on the practical: “Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding” (John 2:1b-2). Our Lord came because he was invited.
So, why was he invited? We have no knowledge of any previous relationship between Jesus and this village. Cana was likely close to Nazareth, so Jesus could simply have known the wedding party or their friends and thus been included in their party. But Mary was already at the wedding, acting in a somewhat official capacity, when her Son arrived. As we will observe in a moment, she felt responsibility for the fact that the wedding wine had run out, had the authority to order the servants to obey Jesus’ instructions, and assumed that he would give them. Not a typical role for a typical guest.
So twenty centuries of commentators have speculated as to Mary’s purpose at this wedding, and have connected Jesus’ invitation to her role there. Her husband Joseph is not mentioned in the story, and was apparently already dead. And so it is possible that Mary was serving the wedding in some professional capacity, as a means to self-support; we might call her the “caterer” today. But it is much more likely that she was a relative of someone in the wedding party (David Brown 1085; Barnes 191).
The text gives us nothing beyond this possibility. But legend proceeds where biblical exposition will not go. Some ancient traditions suggested that Simon the Zealot, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, was the bridegroom in question, and even that he was the son of Mary’s sister. Others made the bridegroom none other than John himself, the author of this Gospel, and claimed that he was the son of Mary’s sister (cf. Barclay 96). No one can, or should, say.