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The Wedding at Cana is the only instance AFAIK where Mary asks Jesus to perform a miracle.

Is there any indication or insight as to why she did so ? Was the family very close to her/them ?

Or was it simply the time for Jesus to perform a public miracle and it came about in this manner?

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She must have been thirsty?! –  Ingo Jan 26 '13 at 19:43
    
Mary was reproved continually by Christ. She needed to do what John 3:3 admonishes. –  user4374 Apr 21 '13 at 16:01
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5 Answers 5

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Mary Makes No Request

It is important to note that Mary never specifically asks Jesus to make wine, but simply states the situation.

It is possible she understood that Jesus had the power to do something, because she does tell the servants to do whatever he tells them to do. Still, there is no direct request by Mary, and it is evident that Mary does not know what Jesus might do, if anything. It is possible that Jesus could have gone and purchased wine from somewhere else to alleviate the shame of the family.

The family would definitely experience shame for running out of wine, so perhaps Mary was concerned for the honor of the family. This seems to be the most likely reason for why Mary would share this concern with Jesus.

Mary's Requests Not Always Answered

It should also be noted that Jesus does not always respond to the requests of his mother.

In Matthew 12, Mary and Jesus' brothers comes and ask to talk with him, but Jesus seems to decline their request.

While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." Matthew 12:47-50

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Does this answer represent a denomination's official (or typical) teaching on the matter? It seems to downplay it, regardless of Mary's involvement, more than any denomination that's coming to mind. –  svidgen Jan 23 '13 at 15:33
    
@svidgen Just looking at the text itself. –  Narnian Jan 23 '13 at 15:34
    
I wouldn't say it seems minor. John's book is structured around wonders, which "reveal his glory" and inspire belief (2:11), and discourses. This was the first wonder John records, and he even refers back to it in 4:46. –  metal Jan 23 '13 at 17:43
    
@metal Ok... I just took that part out. This miracle in particular doesn't seem to me as significant as the others. –  Narnian Jan 23 '13 at 17:48
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@Narnian, I'd say it is significant, because it's the first recorded miracle. If you believe in the Law of First Mention. But I agree, Mary didn't ask/tell Jesus what to do, she didn't come with proposed solutions. She came with the problem, and trusted him to be the solution. In this she is exemplary. (And this is what the Catholic priest preached last Sunday at an ecumenical service I attended). –  Benjol Jan 24 '13 at 6:59
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There has been no traditional answer to this question that I'm aware of. All of the commentaries I'm familiar with echo the same sentiment: That it seems odd that she would expect Him to be able to do something about the lack of wine, even though supposedly, she had never seen Him work a miracle yet. All of the commentators seem to be scratching their heads asking the same question.

Given that, the only real answer we can give is "we don't know for sure." We can speculate, but Scripture gives no clear reason, and no major tradition or teaching has stepped forward with anything other than guesses.

A list of commentaries can be found here: http://bible.cc/john/2-3.htm (scroll down a bit.)

A few excerpts:

Clarke's Commentary on the Bible

They have no wine - Though the blessed virgin is supposed to have never seen her son work a miracle before this time, yet she seems to have expected him to do something extraordinary on this occasion; as, from her acquaintance with him, she must have formed some adequate idea of his power and goodness.

Barnes' Notes on the Bible

When they wanted wine - A marriage feast among the Jews was commonly observed for seven or eight days. It is not probable that there would be a want of wine at the marriage itself, and it is possible, therefore, that Jesus came there some time during the marriage feast.

They have no wine - It is not known why Mary told this to Jesus. It would seem that she had a belief that he was able to supply it, though he had as yet worked no miracle.

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These commentaries are quite interesting too. Also, this event only appears in John and not other Gospels, so I'm wondering if this was not recorded, would we never recognize Mary as an intercessor? However, @swidgen's answer introduces an additional view –  JoseK Jan 23 '13 at 9:07
    
Even without having seen Jesus work a miracle, Mary would have reason to think he could, on the basis of what Gabriel told her at the annunciation, which ranks Jesus above the prophets of the Old Testament, some of whom worked miracles. –  Andreas Blass Sep 12 '13 at 23:05
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Catholics love Mary, as you may know. And this particular detail of the Wedding of Cana reaffirms the Catholic devotion to Mary as an intercessor.

The Gospel reveals to us how Mary prays and intercedes in faith. At Cana, the mother of Jesus asks her son for the needs of a wedding feast; this is the sign of another feast—that of the wedding of the Lamb where he gives his body and blood at the request of the Church, his Bride. It is at the hour of the New Covenant, at the foot of the cross, that Mary is heard as the Woman, the new Eve, the true “Mother of all the living.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church)

As Christ is an embodiment of something, that of God's self-proclamation and self-incarnation of His own saving power, Mary is also an embodiment of something, namely the human "yes" to God's will. As such, she is the primary intercessor of the Church to Christ.

Extrapolating a little: By her acceptance to receive God in her flesh, we acknowledge her mission as an intercessor (Queen among many) from God to man. And by her request at the wedding of Cana (which Jesus was undoubtedly waiting for), we acknowledge the validity of her mission as an intercessor from man to God.

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Now that's an interesting take. The symbolism is obvious now that you point it out, and officially supported. +1. –  David Stratton Jan 23 '13 at 6:22
    
But as Narnian points out in their answer, Mary's requests are apparently not always answered. –  metal Jan 23 '13 at 17:46
    
@metal Not a completely relevant point. Firstly, because it doesn't change the official Catholic belief. Secondly, Jesus' response is recorded in Gospel, but not his actions immediately following. And, as a good Jew and "the fulfillment of the Law", He quite likely did "honor His mother" in acquiescence to her request. Thirdly, because it could attests, at worst, to the possibility that Mary's intercessions don't always yield the expected results; this doesn't invalidate an intercessory role. –  svidgen Jan 23 '13 at 18:10
    
But mostly, the point that Jesus didn't acquiesce to His Mother in any given incidence X doesn't change Catholic doctrine. And the point here (on Christianity.SE) is to provide doctrinally sound answers from the perspective of denomination(s) X; not to debate the validity of those doctrines. –  svidgen Jan 23 '13 at 18:14
    
Agreed that this particular question is not the place to debate which view of Mary is best and why (though I think Christianity.SE would be the right forum for such a dialog). As to the original question, I find it strange that your answer seems to imply that Mary's motivation for asking Jesus to assist (or John's intent for including said request) is intended to demonstrate Mary's special intercessory role, both here and in perpetuity. I'm accustomed to analogical and typological readings, but I still can't quite see this reading as a plausible one. Have I misunderstood? –  metal Jan 23 '13 at 21:07
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She must have been close to have been told about a disgracing issue.

Or was it simply the time for Jesus to perform a public miracle and it came about in this manner?

Luke 3:23 NET So Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years old. He was the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli,

Jesus was waiting till He was thirty, following law. But God was telling Him that things were going to be different, that from now on He would be controlled by displays of faith.

Faith makes Him start his ministry before He is thirty, where Law insists He wait.

John 2:4-5 NET Jesus replied, “Woman, why are you saying this to me? My time has not yet come.” His mother told the servants, “Whatever he tells you, do it.”

Faith makes him minister to Gentiles, whilst Law requires he attends only to the house of Israel.

Matthew 15:24-25 NET So he answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and bowed down before him and said, “Lord, help me!”

Lack of faith shuts down ministry, where Law promises unconditional blessings.

Mark 6:4-5 NET Then Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown, and among his relatives, and in his own house.” He was not able to do a miracle there, except to lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.

Romans 10:4 NET For Christ is the end of the law, with the result that there is righteousness for everyone who believes.

These are all foreshadowing of the end of the Mosaic Law.

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The original poster asks three questions about Mary approaching Jesus regarding the wine situation at Cana. Many interesting answers have been posted and I have only my own opinion to contribute.

Let me give my answer to the second question first:

"Was the family very close to her/them ?"

John gives us a hint about the relationship of the families: ' On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.'

The obvious naive interpretation here is that Mary was a friend of the bride or the groom or their families or some combination of this, and that Jesus and his disciples were invited as a courtesy. I think she was most likely a friend of the mother of the bride as she has a roughly thirty year old son and the ages work out, and a female friend seems more likely than a male. Possibly a relative also, look at how many people of note in the Gospels are related, e.g. John the Baptist is Jesus' cousin and so on.

to amplify: If I wrote about a wedding in the early US, "Abigail Adams was there, and John Quincy Adams and his friends were also invited", wouldn't one's natural assumption be that Abigail is the primary guest and the others mentioned were invited because of her?

(Actually some of the other posters have inspired me to speculate what this might 'mean' for humanity if true - I think that the wedding feast might be like our little world, and that Jesus came here for Mary's sake, that without her Jesus would be doing other things. I think God has /plenty/ of worlds, universes, to take care of, and that if anything made him single out this world for special attention, it was Mary. The rest of us are just 'baggage', what God wanted from our universe was Mary - he conceived her as a perfect character (immaculately!) then I think the rest of our world is arranged around her.)


Now my answer to the first question:

"Is there any indication or insight as to why she did so ?"

John tells us 'When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”

I see Mary as a close friend of the family pointing out a problem to Jesus, she is pointing it out BECAUSE it is her friends who have the problem. It's nothing to do with him in some sense but she is concerned for her friends. In particular the parents who are providing the refreshments might look bad and I think Mary felt for them.

Then: [And] Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” Jesus seems not to understand Mary's concern here. Now we are pretty sure he really does understand the problem, even if he weren't God he was still very intelligent - we know he confounded educated people at the temple, that he seemed like a prodigy to them when he was much younger. Mary knew him better than anyone, much better than we do, she knows he doesn't mean "I don't understand the situation." I read this as a much more sophisticated exchange. We know he is an adult at this time and even if she is humanity's greatest genius (which I suspect she might be) he is something more than that. So my guess is that he is teaching her something, if she wants to learn it, and incidentally, teaching us something as well.

What could he be teaching her? or us? I don't know but what I see here is that he is saying that he is detached from the situation, that the time hasn't come for him to interfere in human affairs. I'm reminded of stories about ascended beings in science fiction and the like. Jesus could solve this problem but he could solve /any/ human problem if what we (Catholics at least) believe about him is true - he could have the Romans leave Judea, he could make humans immortal, he could bring back unicorns and so on. But he doesn't work that way. People are free to do what they please and have to accept the consequences of their choices. It isn't time for him to fiddle things around and fix things, without being invited.

And that brings us to this:


His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you."'

She doesn't tell Jesus "They have a problem, fix it." She doesn't say "make a miracle". If the childhood legends of Jesus are true she knows he can do miracles, certainly she knows he is special from what Gabriel told her! Plus he grew up with her, even if she has forgotten he is miraculous or divine, she knows he is a genius, he can figure out a solution that will save the day.

But he says 'My hour is not yet come.' I don't think his hour is set on a schedule, at least not one that she knows! It's sometime in the future, and she figures it out, because she is a genius also! Not surprising that she is no dummy.

His hour comes when he it comes. She causes it to come!

She tells the servants, "Do what he tells you." And she sets the ball rolling for the rest of the story, his rise to fame and glory. She knows this is risky, but it is she who triggers his hour coming by telling the servants to obey him.

What can we learn from this? Again, I don't know, but to me the obvious thing is that Jesus leaves us to live life without interference until he is invited. Christians are like the servants whom Mary tells, "Do what he tells you" (she says something similar elsewhere to people in general but I haven't found it just now). Our job is to make the wedding nice for everyone, including non Christians, we are just the servants. Jesus can handle all the miraculous parts and can tell us the strategy but he allows us to help by fetching water to fill the jars and so on - he tells them to fill the jars with about 100 gallons of water, note that he doesn't just miracle that water in there. So there is plenty for us to do. I also think that whatever we do actually helps, sure He doesn't /need/ the help, he could just miracle away problems or fetch the water himself, but that's not the /optimal solution/, the optimal solutions involves us doing some of the work. I think that miraculous solutions are probably /just as much work/ as normal methods, or /more/, but since God does all the heavy lifting, we say "Oh that looks easy".


"Or was it simply the time for Jesus to perform a public miracle and it came about in this manner?"

I don't see this but it sounds insightful. I feel it worked the other way around, that this was the first public miracle because of the situation, and that if it was "time for it" that just means that the overall storyline of the universe had a miracle-shaped space there. Hmm this makes a bit of sense. But my feeling is that we can study the actual storyline and learn more than by studying some screenplay formula that says "miracle at the end of act two" in general, which what I take "time for it" to mean. Apologies if I am missing the point.

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