Sometimes, in life, things go wrong. do not go the way we think they should go. Do we leave it there? Do we accept that the world is a chaotic mess and assume God has left the scene? No. We go to the Bible and try to find answers.
Wedding Gone Awry
Consider a wedding. At a wedding, two people join their lives together. They commit to one another. There is a ceremony and a celebration. Then, they begin their lives together. So far, these aspects of weddings are remarkably consistent throughout the world and across time. Weddings have changed over the years. One part has not changed. People expect them to go a certain way. When a wedding defies conventions, it becomes memorable. This can be good or bad.
One particularly noteworthy wedding fail comes from the Gospel of John. The caterers at a wedding in Cana ran out of wine. The couple and guests thought it would go one way, and then they ran out of wine. At that point, the celebration could have dwindled, people drifted away, and, for the rest of their lives whenever someone mentioned a wedding, they could say, “Yes, but remember that time at that wedding in Cana when the ran out of wine? Who was that again?”
In John 2.1-11, why are Jesus, his mother, and the disciples there? Is it a relative? Had the whole family recently moved to the area? In John 21, we learn that Nathaniel is from Cana. Does he have some connection?
We explore the background because of what happens next. When they run out of wine, Jesus’ mother tells him about it. This is going to be a memorable wedding.
What does this have to do with me?
Jesus responds, “Woman, what does that have to do with you and me? My hour has not yet come.”
To our ears, his response sounds harsh or even rude, but it is not. In the ancient Semitic world, his response might have been a common expression. Elsewhere, we see Jesus address women in a similar way. For example, see Matthew 15.28, Luke 22.57, and John 4.21.
When Jesus says, “My hour has not yet come,” he means, “The time is not yet right.” He is not being rude. He is disengaging with the situation. In John, the word we translate as “hour” means that time is passing. What he does in his ministry connects with his glorification. And, his mother’s concerns must fit within this context. Jesus is free from all human control. Gail O’Day writes, “Not even his mother has a privileged claim on his actions.” His life is governed by God, not people.[i]
It is this wider context that can help give us some perspective when life does not work out the way we think it should. When things go wrong or in an unexpected direction, we do not get to see everything God is doing. We cannot pull back the veil of the world and see everything happening.
The stone jars were full and ready for the purification ritual. Jesus did not reject the ceremonial water—he transformed it. He took the old form and gave it new content. For us, the old form is like singing an old hymn, but not meaning any of it—just going through the motions. Being transformed means singing and truly meaning it in the depths of your being.
Then, whether things go wrong, the journey through life takes some twists and turns or not, we know that we do not go on the journey alone. We go with the one who can change water to wine and has power over death.
Even when things go wrong, we can have hope. God can overcome whatever we encounter.
[i]Gail O’Day, “John,” in New Interpreter’s Bible, ed. Walter Brueggemann, et al. (Nashville: Abingdon, 1995), 537.