“Do whatever He tells you,” these are Mary’s last words recorded in the Bible. Mary doesn’t say anything else; maybe she just looks at Jesus. She knows He’s right that it’s none of their concern if the wine runs out. Still, it matters to Mary. This is important because, in a sense Mary is fulfilling what many Old Testament figures failed to do; she’s interceding for others. Certainly this doesn’t rule out the great bastions of faith like Abraham who interceded for Lot but even a true remnant such as Noah failed to ask pardon for the people God was about to destroy. The problem goes back to Adam who, in full knowledge that his wife Eve had disobeyed God, failed to seek God and ask pardon for her but instead chose to share in disobedience. Shortly after this God punished the couple saying that the man should bring forth the produce of the land by the sweat of his brow and the woman should bring forth her children in pain. Both of these pronouncements are a “bringing forth”; the man with the land and the woman with her children. Both of these pronouncements have something to do with the ministry of Christ which is beginning at Cana.
First, the woman’s pain is not exclusively a physical pain but a deeply spiritual and emotional pain that all mothers experience as their children grow. It is a kind of satisfying yearning for their development into adulthood and perfection. It is this kind of soul wrenching pain, that in its ultimate form, Mary endures while witnessing her son’s passion, and in a more moderate tone, seems to motivate Mary at the wedding at Cana. She is concerned as any good mother would be. She is also, in a way, “bringing forth” her son into public ministry by encouraging Him to inaugurate it with this first public miracle.
Second, the work of the hands of man in bringing forth produce is symbolically present in the wine at the wedding feast at Cana. It is part of our Eucharistic liturgy, stemming from tradition, to thank God both for the wine we have to drink as a gift from Him and for having it as a product of the work of human hands. From there, the priest asks for the intercession of the Holy Spirit to cause bread and wine to become the Body and Blood of Christ for us. God takes the work of man, which the Church ‘brings forth’ as an offering, and completes it by His spirit. God doesn’t reject our work but rather he accepts it and elevates it beyond anything we could possibly have done on our own. The wine, by itself, is insufficient just as the work of man, by itself, is insufficient. Just as the first wine is good wine and the second wine is better wine, so too is the work of man good and the work of God best. It is because of the sacrifice of Christ that these gifts are ‘brought forth’ as wholly perfect gifts to God the Father.
Mary seems to know that Jesus will do something about the shortage of wine. So enveloped in God’s plan is Mary that she may understand the significance of this event deeper than we might ever come to know. Her words precede those of the Father at the transfiguration and yet they have the same meaning. Veiled by clouds at the Transfiguration God said, “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him,” (Matthew 17:5 Mark 9:6 Luke 9:35 – also compare with the baptism of Jesus [ Mark 1:11 Matthew 3:17 Luke 3:22 ]). Mary is saying much the same thing with her words, “Do whatever He tells you.” But at Cana, instead of a transfiguration we see a transformation, which is something Jesus refused to do when Satan tempted Him in the desert. Stones, Jesus would not turn to bread for His own comfort and nourishment, but water He would turn into wine for the sake of others. Jesus rebuked Satan but heeded Mary because His mother’s plan is in line with His Father’s plan.
The Father’s plan was to reveal Jesus as the Christ so that people might believe in Him and be reconciled and have eternal life. He sent John baptizing to prepare people to receive this good news and John testified that Jesus is “the Lamb of God,” (John 1:29-31 John 3:29-31) . From baptismal waters, waters of cleansing like the ceremonial water in the jars at the wedding at Cana, Jesus brings forth wine, wine of thanksgiving like the wine at the last supper. Turning water into wine manifests the power and glory of Christ, foreshadows a covenant that transforms the old into the new, and fortifies the faith of the disciples.
The jars used for ceremonial washing are an integral part of this miracle. Guests would have used the water already to cleanse themselves before eating. Filling them again would seem strange or anticipate another round of cleansing. By using these jars Jesus is saying that the laws of ritual cleanliness are about to come alive through Him. Cleanliness will no longer be just about physical purity, but more so, it will be about spiritual purity. In the proceeding chapter of John, Jesus explains this rebirth in the spirit to Nicodemus (John 3:1-7). So the context of the miracle at the wedding feast is rebirth in the spirit, and whether Mary knew it or not, her intersession fit with all that God wanted to do.
So how does all this transpire in just a few lines of John? It has to do with the two hearts of Mary and Jesus being so connected. Imagine this. Concerned for the bride and groom Mary mentions to Jesus that, “they have no wine.” Perhaps somewhat distracted from another conversation, Jesus replies, “What is this between you and me?” Then they catch each other’s eyes, she finding hope in Him and He reaching deep into her heart. Mary seems to say, ‘it should not matter to anyone but it does to me. I can do nothing but you can do everything.’ Jesus seems to reply, ‘Now here is a heart after my own heart, one who hopes in God; True faith.’ He cannot turn her down, but seeing that it fits with the Father’s plan, Jesus nods his head. That is all that Mary needs and she sets about the work of instilling confidence in the waiters who will, like altar boys, follow along and serve. How close to the heart of God Mary must be! And she wants us to be close to Him too. That’s why she points the way to Christ, asking us to be like the waiters and to do as He says. In following Jesus this way we open ourselves to miracles and transformation.