John wrote his gospel for one simple reason: so people would believe in Jesus, and as a result, receive eternal life. To convince his readers to put their faith in Jesus, John emphasized what he called “signs,” or miracles, performed by Jesus. Only someone with the supernatural power of God is capable of giving eternal life, and John wanted people to know without a doubt that Jesus has that kind of power.
Jesus’ mother — probably uncertain about His exact mission, but quite certain about the miraculous nature of His conception and birth — said to her son, “They have no wine.”
Jesus replied, “My hour has not yet come.”
Now, it’s important to understand that John uses the words “hour” and “time” repeatedly in his gospel (7:30, 8:20, 12:23, 13:1, and 17:1). Each time the reference is to the culmination of Jesus’ mission: the cross at Calvary.
Jesus said to His mother, in essence, that there is a specific timetable for His mission, and now is not the time to begin doing miracles.
Mary did not badger and plead with her son — but nor did she back down. Although it doesn’t say specifically in Scripture, I’ve got a hunch at this point she smiled sweetly, raised her eyebrows, and looked Jesus straight in the eyes with that special mothers-only look, the one that silently communicates the message, “You don’t wanna disappoint your momma, now do ya?”
Demonstrating complete trust in her son, Mary then said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”
John concludes this episode by explaining, “Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs…and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.”
Again, John’s purpose is clear: to demonstrate Jesus’ divinity by describing the miracles He performed so people will put their faith in Him.
There’s one other aspect of this event which I find fascinating. It seems pretty clear that Jesus did not intend to do a miracle at the wedding feast. Doing His first “sign” was not on that day’s divine to-do list. But when Mary made the request, Jesus changed His plans.
The lesson here is that our sincere requests (our prayers) can cause God to alter His plans and timing. This is a startling idea, until we remember that Jesus gave us many instructions about prayer: “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matthew 21:22); “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9); “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father” (John 14:13).
So, last weekend’s gospel is much more than a simple little story of embarrassment averted. It teaches us the identity of Jesus, the mission of Jesus, and the power of prayer.