Jesus seems to be disrespecting his mother at the wedding in Cana (John 2:4). She asks him to do a miracle in front of everyone. “Jesus this is your cue,” Mary says. “The wine has run out and our family is responsible.” His response is, “Not my wine, not my time.” Later in John 7, he will tell his disciples that everyone expects him to do miracles on cue, but it really isn’t his time, yet. There is a messianic kingdom coming. We won’t always be scrambling to keep our kids fed. In the world to come, the lion will lay down with the lamb, we will feast in the presence of our enemies, and death shall be no more. That time hasn’t come yet.
Having made his objections known, Jesus does go ahead and change water into wine. But, he makes the miracle happen in the hands of others. He never touches the water jars. He doesn’t wave a stick and say abracadabra. Just as he will do in John 6, when he multiplies the bread to feed the five thousand, Jesus puts the action into the hands of his friends. This is how things will be in the time before the coming of the new age; we will be the accomplishers of God’s miracles. We will share bread and wine and speak grace to those who are thirsty and hungry. We will be the peacemakers and mediate between lions and lambs. When things run out and there is famine, plague, or war, we will bring food, find medicines, and vote, or revolt, against those who rattle sabers.
Bible scholars point out that what Jesus actually said to his mother wasn’t really an insult. He uses a form of speech that includes Mary and himself; what does the world’s running out of wine have to do with the two of us? Mary hears him saying that we are not yet in the age of obvious miracles. We must see the kingdom in a more subtle form. She calls upon people to help Jesus. The servant’s hands work the miracle. In this parable, we are the people Mary sends to help Jesus do his miracle. Our place it to fill water jugs and act surprised when what we do makes a difference.