It was a gathering of university students, eager, young followers of Jesus. The leader of the discussion asked what was the most important part of being a Christ-follower.
A flurry of answers engulfed us, answers like, “faith” or “love” or “trust.” Each such response elicited a host of “yeah” or “uh-huh” or “amen” statements indicating alignment or agreement.
The answers slowed as the group ran out of standard replies to offer, when the student sitting next to me chimed in with a bold and resolute, “obedience!”
Silence. No one said a word. It was both revealing and slightly unnerving.
Obedience is a discomforting word. We’re much more at ease with words like love, peace, faith, and trust. But obedience . . . that harsh. It’s fundamentalist. It’s pharisaic.
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” – John 2:1-4, ESV
Jesus had done no miracle to this point, and he had given no indication that he would do one now. There is nothing to suggest that Mary should expect one. John is unmistakably clear that this was the “beginning of his signs” (John 2:11).
The loss of wine at this wedding feast (typically seven days in length) would be a matter of great embarrassment to the wedding family, and, by extension, to the greater community in which the wedding was held. It is not clear if Mary’s concern is with the family as close friends, or if it is that the community would be a source of ridicule.
Whatever the case, Mary turned to her eldest son for help. With Joseph no longer around, Jesus would be the head of the household, and as such, in a position to make some decisions. Perhaps Mary expected him to scrape together the funds to buy more wine. Maybe she thought he might organize a quiet collection from trusted friends and neighbors for a wine purchase. Her expectations are not clear, but her direction is unmistakably clear.
Mary said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” – John 2:5, ESV
Mary delivered this abrupt statement, directing the servants to carry out Jesus’ instructions without question or objection. If he directed them to buy wine on his credit, they were to do so. If he told them to quietly take up a collection, they were to do so. If he instructed them to take the headwaiter a ladle filled with dirt . . . are you getting the picture?
Taken literally, Jesus told the servants, “Serve the guests water.” I do not believe anyone, not Mary, not the servants, not the disciples had any expectation that what actually happened was what would happen. All of them likely had the same reaction. “Well, I guess we’re drinking water now.”
Even if we don’t understand, even if we have no expectations, we, like the servants, are called to “Do whatever he tells [us].” If Jesus tells us to serve our guests water when they are calling for wine, serve them water. If Jesus tells us to feed the multitude with five barley loaves and two small fish, we do so.
We are not called to understand Jesus, but to obey and follow him.
If any one chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. – John 7:17, NIV-1978
The temptation is to say, “Once I have this all figured out, I’ll jump on board and follow Jesus.” No, that’s not how it works. Obedience precedes understanding. We obey, and then these things become clear. We do not wait for clarity before obeying.
When Jesus told Simon to put out into the deep water and let down the nets for a catch, Simon objected briefly, noting a hard night of fishing with no results. Simon was the fisherman here. Simon knew that letting down the nets in the deep water was pointless. But then he said, “But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” The nets were so overloaded with fish that they began to tear.
Take a cue from Mary. “Do whatever he tells you.”
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Victoriously in Christ!
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