Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1, ESV)[i]
In John’s account of Jesus turning water into wine, we see the practical side of this definition.
John 2:1 says:
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.
Three days before this wedding, Jesus called Nathanael to be one of His disciples. Jesus demonstrated supernatural knowledge to Nathanael by telling Nathanael what he had been thinking about. This was early in Jesus’s ministry and the disciples were still untested in their faith. They had shown enough faith to follow Him and learn more, but they had no experience and knew very little about Jesus. Nathanael, for example, had three days of exposure to Jesus at this point.
John 2:2 says:
Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.
Jesus, His mother and His disciples were all invited to the wedding. Apparently, this was a close family friend or relative. In addition, when they ran out of wine, Mary knew about it, and was concerned. The master of the feast apparently did not know about the problem. When the wine that Jesus made was brought out, the master of the feast’s only comment was that the bridegroom had saved the best for last. This gives the impression that the master of the feast had no idea of the disaster that had just been avoided. The fact that Mary was one of the few people who knew seems to indicate a more intimate involvement in the happenings of the wedding.
Mary approaches Jesus and says, “They have no wine.”
This is not a question or a request. It is a statement of fact. The request, if there is any, is implied. Jesus responds with:
“Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4, ESV)
It is worth noting that Jesus does not call her “Mother.” His address to her is polite, even friendly, but it is distant. He then puts even more distance between her, the problem and Himself. He says, “What does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
A lot can be learned at this point. It is crucial that we notice a few things.
Mary had as intimate a relationship with Jesus as anyone. She was the only person on earth who could call Him “son.” However, her intimate and privileged position did not allow her to change God’s plan or timetable. Jesus says clearly, “My hour has not yet come.” In another place, Jesus says:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” (John 5:19, ESV)
Then again, somewhere else:
For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. (John 6:38, ESV)
Jesus is pointing to the fact that not even He acted independently. If it was contrary to the will of the Father, it did not matter who asked, Jesus was not going to do it. Jesus has told us, “…ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7, ESV) However, this is not the whole statement. He begins with “If you abide in me and my word abides in you.” Therefore, just because we ask does not mean we will get what we want, even though that seems to be the implication of this statement.
Mary’s response to Jesus shows us much about faith.
She turns to the servants and says:
“Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5, ESV)
Here again, as a side note, Mary giving instructions to the servants seems to indicate a close relationship with the wedding party. Her faith is evident in the way she leaves it to Jesus. She does not instruct Him in what to do or how to fulfill the need. She leaves it completely up to Him. I have spent much time telling God how and when things need to happen and explaining why it has to be this way. How differently Mary approaches it! She has done nothing more than state the problem.
I would state a principle here:
Faith asks audaciously.
The size of Mary’s request, if we can call it that, was overwhelming. The text says there were six stone water jars there and each held from twenty to thirty gallons. Therefore, when it was all said and done Jesus made somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 gallons of wine. I am sure Jesus intended there to be leftovers, but 150 gallons of wine can serve a lot of people. However, does it really matter how many gallons or people? Producing wine with no visible means is an audacious request whether it is a little wine or a lot of wine.
How did Mary know that Jesus could do something about this problem?
Of course, she, of all people, knew about Jesus’s miraculous birth. And, she had been saved by the angel’s warning when they fled to Egypt. She had found Jesus in the Temple discussing theology with the doctors at the age of 12. These are the only things the Bible tells us about. John says:
Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. (John 21:25, ESV)
We have no way of knowing what Mary had seen and experienced up to this point. However, we do know that the Scriptures say a few times “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)
The Bible tells us:
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17, ESV)
Faith is built on the word of God. This is why Jesus says:
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7, ESV)
The faith to ask audaciously comes from the word of God and abiding in Jesus. Mary lived with the Word of God incarnate. Therefore, she had faith to ask audaciously.
Faith also rests confidently.
I get this from the way Mary left it all up to the Lord. She stated the problem. She did not even ask Him to do anything about it. She did not say, “Can you give me money to go buy more?” She did not say, “Can you send your disciples out to get some?” She did not even make any suggestions. She left it totally in His hands and told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Even Jesus, when He prayed, said, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:43, ESV)
The Scriptures teach us about faith that prays this way. In James 1:6, it says:
But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.
This kind of praying requires a confidence that God knows what is best, will do what is best, wants to bless us and loves us. Jesus repeatedly told His disciples what great things they would see if they had even a little faith. In Matthew 21:21 Jesus says:
And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen.
Mary shows this kind of faith when she assumes the problem is dealt with. She shows this kind of faith when she says to the servants, “Do whatever He says.” She told Jesus about the problem and then rested confidently.
One more thing this incident teaches us about faith is that:
Faith grows steadily.
Jesus’s disciples had not seen any miracles yet. At least, John 2:11 says:
This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
If you follow the disciples through their journey with Jesus, you will see them experience many miraculous signs. They saw 5,000 men plus women and children fed from only five loaves and two fishes. They saw blind people receive their sight, lepers healed and even the dead raised. Peter walked on water with Jesus. As they journeyed and walked with Jesus, their faith was constantly challenged and it steadily grew. Their faith was far from perfect, but it was growing. This is why one of these disciples, James, says:
2Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4, ESV
Another of these disciples, Peter, in speaking of trials we suffer says:
…so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:7
We all face trials of various kinds.
Running out of wine at a wedding is not life threatening, but it was not too insignificant for Jesus to help with.
There were not any wine merchants available. Jesus used common water pots and water to fill the need.
You may have a problem or challenge that does not seem important enough to bother Jesus with, but He is concerned with every detail of your life, even to the number of hairs on your head. You and I may not see any resources to deal with the challenges, but remember Jesus can use even common water pots to accomplish His work.
Whatever trial you are facing, can you trust that God is good and is looking out for your best interest? Bring your burden to Jesus and leave it with Him.
[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.