Not much is known about the life of Jesus and Mary for thirty years but John gives us a little more about this heroine in his second chapter. Mary and Jesus are at a wedding and the newlywed couple runs out of wine. This doesn’t seem like a big problem, but Mary’s heart is of a different kind.
Mary cares and loves so much that even the small details in someone’s life are in her loving gaze.
To a couple fresh in love, the wedding day is the most important day of their lives. The bride wants everything to be as imagined and something as important as running out of wine at a Jewish festival could destroy the ceremony. Mary makes haste to “intercede” in her first request as Queen for this couple. Although Jesus’ response seems to be more on the harsh side: “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” Mary’s heart is so full of confidence in her son’s love she turns to the servants with the assumption Jesus would work a miracle: “Do whatever he tells you.”
What is unique about this passage is all the imagery encoded within the text. Jesus calls Mary “woman.” At first glance this seems to be an ordinary greeting for a first century Jewish woman; however, much more is inferred. In John’s Gospel, Mary is never referred to by name, just “woman.” Why? John is comparing Mary to the “woman” in the creation stories of Genesis. Mary is presented as the New Eve – the new woman who unties the knot of sin brought about from the original Eve.
Look at the comparisons. Eve sought in selfishness to take the fruit of the tree in which she would gain her independence from God. Mary seeks in love to comfort someone lacking the fruit of the tree – wine – and submits herself to God to bring this loving act about. Eve saw wisdom as being possessed apart from God – “seeing the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil… was to be desired to make one wise.” Mary saw that wisdom was found only in the heart of God: “Do whatever he tells you!” Eve’s name in Latin is EVA, and the beginning word in Latin for the Hail Mary is AVE. The saints saw this as a sign that Mary has reversed the sin and curse laid upon Eve.
However, the greatest image encoded in this story is a wedding; not the one presented on the surface level – the man and woman who invite Mary and Jesus. It is the marriage of THE man and THE woman.
John 1:1 starts his gospel: “In the beginning.” For a Jew this could be likened to an American hearing a speech start out with “Four scores and seven years ago…” Every American immediately sees a tall fearless man with a heart full of equality.
In the beginning would draw the Jewish mind immediately to the first creation story in Genesis. – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” John starts out with, In the Beginning, because he is giving a new creation story. A new creation which Jesus had ushered in when he “took flesh and tabernacled among us.” As there is seven days presented in the original creation there is also seven days presented in the new creation. Here are the seven days in John’s first chapter
John 1:1 In the beginning
John 1:29 The next day
John 1:35 The next day
John 1:43 The next day
At John 1:43 the reader would be on day 4. Then John starts chapter two with On the third day.
The reader is now on day seven – the holy of holies of the original creation days. Why? Because it is the day God made holy, the day set aside to leave earthly work aside so God may work on the thing that truly matters to him in his creation – the human heart.
In John’s gospel on the seventh day, you do not find yourself in a church but at a wedding. Why? In the second creation story of Genesis, the sixth and seventh days of creation are zoomed in upon, the days God made man. The Jewish editors must have felt there was not enough detail to the first original creation story so more life was breathed into the description of man’s creation in the second story.
Adam is created and given paradise, a world full of comforts beyond description and one full of creatures. Yet a void was found in his heart; only he did not know what it was. God waited for this moment, because he was waiting to reveal his masterpiece, the woman. St Thomas said, “What is last in execution is first in intention.” This would be his beautiful bride. So Adam was put into a deep sleep on the sixth day and awoke to something more beautiful than the sunset in paradise. When he sees the woman he breaks out into song (the first love song recorded in history) and then takes her into his arms and into his heart in marriage.
Some theologians see Adam as falling asleep on the sixth day and awaking on the seventh, the Sabbath. What we see in this love story between the original man and woman is what God really intended the seventh day to be. God intended us to become one flesh with him and when we fall asleep in this life we will awaken to a marriage feast. We will be wedded to beauty itself and forever sing of our love for our Lover.
See, the Creation story is less like a history book and more like a love story. Less like the history channel and more like this:
Yet when Adam and Eve sinned they disfigured love, darkened it and weakened it with selfishness. Before sin they were naked without shame, yet after sin they found themselves alone and “naked.”
In John’s Gospel the reader finds himself or herself in a new love story. Yet this time God comes in the flesh to show us what true love is. And He chooses a bride who is worthy for song, a heart worthy for praise. John presents to the reader the new man and the new woman who would restore the face of Love, and subsequently the face of God.