HomeIDEYA: Journal of Humanitiesvol. 1 no. 2 (2000)

A Christological Reading of the Sign at Cana, John 2: 1-11

Natividad B. Pagadut

Discipline: Social Science



The Sign at Cana. or the Wedding at Cana as it is called more often, is one of the most misinterpreted passages of the gospels. And yet, is not the account clear enough?


The mother of Jesus. Jesus himself. and his disciples are invited to a marriage feast at Cana in Galilee. After some time the celebrants ran out of wine and Mary makes Jesus attentive to this embarrassing situation. Jesus replies in a way which no matter how one exactly understands this reply creates some distance between Jesus and his mother. "Woman. what concern is that to you and to me?" This negative answer is then justified by saying. "My hour has not yet come" On 2:4). This hour is understood as the hour to perform his first miracle, which, according to Jesus, has not yet come. But the mother of Jesus does not take no for an answer and tells the servants, "Do whatever he tells you" (In 2:5). One is left to wonder what happens between Jesus and his mother between verses 4 and 5. Storytellers and would-be homilists fill in the account and say that in the meantime, due to the intercession of his mother, Jesus changes his mind and decides to advance the hour and to perform a miracle anyway. The servants then proceed to do what Jesus says and the water is miraculously changed into wine. The person in charge of the feast, who does not know where the wine comes from, is astonished that this wine is even better than the one they have been serving, and calls the bridegroom to whom he expresses his surprise. Upon seeing this miracle, Jesus' disciples believe. According to this interpretation, the message of the account deals then with Jesus' miraculous power, which leads the disciples to faith. They also emphasize Mary's power of intercession. This is a fair picture of the way religion teachers, catechists and many homilists retell the story of the wedding at Cana. A recent social science interpretation also takes the story literally and provides some additional details (Williams 679-692). But is this really what the evangelist intends to say? Is this really the message he wants to convey? In the following pages, the author presents a reading and interpretation of the Cana account which tries to stay closer to the text of John 2: 1-11.