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Water to wine—why was this His first sign? (Part three)


Knowing that the wine was gone and understanding the damage that could be done to people she cared about, Mary went to her Son—not to a member of the family that was putting on the wedding or to the master of the feast—and told Him that the wine was gone.

Clearly, she believed that Jesus had the ability to do something to avoid the impending disaster that was about to envelop a family that mattered to her.

Jesus knew immediately and exactly what His mother was asking Him to do, even though her few words just presented a fact, not a request.


2–This is an example of one of those interesting dynamics of culture and language.

Words, especially spoken words, are not just conveyors of ideas or information. They are also tools that can be used to get someone to stop or start doing something, even though the words used aren’t giving a direct command to the other person.

Words are a containers that carry and express both explicit and implicit meaning.

To a cultural-outsider, it appears as if the main purpose of words is to provide information or declare a fact. 

But to a cultural-insider, those same words not only provide information or facts, they can also be a command or a request to act.


4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”


Knowing that Mary was actually prodding Him with a motherly request, Jesus makes two points in His response to the meaning of the words she had just spoken to Him.

First—using a title of respect for an older woman, (think of the word “ma’am” in our language), Jesus tells Mary that the situation isn’t something that He feels compelled to be concerned with.

He wants her to know that He’s there only as an invited guest and feels no compulsion to do something to alleviate the consequences that will be produced by the family’s inability to plan correctly.

In other words, He tells Mary that the predicament the family now found itself in was none of His business.

Second—Jesus tells her that He is following a predetermined time schedule in which key aspects of His character are already planned to be unveiled. 

His statement implies that if He did act in response to her request, He would be deviating from the pre-ordained schedule that He was navigating by.


5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

But hearing her Son’s two reasons for not feeling inclined to act, didn’t stop Mary from trying one more time to get Him to do what she desired.


When Jesus respectfully declined His mother’s request for His help in doing something she clearly couldn’t do by herself, Mary turned to the servants and instructed them to do whatever Jesus told them to do.

This is the most important moment—the pivot point—in the story.

By saying what she did to those servants, she introduced her own FACE card in to situation.

Without understanding seven more basic facts about honor/shame cultures, along with the way people in that type of culture would obey one of the ten commandments, a Westerner will never fully grasp why Mary’s instructions to the servants moved Jesus to do what He just said He wouldn’t do.


3–In honor/shame cultures, the concept of FACE is crucial.  A person’s FACE is the dignity, respect, and basic honor an individual is due from other people, especially those that are part of the group that person’s identity is anchored in.

4–In honor/shame cultures, dependence and inter-dependence are virtues, not weaknesses.  Needing others and being needed by others at many levels, including the maintaining of FACE, increases the depth of relationship and cohesion between the members of the family or group.  

5–Thus, in honor/shame cultures, every person has the implicit and  unspoken—but clearly understood by all—responsibility of doing whatever possible to try to save the FACE of someone else that is in danger of losing it, whether they know the person or not.

This responsibility is significantly amplified if the person who may lose FACE is part of the group their identity is drawn from or a part of their larger, relational community.

6–In honor/shame cultures, if you have the opportunity to save someone else’s FACE and you choose not to do so, it isn’t just that person who will lose FACE, the one who neglected to help will too!

7–In honor/shame cultures, the older a person is, the more FACE they have because their value to the group increases with age.  Older people are viewed as full of wisdom because of their life experience and the volume of knowledge they possess in so many important areas of life.

They are highly respected and diligently sought after for counsel and advice by younger people.  The older a person is the more needed they are and the more they are viewed as the sages, statesmen, and mediators whose contribution to the group is just as valuable as before, but in a different way.

8–As important as an elderly person’s honor and FACE is in the eyes of those who are younger than they are, it’s even more important that every person honor and respect the FACE of their parents while they’re still living. 

In fact, respecting and if necessary, saving the honor and FACE of our parents is one of the “weigh-bearing pillars” of God’s creation. 

Honoring our parents—which includes saving their FACE when necessary— is the fifth of the ten commandments and it’s the only one that includes a promise of blessing for those who obey it. 

9–It may be helpful to view a person’s FACE like a commodity that is in their own hands and that they have the primary responsibility to manage. Because of this, under the right circumstances, a person can intentionally place their FACE in to the hands of someone else.

Taking this step is the cultural equivalent of the “nuclear option”.  It exerts the most pressure or leverage possible on the other person to do for them what they can’t do for themselves.

With your FACE now in their hands, if that person doesn’t make every effort to help you and thus save your FACE, they risk losing FACE themselves!

So, Mary wasn’t just telling the servants what to do, she was actually playing her FACE card on Jesus—applying the maximum amount of Jewish, honor/shame cultural force possible.

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