On the sixth day of Christmas… whose culture?

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Every reading of the Scriptures carries a certain interpretation. Too often, we in the western world apply a western view to the Scriptures. There are of course, many other types of bias that we apply as well – for example, our own experiences will also inform what we read in the Scriptures. This passage is a good example of that. Those of us who have grown up in a western culture, and have not spent considerable time in another culture, getting to know the traditions and ways of that culture see the way that Jesus addresses his mother in a derogatory way.

It is true that the culture of Jesus’s day was highly patriarchal. However, we know from elsewhere in the Gospels that Jesus loved his mother, to the point of asking one of his most loved disciples to care for her when he was dying on the cross. The cultural reading of this passage would suggest that although there is a sense of exasperation on Jesus’s part when he answers “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me,” there is also the use of a colloquial word of endearment. Throughout Jesus’s teachings we learn of a different, radical way of thinking that turns the world’s thinking upside down. We should therefore be very careful when reading this story through the lens of our own culture.

Lord as we come to you, reading and searching your Holy Scriptures for guidance and how to apply them to our own lives, we ask that you show us the different facets of each story. Help us to uncover the truths that you would like us to know. Gently lead us to understand the historical context in which these Scriptures were written, so that we might be less judgemental when applying them in our own culture. Thank you Lord, for the ways in which you taught that show us that there is another way, that is generous, loving and kind.