Jesus Leaves Nazareth—The Marriage At Cana— Mary During The Public Life Of Jesus (From January Of The Year 26 To March Of The Year 29 A.D. ? 1) part 1.

JESUS had grown up, hidden in the family life, the common and ordinary life of men, so fitting for Him who was to be the model for us all. But in the case of him who had been chosen as the Forerunner of Christ, the guidance of Providence took a more unusual and extraordinary course. John the Baptist had dwelt in the desert of Judea from his earliest infancy up to the time of his manifestation to the people of Israel.

In that solitude the word of God came to him, he received a mission to preach to the world repentance and preparation of the heart for the coming of the Messiah. Travelling through the region of the Jordan, he drew crowds together, preached to them, and administered a baptism of repentance to prepare them for the remission of their sins. It was the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, reckoning from his association in the government of the empire rather than from the death of Augustus. 2 Judea, properly so called, had had no other native princes since the expulsion of Archelaus, and it was then governed by the procurator Pontius Pilate. Herod Antipas, who, at the death of Herod the Great, had received Galilee as his share, governed it with the title of tetrarch. Philip, one of his brothers, had the tetrarchy of Iturӕa and Trachonitis; and Lysanias, a stranger to the family of the Herods, was tetrarch of Abilene. In the religious world the supreme pontificate was held by Joseph Caiaphas; his father-in-law Hanan, Annas, as he is usually called, in virtue of his past pontificate and because of his persistent influence, also retained the title of High Priest. Such was the state of things when the Baptist preached, and when his words created such a profound emotion among the people of Israel.

The "voice of one crying" resounded, as it is written in Isaiah, commanding them to prepare the way of the Lord. The Lord Himself was soon to appear, to deliver and bring back again His people. Accordingly, shortly after the appearance of John the Baptist, Jesus warned His mother that the period of family life and of the sweet intimacy of Nazareth was now past; that the hour, so long foreseen, had now come, when the service of the Father claimed Him entirely. Mary could only submit to the divine will, though at the same time it crushed her dearest affections. She and Jesus again made that absolute sacrifice of themselves which they had long since offered. Doubtlessly they embraced each other; it is even quite possible that Jesus, kneeling down, begged of Mary, in virtue of her maternal authority, to bless Him before He went. And Mary gazed long at Him who was about to leave her.

Jesus first of all sought out the Baptist. For it was meet that He should give authority to his mission by publicly recognising that he was sanctified and sent from God. It was in the stream of the Jordan at Bethabara, just opposite Jericho, and quite probably on the 6th of January in the year 26, that He received baptism from John, and the witness of the Father.

Immediately, the Holy Spirit, which rested upon Him, led Him into the wilderness. Upon the barren mountains situated to the west of Jericho, Jesus fasted forty days and forty nights, and was three times in succession tempted of the devil. Then, full of grace and truth, the true Light which came to illuminate the world, He descended again towards the valley, where, since the manifestation of God of which he had been witness, the Baptist had without ceasing preached of Him and testified to Him.

To his most intimate disciples John did more than speak : he showed them " the Lamb of God." 3 The first who understood and realised his meaning were Andrew of Bethsaida, and a young man of pure heart and ardent soul, who became more intimate than any of the others with Jesus and His mother, John, the son of Zebedee the fisherman. John probably brought to the Master his brother James, with whom the Gospel always associates him; Andrew brought his brother Simon, to whom Jesus on beholding him said; " Thou shalt be called Cephas," that is to say, Peter. Then Jesus, returning towards Galilee, met Philip, who was of Bethsaida also, and saith unto him, " Follow me." Philip, in his turn, brought the son of Talmai, Nathanael of Cana, who is generally called Bartholomew. Though not as yet definitely vowing themselves to His service, these five or six first disciples began to gather round the Master and follow Him whithersoever He went. They were His attendants, when, in the second half of February, Jesus returned to Galilee.

"And the third day," after one of the meetings related above, " there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there." 4 The betrothed couple, or one of them, were in all likelihood, relatives or friends of the holy family. Mary, who in her love towards God, shewed an active love in the service of her neighbours, had come to help them, as she had formerly gone to Karem to console and help Elisabeth. Because of the friendship between the two families, and in gratitude for Mary's help, Jesus also was invited to this marriage; and since He had returned to His country accompanied by disciples, His disciples were likewise invited.

Though the holiness of Jesus was incomparably greater than that of John the Baptist, it nevertheless possessed an appearance less austere and more attractive to the multitude. The Saviour and His most pure mother did not refuse to take part in the seemly festivities of a marriage. They assisted in the joyous and gay procession, which, at night-fall, conducted the bride from her house to that of the bridegroom. Then, while Mary looked to the ordering and serving of the feast, Jesus took His seat at the table with the other guests.

As furniture and servants were so easily borrowed, marriage festivities, even among humble people, were never without a certain amount of appearance. This feast, however, was given by a poor family which was obliged to exercise some restraint in the expenses and preparations. The presence of the disciples brought by Jesus, which had not been taken into consideration at first, probably helped to account for the provision of wine being soon exhausted. Mary, ever watchful and attentive, perceived that humiliation threatened the hosts; and with delicacy she hastened to prevent it, for she knew to whom to turn for assistance.

As she was not sitting at table, but was occupied in serving, it was quite easy for her to approach Jesus, and to whisper in His ear, "They have no wine." Jesus answered her, " Woman "—this form of address, very common in the New Testament, seems to have had, in the mouth of a master or a prophet speaking to his mother, a degree of respect comparable to the Madame of courtly politeness— " Woman, what have I to do with thee ? 5 Mine hour is not yet come." 6 Though these words were said with affectionate gentleness, they were, none the less, a refusal to intervene, a refusal suggested by the dispensation of Providence, for the time for a miraculous manifestation had not yet arrived.

But Mary knew and felt in herself a strength to which even the divine decrees might yield; or, to be more precise, she knew that the divine decrees are often conditional, and are accomplished or not, according to the all-powerful force of prayer. Before long, Jesus would declare that the will of the Father would not permit Him to work a miracle on behalf of a woman who was a stranger in the house of Israel; and, a few minutes after, moved by the tears and prayers of that stranger, He would grant that which He had at first refused. The persistence of Mary is of the same kind as that of the woman of Canaan whom Jesus praised for her great faith. But, as Mary's faith was incomparably deeper and more certain, so was her prayer more powerful, and likewise more pleasing and serene in its triumph. At the very time when Jesus appears to set aside her request, she turns to the servants who follow her, and leaving them near Him, she says, " Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it !"

" And there were set," doubtless before the door of the room or tent in which the feast was held, six of those enormous " water-pots of stone," which were kept to contain water for " the purifying," and the numerous ablutions " of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece," which is at the least nine gallons each, or, according to others, a great deal more. " Jesus saith unto them, Fill the water-pots with water. And," at once, obedient to the instructions of Mary, they ran to fetch the water, adding it to that which the pots already contained, till " they filled them up to the brim. And He saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast." They therefore dipped a cup into one of the water-pots, and carried it to the distinguished guest who had been chosen governor of the feast. And " when the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was : (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom "; and doubtless showing it to the guests, and speaking loudly so that the compliment, expressed in so pleasant a manner, should be heard by all, he " saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine ; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now."

The servants, while filling the cups, explained the enigma. " This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth His glory; and His disciples believed on Him."

Thus, in the midst of what was apparently a worldly feast, and by means of earthly help given to humble people in a difficulty, Providence had guided everything to a spiritual end, so as to manifest the glory of Jesus, to call the guests to faith in the new Master, and more than all to establish that faith in the souls of those disciples whom Jesus was about to make His first apostles. It was through this guidance of Providence that Mary had had a special place assigned to her in that episode; for this first call to faith in the Messiah, is one of those initial works in which it pleases God to manifest the guidance which He exercises in all similar matters.

That supreme initial work, the Incarnation, had been commenced with the consent of Mary and was carried out with her co-operation ; the initial work of the bestowal of the first grace upon John, had been by the words of Mary; in the manifestation of Jesus through the heavenly signs which accompanied His birth, the Virgin mother presented to Him those whom these signs had brought to the Holy Child; the first manifestation in the public life of Jesus was yet another initial work, the miracle by which He implanted faith in the souls of His disciples. Thus the title of generator of the faith, in all truth, belongs to Mary. And God in thus connecting His mother with all these occasions of the beginning of grace, intends to shew that the spiritual work depends entirely upon her, and that that work bears its best fruit in the soul when Mary is there to facilitate its fulfilment.

" After this He went down " from Cana towards the Sea of Galilee, and came " to Capernaum, He and His mother, and " the four sons of Cleophas whom they called " His brethren, and His disciples." 7 The time of His public manifestation had come, and it was intentionally that Jesus chose for His place of sojourn one of the most populous and busy towns of Galilee. His first disciples followed Him there, drawn by the sweet charm which had at first attracted them to Him, and more strongly attached to His person by the miracle which they had witnessed. As for the " brethren of the Lord," they neither then nor even at a much later time believed on Him, 8 but curiosity, aroused by what had happened at Cana, had caused them to follow His steps. Whether Mary had already given up her house at Nazareth, or whether she was for a few days only among those who followed her Son, it is scarcely possible to say.

In any case, Jesus and those who were with Him remained at Capernaum " not many days " 9 on that occasion. The Feast of the Passover drew nigh, and the Master went up to Jerusalem. There He cleansed the Temple from the buyers and sellers who defiled it, and clearly vindicated the honour of His Father's house; by His preaching and miracles He gained disciples, and He moved the hearts even of those who did not immediately follow Him, as, for example, Nicodemus the pharisee, one of the Sanhedrim. Long after the paschal feast was over, Jesus still remained in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem. Throughout all Judea proper, He won souls, and His disciples baptised those who resolved to come to Him. Not only weeks, but months had passed, and when, after having crossed Samaria, where He revealed Himself to those at Jacob's Well and at Sichem, Jesus at length entered into Galilee, it was December of the year 26. Then was commenced in this region, that preaching of the kingdom of God, the narrative of which has been especially preserved in the first three Gospels.

1 According to the chronological reckoning adopted here, John the Baptist began to preach towards the end of the year 25 ; Jesus was baptised in the Jordan in January of the year 26 ; the passion and the resurrection took place during the Feast of the Passover in the year 29. This chronological reckoning is considered probable by a great number of writers. Others, it is true, adopt a different hypothesis. However, for the date of the passion, the uncertainty lies between the two years 29 and 30 only. The year 30 has its advocates, and the recent works of M. Jean van Bebber have further increased the number of those who think that our Lord suffered on Friday the yth of April, and rose again on Sunday the 9th of April in the year 30. But for weighty reasons, both traditional and scientific, the balance seems to be in favour of the year 29, which has for a long time had the support of numerous scholars (see, for example, the Propylӕum for May of the Bollandists). I consider then, that so far as our present information goes, it is most probable that our Lord suffered in March of the year 29, on a Friday close to the equinox (I cannot venture to determine more exactly the day of the month), and I calculate from this hypothesis the commencement of His public life.


2 Cf. St Luke iii. 1-4.

3 With this paragraph cf. St John i. 29-51.

4 St John ii. 1-2; passage commented upon in the following pages.

5 One may see, both in Hebrew and Greek,, examples of the same expression extremely diverse in context and shade of meaning, which correspond to the words, "What have I to do with thee?": Judges xi. 12; 2 Samuel xvi. 10; I Kings xvii. 18 ; 2 Chronicles xxxv. 21; St Mark v. 7, etc.

6 Tatian, to judge from the Arabic version of his Diatessaron, and St Gregory of Nyssa (in hunc locum ; PG. xliv. 1308) have read, with a note of interrogation, "Is mine hour not already come ? " But a vast majority of the evidences for the text do not recognise this interrogative form, which gives, in my opinion, a meaning which is not so good as the ordinary reading.

7 St John ii. 12.

8 St John vii. 5.

St John ii. 12. Concerning the first period of the public life of the Saviour, see St John ii., iii., iv.