Mary and Peter, on the way to the cross, had to learn first that it was the cross that was coming — and that meant unlearning that the expectations and anticipations would be jolted with an utterly new reality. God’s saving ways revealed on the cross.
John 2. Mary is evidently held responsible for the flagging wine at a wedding. She approaches Jesus with some serious implications that Jesus ought to be able to do something about it. Jesus’ words to Mary make the flash of Simeon’s sword — the word about the sword that will pierce her soul — concretely real. Jesus’ words back to Mary when she puts her expectations and anticipations onto Jesus: “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied, “My time has not yet come.”
However you explain this passage, Jesus’ words to Mary flash the sword of Simeon in Mary’s face. She has expectations; Jesus has revelations. He will do God’s work when God wants that work done. “My time has not yet come.”
Mary’s response takes her one step closer to the cross. When she realizes what he has said, she responds as a disciple ought to respond: “His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
But Peter did not respond this way when he began to encounter the cross. Surrounding Jesus’ revelation that he will die — when he flashed the sword of Simeon before his twelve disciples — are two feeding stories. In the first, we read this:
Jesus answered, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
After Jesus flashed the sword in their face and after he had fed a multitude, the find themselves in another similar situation. Here are their words: “His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”
First encounters with the power of Jesus, the mission of Jesus, and especially when that is shaped in the form of a cross, lead to incredulity, to bafflement, to astonishment, and it is only over time that the disciple embraces that the way of Jesus is the way of the cross.
As we approach Lent, let us embrace the flash of Simeon’s sword, let us listen to Jesus and say “your will be done.”