In that chapter, Paul explains that he was given this "thorn" to keep him from losing his humility after receiving an extreme vision of Heaven. Which begs the question, why was he given this vision in the first place? Most times you read about someone having a vision, the Bible goes into detail about the whys and wherefores, and it leads to an important lesson being learned. But other than the thorn thing, Paul really doesn't seem to draw on it. So why bring it up?
To answer this, I go back to the similar circumstance Elijah found himself in after the defeat of Jezebel's prophets in I Kings 18. Jezebel, Queen of Israel due to the poor taste in women of Ahab, came tooth and nail after the prophet following his victory, transforming his great moment into dispair for his life. After hiding out for several days, he was renewed by the passing of the Holy Spirit by his cave (ch. 19). Then he was given a list of missions he had to fulfill before passing his mantle off to Elisha.
Perhaps this was Paul as well. There were certainly things enough happened to him for discouragement to set in, just as Elijah. Then he was perhaps given his divine revelation, as Elijah was, to "buck him up" for the jobs that lie ahead. But so that that encouragement didn't have the opposite effect, he received his "thorn" (and Jezebel would certainly count as a thorn for Elijah) to keep him on the right track.
So where does this have anything to do with the wedding at Cana? Hang on, it's a long way around the barn. And it starts with how God never lets anything undone.
Cana to me has always been fascinating, especially in light of what I touched on yesterday. Since Mary was involved, one might guess that perhaps the bride was one of Jesus' sisters. (Jesus had sisters? Sure, look at Matt. 13:55-6: "Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? 56 Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”) That Mary was in charge would seem to confirm the tradition that stepdad Joseph died early on, perhaps in Jesus' early teens. That they would still be involved in as big an undertaking as this wedding (look at the story in John 2- Jesus replaced the consumed wine with 120-180 MORE gallons!) would lend credence to the thought that the Magi's gifts left the family pretty well off. But the part that always got to me, and I couldn't figure out, was the exchange between Mary and Jesus:
"3When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”4And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.”5His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”
But now I get it- and you will too, in a moment. But let me step foreward on the subject of Jesus' family for just a moment. We know that later on in His ministry, someone told Jesus that His mother and brothers were there to see Him, and He dismissed it with, "Who are my mother and my brothers? My mother and my brothers are whoever does the will of My Father in Heaven." And yet Mary followed Him thenceforth, all the way down the Via Dolorossa to the Cross. That the brothers weren't there became evident when Jesus passed on the care of Mary to His disciple John. Something had happened that had broken the bond between Jesus and His brothers- apparently, especially James.
But God leaves nothing undone (which is where we start tying this all together) and Jesus was about repairing burned bridges. In I Corinthians 15, Paul states what happened after the ressurection:
5And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
6After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
7After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
So in particular we see Jesus made a point to go to the two people that burned bridges lie between- Peter (Cephas) and his own brother James. After that, James became a pillar of the early church, becoming its leader when Peter was obliged to flee Jerusalem. Jesus did not leave this undone.
And that verse between Him and Mary? Remember when Jesus was twelve, the family went to Jerusalem. A day after they left, they had to go back because Jesus was still at the Temple, debating the priests. "Did you not know that I would be about my Father's business" was His excuse, but I'm betting He got a "Young man, it is not yet your time" lecture. At Cana, He still saw Himself under the charge of His mother- until she released Him by ordering the stewards to "do whatever He tells you." Now, it was His time, but He waited for that permission from His mother to start. He did not leave this undone, either.
Which brings us to the conclusion of this little tale. Many new Christians (or trying-to-become new Christians) have a hard time going from the joy of finding Christ to the challenges- some of which grow even worse afterward- of daily life. "I'm doing what you asked, why aren't you helping me?" is a lot like Paul who went from his marvelous vision to his thorn in the flesh, saying, "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. " And God's answer to them is the same as His answer to Paul- "My Grace is sufficient for you."
And thus, our lesson for today is that the bad times do not mean God has abandoned you prematurely. It means He's still working on getting the job that is YOU finished.