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Very early on, John tells a story that is unique to his gospel:

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”—John 2:1-5 (ESV)

I've pulled out the words of Jesus (red-letter style), which are striking. For one thing, something must be lost in translation when Jesus addresses his mother "Woman". For another, he says his "hour has not yet come", but he goes ahead and performs the miracle anyway. The relationship between Jesus and his mother just seems strange and foreign in this story. How much of this is because we (or at least I) don't understand the culture and how much of it is due to aspects of their relationship that are unique? If we understand what Jesus meant by his "hour", does that help us untangle this story?

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I have read in a few sources that there is definitely a translation issue with "Woman." Apparently, in that time and place, this was a respectful form of address and did not sound the way it did to our modern ears. Jesus was not saying, "Leave me alone, woman!!!!" But regarding the main part of your question, I have never had a clue and am very eager to hear what others have to say. I give your question another upvote. –  user2223 May 8 '13 at 21:58
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I remember when I accidentally called my third-grade teacher, "Woman." I thought the world had ended. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 May 8 '13 at 22:56
    
Mary knew who Jesus was by what the angel told her and the prophecies given by Elizabeth and Anna and Simeon. She knew and believed who Jesus was and therefore what authority he would have; though, she may not have seen it demonstrated prior to this event. Also His "time coming" refers to his being glorified, not crucified; though, it occurs through his first being crucified. His time had not yet come to be set up as king. The results of his rescuing folks is that they would seek to set him up as king (which occurs later and he does not allow them, knowing what is in their hearts). –  Sarah Dec 13 '13 at 18:17
    
This Tim Keller sermon (free MP3) on the passage of engages this question; IIRC, he essentially takes the line attributed to Carson by Jas 3.1 in an answer below. –  Davïd May 31 at 23:18

4 Answers 4

Short Answer: The "hour" that Jesus is referring to here is the hour of His work on the cross.

"The reason Jesus gives for the distance he maintains between his mother and himself must be viewed in the light of the cross. . . . the word 'time', literally 'hour' (hora), constantly refers to his death on the cross and the exaltation bound up with it (7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1; 17:1), or the consequences deriving from it (5:28-29), so it would be unnatural to take it in any other way here."

-From D. A. Carson's commentary on John, p.171 (generally considered to be the best available commentary on this book of the Bible)

Throughout the Gospel of John the stories, actions of Jesus, and words of Jesus continually point to spiritual concerns, and thus, to the cross. All the while the people around Him continually focus on physical concerns. Essentially what He is saying here is "Why are you bringing this physical problem to me? I came to fix a spiritual problem, and the time has not yet come to accomplish that."

Despite this, He does meet the physical need, but the cool thing is, He does it in a way that still points toward the ultimate work of redemption that He came to accomplish. (Since you're not asking about the significance of the "sign" I'll forgo that explanation for now.)

Jesus addressing His mother as "woman" was not derogatory in their culture. Its tone in English is not the same as its tone in Greek.

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Carson's commentary is good. And I would absolutely agree with him on this point. But he's a bit too conservative in reading John. He's constantly arguing for less than what the text actually may warrant. –  Matthew Miller May 8 '13 at 23:01
    
@MatthewMiller I didn't mean to imply the entire answer came from His commentary. I have edited to clarify. (I just wanted some "meat" behind my claim about the "hour" reference.) –  Jas 3.1 May 8 '13 at 23:08
    
I didn't take it like that. I was commenting about the general endorsement of Carson's commentary. –  Matthew Miller May 9 '13 at 1:39
    
Do you see any parallel or significance to the first miracle of Moses, when he turned water into blood? –  Joseph May 9 '13 at 5:54
    
@Joseph I don't know if you're asking me the question. But I would say no. Wine is associated in the synoptics with blood but there is no communion account in John's gospel. I believe wine here represents the spirit since the text clearly indicates its an intoxicant. –  Matthew Miller May 9 '13 at 18:07

John’s extensive marriage theme begins with none other than the wedding of Cana and Jesus’ encounter with His own mother, the first woman to appear in the gospel.

When the "mother of Jesus" approaches him about the wedding’s lack of wine, she assumes and expects her son to assume a role that in Jewish custom is specifically reserved for the groom and or his parents. Jesus' somewhat curt reply indicates that he saw this as more than a mere request for wine (2:3-4). The headwaiter in praising the bridegroom likewise points to the fact that Jesus has acted in the role of the groom.

But John also connects Jesus with the bridegroom through the structure of the narrative itself. In three successive scenes John establishes a clear pattern of stage duality, with at least one of the two characters appearing together appearing in the following scene. We have

  • Jesus and his mother (2:3-4)
  • his mother and the servants (2:5-6)
  • the servants and Jesus (2:7-8)

But in the fourth and final scene (2:9-10), John breaks the pattern. We expect the steward to speak with Jesus and yet he speaks to the bridegroom. This slight but typical Johannine twist is just another confirmation that John has cast Jesus in the role of the groom.

This interpretation suggests an important explanation for Mary’s request and her son’s curt reply. Mary is asking Jesus to assume the role of the groom. But Jesus’ tells her “my hour has not yet come.” "The hour" in the gospel of John is sure is a reference to Jesus’ crucifixion, his ultimate hour of glory but the context of Mary’s request suggests “the hour” could also refer to a wedding. The events of this wedding cast an interpretive framework by which we should see the cross.

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Could you possibly site your sources, or is this from personal observation? –  Jas 3.1 May 8 '13 at 23:10
    
Sure. I'll have to go dig through my stacks. –  Matthew Miller May 8 '13 at 23:11
    
@Jas3.1 I have a file box where I keep all my research on the gospel of John. While I found many an article on women and the marriage theme I could not locate the specific article where I found this information. I believe the scholars name was Deeker because that was the footnote that I left myself in one of my papers. I will keep looking. –  Matthew Miller May 10 '13 at 18:06

Abstract

This may also have something to do with 'leaving mother (and father)" and clinging to the wife "church", as talked about in Genesis 2.


The Wedding at Cana in Galilee is the first and opening miracle in John’s Gospel. When the wine runs out and Mother Mary says:

“They have no wine”

Jesus says:

“Woman, what does that have to do with me?” “My hour has not yet come.”

Already Jesus is making an association with his own life to this special event. A wedding, signifying the preliminary ritual that takes place before two people come together as one, in the marriage bed. He has begun the process of “separation from his mother” by calling her Woman, a step necessary in order to free himself completely and fully of earthly attachments, preparing himself for his sacred death that he willingly accepts as his mission in this life. He is preparing himself for his bride “The Church”.

Woman can also be linked to Genesis 2 when God takes Adam “Mankind” and builds a woman from his side. She is a part of Adam, but now Adam is split. She is to help Adam in this world remember who he is.

Mary understands on some deep level that this is a significant event operating on more than one level. She acknowledges this by saying to the servants:

“Do whatever he tells you”

Jesus is a part of Mary. She is his mother. She gave birth to him. Now Mary helps her son remember his mission, by acknowledging his words and actions. Mary is like Eve, the Mother of the Living and Woman.

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh”

The significance of Matthew 26:29 becomes all the more real as he says:

“I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

The miracles are sometimes where we least think they are.

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I think you're absolutly right. But this site is about offering evidence for our conclusions. Would you describe a little in more detail just how you arrived at this conclusion. –  Matthew Miller May 23 '13 at 6:06
    
Hi Kate and welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics! This is a very helpful answer--especially after your edit. I'll have to think about it, but this is a plausible (likely even) explanation. Thank you. –  Jon Ericson May 25 '13 at 0:26
    
Thank you Jon. The edit looks good. –  Kate May 26 '13 at 4:41
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Intriguing theory. Thanks Kate. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 May 29 '13 at 20:13
    
Thanks Mike I was just looking at your website. Pretty neat. What a resource list you have there. I have it bookmarked and tend to explore it further. –  Kate May 29 '13 at 21:32

The very first miracle Jesus performed was a living illustration of his mission to cleanse. What did Jesus mean that his hour had not yet come? His hour to perform miracles? His mother surely was not asking him to perform a miracle, for he had never even done any miracles. Besides that, he immediately performed the miracle, something he would not have done if the time was not right.

As one of the other posters already pointed out, later in his book the apostle John shares insights into what Jesus meant by saying his hour had not yet come. When the Feast of Tabernacles was approaching, Jesus’ brothers tried to encourage him to go to Judea and act publicly so he could show himself to the world, but Jesus said, “My time is not yet here.” He eventually did go to the feast in a not-so-public way, and while he taught in the temple, the leaders desired to seize him, but, “No man laid his hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.” (John 7:30) A few days later he was again teaching in the temple, and the crowd was enraged by his claims, yet still, “No one seized him, because his hour had not yet come.” (John 8:20)

About three days before he was crucified, Jesus was in the temple and some Greeks sought him out. Jesus said to them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal...Now my soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.” (John 12:23-27) The time and hour Jesus so often referred to was when he would shed his blood so that many could receive cleansing and truly satisfy the thirst of their hearts. When Jesus’ mother said, “They have no wine,” it was true not only of their lack of physical wine, but also their lack of the wine that truly satisfies.

Even though it was not the time to give them his blood, yet he gave them physical wine as a symbol of what he would later provide. Six large stone water jars were sitting there which were used for ceremonial washing. He told the servants to fill these with water, and they filled them to the brim. Then he told them to draw some out and take it to the headwaiter, and they did so. The headwaiter did not know where it had come from, and when he tasted it he was so impressed that he called the bridegroom and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” (John 2:10)

Just as this wine came from jars used in ceremonial washing, the blood of Jesus can truly cleanse people from all sin. This wine was so good that the headwaiter exclaimed his delight; the blood that Jesus provides truly satisfies the soul-thirst, and all who taste it will marvel at its quality. This wine helped give physical strength to those who drank it; Jesus’ blood provides spiritual life to all who will accept it. This is what Jesus was trying to draw attention to when he said, “My hour has not yet come.”

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I haven't had the pleasure to read one of your answers here yet. Welcome to the site! It seems like John's gospel needs to be read forwards and backwards to catch all the references. Thanks for the answer. –  Jon Ericson Aug 21 '13 at 14:14
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Thanks Jon! Yes, John's gospel is really deep. He filtered out a lot of excellent material so that he could include the very greatest of Jesus' teachings. (John 20:30-31; 21:25) Those teachings are hard to assimilate without reading the material over and over again. The teachings are incredibly beautiful though (at least the ones I have been able to understand). –  Jeff W. Aug 22 '13 at 1:53
    
+1 This is an excellent explanation. –  Mark Edward Nov 27 '13 at 3:27

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