Today’s podcast makes sense of Jesus’ strange response to his mother in John 2:4, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
Devotional Text: John 2:1-11
You can subscribe to my podcast in iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.
Hi, this is Brent White. It’s Monday, January 29, and this is Devotional Podcast number 9. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I bring you a new devotional on this channel, so, if you like them, stay tuned.
You’re listening to the Everly Brothers and their 1958 single, “Devoted to You,” which was written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. I recorded it from their 2015 Record Store Day compilation album 15 Everly Hits.
Our scripture today comes from John 2:1-11, which I’ll read now:
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.”
Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
I want to focus on verse 4, where Jesus says, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” I’ve read many explanations of Jesus’ brusque response to Mary. We know for sure that it wasn’t rude—it was polite and respectful—like saying “ma’am” today. But there’s no getting around it: it isn’t warm and affectionate. Taking first-century Jewish culture into account, isn’t the way a son would normally address his mother. Why does Jesus speak this way?
I think he’s sending a message: He’s reminding his mother that, now that his public ministry has begun—which will end with his death on a cross—he can no longer perform favors for her simply because he’s her son. In fact, he doesn’t perform this miracle because she asks him too. Most commentators agree that she gets the message, and that when she speaks the words, “Do whatever he tells you,” to the servants, she is speaking not as his mother but as his disciple. She is leaving the problem in Jesus’ hands; he’s solve it in his own way. I’m sure there’s a message for us modern-day disciples, too.
But that’s not what this podcast is about. Instead, I want to focus on the second part of verse 4: “My hour has not yet come.” We know from many other references in John’s gospel that Jesus’ “hour” always refers to his death on the cross. So it’s as if Jesus were saying, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? It’s not my time to die.”
What a strange non-sequitur: to be talking about running out of wine at a wedding in one breath and dying on a cross in the next! Why does this wedding emergency have to do with Jesus’ death?
Well… what do we think about when we go to weddings? If we’re married, we think about our own wedding day. If we’re single, we imagine what our future wedding day may be like. Either way, we’re thinking about our wedding day. And Jesus, I would argue, is no exception: he’s thinking about his wedding day.
And you’re probably thinking, “Hold on, Pastor Brent! What are you talking about? Jesus wasn’t married, and he knew that he never would be married. He couldn’t have been thinking about his wedding day?”
Oh, yes he could! Because Jesus had a wedding day in his future. In the Old Testament, God is often portrayed as a bridegroom or husband to his people Israel, the bride. In fact, the entire Book of Hosea is about how God is like a spurned husband, whose wife, Israel, has cheated on him repeatedly. In Matthew 22, Jesus tells a parable about a king who throws a wedding banquet for his son—that son, of course, is Jesus. Paul refers repeatedly to the church as the bride of Christ. Revelation 19, which we quote in the Lord’s Supper liturgy when we refer to “feasting at Christ’s heavenly banquet,” refers to a wedding banquet for the Messiah.
Finally, the best reference to Christ as the bridegroom comes from Ephesians 5, where Paul is giving instructions to Christian husbands and wives. Then he quotes Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Then Paul explains, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” I talked about this scripture last week: Paul is saying that in the marriage of husband and wife we learn something important about the relationship between Christ and those of us who have placed our faith in him.
My point is, Christ is the bridegroom—or he will be—and this is what his mother Mary, when she asks him to supply wine for the wedding, is asking him to be. It was the bridegroom’s responsibility to provide the wine. This is why the “master of the feast” goes to the bridegroom and compliments him on the wine; he assumes that the bridegroom had something to do with it. The bridegroom, of course, was unaware of the miracle that Jesus had performed, so he probably had no idea what the master of the feast was referring to.
So consider this episode at the wedding at Cana of Galilee an enacted parable—a symbolic action that points to who Christ is and what he will be. He will be our bridegroom.
And how will he be our bridegroom? Well, the answer finally makes sense of Jesus’ strange response to his mother: “My hour has not come”—i.e., “It’s not my time to die.” It’s as if Jesus were saying, “I can’t be the bridegroom yet, because in order to be the bridegroom I have to go to the cross, and that can’t happen yet.” But he gives us a miracle rich with symbolism. What does he say to his disciples during the Last Supper: “[T]his is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” And what was the symbol of Christ’s blood? Wine.
Jesus is able to become our bridegroom by taking upon himself our sins on the cross and dying for them. And remember that when the bridegroom marries his bride, everything that is his now belongs to his bride as well. And what does the bridegroom have? Righteousness. Christ our bridegroom, unlike his bride, was perfectly obedient to his Father in every way, so that his obedience becomes ours. This is the basis on which we are saved. Praise God!