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In John 2:1-12 we read of Christ's first miracle, turning water into wine. Before he performs his miracle, though, he says to his mother:

“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

He seems to be protesting his mother's request that he do something about the lack of wine, but then turns right around and makes wine.

What did Jesus mean that his hour had not come? Why do his actions seem to contradict his words?

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Great question. You also might be interested in this question (Why did Jesus not want to be known as the Messiah?) –  Richard Aug 30 '11 at 14:05

6 Answers 6

up vote 8 down vote accepted
+50

Part 1: The secret

This phrase is actually recorded in a couple places in the gospel of John.

In John 7, Jesus' disciples are going up to the festival. Jesus, however, did not want to appear publicly:

John 7:6 (NIV)
Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do.

Later, it says, he decides to go in secret:

John 7:10 (NIV)
However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret.

This theme plays out more than once in the gospel of John. The idea that seems pretty clear is that Jesus is trying delay the timing of these events.

(This topic is also known as the Messianic Secret, which is addressed in this question).

Part 2: The revealing

Later in the gospel of John, we see that Jesus says the time has come:

John 12:23 (NIV)
Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified."

If we read this entire section (John 12:20-36), we see that Jesus is saying that the time has come from him to be crucified. Indeed, directly after this, he says

John 12:24 (NIV)
Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

After this (during the same event), Jesus says:

John 12:27 (NIV)
Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.

He's clearly speaking of the crucifixion and the suffering that he must endure. These were the events that it seems he was attempting to delay

Part 3: The completion

John records the final words of Jesus:

John 19:30 (NIV)
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

We see here the theme that has played out through the entire gospel of John. Jesus wanted to delay the events of the crucifixion and suffering until the time has come. Once the events were in place, Jesus declares that the hour has come. After the crucifixion was complete and his life was over, the events that were the purpose of his life (John 12:27 (NIV) above) are complete. This was the time that Jesus was referring to.

Summary:

Jesus was clearly (and understandably) troubled by the thought of his own crucifixion and death (John 12:27 (NIV) above). However, the reason that he delayed the events wasn't out of fear, but because he knew the correct timing and knew that it shouldn't begin too early.

Therefore, Jesus tried to delay some of the early events in order to make sure the timing was correct and perfect. This includes the first miracle of the wine.

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Which events are you saying Jesus was trying to delay? –  Flimzy Sep 10 '11 at 6:49
    
+1 good answer! Though it leaves me wondering, at what times did these things happen in Jesus' ministry (as John is not chronological). John 2:11 also says that Jesus "manifested his glory" at Cana, which bears similarity to John 12 (that you cite). –  dancek Sep 12 '11 at 18:19
    
The full verse that you cite: What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (NIV) It is similar, but (1) that's not Jesus talking there and (2) it seems pretty clear that when Jesus was talking about being "glorified" (Ch 12) it was about him being crucified. Later in that same speech he says: (John 12:32-33) "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. The "glorified" from John 2 and 12 are different. –  Richard Sep 12 '11 at 18:26

Most likely because he didn't want to gain a lot of notoriety so early on, and doing something like this, especially in such a public setting, would cause a lot of people to notice. But in the end, he did it, probably because it was his mother asking, and he was required by the Ten Commandments to honor his father and his mother.

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Which was it most likely? This answer is confusingly worded –  dleyva3 Aug 30 '11 at 15:59
    
@dleyva3: "Most likely" as in "probably". Edited to remove the idiom so it won't confuse anyone. –  Mason Wheeler Aug 30 '11 at 16:06

I believe Jesus is talking about His public ministry, not about any miracle. A closer reading of John 2:1-12 can bring out some possibilities as follows.

  1. Mary knew about Jesus's power and His calling. (Events in His childhood described in Gospel of Mathew and Luke points to that).

  2. She would have probably witnessed His power in events which happened in family circles which may not be recorded in Gospels (Inferred from John 21:25 - And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written).

  3. This marriage party being a public event with probably many from the locality and around, Jesus did not want to do a public miracle since it was not yet time for His public ministry.

The above reasons would explain the answer Jesus give to His mother.

Now we can see Mary's response to those known in need (here servants who were handling store). She says to them to 'do whatever He says'. I find it consistent, since it appears now Mary understood that Jesus power cannot be controlled by any body else. We can see Jesus did the miracle in private where only servants, His disciples who were with him that time and probably Mary only knew about it. This can be inferred from verse 9 where it says master 'did not know where it came from'.

So in summary,

What did Jesus mean that his hour had not come?

Jesus means that the time of His public ministry not come.

Why do his actions seem to contradict his words?

His action did not contract His words. He did it in private without the group assembled there knowing it, not even the master of ceremonies. He ensured that it was known only to a very private circle (need to know basis in modern parlance). The verse 11 says, disciples believed in Him. Servants might not have known who He is and others did not even know about it.

Trust this helps us to understand this passage and Jesus's words better.

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First and foremost, Jesus told the woman (mother) that His time had not yet come. Keep in mind this is kind of like the "Bruce Almighty" effect, God is not a God that only uses His powers to further Himself.

If there was somebody that needed to be healed, I'm sure that he would have done it without hesitation. But this miracle was only so that people could continue to party.

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That last part is a bit speculative. Are you saying that Jesus went through the entire first 30 years of his life without encountering anyone who needed healing? –  DJClayworth Aug 30 '11 at 17:54
    
Absolutely. As Jesus states, His time had not yet come. –  Jonathon Byrd Aug 30 '11 at 18:35
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The 2nd sentence is also a bit irrelevant as well. It's not just "continue a party", the fact is if you ran out of wine at one of these parties, it was just about the rudest, most disgraceful thing anyone could do. You would have lost all your friends, all your social standing, been rejected by your community and become a disgrace to your family name. What Jesus did was save this family from total rejection and humiliation - it's not "just a party". –  Mark Henderson Aug 30 '11 at 20:27
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And he contributed to a good time being had by all. People who think Christianity is all about burdensome rules and regulations (and there are many Christians who act this way even if they won't necessarily say as much) have failed to note this aspect of the first miracle of Jesus. –  music2myear Aug 30 '11 at 21:15

People debate this endlessly. It seems to me that the plain reading is that in Jesus' "original" plan, it was not yet time for him to reveal his divine nature by performing a miracle. And yet, he modified his plan to accommodate the desires of a believing woman.

I've heard some Bible teachers say that this does not mean that Jesus altered his plans to satisfy Mary. But I don't see how else you can read it. That's the plain meaning of the words.

The lesson I take from this is that God modifies his plans in response to human requests, i.e. prayer. If this were not so, then prayer would be pointless. That is, if God devised a perfect plan independent of human desires, and he will not change it to accommodate human desires because it is perfect, then prayer would be a meaningless and pointless exercise.

Does this mean that God acts in ways that are less than perfect to accommodate people? Not really, because his plan is presumably perfect AFTER TAKING INTO ACCOUNT what people want. Of course it doesn't follow that God will alter his plans to give people whatever they ask for -- there have been plenty of discussions about when and why God grants some prayers and not others.

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The "plain reading" of much of scripture is what has lead to much heartache--the Jews are still waiting for a Messiah who fulfills a "plain reading" of scripture. I think we know that Jesus often spoke in ways that were intentionally unclear to certain people. –  Flimzy Oct 10 '11 at 18:29
    
@Flimzy: Sure. I didn't mean to say that the plain reading is always the end of any discussion. But I think we should start with the plain reading and only seek ... say "more subtle" readings ... when it is demanded by the context, reference to other scripture, or other compelling reasons. –  Jay Feb 3 '12 at 22:32

This is one of the reasons Catholics pray to Mary for intercession:

Our Lady of Lourdes, Mother of Christ, you had influence with your divine son while upon earth. You have the same influence now in Heaven. Pray for us; obtain for us from your Divine Son our special requests if it be the Divine Will.

From Our Lady of Lourdes novena prayer

Mary is interceding on behalf of the couple getting married.


The other half of the equation is the 'hour'.

Here's the other references to the hour coming in John's gospel:

4:21, 4:23, 5:28, 7:30, 8:20, 12:23, 12:27, 13:1, 16:2, 16:4, 16:25, 16:32, 17:1

NAB intratext

This is the beginning of Jesus's earthly ministry and in acknowledging that His hour had not yet come. Jesus states that His hour is indeed coming!

If Mary, whose heart would be pierced at the Crucifixion, knows anything that Jesus knows about the fulfilment of Jesus's mission on earth, then she knows that her next line, "do whatever he tells you to" is an acceptance that her Son's ministry is about to start (and conclude). Jesus may be giving Mary an opportunity to put off the beginning of his work, which she courageously forgoes.

Note, I just made the last part of this up, but I do pray the rosary and mediate on the Wedding Feast at Cana every Thursday so it's not that I haven't given it any thought

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Don't you think this means just the opposite of 'She had influence with your divine son while upon earth'? Instead, Jesus asking calling her Woman, probably making her to remind her human element refusing to be influenced. Also Mary's only advise to others as we can see entire bible is 'Do whatever He says' implies to me that, "dont come to me, But go to Him, Listen to His Words, Follow those words, not mine". I may be wrong, but sharing thoughts –  Jamess Sep 10 '11 at 4:00
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@jamess calling her woman, is indeed very important, but not a reminder that she is just a woman, but that she is the new Eve. Jesus actually elevates her to mother of all the living. Futhermore, remember that He calls Mary, "woman" again at the Crucifixion. The 'woman' also is reminiscent of the Revelation of John and the Song of Songs. I agree with you, on the surface it doesn't sound nice, but I'd like to think there's more to it than that. –  Peter Turner Sep 10 '11 at 4:12
    
I agree it is more than on the surface, but since Bible does not explain, we need to infer from other passages or by interpretation. I am not sure about the interpretation you give, I will study more on it. Thanks for the comment! –  Jamess Sep 10 '11 at 5:02

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