Monday, October 22, 2007

An Answer to Why Jesus Said to Mary- My Hour Has Not Yet Come (aka "Blood & Water")

In my last post on “The Glory of Jesus Christ”, I focused on the central theme of John 1- the deity of Jesus. This is fundamental to the acceptance of the Gospel, for if another man suffers God’s judgment as punishment for my sin, it would not cleanse me in God’s eyes. But if it is the Father’s perfect “Kinsman” who voluntarily becomes the surrogate & bears my due death sentence, then & only then would this act of penal substitution be effectual. If He wasn’t the Son of God, being hence God, then my punishment still awaits.

With the vital foundation of Jesus Christ’s deity firmly established by the Scripture presented in the previous post, I follow the Apostle’s narrative as he opens John 2. He tells of the Lord’s first miracle, & this miracle has far greater meaning than most perceive at first glance. It is much more than a simple miracle that begins His ministry. It illustrates the core necessity & purpose of His visitation.

All Scriptural quotations are the NASB, 1995 revision)

John 2:1-3 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; (2) and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. (3) When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine."

Some "loose" translations (NIV), in an attempt to clarify the actual events of this passage, depart from the Greek & read in this manner: “When the wine was gone” & “they have no more wine." This seems less awkward to read, but it veils the larger picture the Holy Spirit was trying to portray.

John 2:4 And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come."

Some have opined that Mary was attempting to pressure Jesus to begin His ministry of miracles & Jesus, by this statement, was rebuking her. Nothing could be further from the truth. Such momentous times could only be ordained by God alone. But then what does Jesus speak of by this conundrum?

Jesus points to a future time throughout the Gospels when He states “My hour has not yet come.”

John 7:29-30 Jesus said of the Father: "I know Him, because I am from Him, and He sent me." They sought therefore to take Him. No one laid a hand on Him, because His hour was not yet come.

John 8:20 Jesus spoke these words in the treasury, as He taught in the temple. No one took Him, because His hour had not yet come.

Notice the same references to a still future "hour" continue, though the "hour" of His ministry of teaching & healing has already come. So it is clear the reference in John 2 does not speak of such things. So what "hour" does He refer to? Read on as Gospel narratives move through Christ's ministry towards the appointed time of His death...

Mark 14:33-41 And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. (34) And He said to them, "My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch." (35) And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. (36) And He was saying, "Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will." (37) And He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? (38) Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." (39) Again He went away and prayed, saying the same words. (40) And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him. (41) And He came the third time, and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough; the hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.”

John 12:23-24 And Jesus answered them, saying, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. (24) 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.”

Jesus produced a bountiful harvest by His death. Had He not taken up the cross, He would have remained alone among those who have trod this Earth in both pure righteousness & intimacy with the Father; but through His death, we enter in with Him if our old self was crucified with Him (Rom 6:6).

John 17:1-3 Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, (2) even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. (3) This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

Jesus’ death was no accident or unfortunate incident. No, He had “authority over all flesh,” He could have prohibited it- save for His loyalty to the Father's will & His love for His disciples- He did not.

John 12:27 "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."

Jesus states the hour of His suffering is indeed the core "purpose" of His ministry. With this statement in John 2, He was beginning His ministry with His eyes fixed upon its end goal & purpose.

Now, with that fact established, let's return to John 2...

John 2:5-6 His mother *said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it." (6) Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification(1), containing twenty or thirty gallons each.

These were no ordinary vessels; they were used only for the Jewish rite of ceremonial washing – a ritual purging of the unseen spiritual corruption one would inexorably become tainted with in the course of life; for example:

Leviticus 17:15-16 When any person eats an animal which dies or is torn by beasts, whether he is a native or an alien, he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and remain unclean until evening; then he will become clean. (16) But if he does not wash them or bathe his body, then he shall bear his guilt.

Jesus, in using these to contain the miraculous wine was making a prophetic statement: that He, & only He was capable of transforming the merely ritualistic & short-term cleansing of the Law into the genuine & everlasting cleansing of the blood (for the wine represents the blood in communion).

In light of this, let’s back up & re-examine John 2:3-

John 2:3 And when the wine ran out(2), the mother of Jesus *said to Him, "They have no(3) wine."

Mary was only a guest at the wedding & thus bore no liability for this provision, but perhaps she asked Jesus because she felt trapped in a social malaise- responsible for the shortage- given verse 2’s seeming expanded invitation- “And Jesus (also) was invited, and His disciples, to the wedding.” Also the assumption is often made that Mary said this so Jesus would remedy the lack of wine, but that is pure supposition. The text bears no information regarding Mary’s expectations. The idea of Mary’s supposed call for Christ to produce a miracle is in fact contradicted by Jesus’ response in v. 4; for as we have seen, the “hour” refers to the hour of His death, not the ministry of miracles. John Calvin postulated Mary might have foreseen no more than a rousing oratory from her son: “it is possible that, without expecting any remedy of this sort, she advised him to give some pious exhortations which would have the effect of preventing the guests from feeling uneasiness, and at the same time of relieving the shame of the bridegroom.”

But what also counters the idea that Mary had no spiritual insight or prescience was the narrator (God’s Spirit within John) has Mary using a very different word to describe what was lacking. It’s fascinating & important to note that Mary used the rudimentary Greek word “ouk”(3), for she only spoke of the shortage in wine quantity that she & her newly arrived party bore some responsibility for, but God’s Spirit narrated a much deeper lack- the lack of the merely ceremonial Jewish wine’s quality by choosing to use a much more complex word- “hustereo”(2) in His assessment of the wedding party’s deeper need for a spiritual wine. Studying this word & its Greek roots shows no foundation for using it to primarily speak of a failure of quantity. “Hustereo”(#5302) comes from “husteros” (#5306), which in turn comes from “hupo”(#5259); all of these words primarily connote something inferior in quality, not quantity.

Instead of “ran out”, the ASV, Bishops, Geneva, Douay-Rheims, Revised Version, Tyndale, Wycliffe, & Young’s Literal Translation use “failed”, Murdock’s & Weymouth’s uses “ran short”, the Vulgate & John Nelson Darby’s translation use “deficient” to translate this word. These older translations, untainted by modern “emergent church” seeker friendly philosophies that demand simplistic renderings of Scripture, much better express what I believe the Spirit was insinuating- that the earthly wine that man brings to the wedding feast is an utter failure because it is wholly deficient in nature..

Hebrews 9:8-26 The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing, (9) which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, (10) since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation. (11) But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; (12) and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. (13) For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, (14) how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (15) For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. (16) For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. (17) For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives. (18) Therefore even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood. (19) For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, (20) saying, "THIS IS THE BLOOD OF THE COVENANT WHICH GOD COMMANDED YOU." (21) And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood. (22) And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (23) Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. (24) For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; (25) nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. (26) Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

Hebrews 10:4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Colossians 1:19-20 For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, (20) and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

Back once again to our story in John 2...

John 2:7 Jesus *said to them, "Fill the waterpots with water." So they filled them up to the brim.

The cup of Christ’s blood, & therefore His grace, overflows abundantly for the task of cleansing sin.

John 2:8-10 And He *said to them, "Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter." So they took it to him. (9) When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter *called the bridegroom, (10) and *said to him, "Every man serves the good(4) wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer(5) wine; but you have kept the good wine until now."

God commanded the Israelites to spill the blood of bulls & goats, the poorer wine which came first correspondingly. This lesser wine’s purpose was to simply hold place till the time for the truly good wine’s arrival.

John 2:11 This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.

This sign was first both chronologically & in significance – the sign of the cross is pre-eminent throughout Christ‘s ministry. Just as it was not just mere happenstance that the event of the cross would come His way later, it was no simple coincidence that He was present at this event to prophesy, to those who can hear the Spirit’s witness, of His coming salvation. We know this because near the end of chapter 1 (v. 43) John tells us Jesus “purposed to go forth into Galilee” from Bethany’s baptismal. That statement indicates an aim in Galilee, & I believe the “beginning of His signs” was that aim. Before the fullness of Scripture was given, God often spoke to His people with signs; indeed, God hardened Pharaoh’s already proud, hard heart (Ex. 10:3) against God’s firstborn for the for the purpose of both sign & judgment:

Exodus 7:3-5 "But I will harden Pharaoh's heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. (4) When Pharaoh does not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt and bring out My hosts, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments. (5) The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst."

So, this is no marginal minor miracle, but a poignant prophetic “purposed” sign. The Son of God, being therefore God, “knew all things”; there were no happy (or unhappy) accidents in course of His ministry. Moses’ first public sign was turning water into blood- & this sign forebode the last sign- the death of the firstborn son for the cause of sin. The Egyptians suffered this sign for their own sin, but Christ “knew no sin”, yet at the cross was made “to be sin on our behalf”(1Cor 5:21). Moses’ people were saved by the blood of the sacrificial lamb, & so likewise for us in the present day. Christ’s first sign likewise foretold His last sign- the death of God’s one & only Son.

John tells us later in his first epistle that Christ has three signs that testify:

1 John 5:5-8 “Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (6) This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. (7) For there are three that testify: (8) the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.”

John’s clear desire in verse 6 to contrast the water & the blood with his Gnostic influenced audience speaks to the nature of these signs. The Gnostic perversion came through Greek philosophy at the end of the first century, countering the true disciples’ claim that Christ was both fully man & fully God. It is the false “gnosis” (knowledge) that Paul also rebukes in 1 Tim 6:20. The Gnostic could not accept that Jesus was simultaneously God & man, but John declared that he had witnessed Christ’s anthropologetic nature & weakness, His Godly character & authority, & His sufferings at Calvary. John is therefore stating his fitness to testify:

1) to the Spirit- for He was conceived not of a man’s will but of the Holy Spirit; Jesus was therefore the Son of God. The Spirit Himself additionally witnesses this through His Word & His presence.

2) to the water-the natural birth experience that speaks to His humanity that John was a three year witness of as he followed Christ. Jesus was therefore the Son of Man; the humble servant typified by Ezekiel (in Ezekiel 2ff) & envisioned by Daniel (Dan. 7:13-14).

3) to the blood- for John was a witness, indeed the closest witness to Christ’s sufferings at Calvary; Jesus was therefore born again (resurrected) through the testimony of the blood. This testimony, conjoined with the water & the Spirit’s testimony, testify to the certain need for sin’s judgment; for if so great a One as this would need to suffer for our sin, then how great is that sin?

The "beginning of His signs" was pointing towards His greatest sign- His defeat of death.

John 2:12-13 After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and they stayed there a few days. (13) The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

I think it is of no happenstance that He began His ministry at the time of the Passover, given the already stated comparisons with the other signs of the exodus.

Ecc 3:1 To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven.

Romans 5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law


By using the term “woman”, Jesus was drawing a dividing distinction between His heretofore situation as a mere son of man & His coming revelation as the Son of God. He was speaking to Mary not in the earthly sense- as a son to his mother, but in the heavenly sense- as a loving Father (Is. 9:6) to His beloved daughter, leading her (& us) to perceive the deepest prophetic implications of the coming minor work’s true purpose- to foreshadow the major work of Christ’s cleansing blood. Indeed, the next time we see Jesus calling Mary “woman” is when He is on the cross giving responsibility for her care to John (John 19:26). Surely He was not being contentious with her there, was He? In first century Palestine, “woman” was a term of endearment & not the term of rebuke it is today. Witness John 20:13-15 to further verify this context.

W. E. Vine‘s definition of “woman” from “Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words”-

gune (G1135)- used of a "woman" unmarried or married, e.g., Matt.11:11; Matt.14:21; Luke 4:26, of a "widow"; Rom. 7:2; in the vocative case, used in addressing a "woman," it is a term not of reproof or severity, but of endearment or respect, Matt.15:28; John 2:4, where the Lord's words to His mother at the wedding in Cana, are neither rebuff nor rebuke. The question is, lit., "What to Me and to thee?" and the word "woman," the term of endearment, follows this.

Accepting the prophetic point illustrated by this miracle, that the natural, human works-based sanctification of the Law cannot satisfy the Father's demand for justice, His riddling response to Mary in John 2:4 becomes understandable. By saying “Woman, what does that have to do with us?” Jesus is deriding the minor issue of the wedding party’s momentary lack of the merely ceremonial physical wine, while the ensuing “My hour has not yet come” speaks to the major issue- it prophesies His propitious purpose in coming to earth. The Greek, translated directly, reads “What to me & to you, woman?” By this, Jesus was saying this physical need is so trivial compared to her real need to be inebriated in the spiritual wine of Christ. Jesus in verse 4 is speaking much more to what should be Mary’s actual concern- her & her peoples’ need for spiritual intoxication. She, like the Martha in Luke 10, seemed overly concerned with trifling temporal concerns of day-to-day life instead giving ear to the teaching of Christ. We know Christ surely felt this way about Mary when He disparagingly contrasted those devoted ones who were inside listening to Him, with His mother & brothers who were outside, obviously caring little for His teachings (Mark 3:32-35).

Mary’s myopic concern was like ours- fixed upon the wedding guests’ needs of the moment; conversely, Christ’s farseeing sagacious eyes were always fixed upon the “hour” of His death that would usher in the true wedding feast. The calices of Cana commissioned Christ’s Calvary cry.

We (the church) are Christ’s bride, & His truest concern was & is the real feast to come- at the wedding supper of the Lamb.

(1) “purification”- katharismos (kath-ar-is-mos'); Greek, Noun Masculine; Strong #: 2512
1) a cleansing, purification, a ritual purgation or washing
a. of the washing of the Jews before and after their meals
b. of levitical purification of women after childbirth

(2) “ran short”- hustereo (hoos-ter-eh'-o); ὑστερέω̄ : Greek, Verb; Strong #: 5302
1) behind
1a) to come late or too tardily
1a1) to be left behind in the race and so fail to reach the goal, to fall short of the end
1a2) metaphorically fail to become a partaker, fall back from
1b) to be inferior in power, influence and rank
1b1) of the person: to be inferior to
1c) to fail, be wanting
1d) to be in want of, lack
2) to suffer want, to be devoid of, to lack (be inferior) in excellence, worth

(3) “no”- ouk (ook); Greek, Particle; Strong #: 3756
no, not; in direct questions expecting an affirmative answer

5 comments:

Even So... said...

Much better look Steve...

Zoarean's Purse said...

Thanks JD. I have an innate desire for simplicity in both form & function. I especially sense the need to not obscure the austere truth of God's Word with excessive adornment, but I agree I went too far with the previous spartan template & (lack of) color.

Even So... said...

Oh, and I read the stuff you gave me Sunday, it is excellent...

Paul said...

I guess I'm a little late getting here for this Post or perhaps God's timing makes it perfect?

I really enjoyed reading and further understanding this passage, Steve. Thanks for taking the time.

Zoarean said...

"I guess I'm a little late getting here for this Post or perhaps God's timing makes it perfect?"

I gotcha Paul. Yeah, God's timing always reveals itself as perfect, especially in contrast with my timeline of "I want it now, now, now!"

Thanks for the comment.