“Woman, why do you involve me? My hour has not yet come.”
The very first public miracle that Jesus performed was turning water into wine. This took place at a wedding in the small town of Cana in Galilee. Given the apparent involvement of Jesus’ mother with the proceedings, and the fact that Jesus and his disciples were also invited, it is likely that this was the wedding of a relative or close family friend.
We sometimes tend to forget that Jesus had a family. It’s strange to think of Jesus living an everyday life at home all those years before his public ministry. And even stranger to think of what life must have been like for his family – his brothers and sisters, and especially his mother. However, the gospels do not provide us with much insight into those relationships. What we do know is this: his brothers did not believe in him (John 7:5), but his mother most certainly did. She had heard the declarations of both men and angels, telling her that Jesus would bring salvation to Israel, and that he would rule over an everlasting kingdom. And all of these things were treasured away in her heart. (Luke 2:19, Luke 2:51)
Jesus would have known his mother’s heart, for he knew what was in the hearts of all men. We must keep that in mind when examining the brief snippet of dialogue that occurred between the two of them at the wedding feast, when the wine supply ran out. Jesus’ mother approached him and said, “They have no more wine.” “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” His mother then instructed the servants, saying, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:3-5)
“Woman, why do you involve me?” – Although it was a perfectly respectful term in the language of the day, the fact that he addressed her as “woman,” and not as “mother,” might indicate that he was establishing some distance in their relationship. This quote is from the NIV, but other Bible translations vary wildly, ranging from “Dear woman, that’s not our problem” (NLT) to “Woman, what have I to do with you?” (AKJV). I happen to prefer the World English Bible version of “Woman, what does that have to do with you and me?” because it does not convey such an irritable tone, and appears to be a more literal translation of the Greek.
“My hour has not yet come.” – Of all the people in that room, it was only Mary who really understood who Jesus was. She knew that he was the only begotten Son of God, the promised Messiah who would bring salvation to all mankind, whose kingdom would have no end. But I doubt whether she realized this was all to come about through his death on a cross. I believe that his response to her is not a rebuke for approaching him with the problem, but rather a challenge to examine her own preconceptions regarding him, and his mission.
As we read of this interaction between Mary and Jesus, we must be careful not to attribute them with our own carnal stereotypes of mothers and sons. Mary was not a pushy “stage mother,” eager for her son to share his gifts with the world; she was a godly, humble woman who was full of faith. Jesus was not a recalcitrant son, reluctantly acting in order to appease his mother; he was the righteous Son of God, who lived his life in perfect obedience to the will of his heavenly Father. And, even though the Bible doesn’t provide us with any clues as to his facial expression or tone of voice, or even whether he was seated or standing, there still must have been something in his manner that made her think he was about to do something, for she proceeded to instruct the servants to do “whatever he says” – and the result was simply miraculous!