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unexpected loveGOD'S HEART REVEALED IN JESUS' CONVERSATIONS WITH WOMEN
By JULIE ZINE COLEMAN
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2013 Julie Zine Coleman
All right reserved.
Chapter OneOn the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine."
And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come."
His mother said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it."
Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. Jesus said to them, "Fill the waterpots with water." So they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, "Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter." So they took it to him.
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, 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."
This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.
Mother Doesn't Always Know Best
JESUS AND MARY AT THE WEDDING AT CANA
It is an embarrassing situation. The host has run out of wine, and the party is still going strong. Mary brings the problem to her son Jesus, who does not respond as she thought he would. Their resulting interchange is disconcerting to the reader. What is she really asking him to do? Is he being disrespectful to his mother in his response? What was the significance of making this his first miracle?
The wedding began as so many others through the years in Cana. A noisy, joyful group left the groom's house and paraded through the streets, accompanying him on his mission to collect his bride. Music announced the boisterous procession as they wound their way, finally arriving at the bride's home.
Both bride and groom were crowned in garlands and led back to the groom's home. Friends and family carried lamps and torches to light the way. People from the town lined the route to cheer on the procession and, once it had passed them, joined in.
Upon the group's arrival at the groom's home, a formal, legal agreement was signed, and the groom promised to care for his new wife, keeping her in the manner of the men of Israel. The couple was led to the marriage bed and left in privacy to consummate the union. The marriage ceremony was now complete, and the party began in earnest.
Guests filled the house to enjoy the abundant food and wine. Happiness and goodwill flooded the residence as friends and family celebrated the joyous occasion. They would remain for a week or more, eating, drinking, and socializing. The groom's parents considered their hospitality an act of religious significance, following the example of Abraham and David. It was important to all Jews that they welcome their guests and aptly provide for their comfort and needs.
At one point, Mary, who was helping with the festivities, looked up from a conversation to see a worried servant approaching. He quietly informed her of a problem: they had run out of wine. Mary winced. The celebration showed no signs of slowing down. To fail to provide for their guests' needs would prove humiliating for the hosts, to say the least.
After racking her brain for a minute or two, Mary turned to seek her son, whom she knew might furnish a solution. Moving her gaze around the room, she spotted him close to the entryway, laughing with a few of the other guests and his newly avowed disciples. Mary hurried to where they stood and pulled him aside. Jesus and his five disciples moved with her into the entryway.
"Jesus, they are out of wine," she informed him. Jesus' eyes met Mary's. Both of them knew the implications of the unforeseen shortage on the groom's family. The disciples looked at each other. What did she expect Jesus to do? They had just arrived in town, with little money between them and no connections with the people of Cana.
Jesus answered her, "Woman, what does that have to do with me? My hour has not yet come."
Mary steadily returned his gaze. She felt confident that Jesus would somehow find the right thing to do. He had taken care of things for his family since his father's passing. She trusted him to manage this as well.
Mary turned to the servants who followed her, still anxiously awaiting her direction. "Do whatever he says to you," she simply instructed them.
Jesus pointed to the six large stone waterpots standing nearby on the floor. Much of the water they originally contained was long gone, used for traditional cleansing rites performed by host and guests in the preceding days. "Fill these waterpots back up to the brim," he instructed. The disciples watched the servants move quickly to do his bidding, wondering as they fulfilled their task. How would more water solve the problem?
Once finished, the servants stood back, waiting for the next instruction. Jesus surprised them by saying, "Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter." Why would the headwaiter want to taste the water? And what about the wine? Why wasn't Jesus doing something about that?
One servant moved forward, lifted the ladle, and began to pour the water into a goblet. To his shock and to the astonishment of those watching, what poured from the ladle looked like rich red wine! What in the world? Hadn't they just filled the pots with water?
Hands shaking, the servant took the goblet to the headwaiter. The man, who had no clue that anything unusual was afoot, took a healthy gulp. A look of appreciation came over his face. Obviously this was a new batch of wine being introduced. The quality difference was unmistakable. How unusual to serve the superior wine in the latter part of the celebration!
The disciples watched in amazement as the headwaiter called across the room to the bridegroom. "I just tasted the new wine," he told him. "Usually at occasions like this, the host brings out the finest wine at the beginning, when people are thirsty and will most appreciate quality fare. Once people have drunk freely, they lose their discerning palate and don't notice the inferior wine served later on in the celebration. But you, sir, have saved the best for last!"
The guests cheered and held up their goblets to be filled again. Servants quickly ladled the wine into pitchers and began liberally distributing it among the crowd. With such an abundance, running out was no longer a concern. The celebration, rejuvenated by the introduction of fine wine, continued into the night.
Mary stood at the door of the room, smiling, enjoying the pleasure of the guests. The disciples huddled together, discussing what they had just witnessed. During the past few days, Jesus had impressed them with his powerful words and inexplicable insight. Today he revealed a different kind of power, defying the natural world and proving he was no ordinary man. Seeing this incredible miracle sealed the deal for them. They now firmly believed he was the Messiah.
What did Mary know about Jesus as Messiah?
How much did Mary understand about her son in his formative years? From the beginning, it was certainly obvious that he was no ordinary child. An angel announced to her that he would be conceived by the Holy Spirit, not by normal human means. He would be great, would rule on the throne of his ancestor David, and would be called the "Son of God." Joseph was told to name him Jesus, "for he will save His people from their sins."
Her older cousin Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, was moved by the Holy Spirit to call Mary "the mother of my Lord." The night of Jesus' birth, he was visited by shepherds, who shared the angels' announcement that sent them to the stable: "For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (The name Christ is Greek for "anointed one" and was a commonly used title for the promised deliverer of Israel.)
When he was eight days old, his parents took him to the temple in nearby Jerusalem to be dedicated and presented to the Lord. There the baby was prophesied over by Simeon and Anna, who both confirmed him to be the salvation of Israel. Sometime later they received a visit from unusually distinguished guests: wise men from the East came bearing gifts and worshipped the little boy.
While we know what Mary saw and heard in the days surrounding his birth, we don't know how much she really understood. We are only told she "treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart."
Not long after his birth, Jesus' parents were warned in a dream to leave Bethlehem and go to Egypt for a time. They narrowly escaped Herod's attempt to remove a perceived threat to his throne: he murdered all of Bethlehem's little boys aged two and under. Once Herod died and the coast was clear, Joseph and Mary were directed by another dream to return to Galilee, back to their hometown of Nazareth, with their little son. There they settled down and made a life for their new family.
Mary's husband, Joseph, was a carpenter by trade. He and Mary raised their family in the isolated, insignificant village on the limited income of a hand laborer. It was an inauspicious beginning for a king.
The only other information we have about Jesus' formative years is an account given by Luke of a family trip to Jerusalem when he was twelve. They had gone to celebrate the Passover, traveling with a caravan of relatives and friends from home. On the way back, Joseph and Mary, assuming he was with friends, eventually discovered that Jesus was missing, probably when they made camp for the evening and gathered the family together to eat. Sick with worry, the couple hurried back to the city and searched for three harrowing days. Finally they found him sitting calmly in the temple dialoguing with teachers of the Law. Mary, emotional from three days of anxiety, sobbed out her angst and relief: "Son, why have you treated us like this? Here your father and I have been anxiously searching for you!"
Jesus looked up, sincerely surprised that his parents would have worried. "Why were you searching for me?" he asked them. "Didn't you know that I must be involved in my Father's interests?"
Luke summed up the parent-child relationship for the remaining pre-adult years with these simple words: "He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them."
First-century Jewish culture gave a mother full control over her sons until they reached the age of thirteen. She was fully responsible to train them in obedience, character, and morality according to the law of Moses. Once a boy reached the age of thirteen, the father took over, apprenticing his son in a trade and taking him to the synagogue for spiritual instruction. Because Joseph probably died sometime between Jesus' age of twelve and thirty, Mary may have been involved with Jesus' later upbringing more directly than most mothers.
In many aspects it is hard to imagine being the mother of the Son of God. By the time he was thirty, Jesus fully understood who he was and what he had come to do. But how much did he understand when he was, say, five years old? What would the many mother-son conversations over the years have contained? What did she need to teach him? Luke's words seem to infer a definite learning curve as Jesus grew up: "Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." Surely Mary must have recounted the many things God revealed around the time of his birth. Did he, in turn, share his growing knowledge with her as it was revealed to him? We'll never know. But certainly she must have felt especially purposeful as she endeavored to raise this special child.
Why would Mary go to Jesus to solve the wine problem when he had never performed a miracle before?
Mary knew, of course, Jesus was the Messiah. It is possible she heard about the events in the days immediately preceding the wedding—maybe from his disciples. He'd gone into the wilderness to be baptized by John the Baptist, and as he came up out of the water, God's spirit descended from the sky like a dove. A voice from heaven declared: "You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased." Jesus then spent forty days in the wilderness in prayer and mental preparation for what lay ahead. When he returned, he began taking on disciples, telling them, "You will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."
Things had begun to happen. Was this the beginning of a new phase for her son? If Mary was aware of these things, she may have thought the situation was the perfect opportunity for him to make public his identity. What better way to announce he was the Messiah than by miraculously solving their host's problem for a ready-made crowd? No doubt (as any proud mother would) she had lived the past thirty years in eager anticipation for the time his true identity would finally be revealed.
So Mary approached Jesus, presenting him with what she saw as a golden opportunity. Maybe God himself had orchestrated these circumstances for that very purpose! Jesus' response shows he didn't see it that way: "Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come."
Was Jesus being disrespectful of Mary in the way he spoke to her?
Jesus' words to Mary have been interpreted with widely differing views. We must look at his reply from a historical-cultural perspective as well as within the context of the biblical text to correctly hear what he said.
First, Jesus called his mother woman. I'm pretty sure that my mother would not have appreciated my using such a title in talking to her. But then again, we are centuries removed from the original cultural context. Woman was neither an unusual nor an offensive term of address. We find two examples in other ancient literature. In Homer's Iliad, the Greek hero Odysseus addresses his beloved wife as woman. Within that same general time period, Augustus Caesar used the same title for the revered Egyptian queen Cleopatra. In both cases, woman was used with respect and fondness.
Later in John, Jesus called his mother woman once again. This time it was from the cross, as he hung near death's door. "Woman," he gasped, indicating the disciple John standing by her side. "Behold, your son!" Then he looked at John and instructed, "Behold, your mother!" compelling him to care for Mary in the difficult days ahead. The situation certainly indicates a tone of tenderness and concern. Clearly the address was not intended to be insulting in the least.
After calling her woman, Jesus asked his mother a puzzling question. The New American Standard Bible translates it, "What does that have to do with us?" The phrase is actually a Greek idiom, which is literally translated, "What to me and to you?" Demons used the same idiom when Jesus confronted them, and it is translated, "What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?"
Many commentators suggest Jesus was drawing a line in the sand. Mary had overstepped her bounds. She was trying to assert her parental authority over him, failing to understand her son's mission. His response was a rebuke, an intentional disengagement, meant to distance himself from her.
The problem with this interpretation is its inconsistency with the way that the rest of Scripture depicts the character of Christ. Would Jesus treat his mother with such callous disregard, especially in light of the concern she had just expressed for the wedding hosts? Jesus was well aware of the fifth commandment: honor your father and mother. He would later rebuke the Pharisees for neglecting this very command because of ministry priorities. It is inconsistent to think that Jesus would turn his back on his mother for the sake of ministry when he pointed out this practice as erroneous in others.
So what did Jesus intend to say with this puzzling phrase?
It is helpful to compare this conversation with a second conversation sharing an identical structure: Jesus' interaction with the Syrophoenician woman (covered fully in chapter 4). She also came to Jesus with a request: that he would deliver her daughter from demon possession. Jesus did not positively respond to her expressed need either—in fact, he also refused her at first. Then he gave a reason why he should not help, just as he did at Cana.
What turned the tide in both conversations? Expressions of faith. Jesus commended the Syrophoenician woman for her faith. He then granted her request.
By instructing the servants to do as Jesus asked, Mary was expressing faith in Jesus. She was content to let Jesus work things out in his own way, in his own time. As with the Syrophoenician woman, Jesus responded to her faith with a miracle.
His initial refusal in both accounts is really a means to an end. He is driving them further in their trust relationship with him. His puzzling words are merely a way to move them forward.
What was "the hour" to which Jesus referred?
"My hour has not yet come," Jesus explained to his mother. To what hour was Jesus referring?
We can certainly eliminate a couple of possibilities of what Jesus meant by observing his ensuing actions. As soon as he finished speaking with Mary, he went ahead and performed the miracle. So obviously Jesus was not telling her it was not the time he would start doing miracles. Nor could it have been an expression of unwillingness to help their hapless hosts, because he did go ahead and solve their problem.
So what was Jesus talking about?
In the book of John, he used similar language when his brothers urged him to go up to Jerusalem and make his messiahship public. "No one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world," they told him. Jesus responded to their advice: "Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast because My time has not yet fully come."
Jesus then went on to do exactly what he said he wouldn't. He made the trip to Jerusalem, just as they suggested. But John was careful to point out that Jesus' reason for being in Jerusalem was opposite from what his brothers suggested: "He Himself also went up, not publicly, but as if, in secret." Going to Jerusalem was not the problem. It was plans to make a public announcement there that concerned him.
John also cited two instances when people wanted to seize him but were unable to accomplish that because "His hour had not yet come."
Excerpted from unexpected love by JULIE ZINE COLEMAN Copyright © 2013 by Julie Zine Coleman. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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