John 2:1-4 – Jesus’ First Miracle Part I

John 2:1–4 (ESV) — 1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”


John 2:3–5 (ESV) — 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

A wedding crisis:
• Given the presence of Jesus and His mother, it is probable that the wedding was for a relative or family friend.
• It is also reasonable to assume that Mary had some role in the catering of the wedding given her interest in the wine.
• A wedding celebration could last as long as a week, so a great deal of food and drink were necessitated.
• To run out would have been shameful and an embarrassment.
• It was in this context that Mary approached Jesus, her son, and told him, “They have no wine”.
• Now we don’t know if Mary knew what Jesus was capable of, but we do know as her firstborn she would have naturally looked to Him for help (she was probably a widow at this time).
    o Yet because we are told by John that this is the first sign/miracle of Jesus it is likely that Mary was not expecting a miracle.
    o Interestingly, in the uninspired Gospel of Thomas, a weird story is told of the toddler Jesus.
    o We are told that he was playing by the river on the Sabbath and was making clay pigeons.
    o Someone told Joseph of Jesus’ activity and he came to Jesus to find out what was going on.
    o Jesus essentially turned the pigeons into real birds and said what pigeons (Curiously, I have run into this story twice this week).

Jesus’ “stiff-arm” response in verse 4:
• Jesus said to His mother, “Woman, what does this have to do with me?
    o Or “Why do you involve me”.
    o Or even better, “You have no claims on me”.
Is His response as harsh as it sounds?
• Woman, “though thoroughly courteous, is not normally an endearing term, nor the form of address preferred by a son addressing a much-loved mother” – D.A. Carson.
• There really is no English equivalent, but what comes closest is Ma’am.
• And when coupled with “what does this have to do with me”, Jesus is definitely giving Mary the “stiff arm” in the words of John Piper.

How can we be sure that this was a “stiff arm”?

Let’s take a look at the only other 5 instances where the phrase “have to do with me/us” shows up in the NT.
• Matthew 8:29 (ESV) — 29 And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?”
    o This is a demon’s response after Jesus had just calmed the sea and wind.
• Mark 1:24 (ESV) — 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”
    o This is a demon’s response after Jesus demonstrated his authority at Capernaum.
• Mark 5:7 (ESV) — 7 And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.”
     o This is a demon’s response after seeing Jesus and falling down before Jesus.
• Luke 4:34 (ESV) — 34 “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”
    o As before, this is a demon’s response after Jesus had demonstrated His authority in Galilee.
• Luke 8:28 (ESV) — 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.”
    o This is a demon’s response after Jesus had commanded it to come out of a man.

As can be seen, every other case the phrase “have to do with me/us” is used in the NT, it is spoken by demons to Jesus when he has or is about evict them from their human host.
• In other words, this phrase is said to Jesus when he “intrudes in their domain and starts to exert power where they were in control” – John Piper.
• And it is in this way that Jesus uses the phrase with His mother Mary.
    o She was attempting to exert an authority over Jesus that, for some reason, Jesus felt was not her place to do at this moment.
• So, whatever else it did, Jesus’ response to Mary, at the very least, created distance between Jesus and His mother.

But why did Jesus see a need to create this distance?
• The wedding feast is, John tells us, where Jesus first reveals His glory through signs and wonders so that “we may know” He is the Messiah; His divine mission.
• And given this, Jesus saw a need to create this distance because, “everything, even family ties, had to be subordinated to his divine mission. She could no longer view him as other mothers viewed their sons; she must no longer be allowed the prerogatives of motherhood…he, like every other person, must come to him as to the promised Messiah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Neither she nor anyone else dare presume to approach him on an ‘inside track’—a lesson even Peter had to learn” – D.A. Carson.
• Another way to put it is, “faith over family” – John Piper.
    o Most interestingly, Carson speculates that this encounter with Jesus could also be seen as part of the fulfillment of Luke 2:35.
    o Luke 2:35 (ESV) — 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

But what about the rest of His response; it seems to make no sense at all?
• He tells Mary, “My hour has not yet come.”
• BTW - This will not be the only time Jesus makes this claim in John’s Gospel:
    o John 7:30 (ESV) — 30 So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.
    o John 8:20 (ESV) — 20 These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.
    o And he does eventually affirm His time has come.
    o John 12:23–24 (ESV) — 23 And Jesus answered them, “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.
• Mary was simply looking for a way to avoid a shameful event (running out of wine) and yet this phrase of Jesus seems to indicate so much more was going on or at stake.
• He had already rebuffed her and now He in effect tells her, “The time for the purification of sin through my death, resurrection and exaltation to glory is not yet upon us”.
Want does this have to do with anything Mary was talking about?
• Plus, when we consider that Jesus went ahead and took care of the wine problem anyway, it becomes even stranger.

The answer to our question can be found in the following possibilities:
• (1) It seems possible that Mary was asking Jesus to do something divine or reveal Himself.
    o And as James Boice points out, Mary surely noticed that Jesus showed up with 5 or 6 strangers and so probably had an idea that something was up.
    o So she may have been thinking, “now is the time to declare yourself openly”.
• (2) Jesus was aware of a deeper symbolism in play with the wedding and the wine.
    o He knew that, “The prophets characterized the messianic age as a time when wine would flow liberally” (Amos 9:13-14; Je. 31:12; Ho. 14:7) – D.A Carson.
    o He knew of Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messianic Banquet, as follows:
    o Isaiah 25:6–9 (ESV) — 6 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. 7 And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.
    o And He himself, in Matthew 22, Jesus tells the Parable of the Wedding Feast.
    o So if He was, “treating the developing circumstances as an acted parable, Jesus is entirely correct to say that the hour of great wine, the hour of his glorification, has not yet come” – D.A. Carson.
• (3) This event was one of many of Jesus that pointed to and “anticipated the glorification of Jesus on the cross” – D.A. Carson.
    o And in verse 11, we see that the disciples got a glimpse of this future glory.
• (4) Jesus saw it as an opportunity to reveal Himself as the Messianic Bridegroom to His mother and disciples.
    o Just as John the Baptist called Jesus in John 3:29-30.
    o Therefore he will provide all the “wine” needed for the Messianic Banquet mentioned earlier.
• (5) Jesus chose to “act out a parable” for the benefit of His disciples and mother:
    o He asked the servants to use “rites of purification jars” or “ceremonial washing jars” in verse 6.
    o So according to John Piper, it as if Jesus is saying, “I will take the purification rituals of Israel and replace them with a decisively new way of purification—namely, with my blood…I will give you an acted out parable of my death and what it will mean.
    o Purification comes only through Jesus Christ not religion.