I don’t know about you, but when I read the bible, I hear it, I picture it, and often times it strikes me as the meat for a really good movie script. Case in point, last year in 1 Samuel, in chapter 23 we are shown how David and his men are on the run from Saul and his men, and they are on opposite sides of the same “mountain”.
15 David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. David was in the wilderness of Ziph at Horesh. 16 And Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God. 17 And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this.” 18 And the two of them made a covenant before the LORD. David remained at Horesh, and Jonathan went home.
19 Then the Ziphites went up to Saul at Gibeah, saying, “Is not David hiding among us in the strongholds at Horesh, on the hill of Hachilah, which is south of Jeshimon? 20 Now come down, O king, according to all your heart’s desire to come down, and our part shall be to surrender him into the king’s hand.” 21 And Saul said, “May you be blessed by the LORD, for you have had compassion on me. 22 Go, make yet more sure. Know and see the place where his foot is, and who has seen him there, for it is told me that he is very cunning. 23 See therefore and take note of all the lurking places where he hides, and come back to me with sure information. Then I will go with you. And if he is in the land, I will search him out among all the thousands of Judah.” 24 And they arose and went to Ziph ahead of Saul.
Now David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon, in the Arabah to the south of Jeshimon. 25 And Saul and his men went to seek him. And David was told, so he went down to the rock and lived in the wilderness of Maon. And when Saul heard that, he pursued after David in the wilderness of Maon. 26 Saul went on one side of the mountain, and David and his men on the other side of the mountain. And David was hurrying to get away from Saul. As Saul and his men were closing in on David and his men to capture them, 27 a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Hurry and come, for the Philistines have made a raid against the land.” 28 So Saul returned from pursuing after David and went against the Philistines.
Right as he is about to get caught, God intervenes and diverts Saul. Doesn’t that sound like a great movie scene? Or how about in Daniel, after Darius has decreed that the people will pray to no one but him. Then we see Daniel defying the decree and remaining faithful, only to have the royal advisors just waiting for him to mess up so they can get rid of him. Or Zechariah, who was in the temple, was visited by an angel who told him he and his wife would have a son, and when he questioned the angel, his ability to speak was taken away until the day his son was named. Now, if you are unaware, in Jewish tradition, the baby is not named until the 8th day of life, and it is a party. Family are gathered, if it is a male child he is circumcised, the name is announced, and they celebrate. Now imagine the drama as the mute Zechariah, as soon as the baby’s name is announced, suddenly regaining his voice!
There are other instances that play well as movie scenes, but of the more dark kind. The serpent convincing Eve to eat the fruit from the tree, Saul visiting the witch to get advice on what he should do, Job’s family being decimated and all of his possessions being wiped out in one day. Or the book of Hosea, where he is commanded to marry a prostitute who would be unfaithful to him, yet he would continue to bring her back every time, all as an example to the people of what they had been doing to God. Jesus’ betrayal by Judas, the confrontation in the garden of Gethsemane where the soldier’s ear is cut off, Peter’s denial of Jesus, Christ’s own crucifixion.
Okay, I know. Some of you are wondering why I keep comparing scripture to a movie. Two reasons. One, it is dramatic! There is action, romance, intrigue, heartbreak, redemption, good vs. evil, on every page of this book. You just have to be open to finding it.
And two, I mention all this, because I think we need to be careful. Turn with me to John chapter 2. Let’s read.
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.
Here is where we need to be aware of something. I really struggled with this passage until this last week. Here is how I have always read this passage: Read verses 3 through 5.
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.”
How many of you hear it with a 21st century attitude in your heads as you read it?
Let’s start with how he called his mother “woman”. We, as modern day, 21st century women, bristle at the thought of being called “woman” in this way. In our culture, this form of address has a negative, derogatory context and it is full of attitude! However, when we examine more closely and thoughtfully, how we read this interchange, we will realize that we must read it differently, that that word must have a different context.
First, in examining the original language and cultural context, to address his mother this way was actually quite respectful. This is actually the same word he uses when he is on the cross, and he gives her over into John’s care. Their culture viewed their mothers as valuable, to be respected, and protected. So, we can’t put our cultural context onto a phrase used two thousand years ago.
Second, if we were to keep reading this interchange this way, we are assuming that Jesus had an attitude! That doesn’t mesh, does it? Jesus was said to have respected his father AND his mother. So, if we believe Jesus never sinned (which He didn’t) then he couldn’t have said this in that way.
So, then why “woman” and not Mother? Some commentators have suggested it was his effort to communicate to her that he was no longer subject to her authority over him because he was now subject to the Father alone. He was moving into his public ministry, and he was committed to the Father’s timing and direction, not hers.
Next, the phrase “what does this have to do with me?” Again, our current culture taints this with a selfish, I can’t be bothered attitude. But here, I think he is gently reminding her that he was not there to make life easier for other people, but he was there to do the Father’s will, to manifest his Glory, and how does helping with a wine shortage do that? Well, we do see later that it does help, but I will get to that in a minute because we need to address the next phrase, “my hour has not yet come.”
Five times throughout the book of John Jesus says something to the effect of “it’s not the right time yet”. He was very purposeful in all he did, especially in the timing of things. And this was not the right time for him to burst out onto the scene and fully reveal himself to Israel. Each time, we will see, the number of people affected and made aware of his miracles grows, but it is not until the Father’s appointed time that he completes his work on the cross.
Then Mary says “Do whatever he tells you to do.” I think even here we need to be careful. I can’t say for sure how she said it, or what she meant by it. Even among commentators there is some disagreement, did she realize she was wrong and express her submission? Did she not understand but still assume he would help? I don’t know.
So then, why did he still help? If it was not his time, why did he change the water to wine? Notice, the only people who knew what had really happened were the servants who collected the water, and the disciples. And the result of the miracle was that the disciples believed. Not everyone at the wedding, but the disciples. John says he has written these things that you may believe, and this miracle specifically resulted in the belief of the disciples.
Like I said earlier, what I think we need to do is be careful. We need to be careful to not put us, and our current modern day attitudes and preconceptions, onto Jesus and what he said. Rather, we need to openly and wisely discern what he said and why, and then put that onto us. When we come across those passages that sound different, use different language or syntax than we are used to, we need to examine it through the filter of what we know to be true about Jesus, rather than let what we know about Jesus be determined by who and what we are today. Jesus was not a selfish, sinful son who gave his mom lip when she asked him to put his shoes away. He was the sinless son of God, who knew what he was there for, and reminded her of that in a respectful, loving way.