“Woman”

John 2:4-5. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.

His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it.

Image result for John 2:4

I have heard this verse taught as Jesus was “putting His mother in her place.” That He was rebuking her, being just a tad disrespectful, because she was demanding that He do something before He was ready.

That has never felt quite right to me. First, we have no indication that she was being a bossy mamma. She simply informed Him of a problem she knew He could solve.

I believe we are mislead by the use of the word Woman, which in our parlance is not the way a son would, or should, address his mother. Here is what Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words has to say:

In the vocative (a vocative expression is an expression of direct address by which the identity of the party spoken to is set forth expressly within a sentence), used in addressing a “woman,” it is a term not of reproof or severity, but of endearment or respect, Mat 15:28Jhn 2:4, where the Lord’s words to His mother at the wedding in Cana, are neither rebuff nor rebuke. 

The reason I’ve always been uncomfortable with the teaching I’ve heard so often on this verse is that it would be completely out of character for Jesus to disrespect His mother. She had not commanded Him to do anything. She simply informed Him that their host was out of wine.

But doesn’t the rest of His comment seem like a rebuke? “What have I to do with thee?” Again, in our usage in English today, this seems like Jesus is telling her not to bother Him, and that He was not ready for the main event yet.

A closer look at the Greek shows us that He did not call her “mother,” but used a term of respect that He may have used in addressing any woman. His question indicated not a reproof, but a change in relationship. Where she had been, for many years, an authority in His life, He is now making it clear that He holds her in high esteem but that He is no longer a child in her home. At no time does He scold, rebuke, or give her a put-down. Again, it would have been completely out of character for Him to treat her poorly.

To me, proof of her understanding, respect for Him, and acceptance of His authority, are all clear in her next words to the servants: “Whatever He tells you to do, do it.”

Had the servants gone to Mary to ask her to get help from Jesus? I don’t know. I do find it interesting that even though she was a guest at the wedding, the servants obeyed her and followed Jesus’ directions. Apparently she was a woman held in high esteem in the community, but her Son was held higher.

Mary never expected, intended, or wanted to be worshiped. She knew she was a sinner in need of a Savior, just like all the rest of us (Luke 1:47). Her elevation by mankind is not based on scripture, but on the many religions that made “The Mother” superior to the Son.

I have a lot of respect for Mary, a woman who had the joyous, and sorrowful, experience of being the vessel for the advent of Jesus Christ. She watched Him grow, watched Him through His ministry and torture, and never stepped away to avoid the pain. But I do not worship her, nor pray to her. “For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5).

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