John 2:4, "Dear woman..."


John 2:1-11 was used at the wedding of a friend yesterday. I love the fact that the bride and groom chose that piece of the Gospel, and I reflected on what might have been going through the mind of Jesus at the time. Not presuming to actually know, of course, but I have been trying to put myself into His shoes so as to better know Him. It isn’t easy, and it is sometimes puzzling.

I don’t find it terribly difficult to understand exactly why Jesus decided to change the water into wine. According to one author’s thoughts on, it’s because running out of wine would have been terribly embarrassing to the bride and groom. So Jesus helped them out, no problem.

But what puzzled me the most is how he addresses his mother when she says (paraphrased), “Look, son, they’ve run out of wine.”

His response, which we find in the fourth verse, is “Dear woman…” and in some translations the more brusque “Woman…” I imagine that there are some of you who bristle (moms) or cringe (sons) at this mode of address. It is peculiar, no doubt, and it’s what caught my eye and imagination, especially since today is Mother’s Day here in the U.S.

Why did he address her like this? And why did he answer with (again, paraphrased), “Look, it’s not our problem,” but then do something about it anyway?

I think, again based on looking at others’ sensible conclusions, that the answer to the second question is somewhat easy. He is, in essence, saying that this is a trifle—a problem of little significance—but demonstrates that nothing is too small for him to care about and solve. And solve he does! Not only does he change the water to wine, but he changes lots of water (120-180 gallons!) into wine and the master of ceremonies says it’s really, really good stuff! In short, God is aware of even the most insignificant of problems and able to solve them beyond our wildest dreams. Have faith, and ask.

But the answer to the first question? I’ve yet to find an explanation, much less one that agrees with what I propose, namely that Jesus is in the transition from “son” to “Son.” No, not that he was any less our savior before this time than he was after, but that this was when he chose to “go big,” put the pedal to the metal and really announce his presence as the Messiah. I believe that the importance of Mary to him was less significant to him than the importance of his Heavenly Father, God. After all, though he doesn’t address Mary anywhere else (that I know of, anyway) in the Bible by name, he references God the Father by several names, all of which are familiar in nature and show a closeness which he is denying Mary in this passage.

I don’t think this is an accidental slighting of Mary—nor is it a slighting of Mary at all. She reacts as if nothing had changed and tells the servants to do whatever it is he says to do. It is instead, in my opinion, a demonstration of his changing the focus of his life from his Earthly family to his Heavenly family.

Do I have any groundbreaking or Earth-shattering conclusion to this homily of mine? No, though I wish I did. But I do have this piece of advice: You are not the Messiah, and addressing your mother, especially today, as “woman” is a sure-fired way to land yourself in a heap of trouble.

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