Maybe this is why Jesus said he wouldn’t, but then he did anyway…

There’s a few explanations for this wierdness that look like they might explain things.   But these potential explanations don’t really work.

Which leads to the question: What is going on in the conversation between Jesus and Mary?  Why does Jesus first say, “My time has not come?”  Why does Mary respond to this by telling the wedding servants to do whatever Jesus tells them?  Why does Jesus go on to do it anyway?

I think that Jesus and Mary are talking about two different things, when they talk about wine.

It’s not really a miscommunication.   I think that both of them really knew what the other one was talking about it, but neither really shifted gears.

Mary tells Jesus that the wedding party is out of wine.  And she means it quite literally.

Jesus responds that his time has not yet come.  If he was talking about literal wine, this response doesn’t make a ton of sense.   Because if he means that he’s not supposed to do any miracles yet, then we’re left with a question: why does he go on to do the miracle anyway then?  If Jesus was supposed to lay low, why does he blow his cover moments later?  And furthermore, scripture records that there were positive reactions from Jesus followers after this miracle.  How could Jesus have been so mistaken by what would result?

On the other hand, if Jesus takes this as a moment to teach everyone, if he’s speaking about metaphorical wine, this all begins to make a little more sense.  Jesus is saying, “My mission has not yet started.  I see that there are people here who need help…  But that help isn’t here just yet.”

I wonder if by his time he meant the beginning of his ministry or the end of it.  I wonder if he meant his earthly teachings, his atoning death, or the words that would come after his reseruction.   Probably all three.  But this is niether here nor there; the important thing is that I don’t think Jesus is saying, “I’m not doing any miracles yet.”  I think he’s saying “I haven’t really started turning the water of peoples lives into wine.”

I don’t think there’s any way around the idea that there must have passed something unamed between Jesus and Mary.  Perhaps no one else there really sensed it or could express it.  Perhaps it was just one of those mom-things.  Somehow, after Jesus said his piece (or his peace?) Mary just looked at him, and she new.

Instead of a contradiction of his earlier words, Jesus literal turning of the water into wine was a foretaste, an object lesson.  It was a representation of what he would soon begin.   The thing that sits well with me about this understanding is that it’s much more consistent with the way Jesus uses his words and actions elsewhere.    There’s very few examples of Jesus words conflicting with his actions.  But numerous examples of his words and actions playing off each other, in subtle and profound ways, enhancing and changing the meaning of the other.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

2 thoughts on “Maybe this is why Jesus said he wouldn’t, but then he did anyway…”

  1. you seem to be implying that the meaning of “my time” is in question. That certainly bucks the text and the traditional understanding of it’s meaning: the time to testify to his authority through super-natural displays of power.

    i’m a bit leary of assuming that Jesus was prone to be mistaken at this point in his life and ministry. No matter how you slice it, if the traditional meaning is correct it was in fact “his time”.


  2. I hear that, but unless I’m missing something, on the traditional account Jesus’ actions contradict his words. Why would he mention that his time has not yet come if turning the water into wine didn’t somehow violate what he was wanting to do? If it was no big deal, wouldn’t he have just said “You got it, mom. I’ll turn the water into wine.”
    But if there was a problem, a point to him saying it wasn’t his time, why did he then go on and change it anyway?


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