Was Jesus disrespectful to His mother?

[Article by Mr.P]

Sometime shortly after the occasion of Jesus’ baptism, Mary (Jesus’ mother), along with Jesus and some of the disciples were invited to a wedding. We read about this in John ch.2.

During the wedding “they ran out of wine” which in the Jewish culture of that time, was such a mistake it would have been a great humiliation for the bride and groom. Despite the fact that He had performed no miracles up to this point (see John 2:11 “This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee”), Mary wanted the Lord Jesus to do something special to remedy the situation. Obviously, she believed He could do something. So “the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine”” (v3). To this Jesus replied in a way that at first glance might seem very disrespectful.

Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”

John 2:4

A Respectful Title

For Jesus to address His mother as “Woman” sounds rude in today’s English. However, one of the problems with translating one language to another is that sometimes the specific meanings of certain phrases are not easily captured by the translation. In the original language in this case, and in that culture, Mary would not have interpreted Jesus’ words as rude. The term “Woman” was used like we use the term “Ma’am.” Instead of being disrespectful, this title rather shows Christ’s respectfulness of his mother.  This fits with the little we read of Jesus’ early life.

Luke 2:42 says: “And when he (the child Jesus v40) was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.” After the event there we read “Then He (Jesus v48-49) went down with them (Jesus’ mother and “adoptive” father v43) and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51). So, the Lord Jesus was subject to His mother and “adoptive” father until he was thirty years old and was baptised at Jordan (Luke 3:21-23).

Now publicly, Jesus was stepping out in obedience to the will of God His Father. This is confirmed in John 8:29 “And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” Therefore when “Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me?” He was showing Mary that He was now independent of her and was subject to God alone in His divine mission but He was not rude in His speech. Note that there is no record that the crowd were shocked at this way of speaking to the Lord’s mother. A further point is in John 8:46 when Jesus challenged His enemies, “Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?” The enemies of the Lord Jesus had no occasion of sin or wrong doing/saying with which to convict Him.

Note that Jesus also used the title “Woman” when speaking to other ladies as follows:

Matthew 15:28, “Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith!””

Luke 13:12, “But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.””

John 4:21, “Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.””

After the Lord Jesus’ resurrection, angels also used this same term in John 20:13, “Then they (two angels v12) said to her (Mary Magdalene v1 & 11), “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”

In all these cases, the Lord Jesus treated His female followers and contacts with the utmost respect and value.

“Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”

John 2:4

A Respectful Question

The question that Jesus asks His mother is not rude either. Today it may sound rude “what does your concern have to do with Me?” In the Greek, Jesus’ question is “Ti emoi kai soi?” which literally means “What to me and to you?” The question is translated as “What business do we have with each other?” Again, Jesus was gently affirming His independence of His mother and that she did not then have the right to say when and what Jesus should do.

Jesus finishes His statement to Mary with, “My hour has not yet come.” The reference to His “hour” is repeated a few times in John’s Gospel at: 7:30; 8:20; 12:23; 12:27; 13:1 and 17:1. “My hour ” to do a great miracle or to get great glory, had not yet come. The miracle of changing water into wine was when He began to show Who He was. However, the big change, that was yet to happen, did happen at the cross when Christ died for our sins so that believing sinners would be changed into the children of God and the Lord Jesus Christ would be glorified for accomplishing this. 

So while Jesus did perform His first miracle by turning the water into wine, but He did so in a very quiet way. Only the servants, Mary, and a few disciples even knew that He had made that change. The miracle was the beginning of displaying His great power mainly to His disciples (see John 2:11).

The big question is who do you believe? Do you believe that the Lord Jesus Christ died for all your sins so that you can be free from God’s judgment?

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