Cryptic Jesus

by Julie Zine Coleman

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.   Ephesians 3:20-21 NASB

The town was several days into the wedding feast. The food and wine had flowed in abundance, provided by the groom’s parents. But then the wine ran out. And Mary, in concern for the hosts’ embarrassment of not having enough, went to Jesus, who was in attendance with several of his disciples. “They have no more wine,” she anxiously informed him. She knew him better than anyone, as only a mother knows her child. He had always shown himself to be wise and capable. Maybe he would have an idea to help their hapless hosts.

But his response was not so warm and fuzzy as we might expect. In fact, it gave me pause as I studied this passage for a book I was writing. He replied, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.”

Some commentators suggest Mary was overstepping her bounds, and Jesus was drawing a line in the sand. But would Jesus treat his mother with such callous disregard, especially in light of the concern she had just expressed for the wedding hosts? Not likely: Jesus actually rebuked the Pharisees for neglecting their parents (in light of the fifth commandment: Honor your father and mother). It is inconsistent to think that Jesus would turn his back on Mary when he qualified others’ disregard for their parents as erroneous.

A closer look at the story provides a different purpose to Jesus’ puzzling words.

The literal translation of his response is “What to me and to you?” It was an idiom of the time. Other idioms are common today, like: “he has a chip on his shoulder”, or “to rub someone the wrong way”. We don’t take the words literally, but understand the meaning behind the metaphor.

So what then was Jesus doing with his cryptic response?

It is helpful to compare this conversation with another mother, the Syrophoenician Woman (Matthew 15:21-28). She also came to Jesus with a request: that he would deliver her daughter from demon possession. He also refused her at first. Then he gave a reason why he should not help, just as he did at Cana. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel…it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” (Matthew 15:24, 26 NASB).

What turned the tide in both conversations? Expressions of faith. The Syrophoenician Woman said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their master’s table” (Matthew 15:27 NASB). Jesus commended the Syrophoenician woman for her great faith. He then granted her request.  

Same with Mary. She told the servants, “Whatever he says to you, do it” (John 2:5 NASB). With this instruction, Mary was expressing faith in Jesus. She trusted him to work things out in his perfect way, in his own time. And as he did with the Syrophoenician woman, Jesus responded to her faith with a miracle.

Jesus’ initial refusal in both accounts were really a means to an end. He drove both women further in their trust relationship with him. His puzzling words were merely a way to move them forward. The wine he provided through his first miracle was of superior quality, better than anything the hosts had already produced. Faith was the conduit for God’s abundant blessing.

Hebrews tells us: “Now faith is the assurance of things not seen…and without faith it is impossible to please Him…” (Hebrews 11:1, 6 NASB). When we ask in faith, we are acknowledging that God is capable and powerful enough. But we are also submitting to his good and perfect will, which might not necessarily align with our request. We are trusting him to do the best thing, no matter how that might look in light of our specific desire.

Trust is what God wants from us. We tend to think that our actions are most important to God. But how well we behave or how many accomplishments we achieve for him cannot be the basis for any request. Jesus miraculously changed water into the very best wine. It came through someone choosing to trust him, no matter what he did.

Trust in the integrity, wisdom, and goodness of our capable God. He will always do the best thing.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).


About the authorJulie Zine Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or crafting. More on Julie can be found at her new website and Facebook.

Many Christian women are torn between the church’s traditional teachings on gender roles and the liberty they experience in secular society. But what if the church’s conventional interpretations aren’t really biblical at all? Julie’s new book, On Purpose, releases today!! It is a careful study of the passages in the Bible often interpreted to limit women in the church, at home, or in the workplace. Each chapter reveals timeless biblical principles that actually teach freedom, not limitation.

Join the conversation: What is the biggest challenge to your ability to trust God?


7 thoughts on “Cryptic Jesus

  1. Context is SO important, isn’t it. Scripture interprets scripture and this is such a loving reminder. Thanks, Julie.


    1. So true about context! What ever we think, a story or verse is a part of the whole. Thanks for reading!


  2. I love the insight of Mary’s response of faith because she knew Jesus and knew that He would do what was best. My prayer is to be like Mary and ask Jesus FIRST instead of trying to make a plan to fix the problem. Wonderful post, Julie. Thank you, Fran


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