21: The Timing of God (John 2:4)
21. The Timing of God
“And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’” (John 2:4)
There has recently been another royal wedding. On a certain day, at a certain time, at a certain place, barring a great catastrophe, this event was ordained to take place. It was in the calendar of the families and friends involved. It was in the calendar of the nation. It was in the calendar of the networks and the media outlets who would be covering it. The time was set.
Jesus talks as if He is on a timetable, that there is a set calendar and everything is going to come to pass at the right time as it has been decided beforehand. This in itself is an incredible way for Him to live, given that there are innumerable people and circumstances that can seem to change our calendars, or indeed the course of our lives, at any moment in time. Who can possibly live knowing with certainty what the future will hold, as if you have already been there? Jesus lived that way.
When asked by His mother to change water into wine, He responds with two remarkable comments. The first one is: “what does this have to do with me?” From a human point of view that is a perfectly reasonable response, even though it seems a bit blunt. Mary was at a wedding and it turned out that Jesus and His friends had been invited too. They were not the guests of honour, they may not have even known the bride and groom personally. The wine runs out and now He is asked to do something about it.
If we were a peripheral guest at a wedding and they suddenly discovered they hadn’t ordered enough food and someone asked us to do something about it, what would our response be? “I’d like to help, but why is this my problem? Why are you expecting me to fix this?” We’d probably want to know what had gone wrong and what those responsible were doing about it before offering to get involved.
Jesus’ response was perfectly reasonable, so why is it remarkable? Well it is remarkable in the circumstances and certainly in the narrative of John’s gospel, because the writer has already made it clear that everything does have to do with Jesus.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:1-4)
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)
If Jesus is the person through whom God created the universe, the life giver and the light bringer, if Jesus is the only person through whom God is going to recreate this universe starting with the return and revealing of lost sons and daughters, then everything has to do with Jesus, at some level. Everything is Jesus’ business, even this wedding. He is the reason all these guests exist in the first place, including the bridge and groom. He is the reason there is a place for the ceremony and He is the reason why there is food and drink on the table at all.
Jesus is the “Logos”. He is the reason. For everything.
So why does He say, “what does this have to do with Me?”
Probably because of His next statement, the second remarkable comment: “My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4b)
In other words, He is not saying “This is absolutely nothing to do with Me. This is not My problem, it never was and it never will be.” We know from what happens next that He is really saying: “This does have something to do with Me, but not yet. My time has not yet come.”
Do we sometimes feel that when we pray for God to do something, He is not really listening? The sense we can sometimes get is that God is not really bothered about our “small” problems. They are big to us, but they are not big enough to get God’s attention. He is too busy elsewhere. We might even feel that God is saying: “What has this got to do with Me?”
From this scripture in John we understand that though everything is God’s business and He has an interest in every aspect of our lives, it is not always the right moment in the calendar for Him to act.
Jesus refers to this issue of timing throughout John’s gospel. He keeps referring to what appears to be a heavenly calendar that is set in place and cannot and will not be changed by people or circumstances.
To a gentile (non-Jewish) woman who had questioned Him about worship: “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” (John 4:21-23)
Jesus to the Jews who were questioning Him about His authority: “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:25-29)
He had obviously taught His disciples that He was on God’s timetable:
“So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.” (John 7:30)
“These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.” (John 8:20)
And what was this particular moment, this “hour”, that John was referring to in these last two verses? It was the moment when Jesus would be glorified.
“And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (John 12:23)
We understand, from what happens next that Jesus was referring to the time of His death and resurrection. At the same moment as Jesus was glorified, then glory would be given back to the Father who had overseen it all.
“Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.” (John 17:1)
We know from the end of the story of turning water into wine, that this also turned into a moment for Jesus’ glory to be revealed.
“This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” (John 2:11)
So then those dates, those special events that are registered on God’s calendar that Jesus lived His life by, were moments when Jesus Himself was going to be glorified through His miraculous life (John 2:11), death and resurrection (John 12:23) and triumphant return (John 5:25-29) and ultimately His Father would be worshiped as a result (John 4:21-23). These pre-ordained dates were certain and sure and Jesus planned the course of His life around them.
However, before the glory, we also know from John’s narrative that these hours, these moments, are not without their cost. As glory is written into the calendar, so is suffering, pain and even death. It is all part of the process of glorification.
And it is also clear, that there are events, moments, written in the calendar for Jesus’ own disciples that have a similar process and outcome to them.
“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.” (John 16:1-4)
These dates in God’s pre-ordained calendar are also designed to bring Him glory (at the same time moving us towards our ultimate glorification in Him) but they are not without sorrow.
Jesus likened the process to that of giving birth:
“When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.” (John 16:21)
Of course, when we are going through tough stuff many of us naturally want to change the schedule and erase some items from God’s calendar. Because Jesus was tempted in every way like we are, He had the same thought when facing the cross:
“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’” (John 12:27)
But He resisted the temptation to resist the calendar of God, because He could see beyond the suffering to a greater purpose:
“But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” (John12:27b-28)
Every hour we go through has purpose, even the hardest ones. The ultimate purpose is to bring glory to our Father in heaven and his glorious Son, but, in so doing, we will also find our greatest and most lasting joy and satisfaction.
So what can we learn from Jesus’ response to His Mother in John 2:4?
1. This world is on a pre-ordained schedule, moving to the rhythm of the calendar of heaven. Therefore we need not be alarmed as we believe, with Jesus, that there is Godly control and order that is overriding and overseeing world events and the events of our individual lives.
2. God has fixed on that calendar moments and events when He will especially glorify Himself through His Son and also through us. He has pre-ordained glory for Himself in our own lives and lifetimes, they are certain and sure.
3. The process of glorification comes with a cost. It is a momentary cost, in the view of eternity, but it is a cost none-the-less. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)
4. We need to see the purpose in the pain and resist the temptation to try and change, or get offended with what God has written in His book for us.
5. We must always remember, especially in the midst of the moments of trial, that just as it is appointed for us to suffer and go through hardships, so the days when the glory of God will be revealed in and through us are also ordained for us in His diary. The coming glory is as sure as the current troubles.
God the Father set Himself to glorify Jesus and glorify Himself in and through Jesus. He knew when He would be glorified through Him, the exact dates, times and places. He had them written in His book. Jesus lived His life expecting them.
God will be glorified in us and through us. He knows when He will be glorified in and through us. He knows the exact dates and times and places. He has written them in His book and they will come to pass. Are we living our lives with that expectation?
For us, these hours may not have yet come. But, as with Jesus, they surely will, if we continue to receive Him and believe in His name.
So, if there is a heavenly calendar and Jesus is living true to its’ timetable, what made Jesus appear to change the schedule on this occasion to turn water into wine? We find out in the next chapter.Posted on: June 2, 2018Peter Todd