The wedding at Cana: Just what hour is it?

Recently, I heard some excellent teaching on John’s Gospel. Setting the cultural scene for the wedding at Cana (John 2: 1-11), the speaker explained that in first century Jewish weddings, it was the duty of the bridegroom to provide the wine and so the lack of wine at the wedding would be the cause of great embarrassment for, and possibly even legal proceedings against, the bridegroom. That led me to reflect on that awkward verse 4. Mary had explained to Jesus that the bridegroom (a friend or cousin?) at this wedding was facing exactly that situation, and whatever his mother expected of Jesus here, she clearly thought he was not going to leave his mate in the lurch. But Jesus responds, ‘Woman, what to me and to you? My hour has not yet come.’ I have looked at the dozen or so commentaries I have access to and, besides a few which are rather vague, largely suggesting Jesus’ time for miracles has not come, most say that the 'hour' referred to is Jesus’ glorification in his death, resurrection and ascension.


Now please allow me the folly of boldness. Verse 1 has already hinted that we are looking beyond, or through, the Cross to ‘the third day’, the day of resurrection. In the previous chapter, John the Baptist has introduced Jesus as the ‘Lamb of God’ (1: 29). In the following, the Baptist refers to himself as ‘the friend of the bridegroom’. (3:29) These two images together point to the marriage of the Lamb (Rev 19: 7-9). In the light of all of this, would it not be reasonable to suggest that the ‘hour’ which Jesus refers to is that of his own marriage, for which he will provide all, abundantly, even the ‘fine linen, brilliantly clean’ for the bride? So, paraphrasing John 2:4, we might have something like: ‘Mother, what does this wedding have to do with me and you? Mine has not yet come.’

This would mean that the preacher’s jump from the wedding at Cana to the marriage of the Lamb would not just be a good bit of biblical theology but rather an exegetical necessity. Perhaps we could even see Jesus, in a sense, taking from the stock of wine for his own wedding to provide for this unfortunate bridegroom, bringing the future into the present, just as the Evangelist has done in calling to mind the ‘third day’, at the beginning of this account and early in this Gospel. Makes sense to me, anyway.

Frances Cook, Chile