At the wedding in Cana, Jesus’ mother tells her son that the wedding guests have run out of wine. Jesus responds, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4). Being a good Jewish boy, Yeshua listens to his mother and fills the empty jugs with superior wine. Taken in isolation, the “hour” (ὥρα; hora) to which Jesus refers might seem to indicate the time at which he begins to perform miracles. However, a broader reading of the Gospel—and a knowledge of ancient Jewish tradition—shows that when Jesus speaks of his “hour,” he means the hour of his death.

 Near the start of the Fourth Gospel, John the Baptist calls Yeshua “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). From the start of the narrative, Jesus is introduced as someone who will sacrifice himself in order to eradicate transgression. Indeed, the most famous verse in the whole New Testament says that God “gave his unique Son” so that those who believe in him would not perish in their sins (John 3:16). Thus, according to John, when the Messiah dies on the cross it will be an hour of glorification, not of shame. Yeshua declares, “The hour (ὥρα; hora) has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:23-24). Jesus equates his “hour” with the time of his sacrificial death, which will bring glory to God when iniquity is extinguished.

Yet, this impending hour is not without anxiety for Yeshua. To the contrary, he admits, “Now my life is distressed (τετάρακται; tetáraktai). And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour (ὥρα; hora)’? But it is for this purpose that I have come to this hour” (John 12:23-24). An ancient Torah translation into Aramaic known as Targum Neofiti (c. 300 CE/AD) contains similar references to an “hour of distress” during the near sacrifice of Isaac. While the original Hebrew text doesn’t record any of Isaac’s words as he is bound, a marginal addition in Targum Neofiti asserts that, just as Abraham raises the knife to slay his son, Isaac exclaims, “Father, bind me tightly, lest in the hour of my distress (שׁעת צערי; sha’at tsa’ari) I convulse and confound you” (TgNeof Gen 22:10). This Jewish translational tradition assigns an “hour of distress” to Isaac, though his father replaces his sacrificial death with that of a ram. In John, Jesus glorifies his Father in his own hour of distress as the sacrificial “Lamb of God” who takes away the sin of the world.   

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28 COMMENTS

    • Jesus' act at Cana was a manifestation of his glory. After he makes the water into wine, John states, "This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory" (2:11). However, Jesus had wanted to wait until his "hour" (i.e., his death) to glorify God, which is when the fullest glorification would occur (cf. John 12:27-33; 17:1-5). Jesus' mother asks him to show his glory earlier than he wanted to, hence his answer that his hour had not yet come.

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  1. Waoh! Good analysis Dr. Nicholas, hmmmm, but I can't say I agree with the statement that the hour Jesus was talking about was the hour of his death. I am saying so because it doesn't fit the context at all in my view. The mother's complaint is about wine...
  2. I think Jesus' response... My hour has not yet come meant that the hour for him to start demonstrating his power as the son of God had not come yet. Yes, of course his time to die was also an hour (his hour), but not in this context here.
    • Thanks for reading, Kuete. Jesus’ act at Cana was a manifestation of his glory. After he makes the water into wine, John states, “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory” (2:11). However, Jesus had wanted to wait until his “hour” (i.e., his death) to glorify God, which is when the fullest "glorification" of God would occur (cf. John 12:27-33; 17:1-5). Jesus’ mother asks him to show his glory earlier than he wanted to, hence his answer that his hour had not yet come.

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  3. It would seem Jesus' mother was taking advantage of what her son could do so as far as performing miracles. Obviously ,it was not easy to get more wine once whomever was hosting this wedding celebration ran out. It was not like it would be life altering or an emergency. It seems more like a request to save face. or embarrassment for not having enough provisions for the guests. I can see why He answered her the way he did. His miracles were done more for helping the sick, physically impaired , & raising the dead. However, it was more proof that He was God's son. But, as you stated the ultimate glory to God and proof that He was God's son, the Messiah for all mankind, was revealed through His death & fulfillment of prophecy. Being in a human body, I agree He struggled with what He would soon have to go through. Any human would not knowingly want the torture, pain, humiliation & the feeling of abandonment by the Father. He paid the ultimate price in that hour for all humanity.
  4. God gave His UNIQUE son...I am familiar with gave His 'only begotten' or 'one and only' son. Could you please give me more information about the root of the word(s) you have translated as 'unique'?
    • Thanks for your question, Joan. The Greek literally says "one-of-a-kind," hence my translation of "unique." The more traditional phrase, "only begotten," is based on a misunderstanding of the Greek. Since the topic is complex, we will devote a future article to it.
  5. I have often wondered whether the miraculously produced Wine of Cana, was really wine, or some gloriously higher beverage, even highly purified water. after much wine, even the tastebuds forsake an accurate tasting, so, maybe the 'best until last' was just that, but, of a vastly higher quality of nature. also, Jesus response of 'my hour is not come' might allude to the contraversy that would immediately arise upon the miracle that he produced in the miraculous provision of wine, or a beverage that tasted like the 'highest quality of wine' so, the hour might be that Jesus did not seek to perform miracles 'before' his time, so as to not arouse suspicion? as well, 'hour' takes on an out-of-space-time quality when it alludes to anytime in the future or carries 'entrails' of the past 'hour(s) of distress' is also a contraction of circumstance that seems unavoidable. it's the heroic response that gains the valour & the victory. miracles actually do take place 'outside' of the time-space continuum, as they are orchestrated & are inspired works of righteousness, from God, the Source of Righteousness we are the extenders of that Grace. 'we' do not work wonders, but by Him Who is Within Us the Holy Spirit is the Active Agency
  6. Dr. Nicholas, please help me... This act of Jesus turning water into wine has actually brought lots of controversies within our Christian milieu. Some say drinking alcohol is a sin, others say drinking alcohol is not a sin because Jesus turned water into wine. Please could you help me answer
    • Thanks for your question, Kuete. The act of drinking alcohol is not a sin. Jesus himself says that his proclivity for "eating and drinking" is the basis for his detractors slandering him as a "drunkard" (Matt 11:19; Lk 7:34). While the charge of drunkenness is false, it's clear that Jesus drank wine in meal settings often enough for the charge to be leveled. While drinking alcohol isn't a sin, the Bible condemns the abuse of alcohol (e.g., Isa 5:11; Prov 23:29-35; Rom 13:13; Gal 5:21; Eph 5:18).
  7. Wasn't there also a minimum age to inherit wealth or be legally able to enter into contracts and legally assume debts for buying wine, for instance?
    • Thanks for your question, Lyle. There was no official minimum age; one was a nominal heir to an estate at birth. However, one entered into familial contractual agreement at marriage, which set the legal precedent for future contracts in adulthood.
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  8. I have been told that the wine of Jesus' time was quite different from what we have today, that the methods of fermentation (adding yeast) produced a much lower alcoholic content. Is that true? If so, aren't there implications re: the "wine" at the Last Supper?
    • As is the case today, there were different types of wine in the Greco-Roman world that were produced in various ways from various grapes and, as a result, had varying alcohol contents. A particularly popular wine among the Roman upper classes contained upwards of 16%-20% alcohol, which is more than is in most wines today. The Greek term for "wine" in the NT -- including in the Cana passage -- is the same as appears in the Septuagint and other Greek writings (oinos), and this drink has the capacity to cause thorough intoxication (see, e.g., Prov 23:29-35).
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