QUESTION: "What did Jesus mean by saying, 'Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come'? (John 2:4.) Also, since it was His mother He was talking to, why didn't He address her as 'mother'? Does this conflict with the commandment: 'Honor thy father and mother'?"
Vauxhall, New Jersey
ANSWER: Jesus once made a similar statement in reply to a request from His brethren. "Jesus said to them, 'My time has not yet come, but your time is always here'" (John 7:6, RSV used throughout this section unless otherwise indicated). A like expression is repeated in verse 30: "So they sought to arrest him; but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come." Finally, just before His crucifixion, Jesus said to His disciples: "The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified" (John 12:23; cf., verse 27; 13:1; 17:1).
Says The New Bible Commentary: Revised: "The reference to the hour of Jesus is another characteristic of this [John's] Gospel.... It reveals an awareness of approaching crisis and climax, not only in the mind of the Evangelist [John], but also in the mind of Jesus" (p. 934).
To understand John 2:4, let's consider a similar conversation when Jesus was but twelve years old. His family had gone to Jerusalem to observe the Passover. Unbeknownst to His parents, who were returning home after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Jesus had remained at Jerusalem (in the Temple). They thought Him to be traveling with friends or relatives — showing that they relied on His dependability and good judgment. Finally, when Joseph and Mary could not find Him among their group, they returned to Jerusalem. When they found Him, notice the wording in the conversation:
"And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, 'Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.' And he said to them, 'How. is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?' ['must be about my Father's business', KJV]" (Luke 2:48-49). Jesus undoubtedly gave special emphasis to some of the 'words. "Didn't you know, mother — you who have always taught me about God — that I must be about His business?"
It had been about twelve years since His supernatural conception, and Jesus may have been gently reminding His human guardians that He understood that His real parentage was of God and that He had a special commission to fulfill on this earth as the very Son of God. That goal seemed to be uppermost in His mind even as a young boy of twelve.
But notice the conclusion to the account: "And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them..." (verse 51). So Jesus continued to respect and obey His parents while maturing physically and preparing for His divine mission.
In John 2:4, Jesus again apparently alluded to His coming crucifixion and resurrection to glory when He replied to a request from His mother for a pressing social need. The expression appears to be another gentle reminder to her of His most important calling. Of course, Jesus did honor the wishes of His mother on this occasion (verses 5-10).
At this wedding feast, the occasion of Christ's first miracle, Jesus was about thirty years old (a fully mature adult even by Levitical standards, cf., Luke 3:23; Numbers 4:3, 35, 39, 47). In addressing His mother as "woman," He was not disparaging her in any sense. It was "no term of disrespect in the language of that day" (Critical and Experimental Commentary, vol. 5, p. 357).
"The fact that our Lord on the cross (John 19:26) addressed his mother by the same term woman... shows that the word is as respectful as the term lady, and scarcely less affectionate than the term mother. See Matthew 15:28; Luke 13:12; John 4:21; 20:13" (Whedon's Commentary on the Gospels, p. 242).
Now notice the circumstances of His last glimpse of Mary before His horrible death: "When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, 'Woman, behold your son!' Then he said to the disciple, 'Behold your mother!' And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home" (John 19:26-27).
This is the perfect example of Jesus. Never was He guilty of breaking the fifth commandment. Christ observed it in its fullest spiritual intent (Matt. 5:17-19; Isa. 42:21), and taught others to do the same (Mark 7:9-13).
Q: "Please let me know what you meant when you said Jesus was a stonemason when the Bible says he was a carpenter."
St. Petersburg, Florida
A: In our specialized societies, carpenters are thought of as those who work with sawn and hewn lumber, and primarily work at pounding nails into boards.
However, during the days of Jesus Christ, "carpentry" included much more than just'" the fabrication of wooden dwellings. Most of the homes were a combination of stone, mud and clay, with hewn beams and lumber.
The city where Jesus spent much of His early ministry was Capernaum. At that time Capernaum was a beaming, modern, beautifully sculptured Grecian-type city. It was filled with multilevel homes which had large central gardens, mosaic walks, fountains, and even indoor bathrooms and steam baths.
The homes of the wealthier class were marvels of architecture. A "carpenter" (of that time) would have had to know a certain amount of mathematics, engineering principles (working with block and tackle, levers, and knowing how to construct arches and cantilever overhanging balconies), and especially would have to be skillful in finishing work, such as interior surfaces and mosaic hallways. He would also have had to possess a working knowledge of plumbing.
During Christ's time, and in the first two or three centuries thereafter, home plumbing included indoor water which was delivered via a system of pipes that could be cut off by valves just as in any modern home today.
Now notice one scriptural reference: "Is not this the carpenter's son?" (Matt. 13:55.) The New Bible Commentary: Revised tells us: "The Greek (tekton) could mean a mason" (p. 834).
Q: "On a recent World Tomorrow broadcast, Mr. Armstrong pointed out that no man has ever ascended into heaven, using John 3:13 as his passage to back that up. But how about II Corinthians 12:2 where Paul talks about a man who ascended into heaven? If no man has ascended into heaven, then what is Paul talking about in the Corinthian passage? Please answer in The Good News magazine."
E. Lansing, Michigan
A: Mr. Ted Armstrong naturally excepted Jesus when he said that no man had ever ascended into heaven. Read John 3:13 again: "No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man." The New English Bible makes it even clearer: "No one ever went up into heaven except the one [Jesus] who came down from heaven, the Son of Man whose home is [now presently] in heaven."
John 3:13 plainly tells us that Jesus both ascended into heaven and descended from heaven — but no one else has done either. Remember that John wrote his Gospel many, many years after Jesus' ascension to heaven.
One axiomatic biblical principle should be heeded in connection with understanding II Corinthians 12:1-7. One always comprehends vague, unclear, enigmatic verses in the light of all the plain scriptures on the same subject. John 3:13 and other scriptures are clear! But this particular section of Paul's second canonical letter to the Corinthians is ambiguous as to bodily location.
Paul wrote: "I must boast; there is nothing to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ [a Christian] who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven — whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows" (verses 1-2). Like the apostle John in the book of Revelation, this Christian (probably Paul himself) saw these things in vision ("out of the body").
Notice John's experience: "Immediately I knew myself to be inspired by the Spirit, and in my vision I saw that a throne had been set up in heaven... " (Rev. 4:2, Phillips). John saw the future events in the book of Revelation in his mind's eye (in vision).
No man, in the flesh, can look upon the glorified presence of God; neither could he breathe in the third heaven. Our astronauts have to take elaborate environmental paraphernalia with them on a journey to the moon. No such space age marvels existed in John's or Paul's day.
Q: "Will you please explain in your Question and answer column Jeremiah 4:23-25?"
Clinton, South Carolina
A: Jeremiah 4:23-25 states: "I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro. I looked, and lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the air had fled."
A popular view of this scripture applies it to a coming thousand-year period, during which the entire earth will supposedly be desolate (Rev. 20). But if you will study the book of Jeremiah from the beginning (and in its historical context), you will discern its true meaning. The prophet warns Judah that Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon is coming "to make your land a waste [not the whole earth]; your cities [in Judah] will be ruins without inhabitant" (verse 7).