John 2 - Thru the Bible Commentary

THEME: Jesus at marriage in Cana (first work); Jesus cleanses temple during Passover in Jerusalem (first word); Jesus interviews Nicodemus in Jerusalem (second word)


The important incident in this chapter is when Jesus, invited to the marriage in Cana, performed His first miracle. We are told in the eleventh verse, “This beginning of miracles did Jesus.” This, then, is the answer to those who teach that the Lord Jesus, as a little boy down in Egypt making clay pigeons with the other little boys, would touch the clay pigeons and they would fly away. That makes a pretty good story, but there is no fact in it. This record makes it very clear that He did not perform miracles in Egypt, but that His first miracle was at Cana of Galilee.

The wonder of all this is that here is the One who is in the beginning with God and is God. He came out of eternity. He was made flesh and for his first thirty years lived in Nazareth of Galilee. Then He walks over a hill to attend a wedding in Cana.

Notice that again John gears this in with time and space. “And the third day.” Our Lord is now going out into His ministry.

2:1-2 Many Bible teachers believe that she was there because she was related to the individuals who were getting married, or at least to one of the families. This is largely a supposition, but it could well be true. The Lord Jesus and His disciples were also invited.

The time is given here as the third day. It is thought that this was probably late February or early March in the year A.D. 27. The very interesting thing is that John carefully gives the places. In the previous chapter we were back in Bethsaida, and now the scene shifts to Cana of Galilee. Then it will move to Capernaum in verse 12 and to Jerusalem in verse 13. John gives us the chronological sequence and the geography.

It says that “the mother of Jesus” was there. She is never called Mary in the Gospel of John. She comes to Jesus with a very unusual request. Notice what she says to Him.

2:3 The question comes up about the wine. I read recently of a liberal who called Jesus a bootlegger. Such sacrilege! In that day, wine was a staple article of diet. However, drunkenness was absolutely condemned. There was no thought of drunkenness connected with this. A wedding was a religious occasion, by the way, and these were folk who believed the Old Testament. You can put it down that there was no intoxication at this wedding.

The wedding is a picture of another wedding that is coming. Christ began His ministry on this earth at a wedding. He will conclude it, as far as the church is concerned, with a wedding. At the marriage supper of the Lamb the church will be presented to Him as a bride.

This is the first miracle which He performed. Moses’ first miracle was turning water into blood. Christ’s first miracle was turning water into wine. The Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. What a contrast!

What did Mary mean by her statement? First of all, it is well to call attention to the fact that this was a very poor family. They simply didn’t have enough refreshments. Bengal in his commentary said that, when she told the Lord there was no wine, it was a gentle hint for Him and His disciples to depart. Calvin writes that it was a suggestion for Him to occupy the minds of the guests with a discourse. It would be just like John Calvin to suggest that, by the way. If you have ever read Calvin’s Institutes, you know they are profound, but boring. If Calvin had been there, he would have given them a discourse and probably put them all to sleep! However, I do not think that the context here would permit either interpretation. I don’t believe it was a hint for Him to leave nor a suggestion to occupy the minds of the guests. I think that very candidly she is saying, “Perform a miracle. This would be an appropriate occasion.”

You will recall that when the angel Gabriel appeared to her and told her that she was the one who was to bring forth the Messiah, Mary raised the question about the virgin birth, “… How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” (Luke 1:34). Gabriel made it very clear that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and that which was conceived in her was holy. She showed her faith and submission when she said, “… Behold the handmaid of the Lord …” (Luke 1:38). From that moment, and during the intervening years, there was always a question about her virginity. People actually raised questions about Jesus. She is really saying, “Here is Your opportunity to perform a miracle and demonstrate that I am accurate when I said that You were virgin born and that You are the One whom I have claimed You are.” Jesus gives her a very clear answer.

2:4 His implication is, “This is not the occasion. I’ll clear your name, but not here.”

When He was hanging on the cross and the mother of Jesus was standing beneath that cross, you remember that He looked down and said to her, “Woman, behold thy son!” (John 19:26). At that time His hour had come. In three days He would come back from the dead. When the disciples met in an upper room after His resurrection and ascension, Mary could look around, for she was there, and she could say to each of those disciples, “I told you that He was the Son of God!” Paul says that He is “… declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4).

Here she is asking Him to do something that will demonstrate who He is to clear her name. He tells her that He is going to do just that—He will clear her name—but that the hour has not yet come. That hour did come! His resurrection proves who He is. And don’t forget that the Resurrection proves the virgin birth of Christ. We tend to look at the virgin birth at Christmastime as an isolated fact. It is connected with His resurrection, friend, because He is who He claimed to be.

2:5 What good advice! I’ve always wanted to preach a Mother’s Day sermon on this text, “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.” My subject would be “A Mother’s Advice.” I never got around to it as a pastor, but it is good advice.

2:6-7 Our attention is now drawn to these six water pots. They were used in ceremonial cleansing. Because this was a poor family, the pots were evidently beaten and battered and probably had been pushed in the back somewhere. They hoped when the wedding guests came that no one would notice them. I think our Lord must have embarrassed the family when He asked for those pots to be brought out. Then He tells them the exact procedure to follow, and they filled them to the brim.

2:8-10 We don’t want to get diverted here by arguing whether this wine was intoxicating or not. Very candidly, that is not the issue here at all. If you think you can make something out of this, you’re entirely wrong.

Notice there is something omitted here. Where is the bride? I don’t find her anywhere. And what did the bride wear? That’s the most important part of our weddings. Now I’ve officiated at many weddings, hundreds of weddings during my ministry, and I’ve seen many brides come down the aisle. I’ve learned in the course of time that when I come in at the beginning, nobody is particularly interested in the preacher. Then the bridegroom comes in, and, very candidly, not many are interested in him. The only one who smiles at him is his mother. Then the bride comes down the aisle, and everybody looks. Now what did this bride at Cana wear? We don’t know. Why? Because Jesus and those empty water pots are the important things here.

Friend, here is something wonderful. He took empty water pots and He had them filled with water. Then as they ladled out the water, I think the miracle took place. When they took the water and served it to the guests, it became wine.

This holds a great spiritual lesson for you and me. Jesus uses us as water pots today. We’re just beaten and battered water pots. We’re not attractive and ought to be pushed to the side and covered up. But He wants to use us. He wants to fill us with water. What is the water? The water is the Word of God, friend. He wants to fill you and me with the water of the Word of God. Then, after He fills us with the water of the Word of God, He wants us to ladle it out. When we ladle it out—I don’t know how to explain it—but when the water leaves the water pots and gets to those for whom it is destined, it becomes wine. It becomes the wine of joy through the working of the Holy Spirit. We are told, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). The Holy Spirit takes that water and performs a miracle in the life of an individual. Although I cannot explain it, I often see it take place. I have right here on my desk a dozen letters that have come in recently from people who have been saved by just hearing the Word of God through my radio program. Now, I don’t understand it. I’m just an old water pot, and I’ve got a little of the water of the Word inside me. As I ladle it out, it becomes the wine of joy to folk who receive it.

Years ago when I was speaking to the Hollywood Christian group, there was a couple there who had been saved out of a night club. They said they were going to use their talent for Jesus. Well, I didn’t like that. I asked them afterward what kind of a talent they used in a night club that Jesus could use. They stumbled around with an answer; so I said, “Look, when you and I came to Jesus, He didn’t get anything but sinners. He got old battered water pots.” So I told them about these water pots at Cana. I told them Jesus wanted to fill their lives with the Word of God, the water, and then wanted to ladle it out. I said that when the Holy Spirit ladled it out, it would become the wine of joy in their own lives and would bring a new desire and the joy of life into the life of any believer who would trust Him. They accepted that advice, and we remained good friends. Several years ago I met them on a street in Chicago. We saw each other coming. When they got within earshot, he said to me, “Here come a couple of old beaten up water pots.” I want to say this: God has used them but not with the talent that was used in the night club. He filled them with the water of the Word of Life.

Friend, this is the great message that is here for you and me. He wants to fill us with the Word of God and then ladle it out.

2:12 This is probably referring to that time when His hometown would not accept Him. When He went into the synagogue and read from Isaiah, they said, “… Is not this Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:22). They probably would have destroyed Him at that time. So he moved His headquarters to Capernaum, and, as far as I can tell, that continued to be His headquarters during His ministry of three years.


2:13 Here we have another geographical point. He started out at Cana of Galilee, went to Capernaum, and is now in Jerusalem.

Notice that John labels this feast the “Jews’ passover.” It is no longer the “… LORD’s passover …” (Exod. 12:27). It is the Jews’ passover—merely a religious feast, quite meaningless, just a ritual to go through. The One of whom the Passover speaks has now come. “… For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5:7).

Our Lord went up to Jerusalem. This was not at the beginning of His public ministry but probably at the end of the first year. All males were required to go to Jerusalem three times a year, at the time of the Feast of Passover, at the Feast of Pentecost, and at the Feast of Tabernacles. He went up for the Passover which was about April the fourteenth. So you see that John gears this into the geography and into the calendar.

Now we find that He cleanses the temple. He did this twice. One cleansing was at the beginning of His ministry and one again at the end of His ministry.

2:14 They were selling animals and selling doves and changing money. It is quite interesting that they would not accept any kind of money except the temple money there; no other kind could be used or offered. So they had an exchange place, and they made a good profit by making the exchange of coins. When I came back from Venezuela some time ago, I came back with some Venezuelan money that I wanted to get rid of because I couldn’t spend it here. There was an exchange place in the airport, and I went up there and told them that I wanted to change it for American money. Believe me, friend, I didn’t get as much as when I made the trade the other way around; that is, exchanging American money for the Venezuelan money. Now that is the way they did here at the temple, you see.

Why did they have such a system? Why did they do this? Because they were making religion easy. They would take the Roman coinage, which had an effigy of Caesar and the imprint of paganism on it, and they would exchange that for Jewish coinage which could be used in the temple. So they were there for the convenience of the worshipers. Also, they changed large coins into smaller ones. Not only did they make religion easy, but they also made religion cheap. I recognize that we ought not to overemphasize money in the church and should not beg, but I’ll tell you something that is more intolerable than that. Some people treat the church and the cause of Christ as something so cheap that at times it becomes necessary to sound an alarm.

They were also selling animals. There was a lot of traffic in those sacrificial animals. It was work and expense to raise those sheep and oxen, and somebody would have to do it for a price. It was very easy for all this to become a religious racket. Today we have that problem with us also.

2:15-17 I tell you, the Lord was rough. There is no question about that. I don’t like the pictures we have of an anemic–looking Christ. The artists don’t seem to realize who He was.

The disciples remembered the verse from Psalm 69:9. This psalm is quoted seventeen times in the New Testament and is one of the six most quoted psalms in the New Testament. It is quoted again in John 15:25 and 19:28–29. The other psalms which are frequently quoted are Psalms 2, 22, 89, 110, and 118.

2:18-19 The word that He used for destroy is luo which means “to untie.” He is, of course, referring to His own human body.

2:20 The temple at that time was Herod’s temple. It was still in the process of being built, and it had already been under construction for forty–six years.

There is a specific use of words in the Greek here that I want you to see. In verses 14 and 15, when it tells of Jesus cleansing the temple, the word used for temple is hieron which refers to the temple as a whole. Specifically, it was the outer court of the temple which Jesus cleansed. The word Jesus uses in verse 19 and the Jews repeat in verse 20 is naos which refers to the inner sanctuary of the temple. This word can also be used in reference to the body as Paul does in 1 Corinthians 6:19 when he says that the holy place today is not a temple made with hands but that our body is the temple (naos) of the Holy Spirit. The Jews were asking the Lord whether He really meant that He would destroy this temple, but, of course, our Lord meant the temple of His body.

2:21 Jesus said that if they destroyed this temple, He would “raise it up.” The word He used was egeirō, which John uses five times in his Gospel. Its actual meaning is “to wake up” and, each time the word is used, it refers to awaking from the dead. Paul used the same word in his sermon in Antioch of Pisidia where he used it four times. It refers to the resurrection of Christ, and it refers to the resurrection of believers also. It is used in reference to the restoration to life of Lazarus. It was a “waking up.” That is the picture which we have in this word egeirō. That is precisely what He meant when He spoke of the temple of His body. But His disciples didn’t understand that, and it was not until after His resurrection that they recalled it and referred to it.



Now we are coming to something that is intensely interesting. Actually, we should read from verse 23 right on into chapter 3 where we have the story of Nicodemus. All of this took place in Jerusalem during the time of the Passover.

2:23 A great many folk read that and say, “My, isn’t it wonderful that people were believing on Him.” But it wasn’t wonderful, friend, because theirs was not saving faith at all. They merely nodded in assent when they saw the miracles that He did. So notice what follows.

2:24-25 The language that is used here is saying that He did not believe in them. You see, they believed in Him, but He didn’t believe in them. In other words, to put it very frankly, their faith was not a saving faith, which He realized, of course. He knew what was in their hearts.

This is always a grave danger today for those who say they believe in Jesus. What do you mean when you say you believe in Jesus? Do you mean that you believe in the facts of the gospel? The important question is: Do you trust Him as your Savior who died for your sins? Was He raised for your justification? Is He your only hope of heaven?

This crowd was interested, and when they saw Him perform miracles, they believed. They had to—they saw the miracles. But Jesus didn’t believe in them. He knew their belief was not genuine “because he knew all men.” He knew what was in the human heart. He didn’t need anyone to testify to Him of man because He knew what was in man.

In other words, the Lord Jesus didn’t commit Himself unto the mob there. The great company believed on Him, but He didn’t entrust Himself to them. When Nicodemus came to Him at night, our Lord did commit Himself unto him because this man’s faith was genuine.

It is unfortunate that the movement here is broken by a chapter break.


THEME: Jesus interviews Nicodemus in Jerusalem (second word)


This is an instance where the chapter break is unfortunate; so we will put it together without the break.

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