John 2 - Believer's Bible Commentary

D. The First Sign: Water Changed to Wine (2:1-11)

2:1 The third day doubtless refers to the third day of the Lord’s stay in Galilee. In 1:43 the Savior went into that area. We do not know exactly where Cana was situated, but we infer from verse 12 of this chapter that it was near Capernaum and on higher ground.

There was a wedding in Cana on this particular day, and the mother of Jesus was there. It is interesting to notice that Mary is spoken of as the mother of Jesus. The Savior was not famous because He was the Son of the Virgin Mary, but she was well-known because she was the mother of our Lord. The Scriptures always give the pre-eminent place to Christ and not to Mary.

2:2 Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. It was a wise decision on the part of those who arranged the marriage to invite Christ. So it is still a wise decision when people today invite the Lord to their marriage. In order to do this, of course, both bride and groom must be true believers in the Lord Jesus. Then, too, they must give their lives to the Savior and determine that their home will be a place where He loves to be.

2:3 The supply of wine had failed. When the mother of Jesus realized what had happened, she presented the problem to her Son. She knew that He could perform a miracle in order to provide wine, and perhaps she wanted her Son to reveal Himself to the assembled guests as the Son of God. Wine in the Scriptures often speaks of joy. When Mary said, “They have no wine,” she gave a very accurate description of men and women who have never been saved. There is no real, lasting joy for the unbeliever.

2:4 The reply of the Lord to His mother seems cold and distant. But it is not as strong a rebuke as would seem to us. The word woman used here is a title of respect, similar to our word “lady.” When the Lord asked, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me?” He indicated that in the performance of His divine mission, He was not subject to instructions from His mother, but acted entirely in obedience to the will of His Father in heaven. Mary had wanted to see Jesus glorified, but He must remind her that the time for this had not yet come. Before He would appear to the world as the all-conquering Christ, He must first ascend the altar of sacrifice, and this He did at the cross of Calvary.

Williams points out the following:

The expression “what does your concern have to do with me” occurs several times in the Bible. It means, “What have we in common?” The answer is, “Nothing.” David uses it twice with respect to his cousins, the sons of Zeruiah. How impossible it was for them to have anything in common with him in the spiritual life! Elisha uses it in 2 Kings 3 to express how deep was the gulf between him and Jehoram the son of Ahab. Three times the demons, by using the same expression, reveal how Satan has nothing in common with Christ, or Christ with Satan. And lastly the Lord used it to the Virgin Mary to show how impassable is the gulf between His sinless Deity and her sinful humanity, and that only One Voice had authority for His ear.5

2:5 Mary understood the meaning of His words, and so she instructed the servants to do whatever He commanded them. Her words are important ones for every one of us. Notice that she did not direct men to obey her, or any other human being. She pointed them to the Lord Jesus and told them that He was the One who should be obeyed. The teachings of the Lord Jesus are given to us in the pages of the NT. As we read this precious book, we should remember the last recorded words of Mary, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”

2:6 In the place where the wedding was being held, there were six large stone vessels, containing twenty or thirty gallons of water apiece. This water was used by the Jewish people for cleansing themselves from defilement. For instance, if a Jew touched a dead body, he was considered unclean until he went through a certain ceremony of cleansing.

2:7 Jesus gave instructions to fill the waterpots with water. This the servants did immediately. The Lord used the facilities that were available when He was about to perform a miracle. He allowed men to provide the waterpots, and to fill them with water, but then He did what no man could ever do-changed the water into wine! It was the servants and not the disciples who filled the vessels with water. In this way, the Lord avoided the possibility of any charge of trickery. Also, the waterpots were filled to the brim, so that no one could say that wine had been added to the water.

2:8 The miracle had now taken place. The Lord instructed the servants to draw some out from the vessels and take the contents to the master of the feast. From this it is clear that the miracle had been instantaneous. The water did not become wine over a period of time, but in a second or so. As someone put it poetically, “The unconscious waters saw their God and blushed.”

2:9 The master of the feast was the one who had charge of arranging the tables and the food. When he had tasted it, he realized that something unusual had happened. He did not know where the wine came from, but he knew that it was of very high quality so he immediately called the bridegroom.

What should be the attitude of Christians toward wine today? Wine is sometimes prescribed for medicinal purposes, and this is entirely in accordance with the teaching of the NT (1 Tim. 5:23). However, because of the terrible abuses which have come about in connection with the intemperate use of wine, most Christians will want to avoid it altogether. Anyone can become addicted to strong drink. The way to avert this danger is to leave alcoholic beverages alone. Again, one must always consider the effect of his actions on others. In our culture it would be a bad testimony on the part of a Christian if an unsaved person should see him drinking wine, and for this reason he should abstain.

2:10 The ruler of the feast draws attention to the very marked difference between the way the Lord Jesus acts and the way men commonly act. The usual practice at a wedding was to serve the best wine first when men could best detect and enjoy its flavor. Later on, having eaten and drunk, they would not be as aware of the quality of their beverage. At this particular wedding, the best wine came last. There is a spiritual meaning in this for us. The world commonly offers people the best it has to offer at the outset. It holds out its most attractive offers to young people. Then when they have wasted their lives in empty pleasure, the world has nothing but dregs for a person’s old age. The Christian life is the very opposite. It gets better all the time. Christ keeps the best wine until the last. The feast follows the fast.

This portion of Scripture has a very direct application to the Jewish nation. There was no true joy in Judaism at this time. The people were going through a dreary round of rituals and ceremonies, but life for them was tasteless. They were strangers to divine joy. The Lord Jesus was seeking to teach them to put their faith in Him. He would turn their drab existence into fullness of joy. The water of Jewish ritual and ceremony could be turned into the wine of joyful reality in Christ.

2:11 The statement that this was the beginning of signs rules out the silly miracles attributed to our Lord in His childhood. These are found in such pseudo-gospels as “The Gospel of Peter.” They attribute to our Lord miracles performed allegedly when He was a child and are a little short of blasphemous in character. Foreseeing this, the Holy Spirit safeguarded this period of our Lord’s life and His character by this little additional note.

Changing water into wine was a sign, that is, a miracle with a meaning. It was a superhuman act with a spiritual meaning. These miracles also were designed to show that Jesus was indeed the Christ of God. By performing this sign, He manifested His glory. He revealed to men that He was indeed God-manifest in the flesh. His disciples believed in Him. Of course, in one sense they had believed in Him previously, but now their faith was strengthened, and they trusted Him more fully. Cynddylan Jones points out:

Moses’ first miracle was to turn water into blood; there was a severe destructive element in it. But Christ’s first miracle was to turn water into wine; there was a soothing, solacing element in it.6

E. The Son of God Cleanses His Father’s House (2:12-17)

2:12 The Savior now left Cana and went down to Capernaum with His mother, His brothers, and His disciples. They only stayed in Capernaum a few days. Soon after, the Lord went up to Jerusalem.

2:13 Beginning at this point, we have the Lord’s first witness to the city of Jerusalem. This phase of His ministry continues to chapter 3, verse 21. He both began and ended His public ministry by cleansing the temple at Passover time (cf. Matt. 21:12, 13; Mark 11:15-18; Luke 19:45, 46). The Passover was an annual feast commemorating the time when the children of Israel were delivered from slavery in Egypt and were led through the Red Sea to the wilderness, and then to the promised land. The first celebration of the Passover is recorded in Exodus 12. Being a devout Jew, the Lord Jesus went up to Jerusalem for this important day on the Jewish calendar.

2:14 Coming to the temple, He found that it had become a market place. Oxen and sheep and doves were sold there, and the moneychangers were carrying on their business as well. The animals and birds were sold to the worshipers for use as sacrifices. The money changers took the money of those who came from foreign countries and changed it into the money of Jerusalem so that the pilgrims could pay the tax to the temple. It is known that these moneychangers often took unfair advantage of those who traveled from great distances.

2:15 The whip which the Lord made was probably a small lash made of cords. It is not recorded that He actually used it on anyone. Instead, it is probable that it was merely a symbol of authority which He held in His hand. Waving the whip before Him, He drove the merchants out of the temple and overturned the tables of the moneychangers.

2:16 The law permitted the poor to offer a pair of doves, since they could not afford the more expensive animals. To those who sold doves, the Lord issued a command to take these things away. It was not fitting that they should make His Father’s house a house of merchandise. In all ages, God has warned His people against using religious services as a means of getting rich. There was nothing cruel or unjust in any of these actions. Rather, they were simply an indication of His holiness and righteousness.

2:17 When His disciples saw what was happening, they were reminded of Psalm 69:9 where it was predicted that when the Messiah came, He would be utterly consumed with a zeal for the things of God. Now they saw Jesus manifesting an intense determination that the worship of God should be pure, and they realized that this was the One of whom the Psalmist had spoken.

We should remember that the Christian’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Just as the Lord Jesus was anxious that the temple in Jerusalem be kept pure, so we must be careful that our bodies be turned over to the Lord for continual cleansing.

F. Jesus Predicts His Death and Resurrection (2:18-22)

2:18 It seems that the Jewish people were always seeking some sign or miracle. They said in effect, “If You perform some great, mighty work for us, then we will believe.” However, the Lord Jesus performed one miracle after another, and yet their hearts were closed to Him. In verse 18 they questioned His authority to cast businessmen out of the temple. They demanded that He should perform some sign to support His claim of being the Messiah.

2:19 In answer, the Lord Jesus made an amazing statement concerning His death and resurrection. He told them that they would destroy His sanctuary, but in three days He would raise it up. The deity of Christ is again seen in this verse. Only God could say, “In three days I will raise it up.”

2:20 The Jews did not understand Him. They were more interested in material things than in spiritual truth. The only temple they could think about was Herod’s temple which was then standing in Jerusalem. It had taken forty-six years to build this temple, and they could not see how any man could possibly rebuild it in three days.

2:21 The Lord Jesus, however, was speaking about His own body, which was the sanctuary in which all the fullness of the Godhead dwelt. Just as these Jews had defiled the temple in Jerusalem, so they would put Him to death in a few short years.

2:22 Later on, after the Lord Jesus had been crucified and had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had promised to rise again in three days. With such a marvelous fulfillment of prophecy before their eyes, they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.

We often come across truths which are difficult to understand. But we learn here that we should treasure the Word of God in our hearts. Some day later the Lord will make it plain to us, even though we do not understand it now. When it says that they believed the Scripture, it means that they believed the OT predictions concerning the resurrection of the Messiah.

G. Many Profess to Believe in Christ (2:23-25)

2:23 As a result of the signs which Jesus performed in Jerusalem at the Passover, many believed in His name. This does not necessarily mean that they actually committed their lives to Him in simple trust; rather, they professed to accept Him. There was no reality to their action; it was merely an outward display of following Jesus. It was similar to the condition which we have in the world where many people claim to be Christians who have never truly been born again through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

2:24 Although many believed in Him, yet Jesus did not believe (same word in Greek) in them. That is, He did not commit Himself to them. He realized that they were coming to Him out of curiosity. They were looking for something sensational and spectacular. He knew all men-their thoughts and their motives. He knew why they acted the way they did. He knew whether their faith was real or only an imitation.

2:25 No one knew the heart of man better than the Lord Himself. He had no need that anyone should teach or enlighten Him on this subject. He had full knowledge of what was in man and why man behaved as he did.

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