John 2:1-25

Submitted by admin on Tue, 2022-10-25 13:07.

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Possibly on the third day after Nathanael’s first meeting Jesus, a wedding took place in Cana of Galilee (identified with a site about 8 miles [c. 13 kilometers] northeast of Nazareth). Among those present were Jesus’ mother Mary, Jesus, and his disciples. (2:1, 2)

By invitation, Jesus and his disciples were present for the event. Likely there were six disciples at this time, Simon (Peter) and his brother Andrew, Philip and Nathanael (Bartholomew), and John and his brother James. While the record is silent about when James became a disciple, it would seem reasonable that John (probably the unnamed disciple mentioned in the first chapter of John) would have shared the news about Jesus with his brother. Their mother appears to have been Salome, usually identified as the wife of Zebedee. She may also have been Mary’s sister. (2:2; compare Matthew 27:56 with Mark 15:40 and John 19:25 with Matthew 27:55 and Mark 15:40, 41.)

During the wedding festivities, the supply of wine ran out. Mary became concerned about this embarrassing development. Her personal interest in preserving the joyous spirit of the occasion appears to be more typical of a relative or a close family friend than of an invited guest. She approached Jesus, informing him that there was no more wine. Possibly based on what her son had done at other times, she apparently believed that he would be able to come up with a solution for the problem she had brought to his attention. (2:3)

Jesus’ initial reply to her indicated that their relationship had changed. As the Christ, God’s unique Son, he would be the one to initiate action in his own time. A literal English translation of his words is harsher in tone than is the Greek, where the term for “woman” gyné can also denote “lady” or “wife.” For this reason, a number of translations represent Jesus as addressing Mary as “dear woman.” His response in question form was, “What to me and to you?” The idiomatic expression implied that in this specific matter the two of them had nothing in common. Jesus then added, “My hour has not yet come” (possibly meaning the time for him to intervene to handle the problem regarding the wine or the time for him to reveal his identity as the promised Messiah). (2:4)

Mary evidently understood that Jesus would no longer be taking motherly direction from her but did not doubt that he would act. This is suggested by her words to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” (2:5)

For ceremonial washing purposes, six large stone jars were available. Each of these could hold two or three measures (perhaps bath measures or roughly between 12 and 18 gallons [between 44 and 66 liters]). (2:6)

Jesus directed the servants to fill the containers with water. They then filled them to the top. (2:7)

In response to Jesus’s words, the servants drew out a sample of the liquid. As Jesus had instructed them, they took the drawn-out liquid to the master of the festivities. (2:8)

The servants did not tell the master of the festivities from where they had obtained the liquid. Upon tasting it, he perceived it to be choice wine and thereafter summoned the bridegroom to tell him that he had not followed the customary procedure. Unlike others, the bridegroom had set out the inferior wine first and reserved the best wine until the guests had partaken to a degree where their sense of taste had ceased to be keen. (2:9, 10)

His transforming water into wine in Cana of Galilee proved to be Jesus’ first “sign.” The term “sign” (semeíon) designates an occurrence that is viewed as having a special significance. In the context of John 2:11, the Greek word refers to a miracle or a miraculous sign. All the “signs” Jesus performed served to identify him as the promised Messiah, the Son of God. At the same time, the individual “signs” revealed aspects about him or his activity. This particular sign indicated that his ministry would differ markedly from that of John the Baptist, who lived an austere life and never drank wine. (Matthew 11:18; Luke 1:15) John proclaimed a serious message, calling upon the people to repent, and his bearing and actions harmonized with a spirit of godly sorrow. The arrival of the Messiah, however, opened up a period of joy and hope, extending to responsive ones the opportunity to become sharers with him in his royal realm and all the blessings associated therewith. By means of this sign, Jesus also manifested “his glory” or magnificence, revealing his divinely granted power, his role as a benefactor, and the kind of joy he alone would be able to impart to his disciples. Whereas the disciples had earlier made expressions of belief in him as being the Messiah and God’s Son, the noteworthy sign, as a manifestation of his glory, served to deepen their faith. As the biblical record states, “His disciples believed in him.” (2:11)

After the wedding, Jesus, his mother, his brothers, and his disciples went down to Capernaum (a city on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee about 676 feet [206 meters] below sea leve). From what is thought to have been the site of ancient Cana, they would have traveled about 25 miles (40 kilometers) by road. The group did not remain long in Capernaum. Originally Peter and Andrew had lived in nearby Bethsaida. (1:44) At this time, however, they were residing in Capernaum, and the city may also have been the home of James and John. (2:12; compare Mark 1:16-21; Luke 4:31-38.)

As the Passover was near, Jesus, his brothers, his disciples, and Mary left Capernaum for Jerusalem, where they would observe the Passover. With the prime focus being on Jesus and his activity in Jerusalem, the account only specifically mentions Jesus as going up to Jerusalem. (2:13)

There, in the “temple” (hierón) or, more specifically, in the Court of the Gentiles, which was part of the extensive temple complex, Jesus saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and money changers seated at their tables. Worshipers would buy animals for sacrifice and exchange coins that were unacceptable for the payment of the temple tax, contributions for the support of the temple, and possibly also for the purchase of sacrificial animals. (2:14)

For the merchants and money changers, this proved to be a profitable enterprise. The Mishnah, compiled around 200 CE and consisting of a collection of ancient Jewish traditions, says (Shekalim 1:3) that money changers set up in the temple area on the 25th of Adar (February/March). This Jewish work also reveals extreme price gouging in connection with the sale of sacrificial animals. On one occasion, a pair of doves was being sold for 25 times more than the usual price. (Keritot 1:7)

Filled with indignation about the defilement of a sacred location with commercial activity, Jesus made a whip of ropes and drove the sheep and cattle out of the temple area, forcing the sellers to leave with their animals. He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and told the sellers of doves to leave with their birds, rebuking them for having turned his Father’s house into a place of business. Upon witnessing Jesus’ taking such firm action, the disciples recalled the words of the psalmist, “The zeal for your house will consume me.” (2:15-17; see Psalm 69:9[10], 68:10, LXX)

Based on the words recorded in Malachi 3:1-7, the Jews may have expected the promised Messiah to take decisive action in connection with the sanctity of the temple. His foretold role included purifying the Levites for offering acceptable sacrifices. It therefore appears that certain Jews challenged Jesus to show them a sign, a sign establishing Messianic authority to stop commercial activity in the temple complex. (2:18)

In response to their challenging question about what sign he would be showing them, Jesus replied, “Pull down this temple [naós, usually applying to the main sanctuary building], and in three days I will raise it.” Jesus’ response was basically the same as his reply on other occasions when challengingly asked for a sign. This sign, which came to be widely known, was that he would rise in three days. (Matthew 12:38-40; 16:4; 26:60, 61; Luke 11:29) Jesus could refer to raising “the temple of his body” in three days, as his Father had granted him the authority or right to surrender his “soul” or life and to receive it again. (2:19; 10:17, 18)

In disbelief, they said, “This temple [naós] was built in 46 years, and you are going to raise it in three days?” From the historical information contained in the writings of Josephus, it is not possible to determine just what the Jews in the temple area meant when saying to Jesus that the temple was built in 46 years. Work on the entire temple complex was not completed until some six years before the Romans destroyed it in 70 CE. As for the start of the rebuilding undertaken at the direction of Herod the Great, Josephus says in War (I, xxi, 1) that it was the 15th year of Herod’s reign, whereas in Antiquities (XV, xi, 1) he states that it was the 18th year. If the reference to the 15th year is not in error, possibly it was then that preparatory work began, with actual construction on the site not commencing until the 18th year. (2:20)

Neither the Jewish questioners nor his disciples understood that Jesus was speaking figuratively about “the temple [naós] of his body.” Not until Jesus was raised from the dead did his disciples understand what he meant. It was then that they believed the “Scripture” foretelling Jesus’ resurrection and the “word” he spoke in the temple area relating to his rising from the dead. (2:21, 22)

While in Jerusalem for the Passover and the seven-day festival that followed, Jesus did perform miraculous signs. Witnessing these signs, many came to believe in “his name” or in him. Jesus, however, recognized that those who initially responded favorably did not have a solid faith. He did not trust himself to them, for he knew them all or he knew who they really were at heart and understood human weaknesses fully. He did not need anyone else’s testimony about “man,” for “he knew what was in man.” Jesus discerned how easily humans could be swayed or wrongly influenced despite having clear evidence respecting the rightness of a particular course. (2:23-25)