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The First “Sign” (John 2:1-11) | Werner Bible Commentary

The First “Sign” (John 2:1-11)

Submitted by admin on Sun, 2007-06-24 09:52.

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Possibly on the third day after Nathanael’s first meeting Jesus, a wedding took place in Cana of Galilee. Among those present were Jesus’ mother Mary, Jesus, and his disciples. 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. (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. His initial reply to her, however, 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). 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.” (John 2:1-5)

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). Jesus directed the servants to fill the containers with water and then to take a sample of the liquid to the master of the festivities. The servants did not tell him the source of the liquid. Upon tasting it, he perceived it to be choice wine and thereafter told the bridegroom 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. (John 2:6-10)

The transformation of water into wine proved to be Jesus’ first “sign.” It 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 1:14) 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 first 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, this sign, as a manifestation of his glory, served to deepen their faith. As the biblical record states, “His disciples believed in him.” (John 2:11)


See http://holylandphotos.org for pictures of and comments about Cana. Enter “Cana” in the “search” box.

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.