The next installment of notes from our Evening Service Study of the Gospel of John
John 2:1-12 – The First Sign
- The 3rd day = the 3rd day after the calling of disciples in John 1. The phrase “the 3rd day” carries deep resurrection symbolism.
- Cana in Galilee = a village close to Nazareth (visible on a clear day)
- A wedding took place: Weddings feasts lasted up to a week with new guests appearing each day
- Jesus’ mother was there:
- The story creates the impression she was somehow connected to the wedding family
- A non-canonical Coptic Gospel tells us she was a sister to the groom’s mother.
- The ancient Monarchian Prefaces to the Gospels indicate that the groom was John himself, and that his mother was Salome, the sister of Mary.
- Joseph was absent, offering circumstantial confirmation that he was already dead by this time.
- Jesus and His disciples had been invited. Note that thus far this was only Andrew, Simon, Philip, Nathanael and one other unnamed disciple.
- When the wine was gone, Mary told Jesus, “They have no more wine”. Remembering that Jesus had not yet done any miracles, why do you think she did this?:
- If they were related, Jesus bore some responsibility to help
- Mary trusted Him to get things done.
- “Woman, why do you involve Me? My hour has not yet come”: Was Jesus being rude?
- “Woman” was a common form of personal address (e.g. John 19:26)
- He was sending a clear message that He was now on the Father’s timetable and had His eyes fixed on an hour that was to come. He was no longer under her authority.
- Jesus refers 9 times to His “hour” in John’s Gospel; viz.: 2:4; 7:30; 8:20; 12:23; 12:27 (twice); 13:1; 16:32; and 17:1.
- Mary remained confident, telling the servants: “Do whatever He tells you.” Hereby she issued a call for them (and us) to trust Jesus and to obey Him
- The jars for washing. These were:
- 80-120 litres in volume
- Provided for foot-washing and for
- Ceremonial handwashing before meals and between courses to ensure the meal was eaten in a kosher fashion.
- Six is the number indicating imperfection to the Jews:
- The jars can thus be seen to stand for the imperfections of the Jewish rituals
- The coming miracle is indicative of Jesus replacing the water of the ritual law with the new wine of the gospel of grace.
- Jesus said fill the jars and they filled them to the brim (v.7) Then He told them to draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet and they did so! (v.8) What does their response to Jesus tell us?
- They put their faith implicitly in Jesus.
- They obeyed to the letter … to the brim
- The master’s astonishment in v.9-10 is understandable. What do we learn from it?
- This was the best wine they had at the feast
- The supply of excellent wine for the banquet was now virtually bottomless (120L x 6 = 720L)
- Abundant, extravagant supplies of wine is a profoundly symbolic thing in Scripture, where abundant wine is a sign of the coming age of God’s Kingdom; e.g.:
- Jeremiah 31:12
- Joel 3:18
- Amos 9:13-14
- This miraculous sign indicates to the careful reader that the long-awaited Kingdom of God has arrived and that God has drawn near in Jesus.
- The imperfect law was very limited in its ability to transform lives but the grace of God in Jesus is limitless
- This was the first sign Jesus did. John says it revealed His glory. What did it reveal about Jesus?
- All things are possible to Him
- He is the King of the coming Kingdom
- His grace and truth replace the ritual law
- His disciples put their faith in Him. This connects the reading back to John 1:12-13
Jesus cleanses the Temple (2:13-25)
The Synoptic Gospels only record one journey to Jerusalem, just before the crucifixion. John records a number of visits. Is this a contradiction? No.
- They have different points of view. They complement each other’s accounts.
- Matthew, Mark and Luke concentrate on the ministry in Galilee. John fills in gaps by concentrating on the Judean and Jerusalem ministry.
- Even Matthew 23:37 implies numerous previous visits to Jerusalem.
But in John, Jesus cleansed the Temple as His ministry began. In the Synoptics it was as His ministry was ending. How do we understand this?
- John is concerned with truth, not chronological facts.
- His aim is not to present a chronological biography, it is to show Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah.
- Recording this event here was not about when it happened but WHY it happened and what was symbolised by it.
Why did it happen and what did it symbolise?
- Obeying the ritual of temple worship necessitated sales of sacrifices and coin exchanging activities;
- Because the ritual had eclipsed the heart of worship, convenience and expedience brought such sales right into the Temple courts.
- This was symptomatic of the state of heart confronted by the Jewish prophets (e.g. Psalm 51:16; Isaiah 1:11-17; Hosea 5:6 and 8:13)
- The only place Gentiles could worship was being used as a marketplace.
- Jesus’ passion for pure worship (truth) and the inclusion of all people (grace) was paramount.
- It was also in a way a sign of:
- Jesus’ fulfilling prophecy like Psalm 69:9 – His zeal for God’s house
- Jesus doing away with the sacrificial system
- It was a symbol of the truth underlying the miracle at the wedding – that His grace and truth will replace the ritual law.
Jesus responded to the angry challenge of the authorities by saying that He would prove His authority to do this by rising from the dead (v.18-22)
The effect is remarkable:
- People believed / trusted in Jesus (John’s main point)
- Jesus however did not entrust Himself people and their fickle commitments. His purpose was still God’s Will.