John 2 – Conversion and Cleansing
A. Water into wine at a wedding.
1. (1-5) Jesus (politely) replies to His mother’s request.
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”
a. Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding: This is the first of many stories suggesting that Jesus was always welcome among those having a good time. Jesus didn’t spoil the good time.
b. They ran out of wine: This was a major social faux pas. “To fail in providing adequately for the guests would involve social disgrace. In the closely knit communities of Jesus’ day such an error would never be forgotten, and would haunt the newly married couple all their lives.” (Tenney)
i. Additionally, wine was a rabbinical symbol of joy. Therefore “to run out of wine would almost have been the equivalent of admitting that neither the guests nor the bride and groom were happy.” (Boice)
c. They have no wine: Why did Mary ask Jesus to do something? Mary was no doubt earnestly anticipating Jesus’ day of demonstration, for it would be a day of vindication for her. Yet she would not force the issue, leaving the matter with Jesus.
d. Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? Jesus refers to His mother with a term of respect, but He does not call her “mother.” Jesus wanted to emphasize that there was a different relationship with her now.
e. Whatever He says to you, do it: The recorded words of Mary are few. However, it is good to pay attention to her words that are recorded, because they consistently glorify Jesus, not Mary herself. If only we would obey Mary’s direction, whatever He says to you, do it.
i. To deliberately go through Mary to get to Jesus is to regard Jesus as hardhearted, and Mary as tenderhearted. This concept “is totally alien from the Bible. It comes from mother-son ideas prevalent in pagan religions.” (Barnhouse)
f. Some traditions say that this was John’s wedding, and he left his bride at the altar after seeing this miracle. It’s a pleasant, but an unlikely story.
i. Mormons take this idea an absurd step further declaring this is Jesus’ wedding. Of course, this is against the plain meaning of this passage and all of the gospel records of the life of Jesus.
2. (6-12) Water is converted into wine.
Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him. After this He went down to Capernaum, He, His mother, His brothers, and His disciples; and they did not stay there many days.
a. Six waterpots of stone: Jesus began this miracle by using what was at hand. He could have supplied more wine any number of ways, but He started with what was there.
b. According to the manner of purification of the Jews: The waterpots are connected with the system of Law, because they were used in ceremonial purification.
c. Fill the waterpots with water: The servants under the direction of Jesus were in a unique place of blessing for this miracle. Jesus wanted the cooperation of men in this miracle. He could have filled the pots Himself, or just as easily created the liquid in the pots. But He knew that if the servants shared in the work, then they also shared in the blessing.
i. The servants did not do the miracle. Their efforts alone were completely insufficient. But because of their obedience to Jesus, they shared in the joy of the miracle.
ii. The servants were especially blessed because they obeyed without question, and to the fullest (they filled them up to the brim). This means that the miracle would be fulfilled in the greatest measure possible. If they were lazy and only filled the waterpots half full, there would have only been half as much wine.
d. Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast: This took faith on behalf of the servants. Imagine how angry the master of the feast would be if they brought him water to taste! Yet in faith, they obeyed the word of Jesus.
e. You have kept the good wine until now! When Jesus made wine, it was good wine. It doesn’t mean that it had a particularly high alcohol content, but that it was well-made wine.
i. Some go to great lengths to show that what Jesus made here was really grape juice. While some find that line of thinking convincing, it is not the opinion of the author. Good wine is good wine, not good grape juice. It is true that wine in that day, as commonly served, had a much lower content of alcohol than modern wine. But it was still wine.
f. This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee: This beginning of signs in the Gospel of John is a miracle of conversion, from the old ways of law, ceremony and purification to the new life of Jesus.
i. How did Jesus actually do miracles? He did them in many different ways. Here, Jesus did not say a word or blink an eye. He merely exercised His will and the miracle was done.
ii. Moses turned water into blood, showing that the Law results in death (Exodus 7:17-21). But Jesus’ first miracle turned water into wine, showing the gladness and joy of His new work. This acts out what John said in John 1:17: For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
iii. We could say that the water is like a relationship with God under the Old Covenant, and the wine is like a relationship with God under the New Covenant.
· The wine was after the water, and the New Covenant is after the Old Covenant.
· The wine was from the water, and the New Covenant is from the Old Covenant
· The wine was and better than the water; and the New Covenant is better than the Old Covenant.
g. Manifested His glory: According to John 2:1, this miracle happened on the third day. John is hinting at the idea that Jesus shows forth His glory on the third day, and that His disciples believe in Him when they see His glory.
h. His disciples believed in Him: Of course they believed before, but now their belief was deepened and re-expressed. This is typical in our Christian lives. God does something great in our lives, and we believe in Him all over again.
B. The temple cleansed.
1. (13-17) Jesus drives out the moneychangers and sellers of expensive “approved” sacrificial animals.
Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.”
a. The Passover of the Jews was at hand: Jerusalem would be crowded with thousands of visitors coming at Passover. The temple mount would be particularly crowded, and Jesus saw many doing business in the outer courts of the temple.
i. “The very fact of the market being held there would produce an unseemly mixture of sacred and profane transactions, even setting aside the abuses which would be certain to be mingled with the traffic.” (Alford)
ii. The moneychangers doing business: “Astonishing as it may sound, it is likely that as many as two and a quarter million Jews sometimes assembled in the Holy City to keep the Passover.” (Barclay) According to Barclay, they all had to pay the temple tax, which was the equivalent of about two days wages for a working man – but had to be paid in the special temple coin. This is why the moneychangers did so much business.
iii. Many commentators say the reason why foreign coins were not allowed in temple contributions was because they bore the image of the emperor or pagan gods. But “Tyrian coinage was not only permitted, but expressly prescribed (Mishnah, Bekh. 8:7), and this bore heathen symbols.” (Morris) It seems that the issue was not what was on the coin, but what was in the coin, and only coinage that had a reputation for being of good weight and content was allowed.
iv. “Being familiar it became legitimate, and no one though of any incongruity in it until this young Nazarene felt a flash of zeal for the sanctity of His Father’s house consuming Him.” (Maclaren)
v. The Passover of the Jews: “Our Evangelist repeatedly refers to festivals as festivals ‘of the Jews’ – not because he himself was not a Jew by birth and upbringing (he was), but because many of his readers would be Gentiles, unacquainted with the details of the Jewish sacred year.” (Bruce)
b. When He had made a whip of cords: When Jesus drove those doing business out of the temple courts, He did not do it in a flash of anger. He carefully took the time to make a whip of cords, and thought carefully about what He would do.
i. Curiously, some commentators are confident that Jesus used the whip of cords only upon the animals, and others are confident that He used it upon both men and animals. Nevertheless, the sense is much more a display of Jesus’ authority than violence.
c. He drove them all out . . . poured out the changers’ money and overturned tables: Those doing business in the outer courts of the temple spoiled the only place where Gentiles could come and worship. This area (the court of the Gentiles) was made into a house of merchandise.
i. Remember that cleansing was part of the Passover celebration. Removing every speck of anything leavened (made with yeast) from the home was a symbol, a picture, of cleansing from sin.
ii. Matthew, Mark, and Luke each describe another cleansing of the temple performed by Jesus, towards the end of His earthly ministry. In both cases, the presence of these merchants in the temple courts spoiled the only place Gentiles could pray. In addition their dishonesty made their presence all the worse.
iii. “John is not correcting a supposed chronological blunder on the part of the earlier evangelists, nor deliberately altering their history in the interests of theological exposition, but, we may reasonably suppose, relating an additional ‘cleansing’.” (Tasker)
iv. “The evil in question was one which was likely to recur after a check. Jesus’ action, though salutary, is not likely to have put a permanent end to the practice.” (Morris)
d. Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up: The disciples remembered this line from Psalm 69:9 and connected it to the zeal Jesus had for the purity of God’s house and worship practiced there.
i. John began with a miracle of conversion (changing water into wine). Then he showed Jesus performing a work of cleansing (the cleansing of the temple). This is always how Jesus works in His people: conversion first, then cleansing.
2. (18-22) Jesus speaks of a new temple, and its destiny.
So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.
a. What sign do You show to us, since You do these things? This wasn’t necessarily a bad question. Anyone who drove the merchants out from the temple courts claimed the authority to do it. The Jews wanted to know if Jesus really had this authority. The problem is that they demanded a sign from Jesus to prove it.
i. “Their request for a ‘sign’ was misguided: what sign could have been more eloquent than that which they had just witnessed?” (Bruce)
b. Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up: Jesus spoke here of the temple of His body. He probably even gestured to Himself as He said this. Jesus knew that these religious leaders would attempt to destroy His body, but He also knew that they would not succeed.
i. The irony is that the religious leaders themselves would be the means by which the prophecy was fulfilled. When Jesus said, “Destroy this temple,” He knew that they would in fact do their best to destroy it.
ii. At the trial of Jesus, one of the charges brought against Him was that He said He would destroy the temple (Matthew 26:60-61, Mark 14:57-59). When He died on the cross, the mockers reminded Jesus of what seemed to be an impossible promise (Matthew 27:40, Mark 15:29).
iii. Destroy this temple: Jesus wasn’t against the temple, but He certainly looked beyond it. He told the Samaritan woman that there was a day coming when people would no longer worship at a temple in Samaria or Jerusalem, but they would worship God in Spirit and in truth.
iv. The body of Jesus is still a temple. Ephesians 2:19-22 and 1 Peter 2:5 both connect the idea of the church – metaphorically called the body of Christ – with a temple built upon and built by Jesus Christ.
c. I will raise it up: Jesus confidently claimed the power to raise Himself from the dead, and He repeated the claim in John 10:18. It is interesting to note that the New Testament also claims that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 6:4 and Galatians 1:1), and that that Holy Spirit raised Him from the dead (Romans 1:4 and 8:11). The resurrection of Jesus was a work of each Person of the Trinity, each working together.
i. No mere man could make the claim to raise himself from the dead, even if one had confidence that God would raise him. The claim of Jesus is remarkable, audacious, and evidence of His self-awareness of Deity.
ii. “Jesus’ technique of using a paradoxical statement to bewilder his enemies, which he subsequently explained for his disciples, frequently appears in John’s Gospel.” (Tenney)
d. His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture: It was only after the death and resurrection of Jesus that His disciples understood and believed both the Scriptures and the specific promises of Jesus.
i. The Scripture they believed was primarily Psalm 16:10, the promise that God’s Holy One would not remain in the grave.
ii. They believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said: “The placing of Jesus’ saying alongside Scripture is interesting and its Christological implications should not be overlooked.” (Morris)
3. (23-25) Jesus does not entrust Himself to the many who believe.
Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.
a. Many believed in His name when they saw the signs: Jesus knew that this was thin, superficial belief. It wasn’t based on anything other than an admiration of the spectacular. Knowing this, Jesus did not commit Himself to them.
i. “If belief is nothing more than admiration for the spectacular, it will create in multitudes applause; but the Son of God cannot commit Himself to that kind of faith.” (Morgan)
ii. A light or superficial faith may be better than none at all, but no one should think that it is enough – and Jesus knows. “It is what Luther calls ‘milk faith’ and may grow into something more trustworthy.” (Dods)
b. He knew what was in man: Knowing what was and is in humanity, Jesus still loves. He knew and knows the worst; yet also sees the image of God, even upon fallen men and women.
i. Jesus did not commit Himself to them: “Other leaders and teachers may be misled at times into giving their followers more credit for loyalty and understanding than they actually possess; not so Jesus, who could read the inmost thoughts of men and women like an open book.” (Bruce)
ii. “When many came to believe on Him He did not commit Himself to them. He was not dependent on man’s approval.” (Morris)
iii. He knew what was in man: “Nothing less than divine knowledge is here set forth…as the text now stands, it asserts an entire knowledge of all that is in all men.” (Alford)
©2014 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission