The Gospel of John: Revealing the Invisible God
A Bible Study by Fred Kenison
This book is a verse-by-verse commentary. To go to the commentary for any particular verse in Chapter 2, please click on a number below.
2:1 And on the third day a marriage took place in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.
John did not explain how Jesus called his other disciples. Instead, he turned his attention to Jesus' ministry. "On the third day a marriage took place." The third day was probably mentioned here because it was a reference to the resurrection of Jesus, and other significant events. As Jesus was changed into a glorified man on the third day, or the day of his resurrection, so also the bride and groom were changed into being one flesh. It was a day of a new beginning, and their future would be experienced as one.
Jesus was now in Galilee (see also John l:43), and his mother was with him at the wedding.
2:2 And Jesus also was invited, and his disciples, to the wedding.
Everyone invited to a wedding was expected to bring a gift. We were not told whether Jesus or his mother brought a gift. Neither were we told how many of the disciples were there with Jesus. Was it only the three that John mentioned, or was it all 12 of the disciples?
2:3 And being deficient of wine, the mother of Jesus says to him, They have not wine.
The basic Greek word for deficient is ustereoo, which means,
"to be in want of, lack, to be devoid, fall short of" (Thayer, p. 646).
According to the mother of Jesus, they were not just deficient, but "they have not wine." The not used was ouk, the absolute no, or not. They were completely out of wine.
2:4 Jesus says to her, What to me and to thee, woman? Mine hour is not yet come.
This question might be paraphrased as, "What has that to do with you, or with me?" It was not the responsibility of the guests to see that there was enough wine for the wedding feast; that was the responsibility of the host.
This question is translated much more accurately in Berry, and is a much different translation than that in the KJV, where it says, "Woman what have I to do with thee?" Because Jesus used, gunai, woman, instead of mother, it does indicate a certain amount of disassociation, as the KJV states clearly. However, that did not carry the same sense of repudiation as it would in today's society. Jesus was simply telling his mother that she had no part in his ministry of preaching and performing miracles. His remarks indicated that she was putting him in a condition where he would be forced to begin his ministry before it was his own time.
He went further by saying, "Mine hour is not yet come." In context, Jesus was saying that whatever he might do, he would do in his own time. Perhaps he was reluctant to be pushed into his ministry any earlier than necessary. John also used these words one other time:
"And no one took him, for not yet had his hour come" (John 8:20).
And, in verse 12:23, Jesus, speaking of his crucifixion, said,
"The hour has come that the son of the man should be glorified."
2:5 His mother says to the servants, Whatever he may say to you, do.
Why would his mother, an invited guest, be telling the servants what to do? Could this have been her way of trying to make up for the lack of a proper wedding gift? Or, was she simply undeterred by his (Jesus') admonishment? The scriptures do not answer these questions. Whatever her reason, she did tell the servants, "Whatever he may say to you, do." Although Jesus had tried to distance himself from her, she still interfered with his ministry.
Some have said that because Jesus followed her desires, that is sufficient reason for praying to Miriam (Mary), that she must have great influence with her son. According to scripture, however, Jesus put further distance between her and his ministry at another time. Granted, Luke 1:28 does say, "Blessed art thou among women," in speaking about Miriam (Mary), but by no means does this give license to the many millions who say countless prayers to her every day.
Miriam (Mary) was blessed because The God chose her to deliver his son, Jesus. This does not infer that she was any more holy than many other young virgins of Israel. The God has chosen many to serve him who may seem unworthy, and Miriam was only one of them. For example, no one prays to Jacob, even though The God used him in a mighty way. He was the father of Israel, blessed with the twelve sons from which many in Israel descended. He also received the blessing given to Abraham and Isaac, to carry it on. Miriam (Mary) has become so idolized that no other woman can feel worthy compared to her. This is a miscarriage of justice to myriads of women, and serves as a means for the organized church to keep women subservient to men.
2:6 And there were there six water-vessels of stone standing according to the purification of the Jews, each holding two or three metretae.
A metretae, or measure, translated as a firkin in the KJV, was a fairly large vessel, holding approximately 18-24 gallons each. The Jews used vessels of stone because they met their standards of purification, or preparation. According to rabbinic rules, stone does not attract anything of itself that would make it "unclean." These may have been the same stone vessels which held the previous wine.
2:7 Jesus says to them, Fill the water-vessels with water. And they filled them unto [the] brim.
Perhaps Jesus choose to do as his mother wished in order to honor her according to the law (Exodus 20:12), or to not embarrass her publicly by refusing her request. In that day, according to the law, those who did not honor their father or mother could even be stoned, and perhaps Jesus chose not to risk the punishment. Whatever the reason, Jesus did as she wished, and the servants obeyed him.
2:8 And he says to them, Draw out now, and carry to the master of the feast.
As far as the scriptures are concerned, Jesus did not engage in theatrics to draw attention to himself. The servants filled the water-vessels with water, and took some of it to the master of the feast. We are not told what Jesus did to change the water to wine.
However, it is a certainty that he did not parade around on the stage going through a regimen of hocus-pocus like many of the so-called "evangelists" do today. They do everything imaginable to focus attention on themselves. Jesus wanted nothing to do with such antics. It is not even certain that he even wanted to perform his first miracle.
2:9 But when the master of the feast had tasted the water that had become wine, and knew not whence it is, (but the servants who had drawn the water knew,) the master of the feast calls the bridegroom.
The master of the feast was the person who managed all the details concerning the food catering, the table arrangements, and any other details necessary to assure that the guests would be comfortable. When the servants presented the new wine to him, the master of the feast tasted it, and immediately went to the bridegroom. His purpose was to "straighten him out" concerning the protocol of when to serve the best wine.
2:10 And says to him, Every man sets on first the good wine, and when they may have drunk freely, then the inferior: thou hast kept the good wine until now.
The proper manner for serving wine was the opposite of what the manager of the feast thought the bridegroom had done. He did not know that the bridegroom was also ignorant about the source of the wine. Therefore, he assumed something that simply was not true.
"Every man sets on first the good wine." When the people attending the wedding had drunk a great deal of the good wine, or "may have drunk freely," then the "inferior wine" could be served. It would be unlikely that the guests would notice the difference. The word drunk as used here, does not necessarily infer that the guests were drunk, only that they had imbibed freely.
2:11 This beginning of the signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested his glory and his disciples believed on him.
This was the first of other signs which were yet to be manifested. The word signs comes from seemeioon, which means,
"a sign, prodigy, portent, i.e., an unusual occurrence, transcending the common course of nature" (Thayer, p. 573).
Jesus would do other signs than these, and John listed six more signs, or miracles, that Jesus performed.
John l:14 told about the glory of Jesus.
"And the word became flesh, and tabernacled among us, and we discerned his glory, a glory as of an only-begotten son with a father full of grace and truth."
Verse 2:11 said that this miracle, or sign, of changing water into wine "manifested his glory." It also clearly demonstrated the power that had been given to Jesus as he subjected himself to the holy spirit poured out upon him at his baptism. It also did what Jesus came to do: show forth the character of his heavenly father, The God, who is the master of the elements, as shown by this sign. Keep in mind that Jesus came for the purpose of displaying the goodness of The God, so people could observe and be convinced of his goodness toward his creation.
"And his disciples believed on him." Just how far their faith extended is not mentioned here, but from other scriptures it seems clear that they now knew he was the messiah. However, as we know from other scriptures, he was a different kind of messiah than they thought he would be.
Luke 1:71-75 says his purpose was,
"Salvation from our enemies and from [the] hand of all those who hate us; to fulfill mercy with our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant, [the] oath which he swore to Abraham our father, to give us [that] without fear out of [the ]hand of our enemies being saved, we should serve him in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life."
The Israelites looked to the messiah to fulfill this prophesy of Zacharias quoted in Luke.
Today, most of the preaching emphasizes that Jesus came to die for people, and indeed, that was one of his accomplishments. However, his primary purpose was to demonstrate to people the goodness, and love, and mercy of The God. Almost completely forgotten by many preachers is the truth that Jesus is coming again, to rule as king over all the earth. It is those who believe that Jesus is the christ, who will be saved, not necessarily those who may have "accepted him as their personal savior."
2:12 After this, he went down to Capernaum, he and his mother and his brethren and his disciples, and there they abode not many days.
After the wedding feast, Jesus, his mother, his brethren, and his disciples went to Capernaum. It is interesting to note that he had his family with him. Was this by his own choice? Or, did his family feel that they had a right to participate in his ministry?
When Jesus was 12 years old, he was discussing scriptures with the learned rabbis of his day. His parents did not know where he was, and when they later found him, his mother admonished him. Luke 2:42-50 says,
"And when he was twelve years [old], they having gone up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast, and having completed the days, as they returned, the child Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, and Joseph and his mother knew it not: but supposing him to be in the company , they went a day's journey, and sought him among the relations and among the acquaintances. And not having found him they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in [the] midst of the teachers, both hearing them and questioning them. And all those hearing him were amazed at [his] understanding and his answers. And seeing him they were astonished: and his mother said to him, Child, why hast thou done thus to us? Behold, thy father and I were distressed seeking thee. And he said to them, Why [is it] that ye were seeking me? Knew ye not that it behooves me to be in the [affairs] of my Father? And they understood not the word which he spoke to them."
This was the first indication of a misunderstanding between Jesus and his mother concerning his ministry. His mother interfered with his ministry, just as she would do again later at the wedding in Cana.
The final time Jesus rebuked his mother and his family occurred in Capernaum. Jesus was teaching in that city (Matthew 11:23), and while he was there, his mother and brethren wanted to speak to him. Matthew 12:46-50 says,
"But while he was yet speaking to the crowds, behold, [his] mother and his brethren were standing without, seeking to speak to him. Then said one to him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren are standing without, seeking to speak to thee. But he answering said to him who spoke to him, Who is my mother? And who are my brethren? And stretching out his hand to his disciples, he said, Behold, my mother and my brethren. For whosoever shall do the will of my father who [is] in [the] heavens, he is my brother and sister and mother."
Since the scriptures never say that Jesus relented, he apparently did not. His blood relatives must have finally realized that although they were related, they did not have any influence in his ministry. After this exchange, we find that Jesus travels with his disciples, not his blood relatives.
As an aside, tradition holds that Joseph died when Jesus was about 18 years old, which may be why he is not mentioned in the scripture references concerning the family.
2:13 And the passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
This time, Jesus went to Jerusalem as a man, exercising his ministry under the auspices of the holy spirit. The Passover was instituted in Egypt as one of the plagues upon that nation to convince Pharaoh to let the Israelite people go (Deuteronomy 16:1-8). The Israelites were told to keep the Passover each year in the month of Nisan.
Since the Passover was near, this would have been either the last of the year, or the first of the year. Passover was held between the 14th and 21st of Nisan, the first month of the Jewish year, corresponding roughly to our month of April. Just as he did when he was 12 years old, Jesus again "went up to Jerusalem." As a good Jew, Jesus had probably been there many times before, but the scriptures do not tell us that.
2:14 And he found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money-changers sitting.
Gentile proselytes were not allowed in the inner court of the temple which was reserved only for the literal descendants of Abraham. Those he "found in the temple" outer area were the wrong people. This area was called the court of the Gentiles. While the Gentiles were accepted as believers in one god, and while they had been circumcised, still they were not considered to be true Jews. It is comparable to many churches today which hold that some believers are "more spiritual" because of one thing or another, i.e., speaking in tongues.
Matthew 21 relates that Jesus entered the temple after riding into the city on the colt of an ass. The people laid their garments on the ground in front of him, and others waved palm leaves as they shouted,
"Hosanna to the son of David; blessed [be] he who comes in [the] name of [the] Lord. Hosanna in the highest" (Matthew 21:9b).
Mark 10:46-52 says that Jesus, while on the way to Jerusalem, healed the blind man who cried out to the son of David to heal him. His disciples told the man to be quiet, but Jesus called for him and healed him; and the man received his sight and began to follow Jesus.
By now, Jesus was speaking in clear terms about his future death.
"And having taken to [him] the twelve he said to them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things which have been written by the prophets about the son of the man shall be accomplished. For he will be delivered up to the Gentiles, and will be mocked , and will be insulted, and will be spit upon. And having scourged him, they will kill him; and on the third day he will rise again. And they understood nothing of these things, and this saying was hid from them, and they knew not what was said" (Luke l8:31-34 ).
Why did they not understand? These Jewish followers were expecting their messiah to deliver them from the power of the Gentiles, not to be killed by the Gentiles. They could not conceive of their messiah being defeated. The message Jesus preached was definitely not what the Jewish nation expected.
The Jews of his time, like many today who call themselves "christians," did not see anything wrong with using the church building to become wealthy, even though it was supposedly dedicated to the worship of God. Those whom Jesus found in the temple selling "oxen and sheep and doves," were using the opportunity to make money by selling these animals to the pilgrims who had traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover. What was wrong was that they were doing it in the temple, instead of in the space outside the temple. They had usurped the place where Gentile converts were supposed to worship, and had turned it into a place of commerce instead of worship.
The money-changers were also sitting in the temple area. The Jews came from many different areas, and some needed to exchange their foreign money into the local money used in the Jewish nation. Therefore, the money-changers also profited from exchanging foreign money for domestic money.
2:15 And having made a scourge of cords, he drove out all from the temple, both the sheep and the oxen; and of the money-changers, he poured out the coin and overthrew the tables.
Jesus most likely used whatever was close at hand, probably reeds, to make his "scourge of cords." The key part here, though, is that "he drove out all from the temple, both the sheep and the oxen." He not only chased out all the people who owned the oxen and sheep, but he also drove out all their animals. The way this was written implies that it was a wholesale driving out of all the animals, and they were all mixed together in the process. The owners would have to sort them out later.
After chasing the money-changers out, Jesus overthrew the tables and scattered all their money on the ground. It would be much more difficult to sort out the money than to sort out the animals. From the description given, Jesus was not careful about distinguishing their property. His intent was to cleanse the temple area of commerce in order to return it to its original purpose of worship.
2:16 And to those who sold the doves, he said, Take these things hence; make not the house of my father a house of merchandise.
Jesus drove the oxen and sheep outside, where their owners could reclaim them. The interesting point here is that Jesus did not loose the doves which would have flown away. He told their owners to "take these things hence," which demonstrated at least some level of concern for their property.
Jesus also said, "Make not the house of my father a house of merchandise." The temple, as well as the Old Testament tabernacle, had always been a place where people came to worship before Jehovah. Most of the people who came to Jerusalem for Passover still came for that purpose. Jesus took exception to those who used the confines of the temple to make a profit from the pilgrims.
When Jesus spoke of "the house of my father," those who heard him assumed he was speaking of Jehovah, the god of Israel. They did not yet know anything about the invisible god. The way into the heavenly holy of holies had not yet been opened through his crucifixion. Earlier, Jesus had said that he must be about his father's business. Cleansing the temple was part of that business. In the process, he demonstrated the attitude of The God toward people who would profit from those who came to worship.
2:17 And his disciples remembered that it is written, The zeal of thine house has eaten me up.
The phrase, "the zeal of thine house has eaten me up," comes from Psalms 69:9. This is a psalm of David when he was lamenting the fact that in his service to Jehovah, the god of Israel, that he had borne reproach and shame. He said,
"I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children. For the zeal of thine house has eaten me up;"
The disciples thought this scripture explained the actions of Jesus. What he had done would also reflect shame and reproach on him from the leaders of Israel.
The way this phrase was written makes it difficult to understand. This was a Hebrew expression where the cause of the zeal was said to be "of thine house." Today, we would say "the zeal for thine house has consumed me." David found that his faithfulness to the service of Jehovah had caused him much grief. So, too, the zeal Jesus had for the house of his father had eaten him up, or caused him to act in such a manner as to bring trouble upon himself.
2:18 The Jews therefore answered, and said to him, What sign shewest thou to us that these things thou doest?
The Jews referred to here are those whom Jesus chastised for making his father's house a house of merchandise. Jesus had represented himself to them as having authority from his heavenly father to cleanse the temple. They are now challenging his authority. If you are who you say you are, show us some sign, or miracle. These Jews expected to see something unusual from anyone who claimed to be a prophet, something that would demonstrate that Jehovah had appointed the person. Seeing what Jesus had done, they challenged him to show them some sign.
2:19 Jesus answered, and said to them, Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.
This answer must have seemed like arrogant nonsense to them. They looked around them at the great temple building, and they must have thought that Jesus was insane. Nobody, at least no Jew, would ever tear down the temple. But, even worse, Jesus was saying that if they did tear it down, he would "raise it up again in three days."
Raise up comes from egeroo, which is a word that can be used as a double entendre. Thayer (p. 165) describes the two meanings as,
"to arouse from the sleep of death, to recall the dead to life"
"of buildings, to raise, construct, erect."
One form of this word is also translated as resurrection. This double meaning is clarified in the next two verses.
2:20 Therefore the Jews said, Forty and six years was this temple building, and thou in three days will raise it up?
The Jews were incredulous that Jesus claimed he could do in three days what it had taken them 46 years to do. In ridiculing him, they were thinking of the second definition noted above. In fact, the temple was not yet actually completed, and would not be completed until some 30 years after the death of Jesus. Within a short time after that, it was destroyed.
Recall that when Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem for the Passover, he stood outside Jerusalem and made this prophecy:
"As he drew near the city, he wept over it, saying, If thou had known, even thou, even at least in this thy day, the things for thy peace: but now they are hid from thine eyes; for days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a rampart around thee. and shall close around thee and keep thee in on every side, and shall level thee with the ground, and thy children in thee, and shall not leave within thee a stone upon a stone, because thou knewest not the season of thy visitation" (Luke 19:41-44).
Jesus was not only speaking of his own visit to Jerusalem, but the many times that Jehovah had visited Jerusalem in the Old Testament times, and pleaded with the Jews to follow after him. These visits had been through the prophets sent by Jehovah.
Fallows (Vol. 3, p. 1644) says this about the temple:
"The destruction of this beautiful temple and the doom of Jerusalem were foretold on the first Palm Sunday (that is the day of the triumphal entry) from Mt. Olivet (Luke 19:41-44). Within forty years after this prediction of Christ, its destruction was terribly fulfilled. Its glory was brief: for scarcely had the gates been set up when the Roman general, Titus, entered the city and the flames from his torches left scarcely a fragment of its glory and beauty."
2:21 But he spoke concerning the temple of his body.
Many people claim this verse as proof that Jesus was speaking of his body as being a temple for the holy spirit. But, that is not the case. The body is a psykikos body, or one fitted for the soul. The body is the temple of the soul, not of the spirit.
The portion of holy spirit which is poured out upon people does not dwell in them, but on them. It is not a possession of people, but instead seeks those who will allow it to possess them. Here, Jesus was using the word egereis in the sense of Thayer's first definition cited earlier. He was speaking of the resurrection of his body, not the physical rebuilding of the temple building as the Jews thought.
2:22 When therefore he was raised up from among [the] dead, his disciples remembered that this he had said to them, and believed the scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken to them.
John was now speaking of things that occurred after Jesus "was raised from among the dead [ones]." We have added [ones] because the Greek word for dead was an adjective. When Jesus was resurrected, he was a kind of first-fruits to the Father in heaven. His resurrection was unique; of all the dead ones, he was the only one raised at that time. His resurrection is the reason we also have the hope of being resurrected in a new body to share in his glory during the next age, and the ages to come.
"His disciples remembered that this he had said to them." When Jesus had told his disciples of his approaching death they did not understand. Their understanding occurred only after Jesus had been resurrected, and they believed "the scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken to them."
Psalms 16:10 may have been the specific scripture they had in mind.
"For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thy Holy One to see corruption."
Luke 24:27 tells us about the words that Jesus spoke to two men on the road to Emmaus.
"And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself."
How wonderful it would be to talk directly with Jesus in a face-to-face conversation!
2:23 But when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, at the feast, many believed on his name, beholding signs which he was doing.
In verse 2:22, John wrote of the death of Jesus, the Christ. Now, he jumps again to the acts that Jesus did between Cana and his crucifixion. The phrase, "at the Passover, at the feast," suggests that John thought everyone would understand that the Passover celebration was a feast.
The reason for the feast goes back to the events explained in Exodus 12 concerning the plague brought upon anyone, both Egyptian and Israelite, who failed to put the blood of the slain animal upon the doorposts and lintels of their homes.
In Jesus' day, Passover was the time when animals were slain to commemorate the event described in Exodus. Afterward, the animal was cooked and served as a meal, with unleavened bread. This was done every year in Jerusalem, and Israelites from many locales came to Jerusalem to celebrate the deliverance from bondage in Egypt. It was a time of joyful worship to Jehovah, and a time of rejoicing and visiting with each other.
"Many believed on his name." Thayer (p. 447) gives this definition of name.
"By a usage chiefly Hebraistic the name is used for everything which the name covers, everything the thought or feeling of which is roused in the mind by mentioning, hearing, remembering, the name, i.e. for one's rank, authority, interests, pleasure, command, excellences, deeds, etc."
The use of the word name in the scriptures may mean far more than simply the proper name given to a person. When speaking of the name of Jesus, or the name of The God, it covers not only the things mentioned by Thayer above, but it also conveys a sense of power.
Especially in the Old Testament, power was often the main emphasis when the name of Jehovah, or the name of the lord, or the name of God, was used. People associated power with the deity to which they referred. The deities were the ones who had the power to bless, to punish, to protect, or to allow others to dominate them.
Bauer (p. 571), says,
"The belief in the efficacy of the name is extremely old; its origin goes back to the most ancient times and the most primitive forms of intellectual and religious life. It has exhibited an extraordinary vitality. The period of our lit. also sees—within as well as without the new religious community—in the name something real, a piece of the very nature of the personality whom it designates, that partakes in his qualities and his powers. The Christians revere and use the name of God and, above all, the name of Jesus."
In this verse, the name would be associated with the power to do signs, or miracles. Jesus, according to this scripture, was performing miracles of power to show people that he really was the one he claimed to be.
2:24 But Jesus himself did not trust himself to them, because of his knowing all [men].
Trust is a form of the same word used for believe. Jesus "did not trust himself to them," or he had no belief, or faith, in men. He did not put himself in their power because he knew that his time had not yet come. As Jesus was obedient to holy spirit, he "knew all [men]." Jesus could look upon the hearts of men, and he knew what was in the hearts of those around him.
2:25 And he had no need that any should testify concerning man, for he knew what was in man.
Jesus did not need to go around asking people for their opinions about others; he already had the ability to see into their hearts. This was another of the burdens that Jesus had to bear. It would be a terrible load for anyone to be able to read the hearts or minds of other people. The God spared us a tremendous burden by excluding this ability from that portion of holy spirit which he gave to us.
John has now shown the beginning of Jesus' ministry, as well as the end. Beginning with Chapter 3, he shifted his attention to what happened between the beginning and the end.
# Miriam (Mary) was blessed because The God chose her to deliver his
son, Jesus. This does not infer that she was any more holy than many
other young virgins of Israel. The God has chosen many to serve him
who may seem unworthy, and Miriam was only one of them.
# Jesus did not engage in theatrics to draw attention to himself.
# Jesus came for the purpose of demonstrating the goodness, and love,
and mercy of The God.
# Gentile proselytes were not allowed in the inner court of the temple
which was reserved only for the literal descendants of Abraham. While
the Gentiles were accepted as believers in one god, and while they had
been circumcised, still they were not considered to be true Jews.
# The message Jesus preached was definitely not what the Jewish nation
# These Jews expected to see something unusual from anyone who
claimed to be a prophet, something that would demonstrate that
Jehovah had appointed the person. Seeing what Jesus had done, they
challenged him to show them some sign.
# His (Jesus) resurrection is the reason we also have the hope of being
resurrected in a new body to share in his glory during the next age,
and the ages to come.
# Jesus did not need to go around asking people for their opinions about
others; he already had the ability to see into their hearts.