“YOU CAN HAVE THE BEST NOW
People look everywhere but to God for excitement and meaning. For some reason, they expect God to be dull and lifeless. Just as the wine Jesus made was the best, so life in him is better than life on our own. Why wait until everything else runs out before trying God? Don’t save the best until last.”
Read on for other great *Life Applications…
Jesus Turns Water into Wine / 2:1-12 Turning water into wine was Jesus first miracle(2:11). This small display of his divine power was enough to convince the disciples of his identity and initiate their trust in him (2:11), though later events demonstrated that they only partially understood Jesus’ purpose.
2:1-2 A wedding celebration could last as long as a week (see Genesis 29:27-28). Cana was a town about nine miles north of Nazareth. The only references to the town of Cana are found in John’s Gospel. Two of Jesus’ miracles are connected with that location: creating wine from water (2:1-11) and healing an official’s son (4:46-54). Nathanael, one of the twelve disciples, is described as a native of Cana (21:2). The town has not survived into the present but is thought to have been between Nazareth and Capernaum, in the northwest region of the Sea of Galilee.
Jesus’ mother, Mary, was a guest, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited. When a wedding was held, the entire town was invited, and most made the effort to come (it was considered an insult to refuse an invitation to a wedding). Cana was Jesus’ home region, so he may have known the bride and groom. In any case, his presence was intentional.
Jesus’ attendance and his actions at this wedding indicate his approval of the celebration. (See Jesus’ comments about marriage in Matthew 5:31-32; 19:3-9.) Images of Jesus as a dour-faced Messiah, passing judgment on all in his path simply fail to account for the biblical evidence that he was completely at home in festive occasions. In fact, part of his rejection by religious leaders was based on their perception that he enjoyed being with sinners more than was appropriate (see Mark 2:15-16 and Luke 5:30). Jesus’ life is the most profound statement ever made against joyless spirituality.
*LIFE APPLICATION: LET’S CELEBRATE!
Jesus was on a mission to save the world, the greatest mission in the history of mankind. Yet he took time to attend a wedding and take part in its festivities. We may be tempted to think we should not take time out from our “important” work for social occasions. But we need to see these social occasions as part of our mission. By participating in these events, Jesus was able to be involved with people, the very ones he came to save. Likewise, our efforts to represent Christ should not exclude joyous times of celebration with others. We can develop balance in our lives by bringing Jesus into times of pleasure as well as times of work.
2:3-4 The week-long weddings in Jesus’ time must have had about the same impact on family budgets as weddings do today. Banquets were prepared for many guests, and everyone spent several days celebrating the new life of the married couple. To accommodate the guests, careful planning was needed. Running out of wine meant more than embarrassment; it broke the strong unwritten laws of hospitality. Jesus was about to respond to a heartfelt need. Mary told Jesus of the predicament, perhaps expecting him to do something about it. Some believe Mary was not assuming that Jesus would perform a miracle; she was simply hoping that her son would help solve this major problem and find some wine. Tradition says that Joseph, Mary’s husband, was dead, so she probably was used to depending on her son’s help in certain situations. Although Mary did not know what Jesus was going to do, she trusted him to handle the problem. Others point out that Mary had known for a long time about her son’s divine commission. Perhaps she wanted Jesus to do something in the presence of her relatives and/or friends (who may have heard some reports about Jesus) that would prove he was the Messiah. The tension between Jesus’ verbal response, “How does that concern you and me?” and his later actions leaves the question of Mary’s expectations undecided. But Mary’s trust is unmistakable!
In any case, Jesus made it clear to his mother that his life was following a different timetable; he lived to carry out his Father’s business, according to his Father’s plans. Whatever Jesus’ intended response to the problem at hand, he expressed to his mother a firm reminder that his priorities were different from hers—his time had not yet come. The “time” to which Jesus referred was the time of his glorification, when he would receive his true place and position, not as an earthly king, but as the Messiah, God’s Son, Savior of mankind, seated at God’s right hand (see 7:30, 39; 12:23-24; 17:1). This glorification would occur after his death and resurrection, for it would be only through death and resurrection that Jesus could accomplish what he came to earth to accomplish—to offer salvation to all people.
*LIFE APPLICATION: NO MORE WINE
Mary’s simple action illustrates that receiving our Lord’s filling and healing begins with recognizing our need. For Mary, it was easy—the wine was gone. It may be more difficult for us to identify our problem. But left to our own resources, we will run dry. Life is too complex, its problems too challenging, and our own strength too limited to allow us to cope without help. Defining the exact need may not be as crucial as admitting our incompleteness. But recognizing our emptiness before Christ will allow him to work a miracle in us. He will apply his powerful resources to our lives. Have you expressed to God your lack that only he can fill? Are you willing to do what he asks of you?
2:5-6 Mary was not promised any kind of action but realized that Jesus might do something about the situation, even though his remark in verse 4 must have limited her expectations. Nevertheless, Mary’s words to the servants to do whatever they are told show her respect for Jesus’ authority.
The six stone waterpots were normally used for the ceremonial washing of hands as part of the Jewish purification rites before and after meals (see Matthew 15:1-2). When full, each jar would hold twenty to thirty gallons.
*LIFE APPLICATION : DO IT!
We would do well to follow Mary’s command to the servants to “Do whatever he tells you” every moment of our lives. No one could have guessed what Jesus was about to do. But Mary’s willingness to obey was settled beforehand. We, too, must decide that our first reaction will be to obey rather than to question what God directs us to do. Like the servants, we will rarely be told beforehand all the details of what God plans to do.
Are you ready to do what he says? Ask yourself:
- Is there a cherished sin? Confess and forsake it.
- Is there a broken relationship? Seek to heal it.
- Is there a service opportunity Christ has placed before you? Step out and do it.
- Is there a need you feel convicted to fill? Be strong and meet it.
- Is there a higher level of commitment that Christ directs you to make? Welcome his call with all your heart.
2:7-8 This filling to the brim showed that nothing could be added to the water. When Jesus performed the miracle, all the water was changed to wine; wine was not added to the water. It portrays the abundance of Christ’s gracious work; it also indicates the wholeheartedness of the servants’ obedience. The servants dipped into the jars and drew out the water that had been miraculously changed to wine. Jesus instructed them to take it to the master of ceremonies.
*LIFE APPLICATION: HUMAN AGENTS
Jesus did not require the help of the servants nor the filled jars in order to perform his miracle. The filling of the jars could itself have been part of the miracle. But as Jesus demonstrated repeatedly in dealing with people, God honors us with significant roles in his work. We are not indispensable, but graciously included. For another outstanding example, note the resurrection of Lazarus (11:43-44) where Jesus gives life, but friends unwrap and clean up what must have been a completely shocked Lazarus! Does your work carry the imprint of Christ upon it? Do you fulfill your responsibility, sensing how Christ is using you?
2:9-10 It was customary to give the best wine first and the poorer wine last because people’s taste buds grow less sensitive with more and more drinks. The water turned into wine was of such quality that the master of ceremonies made a point of mentioning this to the bridegroom, who also probably reacted in surprise. Neither of them knew where this wine came from, but Mary, the servants, and the disciples were aware of what had happened.
*LIFE APPLICATION: YOU CAN HAVE THE BEST NOW
People look everywhere but to God for excitement and meaning. For some reason, they expect God to be dull and lifeless. Just as the wine Jesus made was the best, so life in him is better than life on our own. Why wait until everything else runs out before trying God? Don’t save the best until last.
This miracle illustrated the emptiness of the Jewish rituals versus what Jesus came to bring (see 4:13; 7:38-39). The water of ceremonial cleansing has become the wine of the messianic age. Have we tasted the new wine?
*LIFE APPLICATION: MORE THAN WE NEED
Jesus did not come to earth solely to satisfy our desires or to make us happy, as this first miracle might lead some to conclude. Jesus did perform a miracle, but it was in his time and in his way. Jesus provided as much as 180 gallons of choice wine. The lavish supply of wine was a picture of the salvation he came to offer, and a revelation of who he was. What God gives is given in abundance. In Christ we are promised life, the abundance of that life is indicated by the fact that it is eternal!
2:11 The Gospels record thirty-five miraculous signs performed by Jesus. In the Gospel of John, each miracle was a sign intended to point people to the truth that Jesus is the divine Son of God come down from heaven. These signs were remarkable actions that displayed the presence and power of God. According to John’s Gospel, this was Jesus’ first sign—and it was performed in Cana in Galilee (his own region). His second was also performed in Galilee (see 4:46-54).
*LIFE APPLICATION: WHY JESUS PERFORMED MIRACLES
Miracles are not merely superhuman events, but events that demonstrate God’s power. Almost every miracle Jesus did was a renewal of fallen creation—restoring sight, making the lame walk, even restoring life to the dead. We are to believe in Christ, not because he is a superman, but because he is the God who continues his creation, even in those of us who are poor, weak, crippled, orphaned, blind, deaf, or with some other desperate need for re-creation.
Many have wondered why Jesus would “waste” his powers on performing a miracle of providing wine for a wedding feast, a party. But all of Jesus’ miracles had a purpose beyond alleviating suffering; they were a display of his glory. The miracles recorded in John’s Gospel (and indeed all the miracles recorded by the other Gospel writers) demonstrated God’s great love for people and his concern for their individual needs. But on a deeper level, Jesus’ unique, divine nature was portrayed in such a way as to claim our loyalty and reverence. The sign of turning water into wine was a partial unveiling of Jesus’ full identity. His power over nature, death, sin, and evil revealed him to be the promised Messiah.
*LIFE APPLICATION: GLORY!
What was this glory of Jesus that people glimpsed in the miracles? It was as if, for a moment, the miracles drew back the curtain and allowed people to see a fuller view of Jesus, including his divine power and authority. Jesus’ divine nature became apparent to those willing to see. The sight was dazzling, compelling, and overwhelming. The Gospel writer summarizes what those who were with Jesus came to understand: “We have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (1:14 nrsv). John’s invitation to us is to look through the eyes of the disciples and allow ourselves to be convinced, as they were, by the glory of Jesus.
Up to this point, the disciples (those who had been called so far) were following Jesus for their own reasons. Others may have been questioning who Jesus was and were following him to find out. John says that when the disciples saw the miracle, they believed in him. The miracle demonstrated Jesus’ power over nature and revealed the way he would go about his ministry—helping others, speaking with authority, and being in personal touch with people. God may confront us in any number of ways with our need to believe in his Son. We will be held accountable for whether or not we have believed.
*LIFE APPLICATION: MIRACLES TODAY
Sincere believers wonder whether or not God works miracles today. Certainly God knows what each person requires in order to believe in him. The New Testament accounts record a basic human characteristic that is still true today: people who insisted on a miracle in order to believe remained unconvinced after witnessing the miracle, or were told by Jesus that miracles would not help them. The person who requires God to prove himself may be hiding his or her unwillingness to believe.
In coming to a personal conviction about miracles today, we can make several affirmations:
l God can perform miracles. We must not confuse two questions: Does God perform miracles today? and Can God perform miracles today? The first is a reasonable question; the second implies a loss of power on God’s part and questions his ability. We cannot, by definition, impose limitations on God. God can and will do miracles anywhere and anytime he wishes.
l Miracles tend to be more obvious where the gospel makes new impact. This is because miracles primarily confront ignorance rather than unbelief. Most reports of miracles today come from missionaries on the “outposts” of God’s work. It is entirely possible, as Western society sinks into a morass of religious ignorance, that God will, in fact, increase the frequency of miracles in this part of the world.
l God uses people to do his miraculous work. In the past, there were many basic acts of healing and helping that required God’s direct intervention, for there were no other options. Advances in medicine, mental health, and science (which themselves strike us as miraculous at times) now allow us to carry out what previously required God’s intervention.
l We must expect counterfeits in a fallen world. All the miracles recorded in the Bible were not given a divine stamp of approval (for instance, Pharaoh’s magicians’ snakes—see Exodus 7:8-13). Trusting in God’s ability and willingness to do miracles today may make believers seem gullible. But denying God’s willingness to do miracles may place believers in the even more precarious position of doubting God’s power.
2:12 Capernaum became Jesus’ home base during his ministry in Galilee. Located on a major trade route, it was an important city in the region, with a Roman garrison and a customs station. At Capernaum, Matthew was called to be a disciple (Matthew 9:9). The city was also the home of several other disciples (Matthew 4:13-19) and a high-ranking government official (4:46). It had at least one major synagogue. Although Jesus made this city his base of operations in Galilee, he condemned it for the people’s unbelief (Matthew 11:23; Luke 10:15).
Jesus Clears the Temple / 2:13-25
The magnificent Temple that Jesus entered with his disciples was the one rebuilt by the remnant of Israelites who had returned from Babylon under Ezra and Nehemiah; it was later enlarged by Herod. The Jews considered the Temple to be God’s house. But the arrival of Jesus and the beginning of his ministry signaled a change. The glory of God, which had filled the holy shrine since the days of the Exodus and the Tabernacle, was no longer in the building; that glory was in Jesus, though veiled within his humanity.
2:13 The Passover celebration took place yearly at the Temple in Jerusalem. Every Jewish male was expected to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem during this time, so Jesus went (Deuteronomy 16:16). This was a week-long festival—the Passover was one day, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread lasted the rest of the week. The entire week commemorated the freeing of the Jews from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12:1-14).
2:14 The Temple was on an imposing hill overlooking the city. Solomon had built the first Temple on this same site almost one thousand years earlier (949 b.c.), but his Temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians (2 Kings 25). The Temple was rebuilt in 515 b.c., and Herod the Great had recently remodeled it.
God had originally instructed the people of Israel to bring from their own flocks the best animals for sacrifice (Deuteronomy 12:5-7). This would make the sacrifice more personal. But the Temple priests instituted a market for buying sacrificial animals so the pilgrims would not have to bring their animals on the long journey. In addition, the merchants and money changers were dishonest. The businesspeople selling these animals expected to turn a profit. The price of sacrificial animals was much higher in the Temple area than elsewhere. In order to purchase the animals, travelers from other lands would need local currency, and the Temple tax had to be paid in local currency; so money changers exchanged foreign money, but made huge profits by charging exorbitant exchange rates. Jesus was angry at the dishonest, greedy practices of the money changers and merchants, and he particularly disliked their presence on the Temple grounds. They had set up shop in the Court of the Gentiles, making it so full of merchants that foreigners found it difficult to worship—and worship was the main purpose for visiting the Temple. With all the merchandising taking place in the area allotted for the Gentiles, how could they spend time with God in prayer? No wonder Jesus was angry!
*LIFE APPLICATION: WHY DO YOU GO TO CHURCH?
Many churches do everything they can to make the time of worship convenient for people. And some people attend church because they see it as a place for personal contacts or business advantage. But worshiping God is not always convenient; it demands true devotion and self-sacrifice. Nor is it for our own earthly advancement. Our focus should be on God alone. We are to worship sincerely, reverently, and humbly. That is not to say we cannot be excited, even zealous, about God. But we are always to worship with reverence—recognizing and remembering who God is.
2:15 Jesus’ response to the desecration of the Temple was deliberate and forceful. He was intent on scouring the Temple. This cleansing was significantly appropriate during Passover because that was the time when all the Jews were supposed to cleanse their houses of all leaven (yeast). During the Feast of Unleavened Bread, no leaven was used in any baking and, in fact, was not even to be found in the Israelite homes (Exodus 12:17-20).
Jesus did not lose his temper; his action expressed anger, but he was clearly in control of himself. Jesus was zealous for the reverence due to God the Father, and he knew that the irreverent marketplace within the very courts of God’s Temple would not be expelled without the use of force. He made a whip and chased them all out of the Temple.
*LIFE APPLICATION:WHEN IS ANGER GOOD?
Jesus was obviously angry at the merchants who exploited those who had come to God’s house to worship. There is a difference between uncontrolled rage and righteous indignation—yet both are called anger. We must be very careful how we use the powerful emotion of anger. It is right to be angry about injustice and sin; it is wrong to be angry over trivial personal offenses. Jesus made a whip and chased out the money changers. Does his example permit us to use violence against wrongdoers? Certain authority is granted to some, but not to all. For example, the authority to use force and restrain people is granted to police officers, but not to the general public. The authority to imprison people is granted to judges, but not to individual citizens. While we want to live like Christ, we should never try to claim his authority where it has not been given to us.
2:16 Jesus saw the Temple as his Father’s house. His own rightful claim to ownership was unmistakable. But the religious leaders of that day were trespassers—turning it into a place of business and money-making—no more than a marketplace. People had created an environment that, in essence, put a price on what God intended to be free. Access to God is not for sale. According to the other three Gospels, Jesus visited the Temple again and cleansed it during his final visit to Jerusalem during the Passover, just prior to his crucifixion (see Matthew 21:12-17; Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-46).
*LIFE APPLICATION:CHEAP WORSHIP
We have so many opportunities for worship that we may trivialize its importance. We frankly have a difficult time identifying with believers elsewhere in the world who worship under threat of pain, imprisonment, even death. The faith of these believers is portrayed by exuberance, seriousness, and reverence in worship, despite their environment. Too often for us, worship seems to be nothing more than Christians getting together for fellowship, to learn from each other, and to help each other. While all that is good, it may not be true worship. If God is not the focus, the church is in danger of becoming nothing more than a service club.
2:17 This quote from Psalm 69:9 was thought to refer not only to the psalmist but also to the coming Messiah. His incredible zeal for God and for purity of worship would endanger his life. In fact, Jesus was perceived as a threat to the religious establishment, and this was a direct cause of his death. The disciples, probably as much as any of the people then present, must have been shocked at Jesus’ display of anger. But John reported that they remembered God’s word and saw the action as God-ordained, having been prophesied in the Scriptures.
2:18-19 The hardhearted people of Jesus’ day continually required Jesus to give them some miraculous sign to prove his authority from God. However, Jesus would not give his generation the kind of sign they demanded; he himself was the sign, for he was the Son of God come from heaven to earth. This would be known to all after his resurrection. This would be the ultimate sign he would give Israel and all mankind. So Jesus answered the Jewish leaders’ challenge with a counter-challenge that the disciples later understood to be a prediction of his own death and resurrection (2:22). Jesus’ opponents saw only the absurdity of his claim. His sign to them was, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Jesus’ ambiguous statement is a good example of how he encouraged people to think and inquire more deeply. Along with his parables, these statements accomplished the dual task of frustrating the halfhearted and self-righteous while at the same time piquing the curiosity of those who were sincere seekers.
This would be the sign the Jews required, even if they did not recognize it. They would destroy his body, and he would raise it up in three days. At another time when the Jews asked Jesus for a sign, he told them that the only sign he would give them was that of Jonah the prophet, who spent three days and three nights in the belly of a great fish before God delivered him (see Matthew 12:39-40). In like manner, Jesus would be killed and after three days rise from the dead.
2:20-21 The Jews understood Jesus to mean the Temple where he had just driven out the merchants and money changers. This was the Temple Zerubbabel had built more than five hundred years earlier, but Herod the Great had begun remodeling it, making it much larger and far more beautiful. It had been forty-six years since this remodeling had started (20 b.c.), and it still wasn’t completely finished. They understood Jesus’ words to mean that this imposing building could be torn down and rebuilt in three days, and they were openly skeptical.
Jesus was going to make salvation universally available through his death. Only by clarifying how the old system was intended could the new system have a place. Only by “destroying the temple” would Jesus be able to offer all believers personal access to God. Only by fulfilling the system of sacrifice could he become the perfect and final sacrifice for all mankind. The eventual destruction of the temple in 70 a.d. was the final evidence that the old system had been superseded by Jesus’ work on the cross and in the lives of those who believe in him.
2:22 The Scriptures probably means the whole Old Testament as it testifies to Christ’s death and resurrection (passages such as Psalm 22:7-17). After Christ’s resurrection, the Spirit illuminated these Scriptures (14:26), so the disciples remembered and believed. As Jesus predicted, they did destroy his body (the Temple), and he did raise it up in three days.
*LIFE APPLICATION: RESURRECTION
For believers, the Resurrection places a confirming stamp on Jesus’ life and words. It is not just one of many miracles of Jesus. Instead, it is the key to understanding God’s plan; it is the central, foundational fact of Christianity. As Paul put it, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14 niv). Whenever we are troubled about what Jesus said or did, it usually indicates that we have drifted from our understanding of his resurrection. With the Resurrection settled, the rest of the record seems possible; but doubting the Resurrection makes the rest improbable. Do you accept his credentials as the risen Lord?
2:23-25 This was during the same week that Jesus purged the Temple in Jerusalem (see 2:13ff.). It was the week-long Feast of Unleavened Bread that followed the day of Passover. John did not recount any of the miraculous signs Jesus performed in Jerusalem; he simply said that many people were convinced that he was indeed the Messiah. But, as the next verse indicates, this belief was not complete. The people believed in Jesus as a miracle worker or a political Messiah, but not necessarily as the true Messiah, the Son of God.
In 2:23, John said that many believed in him; in 2:24, John said that Jesus did not entrust himself to them. The reason for Jesus’ lack of trust then follows—he knew what people were really like. Jesus was realistic about the depth of trust in those who were now following him. Some would endure; others would fall away (6:66). Jesus was discerning, and he knew that the faith of some followers was superficial. Some of the same people who claimed to believe in Jesus at this time would later yell, “Crucify him!”
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Life Application Bible Commentary
Life Application Concise New Testament Commentary