John 2. Jesus Turns Water to Wine and Cleanses the Temple.
Key Notes: Wine in the Bible. Table comparing wedding and Passover.
The two events in this chapter are dramatically different and make us wonder if there could be any connection between them, since they occur in succession. We will try to compare them and may gain more light on this passage.
2:1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee and the Jesus’ mother Mary was there. He also was invited with His disciples. His presence was a blessing.
The third day is a puzzle. In the previous chapter we are given events in a series of days that show rapid movement.
1:29 “The next day” after John the Baptist had been interviewed, he introduced Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
1:35 “The next day” John pointed disciples to Jesus, repeating His Name. Those two included Andrew, who brought his brother Peter and they stayed with Jesus for the day.
1:43 “The next day” Jesus headed for Galilee. He called Philip to follow Him, and Nathanael was added to the disciples.
2:1 “On the third day” may be the three days it took to get to Galilee—a distance of 60- 80 miles, with most people walking 20 miles per day. Or it may be he third day of the week. Sunday is the first day of the week, so then the third day is Tuesday. That could mean that John proclaimed Jesus as the Lamb of God on a Sabbath.
2:3 The wine for the wedding feast wa used up and Mary went to Jesus. She may have been the wedding consultant, assisting the bridal party. She knew He alone could do something about it. He was reluctant to get involved. He had a time-table in mind and this event was too early.
“My hour has not yet come.” As a child He said "Didn't you know that I must be about My Fathers' business?" Lk.2:49
His “hour” is spoken of in John six more times. It is not the short period of a day, but the climactic last week of Jesus’ life.
“They sought to arrest Him, but no one laid hands on Him because His hour had not yet come.” 7:30
”…no one arrested Him because His hour had not yet come.” 8:20
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” On that occasion, Greeks came to see Jesus. (12:23)
“And what shall I say ‘ Father, save me from this hour?’ No, for this purpose I have to come to this hour.” 12:27
“The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered….” 16:32
“Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son that the Son may glorify Thee.” 17:1
2:5 Mary did not argue, but trusted that He would do as she asked. Jesus had put distance between Himself and his family for several reasons.
*He must be known as God’s Son, not Joseph’s. He detached Himself from His parents when He was at the Temple at the age of twelve. (Lk.2:49)
*He had to resist family efforts to get him in line with their expectations. On one occasion they tried to seize him (Mk.3:21) in a protective gesture. He refused to let the family interfere with His conversation with disciples. (Mk.3:31)
*His brothers did not believe in Him. Jn.7:5
2:6–12 Jesus ordered the servants to fill six stone jars used for purification, with water—120 gallons. Then he directed them to take some to the supervisor of the feast. He found it exceptional wine, better than the starting batch. He turned to the bridegroom who had bought the original wine and asked him why he had saved the best for last. It was a glorious occasion.
This was Jesus’ first sign. The disciples saw His glory and believed in Him.
He went to Capernaum with his family, assuring us that there was no real breech between Him and his kin.
2:13 Next, Jesus went back to Jerusalem for Passover. Passover is the celebration of Israel’s liberation from Egypt (Ex. 1–13) but by now it had little resemblance to the original celebration. It began as a family feast. It was now a big commercial festival. The court of the Gentiles was large, and cattle, sheep and doves for sacrifice were sold there to pilgrims who lived too far away to bring their animals. This provision for the pilgrims had been written into the Law. (Deut.14:24–26). Also the requisite temple half-shekel had to be given (Ex.30:13–16) and must be exchanged with the pagan coins that carried the insignia of gods or Caesars.
The temple became “a house of trade” (2:16), vulnerable to corruption. In the second cleansing of the temple, Jesus called the temple “a den of robbers." (Matt.21:13). It was a scene of loud noise, bad smells, commercial haggling, deceiving the poor and innocent. Nothing resembling worship or prayer would be encouraged in this atmosphere.
Jesus made a whip and drove them out, a tornado of spiritual fury. There was no resistance.
“For zeal for Thy house has consumed Me.” Psa.69:9
“…the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple, the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold He is coming, says the Lord of Host. But who can endure the day of His coming, and who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap and He will purify the sons of Levi….” (Mal.3:1–3)
When they recovered their wits, the Jews asked what right He had to do such a thing. They asked for a sign—meaning a miracle. Jesus gave them a sign—the only sign---one He offered repeatedly. (Matt.12:38–39; 16:1; Jn.6:30–31 with 6:51; Lk11:29; note Mk.8:11). That was the sign of the resurrection, using Jonah’s three days of death-like experience in the great fish as a parable. Here He refers to their destruction of His body: destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up. They heard but did not understand. Later they would use His word against Him. (Mk.14:58). Even the disciples did not understand until after the resurrection.
Herod had started the Third Temple in 20BC and it was finished in 46AD, so it was still not done when Jesus lived. It was a magnificent structure. Twenty-five years after its completion, it was demolished by the Romans in the sack of Jerusalem. (70AD)
2:23–25 New believers began to emerge, but Jesus did not incorporate them into the group. He knew they were not ready. That was clearly demonstrated later. Jn.8:31–59
The water in stone jars was used for washing, purifying the guests as they assembled for the party. Turning water to wine is a sign that the old order was changing and spiritual cleansing will be changed as part of the new appearance of the Kingdom.
Much has been made of Jesus turning water into wine. A member of our study group said “Jesus is helping to get people drunk.” That set the challenge.
Wine was one of the few drinks (nutritional fluid sources) available in the ancient world. Milk is not digested after age 5 by most people in the middle East and Asia. Water was usually contaminated from centuries of poor sanitation. Fresh juices can be served only for a short time in the summer. Wine was the standard beverage. Our situation is very different; we have dozens of sterile, tasty, non-alcoholic options—teas, coffees, fruit drinks, carbonated beverages amd easy means of keeping them cold. We could drink from a different flavored bottle every day for thirty days with no risk of intoxication.
The next point is to distinguish wine from strong drink. (I Sam.1:15). Since distilling was not yet invented, “strong drink” was undiluted wine and “wine” was the diluted drink for table use, diluted with water 1/4, 1/10, even 1/20 if the flavor and bouquet was superior. Modern wines contain 11–14% alcohol. Diluting wine by half makes it equivalent to beer. Diluting it 1/10 or 1/20 takes it out of the danger zone. We can only trust that Jesus would have made a beverage so excellent and so safe that the wedding could be enjoyed without intoxication.
Another aspect of the wine issue is the genetic predisposition of ethnic groups to alcohol addiction. The risk of alcoholism is said to be highest among Russians and native Americans and among the lowest in Jews. Time Magazine (3/17/58) reported on 100,000 alcoholics admitted to NY State asylums between’29 and’31. 25% were Irish; 0.5% were Jews. So the risk of alcoholism among Jews was and is negligible.
The next argument aganist our use of alcoholic beverages is to respect the weaker brother. Paul said "It is not right to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother stumble." (Rom.14:21)
The last argument is the biblical position on wine and drinking. Wine is a two-edged sword, one that cuts for good and ill. It is a symbol of joy and blessing, but also of debauchery and wrath. Wine is an evidence of prosperity and God’s blessing. (Isa.25:6; Joel 2:24; Amos.9:13).
“Go, eat your bread with enjoyment and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.” (Eccl.9:7)
However, another image is the wine of God’s wrath (Isa.63:6) making nations drunk.
“Take from my hand his cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword which I am sending among them.” Jer.25:15–16
Wine is pleasure, intoxication, and grief.
While the wine flowed at the wedding at Cana, and Boaz was merry at the end of the harvest (Ruth 3:6), most of the scriptural events involving wine are negative.
Noah disgraced himself while drunk. Gen.9:24
Lot committed incest while drunk. Gen.19:31
Amnon was murdered while drunk. II Sam.13:28
Nabal died after a drinking bout. I Sam.25:37
Benhadad lost a battle while drunk. IK.20:16
Belshazzar lost his kingdom during a drunken party. Dan.5:1–30
Daniel and his three friends thrived in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar without wine. Dan.1:16
The Rechabites were commended for their abstinence when tempted. Jer.35
The OT decries drunkenness. (Joel 3:3, Isa.5:11). Proverbs gives a vivid description of the alcoholic. (Prov.23:29–35). Kings (Prov.31:4) and priests on duty (Lev.10:9) must not drink.
“Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress….” Prov.31:6.
The NT counsels sobriety on ten or more times, for example,
“…and do not get drunk with win, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit….” Eph.5:18; I Pet.5:8
This chart attempts to harmonize the two events in this chapter.
|WEDDING AT CANA||PASSOVER IN JERUSALEM|
|A picture of union of Christ and Church. Eph.5:32||Israel’s festival of liberation from slavery.|
|Too little wine for the celebration.||Commercialized, corrupt religion.|
|Jesus is reluctant to begin His work.||Jesus attacks the corruption of the Temple.|
|He supplies generously for the need.||He cleanses the Temple.|
|The stone jars for cleansing were soon obsolete.||The animal sacrifices were soon done away.|
|Disciples believed the sign.||Jews asked for another sign.|
|Relief, joy, and satisfaction.
Jesus glorified in a miracle.
|Shock and anger.|
|Christ blesses marriage.||Christ denounces abuse of worship.|
|We will celebrate at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.||We will drink the Passover wine of the Covenant with Christ in His Kingdom.|