John’s Gospel provides signs to testify to who Jesus is and what He has come to do.
John 2:1-11; 4:45-54; 5:1-15; 6:1-15; 6:16-21; 9:1-12; 11:38-44
John only includes two of the signs that appear in the other Gospels (walking on water, feeding 5,000). John is, also, selective in writing about the signs because there were many others that could have been recorded:
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name. (20:30-31)
Wedding in Cana
In John 2 we have the first sign, turning the water into wine. It takes place in Cana (near Nazareth) in the northern region of Galilee. Cana is only mentioned in John’s Gospel. This is home territory for Jesus and some of the disciples.
John provides a theological timeline that seems to relate to creation:
Day 1 1:19-28
Day 2 1:29-34 (1:29 “The next day”)
Day 3 1:35-42 (1:35 “the next day”)
Day 4 1:43-51 (1:43 “The next day”)
Day 6 (?) 2:1-11 (2:1 “on the third day” counting day 4, 5, 6)
Interestingly if we combine Genesis 1 and 2 we see the creation of man and woman and hence marriage, connected to the 6th day. And it is on this “third day” that Jesus attends a wedding.
We don’t know a lot about wedding practices in the first century, although we know that they would often last a full seven days. Normal practice is for best wine to be served until it ran out, then the lesser quality wine would be served. But in any case it was socially embarrassing to run out of wine completely.
Mary understands the implications and tells Jesus about the situation. Jesus’ response seems a little odd and even harsh.
“What has this concern of yours to do with Me, woman?” Jesus asked. “My hour has not yet come.” (2:4)
The use of “woman” is a respectful address to any woman, but seems a little odd for addressing His mother. On the other hand, given his next statement about “My hour has not yet come” his address to His mother may indicate that Jesus is addressing her as a disciple first and foremost.
Mary’s response seems to indicate that she understands the changed relationship. She does not have special privilege with Jesus, but as a disciple, accepts His statement and then waits upon Jesus to do something. In other words, Mary demonstrates the faith of a disciple, not the demands of a mother.
Notice that there is nothing “spectacular” in what Jesus says or does, at least that can be heard or seen. But in the process of telling the servants what to do, at some point the water is changed into wine. Interesting that the groom and bride are not the center. Even the chief servant isn’t central, except that his declaration confirms what the servants had known and seen.
The servants, his mother, his disciples testify to this first sign. By doing so, Jesus “displayed His glory, and His disciples believed in Him” (2:11). This brings us back to the introductory section where we read:
The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (1:14)
Cleansing the Temple
In second part of chapter 2, the scene shifts from Galilee to Jerusalem. Jesus expands on 1:14 again, this time focusing on the contrast between the temple in Jerusalem and His own temple, the true dwelling place of God on earth.
The prophet Jeremiah had to confront the people of God in Jerusalem because of their idolatry regarding the building.
“This is what the LORD [Yahweh] of Hosts, the God of Israel, says: Correct your ways and your deeds, and I will allow you to live in this place. Do not trust deceitful words, chanting: This is the temple of the LORD [Yahweh], the temple of the LORD [Yahweh], the temple of the LORD [Yahweh]. Instead, if you really change your ways and your actions, if you act justly toward one another, if you no longer oppress the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow and no longer shed innocent blood in this place or follow other gods, bringing harm on yourselves, I will allow you to live in this place, the land I gave to your ancestors long ago and forever. But look, you keep trusting in deceitful words that cannot help. (Jeremiah 7:3-8)
Now Jesus faces similar distortions of the house of the LORD [Yahweh]. While it was necessary to offer sacrifices and visitors couldn’t bring their own sacrifices great distances, the sellers had encroached to the point that it was difficult to tell whether one was entering the temple of the LORD [Yahweh] or a continuation of the Old Testament idoltary.
Three references to this appear, one in the immediate context of the above quote from Jeremiah
Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers our view? Yes, I too have seen it.” This is the LORD’s [Yahweh’s] declaration. (Jeremiah 7:11)
His disciples also recognized the reference to this text:
because zeal for Your house has consumed me, and the insults of those who insult You have fallen on me. (Psalm 69:9)
Note that the Jews now demand a sign (HCSB adds “of authority”):
So the Jews replied to Him, “What sign of authority will You show us for doing these things?” (2:18)
This becomes a recurring them in John’s Gospel. Every time Jesus does a sign or challenges the Jewish leaders, they demand a sign. The problem is not the demand, but rather the unbelief behind those demands. No matter how often or how great a sign (miracle) Jesus performs, it will never be enough for those who do not believe.
Jesus agrees to do a sign, a miraculous sign.
Jesus answered, “Destroy this sanctuary, and I will raise it up in three days.” Therefore the Jews said, “This sanctuary took 46 years to build, and will You raise it up in three days?” (2:19-20)
They only see the building, and don’t even see the perversion that is taking place with the sellers and buyers. Rather they think he speaks of the physical building that is the worship center of their lives. Jesus, of course, is talking about the true center of worship—Himself. He will show this final sign, his resurrection, but even then they will not believe.
The disciples see and hear what Jesus is saying, and later remember this event.
But He was speaking about the sanctuary of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this. And they believed the Scripture and the statement Jesus had made. (2:21-22)
Signs or Faith?
This chapter ends with a contrast between even Jesus and those who believe in Him.
While He was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many trusted in His name when they saw the signs He was doing. Jesus, however, would not entrust Himself to them, since He knew them all and because He did not need anyone to testify about man; for He Himself knew what was in man. (2:23-25)
Thus, while John shows that the signs are there for anyone to believe, even the faith demonstrated was not sufficient. Only Jesus is sufficient.
As I think about this I am reminded that many within the Christian world today have “faith in (their) faith.” But that is not Biblical; rather our faith is in Jesus Christ, who is unchanging, not entrusting Himself to them i.e. not believing in them.
We read about these signs, and perhaps even witness some kind of miracle today. If it is genuine miracle of God we rejoice. But our faith can never be in the signs, but rather that the signs point us to Jesus Christ, through whom we have salvation. That is why Paul, who had performed many miracles himself and saw the third heaven, came back to this foundational statement:
For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2 NAS)
May that be our confession and our message to everyone.
BTW I was looking for a graphic for the wedding, and one showed a man lifting up the container and pouring into a cup. How many people can lift 20-30 gallons and pour into a cup? Some graphic artist needs to go try that—30 gallons weighs approximately 250 pounds; 20 gallons =162 pounds.