Gospel of John, Chapter 2: The Wedding
Let me go back and give us a refresher as to what has occurred in the Gospel of John so far. In John’s telling of what happened with the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, he established a time line which can be confusing. In verses 19-27, John tells us this is the record of what happened when the delegation of Jews came to ask John the Baptist who he was.
Jesus had actually been baptized over six weeks ago by John the Baptist. We area of John the Baptist’s account of this baptism in both Matthew and Luke. We know the dove which represented the Holy Spirit came down from heaven and remained on Jesus. The dove represents the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament, the Spirit would come upon individuals, but would not remain. Again let me take you back to the Book of Genesis. In Genesis 1, the Spirit is described as hovering over the waters. Then in the story of Noah, we see Noah send out the dove from the ark. But the dove found no place to light and rest upon, but now the Spirit has alit on Jesus and remained with him. Jesus had then been led by the Spirit to be tested and tempted in the wilderness for 40 days. This is recorded in Matthew 4. John ends this account of John the Baptist’s encounter and investigation by the priests by telling us: “this all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing”. John then gives us an account day by day for the next few days which will lead us to the wedding at Cana. John tells us the day after the encounter with the priests, John the Baptist points out Jesus as the Lamb of God. (We can then assume Jesus has returned from his 40 day fast and encounter with Satan.) John and Andrew follow him. We read in John 1:43, the day after Andrew and John had spent time with him, Jesus calls Phillip to follow him. Phillip invites Nathaniel to come and meet Jesus, who Phillip now claims to be the One Moses wrote about. Their encounter leads to Jesus revealing to Nathaniel he, Jesus, is the ladder on whom he will see angels ascending and descending. The ladder Jesus referred to was the ladder Jacob had seen in a dream and the ladder reached down from heaven to earth.
(A word about angels ascending and descending: we know from the story of Job, the angels come before God to report. Therefore we can assume angels are ascending and descending between heaven and earth. We know there are angels who guard children (Matthew 18); minister to believers, (Hebrew 1:14) are assigned over nations, as we read in Daniel)
Now as we begin Chapter 2, we are told on the third day they attend a wedding in Cana. This will be Jesus’ first miracle. He has with him six disciples: Peter, Andrew, James, John, Phillip and Nathaniel. Three words are used in the New Testament to describe what we call miracles: miracles ( dunamis/dynamite) meaning powerful, mighty works; wonders, something supernatural, which produces wonder among those who witness it; and signs, meaning there is a significance deeper meaning to these mighty works.
At the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus’ first miracle is at a wedding; his last public miracle was at a funeral, the raising of Lazarus. The first miracle or sign at the wedding in Cana is connected with one of life’s gladdest moments, a new beginning. The last is connect with one of life’s saddest moments a funeral. Yet if we are the ‘bride of Christ’, Jesus tells us we will never die.
Moses’ first miracle in Egypt was to turn water into blood. The law was given by Moses. The first miracle of Jesus is to turn water into wine. Wine is associated with joy. Jesus was full of grace and truth. Jesus was fully God and fully man; never less than God, never more than man. He was completely balanced.
We also read Jesus’ mother was in attendance also. John never mentions the name Mary in his gospel. We believe the Bible is divinely inspired. Omission of the name of Mary may have been part of the divine inspiration. There were already errors taking root in the church. Perhaps one of the early ones was worship of Jesus’ mother. We know to this day, the Catholic Church reveres Mary and prays to her. She is believed to have been immaculately conceived and a perpetual virgin. She is referred to in Catholic Church as the Virgin Mary. Sometimes called the Queen Mother 0f Heaven. Prayers are said to her in hope of her influencing her son to act. Some of the error arises from the “seed of the woman” passage in Genesis 3 and Paul’s reference to the first Adam and Christ as the last Adam, thus Mary must be the last Eve.
Notice the situation in which the first miracle occurs at a wedding. Having run out of wine, the mother of Jesus says to him, “They have no wine.” Jesus rebukes her gently: “Woman, what have I to do with you? Mine hour has not yet come.” All of her life, Mary had endured suspicion due to the circumstances of Jesus’ birth. She knew who Jesus was and how he was conceived. Perhaps what Mary wanted was for Jesus to display a miracle which would prove he was who she said he was. As we read the passage we will see his miracle was not made public as the master of the banquet did not know where the wine came from. If Mary wanted Jesus to perform a public miracle to clear her of suspicious circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth, it did not happen. We must remember Jesus is our High Priest, we can approach directly. He is the One Mediator between God and man. He is the only name under heaven by which we can be saved. No one comes to the Father except by Jesus.
We believe the miracle, unknown to the attendees, was to bring joy to the wedding. After all, it was God who established the institution of marriage and family. The other reason Jesus performed this miracle was to reveal his glory to his six new disciples. They were convinced and we read –“his disciples put their faith in him.”
Now we must also notice Jesus performed his first miracle using what was available. After all God said to Moses, “what is that in your hand?” (Exodus 4) It was his staff, a stick- but God used the staff as a symbol of His divine power.
Jesus still uses what is available. There were six large water pots used for ceremonial cleansing. These water pots represented the Old Testament covenant of ceremonial cleansing. They symbolized Judaism and its rituals. They had now fulfilled their purpose. This new wine symbolized a new creation, Christianity. Not a ritual or a religion, but a relationship which was full of joy, unspeakable, rich and full of glory.
It was also the beginning of signs designed to display the glory of Lord convincing the disciples to place their faith and truth in Him.
The water pots were filled with water to the brim. Jesus then told them to draw some out and take it to the master of the wedding banquet. Obviously, this required a step of faith by the servants. But also there is a picture here of our lives as Christians. Paul refers to us earthen vessels, clay jars or water pots just like these.
We are commanded in Ephesians 5: “Be NOT drunk with wine wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit.” We are those water pots. As we are filled with the water, the Word of God, we are to ladle it out to those who thirst for righteousness. As I often say, “my duty is not to fill your cup, but empty mine.” We will read in John 4, of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus tells the woman if you knew who it was who asked you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would give you living water.” The Holy Spirit wants to fill you with the Word of God so that you might ladle it out.
Do you see what we need? We need a nation of John the Baptist who creates thirst for righteousness for someone they can trust to bring meaning and fulfillment in their lives. Where are these 21st century John the Baptists? People need to hear the Good News. The nation of Israel, God’s chosen people had been in a 400 year spiritual drought. John’s preaching was preparatory to the coming of Jesus. It struck a spiritual chord and renewed an interest in the Messiah who would make their nation great again. Has not our nation, America, entered into a spiritual drought?
There is only one Holy Nation; it is the Church the Bride of Christ. It appears to me, we have run out of wine – the honeymoon our country, America, enjoyed with the Lord Jesus in its early days has been replaced by a nation where everyone does what is right in their own eyes. We have desecrated the very sacred institution of marriage and family the Lord created. It is much like it was in the days of Noah, when man though of evil 24-7. Our cities have turned into the Sodom and Gomorrah as it was in the days of Lot. Jesus said in Matthew 24 we were to learn from the fig tree. “ Now learn from the parable of the fig tree; when the branch is yet tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is nigh. So likewise when you see all these things, know that is near, even at the door. Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, until all these thing are fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”(Matthew 24)
Where are we today as the church, the bride of Christ? Are we like the church at Laodicea? It was a wealthy church in a wealthy city. Their diagnosis: lukewarm. How does something get lukewarm? It gets away from the source which made it hot. It takes on the temperature of its surrounding environment. Your hot coffee left to sit on the counter, becomes room temperature, lukewarm. Not fit to drink. Were it hot or iced coffee it would be fit to drink. Lukewarm is a combination of apathy and neglect. Remember what the couple said on the road to Emmaus when the resurrected Lord revealed himself and then vanished? “Did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
JESUS CLEARS THE TEMPLE
If they had a local paper, this would have been the headline: Jesus clears the temple. We read in verse 13, as John is recalling things chronologically; the Jewish Passover is at hand. We know the Passover is a feast celebrated even to this day as a commemoration of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt. It was celebrated on the 14th day of Nisan (March/April). Jews from all over the Roman Empire came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. This was a national feast which lasted a week.
On Passover Eve, the head of each household cleansed the house and made sure to gather all the leaven in the house and remove it. Yet no one thought of cleansing the House of God. Jesus will take on the role as the head of the household to cleanse the Temple of leaven, which is a symbol of sin. Leaven puffs up dough. Pride, a sin God hates, puffs one up. He resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
This will be the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. It starts in Jerusalem, in the temple. He is making himself known through these “sign” he is the Messiah. But he will be rejected by the leaders of the Jewish faith. He came unto His own, but they received Him not. (John 1)
Now remember, the last Old Testament prophet Malachi tells us: “See I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant whom you desire, will come, says the Lord Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire, a launderers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites.”
Gina and I were in Marrakesh Morocco several years ago on business. We shopped in the ‘souks’ which were like kiosks. The area was crowded, dirty, and noisy with all of the haggling and bartering over prices and goods. We purchased a rug there in an event which we still recall to this day, which took about 3 hours to get the price we wanted.
I believe those souks, those crowded open stalls were much like what Jesus encountered when he came into the temple this first Passover of his ministry. Here was supposedly a sacred structure being desecrated and turned into a market place. Today religion is a big business. The courtyard of the temple was where all of the business traffic was centered. There were at the time of Jesus, four courts. These courts were: the court of the Gentiles, the court of women, the court of Israel and the court of the priests. These had become places of business, the “souks’ the stalls and tables of the merchants. Much like the flea market.
Oxen, sheep, and doves and other creatures generally used for sacrifices were sold here. There was a cattle market adjacent to the altars for convenience. All sacrifices had to be of approved animals. The temple even had their own flock of sheep in which the purchaser of these were guaranteed acceptance as having no flaw.
All the pilgrims come for the celebration had to pay an annual temple tax. Common currency could not be accepted, it had to exchanged for temple currency. This currency exchange was a profitable business and the temple received a percentage of all monies.
They had turned Passover into a profitable season of selling and exchanging and bartering. The Feast had brought great crowds into Jerusalem. It was a busy time for all types of businesses. The Passover Celebration had become to them what Christmas has become to merchants today.
The Lord’s heart was moved at the sight of all this business traffic in His Father’s House, a House of Prayer. He fashions a scourge of cords for driving out the oxen and begins to overturn tables and drives them out single handed. The disciples must be frightened at his actions. Jesus has taken on the “establishment”. He has put himself in direct opposition of the Sanhedrin and their members. He has put them on notice. He has proclaimed Himself the Son of the Father, the Son of God.
His disciples would later recall the words of Psalm 69 which says of the Messiah: “Zeal for your House has consumed me.”
The Jewish Authorities were not long in reacting. They wanted to know by what authority Jesus had done this. They asked for a miraculous sign. Paul would later say, the Jews demanded a sign. We will see later in this chapter how there are those who came to Jesus because of his miracles, his signs.
Jesus said here is your sign: “Destroy this temple, and in three days, I will raise it up.” John looking back at this statement writes, he had spoken of his body. And of course we know when we get saved, the Holy Spirit enters into our lives and our bodies become the temple of the Holy Spirit. For as early as Exodus 4, we learn wherever God is – is holy ground. Even if it is a burning bush in the desert.
Next week we will listen to one of the most well known conversations in history. Nicodemus and the Lord Jesus in a one-on-one conversation. So my invitation to you is like the invitation of Jesus- “come and see” what it was all about. For it contains truths you want to know.