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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

John 2

 

 

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Verse 11

DISCOURSE: 1605

THE WATER TURNED INTO WINE

John 2:11. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his Disciples believed on him.

AFTER thirty years of privacy, the time was come for our Lord to enter on his public ministrations. He had received both visible and audible testimony from heaven, and had been pointed out by his forerunner, John the Baptist, as “the Lamb of. God, that should take away the sin of the world.” Now at a marriage feast he begins in a private and unostentatious way that series of miracles to which he afterwards appealed as incontrovertible proofs of his Divine mission. Who the parties were, whose nuptials were here celebrated, we know not: but, from the peculiar interest which the mother of Jesus took in accommodating the guests, we think it highly probable, that they were some friends or relatives of her own. But, however that might be, our blessed Lord made that feast the occasion of working his first public miracle, and thereby of manifesting forth his glory.

The two points for our consideration are,

I. The manifestation which our Lord here gave of his glory—

He, by a miraculous power, turned water into wine—

[It is probable, that, when it was known that Jesus was to be at the feast, more guests came than had in the first instance been expected. Hence, after a time, the wine which had been provided, was exhausted. On this account the mother of Jesus intimated to him, that this would be a good occasion for exercising that miraculous power which she knew him to possess. But this was a liberty which she was not authorized to take: and therefore our Lord gently and respectfully reproved it; saying, “Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come [Note: γύναι, woman, was as respectful a term as any he could use. Persons of the highest distinction were so addressed.].” From the direction which she immediately gave to the servants, it is evident that she did not consider the answer as a refusal, but only as an intimation that the time and manner of displaying his own glory must be left altogether to him. (We may here observe, by the way, that, if she was reproved for offering him advice when he was on earth, what shall we think of the Papists, who pray to her to issue her commands to him, now that he is on his throne in heaven?) At the season he saw fit, he ordered the servants to fill with water six large water-pots, which had been placed there with a view to some purifications or ceremonial ablutions, and they were immediately “filled to the brim.” He then ordered the servants to draw out from those vessels, and to carry the cup to the governor of the feast. The governor, unconscious of the miracle that had been wrought (which, however, the servants who had drawn the water knew), commended highly the superior flavour of this wine, and thus unintentionally proclaimed the miracle to the whole company. It was a miracle that did not admit of any doubt: for the vessels, being all filled to the brim, did not admit of any wine being mixed with it: and all the servants were vouchers for the miracle, and witnesses that no collusion had been practised.]

By this miracle he manifested forth his glory—

[By it he demonstrated his sufficiency for the work he had undertaken: for after that act of omnipotence and love, what was there that he either could not, or would not, effect in behalf of those who trusted in him? Whatever might be their wants for the body, he could supply them in an instant; or, whatever might be their necessities for their souls, he could make ample provision for them in the hour of need. And if in this instance he had wrought a miracle to give them what might easily have been dispensed with, what would he not do for them which was essential to their well-being either in time or in eternity? He might indeed withhold for a season, what they, through impatience, were too eager to obtain: but he would grant to all his believing people whatsoever should be needful for them, only reserving to himself the times and the seasons of imparting his blessings, together with the manner and the measure which his own wisdom should see most conducive to their welfare.]

Such being the manifestation which he here gave of his glory, let us notice,

II. The effect produced by it on the minds of his Disciples—

Nathanael had been convinced by one proof of Christ’s omniscience, and exclaimed, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel [Note: John 1:47-50.].” Thus this one miracle, which displayed his omnipotence, was sufficient to confirm and establish the faith of his Disciples: “He manifested forth his glory; and his Disciples believed on him:” that is, they were filled with a deeper conviction of his Messiahship; they were stirred up to place a more entire affiance in him as their Saviour; and they were quickened to surrender up themselves more fully and unreservedly to his service. This was right; this was what the occasion called for, and what the miracle which they had seen, fully justified [Note: St. John afterwards refers to this miracle, as having made a deep impression on all their minds. chap. 4:46.].

Now then this is the effect that should be produced on our minds:

1. We should receive him as the true Messiah—

[We cannot wish for clearer evidence than that which the miracles of our Lord afford us. Our blessed Lord appeals to them as decisive and incontrovertible proofs of his divine mission, and consequently of the truth of all that he spoke, and of the efficacy of all that he either did or suffered for the redemption of the world. Let no doubt then ever rest on your minds in relation to this matter: but say with Peter, “We believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God [Note: John 6:69.].”]

2. We should place full affiance in him under that character—

[“Our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and our complete redemption,” should be sought in him alone. We should see “all fulness of spiritual blessings treasured up in him for us,” and we should “receive them daily out of his fulness,” even “as a branch receives its sap from the vine,” or a member of our body its energies from the head. “The life which we now live in the flesh we should live altogether by faith on the Son of God, as having loved us and given himself for us.” The whole world should be to us as nothing in comparison of him; and we should “determine to know nothing,” either as an object of confidence or as a ground of glorying, “but Jesus Christ and him crucified.”]

3. We should surrender up ourselves entirely and unreservedly to his service—

[This is what all his Disciples did. Matthew left his receipt of custom, and Peter and John their nets, and all his followers their respective vocations, to follow him, and consecrate themselves to him. And this is what we also must do: we must “deny ourselves, and take up our cross daily for him, and forsake all for him;” “not counting even life itself of any value,” if it may be sacrificed for him, and to the honour of his name. This is what the whole of his mediatorial work calls for at our hands; and this is no more than “a reasonable service” for every one of his redeemed to render to him.]

From a larger view of what passed on that occasion,

I would yet further suggest two useful hints:

1. It is our privilege to seek, and to enjoy, the presence of the Lord Jesus in our social meetings—

[Religion is far from encouraging a morose seclusion from society, or from prohibiting even occasional festivities, provided they be conducted with prudence and sobriety. Doubtless what we call conviviality may easily be carried to excess: but I conceive that the very circumstance of our Lord’s working his first miracle at a wedding feast, and of his supplying of more wine for the use of the guests during the remainder of the feast [Note: We are not to suppose that our Lord administered to excess. The word μεθύειν, in ver. 10. did not apply to that company; nor, if it did, would it necessarily imply excess; for the word is often used where the most perfect sobriety was observed. See Genesis 43:34. in the LXX.], was intended to mark the difference between the dispensation which he introduced, and that which his was intended to supersede; the Jewish dispensation consisting mainly of restraints, (“touch not, taste not, handle not;”) but Christianity “giving us all things richly to enjoy.” But, that our liberty may not be turned into licentiousness, we should always invite the Lord Jesus Christ, if I may so say, to be a guest with us: for he has promised to “come unto us, and to sup with us, and to manifest himself unto us as he does not unto the world [Note: John 14:22-23. Revelation 3:20.].” And need I say how sweet our feasts will then be? Who that has ever enjoyed Christian society in a truly Christian way, has not found an infinite distance between the conviviality of the ungodly world and the refined enjoyment of heavenly converse? The very best of worldly intercourse is but “ as the crackling of thorns under a pot,” where the blaze that brightens the scene for a few minutes, soon expires in offensive smoke. But, where the Lord Jesus Christ vouchsafes his presence, the savour of the feast still abides upon the soul, and affords reiterated gratification in the recollection of it. Such seasons, however long since enjoyed, will afford us comfort even in a dying hour; so truly is it found on all occasions, that our blessed Saviour gives us the best wine last. Let Jesus be present at our feasts, and there will be in them neither levity nor excess; but our very festivities, instead of contributing to sensuality, shall be made to administer to the good of our souls.]

2. If we will leave our concerns to his disposal, he will surely glorify himself at last—

[If at any time our necessities be at all urgent, we are too apt to dictate to our Lord as to the time and manner of our relief. But such presumption, whoever may be guilty of it, will surely meet with a rebuke. It is sufficient for us to know that Jesus is both able and willing to supply our every want, and that he has pledged himself, that “they who seek him shall want no manner of thing that is good.” Who has not already on many occasions found, that his own impatient desires, if gratified at the time, would have proved injurious to him, and that the very delay of which he once complained, has proved of most essential service to his soul? Let us then habitually commit our concerns to our all-wise and all-gracious Lord, and look to him to glorify himself in his own time and way. Then shall we have reason, ere long, to say, “He has done all things well;” and shall find at the last, that our very straits have contributed to his honour and our own eternal good.]


Verse 17

DISCOURSE: 1606

BUYERS AND SELLERS DRIVEN OUT

John 2:17. And his Disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.

WE are apt to think that we receive no benefit from what we read or hear, unless it produce an immediate effect upon us: but the word, like seed, often springs up long after it has been sown. God often brings it to our minds by some great and singular occurrence: and then we see a beauty and importance in it which we never saw before. The Apostles themselves forgat many things which were spoken to them by our Lord, till the Holy Spirit brought them to their remembrance. They had often heard the Psalms read in their synagogues; but probably never reflected on the passage before us, till our Lord’s conduct suggested it to their minds, and cast the true light upon it.

We shall consider,

I. The circumstances which brought these words to their remembrance—

Our Lord, for the first time after his entrance on his public character, went up to Jerusalem at the Passover. There he found that the temple of God was scandalously profaned; and he immediately set himself to rectify the abuses that were there tolerated—

[The outer court of the temple was appropriated to the use of the Gentiles: but many of the Jews had rendered it a place of merchandize. There they exposed for sale the cattle that were proper to be offered in sacrifice, and stationed themselves with tables of money for the accommodation of the strangers who might want to exchange their foreign coin [Note: Every one had occasion for a half shekel for the service of the temple, Exodus 3:13-16.]. Thus they insulted the Gentiles and greatly dishonoured God. To correct this evil, our Lord exerted his divine authority. He drove out the cattle, and ordered the doves to be removed. He overturned the tables of money, and commanded all the traders to depart; nor did any of the people dare to oppose his sovereign command.]

This act of his could not fail of attracting universal notice:

It discovered,

1. His holy indignation against sin—

[Such a profanation of the temple was indeed a grievous sin: nor could his righteous soul behold it without the utmost abhorrence. His anger was justly excited by the indignity offered to his Father. To have felt it less, would have been a crime; and to have refrained from manifesting it, a mark of cowardice. We indeed are not called to manifest our displeasure in the same authoritative way; but we should never behold sin but with pain and grief; nor can our indignation be ever sinful, provided it be directed against sin as its object, and be felt only in proportion to the malignity of the offence committed. We can never err, if we follow the example of those eminent saints [Note: Psalms 119:53; Psalms 119:136; Psalms 119:158. Jeremiah 9:1.]—.]

2. His courageous zeal for God—

[The priests themselves were accessary to the dishonour done to God: if they did not encourage it for gain, they at least promoted it by connivance. Thus they, no less than the traders, were interested in maintaining the abuse, and, no doubt, would be forward to uphold it with all their power; but Jesus feared not the face of men, though all should combine against him. He resolutely determined to suppress these gross abominations, and, without any regard to consequences, set himself to perform his duty. Thus should we move undaunted in the way of duty; nor ever be deterred from it by the dictates of carnal policy [Note: Jeremiah 1:17.].]

3. A miraculous power over the minds of men—

[What but this could prevent their rising against him? He detected their hypocrisy, reproved their impiety, mortified their pride, opposed their interests, and loaded them with disgrace. He did this singly, unarmed, unsupported, and in opposition to the existing authorities: yet, behold, they were all constrained to yield submission to his will. We cannot doubt but that he miraculously overawed their minds: nor was this a less exertion of omnipotence than any other of the miracles which he wrought.]

The sight of these things particularly affected his immediate followers, and brought to their recollection a portion of Scripture which they had never before noticed,

II. The words themselves—

The words were justly quoted in reference to Christ—

[In their primary sense indeed they had their accomplishment in David. David elsewhere expresses in very strong terms his zeal for God [Note: Psalms 101:3-8.]: nor can we forget how he manifested it when he danced before the ark [Note: 2 Samuel 6:14.]. But David confessedly personates the Messiah: some parts are applicable to himself, and some to Christ, alone [Note: Psalms 69:5. cannot well be applied to any but David; nor can ver. 21. to any but Christ. It is thus that the literal and prophetical parts of scripture are continually intermixed.]. The words before us may very properly be applied to both; indeed the strength of the terms would almost lead us to confine them to Christ. His holy soul was inflamed with incessant zeal for God’s honour; nor did he ever suffer one opportunity of promoting his glory to pass unimproved. The occasion now before us called forth the strongest exertions of his zeal, and manifested the full accomplishment of this prophecy in his person.]

They are also replete with useful instruction to us—

They reprove the shameful want of zeal amongst his followers

[God is greatly dishonoured by men on every side: his name is blasphemed, his word despised, his authority rejected. Does it become his people to behold these things with indifference? Should they not resemble Paul when he beheld the idolaters at Athens [Note: Acts 17:16.]? Should they not imitate John [Note: Mark 6:18.], and adopt the words of Jeremiah [Note: Jeremiah 13:17.]? Should they not reprove sin in others as well as abstain from it themselves [Note: Ephesians 5:11.]? But how miserably defective are even good people in this particular! How often do fear or shame restrain them from bearing their testimony for God! Alas! what a sad contrast does our conduct form with that of our Lord! Have we not reason then to be ashamed, and mourn for our neglect? But many, so far from rebuking sin in others, indulge it in themselves: even in the very house of God they harbour worldly and carnal thoughts; nor are at all concerned to have their hearts purified from vile affections. Surely this cannot but be most offensive to the heart-searching God. Let us remember the solemn caution given us by the Apostle [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:17.]—. With respect to others, let us never presume to use the petulant language of Cain [Note: Genesis 4:9.]—, but rather endeavour to obey the injunction which God has given us [Note: Leviticus 19:17.]—; and, with respect to ourselves, let us seek in all things that conformity to Christ which is required of us [Note: 1 John 2:6.]—.]

They afford us a proper example for our imitation

[Phinehas of old was called to execute the judgment he inflicted on Zimri [Note: He was a ruler himself, and acted by the command of the chief magistrate. Compare 1 Chronicles 9:20. Numbers 25:5; Numbers 25:7-8.]. Thus Jesus, as the Prophet of the Most High, was called to vindicate God’s honour. In the same manner we should do whatever our place and station require: we must not all take on ourselves the office of magistrates, or assume the authority which does not belong to our situation and circumstances. Our zeal must be regulated by the word of God. It must be in a good cause; and in support of truth and virtue [Note: Romans 10:2.]: it must be pure; and free from bigotry, ostentation, or wrath [Note: 2 Kings 10:16.]: it must be discreet, not precipitating us into unbecoming conduct [Note: Jude, ver. 22, 23.]: it must be proportioned, in a measure, to the occasion that excites it; and it must be uniform, opposing sin in ourselves, as much as in others [Note: Revelation 3:19.]. Such a zeal as this cannot be too vigorously maintained [Note: Romans 12:11.]. An intemperate zeal will injure the cause it attempts to serve; but that which is duly tempered with meekness and wisdom, will be productive of much good [Note: Galatians 4:18.]. Let us then check the unhallowed zeal that would call fire from heaven [Note: Luke 9:54.], and cherish that which is meek, humble, pious and benevolent [Note: James 3:17.]. Thus shall we approve ourselves to be God’s peculiar people [Note: Titus 2:14.]; and, while we please our God, shall be a blessing to all around us.]


Verse 18-19

DISCOURSE: 1607

THE RESURRECTION, A PROOF OF CHRIST’S MESSIAHSHIP

John 2:18-19. Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

THE work of reformation usually involves in difficulties those who undertake it. They who are the objects of it, however justly reproved, are sure to take offence, and to condemn the zeal which censures them. No one can doubt but that the turning of God’s House into a place of merchandize was a very shameful practice; or, that to suppress it was highly commendable: yet, when our blessed Lord exerted his authority to check this abuse, the people, instead of applauding his zeal, expressed great dissatisfaction, and demanded of him, what right he had to interfere in that matter. The very awe which was impressed on all their minds, whereby they were constrained to yield to the rebukes of a poor man unsupported by any human, authority, might have convinced them, that a power more than human existed in the person of the Lord Jesus: and, if they had taken occasion to make inquiries respecting him in a becoming spirit, he would no doubt have given them all reasonable satisfaction: but, as their demands arose from mere petulance, he declined satisfying them by any fresh miracle, and referred them to an event yet distant, which, when accomplished, should be a perfect answer to every inquiry.

To place this matter in a just point of view, we shall shew,

I. To what event our Lord referred—

The occasion on which the words were spoken, will reflect considerable light on the words themselves. It was common with our Lord to make the things which were immediately before him subservient to his purpose of conveying spiritual instruction: and this he did on the present occasion. He had purged the temple from the abuses to which it had been exposed. The act itself, all things considered, was miraculous. A miracle was required of him to prove his right to exercise such authority: but he, not choosing to gratify this unreasonable demand, told the Jews, that, as they had defiled the material temple, so they would destroy the temple of his body: and that, as he had purged the one, so he would in three days rebuild and restore the other: and that this latter miracle would abundantly vindicate his claim to the authority he used.

In this figurative prediction he intimated,

1. That his own body was typically represented by the temple—

[Both were formed, the one by man, and the other by God himself, as a residence for the Deity [Note: Hebrews 8:2.]; and in both God vouchsafed to dwell: in the one symbolically, by a visible cloud; in the other really, personally, bodily, even in all his fulness [Note: Colossians 2:9.] — — —]

2. That they would in due time destroy it—

[His words are not to be construed as a command or advice, but simply as a prediction. He knew what they would do: he knew “what his heavenly Father had determined before to be done:” he knew what he had undertaken both to do and suffer for us: and he frequently, from his very first entrance on his ministry to the close of it, foretold the precise manner of his death, together with the various circumstances which should accompany it — — —]

3. That he, by his own power, would raise it up again in three days—

[“He had power to lay down his life, and power to take it again:” and he declared that he would put forth this power to the confusion of all his enemies. He fixed the time of his resurrection, agreeably to the predictions of the prophets concerning it; a time amply sufficient for ascertaining the reality of his death, though not sufficient for his body to contract any corruption. On the accomplishment of this prophecy he rested all his pretensions to the Messiahship; and by it he would prove, that “he was indeed the very Christ” — — —]

The accomplishment of this event need not at this time to be insisted on: it is more to our purpose to shew,

II. How it proved his Divine authority—

We are told that Christ “was declared to be the Son of God with power by his resurrection from the dead.” If it be asked, How did his resurrection prove his Messiahship? we answer,

1. No impostor would rest his pretensions on such an appeal as this—

[An impostor would rather confirm his authority by an appeal to something which he might accomplish in his life-time, in order that his credit might be raised, and his hands be strengthened for the furtherance of his designs. At all events, he would not found his hopes of success on a matter so entirely out of the reach of all human power, where the failure might be so easily, so speedily, so demonstrably ascertained: to do this would be to counteract all his own wishes, and to expose himself and his adherents to utter contempt. Such conduct would be perfect madness: and therefore we cannot suppose that our blessed Lord, who on all occasions manifested such consummate wisdom, could have pursued it. Had he been an impostor, he would at least have selected some other test, more within the bounds of credibility, and less open to detection.]

2. Supposing such an appeal made in support of an imposture, God would never work a miracle to sanction and confirm it—

[That God has permitted wonderful things to be wrought by liars and impostors, is certain: but he has at the same time afforded means for discovering the imposture; or rather, he has permitted those very wonders for the purpose of manifesting his own superior power, and confirmed thereby the faith of his people, whilst his enemies were hardened in their own wilful delusions [Note: Exodus 7:11-20; Exodus 7:22; Exodus 8:7-8; Exodus 8:17-19. Acts 8:9-11.]. But in raising up Jesus from the dead, he has not only given us no contrary testimony to counteract the impression, but has left us no room for doubt. This must have been done by himself alone: none but an Almighty power could effect it. On this one point the whole weight of our Lord’s pretensions rested. Our Lord was willing to be thought an impostor, if this miracle were not wrought in his favour. What shall we say then? If God knew him to be an impostor, he himself interposed to give weight and efficacy to his imposture: he interposed to deceive his own people, and to blind the eyes of those who were most desirous to serve him aright. But can this be true? Can we for a moment admit the thought? The inference then is clear and undeniable; that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world — — —]

But it is not in speculative truths that we should rest. We proceed therefore to inquire,

III. What practical instruction is to be gathered from it—

In this part of our subject, we shall limit our observations to the event as it stands connected with the occasion on which it was foretold. We have before seen that it was referred to in confirmation of the authority which our Lord had exerted. It shews us therefore,

1. That God is indignant with those who pollute his temple—

[It is common to imagine, that the frequenting of the house of God at certain seasons must of necessity be a service pleasing and acceptable in the sight of God. But can our bodily presence there be pleasing to him, if our hearts be altogether occupied with the world? If our farms and our merchandize, our lusts and our pleasures, fill our minds, what will it profit us to bow our knees, or to repeat our forms of prayer? It is not thus that we are to worship God: “we are to worship him in spirit and in truth;” and our external services, while destitute of spiritual affections, are gross hypocrisy: and we, in presenting such services, are no better than those whom our Lord accused of turning his Father’s House into a house of merchandize.

But it is not from the outward temple only that evil should be expelled: our hearts are “the temples of the Holy Ghost,” and are therefore, at the peril of our souls, to be preserved pure: “If any man defile the temple of God,” says the Apostle, “him shall God destroy [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:16-17.].” What reason have we all to tremble at this solemn declaration! Consider, brethren, what grievous abominations have been harboured there! what a mass of filthiness, “filthiness both of flesh and spirit,” has God seen in us! what pride, envy, malice, wrath! what worldliness! what sensuality! alas! alas! “It is indeed of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, even because his compassions fail not.” We may plead custom, and a variety of other excuses, just as they did who defiled the material temple: but if our hearts be not now purged by the grace of God, it is in vain to hope that he will ever make them his residence in a future world. Let us then beg of him to drive out every hateful disposition: and, whatever scourge he may see fit to use for this purpose, let us never wish to be delivered from the pains it may inflict, till we have fully experienced its sanctified effects.]

2. That whatever pollutes his temple shall yield to the almighty power of Christ—

[When we see the extreme depravity of our hearts, and compare it with the purity of God’s holy law, we are ready to say, that it is impossible for us ever to become what God requires. But he who exerted such power over the minds of those who “made the temple a den of thieves;” who could literally have destroyed the temple and built it again in three days; and did actually raise to life again his own “crucified body;” He, I say, can easily effect the renovation of our hearts: with him all things are possible: whatever difficulties we may have to surmount, “his grace is sufficient for us” — — — We need only look to his Apostles, “who were men of like passions with us,” and we may see what he can do for us. “It was by the grace of God that they were what they. were:” and God is still the same as in the days of old; “his arm is not shortened that it cannot save; nor is his ear heavy that it cannot hear” — — — It is to carry on his work in our hearts that Jesus is risen: “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.” Let us then pray that we may know him in the “power of his resurrection,” and “be sanctified wholly;” and that “our whole spirit, soul, and body, may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ [Note: 1 Thessalonians 5:23.].” “Faithful is He that hath called us, who also will do it [Note: 1 Thessalonians 5:24.].”]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on John 2:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/john-2.html. 1832.


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Sunday, August 20th, 2017
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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