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The third day evidently refers to the third day after the day Nathanael (Theodore, "the gift of God") met Jesus. John’s references to succeeding days (John 1:29; John 1:35; John 1:43; John 2:1) at least reflect his precise knowledge of these events. Perhaps this is also a symbolic reference to God’s actions coming to a culmination with this miracle (cf. the Resurrection on the third day). Jesus fulfilled his promise to Nathanael (John 1:50-51) very quickly.
John’s specific reference to days in chapter 1 and here is unusual for him. On the first day, John the Baptist gave his veiled witness to Jesus (John 1:19-28). The second day he gave his open witness to Jesus (John 1:29-34). The third day John’s two disciples followed Jesus (John 1:35-42). The fourth day Philip and Nathanael met Jesus (John 1:43-51). On the third day after that, the seventh day, Jesus did His miracle at Cana. Customarily, the wedding of a maiden took place on a Wednesday, and that of a widow on Thursday. [Note: Edersheim, 1:345.] The Jews regarded periods of seven days as reflecting God’s creative activity. Perhaps John wanted his readers to associate this beginning of Jesus’ ministry with the beginning of the cosmos (Genesis 1) that also happened in seven days. If so, this would be another witness to Jesus’ deity.
Cana was about nine miles north of Nazareth in Galilee. [Note: See the map "Palestine in the Time of Jesus" at the end of these notes.] John never mentioned Mary the mother of Jesus by name, perhaps to avoid confusing her with other Marys in his story. [Note: See James M. Howard, "The Significance of Minor Characters in the Gospel of John," Bibliotheca Sacra 163:649 (January-March 2006):65-69.]
1. Jesus’ first sign: changing water to wine 2:1-11
The first miracle that Jesus performed, in His public ministry and in John’s Gospel, was semi-public. Apparently only Jesus’ disciples, the servants present, and Jesus’ mother understood what had happened.
B. The early Galilean ministry 2:1-12
John’s account of the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry highlights the fact that Jesus replaced what was old with something new (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17). New wine replaced old water. Later a clean temple replaced a dirty one, a new birth replaced an old birth, living (flowing) water replaced well water, and new worship replaced old worship. [Note: C. H. Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, p. 297.] The larger underlying theme continues to be the revelation of Jesus’ identity.
The facts that Jesus received an invitation to a wedding and accepted it show that He was not a recluse. He participated in the normal affairs of human life. This included occasions of rejoicing. The Gospels consistently present this picture of Him. Godliness does not require separation from human society, though John the Baptist did not mix with people as much as Jesus did. A Christ-like person can be a socially active person.
In a small village such as Cana-probably modern Khirbet Kana-a wedding would have been a community celebration. [Note: For a description of how a typical Galilean wedding was conducted, see Edersheim, 1:354-55.] Perhaps the hosts included Jesus because Nathanael was from Cana (John 21:2), and Nathanael had recently become a follower of Jesus. Yet probably they knew Jesus and invited Him as a friend since His mother was also there and took some responsibility for the catering. This event evidently transpired very early in Jesus’ ministry, before He called the Twelve. Consequently the only disciples present may have been the five to which John referred in chapter 1.
"Wise is that couple who invite Jesus to their wedding!" [Note: Wiersbe, 1:290.]
Weddings in the ancient East typically lasted several days and often a whole week. [Note: See Edwin Yamauchi, "Cultural Aspects of Marriage in the Ancient World," Bibliotheca Sacra 135:539 (July-September 1978):241-52.]
"To fail to provide adequately for the guests would involve social disgrace. In the closely knit communities of Jesus’ day, such an error would never be forgotten and would haunt the newly married couple all their lives." [Note: Tenney, "John," p. 42.]
The loss would not only have been shame and social disgrace, however, but also financial since grooms had a legal responsibility in that culture to provide a suitable feast for their guests.
"Our bridegroom stood to lose financially-say, up to about half the value of the presents Jesus and his party ought to have brought." [Note: J. D. M. Derrett, Law in the New Testament, p. 238.]
Mary undoubtedly told Jesus about the situation because she knew that He would do whatever He could to solve the problem. As a compassionate person He would try to help the groom, who was responsible for the food and drink (John 2:9), to avoid unnecessary embarrassment. Clearly Mary expected Jesus to do something (John 2:5). Evidently Jesus had done no miracles before this incident (John 2:11). Consequently it seems far-fetched to suppose that she expected Him to perform a miracle. Mary knew that Jesus was the Messiah, and she apparently wanted Him to do something that would show who He was to everyone present. The wine normally drunk in Palestine at this time was fermented grape juice diluted with water. [Note: See Robert Stein, "Wine-Drinking in New Testament Times," Christianity Today 19:19 (June 20, 1975):9-11; and Norman Geisler, "A Christian Perspective on Wine-Drinking," Bibliotheca Sacra 139:553 (January-March 1982):46-56.]
Westerners would consider anyone addressing his mother as "woman" to be disrespectful, but this was an acceptable word to use in Jesus’ culture (Gr. gunai, cf. John 19:26; John 20:15). It did not have negative connotations. [Note: Derrett, pp. 89-90.]
"That Jesus calls Mary ’Woman’ and not ’Mother’ probably indicates that there is a new relationship between them as he enters his public ministry." [Note: Morris, p. 158.]
Similarly the words "What do I have to do with you?" (NASB) sound arrogant, but they were only a gentle rebuke. They constituted an idiom that is hard to translate (cf. Judges 11:12; 2 Samuel 16:10; Matthew 8:29; Mark 1:24; Mark 5:7; Luke 4:34; Luke 8:28). "What do we have in common?" meaning "Your concern and mine are not the same" [Note: Tasker, p. 60.] or "Madam, that concerns you, not me" [Note: The New Scofield Reference Bible, p. 1125.] captures the spirit of the question. Jesus was not dishonoring His mother. He was explaining to her that He would handle the situation, but in His own time and way. Jesus’ obedience to His heavenly Father was more important than His obedience to His earthly mother.
Jesus elsewhere always spoke of His "hour" (Gr. hora) as the time of His passion and its consequences (cf. John 5:28-29; John 7:30; John 8:20; John 12:23; John 12:27; John 13:1; John 17:1).
"It refers to the special time in Jesus’ earthly life when He was to leave this world and return to the Father (John 13:1), the hour when the Son of man was to be glorified (John 17:1). This was accomplished through His suffering, death, resurrection (and ascension, though this was not emphasized by John)." [Note: Harris, p. 196.]
When Jesus’ hour finally did come, He met the need of the entire human race by dying on the cross. Mary was requesting that He meet a need immediately. Perhaps Jesus referred to His hour not yet being present to help Mary realize that the meeting of needs was something He needed to control. Just as it was not yet time for Him to die, so it was not yet time for Him to meet this pressing need for wine. Probably He meant, The time for me to meet this need has not yet arrived. Throughout this Gospel, John made it clear that Jesus was on a divine schedule that His Father controlled.
Mary accepted Jesus’ statement humbly and did not nag Him. She did, however, urge the servants to cooperate with Him if He acted. She did not understand what He would do or when, but she had confidence in His compassion and ability. She demonstrated admirable submission and faith toward Jesus. She allowed Jesus to take charge and solve the problem, and she pointed others to Jesus, not to herself. Previously she had approached Jesus as His mother and had received a mild rebuke. Now she approached Him as her Lord and shortly received satisfaction (cf. Matthew 15:21-28). In this she provides an excellent example for us.
The Jews washed before eating to cleanse themselves from the defilement of contact with Gentiles and other ritually defiling things more than from germs. They needed much water since they washed often (cf. Matthew 15:1-2; Mark 7:3-4). Each pot held two or three measures (Gr. metretes), namely, between 20 and 30 gallons. Their combined capacity would have been between 120 and 180 gallons of liquid. Stone pots did not absorb moisture and uncleanness as earthenware vessels did, so they were better containers for water used in ceremonial washings.
"Them" (NASB) is the servants to whom Mary had previously spoken (John 2:5). Their obedience is admirable and accounts in part for the full provision of the need. Normally people did not drink the water in those pots, but the headwaiter or toastmaster did not know that what the servant handed him came from there. Probably the pots were outside the house and he was inside.
Most commentators assumed that when the servants had filled the pots to the brim the water in them became wine. The servants then drew the wine out of the pots and served it to the headwaiter. A few writers noted that the verb "draw" (Gr. antleo, John 2:8) usually describes drawing water from a well. [Note: E.g., B. F. Westcott, The Gospel According to St. John: The Greek Text with Introduction and Notes, 1:84; and Carson, p. 174.] This led some of them to envisage a different scenario. Perhaps the servants filled the pots from a well and then continued drawing water out of the well that they served to the headwaiter. This explanation seems unnatural to me.
Many commentators saw the significance of what they understood to have happened as follows. Jesus’ disciples as well as the servants, and presumably Mary, knew that water had gone into the pots but that wine had come out. The only thing that accounted for the change was Jesus’ instructions. They realized that Jesus had the supernatural power to change water into wine. This miracle thus fortified their faith in Him (John 2:11).
Advocates of the view that the water the servants presented to the headwaiter came from the well see the same significance and more.
"Up to this time the servants had drawn water to fill the vessels used for ceremonial washing; now they are to draw for the feast that symbolizes the messianic banquet. Filling jars with such large capacity to the brim then indicates that the time for ceremonial purification is completely fulfilled; the new order, symbolized by the wine, could not be drawn from jars so intimately connected with merely ceremonial purification." [Note: Ibid. See also Tasker, pp. 55-57.]
I believe it is somewhat tenuous to build this interpretation on the usual meaning of antleo. Its essential meaning is "to draw" even though this word usually refers to drawing water from a well or spring (Genesis 24:13; Genesis 24:20; Exodus 2:16; Exodus 2:19; Isaiah 12:3; John 4:7; John 4:15). In classical Greek it describes drawing water out of a ship’s bilge. [Note: A Greek-English . . ., s.v. antleo, pp. 51-52.] Furthermore the symbolic interpretation that accompanies this view is questionable. There is nothing in the text that indicates that John intended his readers to see this miracle as teaching the termination of the old Mosaic order and the commencement of a new order. Jesus’ ministry certainly accomplished that, but there is no other evidence that this was a lesson that John was communicating to his readers here. Perhaps Jesus ordered the pots filled to the brim simply so there would be enough wine for everyone.
John’s point in recording the headwaiter’s comments as he did seems to have been to stress the superior quality of the wine that Jesus produced for the guests. Jesus, as the Creator, produced the best, as He always does whenever He creates. Jesus’ immediate creation of wine, which normally takes time to ferment, may parallel God’s creation of the universe with the appearance of age. [Note: Bailey, p. 162.] "Drunk freely" (NASB) and "had too much to drink" (NIV) translate the Greek word methysko that refers to inebriation. The fact that Jesus created something that people could abuse should not surprise us. Humans have consistently abused God’s good gifts. Fortunately that does not keep God from giving them or make Him responsible for our abuse of them.
Is there a deeper meaning to this story? Many students of this passage have identified the wine as symbolic of the joy that Messiah brings. This harmonizes with the metaphorical use of wine throughout Scripture. Some have seen it as typical of Christianity as contrasted with Judaism (the water). [Note: E.g., Blum, p. 278.] These parallels lack Scriptural support. Perhaps there is some validity to seeing this banquet as a preview of the messianic banquet since Jesus’ provision of joy is common to them both. However, Jesus may not have been the host at this banquet, but He will be the host at the messianic banquet.
In conclusion, John mentioned that this miracle was a sign. It was a miracle that had significance. [Note: See Mark R. Saucy, "Miracles and Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of God," Bibliotheca Sacra 153:611 (July-September 1996):281-307.] Its significance appears to be that it showed that Jesus had the same power to create that God demonstrated in the Creation. Thus it pointed to Jesus being the Creator God who could transform things from one condition into another (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17). This demonstration of His power glorified Jesus in the eyes of those who witnessed and heard about it. [Note: Cf. Beasley-Murray, p. 35.] Moses had turned water into blood destructively (Exodus 7:14-24), but Jesus turned water into wine for the blessing and benefit of others (cf. John 1:17). This miracle also resulted in these disciples believing in Him (cf. John 1:50), not for the first time but in a deeper way than they had believed previously (cf. John 20:30-31). John’s concluding references to the time and place establish the historicity of this event and reduce the possibility of reading it as an allegory or a legend.
"There is significance in the miracle first for Israel, especially the Israel of Christ’s day. The wedding feast with its new wine portrays the coming of the kingdom. By this sign the Lord declares He is the Messiah of Israel who is capable of bringing the predicted kingdom into its glorious existence. . . .
"The miracle shows the old order had run its course; now was the time for a new one.
"The significance of this miracle is not for Jews only; it is obviously for the church as well. The basic truth for Christians is found in the joy of salvation. . . .
"This miracle portrays not only the joy Christ brings into a person’s life but also the abundance of joy. . . .
"Finally, for the Christian there is a new life in Christ. The old is passed away and there is a whole new life and perspective in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)." [Note: Stanley D. Toussaint, "The Significance of the First Sign in John’s Gospel," Bibliotheca Sacra 134:533 (January-March 1977):50, 51.]
2. Jesus’ initial stay in Capernaum 2:12
Sometime after the miracle just narrated, Jesus went down topographically from Cana to Capernaum. Cana was on a higher elevation than Capernaum, though Capernaum was about 13 miles northeast of Cana. Some family members (cf. Matthew 12:46; Mark 6:3) and Jesus’ disciples accompanied Him. Jesus had physical brothers. The idea of Mary’s perpetual virginity first appeared in the second century. Evidently this was only for a short stay since John wrote that they stayed a few days. Jesus adopted Capernaum as His ministry base in Galilee and moved there from Nazareth (Matthew 4:13; Mark 1:21; Mark 2:1). That may have happened now, or it may have taken place after this event. The purpose of this verse in John’s narrative is transitional.
John alone recorded that Jesus went up to Jerusalem, topographically again, for three separate Passover celebrations. He referred to a second Passover in John 6:4 and to a third one in John 11:55; John 12:1; John 13:1; John 18:28; John 18:39; and John 19:14. Some interpreters believe that he mentioned a fourth Passover in John 5:1, but this seems unlikely. This first one was evidently the Passover of April 7, A.D. 30, the first one after Jesus began His public ministry. [Note: Herold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, pp. 55-60, 143.] He celebrated the Passover because He was a Jew who obeyed the Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 16:1-8), and He used the opportunity to minister. John’s description of the Passover as "the Passover of the Jews" supports the view that he wrote his Gospel late in the first century for a general audience that was mainly Gentile. It also implies that the church no longer observed this feast.
1. The first cleansing of the temple 2:13-22
The Synoptics record Jesus’ cleansing of the temple after His triumphal entry (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-16; Luke 19:45-46). Only John noted this cleansing of the temple at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. The differences between the two cleansing incidents and their placement in the chronology of Jesus’ ministry argue for two cleansings rather than one. [Note: See W. Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to John , 1:120; and Morris, pp. 166-69.]
C. Jesus’ first visit to Jerusalem 2:13-3:36
John is the only evangelist who recorded this trip to Jerusalem and the things that happened then.
"In distinction from the Synoptics, John’s record focuses mostly on events in Jesus’ life that took place in Jerusalem, and especially at the Passover feasts." [Note: Bailey, p. 164.]
Josephus indicated that as many as three million Jews occupied Jerusalem during the Passover feasts. [Note: Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, 6:9:3; cf. 2:14:3.]
Jesus witnessed the buying and selling going on in the temple courtyard (Gr. hieron). This was undoubtedly the outer Court of the Gentiles, not the temple building (Gr. naos). [Note: See the diagram "Jerusalem in New Testament Times" at the end of these notes.] Probably the custom of selling sacrificial animals and exchanging various types of silver and copper money (e.g., Persian, Syrian, Egyptian, Grecian, and Roman) for temple coinage began as a convenience for pilgrims. The priests accepted only Tyrian coins because of the purity of their silver. By Jesus’ day this practice had escalated into a major business for the priests and had replaced spiritual worship in the courtyard during the Passover season. [Note: See Edersheim, 1:367-70.] The priests transformed this area from a place of quiet prayer into a noisy bazaar. It was virtually impossible for Gentiles to worship there, the only courtyard accessible to them, with all the business going on. This was probably where the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:27) and other Gentiles like him worshipped when they came to Jerusalem. The priests set up tables for the moneychangers only for about three weeks leading up to Passover. [Note: Mishnah Shekalim 1:1, 3.]
Jesus responded to this situation actively and verbally. He claimed that God was His Father and that He acted for God in what He did. John’s vivid description has inspired many painters who have drawn what they believed this action-packed scene must have looked like. John gave the reason for Jesus’ deeds as His concern for the misuse of the temple. He did not mention the corruption that may have been going on as the priests bought and sold and changed money. Jesus’ action constituted a major threat to the financial arrangements for the sacrificial system. [Note: Richard Bauckham, "Jesus’ Demonstration in the Temple," in Law and Religion: Essays on the Place of the Law in Israel and Early Christianity, pp. 72-89.]
"The Talmud also records the curse which a distinguished Rabbi of Jerusalem (Abba Shaul) pronounced upon the High-Priestly families (including that of Annas), who were ’themselves High-Priests, their sons treasurers (Gizbarin), their sons-in-law assistant-treasurers (Ammarkalin), while their servants beat the people with sticks.’ (Pes. [Pesiqta] 57 a) What a comment this passage offers on the bearing of Jesus, as He made a scourge to drive out the very servants who ’beat the people with sticks,’ and upset their unholy traffic!" [Note: Edersheim, 1:372.]
By claiming God as His Father, Jesus was citing authority for His action, not claiming equality with the Father, which He did another time (John 5:18). To those present, the issue was clearly Jesus’ authority, not His identity (John 2:18).
Though Jesus’ action was violent, it evidently did not constitute a threat to the peace in the temple area. Roman soldiers from the adjoining Antonia Fortress would have intervened quickly if it had. Jesus was forceful but not cruel. There is no indication that He injured anyone with His fairly harmless scourge of cords (Gr. phragellion ek schoinion). The Greek masculine plural pantas ("all") argues for Jesus driving the traders out, not just the animals, which the neuter plural panta would identify. Schoinion ("cords") elsewhere describes the ropes on a ship (Acts 27:32).
"It is clear that it was not so much the physical force as the moral power he employed that emptied the courts." [Note: Morris, p. 171.]
The Old Testament predicted that Messiah would come and purify the Levites (Malachi 3:1-3; cf. Zechariah 14:21). Jesus’ action perhaps recalled these prophecies to the godly in Israel who may have wondered if Jesus was the Messiah. His actions did not fulfill these prophecies, however, which appear in millennial contexts. Jesus will yet return to the temple that will be standing in Jerusalem when He returns at His second coming and purify the Levites serving there then. This will be preparation for His messianic reign that will follow. Another view is that Jesus’ first coming to the temple did fulfill Malachi’s prophecy. [Note: Bailey, p. 164.]
The outstanding impression that Jesus’ acts presented to His disciples was one of zeal for the proper use of the temple and ultimately for God’s glory. They may have recalled Psalms 69:9 then, or they may have thought of it later. John’s description does not make this clear. This is the third most frequently quoted Psalm in the New Testament (cf. John 7:3-5; John 15:25; Matthew 27:34; Matthew 27:48; Romans 11:9-10; Romans 15:3). [Note: Cf. Bernard, 1:91.] In Psalms 69:9 David meant that zeal for the building of the temple had dominated his thoughts and actions, and he implied that others had criticized him for it. John changed the quotation from the past to the future tense implying that it was a prophecy concerning David’s great Son. He undoubtedly saw it as such. However, was he not misquoting the verse?
The Hebrew language does not have past, present, and future tenses as English does. It has a perfect tense indicating complete action and an imperfect tense indicating incomplete action. In Psalms 69:9 the tense of the Hebrew verb is perfect. One can translate a Hebrew perfect tense with an English past, present, or future tense depending on the context. Here an English past tense was appropriate for David’s statement about himself, but the Hebrew also permits an English future tense that is appropriate for Messiah, the so-called prophetic perfect tense.
"We should not miss the way this incident fits in with John’s aim of showing Jesus to be the Messiah. All his actions imply a special relationship with God. They proceed from his messianic vocation. The citation from Scripture is important from another point of view, for it accords with another habit of this Evangelist. While John does not quote the Old Testament as frequently as do some other New Testament writers, it is still the case, as Richard Morgan says, that ’the Old Testament is present at every crucial moment in the Gospel.’ It is one of John’s great themes that in Jesus God is working his purposes out. Every critical moment sees the fulfillment of Scripture in which those purposes are set forth." [Note: Morris, p. 172.]
"When Jesus cleansed the temple, He ’declared war’ on the hypocritical religious leaders (Matthew 23), and this ultimately led to His death. Indeed, His zeal for God’s house did eat Him up!" [Note: Wiersbe, 1:292-93.]
The spokesmen for the Jews present in the courtyard wanted Jesus to perform some miraculous sign (Gr. semeion, cf. John 2:11). They wanted Him to indicate that He possessed divine authority to do what He did (cf. Exodus 4:1-9; Matthew 12:38; Matthew 16:1; Mark 8:11; Luke 11:16; 1 Corinthians 1:22). The sin of these Jewish leaders is apparent in that they did not deal with the question of the justice of Jesus’ criticism. They only inquired about His authority to act as He did.
Jesus gave them a sign but not the kind they wanted. They wanted some immediate demonstration of prophetic authority. Instead Jesus announced a miracle that would vindicate His authority after He died.
"As for ’the sign,’ then and ever again sought by an ’evil and adulterous generation’-evil in their thoughts and ways and adulterous to the God of Israel-He had then, as afterwards, only one ’sign’ to give: ’Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ Thus He met their challenge for a sign by the challenge of a sign: Crucify Him, and He would rise again; let them suppress the Christ, He would triumph. A sign this which they understood not, but misunderstood, and by making it the ground of their false charge in His final trial, themselves unwittingly fulfilled." [Note: Edersheim, 1:375.]
Why was Jesus not more cooperative? First, He controlled when as well as how He would act under the Father’s authority, and the time was not yet right for a dramatic sign (cf. John 2:4). Second, these Jews had already demonstrated that they had no real interest in justice, only in discrediting Jesus (John 2:18). They did not sincerely want a sign. They would not have acknowledged Jesus’ authority even if He had performed a miracle for them.
The Jews thought that Jesus was offering to rebuild Herod’s temple within three days if they would knock it down. His ability to do so would have been a miraculous enough sign for any of them. Furthermore it would have demonstrated His authority to regulate temple service. However they were unwilling to fulfill their part of the sign. By suggesting this action Jesus was also implying that the old temple and its service had served its purpose. He had come to establish a new temple and a new way of worship.
Why did Jesus answer enigmatically (with a riddle) rather than clearly? Why did He not say, Destroy my body, and I will raise it up in three days? Jesus was replying to unbelief the way He often did, in parabolic language. He wanted to hide revelation from the unbelieving but to reveal it to believers.
The Sanhedrin used Jesus’ words about destroying the temple as a capital charge against Him at His trial (Matthew 26:61; Mark 14:58; cf. Matthew 27:40; Mark 15:29). This was unfair, however, because Jesus had said, "You destroy the temple," not, "I will destroy the temple." Furthermore Jesus was speaking of His body primarily, not the temple.
John 2:20 provides an important chronological marker in the life of Jesus. It enables us to date His visit to the temple here as happening in A.D. 30. [Note: See Hoehner, pp. 38-43.] Work on Herod’s Temple had been proceeding for 46 years. It was not completed until A.D. 63.
Jesus’ critics assumed that He was speaking of Herod’s temple, but John interpreted His true meaning for his readers. Even Jesus’ disciples did not understand what He meant until after His resurrection. The Scripture they then believed was Old Testament prophecy concerning Messiah’s resurrection (e.g., Psalms 16:10; Psalms 69:9).
Jesus’ body was a temple in a unique sense. It was the body in which the Word had become flesh (John 1:14). The Father indwelt it, as did the Son (John 14:10-11) and the Spirit (John 1:32-33). It therefore uniquely manifested the Father. It was also the site where God manifested Himself on earth as He had done previously, though to a lesser extent, in the tabernacle and temple. Moreover it was the center of true worship following the Incarnation (cf. John 4:20-24). In it the ultimate sacrifice would take place. [Note: Carson, p. 182.]
Jesus spoke of the temple as a type (i.e., a divinely intended illustration) of Himself. Later Christ’s body became a figure for the church (cf. Ephesians 1:23; Ephesians 4:16; Colossians 1:18), but that use probably began after the founding of the church at Pentecost. It seems clear that Jesus was referring to his physical body here rather than to the church. Yet there may be an intentional allusion to the ultimate abolition of the Jewish temple and temple sacrifices. [Note: Morris, p. 178.] Such double entendres are common in this Gospel.
"The misunderstandings seem to function to highlight the two levels of understanding that take place in the Gospel. On the one hand is the spiritual or heavenly level that Jesus came bringing, to teach the true way to eternal life. On the other hand is the temporal or earthly level that most people operate at, including most of Christ’s professed disciples, which leads to darkness and loss of eternal life. John wants to show that one must cross over from the earthly to the heavenly, from darkness into light, from death into life. By his careful construction of the narratives, John leads his readers to see and understand what the original participants could or did not, and thus to believe the claims of Jesus and avoid the ignorance displayed by the original characters in the drama." [Note: Edwin E. Reynolds, "The Role of Misunderstanding in the Fourth Gospel," Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 9:1-2 (1998):158-59.]
Jesus did many signs (significant miracles) while He was in Jerusalem this time. These were probably healings and perhaps exorcisms. The Synoptics record that Jesus ministered this way virtually everywhere He went. Consequently many people believed on Him. As we have seen in the Synoptics, this does not mean that they placed saving faith in Him as the Son of God, however. Often the people who observed His miracles concluded that He was a prophet, but they were not always willing to acknowledge Him as God.
John usually used the dative case when he described faith in a thing (e.g., "they believed the Scripture," John 2:22; cf. John 4:50; John 5:47; John 10:38). When he described faith in a person, he did the same or used the verb "believe" (Gr. pisteuo) plus the preposition "into" or "in" (Gr. eis) and the accusative (e.g., "believed in His name," John 2:23; cf. John 8:30-31). These are synonymous expressions in John. Some interpreters have incorrectly argued that the former case indicates spurious faith and the latter genuine faith. The context must determine this in every instance. [Note: Carson, p. 183.]
2. Initial response to Jesus in Jerusalem 2:23-25
John included another summary of Jesus’ activities (cf. John 2:12). It enables the reader to gain a more balanced picture of popular reaction to Jesus than the preceding incident might suggest.
Jesus’ response to people, in contrast, was not to put His trust (Gr. pisteuo) in them. He knew people to be essentially untrustworthy. He knew that the initial enthusiasm and faith based on miracles that some people manifested would evaporate. Another view is that these were genuine believers who "were not ready for fuller disclosures from the One they had just trusted." [Note: Zane C. Hodges, "Untrustworthy Believers-John 2:23-25," Bibliotheca Sacra 135:538 (April-June 1978):148.] Some who initially believed on Jesus turned against Him later (John 6:15; John 6:60; John 6:66). He did not place His destiny in the hands of any others, though some of the Jews in Jerusalem were willing to place their lives in His hands (cf. John 10:14-15). Moreover He did not commit Himself to anyone, in the sense that Jesus was not dependent on human approval. [Note: Morris, p. 181.]
John may have meant that Jesus knew the nature of human beings (cf. 1 Samuel 16:7; Psalms 139; Jeremiah 17:10; Acts 1:24), not that He knew the thoughts of every person He encountered. The Great Physician could read people better than any human doctor can diagnose symptoms. [Note: Tenney, "John," p. 46.] Besides, Jesus was a prophet, and prophets often demonstrated supernatural insight. On the other hand, John could have meant that Jesus, as only God can, knew the hearts of all people (1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Kings 8:39). The following two chapters particularly illustrate the truth of both of these statements: Jesus had great human insight as well as divine insight.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 2". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent