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The testimony of signs to the glory of the Word made flesh.
(1) The first sign, the beginning of signs, Mastery over the old creation. Sign of love and power. The description of the preceding narrative, given in John 2:11, is the true key to it. It is impressive on several accounts. Christ had not yet given any "sign" of the invisible and eternal glory which the evangelist in his prologue had claimed for him. He had not in his own person "manifested" the unique majesty of his will, nor revealed the direction in which the power he wielded would most freely move. John, by this statement,
(1) puts down a positive disclaimer of the whole cycle of portents which, when he wrote, had begun to hover in romantic and exaggerated fashion around the infancy and minority of Jesus.
(2) He shows that his purpose is to bring back from forgetfulness the primary and most impressive events which did in reality characterize the earliest ministry of Christ.
(3) He emphasizes the scene of some of these manifestations as restricted to a spot which, however difficult actually to identify, was nevertheless in Galilee, in which prophecy had foretold a great manifestation of Divine light.
(4) He lays stress on the fact that the prime object of it was to convey to his disciples, to men who knew that he was the Messiah, the Son of God, the Lamb of God, something of the power which he had for meeting any emergency that might arise. He did not seek to promote, nor did he succeed in exciting, the village wonder at a magical entertainment; nor did the bridegroom, nor the governor of the feast, nor so far as we know even Mary herself, fully apprehend in the event what "the disciples" saw. These disciples were probably acting the part of the διακονοί. They were admitted to a great sign of superhuman power. They believed on him. This is all we are told of the effect of the "sign."
(5) The entire originality of the sign, one for which the previous narrative and prologue do not in the least prepare us, is one of the continual surprises of this Gospel. The introductory notes of this great symphony are such that we might be disposed to conjecture beforehand that One who is the Logos made flesh, whose glory is that of an only begotten Son of God, who is the predestined Baptizer with the Holy Ghost, who is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, and the Link and Ladder between heaven and earth, the predicted Messiah and Son of Man, will with Divine aloofness scarce touch with his feet this common earth. Human homes and love and festal rejoicings are so immeasurably beneath him that he can neither augment their earthly exhilaration nor take part in such carnal and mundane considerations. Such ideas may have crowded the imagination of the sons of Zebedee, of Philip too and of Nathanael. Already they may have been losing in a maze of mystery the Divine humanity, the intense and tender sympathy of Jesus with our everyday life, the profound interest felt in our earthly career. They may have needed to be taught some great lesson of the blending of the sacred with the secular, of the water of purification with the true, strong, fragrant wine of the kingdom. They may have needed, at this moment, the prosaic return to ordinary life over which their new Lord would preside, and from which he would never stand aloof.
(6) All this is, moreover, highly accentuated by the peculiar character of this sign. It was a creative act. The idea that it was merely a hastening by his will of the natural processes by which water is always being transformed into wine by the vine, seems contradicted by the fact that the vine does not transform water into wine, but combines with the water other substances, cunningly and wondrously mixing with it the organic compounds which it subtracts from the air and soil, and which are necessary for the purpose. Water which has become wine is not transubstantiated into wine. The water is still there; but there are added to it other elements and compounds. The lesson is undoubtedly taught that he who performed this prodigy called certain elements and forces into being by the simple flat of his will. Evolutionary hastening of natural processes do not in the least apply. If that took place which the disciples (John among them) saw and handled and tasted, then we have an undeniable act of creation. There was then no other antecedent to this new category of existence except the will of Christ. This is the obvious intention of the historian. Other explanations are offered. The rationalistic hypothesis of a quiet and pious fraud on the part of Mary is too gross for belief. The mere magic, or sleight of hand, is so utterly foreign to the narrative that, though Renan seems to favour it, the entire place assigned to the "miracle" renders it utterly inconceivable. Some have gone so far as to say that the interesting discourse of Jesus during the repast inclined the guests to believe that, though their thirst had been quenched with pure water, it was veritable and precious wine. This Reuss call un surcroit d'absurdite. To suppose, with Ewald and Lange, that it was a miracle upon the minds of the guests, who believed they had drunk wine, when in reality they had only tasted water, is, as Weiss admits, another form of the natural explanation. Why, moreover, should the didactic energy of Jesus not more frequently have produced a like impression? The hypothesis of Strauss is far more rational, viz. that we have here the mythopmic tendency at full work. Seeing that Moses sweetened the bitter waters, and transformed the Nile into blood, and that Elijah multiplied the oil in the widow's cruse, so Strauss contended that the Messiah must have done the like, and that this "miracle of luxury" is one of the glorifying myths by which Jesus is supposed to have transformed the water of Jewish ceremonial into the wine of the kingdom of grace. This theory is refuted by the enormous difficulty of finding any party in the Church, or of discovering any tendency in the Christian community or outside in the Hellenic schools, which could have evolved such an event—so capable of being misinterpreted—and that too out of a moral consciousness diametrically opposed to such an idea of Messiah. Certainly a vastly preponderating element of the gospel is clean contrary to such an idea of the Christ. Apart from there being some historic fact underlying the story, it seems incredible that it should have been invented by Christian, or Gnostic, or Hebrew tradition. The same may be said of Baur's hypothesis and of Keim's,
(1) that the pseudo-John invented the miracle to embody the idea of contrast between the disciples of John the Baptist and of Christ; or
(2) that the saying of Jesus, "Shall the children of the bridechamber fast while the Bridegroom is with them?" needed embodiment in some concrete fact; or that of Reuss, who supposes that the author, having invented a series of imaginary interviews, and testimonies, must need cap them with a miracle. Thoma sees in the representation the evangelist's sublimation of the banquet in the house of Levi, under the form of the Wisdom or Logos festival of Proverbs 9:1-18. and Ecclus. 1:16-18 and 24:1-25. The Logos is here the symposiarch, and the feast corresponds with the bridal festival of the Apocalypse. Several hypotheses have been fashioned, in order to explain the forgery of the narrative, and they are quite as numerous as the attempted solutions by orthodox expositors of the purpose or significance of the miracle. It is perfectly gratuitous and arbitrary on the part of Baur to condemn the narrative because he could not find support for it in the synoptic Gospels. We have seen (see Introduction) that each evangelist, and especially Matthew and Luke, had separate access to a group of facts and sayings peculiar to himself, and nearly as numerous and memorable as those which characterize the Fourth Gospel. Baumgarten-Crusius is wrong in placing this event at the lowest point of the series of miracles of this Gospel. It is necessary to complete the view which the evangelist formed of the miraculous power of Christ, for him to demonstrate authority over the matter (ὕλη) of the created universe. In Luke 6:1-49. he illustrates Christ's relation to the forces of nature, when the Lord hushed the storm and walked on the sea; in Luke 21:1-38., by narrating a miraculous draught of fishes, he exhibits the Lord's control over the animate creation; and in other instances, the like mastery over the human body, over its diseases, necessities, and death (see Luke 4:1-44. Luke 4:5., Luke 4:6., Luke 4:11.). If the other evangelists have passed it by, we must remember that they ignore the entire period of our Lord's activity which intervened between the temptation and the imprisonment of John the Baptist. The disciple to whom Jesus on the cross entrusted the care of his mother might have special reasons for recording almost the only scene in which that mother played any part. The most impressive circumstance is that the disciples of John, who had learned his stern denunciation of sin and his call to repentance, were to be taught that the highest life was not to be secured by abjuring marriage, and throwing a tragic gloom over human life, but by hallowing and consecrating the home, the source and nurse of the natural life. Christ first purifies the home, then the temple, then the individual.
On the third day there was a marriage in Cana £ of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Should the supposed discovery of Bethabara or Bethany beyond Jordan, at a spot a short distance south of the Lake of Gennesareth, be verified, then there is no difficulty in accepting the view of Baur as to the identity of the "third day," reckoning it as the morrow of the day on which Nathanael was called to be a disciple. The first day mentioned would be John 1:29; the second day, John 1:35; and the third identical with the day mentioned in John 1:43, John 1:45. There would be time for the rapid journey from the Jordan to Cana. But if the third day be interpreted more naturally, as the third after the day mentioned in John 1:44-51, time is given for the journey from the traditional site near Jericho to either of the sites which claim to be the scene of this earliest miracle. It is a march of twenty hours, which would occupy two or three days. Moreover, as wedding feasts often occupied in Palestine seven or even fourteen days (Genesis 29:27; Judges 14:15; Tobit 8:19; 9:4; 10:1), the festivities may have been advanced, and some explanation be thus given of the exhaustion of the supply of wine. Consequently, there are several justifications and explanations of that which is condemned by Baur and others as an unhistorical element. It' the first day was that on which John bore his testimony before the Sanhedrin; the second, John 1:29; the third, John 1:35; the fourth, John 1:43, John 1:45;—the day of the wedding at Cana would be the seventh, and thus a sacred week, corresponding with the solemn week that terminated with Easter Day, would be seen to have found place in the earliest periods of the ministry. The mother of Jesus was there. Since Nathanael of Cana was summoned as a friend, and since the first group of the disciples were familiar with each other and him, the inference is that the bride or bridegroom was an intimate friend of the entire party. Weiss claims the reference to the little town of Cana "as another of those recollections, which testify indubitably to the historical character of the Gospel". The presence of the mother of the Lord at Cana makes it also probable that she had, after the death of Joseph, removed from Nazareth to Cana. This is confirmed by the casual remark in Mark 6:3 that his sisters only were still resident in their former home. Moreover, it would explain the return of Jesus from the scene of his baptism to his temporary home. The traditional Kefr Kenneh is situated on rising ground four miles and a half northeast of Nazareth, and the remains of a Greek church are still to be seen there. The site is not inconsistent with the conditions. We may suppose it to be called "of Galilee" to distinguish it from a Cana in Peraea mentioned by Josephus; but more probably from the Kanah in the tribe of Asher, mentioned in Joshua 19:28. The situation of this town in Phoenicia may have been so far from Galilee proper as to have rendered the expression desirable. Dr. Robinson believed that he had hit more certainly upon the site by finding a small village bearing the name Cana el Djelil, or Khurbet Kana, which lies some seven miles northeast from Nazareth beyond Sepphoris. The adjunct, el Djelil, suggested the preservation of the old designation drawn from this very narrative. This identification was accepted by Ritter and Meyer; Stanley considered it very doubtful, and so do Westcott ('Comm.,' in loc.) and Dr. Selah Merrill, in 'Pict. Palestine,' 2, pp. 59-63. The more recent investigations of the Palest. Expl. Society have led once more to the recognition of the traditional site, independently maintained by Hengstenberg, Godet, Moulton, and others. Its site is picturesque, and resembles the position of many Italian towns perched on the slope of a low hill at the head of valleys forming roadways to the coast and to the lake. Its Greek name, Cana, meaning "a reed," was probably derived from the reeds which grow in the marshy plain below it (compare Cannae, Canossa, Cannes. So Hugh Macmillan).
And both Jesus was called (ἐκλήθη, aorist, not pluperfect, and contrasted with the ἦν of John 2:1)—after his return from Bethany—and his disciples to the marriage. Jesus had no disciples before the events recorded in the previous chapter. These men may have been friends of each other and of the bridal party, and received such an invitation before their visit to the banks of the Jordan; but it is far more probable that these individuals already mentioned, or that some of them, and that most certainly John his near relative (see Introduction), were invited, because they were in the society of Jesus.
A large accession of guests in such a humble home might easily be supposed to make a famine in the provisions, and so we read, And when the wine failed £—either from this cause, or from the poverty of the hosts, whose willingness and welcome were larger than their means, or by reason of an advanced stage in the festival—the mother of Jesus saith to him, They have no wine.£ The simple presence of the Lord and of his mother, of such guests as these. at a wedding feast, is a Divine rebuke of all that morbid asceticism which crept from Essenism and Orientalism into the Christian Church, of all that false pietism and fancied purity which made marriage a contamination, and exalted virginity to an unnatural elevation. The tender hearted interest felt by the blessed mother of the Lord in the condition of the hosts, and her tone of authority towards the διάκονι, are eminently natural; her tacit request for help, though she does not specify the way in which the help should be given, implies on her part something of presumption in indicating to our Lord the course he should adopt. A question of great interest arises—What did she mean by her appeal? Bengel suggested that Mary simply intended: "Let us depart before the poverty of our hosts reveals itself." This makes Christ's reply an acceptance of her hint; but along other lines the rabbis were accustomed to say that wine and life were in the mouth of a rabbi (see Geikie's 'Life of Christ,' 1:475; Wunsche, in loc.). We are expressly told that this is the beginning of signs, and therefore we have no right to conclude that, previous to this, in the home at Nazareth, Jesus had been accustomed to conquer fate and master poverty and compel circumstances by miraculous powers for his own or for his mother's support. We know that it was a temptation of the devil that he should perform some such miracle for his own sustenance, and that he had sternly suppressed the suggestion of the evil one. The mother must have known his powers, and must have known his mind on this very matter. What did she suggest? Was she thinking mainly of the need of wine, or firstly and chiefly of the honour and glory of her Son? She supposed that a moment had arrived when he should by some royal act assert his imperial rights, and give an order which would be obeyed as that of Sovereign Prince. Precisely the same spirit prevailed always in his home and among his disciples—an eager desire that he should manifest himself to the world (cf. John 7:4-6). The disciples did not lose it on the night of the Passion, or the eve of the Ascension (John 14:22; Acts 1:6). If this was the real meaning of the remark, "They have no wine," it becomes singularly interesting to observe the method of our Lord. The request for a supply of additional solace and refreshment was complied with. The suggestion to show himself to the world was as resolutely withheld. There was no pomp, no claim, no self-assertion; there was quiet, boundless, affluent love. The glory of Divine love was manifested, the need was satisfied; but the impression was not intended to go beyond the hearts of those beings who would partially understand it, at the right time.
With this thought, the reply of Jesus to the premature suggestion of the mother becomes perfectly comprehensible. What is there to me and thee, O woman? Mine hour has not yet come. The appellation "woman" was used by him upon the cross, when he was concerned most humanly and tenderly with her great grief and desolation, and therefore had no breath of unfilial harshness in it. But the proverbial Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί; wheresoever the words occur, imply, if net personal estrangement, yet as to the matter in hand some divergence of feeling. Almost all commentators seem to suggest that our Lord refused to be guided by a mother's direction; that he wished her to understand that he was breaking off from her control and from that silent submission which he had hitherto willingly yielded (so Meyer, Hengstenberg, Godet, Westcott, Tholuck, Ebrard, and Lange). Schaff has quoted from the Fathers before the Nestorian controversy dear proof that they admitted censure, and therefore blame, in the blessed virgin Mary. Still, it seems to me that the cause of the censure, coupled with an immediate response to her special request about the wine, has not been sufficiently appreciated, he said, "Mine hour is not yet come." It would have come if the provision of wine was the ground of divergence of sentiment; if the moment for the supply of these temporal wants were the point of difference between them. The "hour" for Christ to tell the world all that Mary knew had not come. The hour of the full revelation of his Messianic claims had not come, nor did it come in the temple, or by the lake, or in the feast day; not till the awful moment of rejection, when death was hovering over him, and the blow was about to fall, did he say, "The hour has come" (see John 12:23; John 17:1)—the hour of his greatest glory. "The hour had not yet come." The hour would come when rivers of living water would be supplied to all those who come to him; when the blood he would shed would be a Divine stream, clear as crystal, for the refreshment of all nations; when at another marriage supper of a saved humanity the precious blood should be an ample supply of costly wine for all the world. Moreover, the link at the present moment between our Lord and his mother must begin to shade into something more spiritual. It was not possible that he should be holden by it. A sword would pierce through her maternal heart when she became gradually alive to the fact that they that do the will of his Father, the same were his "brothers, sisters, and mother."
His mother saith unto the servants (διάκονοι, not ὑπηρέται, not δοῦλοι). The habits of Oriental life at the present day make it extremely probable that the disciples of Jesus were themselves taking the place of those who graciously waited upon the guests. If so, the language of Mary to them, and the special effect of the whole scene upon their minds, become marked and suggestive. Be that as it may, the mother of Jesus clearly understood by the gentle rebuke she received, that Christ, her Son, had read her heart, and was going in some way, not to gratify her darling wish, but at least to take her hint for the consolation of her young friends, and to attend to her suggestion. Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. Though in some sense slighted or reproved, she exhibits the most entire confidence in her Son and Lord. She encourages the servants to do whatever he might command. More may have passed between them than is reported. The evangelist often suggests omitted details (as in John 11:28; John 3:1, John 3:2; and elsewhere). The faith of Mary was not depressed by the discovery that there were depths of character in her Son which she could not fathom. Obedience to Christ will always be our duty, even though we cannot penetrate the reasons of his command. An interesting illustration of Mary's words may be seen in Genesis 41:55, where Pharaoh gives the like injunction to his servants concerning Joseph. Archdeacon Watkins records a curious tradition, mentioned by Jerome in his Prologue to the Gospel, that John was himself the bridegroom, but that, guided by the miracle, he left all and followed Christ.
Now there were (set, or) placed there six water pots of stone, after the Jews' manner of purifying, containing two or three firkins apiece. Stone was often used for these receptacles, as more calculated to preserve the purity of the water (Wunsche refers to 'Beza,' John 2:2; Westcott quotes 'Sofa,' 4; Barclay, in his translation of 'Mishna,' § 17, enumerates earthenware and other material as lawful). It is interesting that these stone jars are still used in this very neighbourhood for like purposes ('Pict. Palestine'). This large number of jars of considerable magnitude was doubtless due in part to the number of the guests, and to the scrupulous attention to ceremonial purity that was enjoined by the oral law (see 'Mishna,' § 17; and Lightfoot, in loc.). They were accustomed to wash, not only the hands, but "cups, brazen vessels, and tables" (see Matthew 15:2 and parallel passages). (For this use of κατά, see 2 Timothy 1:1, in which "according to" easily passes into the sense of "for the sake of, after the manner of.") The Attic measure metretes was equal to the Hebrew bath (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 8.2. 9), and stands for it in the LXX. of 2 Chronicles 4:5, and this equalled 1.5 Roman amphorae, 8 gallons + 7.5 pints. So that six jars containing 2 or 3 metretes, say 2.5 = 6 x 2.5 x 8 gallons + 7.5 pints = 6 x 2.5 × 71.5 pints = 134 gallons and a fraction. The jars may have differed in shape, according as they were adapted for different purposes; but ἀνά must be translated distributively, and we cannot evade the enormous capacity of the jars, and therefore the abundance of the gift thus provided. Various efforts have been made to reduce the extent of the provision; but the obvious implication of the narrative is that the six jars were the locale of the miracle. Dr. Moulton and Dr. Westcott suggest that these water pots were filled with pure water, but that the wine was "drawn" from the water supply to which the servants had access, and that no more wine was provided than that which was borne to the governor of the feast. Others have supposed that simply the water drawn from the jars was transformed in the process. These suppositions make the entire reference to the water pots extremely obscure and unnecessary. The large quantity of wine thus offered to these humble folks corresponds with the affluence of Nature in all her moods—the munificence of spring blossoms, the harvest of the sea, the exuberance of sunlight, the superfluity of rain that falls on the oceans, the copiousness of all God's ways. When, on other occasions, the Lord added to the supplies of food in fishes and bread, his lavish abundance corresponds with the riches of his loving kindness on this occasion. There was provided, not the material for a meal, but an ample dowry for such a bride. No mere magical change, momentarily confounding perception and leaving no trace behind, but a supply which would be a standing proof of the reality of what had been done.
Jesus saith to them, Fill the water pets with water. And they filled them to the brim. They had, therefore, been emptied already for the purifying purposes and processes of the large party, probably suggesting that the friends of the bridegroom were solicitous to obey the religious discipline which was believed to be in harmony with the Divine will. The expression, ἕως ἄνω, seems added to emphasize the quantity of wine thus provided. The miracle took place between the filling of the jars and their being drawn upon. We are not permitted to look more closely into this mystery. The finger of God, the will of the Creator, determines the result. The servants knew that they had filled the jars with water. The next thing, and all that we know, is that the Lord said—
Draw forth (the object of the verb is not in the sentence. He did not say the "water" which you placed there, nor the "wine" into which it has been transformed, but simply, "Draw forth"), and bear to the governor of the feast. The traditional interpretation, that the water jars were the source of the unwonted supply, and the measure of it, strongly commends itself in preference to the suggestions of Westcott, Moulton, as well as Barnes, Olshausen, and others. The ἀρχιτρίκλινος, the "master of the table," is the chief servant presiding over the arrangements of the feast. This was an Attic official, referred to by Athenaeus as τραπεζοποιός (cf. Heliodor., 7.27). The "symposiarch," arbiter bibendi, is not to be confounded with him. The latter was one of the guests chosen to taste the wine, etc. (see Ecclus. 32:1, where he is called ἡγούμενος). The "governor" is one who occupies a still higher position of importance in Greek feasts. There is no other trace of the Attic usage among the Jews. As the passage in Ecclesiasticus indicates a different custom, and the references to something similar describe the officer by different names, no very sure conclusion can be drawn. Wunsche says that, ordinarily, the master of the house was bound to serve his guests, and preside over the distribution of food and presents. Thus, at the marriage of his son, Rabbi Gamaliel served all his invited guests. Trench, Alford, and Wordsworth think that the governor here was one of the invited guests, from the freedom with which he addressed the bridegroom. Meyer, Godet, take the view that he was not. And they hear it, £ conscious of a wondrous fact, which must have filled them with consternation. At first the order must have seemed like felly, as when Moses called on Israel to "go forward" into the Red Sea, or as when Jesus said to the paralytic, "Take up thy bed, and walk." "They bear it."
When the governor of the feast tasted the water which had become wine. Luther translated, "Den Wein der Wasser gewesen war"—"The wine which had been water." No other explanation is possible than one that asserts an astounding contravention of the ordinary evolutions and sequences of nature. If wine has taken the place of water, there has been added to the water that which was not there before. The vine, with all its wondrous processes—the vineyard, the wine press, and other appliances—have all been dispensed with, and the same power which said, "Let there be light," called these additional elements together, originated them by his will. The new properties presented themselves to the percipient senses. In this respect the transformation is profoundly different from the supposed change which occurs in the Holy Eucharist. There the accidents and elements all remain; the substantia underlying them is supposed to be replaced by another substantia; but neither the one nor the other substance has ever been present to the senses. Here a new substance, with previously undiscovered attributes, presents itself. The uncompromising opponents of the supernatural will accept almost any interpretation but that which lies on the surface. The rationalistic, mythical, poetic mystic explanations all alike are encumbered with special difficulties. The evangelist who held Christ to be the Logos incarnate saw nothing inconceivable in the event. It was one of many phenomena which accompanied his life as the "Son of man," which helped to create the underlying presupposition on which the Gospel was written. Like the testimony of the last of the prophets and the earliest of the disciples, it is part of the evidence that the Logos dwelt among us. When the governor tasted wine drawn from these water pots, and knew not whence it was. He had known all the resources of the feast, but this puzzled him by its novelty. "Whence has it come? Where has it been stored? Whose is it?" An interesting parenthesis is here introduced, to contrast the ignorance of the ruler of the feast with the overwhelming mystery of knowledge given to the servants (the disciples of Jesus himself), [But the servants (διάκονοι) who drew the water knew]; knew, i.e., whence it was and, it seems to me, what it was. Meyer and others say they did not know that they had brought wine. It is impossible to assert as much as this. They knew the plain feel that it was not a wine vat or wine cask, but a water jar, from which they had drawn in order to fill the chalices in their hands. They became, therefore, guarantors of the mysterious sign. How much more than "whence" it was bad dawned on their mind we cannot say. The governor of the feast calleth the bridegroom. We may judge from this that this responsible person was not in the room where the six water jars were placed, and that he either approached the bridegroom in his seat of honour, or called to him from his own, and expressed, by a convivial boast and equivocal compliment, his sense of the excellence of the wine which had thus, at the end of the feast, been lavished on the guests, who had been hitherto kept strangely ignorant of the resources of the host. It is unnecessary to put into the words any meaning deeper than the epigrammatic humour in which he revealed his sense of the reality of the objective fact which had been brought to his knowledge.
And saith, Every man at the first setteth on the good wine, and when men have drunk deeply, then that which is worse (literally, smaller): thou hast kept (guarded) the good wine until now. The classical passages supposed to illustrate this jovial saying throw little light upon it. The meaning is obvious enough, and there is no need to search in ancient wit for the original of a speech which is not too recondite to have been originated on this occasion. The best wine is appropriately given when the seneca are keenest, but when the climax of the festival has come, when they have drunk too deeply, or are intoxicated, then the weaker, poorer, and less fragrant wine is acceptable. There need be no reference whatever to the present company. Tholuck and the Revised version modify the force of μεθυσθῶσι; Meyer, Godet, and others see no difficulty in assigning to the word its proper meaning (cf. Luke 12:45; 1 Thessalonians 5:7; Ephesians 5:18; Revelation 17:2). The whole saying simply asserts, by an outsider, the concrete reality of a wonderful change that had occurred. He knew nothing of a miracle. He merely guaranteed unwittingly the phenomena that came within the range of his senses. This becomes more impressive because he knew nothing of the cause, and was profoundly ignorant of the claims of his strange and wonderful Guest. No further remark is offered. We are not told how the fact was referred to the will or authority of Jesus, to the kindness or generosity of the mother; or whether the company generally learned the mysterious powers of their fellow Guest. The bridegroom thus honoured made no reply that is recorded; and, by emphatic silence, the impression is conveyed that this manifestation of the power of the Lord was not, in his opinion, the coming of his "hour." Strange reticence is observed, but this is added—
Jesus made this beginning of signs in Cana of Galilee, and manifested his glory. The beginning, the earliest of the tokens which he gave of his higher nature and lofty claims and faculties. The word σημεῖα, corresponding with the Hebrew תוֹ), is generally, in the Acts as well as in the LXX., associated with τέρατα, or "portents;" when it occurs in the synoptists it is translated "signs." The word by itself does not connote miraculous energies, but any event, natural or human, which becomes a token or witness to unseen or Divine energies. When Christ's wonderful actions (often called δυνάμεις by the synoptists) are referred to by John, he calls them simply ἔργα; so that operations which, if wrought by other persons, might have been portents, miracles, or marvels, are to him perfectly normal, and are called simply "works." Weiss leaves the question of the manner in which this supply of wine was provided entirely unsettled, but declares that, whether by some fortunate providential opportunity, by the forecast of the mother, or by concealed methods of meeting the exigency, this great gift was brought about by the Son of Mary, the effect was the same as if it had been wrought by the Creator's hand. The glory of his power and love and sympathy was manifested. This appears to us utterly inconsistent with the intention or idea of tim evangelist. The impression previously made upon John the Baptist was of his supreme submission to the Divine will, his sacrificial yielding to that will for the taking away of sin; further, that in some sense he was Son of God, and Minister and Organ for the dispensation of the Spirit of God. The few disciples admitted that, by his penetration of their character and hidden inner life, his wisdom was of a different kind from that of men. Now, however, they see a manifestation of his glory as power. He has unlimited resources at his disposal, and his disciples believed on him to that extent. This expression asserts the truth of the selective and discriminating force of the mission of Christ, and the negative fact that the company assembled received no religious impression beyond the most superficial one. "The disciples" who came with him "believed" more than they had done before. It may be that they, especially John and Nathanael of Cana, were among the honorary διάκονοι who were alone fully conscious of what happened on the occasion. They apprehend the "glory," and entirely trust themselves εἰς αὐτόν, to him, and follow him with an added momentum. There are new and wonderful suggestions made in this passage which unveil the glory of the Divine love and power now wrought in man. A point of connection with the synoptic Gospels is that they too record Christ's own description of the contrast between the austere prophet and the Son of man (Matthew 11:18, Matthew 11:19) in terms almost taken from this very scene. Compare also the mode in which Christ vindicated his own social freedom from Pharisaic exclusiveness, and the conduct of his own disciples from that of John the Baptist's disciples in the matter of ceremonial purifications, by his parable of the old wine skins bursting with the new and potent fluid put into them (Matthew 9:14-17 and parallel passages). John gives here a deeper apprehension of the mystery, a keynote to a whole cycle of instructions, on the "glory" of his love. By manifesting his Divine sympathy with marriage, with human life and fellowship, with innocent gladness, he proves himself to be the same Christ of whom the synoptic tradition speaks, the same Jesus who took the children to his arms, and constituted a "marriage supper" the great type of the eternal union between God and man in the gospel of his love (cf. Matthew 22:2, etc.). But this same evangelist is filled with the same imagery dating back to experiences of Caua, when he describes the final victory of the "Lamb of God" (Revelation 19:7; Revelation 21:2).
After this he went down—from the high lands of Galilee to the borders of the Sea of Galilee, depressed as we now know it to be below the level of the Mediterranean—to Capernaum.£ Three competing sites for this small town have been advocated by Eastern travellers; all of them on the shore of the lake, all near to Bethsaida and Chorazin, in "the way of the sea," combining more or less the characteristics required by the New Testament narrative and the references in Josephus ('Bell. Jud.,' John 3:10, John 3:8). Keim is in favour of Khan, Minyeh; but there is no abundant spring such as Josephus describes, nor are there any ruins which indicate an extensive town. Caspari has argued in favour of Ain Mudawarah, a mile and a half to the west of Khan Minyeh, in which, though water is abundant, there are no remains of buildings. The old travellers, and the most recent explorations, have coincided in fixing on Tell-Hum as the site; and Dr. Farrar, Dr. Westcott, Major Wilson, incline to this conclusion. Abundant ruins are found there, and, what is more than probable, the remains of the very synagogue built by the Roman centurion, and one certainly dating back to the Herodian age. Tell-Hum, or "the Mound of Hum," is an easy corruption of the Caphar, or village of Nahum. He, and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples. They may have returned home to Nazareth, though some recent commentators suggest that Cana had become the home of his family in late years. This is contradicted by the express statement of Nah 1:1-15 :45, and the utter obliteration of the name of Cana from the synoptic narrative. We cannot identify this possible return to Nazareth with the account in Luke 4:16-20, because it assumes a previous period of activity in Capernaum, and further, because the commencement of Christ's public ministry is expressly made synchronous with the imprisonment of the Baptist (Matthew 4:12-15), which did not take place till weeks or months afterwards (John 3:24). Consequently, this journey to Capernaum preceded the journey to Jerusalem and the return to Nazareth, of which Matthew speaks. The fact that "the mother and brethren "of Jesus accompanied him, but not "the sisters," suggests what is implied in Mark 6:3 that the sisters were married in Nazareth and in Mark 3:21-23 that they did not accompany the non-believing brothers in their endeavour "to lay hold of him." The fact that Joseph is not mentioned induces the common assumption that he was already dead. Volumes have been written on "the brethren of Jesus." The determination of their parentage is one of the most perplexing points in the evangelic history.£ There are three hypotheses, which are alike beset with difficulties.
(1) The view propounded by Helvidius in Rome, in the fourth century, and to which Jerome replied, that the "brothers" are brothers in the ordinary sense, children of Joseph and Mary. This supposition is sustained by the statement of Matthew 1:25 and Luke 2:7, each of which implies that the mother of our Lord had other children. The sentiment of the Church in favour of Mary's perpetual virginity, and in favour of the uniqueness of her maternity, has powerfully contested this supposition. Further, apart from any sentiment, it has been said that the Lord would not have commended the mother to the beloved disciple, if he had living brothers who had a previous claim. To this, however, it is replied that John, the son of Zebedee and Salome, may have been his near relative, if Salome were the sister of the virgin; and also that, up to the time of the Ascension, there is no proof that the brethren believed in him, but the contrary. The effect of a special manifestation to James (1 Corinthians 15:1-58.) may have led to a general admission of the brethren, who are distinguished from, but yet with, the eleven apostles and the mother on the eve of the Ascension (Acts 1:14).
(2) To obviate the difficulties of a sentimental kind, it was suggested by Jerome, and it has been often assumed since, that these brothers were in reality first cousins, not the children of Salome the sister of the virgin, but of Mary the wife of Cleophas, who is supposed to be the sister of Mary the mother of Jesus (see ch. 20:25, note), and further that this Cleophas = Clopas = יפִלְחַ = Alphaeus = Chalphai for the Aramaic guttural might be omitted as in Alphseus, or turned into κ or χ in Clopas, found in John's text. Jerome, however (Lightfoot), never referred to this confirmation of his theory; but it has been hence conjectured that James the son of Alphaeus was identical with the celebrated "James the brother of our Lord," mentioned in Acts 12:17; Acts 15:13; Acts 21:18; in Galatians 1:19; Galatians 2:9, Galatians 2:12; and in ecclesiastical history. If, however, this James were the "son of Alphaeus," then Judas (John 14:22) (not Iscariot)—"Judas of James" (Jude 1:1; Acts 1:13)—was also one of the "brethren;" also Joses and Simon, sons of Cleophas, were of their number; and some have gone further, and made Simon the Canaanite the other brother. This might possibly be the solution of the puzzle, if the entire theory did not break down under the clear distinction drawn in evangelic narrative between the twelve apostles and the brethren. E.g. in this passage they are discriminated from "disciples." In John 7:5 the "brethren" are said not to believe on the Lord. In Acts 1:14 they are mentioned in addition to the apostles. Though in Galatians 1:1-24 and Galatians 2:1-21, James might seem from his great eminence to be classed with apostles in some wider sense, yet in Acts 15:13; Acts 21:18; Galatians 2:12 he seems to take precedence of all the apostles, at the Council of Jerusalem, and in presidency of the Church there. Moreover, the identification of Cleophas with Alphaeus is very doubtful. Clopas is Aramaic, Cleophas a Greek name; and the identification of his wife Mary with the sister of the virgin is also very doubtful; while to have two sisters of the same name in the same family is highly improbable. We cannot believe, further, that so distinguished a man as James the brother of our Lord could have been designated as "James the Less" in the evangelic narrative (Mark 15:40). If the "cousin theory" holds, this must have been the case. Finally, "cousins" would hardly so persistently have been spoken of as brothers, and this would be still less likely if their mother was living.
(3) The third hypothesis, which is the suggestion of Epiphanius, is that these brothers were the children of Joseph by a previous marriage, to whom the blessed virgin had acted the part of mother. This is based on a legend of the apocryphal 'Protevang. of James' (ch. 9. and 17.), where Joseph speaks of his "sons." The theory saves the virginity of Mary, but sacrifices that of Joseph. Such a conclusion, in some ecclesiastic circles, is almost as unwelcome as the former. Against Jerome's hypothesis the greatest number of difficulties present themselves, and it must be abandoned. Therefore the choice really lies between that of Helvidius (1) and that of Epiphauius (3). These are alike encumbered by the perplexity that among the twelve apostles there were two Jameses, two Judases, and two Simons; and among the "brethren" there must have been also a James, Judas, Joses, and Simon, with sisters. Moreover, there was a Joses or Joseph, who was son of Alphseus, and therefore a brother of James. This is not an insuperable difficulty, because of the frequency with which personal names recur in Oriental families. Whether this multiplicity be true or not, there are, at least, ten other Simons in the New Testament, and nearly as many Josephs or Joses; and Judas Barsabas (Acts 15:22) must be discriminated from the two Judases here supposed. We must, however, choose between suppositions (1) and (3). On the one side, it is said, if the brethren of Jesus were not the own sons of Mary, the language of Jesus on the cross would be entirely explicable. This is true; but, on the other side, if John were indeed a blood relation and beloved disciple (even if James was so also, but did not believe on him), the difficulty of the language is reduced to a minimum. There is no scriptural authority for the Epiphanian theory, but it is made plausible by the 'Gospel according to St. Peter' and the ' Protevang. Jacobi,' which refer to Joseph's sons. The whole history of its reception in the Church may be seen in the masterly essay of Bishop Lightfoot. The view of Alford, Mill, Farrar, Coder, and many others is in favour of a plain common sense interpretation of the letter of Scripture. Christ, who honoured marriage by his first display of miraculous power, and this at the suggestion of his own mother, and in the society of those who passed undoubtedly as his brothers, would not feel that the faintest shadow of a shade fell on the lofty purity of his mother by this hypothesis. Certainly the Evangelist Matthew had not a vestige in him of that adoration of virginity, or Mariolatry, which has led ecclesiastical historians and commentators to reject the Helvidian hypothesis. Godet and some other harmonists endeavour to find, during the residence in Capernaum, the occasion for the first miraculous draught of fishes, and the final call of the two pairs of brothers; but it is. excluded by the notes of time subsequently given.
(2) The second sign Supremacy over the theocratic house. Illustrations of righteousness, reverence, power, and sacrificial ministry.
John 2:12, John 2:13
They abode there not many days. And the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. The narrative at John 2:22; John 3:22; John 4:1, John 4:27, etc., shows, that some disciples were with him; but there is no reason for believing that the whole group were there. The fact is important that Jesus personally is said (ἀνέβη) to have gone up to Jerusalem, and that no reference is made to his disciples, mother, or brethren doing so. This undoubtedly assumes that he was not attended by any compact group of followers. It is more than probable that Simon and James, if not Nathanael and Philip, remained in Galilee to receive their final call in due season. One cannot doubt that John and Andrew were his auditors and witnesses. He went up to utter his prophetic summons to the metropolis of the nation, to take his place in the palace temple of his Father, in the centre of the old theocracy. After showing his perfect human sympathy, his power over physical nature, his abounding resources, and the glory of his love, he resolved that there should be no misunderstanding of his moral mission, and proceeded to institute a public demonstration of his loyalty to the theocracy, to the temple, and to its worship. Just at the moment when the One who, greater than the temple, was about to display his unique claims to a service which would outlive all the pomp of temple worship, it was profoundly significant that he should demand from it a right presentation, and not a corrupt defilement, of its true significance. Modern criticism refuses to accept the statements of the synoptists and of John as alike true, and endeavours to explain away one or the ether account. We are content to say here that a repetition of the Christ's claim to sanctify the temple was again made on the eve of that awful day when that blood should be shed which would exhaust all the significance of the hecatombs of victims slain in its precincts, and when the veil of the temple should be rent in twain. Weiss here shows that Baur and Hilgenfeld are inconsistent in repudiating the historical character of an early conflict of Jesus with the authorities at Jerusalem, and that they forget, in their eagerness to demonstrate the anti-Jewish character of the Johannine Christ, that he here is represented as a pious Jew, attending the national festivals and jealous for the honour of the temple. The chronological difficulties that arise if the two cleansings are identified amount to the grossest inaccuracy on the part either of the synoptists or John. Lucke, De Wette, Ewald, treat the synoptists as inaccurate, and John's account, being that of an eyewitness, as the reduction of the event to its proper place in the history. It is obvious that the synoptists knew that words which John recounts had, at an earlier period, made a deep impression upon the multitude. The thief on the cross (Matthew 27:38-44), and the insulting crowds Mark 15:27-29), and Stephen afterwards (Acts 6:14), reveal familiarity with an utterance which John alone recounts, but which had been misunderstood. An ingenious writer in the National Review, 1857 (Mr. R.H. Hutton, "Theological Essays"), believes, not only that the entire scene in the temple, but that Christ's claim to be the Head of the kingdom, the parables of "wicked husbandmen" and "two sons," and the reference to the "baptism of John," should all be transferred, together with the triumphal entry, to the period in which John has placed the first temple cleansing. He thinks that the reference to the "baptism of John" was more reasonable at that period than two years after the death of John, and that (Matthew 21:11) the reference to "Jesus of Nazareth" was more appropriate at the beginning than at the close of the ministry. But, on the other hand, the inscription on the cross, "Jesus of Nazareth," and the numerous references to the "baptism of John" at a much later date, quite refute this argument. There are those who strenuously assail the historicity of St. John's account, and plead for the greater accuracy of the synoptists (Strauss, Baur, Hilgenfeld, etc.). But, seeing that the synoptic tradition takes no notice of this preliminary ministry, in which our Lord gives specimens of all his powers and glory, no reason presents itself why they should have singled out one narrative and misplaced it. So long as John's Gospel is held to have a genuine historicity, his narrative cannot be suffered to be a romantic transposition to meet a preconceived idea of chronological development. The early foreshadowing of the Lord's death and resurrection, coupled with the reference to Ms being "lifted up" like the serpent of brass, and the cruel treatment received from the people at Nazareth and from scribes and Pharisees at Capernaum, are in living harmony with one another, and combine to refute the idyllic reproduction of the public ministry, which Renan and many others have attempted to fashion, by which the early life is represented as enacted in one blaze of sunshine, and that its close alone was shrouded in clouds and darkened by the Lord's reckless and suicidal rushing on his fate. We therefore conclude, with numerous critics, that there is
(1) no reason to believe that John misplaced the temple cleansing; and
(2) that he does not preclude the second act of the like kind recorded in the synoptists;
(3) while the synoptists imply occurrences which are detailed in John, but omitted in their narrative, yet the character of the proceeding differs on both occasions.
He found in the temple (ἱερόν); the vast enclosure, surrounded by colonnades, where the courts of the Gentiles were situated beyond and outside the courts of "the women" and "the priests." Within the latter was the sanctuary (ναός), or sacred adytum, where the altars of sacrifice and incense faced the veil of the holiest of all. In the court of the temple had been allowed a secular market for sacrificial beasts. An exchange for money was also set up,where Jews were ready to furnish, on usurious terms, the proper coin, the sacred half shekel (value, one shilling and threepence), in which form alone was the temple tax received from the provincial visitors or pilgrims from distant lands. No coin bearing the image of Caesar, or any foreign prince, or any idolatrous symbol then so common, would be allowed in the sacred treasury. So the Lord found those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the exchangers of money sitting; a busy bazaar, deteriorating the idea of the temple with adverse associations. The three sacrificial animals mentioned were those most frequently required. The strangers, doubtless, needed some market where these could be obtained, and where the sufficient guarantee of their freedom from blemish could be secured. It was also indispensable that exchange of coins should have been made feasible for the host of strangers. The profanation effected by transacting these measures in the temple courts was symptomatic of widespread secularism, an outward indication of the corruption of the entire idea of worship, and of the selfishness and pride which had vitiated the solemnity and spirituality of the sacrificial ritual. Geikie has given a very brilliant description of this scene; so also Edersheim, 'Life of Jesus the Messiah.' The money (κέρμα) was probably derived from a word (κείρω) meaning "to cut," and referred to the minute coins which were required for convenient exchange. The κόλλυβος, which gives its name to κολλυβιστής of the following verse, is also the name of a small (κολοβός, equivalent to "mutilated") coin used for purposes of exchange. The smaller the coin the better, as the minute differences of weight of the foreign coins would thus be more easily measured.
And when he had made a scourge of small cords (σχοινία of twisted rushes from the scattered fodder or litter of the cattle). This feature of the Lord's action was not repeated at the close of the ministry. Observe that John singles out this punitive element in the first public appearance of the Lord for especial notice, and adds it to the otherwise resistless force which he was accustomed to wield by the glance of his eye or the tones of his voice. The "scourge," as Godet says, is a symbol, not an instrument. It was in Christ's hands a conspicuous method of expressing his indignation, and augmenting the force of his command, by an indication that he meant to be obeyed there and then. He drove them all out of the temple court (ἱερόν); that is, the intrusive sellers of the sacrificial beasts, the herdsmen, and traffickers. Also (τὰ τε) the sheep and the oxen, which moved at once in a vast group, turning, fleeing to the great exits; and he poured out on the ground, and with his own hand, the coins£ of the exchangers (κολλυβιστῶν), and overthrew the tables. "Christ had," as Hengstenberg says, "a powerful confederate in the consciences of the offenders." The presentiment of coming revolution and overthrow aided the impression produced by that majestic countenance and commanding glance, manner, and voice, that so often made men feel that they were utterly and absolutely in his power (cf. John 18:6, note).
And he said to those that sold the doves. The vendors of tethered or caged birds were as guilty of profanation as the rest. Some sentimental comments have gathered round this verse, as though the Lord were more tender in his treatment of the turtle doves than in that of the oxen or sheep. But there would be no meaning in such a distinction. No other way of scattering the doves was so simple as to command their removal. At "the Ammergan Passion play," the doves are let loose, fly away over the heads of the audience, and disappear. The lifting of the scourge, accompanied, doubtless, with words of solemn warning and command, said in effect what he now put into words. Take these things hence. Make not the house of my Father a house of merchandise. In this act our Lord simply assumed the role of any and every Hebrew prophet. The Talmud enjoins the sanctity for which the Saviour pleads. He called the temple "my Father's house" (cf. Luke 2:49), and therefore claims especially to be the Son of God Most High. The Eternal, the Holy One of Israel, stands in this mysterious relationship to him. He does not say, "our Father's house." When, however, alter the second cleansing of the temple, he spake of the temple, from which he finally withdrew (Matthew 23:38), he called it by no other name than "your house," "left unto you desolate." Moreover, on that subsequent occasion, he used, in place of "house of merchandise," the bitter description, "den of robbers" (Matthew 21:13). This first act was reformatory of a gross abuse; the latter was judicial and condemnatory (see Hengstenberg, 'Christology' and 'Comm.,' Zechariah 14:21; Zephaniah 1:11; Malachi 3:1). Archdeacon Watkins has wisely called attention to the contrast between this scene and sign and that given at Cana. Here we see how true it was that his hour had not yet come.
His disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thy house will consume £ me. The future tense, affirmed by the best manuscripts, never (Meyer) bears the present meaning. The disciples, familiar with the Old Testament, remembered at the time the words of Psalms 69:9. In that psalm the theocratic Sufferer approached the climax of his sorrows, and admitted that a holy zeal for God's house will ultimately consume him—eat him up. Tile word is used for consuming emotions, and there is a foreshadowing of the reproach and agony which will befall the righteous Servant of God in his passion for God's honour. The parallelism of the second clause of the verse, "The reproaches of them that reproached thee have fallen upon me," confirm the application, though the words are not cited. Several other citations are made in the New Testament from this psalm, which, whether it be Messianic in the oracular sense or not, is dearly one that furnished the mind of the early Church with abundant illustration of the suffering of the Christ (Romans 15:3; Romans 11:9, Romans 11:10; Acts 1:20; cf. also Psalms 69:21 with the narrative of the Crucifixion). Thoma labours to find in the Old Testament prophecies generally the true source of the Johannine narrative. He points to Hosea 6:5; Malachi 3:11; Jeremiah 25:29.
John 2:18,John 2:19
The Jews therefore answered and said to him. That which the disciples thought at the very time is here recorded by one who affects at least to know their inmost minds and most confidential meditations and talk with one another. John, at least, saw the rising storm of enmity already hurtling, but says nothing. Nevertheless, as if in reply to the imperial prophetic act (which corresponded with John the Baptist's prediction of One who would come axe in hand), the Jews approached with answer. The "answer" here is in the form of a question, which shows that they had not recognized the sign he had already given, that this temple was his "Father's house," and that he had solemnly claimed the authority of "Son" over the house. What sign showest thou, because (or, seeing that) thou doest these things? (cf. Matthew 12:38, etc.; John 6:30). Thou art bound to give us some "sign" that thou hast a right to deal thus with established customs and to assume the position of a public reformer. Upon what does thine (ἐξουσία) authority rest? Give us some miraculous proof of these high assumptions, "seeing that (quatenus) thou art doing these things," whose consequences are now so conspicuous. It might be supposed that the extraordinary effect just produced upon the crowd of traffickers was sufficient proof of power, if not of authority. The Jews were within their right in asking for these authentications; but their continuous demand for outward signs is one of the conspicuous features of their character (Matthew 12:38; 1 Corinthians 1:22). In the fundamental nature of a "sign" there is a hint of the true solution of the enigmatical saying which is the first public utterance of our Lord. He gave to the act which he was about to perform the characteristic of a "sign." It would be an outward and visible manifestation of a stupendous spiritual event. This, among other reasons, refutes the modern speculation of Herder, Ewald, Lucke, Renan, and even of Neander, Geikie, and others, that the evangelist was wrong in the explanation of this remarkable saying which he offered in the twenty-first verse. John, who, better than modern commentators can do, ought to have known what the Lord meant, declares that Jesus was speaking of "the temple of his body" when, as the context shows, he was vindicating his right to cleanse the existing temple; and by τὸν ναὸν τοῦτον, "this sanctuary," he was also pointing to and referring in some sense to the temple structure in the midst of which he and the Jews were standing. The commentators have said, "John was wrong, and was led astray by his own fancies. There was no reference to the death or resurrection of Christ. The Lord meant," say they, "as follows: 'Persist in your lawless, irreverent, unbelieving treatment of the temple, and so destroy it. Let it cease by this handling of yours from being a temple, and I will prove my right to cleanse it, and to reform, rebuke, or condemn your immoral practices in it, by building it again, or rather erecting a spiritual temple, a temple without hands, and in three days, i.e. in a short time after you have consummated your impiety, I will complete my restorative work—I will build a new temple and fill it with my glory.'" If John had not appended the twenty-first verse, "Howbeit he spake concerning the temple of his body," the above interpretation would deserve very close attention and perhaps acceptance. But there are sundry difficulties in it, even if the evangelist had not supplied the true key:—e.g. Christ does not say, "I will raise up 'another' temple or a 'spiritual' temple on the ruins of the old;" but "I will raise it up," viz. the temple which I challenge you to "destroy." Though ἐν τρισὶν ἡμέραις, "in three days," is used in this indefinite sense, in Hosea (Hosea 6:2, LXX.), yet it is the accepted term for the period of three days, which counted from the death to the resurrection of the Lord, and which in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew 12:40) is distinctly foretold to be the great "sign" given to that generation. Moreover, from the Jewish misunderstanding of the words which appear in the synoptic narrative, viz. δια, τρίων ἡμέρων, "during three days," the literal character of the time specified had laid hold, not only of the disciples, but of the multitude. Again, the erection of the spiritual temple would not be an outward and visible sign of the grace and authority of the Lord; but rather the great spiritual reality itself—invisible indeed, and requiring signs to manliest and demonstrate its own occurrence and existence. We conclude, then, that the apostle knew better than his critics, and that we are to believe that, when the Lord said to the Jews, Destroy (λύσατε, dissolve, break up) this temple, "he was speaking of the temple of his body," and at the same time linking and identifying the two temples, relating the one to the other so closely that the destruction of his body became ipso facto the demolition of the temple character of the building where they then stood. The temple of stone and gold, of stately decoration and ceremonial, derived all its true meaning from its being the gorgeous crystallization of a Divine idea embodied in his life. The temple had no value save as a meeting place for God and man, where by sacrifice and worship man might approach the Father, who declared himself to be reconciled, long suffering, and yet just. The Lord has come to the temple, but was himself One holier and "greater than the temple." God is manifested in the glory of that holy life, and man is set forth also in Christ's perfect high-priestly approach to and commerce with the excellent glory. The Lord knows that he is the Lamb, and the only begotten Son of God, and he knows also that his death is part of the awful method in which the vast designs of his righteous love will be secured. He has a baptism to be baptized with, and he is straitened until it be accomplished. He anticipates the end. As he said afterwards to Judas, "That thou doest do quickly;" so at this moment he said, Destroy this temple (of my body), and you will destroy therein the temple character of this historic embodiment of a grand prophetic hope; and I will raise it up, viz.—the temple of my body—in three days (not, I will raise it by quiet, unobserved, spirit processes in the souls of men, but) the very temple which you will bring down shall henceforth be the living and eternal temple of all the glory of God and all the possibilities of man. The great bulk of expositors of many types, who do not repudiate St. John's own words, see thus (with more or less of a double reference in it) the first main significance of the enigma. Whether our Lord pointed to his own Person as he uttered these words cannot be determined. It is said by some—If he had done so, all ambiguity would have been removed, and the misunderstanding which followed would have been impossible! Surely the Jews were not usually ready to receive parabolic truth of this kind so readily, and after their fashion were almost sure to misconceive and falsely to misrepresent it. Even the disciples did not see into its meaning until after the Resurrection (verse 22). How could they? Verily, then, and not till then, was it seen that the sign of the Prophet Jonas had been given to that generation.
John 2:20, John 2:21
The immediate reference of the words to the building before them was only one of a thousand misapplications of the words of Jesus. The seeds of truth which his words contain would take root in after days. Meanwhile the Jews answered and said—taking the obvious and literal sense of the words, and treating them with an ill-concealed irony, if not scoff, to which our Lord made no reply—In forty and six years was this temple built as we see it today. This is one of the most important chronological data for the life of our Lord. Herod the Great, according to Josephus ('Ant.,' John 15:11 John 15:1), commenced the rebuilding of the second temple in the autumn of the eighteenth year of his reign. We find that his first year reckoned from Nisan, A.U.C. 717-718. Consequently, the eighteenth year must have commenced between Nisan, A.U.C. 734-735 and 735-736. The forty-sixth year after this would make the. Passover at which this speech was delivered—the spring of A.U.C. 781, which, if we compare with the other hints, is a fixed point from which to reckon the birth year and death year of our Lord. The "about thirty years old" of the Lord at his baptism throws us to about A.U.C. 751, B.C. 2, for the year of his birth, and if there be only one Passover mentioned in John's Gospel between this and the last Passover, it gives A.U.C. 783 for the year of his death. This date is at least coincident with the date derived from the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, as that of the commencement of the mission of John (see my examination of these dates in appendix to 'John the Baptist'). The temple which Herod began to repair in the eighteenth year of his reign was not completed until A.D. 64, under Herod Agrippa II., a very short period before its utter destruction. The irony and scorn are manifest: Wilt thou raise it up in three days? John shows, in verse 21, that, in the deep sense in which our Lord used the words, he abundantly justified his promise. But he—ἐκεῖνος, the Lord, not the people, not the disciples—spake of the temple of his body. This is the reflection which was made upon the word of Jesus by the evangelists in after days. Even Mark (Mark 14:58) reveals the presence of a spiritual interpretation of the words by some of his unsympathetic listeners. It must not be forgotten that, in the synoptists, we find the presence of the idea that his service was a temple service, and that he was greater than the temple (Matthew 12:6; cf. also Heb 3:6; 1 Corinthians 12:12, 1 Corinthians 12:27; 1 Corinthians 6:15; Romans 12:5; Ephesians 4:12; Ephesians 1:22, Ephesians 1:23; with Ephesians 2:19-22). Nor must it be forgotten that the Logos itself was, in the figurative language of Philo, spoken of as the house, or temple, of God. Later rabbinical representations also describe "the body of man as the temple in which the Shechinah operates" (Wunsche). A difficulty arises from the Lord's having claimed in these words to be on the point of raising himself from the dead, whereas elsewhere his resurrection is referred to the mighty power of God, as in verse 22; Acts 2:24; Acts 3:15; Acts 4:10; Romans 4:24; Romans 8:11; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:20, etc. Without doubt, God and the Father, the Supreme Power, was thus seen in living activity; but the Divine nature of Christ not infrequently so steps forward into his consciousness that he can say, "I and the Father are one;" and (ch. 10:17, 18) "I will lay down my life that I may take it again" (cf. Ephesians 4:8-10).
When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he spake this (to them£), and believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus said. This frequent contrast instituted by the apostle between the first impression produced on the disciples (himself among them) and that which was produced by subsequent reflection after the resurrection of Jesus and gift of the Spirit, becomes a powerful mark of authenticity (compare the passages which Godet has here cited, John 4:32, John 4:33; John 7:39; John 11:12; John 12:16, John 12:33; John 13:28; with many others). "A pseudo-John imagining, in the second century, this ignorance of the apostle in regard to a saying which he had invented himself, is 'criticism' dashing itself against moral impossibility." These quiet "asides" and reflections of the biographer on the mistaken ideas which he cites and corrects, are of consummate value, as pointing out the stages by which the most stupendous ideas that have taken human spirits captive dawned on the most susceptible minds. The "Word" and the "Scripture" helped the disciples to subsequent faith. Why is "Scripture" in the singular, seeing that John used this form of expression ten times when he had one definite passage of Scripture in his mind, and used the plural when the general authority of Scripture was appealed to? Many have looked to one or another definite Scripture text supposed to predict the resurrection of Christ, such as Psalms 16:10 and Isaiah 53:1-12 (some, very wrongly, to Hosea 6:2, where no reference can be established to this great event). Dr. Moulton points back to Psalms 69:1-36., and the impression which the Lord's "zeal" had produced on the disciples. It seems better to recall Christ's own words, and the comment of Luke, in Luke 24:25-27, where the whole Scripture seems to have been laid under contribution to establish the grand expectation. Further, of John 20:9, where John, referring to the same subject, uses the word γραφή in the singular, for the general tendency of Scripture. All the passages which couple suffering and apparent defeat with triumph and victory, did prepare the mind of thoughtful men for the better understanding of the Resurrection. Thus Psalms 22:1-31. and the closing words of Psalms 89:1-52.; Psalms 110:0.; and Isaiah 53:1-12 thereupon come into view; and, in fact, all the Scriptures which anticipate the glorious reign and victory of the Christ and the extension of his kingdom, when coupled with those which portrayed the sorrows of Messiah and of the ideal Sufferer, implicitly convey the same thought. Consequently, numerous passages in Isaiah, Micah, Daniel, Zechariah, Malachi, with Psalms 2:1-12 and Psalms 72:1-20, Psalms 45:1-17, etc., taken in connection with prediction of the sorrows of Messiah, did prepare the disciples to believe that the Holy One could not be holden by the pangs of death (Acts 2:24, etc.). Before closing this paragraph, we must notice that, in this entire transaction, the Lord is not separating himself from the existing theocracy, hut interpreting its highest meaning. In the cleansing of the temple at the last he was judging and condemning. The vindication by our Lord of his own action was very different on the latter occasion from what it is here, and numerous other accompaniments are profoundly different; nor did he then speak of the destruction of the temple, although, as we have seen, much exaggerated and mis-apprehensive talk concerning him had been floating among the people (Matthew 26:61).
(3) Numerous signs in Jerusalem, with their twofold effects.
A new paragraph is commenced here. The conversation with Nicodemus is prefaced by a very remarkable summary of facts, and a hint of principles of action, which are intended to throw light on the great discourse, which hears the same kind of relation to St. John's Gospel that the sermon on the mount does to St. Matthew's Gospel. It is a compendium of the Christian faith. The very fulness and sufficiency of it suggests the doubt of its authenticity. Is not the Lord's reticence on other occasions, and even his enigmatic, parabolic methods of teaching, in decided contrast with the abundance of the revelations with which Nicodemus was favoured? We are tempted to ask—What was the evangelist's source of information? The only reply that seems to me rational is that John himself was the auditor of this discourse, and has preserved it for the edification and solace of the world. The disciple whom Jesus loved never left him, but was perpetually drinking in his words, and, with a genuine Hebrew retentiveness, preserved them intact; at all events, he so reproduced the leading ideas of the conversation. This is, we maintain, a far more scientific treatment of the authorities than the hypothesis of a Johannist of the second century having gathered up and idealized the synoptic records of the scribes, who, by sundry questions, brought forth from the Lord some of his most characteristic teaching. Thoma urges that we have hero a spiritual rechauffe of "the rich young man," of "the lawyer," and of the story of Paul, himself a Pharisee, when finally convinced that he needed a new creation and a spiritual life! First of all, then, we have the place, general period, and specific time referred to: Now when he was in Jerusalem—not the temple, but in the houses and streets, and perhaps suburbs, of Jerusalem (Ἱερουσαλύμοις the plural form used generally in the Gospel, while Ἱερουσαλήμ is used in the Revelation in symbolic sense)—at the Passover; a period generally covering nine or ten days of celebration, extending from the first purifying of the houses from all leaven and the drawing of pure water on the thirteenth Nisan, the paschal meal on the fourteenth Nisan, the feasts in the evenings of the great days of convocation, fifteenth and twenty-first of the month, and the ceremonies of the intervening six days. In the feast must refer to one or ether of the great days of convocation, worship, and feasting. Many believed on his Name; i.e. on his Messiahship, rather than on himself, as their Prophet, Purifier, self-sacrificing Priest, or than on himself as Lamb of God or Son of God. They accepted on easy terms, with a fickle and perhaps eager fanaticism, the first impression produced by him when they saw the signs which he was making of his heavenly mission and nature. We must conclude, therefore, that he did in many ways partially unveil himself. Nicodemus heard of these "signs," and referred them to a Divine commission. John does not here, nor elsewhere, say what these signs were—whether they consisted of effects produced on nature or on men, whether they were deeds of healing, or of moral compulsion, or repression, or reformation. Great expectations with reference to a coming Christ had been excited in the breasts of tens of thousands by John the Baptist's fiery ministry. The result was that men now flocked to Jesus in greater numbers than they had done to him (John 3:26). The faith that they exercised was neither deep nor appreciative, yet it was worthy of the name of faith.
John 2:24, John 2:25
But Jesus did not (imperfect) trust himself to them; not even to those who had "trusted on his Name." This remarkable expression corresponds with many actions and methods of Jesus. When he was offered the homage of devils, he forbade them to speak. When those who had been simply healed of bodily disease began garrulously to proclaim his praises, he silenced them. He had no faith in their faith, and consequently did not open to them more of his nature; still less did he assume, as they would have liked him to do, an immediate and outward Messiahship of political revolt. He did not break the bruised reed nor quench the smoking flax, and often made use of the smallest remnant of spiritual apprehension; but even in Galilee, when they would by force have made him a king, "he sent the multitudes away." The apparently arbitrary permission given to others to proclaim his Name (as, e.g., to the healed demoniac of Gergesa, Luke 8:39; cf. Luke 9:57-62) suggests the precise inquiry which John had felt from the first Jerusalem visit, and which, with profound insight, he thus meets: "He did not trust himself to them," owing to the fact that he knew—(γινώσκειν by apperceptive and continuous processes)—all (men) persons. He penetrated their thoughts, discerned their character, saw the meaning of their faith, the burden of their wishes, the regal passions that consumed them—he knew all. And also because he had no need that any should testify what was in (the) man; for he himself—without such aid—knew what was in (the) man. The definite articles here may either restrict the meaning to the men who happened one by one to come under his searching glance (John 7:51; Meyer), or it may mean "man" generically, "human nature" in all its peril, weakness, and self-deception. Geikie gives a novel, though entirely indefensible, translation: "He needed not that any should bear witness respecting him as man." The better and more accurate translation is the first; but since his glance is universal and contact with souls continuous—man by man—the statement thus embraces even more than is involved in the generic sense. The knowledge of man (homo) "generically" would not embrace his individualities—would leave out the specialities of each ease. The particularism of Christ's penetrative glance gives the stronger and better explanation of the reserve of Christ in dealing with these half-believers, than the generic or rather universal knowledge which is supposed to be involved. N.B.—
(1) There is a so called faith to which Christ will not unveil himself—will not give himself.
(2) The great reward of faith in Christ is the faith of Christ.
(3) Faith in the Name of Christ, produced now by "signs," real or artificial, fictitious or sacramental, mystic, or miraculous, or aesthetic, by series Biblicae, or exaggerated ideas of special providence, is not comparable to the faith in Christ himself, which the truth about him excites.
(4) It is to the latter rather than to the former that the golden gates of the heart of Jesus are opened.
The first miracle.
It took place on "the third day;" that is, the third day from the place—fifty miles away—where Nathanael had met Jesus. The Lord had then displayed his omniscience, and he now displays his omnipotence.
I. THE SCENE OF THE MIRACLE. "Cana of Galilee."
1. This was a small village, about three hours' journey from Nazareth, rather insignificant in its history, for it is not named in the Old Testament nor in Josephus.
2. The miracle occurred, not upon the highway of the village, but in the comparative privacy of the family circle.
3. The house was probably occupied by persons known to Jesus, if not related to his mother Mary by ties of affinity; for Mary was there, evidently with a view to the marriage, and may have superintended its social arrangements. The directions she gave to the servants sanction this view.
II. THE OCCASION OF THE MIRACLE. "There was a marriage in Cana of Galilee."
1. The presence of Christ suggests the honour of matrimony.
(1) He had no sympathy with those "forbidding to marry" (1 Timothy 4:3). The Holy Spirit afterwards said, "Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled" (Hebrews 13:4).
(2) Christ's presence is essential still to a happy wedding.
(3) His presence does not, as Roman Catholics say, turn marriage into a sacrament. That requires a word of institution, of which there is no trace in this history.
2. It is allowable to rejoice on such occasions. Our Lord sanctions by his presence both the marriage and the feast.
III. THE NECESSITY FOR THE MIRACLE. "And when the wine failed, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine." The supply of wine may have failed
(1) either because of the unexpectedly large addition to the company, caused by the arrival of Jesus and his five disciples;
(2) or, because the feast may have been protracted, according to custom, for a week;
(3) or, perhaps, from the humble circumstances of the bride and bridegroom.
IV. MARY'S APPEAL TO CHRIST. "They have no wine."
1. She appeals to her Son, not, perhaps, so much because the deficiency of the wine was caused by his arrival at Cana with his five disciples, but because she evidently expected him to exercise his superhuman power to meet the unexpected need. This seems evident
(1) from the facts related by his disciples as to the recent events in Judaea—the Baptist's declaration, the miraculous baptism scene, the proof of his supernatural knowledge in the case of Nathanael;
(2) from the presence of disciples who had gathered round him;
(3) but, above all, from her own recollection of the marvels of his birth.
2. There is nothing in her appeal to her Son to justify the Roman Cathohic argument in favour of the virgin Mary's intercession in heaven, because
(1) it does not follow that, because the prayers of living saints are answered on earth, therefore the prayers of dead saints will be either heard or answered in heaven;
(2) the rebuke that our Lord administers to his mother does not strengthen the argument in favour of the prayers of dead saints.
V. CHRIST'S ANSWER TO HIS MOTHER'S APPEAL. "What have I to do with thee, woman?"
1. This language implies no want of respect for his mother, because the term "woman" is the same which he addresses to her in his dying moments, "Woman, behold thy son!" (John 19:26). Yet this mode of address implies a change of relationship between Jesus and Mary. She was no longer "mother," but "woman." We see the trace of this change in the memorable question, "Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?" (Matthew 12:46).
2. The language implies that the period of subjection to Joseph and Mary was now at an end, that he is now "the Servant of Jehovah," that his work as the Messiah has at last begun.
3. His further reply, "Mine hour is not yet come," does not imply a refusal of her request, but only a postponement of the time for working the miracle. He would hold in his own hands the supreme disposal of his power.
VI. THE REALITY OF THE MIRACLE. The water was turned into wine. He who can create the grape can create the wine. He who can create matter can easily change it from one kind to another. The reality of this miracle is attested:
1. By the evidence of the servants who knew what the water was.
2. By the evidence of the ruler of the feast as to what it became. There was no visible action in this case interposing between the miracle worker and his remarkable "sign."
VII. THERE IS NOTHING INCONSISTENT WITH THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST IN HIS REPLENISHING THE SUPPLY OF WINE. Those who maintain that the wine created by miracle was unfermented, and, therefore, unintoxicating, ought to know:
1. That there is no such thing as unfermented wine.
2. That it is no more inconsistent with Christ's character to create wine than to create the grape; yet the grape was created with a full knowledge of its properties.
3. That while there is nothing in Scripture to justify the statement thai it is a sin to drink wine, the argument from expediency asserted by the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 8:13) ought to have a conclusive weight with Christian people in the way of justifying a total abstinence from strong drink.
VIII. THE OBJECT OF THE MIRACLE AT CANA. "It manifested forth his glory." It proved that, because "the Father loveth the Son," he hath "given all things into his hand" (John 3:35). The apostles manifested the glory of Jehovah in their miracles; Jesus manifested his own.
IX. THE RESULT or THIS MIRACLE. "And his disciples believed on him." They believed as they had never done before; their faith was strengthened; they saw fresh evidence of his Divine nature and Divine power; and, no doubt, had "joy and peace in believing.
The transition between private and public life.
Before our Lord entered on his public life at Jerusalem, he goes back, as it were, for a moment into the retirement of his family.
I. THE SCENE OF OUR LORD'S VISIT. "After this he went down to Capernaum."
1. It was the Jewish capital of Galilee, down upon the Sea of Tiberias, an important place of commerce.
2. It became, after Nazareth, the home of Jesus. (Matthew 4:13.) It is called "his own city" (Matthew 9:1). On the occasion of the present visit he had come directly from Nazareth, after the Cana miracle.
3. It was a city honoured by the working of many miracles; yet, notwithstanding, distinguished by a most perverse unbelief. "Thou Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be cast down to hell" (Matthew 11:23).
4. It is now a ruin, identified as Tell-Hum.
II. THE OCCASION AND CIRCUMSTANCES OF THIS VISIT. It has a double aspect so far as it relates to Christ's relatives and to his disciples. "His mother and brethren are still with him, attached merely by nature; his disciples newly attached by faith."
1. Christ recognized the tender ties of kinship. He allowed his mother and his brothers—though they did not yet believe in him—to enjoy the satisfaction of his society for a time before his entrance upon his public ministry.
(1) The ties of nature are not superseded by the ties of grace.
(2) The ties of nature may themselves be strengthened by the ties of grace. These brethren of Christ, though now in unbelief, are afterwards found as disciples of Christ (Acts 1:14). We ought to love all our relatives in Christ.
2. Christ definitely called the disciples to the apostleship during this visit. This is evident from Matthew 10:1. The call was followed by the miraculous draught of fishes. The disciples were henceforth to follow Christ forever.
Christ in the temple.
He went up straightway to the Passover at Jerusalem, for he honoured every ordinance of the old dispensation so long as it lasted.
I. THE ACT OF OUR LORD IN THE TEMPLE. His ministry must open in the temple, which was the sanctuary of Judaism, and it must open with an act of holiness rather than a display of power.
1. His attitude was the subject of prophecy. "The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple … he shall purify the sons of Levi" (Malachi 3:1-3).
2. It was quite in keeping likewise with the character of him of whom the Baptist said, "Whose fan is in his hand" (Matthew 3:12). Christ was about to vindicate the sanctity of his Father's house by cleansing out the rabble of money-changers and dealers.
II. THE TIME OF THIS ACT—THE PASSOVER. As one of the great feasts of the Jews, it attracted to Jerusalem the entire people of the country, in their ecclesiastical relationships. His hour was now come.
III. THE ACT ITSELF. As to sellers of oxen and sheep and doves, and money changers, "he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables."
1. It was an act of supreme courage. The dominant hierarchy, corrupt and faithless as it was, was supported by the public opinion of Jerusalem, and might have crushed this zealot on the spot. Yet our Lord proceeds with the utmost deliberation to the work of purifying the temple with the "whip of cords" in his hand, not wielded as an instrument of offence, but as a symbol of authority. He has, no doubt, the consciousness of a supernatural force that could be put forth in case of need.
2. It was an act of holy zeal. "Make not my Father's house a house of merchandise."
(1) Eighteen years before he said to his parents, "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" (Luke 2:49). He now shews his first concern was for the honour of his Father's house.
(2) Our Lord was indignant because the Jews had made the temple their own house, and desecrated it by making it the instrument of their sordid interests.
(3) He asserts his Divinity in the act of defending the honour of his Father's house. "He is sustained by the consciousness of his dignity as Son, and his duty as the Messiah."
3. He was supported in his act by the very conscience of the Jews themselves, who knew that he was right and they were wrong.
IV. THE EFFECT OF THIS ACT. It had a double effect.
1. Consider its effect upon the disciples.
(1) It suggested an Old Testament prophecy: "The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up" (Psalms 69:1-36.). This implies the familiar acquaintance of the disciples with the Scriptures.
(2) It ministered to their faith. The act of Jesus was in their eyes a sign of Divine holiness. They only understood the true meaning of his words after he had risen from the dead; but "they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had said." It was the office of the Holy Spirit to bring such words to their recollection.
2. Consider its effect upon the Jews. As soon as they had recovered from the surprise of this sudden act, they began to question its authority. "What sign showest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?"
(1) The question implies that they conceded the lawfulness of his act. But they thought it just to demand his warrant for an act of such independent authority.
(2) Our Lord's answer to their question. "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."
(a) The words were naturally taken by the Jews to refer to the temple he had just cleansed. The false witnesses of Christ on his final trial, and Stephen's accusers, remembered the saying in its literal application (Matthew 26:61; Acts 6:14).
(b) But the apostle refers them to "the temple of his own body," which would in three days be raised up again. The apostolic comment is decisive as to their true meaning. But what connection could there be between the temple and his body?
(α) The destruction of the temple was to come about by the slaying of the Messiah: "The Messiah shall be cut off … and the people of a prince who shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary" (Daniel 9:26). The death of the Messiah ends the temple; the veil of the temple is rent; there is no more to be a holy place, a priesthood, a sacrifice. The destruction of the temple was destined to be in Christ's person: "On his body the fatal blow struck by the hand of the Jews would fall, which would lay the sanctuary in ruins."
(β) The restoration of the temple is to come likewise through his body raised from the dead. "The Messiah perishes: the temple falls. The Messiah lives again: the true temple rises on the ruins of the symbolical."
(3) The Jews' rejoinder to our Lord's statement. "Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?" There is a spirit of raillery in the question. But our Lord gave no answer to their sneering question. It was his habit to deal with men according to what he saw was the state of their hearts.
Our Lord's work in Jerusalem.
After the temple incident, there seemed to be a disposition upon the part of the people to accept him.
I. MARK THE PUBLICITY OUR LORD GIVES TO HIS MISSION. "When he was in Jerusalem at the Passover, in the feast." He selected a time when he could put himself in contact with the whole nation gathered to one of their annual feasts. He must show himself to "Israel," and not only to the people of its capital. He must come "unto his own," whether they will accept him or reject him.
II. MARK THE WIDESPREAD MOVEMENT IN HIS FAVOUR. "Many believed in his Name, when they saw the miracles which he did."
1. The nature of their belief.
(1) They did not believe with the heart, but with the understanding. There is a great difference between mere intellectual belief, in which, as in the case of the devils, the will is not implicated, and the saving faith which includes alike the acts of intellect, will, and heart.
(2) They did not trust in his Person, but believed in his miracles. They "believed in his Name" as the Messiah. They recognized his title to Messiah-ship.
2. The ground of their belief. "When they saw the miracles which he did."
(1) There is no detailed account of these miracles in this Gospel. It is evident that our Lord performed a vastly greater number of miracles than are described in the Gospels (John 20:30).
(2) The belief of these Jews arose out of astonishment at the prodigies of Divine power witnessed by them.
(a) Yet it did not spring out of any previous preparations of the heart, and did not lead to any definite or permanent result of a spiritual nature.
(b) Their belief, after all, nominal as it was, was better than the utter unbelief of the Pharisees and scribes after they had witnessed the signs and wonders of the Lord.
III. MARK CHRIST'S ATTITUDE TOWARDS THESE MERELY NOMINAL DISCIPLES. "But Jesus did not commit himself unto them."
1. He was not elated by their ready acceptance of him.
2. He "had no faith in their faith," and, accordingly, he either withheld from them the fuller instruction intended for disciples, or withdrew from them into the more congenial society of those who were "disciples indeed."
3. Mark the reason of this conduct. "Because he knew all men."
(1) Ministers of the gospel are often deceived in their estimates of men; but Christ cannot be deceived.
(2) He does not need human testimony to guide him into true estimates of character. We are all more or less dependent, in this matter, upon such external help.
(3) His omniscient discernment of man's inner life made it impossible he should be deceived in his knowledge of men.
(4) It is a solemn thought that our Lord "pondereth the hearts of men;" that is, he weighs them,
(a) not in the scales of worldly estimation,
(b) but in the scale of heavenly realities.
This thought ought to humble us in the deepest self-abasement in his sight.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
Jesus and social life.
Public men are sometimes anxious with regard to a first appearance, that it should be upon a scene, in society, and with accompaniments worthy of themselves or of their own conceptions of themselves. Jesus proved his superiority to human vanity and weakness in performing his first "sign" in a lowly home at a villager's wedding. His conduct in this was just like himself.
I. THE LORD JESUS WAS OPPOSED TO ASCETICISM. Religion and asceticism are often in the popular mind associated; and pretenders have often taken advantage of the association. Even true prophets, like Elijah and John the Baptist, have had a strain of asceticism in their nature, a vein of asceticism in their life. And vigorous sects, like the Essenes, have sometimes gained a reputation and an influence by a self-denying life led for self-denial's sake. In Christian times again and again this principle has sprung into prominence, and has exercised immense power over society. One thing is clear, that Jesus had no sympathy with isolation, unsociableness, austerity.
II. THE LORD JESUS FREQUENTED ALL KINDS OF HUMAN SOCIETY. He dined with Pharisees and with publicans with an impartial sociability. He does not seem to have refused invitations to partake hospitality, from whatever quarter they might come. It was a complaint brought against him by the formalists, that he was "gluttonous, a wine bibber, and a friend of publicans and sinners." This was untrue; but it points to a truth, viz. that our Lord had no aversion to social gatherings. He frequented the society of men, in order to diffuse his influence and his doctrine; and chiefly that men might see and hear and know him, and through him the grace of God.
III. THE LORD JESUS ENCOURAGED HIS DISCIPLES TO MIX FREELY WITH THEIR FELLOW MEN. There were at this period but few of them—perhaps five; and this was an early stage of their discipleship. But there was something for them to learn at the marriage feast; and, as the narrative tells us, the experience was most profitable to themselves. At the same time, there was a lesson regarding their own misson and the methods of its fulfilment, which more or less they acquired by participating in suck social gatherings as these. They were to learn that those who would be spiritual helpers of men must first be, and prove themselves to be, their friends.
IV. THE LORD JESUS SANCTIONED LOVE AND MARRIAGE. Society is not possible apart from family life; and it is not a good sign of the morals of a community when men's social enjoyments are disconnected from virtuous women and from holy homes. It is universally acknowledged that Christ has exalted woman to her rightful and intended position; and it has not generally been considered how largely this effect has been owing to our Lord's treatment, first of his own mother, and secondly of the bride of Cana, on this occasion. The domestic relations should form the nucleus, so to speak, of the social life of humanity. They are the true and Divine antidote to man's selfishness and passions. And Christ teaches us that pleasure is to be found, not only in the world, in the society of the profligate, but in that home life, those sacred relations, which are too generally regarded as associated with disappointment, cheerlessness, and misery.
V. THE LORD JESUS APPROVED AND PROMOTED INNOCENT FESTIVITY. In his provision of wine for the wedding feast, we observe that Jesus did two things.
1. He gave his friends what was not an absolute necessity, but an enjoyment, a luxury. The guests might have drunk water, but the Divine Friend did not choose that they should be compelled to do so. He gives us better gifts than we deserve, if not better than we desire.
2. He gave his friends abundance, more than enough for the occasion. There was a supply for future need. It is thus that he reveals the liberality of his heart and the munificence of his provision.—T.
Jesus and the marriage state.
Of the services which our Lord Christ has rendered to human society, none is more conspicuous and undeniable than the honour which he has put upon marriage. Of all institutions and relations existing among men, there is none which has met with so much slander, hate, and scorn, as matrimony. The sinful and the selfish, not content with avoiding marriage themselves, overwhelm those who honour and enter upon wedded life with ridicule and contempt. This is not to be wondered at, inasmuch as true and honourable marriage involves abstinence from unlawful pleasures, and also a fidelity and constancy of affection amidst the changes, responsibilities, and troubles incident to this estate. From the narrative before us, and other instances in our Saviour's life and teaching, we learn that Christ commands, sanctions, and hallows matrimony for many sufficient reasons.
I. AS TENDING TO HONOUR WOMANHOOD. Those who disparage wedded life are usually found to take a base view of the feminine sex, to regard women rather as instruments of sensual pleasure than as the honourable companions of men. The true wife takes a position which not only ennobles herself, but raises her sex. In this respect marriage is in complete opposition to concubinage and polygamy and those temporary alliances which there seems a disposition, even in some civilized communities, to look upon with favour.
II. AS COMBATTING THE SELFISHNESS OF SINFUL MEN. Many a naturally self-indulgent and self-seeking man has experienced the benefit of a relationship which has drawn his thoughts away from self, and has led him to interest himself in his wife and children, and for their sake to labour with strenuous diligence, and to submit patiently to inconveniences and privations. Instead of living to gratify himself, and regarding the other sex as offering opportunities for such gratification, such a man has learned to look upon human life as an opportunity for bearing the burdens and cheering the lot of others. And virtuous fidelity becomes a silent but effectual witness against the prevalent and seductive vices of mankind.
III. AS PROMOTIVE OF THE TRUE WELFARE OF SOCIETY. The family is the divinely ordered unit of human society. This has been recognized even in pagan nations. But Christianity, in giving to the world a higher ideal of marriage, was rendered a vast service to every Christian state. The increase of the population, the prevalence of industry and of knowledge, the formation of virtuous habits, all contribute to national prosperity; and all are promoted by the sacredness and honour of the marriage tie.
IV. AS CONTRIBUTIVE TO THE PROSPERITY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. It is in holy households that the most intelligent and useful and steadfast members of Christian Churches are trained; it is from these that the ranks of the spiritual ministries are recruited; it is these that hand down the uncorrupted truth from generation to generation. The children of prayer and watchfulness rise up to become the strong men in the arsenals and in the armies of the Eternal.
V. AS EMBLEMATIC OF DIVINE LOVE AND FAITHFULNESS. Christ himself implanted the germ of that idea of the spiritual and Divine marriage which so developed under the Apostle Paul. tie is the true Bridegroom, and his Church is the true bride. But for our appreciation of what is involved in this mystic and hallowed relationship we are dependent upon our acquaintance and experience of matrimony as existing in human society. Thus we learn what depth of meaning lies in the statement, "Christ loved his spouse the Church, and gave himself for it!"—T.
Jesus and nature.
In recording this incident, the evangelist tells his story with beautiful simplicity, and as if scarcely conscious that it contains what is marvellous and supernatural. It doubtless seemed to him so natural that Jesus should have acted as he did, that he wrote without drawing any especial attention to what in the narrative was evidently miraculous. John had himself seen so many instances of the superhuman authority of his Master, that he could not think of that mighty and gracious Being as acting otherwise than as he did. In this mighty work and sign which has immortalized the Galilaean village of Cana, we behold Jesus -
I. ASSERTING HIS SUPREMACY OVER NATURE. Most of Christ's miracles were of this character; they exhibit him as governing and controlling with perfect ease the natural forces, whether physical or physiological, which the Creator has associated with the various forms of matter. It would be idle curiosity to speculate upon the methods in which bread was multiplied, and in which water was turned to wine. The poetic rendering of the change may be accepted—
"The conscious water saw its Lord, and blushed."
II. MAKING USE OF HUMAN AGENCY. This was according to our Lord's wont. He bade his disciples distribute the bread; he directed the blind man to wash in the pool of Siloam; and on this occasion, though he might have dispensed with the assistance of the servants, he chose to make use of their agency, both in filling the water pots, and in pouring out from them that draughts might be borne to the master and to the guests. It is thus that the Lord Christ chooses to confer blessings upon men; he uses some to provide for the wants of others, both bodily and spiritually; he entrusts to each some ministry of blessing, and each becomes his brother's keeper.
III. MAKING USE OF EXISTING MATERIALS. It would, perhaps, have been as easy for Jesus to have filled the empty vessels with wine as to transform the water with which he chose that they should be filled. But this would not have been his way. He did not work marvels for the marvels' sake. He took the material which was to hand, and wrought upon it. It is a good lesson for us to learn; let us take the circumstances in which Providence has placed us, the characters with whom Providence has associated us, and seek and strive to use them for God's glory.
IV. CHANGING THE INFERIOR INTO THE SUPERIOR. A thaumaturge might have attempted to change wine into water, a man into a beast. But such a method of proceeding was not possible to Christ, who carries on a process of spiritual evolution in which the lower form is displaced by the higher, and indeed is transformed into it. It is thus that our Divine Lord works in the human heart and in human society. Nihil tetigit quod non ornavit. He has passed his wonder working hand over many a heart, many an institution and usage of men; and lo! the water of nature is transfigured into the wine of grace.
V. CALLING UPON NATURE TO YIELD OF HER BEST AND ABUNDANTLY. The wine which the Divine Guest provided was the best at the table, and of it there was far more than enough. When Jesus exerts his power he exerts it to high purpose; his gifts are gracious and liberal. He dowers his Church with choicest bestowments; so that they who are his own may justly say, "All things are ours." When he gives himself unto his spouse, the Church, he declares, in the fulness of his love and liberality, "All that I have is thine."—T.
The marriage feast at Cana a pledge of the marriage supper of the Lamb.
This first "sign" of our Lord's public ministry may be taken as an emblem and an earnest of a vaster gathering, a more sacred festivity, an eternal fellowship. Observe the elements of heavenly bliss here anticipated upon earth.
I. DIVINE ESPOUSALS. Then shall it be proclaimed, "The marriage of the Lamb is come."
II. CONGENIAL SOCIETY. The mother and brethren of the Lord, the disciples, the happy pair, the joyous guests, figure the assembly and Church of the Firstborn.
III. ABUNDANT PROVISION. AS Jesus secured an ample supply for want and for enjoyment, so shall the banqueting house of the immortals be richly furnished with all spiritual viands for satisfaction and for delight.
IV. PERPETUAL FESTIVITIES. The Jews celebrated a wedding by festivities extending over several days; but of the feast of salvation and of life there shall be no end.
"Blessed are they which are bidden to the marriage supper of the Lamb."—T.
"They have no wine."
Just as the scarcity of provisions in the wilderness gave Jesus an opportunity to supply the need of a multitude; just as it was permitted that a man should be born blind, "that the works of God should be manifest in him;" so the falling short of the supply of wine at Cans gave an opportunity for the performance by Christ of a beneficent and instructive miracle. And the lesson is one widely impressive and helpful which is thus conveyed concerning human need and Divine grace and supply.
I. GOD LETS MEN WANT. It is a paradox, but it is a truth, that it is for our good to suffer need of many kinds.
1. Thus he teaches us how slender are our resources, and how soon exhausted.
2. Thus it is suggested to us to look without, to look above, for the satisfaction of our desires.
3. Thus it is arranged that, when God interposes upon our behalf, we shall welcome and value his intervention.
II. GOD SUPPLIES MEN'S WANTS AND SATISFIES THEIR DESIRES.
1. He does this at the right moment, when the pressure is heavy enough, but not too heavy.
2. He does this in the exercise of his own power, that the glory may be his.
3. He does this in a gracious and affectionate manner, displaying his sympathy as well as his authority.
III. THE PURPOSES SUBSERVED BY THE SUPPLY OF HUMAN NEED BY DIVINE BOUNTY.
1. All blessings come thus to be regarded as the immediate bestowments of Heaven.
2. And are seen to be the outward revelations of the attributes of the Father's heart.
3. And are the occasion of devout acknowledgment and fervent adoration.—T.
"Mine hour is not yet come."
God has his own times for all his works. His Son, Christ Jesus, knew no haste; he laboured sometimes to exhaustion; he shrank from no suffering or privation. Yet he was thirty years of age before he began his ministry; and now and again in the course of that ministry he withdrew from the public gaze. When the time came for conflict and death, he was ready for the encounter. But until the time came he was not to be forced into the position which he knew he was to take. Neither the urgency of his mother and his brethren, nor the restlessness of some of his disciples, nor the impulses of the multitude, could move him to take a step for which he was not yet prepared. "Mine hour," said he, "is not yet come." There was—
I. AN HOUR FOR HIS ADVENT. This seems to us to have come late in the history of our sinful humanity. But it was in "the fulness of the time" that Jesus came.
II. A SEASON FOR HIS ENTRANCE UPON THE PUBLIC MINISTRY. Why this should have been deferred so long, it is impossible for us to say; but there was a sufficient reason. A delay which seems to us protracted is as a moment to the Eternal.
III. A TIME FOR THE MANIFESTATION OF HIS GLORY BY MIRACLES. Again and again the Jews, and even his own disciples, impatiently urged the Lord to assert his supernatural power. It was characteristic of him that he commenced his series of "signs" in the quiet domestic scene at Cana. He was not to be hastened in this or in any of his plans.
IV. AN HOUR FOR HIS GIVING UP OF HIMSELF TO DIE. We cannot read the words of the text, spoken at the commencement of his public life, without having our thoughts carried, by way of contrast, to the close of that wonderful career, when our Lord exclaimed, "Father, the hour is come!" Until then, none could take from him his life.
V. A TIME FOR THE OUTPOURING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND FOR THE EVANGELIZATION OF THE WORLD. Jesus had waited, and, after his ascension, his disciples were enjoined to wait. The promise of the Father was to be fulfilled in its appointed time; when they should receive power from on high, then was to commence the great work of their life.
VI. AN HOUR FOR THE SECOND COMING. "God hath appointed a day." "Of that day and hour knoweth no man." Why should we, like Mary, like the short-sighted disciples, urge and implore the immediate appearance of the Lord? His hour has not yet arrived, or he himself would be here. It is ours reverently to expect, patiently to wait and hope. "He that cometh will come, and will not tarry."—T.
"Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it."
As his mother knew Jesus the best, so she reverenced him the most. She had reason for thinking and for speaking as she did regarding her Divine Son. In the words she addressed to the servants at the house where the wedding feast was celebrated, her estimation of Jesus came forth from her lips unconsciously. We admire her character, and we receive her testimony. The Church takes up this her language, and addresses those who are within the house and those who are without, and, pointing to the Divine Lord, says, "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it."
I. THE AUTHORITY OF CHRIST IS UNIQUE AND ABSOLUTE. There are limits to the authority of all human leaders, teachers, and masters, however wise and good, and it would be folly to bind ourselves to obey them in all things. But it is wisdom to yield an unhesitating allegiance to our Divine Lord.
1. For his authority is Divine in its nature. He that honoureth the Son, honoureth the Father who sent him.
2. His commands possess the authority of rectitude. Herein lies the incontrovertible ground of our obedience. Reason and conscience acknowledge and approve the claims of the Lawgiver and the Law. None does wrong who obeys Christ, even though he may thus be led into suffering and danger.
3. To this is added the sacred authority of love. All that Jesus has done and suffered for us constitutes a claim upon our cheerful loyalty. "If ye love me," is his appeal, "keep my commandments."
II. THE AUTHORITY OF CHRIST IS UNIVERSAL IN ITS RANGE.
1. It is manifestly binding upon all his people. They are admonished to "call no man Master;" and, at the same time, they are thus addressed: "Ye call me Master and Lord, and ye say well, for so I am." The word "whatsoever" may remind us that occasions may arise when it will be very difficult to obey our Lord's behests; such occasions will test our fidelity and sincerity and constancy; and they will enable us to commend ourselves to him "whose we are and whom we serve."
2. It is truly binding upon all mankind. He is "Lord of all," because he is Saviour of all. He claims submission and service as his right. He says to all who hear his Word, "Come unto me;" "Learn of me;" "Follow me." Whatsoever, then, he saith unto you, do it! Such obedience will be for your true interest, your eternal peace and happiness.—T.
"Thou hast kept the good wine until now."
True religion and all its benefits are progressive. Instead of looking back to a golden age, the people of God have ever been encouraged to turn the gaze of their hearts towards the future. The counsels of God have been gradually unfolded, and the visions of inspired seers have in measure been realized. There is no sign of exhaustion in the resources of Divine grace, in the provisions of Divine beneficence. Every age of Church history, every period of Christian experience, has heard the amazed and grateful acknowledgment offered to heaven: "Thou hast kept the good wine until now."
I. GOD'S GRACE IS PROGRESSIVELY REVEALED IN THE INDIVIDUAL EXPERIENCE OF CHRISTIANS. The longer Jesus is known, the more are his benefits realized, and the more is he valued. Advancing years, seasons of affliction and adversity, the approach of the end of the pilgrimage, afford growing opportunities of testing the faithfulness of the Father and the friendship of the Christ. The wine of grace mellows and refines with the lapse of time and the enlargement of experience.
II. GOD'S GRACE IS PROGRESSIVELY REVEALED IN THE SUCCESSIVE EPOCHS OF THE WORLD'S AND THE CHURCH'S HISTORY.
1. Time has unfolded to the understanding and the heart of humanity the character of Christ. There certainly never was a time when that character was so studied and so appreciated as now.
2. Time has proved the extent and the variety of Christ's power to bless. Days of persecution, days of missionary zeal, days of defence and confirmation of the truth, have succeeded one another; and every epoch seems to reveal to humanity the goodness of the wine in a heightened and more precious degree.
3. Time has shown what Christianity can do to develop and improve society. As new forms of social life have come into being, as new social needs emerge, as new difficulties arise in human relationships, these successive events make it evident that what the world wants is supplied in the Son of man. That new conditions of human society are approaching is certain; but it is equally certain that our Divine religion will prove its adaptation in the future as in the past. Under the guidance of Providence, there is in store for our humanity larger, richer, better life; and the Lord Christ shall fill the multiplied and ampler vessels with the choicest vintage of his love.
III. GOD'S GRACE WILL BE PROGRESSIVELY REVEALED IN ETERNITY. The wine is good. here and now; Christ saves from sin, strengthens for duty, renews and purifies and blesses. But surely those who are brought to the kingdom above, where the question is not of conflict but of service, not of patience but of praise, shall, upon tasting the spiritual delights of eternity, be constrained to exclaim, "Thou hast kept the good wine until now."—T.
"This beginning of his signs."
All that a man does may be regarded as significant of his character and aims in life. How far more obviously and instructively is this the case with the actions of the Son of God! Yet, though whatever Jesus did may be regarded thus, there are certain works of his which the evangelist notes especially as being signs. Of these works, the deed performed at Cana is remarked to be the first in point of time.
I. WHAT THESE SIGNS WERE IN THEMSELVES.
1. They were works, and mighty works; such as implied great power on the part of the Worker; such as were not wrought by ordinary men.
2. They were wonders, or miracles, fitted to arrest the attention, awaken the inquiry, excite the surprise, of beholders.
3. As in this instance, they were deeds authoritative over nature, its elements, processes, and laws.
II. OF WHAT THESE SIGNS WERE SIGNIFICANT. That they did speak to the minds and hearts of those who beheld them, is clear; they compelled the inquiry, "What manner of man is this?" The works led the witnesses to ask concerning the Worker; for they testified of him.
1. Of a Divine presence and power among men. The signs were as the cry of a herald, as a trumpet call summoning the attention of all who were capable of understanding. They spake in plainest language, and their voice and utterance was this: "The King of nature and the Lord of man is here!"
2. Of Divine compassion and mercy. Observe the contrast between the mediators of the old covenant and the new. The first sign which Moses wrought was to turn water into blood; the first which Jesus presented to men was to turn water into wine. We see pity in its varying grades excited by human want and. misery, manifesting itself in the exercise of authority prompted and guided by love.
3. Of Divine adaptation to special needs of men. There was vast variety in the miraculous ministrations of Immanuel. The first sign proves that the same Lord who supplies the most urgent wants is not unmindful of the social pleasures and comforts of men. There is delicate discrimination and thoughtful adaptation and suitability in the marvels which Jesus wrought. Bread for the hungry, healing for the sick; yet also wine for the joyful and the festive.
III. TO WHOM THESE SIGNS APPEALED.
1. Not primarily to unbelievers. Whether there were any such in the happy circle in whose midst and for whose benefit the first of the signs was exhibited, we do not know; probably all were friendly and receptive, and none more than partially enlightened. Jesus did not go into public and perform a wonder to amaze a multitude.
2. But to his disciples. There was no sign from heaven for the unspiritual, but for the believing and affectionate there were proofs given that their confidence and love were not misplaced. "His disciples believed on him," i.e. all the more as they saw more of the might of his word and the tenderness of his heart.—T.
"Jesus … manifested forth his glory."
Does it seem to the reader of this simple narrative that this language is somewhat strained—is pitched rather too high? An obscure village, a homely festival, a peasants' party;—are these suggestive of, harmonious with, this great word "glory"? Ah! let us not be deceived by outward, appearances; but rather remember that, as the world judges, there was no glory in Jesus any more than in his surroundings, his associates. Be it ours to form a wiser, juster, truer judgment.
I. GLORY WAS MANIFESTED IN CHRIST'S COMMAND AND CONTROL OF NATURE.
II. GLORY WAS SHOWN FORTH IN THE REVELATION OF CHRIST'S OWN LOVE AND GRACE. To the purged vision of evangelists and apostles there was a higher glory in the pity of the Redeemer than could have been displayed by any sign from heaven. "They beheld his glory …full of grace and truth."
III. GLORY WAS REFLECTED UPON THE COUNTENANCES AND THE HEARTS OF THE ASSEMBLED COMPANY. The master of the feast, the bride and the bridegroom, may little have known who and what manner of person they had invited and were entertaining in Jesus of Nazareth. But henceforth!—surely henceforth he must have been to them the Divine Friend and Lord. Whosoever will welcome Jesus to his home and to his heart shall learn the mystery alike of his majesty and of his love.
IV. GLORY WAS REVEALED TO CHRIST'S OWN DISCIPLES. These five newly found companions and pupils were soon privileged with intimations of the unique character and power of their Master. It was a lesson memorable and precious as being the first among many. They who learn from Jesus lessons of love and pity, lessons of wisdom and power, learn at the same time a lesson of moral splendour and majesty which shall prepare them for renewed manifestations in a long, an infinite series.
V. GLORY WAS, THROUGH THIS RECORD, RADIATED TO ALL TIME AND TO THE WHOLE UNIVERSE, REVEALING THE CHARACTER AND THE MINISTRY OF IMMANUEL.—T.
"His disciples believed on him."
There is singular simplicity and beauty in this statement, coming where it does at the close of this narrative.
I. OF WHOM IS THIS BELIEF ASSENTED? Not, as might perhaps have been expected, of strangers, who witnessed the mighty work and sign, but of five men here named "the disciples" of Jesus.
II. WHAT WAS THEIR PREPARATION FOR THIS BELIEF? Undoubtedly their admiration and affection for Jesus, who had sought them or welcomed them, and shown them the friendliness of his heart.
III. WHAT WAS THE OCCASION OF THIS RELIEF? It was the "sign" they witnessed, the moral glory which they discerned in the Master's sympathetic and gracious action. Coming to hearts so prepared, the wonder did its work effectually.
IV. WHAT WERE THE RESULTS OF THIS BELIEF?
1. The satisfaction, rest, and joy of their own minds.
2. The resolve and ability to publish the Saviour's fame, and bring men to behold his glory.—T.
The vindication of a desecrated temple.
High purposes were subserved by the exercise of the Saviour's authority both at the beginning and at the close of his ministry. If there was in this conduct an evidential meaning for the Jews, there was also a symbolical meaning for all time.
I. IN WHAT THE HOLINESS OF THE TEMPLE CONSISTED.
1. The true answer to this inquiry is to be found in the language of the Lord himself. The temple was his Father's house. It was the building which was originally erected in a measure upon the model of the tabernacle of the wilderness, the pattern of which had been communicated by Jehovah in some way to Moses, the servant of God. It was by Divine command that a certain special locality and building were set apart and consecrated to the service of him, who nevertheless "dwelleth not in temples made with hands."
2. The holy memories of national history gathered around this sacred edifice. The original tabernacle was associated with Moses and Aaron; the first temple at Jerusalem with the great kings—David who prepared for it, and Solomon who built it; the second temple with the great leaders of the return from the Captivity; and this restored edifice, in its costly magnificence, with the royal Herodian house.
3. The sacrifices which were offered, the priesthoods that ministered, the festivals which were observed, the praises and prayers which were presented, in these consecrated precincts, all added to the sanctity of the place.
4. And it must be remembered that the house of the Father was the house of the children; that our Lord himself designated the temple "a house of prayer for all nations." This may not have been acknowledged or understood by the Jews themselves. Yet there were intimations throughout their sacred literature in its successive stages that they, as a nation, were elected in order that through them all the nations of the earth might be blessed. The width of the counsels of Divine benevolence is apparent to all who study the psalms and prophecies of the Old Testament Scripture; and our Lord's language connects those counsels with the dedicated house at Jerusalem.
5. To our minds the temple possesses sanctity through its devotion to a symbolical use, for by anticipation it set forth in emblem the holiness of our Lord's body and the purity of the spiritual Church of Christ. The temple at Jerusalem should be destroyed in the crisis of Israel's fate; the sanctuary of the Lord's body should be taken down; and the holy temple, consecrated to the Lord, should grow in stateliness and beauty until all the living stones should be built into it for grace and glory eternal.
II. BY WHAT THE HOLINESS OF THE TEMPLE WAS VIOLATED. There must have been an infamous desecration in order to have awakened such indignation in the breast of Jesus. We can see two respects in which this was so.
1. The building was abused and profaned in being diverted from sacred to secular uses. Where there should have been only sacrifices, there were sales of beasts and birds; where there should have been only offerings, there was money changing.
2. The sanctity of the temple was violated by the cupidity of the rulers, who, it is well known, made a sinful and scandalous profit for themselves by the transactions which awakened the indignation of Jesus.
3. Nor was this all, injustice and fraud were added to cupidity—the temple became "a den of thieves."
III. IN WHAT WAY THE HOLINESS OF THE TEMPLE WAS VINDICATED.
1. By the interposition of One of the highest dignity. Christ was "greater than the temple;" he was the Lord of the temple; nay, he was himself the true Temple appointed to supersede the material structure.
2. By the exercise of just and manifested authority. The demeanour and the language of Jesus were such as to preclude resistance, to silence murmuring. The Lord came to his own inheritance, to the house of his Father.
3. By the comparison of the edifice at Jerusalem to his own sacred body. In the language he used in his subsequent conversation with the Jews, he "spake of the Temple of his body," and in so doing he attached to the sanctuary a holiness greater than was conferred upon it by all the associations of its use and of its history.—T.
HOMILIES BY B. THOMAS
The miracle of Cana.
I. THE MIRACLE IN RELATION TO JESUS HIMSELF. The miracle, with its attending circumstances, was:
1. A manifestation of his glory. Every act and every word of his manifested the glory of his character, but his miracles were spiritual and natural signs of the Divinity of his Person and the distinguishing feature of his character. His miracles were purely voluntary. Still, he pleased to perform them in order to manifest his glory—the fulness of his Divine and human life.
2. It was a manifestation of his own glory. The glory manifested by the greatest and best of men is only derived and borrowed; but Jesus manifested his own glory—that which originally and inherently belonged to him as the "Son of God," and now as the Son of God in human nature. What glory was specially manifested by this miracle and its attending circumstances?
(1) The thorough sociality of his nature. His first public appearance was in the house of joy, at a marriage feast, and that of a young couple in humble circumstances, so that he was not attracted by worldly distinction or self-interest, but by the simple sociality of his nature. He was not an Ascetic or a Stoic, but a perfect Man. His Divine nature did not interfere with his human instincts so as to keep him away from the human family. Thus the human side of his character was very different from and superior to that of the "Baptist." He lived out of the world; Jesus lived in it. And on this occasion was strikingly manifested the warm sociality of his nature, one of the chief glories of his Divine-human character, and thus representing faithfully the character of God, which is intensely social. Although invisible and infinite, yet he mingles with all the innocent joys and piercing sorrows of his creatures. He is present in the genial sunshine and in the dark cloud.
(2) The absolute independency of his conduct. His mother innocently interfered. She had long expected a display of his power, and, as she thought, the occasion had come. She says, "They have no wine." Being touched by the breath of a carnal notion, he gently but firmly rebuked it: "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" In every instance of interference with his Divine course, such as that of Peter, or that of his enemies, he invariably rebuked it. If anything could vary his course, it would be parental and filial affection; but even this had to give way—it was ignored. His Divine sovereignty shone brilliantly under all human conditions; he acted as God in the nature of man. In this instance he gives a reason for his conduct, which he was not called upon always to do: "Mine hour is not yet come." There is not a great difference between his "hour" and that of his mother; the greatest difference is moral, and it was immediately checked—it vanished before the sovereignty of Divine rectitude and the glory of Divine propriety. It did not affect his mother's love and faith; and if she could speak to those who superstitiously seek her intercession, she would point them to this incident, and say now as then, "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." She at once comprehended and began to preach the revealed and absolute independency of his conduct, the sovereignty of his position.
(3) His absolute control over the elements of matter. The water was made wine.
(a) This was done by his mere will. Nothing was said, nothing was done. The elements were pliant to his will. It was done with the greatest ease.
(b) It was done openly, before the disciples and the crowd.
(c) It was done immediately. There was no break in the festive joy. No disappointment on account of failure; no anxiety on account of delay. What took him months to do in the ordinary course of things, he did now in a moment; and the water, as if competing with other elements in raising a commemorative monument to the presence of its Lord, made haste to obey, and "blushed" its homage.
(d) It was done perfectly. The wine was pronounced "good," not extraordinary. God in miracles is not superior to God in nature. God's works, however performed, are Divine and uniform, and all his gifts are good. Man disimproves things,—turns the water into blood. Christ improves everything—the water is made wine. Jesus reverses the human order. The good wine is kept last. This is the Divine order. In all the earthly life of Jesus it was so, and eternity will not alter this order. In the enjoyment of heaven the language of blissful experience will ever be, "Thou hast kept the good wine," etc.
(4) The singular benevolence of his character. This was a miracle of kindness, as all his were. This was the natural keynote of his life and of his nature. Whenever his power rode forth in majesty, kindness was ever in its chariot, and the ocean of his benevolence was ever tremulous to the least breath of want; there was no need of a storm. Some might think that more wine was extravagance; but Jesus thought and felt differently. He knew how any lack in this direction would hurt the virgin feelings of a newly wedded couple. So that he is tenderly and delicately kind. The quality of the wine is good, and the quantity is kingly—probably from sixty to a hundred gallons. "Too much," says some one. Yes, too much for a peasant, but not for a king. He gave for himself and friends. None shall suffer for being kind to him, but he will repay with Divine interest. There was enough for the guests and enough to spare, as his wedding gift to the young pair to commence life with. "Fill to the brim." All his vessels are filled to the brim, and the cup of blessings which he sends round his people is not merely brimful, but "runneth over." Just like himself.
(5) His gracious power and readiness to satisfy the natural expectations of faith. To supply the lack of wine at the feast was not the chief reason of the miracle. This was only secondary. There was a higher reason, and a more spiritual significance. It was performed in answer to the natural expectations of faith. There was another newly wedded couple in the feast of Cana—Jesus and his disciples. They had believed on him without a miracle, but expected one at no distant date. Faith accepted him on trust. At the proper time he fully pays in hard cash, and his power and readiness to satisfy the lawful demands of faith shone forth with Divine brilliancy; and here is the climax of his glory in this miracle. Genuine faith shall never cry to him, "Show me thy glory," in vain.
3. This was only the beginning of the manifestation of his glory. The beginning of miracles; hence the beginning of his self-manifestation.
(1) The beginning of the manifestation of his glory was perfect. There is a special interest connected with the first performances of men of genius, and invariably they are inferior to their maturer efforts. But this first miracle of Jesus is as perfect in execution as his last; he never improved. It is not the first attempt of a pupil, but the first demonstration of a master. The first miracle of the Son of God was as perfect of its kind as his last.
(2) The manifestation of his glory was gradual. It was so then, and is so still. Faith could not stand the full blaze of his glory; it would dazzle rather than nurse it. We cannot stand the full glare of the sun, how much less that of its Creator! Christ feeds faith as a nurse feeds the babe, and manifests his glory, not in full blaze, but sometimes in startling flashes, and ever in genial rays, so as to suit the conditions and requirements of faith.
(3) The manifestation of his glory will be ever progressive. It was so while he was here on earth. He increasingly manifested his glory from Cana to Bethany, and on to the great miracle of the cross with its sequences—the resurrection, etc., which still unveil his glory, scene after scene, to the human family. And ever since he has been progressively manifesting his glory on this and the other side, and will continue to do so, till it will reach a dispensational climax in his second coming, when he will be glorious in his saints, the rich trophies of his redeeming victories. His glory is such in its fulness and variety that time cannot contain it and eternity will not exhaust it. But after ages have passed, away, and the heavens flooded with its radiance, then its manifestation will only be beginning.
II. THE MIRACLE IN RELATION TO THE DISCIPLES. "And his disciples believed on him." This implies:
1. That they had faith in him already. Otherwise they could, not be called his disciples, much less be his disciples. Faith in Christ is the first condition of Christian discipleship. The disciples' faith was kindled, by the preaching of John, and declared as they met Jesus on the banks of the Jordan.
2. That their faith wanted confirmation. It was yet young and tender, still clinging to him like the vine to the tree. It was weak in itself, but strong in its demands, longing in its expectations, and eloquent in its secret prayers for a Divine manifestation and nourishment.
3. The miracle satisfied the present want of their faith. Jesus through it manifested his glory, and they believed on him. Faith progresses with the progress of revelation, as revelation progresses with the development of faith. While the guests generally enjoyed the miraculous wine, faith had a higher enjoyment in drinking the wine of Jesus' manifested glory, and was invigorated and established. The wine of Cane was soon exhausted, but the glory of him who made it still shines, and faith still delights to revel in its light and buskin its sunshine. "And his disciples believed on him." All believed in the wine, but not in him. The majority remained with the material, and soon forgot him; but the disciples rose to a diviner sphere, and left the stream and dipped their pitchers in the well. Many enjoy the gifts, but forget the great Giver. But faith almost forgets the gifts in the Giver, leaves the rays and flies upwards like an eagle to gaze on the Sun, the Source of light. And this is wise. Have the fountain, and you have the stream. Have Christ, and you have all.
1. If married couples wish a happy life, let them commence it by inviting Jesus to their marriage feast. Let him be the chief Guest, and he will give the proper tone to it, as well as to the after life. A good beginning is half the battle. The evil one will be there, whether invited or not; he does not observe the rules of propriety. But Jesus wants to be invited, and if invited he will be there; for he loves even the best earthly illustration of the loving connection between himself and his bride, the Church.
2. Many invite Jesus to their scenes of sorrow, but not to their scenes of joy. He shall perform all the drudgeries of life, but not mingle with any of its luxuries. He is invited to the sick and death bed, but not to the marriage feast. This is neither kind nor wise. Let us remember that he can enjoy as well as suffer and pity. He can rejoice with those that rejoice, as well as weep with those that weep. And if we invite him to the sunshine of marriage, we have claim on his presence in the gloom of dissolution.
3. Those who invite him to their marriage feast will be amply repaid here and hereafter. He will have his marriage feast soon—the grandest and happiest marriage that ever occurred in the universe, and the most sumptuous and lasting feast. With regard to those who invited him, he will certainly return the compliment, and invite them; "and blessed are they who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb."
4. There is infinite glory as well as grace in Christ. Let faith help herself. Faith drew out the miracle, and the miracle drew out faith, and both met in glory. "Draw out now,'" says Jesus. It is water. Yes, but draw out, and it will be wine. The quality and quantity of blessings depend on the quality and quantity of faith. Jesus is fail. "Draw out now."—B.T.
The conduct of our Lord in the temple reminded the disciples of the words of the psalmist, "The zeal of thine house," etc. They supplied a most appropriate text to the symbolic sermon of our Lord. Genuine religious zeal as illustrated by the conduct of our Lord here. Notice it—
I. IS THE CHIEF OBJECT OF ITS CONCERN. It is the glory of God and the purity of his house and worship. Under the influence of this zeal:
1. Our relationship to God and his relationship to us are specially felt. It was so in the case of Christ now, and in a special manner he felt and proclaimed God to be his Father. "My Father." Jesus ever felt this relationship; and in the degree in which we are possessed of holy zeal, we shall feel our relationship to God and his to us.
2. God's relationship to his house is felt. Jesus calls the temple his Father's house. And so it was. It was his earthly habitation, where his glory should have shone, his Name should be honoured, his worship devotedly observed, and his people abundantly blessed. Holy zeal ever feels God's relationship to his house, and looks at and speaks of it as the house of God, and not of men.
3. A burning interest in God's house is felt. Jesus could not look on the temple with indifference; but, feeling God to be his Father, and the temple his Father's house, as a loving and dutiful Son, he felt an absorbing interest in its welfare. His Father's house was his own, and their interests and zeal were identical. This holy zeal does not stop with trifles, but is engaged with the highest and most momentous subjects—the glory and honour of God, and the purity and success of his cause on earth.
II. THIS ZEAL IN CONTACT WITH A GREAT ABUSE. The house of God was made a house of merchandise.
1. This abuse is quickly seen. No sooner had Jesus entered the temple than this terrible abuse attracted his notice. How many were there that saw it not! Coldness of the moral nature results in blindness to moral evil. But where this zeal is present, and burning in the breast, then the moral eye is keen and the moral visions are clear, and iniquities and abuses are quickly seen in their magnitude and horror.
2. This abuse is keenly felt. No sooner seen than fully realized and felt—felt as repugnant to Jesus as to God himself, and filled him with feelings of disgust amt indignation. Where this zeal is predominant, not merely the moral eye is keen to discern social and religious evils, but the moral heart is sensitive of their injuriousness and intolerant of their existence.
3. This abuse is unmercifully condemned. Condemned:
(1) As an abuse of the place. Making God's house a house of merchandise. Merchandise in itself is not condemned. As such it is right and necessary, and was even necessary in connection with the service of the temple, but not in the temple. In the market it is proper; in the house of God it is profanation.
(2) As an abuse of privileges. People professed to come to the temple to worship Jehovah, but Divine worship is exchanged for human business. In our Father's house we should be about our Father's business. It is a house of merchandise, but merchandise of a spiritual order—not between man and man, but between man and God. It is an exchange, but not that of foreign coins for those of the temple, but an exchange of repentance for forgiveness, faith for Divine justification and peace.
(3) As an insult to God. An insult to his authority, purity, and honour. What an affront to the Lord of the temple! what an insult to the Divine Father, to be turned out of his own home, and what is most distasteful to him, worldliness, admitted instead! and what a breach of trust, what irreligiousness of feelings and conduct, which are unmercifully condemned by holy zeal!
III. THIS ZEAL EXERCISED IN THE REFORMATION OF ABUSES. As illustrated in the conduct of our Lord, we see that:
1. It is ever active and aggressive. It does not. remain in mere speech and sentiment, but ever rushes into aggressive action. It can no more remain long in the presence of evil without attacking it, than a hungry lion in the presence of his prey, or a powerful army in the presence of the foe.
2. It is most sweeping in its demands. It will not be satisfied with anything short of a complete reform. Our Lord entered the temple and drove out all that sold oxen, etc., and even the innocent doves had to leave. The language of holy zeal with reheard to social and religious evils, is, "Take these things hence; make not my Father's house," etc. Between good and evil, truth and error, there is an eternal difference, there can be no compromise; an eternal war, there can be no truce; nothing will satisfy it but a complete surrender.
3. It is intensely earnest. How intensely earnest was our Lord on this occasion! He made a scourge of small cords, a sign, not merely of authority, but also of terrible earnestness. This instrument was not apparently adapted to attain the end in view, but it was the best he could get, and answered his purpose. He wished to destroy the merchandise, not the merchants. Holy zeal, while not regardless of adaptation, will ever use the one available means. It will attack the walls of Jericho with ram's horns, go forth against the giant with a shepherd's sling, and clear the temple with a scourge of small cords. The intensely earnest man is never idle for want of suitable weapons.
4. It is heroically courageous. It carries its possessor away to attack foes who from a human point of view he can never hope to vanquish. What was Jesus to the mighty opposition he confronted? He had:
(1) The opposition of interested persons. Those in the trade—the host of dealers in oxen, etc.
(2) The opposition of interested patrons. The rulers of the people and the governor of the temple.
(3) The opposition of a consenting and benefited public. The crowd who would be more likely to sympathize with the aristocracy of the place than with the carpenter's Son of Nazareth. But this combined opposition he fearlessly confronted, and commenced his task almost alone. Holy zeal is ever courageous, and makes its possessor, if not beside himself, far beyond and above himself.
5. This zeal is entirely self-sacrificing. Liberty, personal safety, and even life is set at nought. It was so with Jesus now. He purified his temple at the risk of his life, and at last he gave himself as a sacrifice, not to the fury of his foes, but to the flames of his burning zeal. "The zeal of thy house," etc. And those under its influence are ever ready to sacrifice even life to their master passion and purpose.
IV. WE HAVE THIS ZEAL GLORIOUSLY TRIUMPHANT. Our Lord drove out the merchants and their merchandise with scarcely any opposition; and did, as one has said, what a powerful army could not do so quickly and completely. How did this zeal triumph, and how must it ever triumph?
1. By its own inherent strength. It is powerful in itself, even when it has only comparatively weak men as its instruments; but how much more powerful when swaying great and well balanced souls, such as Luther, Wickliffe, Paul, and especially our Lord, who is the Son of God as well as Son of man! In such as these, its voice is thunder, its deeds are lightning, its words are two-edged swords, and its chariots and horses are of fire. Its march is majestic, its consciousness of success is supreme, and, should a cloud appear in its firmament, it must soon vanish before its dazzle. It ever goes forth conquering and to conquer, and in its own energy and majesty is terrible.
2. By the strength and justice of its cause. Its demands are ever reasonable, and its cause is just. Jesus was right, and these merchants and their patrons were wrong, and, in the presence of holy enthusiasm, they felt it. He had a scourge of small cords, but he had a more terrible scourge than this—he made a scourge of their guilty consciences, and with it whipped them out. They writhed under the lashes; and corruption slunk away before the majesty of burning holiness; and the unrighteous practice gave way before the heat of embodied justice on fire. Right is ever stronger than wrong, good than evil, and truth than error. Let true principles blaze in the lives and actions of their adherents; they must be triumphant.
3. By its ever-accompanying Divinity. Jesus was a Divine Person, and his act in the temple was miraculous. True; but is not God ever against evil, and on the side of good? Holy zeal is ever accompanied with Divine authority and power; it is really the natural expression of all virtue, the burning presence of holiness, and the flaming manifestation of God's holy nature, who is a consuming Fire. The act of Christ in the temple was symbolic. God is ever on the side of purity and order, and the feeblest voice raised for them and against evil. God is in that voice, and it must triumph.
1. Our Lord was a Reformer. One of his first acts was to reform the worship of the temple. His followers should be the same; the disciples should follow their Master, and the motto of their lives should be reform.
2. Before we can be true reformers, we must be inspired with holy and burning zeal. This is an essential element of a reformer, as the revealer of evil and the inspiring motive of attack. Without it we cannot see as Jesus saw, we cannot act as he acted; but with it we shall be true reformers. Jesus will have true representatives, holiness will have a voice, and iniquity a scourge.
3. When holy zeal becomes absorbing and universal, abuses and evils in the Church and the world must retire, and the Church and even the earth will indeed be the house of God and the gate of heaven.—B.T.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
The beginning of miracles.
I. THE OCCASION. It is possible, of course, to lay too much stress on the circumstances and nature of the first sign Jesus gave respecting his own character and mission; but it is better to go to the extreme in this direction that. to pretend that this beginning has no significance at all. Nothing would have been easier than to let the wedding feast pass over without exercise of the special power of Jesus. What necessity could there be for guests having wine rather than water? But if we speak thus, what necessity was there for any of the miracles of Jesus? They helped just one here and there out of the vast mass of needy ones. Jesus looks with a kindly eye on the innocent pleasures of men. His disciples had been disciples of John the Baptist, and John was an ascetic, a Nazarite, a man of the wilderness; and now that these disciples of John had become disciples of Jesus, they cannot learn too soon that their new Teacher proceeds by different methods from those of John. Not that blame of John is thereby implied. John had his own work to do in his own way, and Jesus had his work to do in his way. Jesus will become all things to all men, that he may save some. He cannot truly weep with the weeping unless he can also rejoice with the rejoicing. He takes men as they are, and tries to get hold of them by some timely service. It is a Christian act to increase the innocent pleasures of the world. Where the cup of gladness is not full, Jesus will fill it. The good of this miracle is made manifest as one considers what an effectual protest it is against those who would make religion the necessary enemy of deep-rooted social customs. Here were a bride and bridegroom, to whom the more serious side of life would come soon enough. For the present they desire their wedding feast to pass off creditably. Is it not likely they would feel somewhat humiliated to think the provisions were running short? and was it not, then, a worthy aim in Jesus to make every one satisfied, and at the same time to give an opportunity for the whole neighbourhood to be impressed by his power?
II. THE MIRACLE ITSELF must be looked at along with the feeding of the multitudes. Jesus does not create wine or create bread. He has visible material before him, and to it he adds what makes it sufficient for the need. But we must believe that he adds what he finds elsewhere in the world. He makes available, in his own way, stores already existing. We toil and wait, and the results of our operations are bread and wine. Jesus, if needful, can bring the same results without any toiling or waiting. His sphere is eternity. We can do nothing without time for a settled order of processes; but whatever Jesus can do at all, he can do at once. Really he was doing in a moment what he does with every vine, with every grape, only he does it by agencies stretching over a longer period.—Y.
The honour of the Father's house.
Going to Jerusalem meant going to the temple, so far as Jesus was concerned. Where could he go more fittingly than to what he calls his Father's house? Jesus could not but think how often the Divine glory had been manifested in that temple, how many generations of worshippers had trodden its courts, what countless offerings had been presented, what multitudes of beasts had been slain. All places of religious assembly are a grand testimony to man's need of God. How it must have helped Jesus to direct his ministries, as he observed the people in their professions of approach to their Maker! Consider here—
I. AN INSTANCE OF THE WRATH OF JESUS, AND WHAT CAUSED IT. Jesus pitied men far oftener than he was angry with them; and yet there were times when not to have been angry would have argued an imperfect sense of right. To be downright angry with a man is sometimes the best way of approaching him for his good. The anger of Jesus on this occasion must have done good. Jesus found buyers and sellers turning a religious duty into a trade transaction. The offering to God was forgotten; only the making of a good bargain was remembered. Both the claims of God and the religious needs of men were utterly neglected.
II. AN ABSURD QUESTION AND A PUZZLING ANSWER. When our hearts do not perceive the truth that is laid right before them, then we are very likely to ask absurd questions. The very expelling of the traffickers gave the clearest sign that he who expelled had the right to expel. Still, Jesus can take the greatest absurdities of men as occasions for uttering the profoundest truths. The cleansing of a defiled temple is reckoned an insufficient sign, so now he adds that, if the Jews will give him the opportunity, he will rebuild a destroyed temple. No one understood his meaning at the time; it was enough if people remembered his words. The meaning would appear when it was wanted. "He spake of the temple of his body." Compared with that body, the temple at Jerusalem, in all its glory, beauty, and service, was but a poor, profitless structure. We must ever be on the alert to see realities, and not let our eyes be deceived by mere appearances.
III. THE PROMISED SIGN. Note what Christ does not ask for. He does not say, "Defile this temple." It was not in the power of the Jews to defile the temple of the Body of Jesus. The temples of our bodies are more or less defiled to begin with; but there was in Jesus a vital power repelling every taint of disease, and a heart that in its purity kept evil far away. Men could destroy what they could not defile. They were able to take away the natural life of Christ, though they could not lead him into the smallest act of sin. Thus we see how the so called destruction is a small evil compared with defilement. We call it destruction for want of a better word, but it is really glorification and freedom. The building of men, held in such veneration by the Jews, was utterly destroyed before many years had passed away, and no mighty hand was reached down from heaven to put it together again. Its work being done, it was better gone from the sight of men. But these same Jews, not knowing what they were doing, destroyed a temple which God raised again, and raised in a glory and a power which it bad not known before. So may it be with the temple of our body. Service will not cease with the glorified body; it will but rise into higher opportunities and higher joys.—Y.
Jesus knowing man.
John gives us, in the course of his Gospel, wonderful evidences and illustrations on this point. When people came to him, he seemed to see right into their hearts and through their present lives into all their past. Instances in Nathanael, Nicodemus, and the woman of Samaria. The power of Jesus in this respect as much supernatural as that by which he raised Lazarus from the dead.
I. IT IS JESUS WHO KNOWS WHAT IS IN MAN. His awful power of knowing the secrets of human hearts is his power. Hence we behold the exercise of it without being startled or alarmed. The woman at the well does not seem to have been at all terrified by her discovery of the omniscient, resistless eye of Jesus. We are made to feel that Jesus knows us altogether; but at the same time, we are assured as to the use he will make of his knowledge. He does not come to expose us to our fellow men. He does not come to protect us from them, although he will do so if it be needful. The injuries of others do not penetrate to the heart, do not burden the conscience, so Jesus does not trouble about them. What gives him concern is the evil we work to ourselves. What a scratch is to a deep stab, that the very worst thing another can do is as compared with what we ourselves do. We have cause to rejoice that it is Jesus who has a knowledge so complete, a knowledge so certain to be used for our best advantage. It is Jesus, the professed Saviour Jesus, who loves little children, Jesus who takes pity on hungry multitudes—he of the truest, tenderest heart that ever beat in a human bosom—it is he who knows what is in man.
II. JESUS KNOWS WHAT IS IN MAN. He never needs to act doubtfully and upon speculation. His knowledge is not in appearance, but in reality. It ranges over human nature in all the vast extent of it. He knows the real and the ideal, the actual and the possible; how bad men are, and how good they may become. His real knowledge is to be contrasted with our assumed knowledge. He knows us round and round and. through and through. It is not a knowledge of the weakness and follies of men just to make better use of them.
III. JESUS WANTS MAN HIMSELF TO KNOW WHAT IS IN MAN. First, that we may know ourselves, and that for the practical purpose of making the best of our lives. We need great knowledge to make the best of life, with its rich opportunities, its great difficulties, its strict limitations. Jesus wants us to have a living sense of our ignorance and our weakness. He wants us to discover how blind the natural man is when confronted with spiritual things. He wants us to be persuaded how low we can sink, how high we can rise. Then, as far as we know ourselves truly, we shall know others also. They are weak, even as we; and, if we become strong in Christ, we shall hope for the same strength for them.
IV. JESUS WANTS US TO KNOW WHAT IS IN HIM. Wants us to see human nature in its purity and its perfection. Knowing the perfection of Jesus rightly, we shall not despair, but aim to be drawn onward to it ourselves.—Y.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on John 2". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent