Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, December 5th, 2023
the First Week of Advent
For 10¢ a day you can enjoy StudyLight.org ads
free while helping to build churches and support pastors in Uganda.
Click here to learn more!

Bible Commentaries
John 2

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors


John 2:0


The Wedding at CanaWater Turned to WineThe Wedding at CanaThe Wedding in CanaThe Wedding at Cana
John 2:1-11John 2:1-12John 2:1-11John 2:1-3John 2:1-10
John 2:4
John 2:5
John 2:6-10
John 2:11John 2:11-12
John 2:12 John 2:12John 2:12
The Cleansing of the TempleJesus Cleanses the TempleThe Cleansing of the Temple The Cleansing of the Temple
John 2:13-22John 2:13-22John 2:13-22John 2:13-17John 2:13-22
John 2:18
John 2:19
John 2:20
John 2:21-22
Jesus Knows All MenThe Discerner of Hearts Jesus' Knowledge of Human NatureJesus in Jerusalem
John 2:23-25John 2:23-25John 2:23-25John 2:23-25John 2:23-25



This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. Jesus was so different from other religious leaders of His day. He ate and drank with the common people. While John the Baptist was a private person from the desert, Jesus was a public person with the common people.

B. His first sign was so domestic, so familial! Care and concern for the common person characterize Jesus as His anger toward the self-righteous religionists reflects the other side of His character. The priority of people, not traditions or mandatory rituals, reveals Jesus' freedom, yet reverence for cultural expectations.

C. This is the first of seven signs which John uses to reveal Jesus' character and power (chapters 2-11).

1. water into wine (John 2:1-11)

2. healing of boy (John 4:46-54)

3. healing of lame man (John 5:1-18)

4. feeding of the multitude (John 6:1-15)

5. walking on water (John 6:16-21)

6. healing of blind man (John 9:1-41)

7. raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-57)

D. John's Gospel is not structured chronologically but theologically. Chapter 2 is a good example. Initially, John deals with Jesus trying to reach the Jews (both their leaders and the common people) but they would not believe/receive. Because of the entrenched unbelief and religious self-righteousness, Jesus rejected Judaism

1. the six washing jars, filled to the brim, represent Judaism which Jesus changes

2. the cleansing of the temple, (which chronologically happened at the beginning of the last week of Jesus' life) is recorded early as an initial theological marker of His rejection of the Jewish leadership.

Another good example of John's textual design is Nicodemus (Mr. Religion) of chapter 3 and the woman at the well (Miss Irreligion) of chapter 4. Here are "bookends" for all people.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why did Jesus turn the water into wine? What did it symbolize?

2. Describe the marriage customs of Jesus' day.

3. Can you draw the floor plan of Herod's temple? Can you show the probable location of the buyers and sellers?

4. Why do the Synoptics not record this initial cleansing of the temple?

5. Did Jesus predict the destruction of Herod's temple?

6. Define and explain the Greek word which is translated "trust," "believe" and "faith."

Verses 1-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: John 2:1-11 1On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; 2and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine." 4And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come." 5His mother said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it." 6Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. 7Jesus said to them, "Fill the waterpots with water." So they filled them up to the brim. 8And He said to them, "Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter." So they took it to him. 9When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, 10and said to him, "Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now." 11This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.

John 2:1 "there was a wedding" Village weddings were major social events. They often involved the entire community and could last several days.

"Cana" This term is mentioned only in John's Gospel (John 2:1, John 2:11; John 4:46; John 21:2). We know some things about it.

1. Nathanael's home town

2. site of Jesus' first miracle

3. close to Capernaum

There are four supposed sites (AB, vol. 1, p. 827)

1. Ain Qana, just one mile north of Nazareth

2. Kafr Kanna, about three miles northeast of Nazareth

3. Khirbet Qana, a tel about eight and a half miles north of Nazareth, on a hill

4. Cana on the Plain of Asochis, mentioned by Josephus (Life, 86, 206).

The location on a plain seems to fit the name Cana, which is Hebrew for "reed" (i.e., cane)

"the mother of Jesus was there" Apparently Mary was helping with the arrangements for the wedding. This can be seen in (1) her ordering the servants (cf. John 2:5) and (2) her concern over the refreshments (cf. John 2:3). These probably were relatives or family friends.

John 2:3 "They have no wine" It was a mandatory Hebrew custom for the guests to provide the wine. This wine is obviously fermented, as seen in (1) comment of master of ceremonies, John 2:9-10; (2) the Jewish customs in Jesus' day; or (3) the lack of hygienic processes or chemical additives.


John 2:4 "Woman" In English this sounds harsh, but it was a Hebrew idiom, a title of respect (cf. John 4:21; John 8:10; John 19:26; John 20:15).

NASB"what does that have to do with us?" NKJV"What does your concern have to do with Me?" NRSV"What concern is that to you and to me?" TEV"You must not tell me what to do" NJB"What do you want from me?"

This is a Hebraic idiom, literally "what to me and to you" (cf. Judges 11:12; 2 Samuel 16:10; 2 Samuel 19:22; 1 Kings 17:18; 2 Kings 3:13; 2 Chronicles 35:21; Matthew 8:29; Mark 1:24; Mark 5:7; Luke 4:34; Luke 8:28; John 2:4). This was possibly the beginning of Jesus' new relationship to His family (cf. Matthew 12:46ff; Luke 11:27-28).

"My hour has not yet come" This shows Jesus' self-understanding about His appointed purpose (cf. Mark 10:45). John uses this term "hour" in several ways.

1. for time (cf. John 1:39; John 4:6, John 4:52, John 4:53; John 11:9; John 16:21; John 19:14; John 19:27)

2. for the end time (cf. John 4:21, John 4:23; John 5:25, John 5:28)

3. for His last days (arrest, trials, death, cf. John 2:4; John 7:30; John 8:20; John 12:23, John 12:27; John 13:1; John 16:32; John 17:1)

John 2:5 "Whatever He says to you, do it" Mary did not understand Jesus' comments as totally precluding His acting on her behalf in this situation.

John 2:6

NASB"for the Jewish custom of purification" NKJV"according to the manner of purification" NRSV"for the Jewish rites of purification" TEV"the Jews have rules about ritual washing" NJB"for the ablutions that are customary among the Jews"

These containers of water were used for ceremonial washings of the feet, hands, utensils, etc. John makes this comment to help Gentiles understand the setting.

John 2:6-7 "six stone water pots" As so often in John, this seems to be a sign with dual purposes.

1. to help the wedding couple

2. it was ultimately a sign pointing toward Jesus as the fulfillment of Judaism. The reasons behind this last statement may be

a. the number "6" is symbolic of human effort

b. Jesus' request to fill them up to the brim seems to have symbolic meaning, not just to provide more wine

c. the huge amount of wine, which was far too much for a local wedding feast

d. wine was a symbol of the abundance of the new age (cf. Jeremiah 31:12; Hosea 2:22; Hosea 14:7; Joel 3:18; Amos 9:12-14).

"containing twenty or thirty gallons each" The measurement used was the Hebrew term bath. There were three different sizes of baths used in Jesus' day so the amount is uncertain, but this miracle involved a huge amount of wine!


John 2:8

NASB"the headmaster" NKJV"the master of the feast" NRSV"the chief steward" TEV"the man in charge of the feast" NJB"the president of the feast"

This person could be either (1) an honored guest who was in charge of the festival or (2) a slave in charge of serving the guests.

John 2:10 The point is that usually the best wine was served first. After the guests were affected, a poorer grade of wine was served. But here the best was last! This seems to be a contrast between the old covenant (old wine) in Judaism and the new covenant (new wine) in Jesus (cf. the book of Hebrews). Jesus' cleansing of the Temple (cf. John 2:13-25, apparently placed out of chronological order by John for theological purposes) may symbolize this truth.

John 2:11 "This beginning of His signs" The Gospel of John is built around seven signs and their interpretation. This is the first. See Special Topic: Archç at John 1:1.

"and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him" The manifestation (see note on verb at John 1:31) of Jesus' glory (see Special Topic at John 1:14) was the purpose of the miracle(s). This miracle, as many others, seemed to be directed primarily at His disciples! This does not refer to their initial faith act, but their ongoing understanding of His person and work. The signs reveal the true person and work of the Messiah. It is uncertain whether the guests ever knew what occurred.

Verse 12

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: John 2:12 12After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and they stayed there a few days.

John 2:12 "Capernaum" After Nazareth's unbelief (cf. Luke 4:16-30) this became Jesus' headquarters in Galilee (cf. Matthew 4:13; Mark 1:21; Mark 2:1; Luke 4:23, Luke 4:31; John 2:12; John 4:46-47).

This is a unique glimpse into the ministry of Jesus toward His family, in light of this miracle at Cana.


A. There has been much discussion among NT scholars as to how many times Jesus cleansed the Temple. John records the cleansing quite early in Jesus' ministry, while the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 21:12; Mark 11:15 and Luke 19:45) describe a cleansing during the last week of Jesus' life.

However, it is surely possible that John structures Jesus' actions for theological purposes (i.e., John asserts Jesus' full Deity from chapter 1). Each of the Gospel writers had the freedom under inspiration to select, adapt, arrange, and summarize Jesus' actions and teachings. I do not believe they had the freedom to put words in Jesus' mouth or make up events. It must be remembered that the Gospels are not modern biographies, but evangelistic tracts targeted at select readers. The Gospels are not chronological, nor do they record the very words of Jesus (rather summaries). This does not imply that they are inaccurate. Eastern literature was based on different cultural expectations than western literature. See Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, How To Read the Bible For All Its Worth, pp. 127-148.

B. The cleansing of the Temple fits into John's overall theological purpose of Jesus' dealing with the Jewish nation first. This can be seen in his discussion with Nicodemus in chapter 3 (orthodox Judaism). However, in chapter 4 Jesus begins to deal with a wider group (even a heretical group of sectarian Judaism), starting with a Samaritan woman.

Verses 13-22

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: John 2:13-22 13The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; 16and to those who were selling the doves He said, "Take these things away; stop making My Father's house a place of business." 17His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for Your house will consume me." 18The Jews then said to Him, "What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?" 19Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." 20The Jews then said, "It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?" 21But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.

John 2:13 "The Passover" This annual feast is described in Exodus 12:0 and Deuteronomy 16:1-6. This feast is the only means we have of dating Jesus' ministry. The Synoptic Gospels imply that Jesus ministered for only one year (i.e., one Passover mentioned). But John mentions three Passovers: (1) John 2:13, John 2:23; (2) John 6:4 and (3) John 11:55; John 12:1; John 13:1; John 18:28, John 18:39; John 19:14. There is also a possibility of a fourth in John 5:1. We do not know how long Jesus' active public ministry lasted, but John's Gospel suggests that it was at least three years and possibly four or even five.

John structured his Gospel around the Jewish feasts (Passover, Tabernacles, and Hanukkah, see Richard N. Longenecker, Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period, 2nd ed., pp. 135-139).


"and Jesus went up to Jerusalem" The Jews always spoke of Jerusalem in this theological sense more than in a geographical or topographical sense.

John 2:14 "in the temple" Herod the Great's (an Idumean who ruled Palestine from 37-4 B.C.) temple was divided into seven different courts. The outer court was the Court of the Gentiles, where the merchants had set up their shops in order to accommodate those who wanted to offer sacrifices and bring special offerings.

"oxen and sheep and doves" People traveling from a long distance needed to purchase sacrificially acceptable animals. However, the family of the high priest controlled these shops and charged exorbitant prices for the animals. We also know that if people brought their own animals the priests would say they were disqualified because of some physical defect. Therefore, they had to purchase their animals from these dealers.

"the money changers" There are two explanations of the need for these persons: (1) the only coin the temple would accept was a shekel. Since the Jewish shekel had long ceased to be coined, the temple accepted only the shekel from Tyre in Jesus' day or (2) no coin bearing the image of a Roman Emperor was allowed. There was, of course, a fee!

John 2:15 "He made a scourge out of cords, and drove them all out of the temple" This whip is only mentioned here. Jesus' anger can be clearly seen in this account. The place where YHWH could be known was no longer a place of worship and revelation! Anger in itself is not a sin! Paul's statement in Ephesians 4:26 is possibly related to this act. There are some things that should anger us.

John 2:16 "Take these things away" This is an emphatic aorist active imperative, "get these things out of here!"

"'stop making My Father's house a place of business'" This is a present imperative with a negative particle which usually meant to stop an act already in process. The other Gospels (i.e., Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46) quote Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11 at this point, however, in John these OT prophecies are not mentioned. This may be a possible allusion to the Messianic prophecy of Zechariah 14:21.

John 2:17 "His disciples remembered" This statement implies that even in the light of Jesus' ministry and the help of the Spirit, these men saw the spiritual truth of Jesus actions only later (cf. John 2:22; John 12:16; John 14:26).

"that it was written" This is a perfect passive periphrastic which is literally "it stands written." It was a characteristic way to affirm the inspiration of the OT (cf. John 6:31, John 6:45; John 10:34; John 12:14; John 20:30). This is a quote from Psalms 69:9 in the LXX. This Psalm, like Psalms 22:0, fits Jesus' crucifixion. Jesus' zeal for God and His true worship will lead to His death, which was the will of God (cf. Isaiah 53:4, Isaiah 53:10; Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23; Acts 3:18; Acts 4:28).

John 2:18

NASB"What sign can You show us as your authority for doing these things" NKJV"What sign do You show to us, since You do these things" NRSV"What sign can you show us for doing this" TEV"What miracle can you perform to show us that you have the right to do this" NJB"What sign can you show us that you should act like this"

This was the central question the Jews had concerning Jesus. The Pharisees claimed His power came from the devil (cf. John 8:48-49, John 8:52; John 10:20). They were expecting the Messiah to do certain things in certain ways (i.e. like Moses). When He did not perform these specific acts, they began to wonder about Him (cf. Mark 11:28; Luke 20:2), as did even John the Baptist.

John 2:19 "'Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up'" The Greek word for Temple (hieron) in John 2:14 and 15 refers to the Temple area, while the term (naos) in John 2:19, John 2:20, and 21 refers to the inner sanctuary itself. There has been much discussion about this statement. Obviously in Matthew 26:60ff; Mark 14:57-59; Acts 6:14 this is a reference to Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. However, in this context, it must also relate somehow to the temple itself being destroyed in A.D. 70 by Titus (cf. Matthew 24:1-2). These two statements are related to the truth that Jesus was setting up a new spiritual worship focused on Himself and not ancient Judaism (cf. John 4:21-24). Again, John uses a word in two senses!

John 2:20 "It took forty-six years to build this temple" Herod the Great expanded and remodeled the second temple (from Zerubbabal's days, cf. Haggai) to attempt to placate the Jews for his being an Idumaean. Josephus tells us that it was started in 20 or 19 B.C. If this is correct, it means that this particular incident occurred in the year 27-28 A.D. We also know that the work continued on the temple until 64 A.D. This temple had become the great Jewish hope (cf. Jeremiah 7:0). It will be replaced by Jesus Himself, the new Temple. In John 1:14, He is depicted as the tabernacle and now the temple! What shocking metaphors for a carpenter from Nazareth! God and mankind now meet and fellowship in Jesus!

John 2:21 "But He was speaking of the temple of His body" At the time Jesus spoke these words the disciples did not realize this (cf. John 2:17). Remember John is writing decades later.

Jesus knew why He came. There seem to be at least three purposes.

1. to reveal God

2. to model true humanity

3. to give His life a ransom for many

It is this last purpose that this verse addresses (cf. Mark 10:45; John 12:23, John 12:27; John 13:1-3; John 17:1).

John 2:22 "His disciples remembered that He said this" Often Jesus' words and acts were for the benefit of the disciples more than for the ones He was addressing. They did not always understand at the time.

"they believed the Scripture" Although the text itself does not state which Scripture, possibly Psalms 16:10 is the resurrection text that Jesus is alluding to (cf. Acts 2:25-32; Acts 13:33-35). This same text (or theological concept-resurrection) is mentioned in John 20:9.

Verses 23-25

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: John 2:23-25 23Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. 24But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, 25and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.

John 2:23 "many believed in His name" The term "believed" is from the Greek term (pisteô) that can also be translated "believe," "faith," or "trust." The noun does not occur in the Gospel of John, but the verb is used often. In this context there is uncertainty as to the genuineness of the crowd's commitment to Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah. Other examples of this superficial use of the term "believe" are in John 8:31-59 and Acts 8:13, Acts 8:18-24. True biblical faith is more than an initial response. It must be followed by a process of discipleship (cf. Matthew 13:20-22, Matthew 13:31-32).

Apparently these superficial believers were drawn to Jesus by His miracles (cf. John 2:11; John 7:31). Their purpose was to affirm Jesus' person and work. However, it must be noted that faith in the mighty works of Jesus was never adequate, persevering belief (cf. John 4:38; John 20:29). The object of faith must be Jesus, Himself. Miracles are not automatically a sign of God (cf. Matthew 24:24; Revelation 13:13; Revelation 16:14; Revelation 19:20). Jesus' works were meant to lead people to faith in Him (cf. John 2:23; John 6:14; John 7:31; John 10:42); often people saw the sign but refused to believe (cf. John 6:27; John 11:47; John 12:37).


John 2:24-25 This is one sentence in Greek. The significant term "entrust" (lit. imperfect active indicative of "believe" negated) is used in this context to describe Jesus' actions and attitudes. It means much more than initial assent or emotional response. The sentence also asserts Jesus' knowledge of the fickleness and evil of the human heart (reflects God's knowledge, cf. Genesis 6:11-12, Genesis 6:13; Psalms 14:1-3). The paragraph is illustrated by Nicodemus in chapter 3. Even "Mr. Religious" was unable by his own effort, knowledge, standing, or lineage to be accepted by God. Righteousness comes only through belief/faith/trust in Jesus (cf. Romans 1:16-17; Romans 4:0).

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on John 2". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/john-2.html. 2021.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile