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Bible Commentaries
John 2

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

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Verses 1-12


1. The third day The third day from the last day mentioned, to wit in John 1:43. For this is the mode of John’s reckoning, John 1:29; John 1:35; John 1:43. But in all those cases he specifies the morrow; whereas he specifies here the next day after the morrow. That is, there was one day intervening, in which he was on his way from the Jordan to Galilee. Jesus, on his arrival at Nazareth with his five disciples, (John 1:40-51,) probably finds his mother to be absent at a wedding in Cana, and soon after receives for himself and his disciples an invitation to attend. There were two Canas in Galilee, not far distant from each other. The one, called at the present day Kefr Kenna, is about four miles northeast of Nazareth, on the road to Tiberias. It is a neat village, pleasantly situated on the descent of a hill, and surrounded with a plenty of olive, pomegranate, and fig trees. There is a large spring in the neighbourhood, whose waters are brought to the village through a subterranean passage, and which, if this be the Cana here mentioned by John, is doubtless that from which the water of this miracle was drawn. Waterpots of compact limestone are still used; and some old ones are exhibited by the lying monks as the waterpots of this miracle. Some biblical geographers of the present day incline to the belief, that the village lying farther to the north of Nazareth, about four hours’ ride, called Cana el Jelil, (which is the Arabic for Cana of Galilee,) is the scene of the present miracle. This spot is now described as completely depopulated.

Mother of Jesus was there She appears from John 2:5 to have had some charge over matters at the wedding. Some say that it was the wedding of John himself; but John was one of the disciples invited as guests. Conjectures on this point are useless.

Verse 3

3. When… wine There are two sorts, or rather states, of wine; the one, the unfermented grape juice, which is simply exhilarating; the other, the fermented, which is intoxicating. Fermentation is a phenomenon of decomposition, analagous to putrefaction in a dead animal. The grape juice is alive in the grape; consisting of sugar and albumen, held into juice form by the life power. When pressed out of the grape, the dying juice decomposes; the albumen uniting with the oxygen of the air becomes yeast, and the sugar becomes alcohol, which is the intoxicating substance. The grape juice, must, or new wine, in its live, natural, undecomposed state, is a cheering and nutricious food. By boiling it is cooked, and so protected from decomposition, and retained in its condition as a food.

The Revelation Dr. Duff, the celebrated Scotch missionary, speaking of the vine regions of Southern France, says: “Look at the peasant at his meals in vine-bearing districts! Instead of milk he has a basin of pure unadulterated ‘blood of the grape.’ In this its native original state it is a plain, simple, and wholesome liquid; which, at every repast, becomes to the husbandman what milk is to the shepherd, not a luxury, but a necessary; not an intoxicating, but a nutritive beverage. Hence to the vine-dressing peasant of Auxerre, for example, an abundant vintage, as connected with his own sustenance, is as important as an overflowing dairy to the pastoral peasant of Ayrshire, and hence, by such a view of the subject, are the language and sense of Scripture vindicated.”

Captain Treatt, as quoted by Dr. Lees, says:

“When on the south coast of Italy, last Christmas, (1845,) I inquired particularly about the wines in common use, and found that those esteemed the best were sweet and unintoxicating. The boiled juice of the grape is in common use in Sicily. About three gallons of the juice is boiled until reduced to two it is then poured into plates to cool. The poor people mix flour into theirs while boiling, to make it go further. It is eaten at their meals with bread, and very nice it is. The Calabrians keep their intoxicating and unintoxicating wines in separate apartments. The bottles were generally marked. From inquiries, I found that the unfermented wine was esteemed the most. It was drunk mixed with water. Great pains were taken in the vintage season to have a good stock of it laid by.”

We see no reason for supposing that the wine of the present occasion was of that kind upon which Scripture places its strongest interdict, (Proverbs 20:1; Proverbs 23:31; Isaiah 22:13,) rather than of that which is eulogized as a blessing. (Psalms 104:15; Isaiah 55:1.)

The priests were interdicted the use of wine during the period of their ministration in the Holy Place. (Leviticus 10:9; Ezekiel 44:21.) And as leaven is, like wine fermentation, a corruption, death, or decomposition, so it was prohibited at the Passover. It were absurd then to suppose that Jesus administered fermented wine at the Supper, which is his substitute for the Passover; or that he ever used it at all.

When they wanted wine Rather, when their wine had failed. It is very probable that upon the unexpected arrival of our Lord and his five disciples there was (as Bishop Hall expresses it) “more company than wine.” As marriage feasts sometimes lasted seven days, (Judges 12:15; Tob 11:19 ,) the stock of a family might very easily be exhausted.

Mother… saith… no wine It seems that it was not unusual for the guests to supply a part of the entertainment. And as our Lord appears to have brought the surplus of company, his mother may have thought that he should supply the deficit of wine.

But it is plain that she expected from him an exhibition of miraculous power. Whoever doubted about the miraculous birth of Jesus, his mother certainly could not. No eye like hers would, in his growth, have understood his miraculous development. Nor is it natural to suppose, that at this moment she did not understand that he had left home to pass through the preparation for his full Messianic office. She must therefore have known that the time for his divine manifestation had arrived. In the perplexity of the present moment she turns to him, as to a divine aid, hopeful that he could afford relief, even if it required a supernatural power.

Verse 4

4. Woman The fact that our Lord on the cross (John 19:26) addressed his mother by the same term woman, at the most tender moment of his earthly life, shows that the word is as respectful as the term lady, and scarcely less affectionate than the term mother. See Matthew 15:28; Luke 13:12; John 4:21; John 20:13. The question, What have I to do with thee? reads literally, What to me and to thee? The phrase occurs repeatedly in Scripture. Joshua 22:24; Judges 11:12; Mark 1:24. It clearly intimates that a matter is started upon which there could be no argument or discussion. The Protestant Church rightly interprets the language as informing the mother, that over the exercise of his official functions neither the authority of his human parent, nor the influence of his blood relations or private friends, have any right of control or interference. As in the temptation Jesus had established the principle that miracles must not be performed (for his own low self-interest, so, now, he declares that no fleshly relationship must expect to derive profit of a worldly nature from its connection with him.

Mine hour is not yet come By his hour or time, we understand some divinely-appointed crisis, or some transition-point in his history, opening some new stage, or initiating some new event. He did not go to be baptized by John until his hour arrived. He was led of the Spirit, (Matthew 4:1,) at the proper point or hour, to his temptation. He uttered no self-testimony until the Baptist had attested him. Thus his every instant was obediently regulated by the Divine order. His every movement, being connected with the clock-work of God’s oversight, was timed by the pointing of the minute or second hand to its dot. The witness of the Father’s spirit with his own spirit announces to him the instant when his hour is come. In the present case his hour is the point of time when his era of miracles should commence. Jesus had now a request for miracle from his human mother; but no signal from his divine Father. So (John 7:30) his hour was not yet come to surrender to his murderers; until (John 17:1) he ejaculates, Father, the hour IS come! namely, of his glorification through death. Also (John 7:8) my time is not yet fully come; namely, of going up to the Feast of Tabernacles. Compare John 7:30; John 8:30; John 12:23; John 12:27; John 13:1; John 16:21.

But how happens it that his hour did come so soon? For, probably, upon the same day it was that the miracle was performed. We reply that his hour probably came immediately upon uttering this last sentence. As soon as all fleshly claim to hold control over, or gain emolument by, his Messianic power was rejected as soon as his mother retired to her proper position then was the last obstacle removed; his area of action immediately opened, and the hour to manifest forth by miracle his glory had arrived.

Verse 5

5. Mother saith unto the servants However obscure to commentators, the words of Jesus were clear to Mary. She understands, first, that she is properly excluded from all control over her son’s miraculous functions; second, that it is by miracle that he assumes that he is requested by her to supply the deficit of wine; and, third, (probably from his significant word yet,) that the miracle may still be performed. That rests supremely with her son and Lord.

Whatsoever he saith These words perfectly surrender the matter to him, with blended submission and faith; which probably hastened the arrival, or at least fulness of the HOUR, and completed the possibility of the miracle.

Do it She speaks as having authority here; and she speaks to subordinate that authority to him.

Verse 6

6. Six waterpots of stone Used for the washings and purifications described in Mark 7:3, etc. The firkin is equal probably to the Jewish bath, which contained 8 gallons, 7.4 pints. According to this, the quantity of wine thus created would be two or three times 8 gallons 7.4 pints, multiplied by 6. This would be between 17 and 25 gallons, multiplied by 6. Taking the medium between 17 and 25, say 21 gallons, multiply by 6, and we have 126 gallons. So great, similarly, was the miraculous draught of fishes as almost to submerge two fishermen’s boats. Twelve baskets full remain at the end of the meal, where there were but seven loaves at the beginning. The wine, the very fresh blood, shed through the vine, from the rich heart of nature the ruddy image of the saving blood of nature’s Lord is here poured forth with a profusion that richly symbolizes the freeness and intrinsic boundlessness of his salvation. And no doubt Jesus, like the God of nature, created not the alcohol, which is the poison produced by the putrefying corpse of the dead grape, but the fresh, living, innocent fluid. The fact of their being waterpots was proof against any charge of fraud.

Verse 7

7. Up to the brim That the surface of the liquid might be seen to be water.

Verse 8

8. Governor of the feast This was either one of the guests elected to the office of presiding over the occasion, or it was a professional functionary skilled in the business. He presided both over the sacred ceremonies of pronouncing the blessings, and the progress of the festivities.

Verse 10

10. Men have well drunk After their tastes have become somewhat obtuse; but perhaps in order that the appetite may not be further tempted. There are two methods of exculpating the present company from all imputation of intemperance derived from the ruler’s words. One is to show that the Greek word μεθυσκω , rendered “well drunk,” does not imply drunkenness; the other is to say that the ruler describes the customs of others, not the conduct of the present assembly. Professor Stuart, adopting the former method, argues that the word is derived from μεθυ , methu, sweet wine, or must, and hence signifies satiation and not intoxication. Kuinoel, adopting the same method, quotes the use of the word in the Greek Septuagint in Psalms 33:5; Psalms 65:11. He quotes two passages from the Greek of Philo the Jew, as follows: “It is a noble thing to take care of our fences, collect our revenues, be hospitable, and μεθυειν to drink to satiety.” But a very fitting passage is the next: “There is a twofold μεθυειν ; one is to use wine, and the other is to be a fool with wine.” It must be admitted, however, that all its uses in the New Testament, besides the present, imply drunkenness. Matthew 24:49; Act 2:15 ; 1 Corinthians 11:21; 1 Thessalonians 5:7; Revelation 17:2; Revelation 17:6. Bengel takes the word in the severer sense, but, adopting the second method, argues that nothing is said about the present company, but only about the general custom. Kuinoel, however, replies that his following words, thou hast kept the good wine until now, implies that the present company was following the usual fashion. Yet, we reply, the custom might be the same whichever wine was used. People using fermented wines might use the best first to inebriation; people using the must might drink the best first to satiety; both for the same reason.

The good wine A full testimony that the miracle was not spurious.

Verse 11

11. Beginning of miracles The Infancy of Jesus,” a book so called, written very anciently, but later than the Apostolic age, relates previous actions or miracles said to have been performed by Jesus in his childhood. They are of the most fantastic character. These compositions show, by their very nature, their vast inferiority, and the true divinity of the Gospels.

Manifested forth his glory Glory is God’s own attribute; and Jesus, in putting forth the divine power resident in him, manifested forth his true, indwelling, divine glory.

His disciples believed on him Believed on him, as he now manifested himself, as possessed of creative power. See note on John 2:22.

On this miracle we may remark:

(1.) It confers a divine honour on the institution of marriage. Dr. Clarke says that “it was the first Christian marriage that ever took place; that Christ, his apostles, his mother, the purest of virgins and most holy of witnesses, were all present.” Every wedding should be such as such company might attend. Ministers should be careful that the wedding ceremony be not hastily or irreverently performed, but with a solemn impressiveness. Nor is any place so suitable for such a ceremony as the sanctuary of God.

(2.) Our Lord’s attendance and miracle at this wedding, with its festivity of wine, were public proof that he had not, as some sceptics have maintained, any origin from, or connection with, the sect of Essenes. See note on Matthew 3:7. Jesus was no model for anchorites, shakers, or dervizes, but a perfect example of serene, social, every-day piety.

(3.) As long ago as Augustine, it was said that Jesus in this miracle did rapidly what the God of nature does slowly every autumn. Christ only accelerated the process of nature in making water into wine. Olshausen adopts the idea; but Strauss replies that Jesus professedly did more than accelerate nature. He put to the water something besides the water. True. Still the vine does slowly what Jesus here does rapidly; namely, blends with the water those ingredients, collected from the surrounding elements, which constitute the wine. There is, therefore, evidently nothing impossible to divine power in selecting and putting together these elements, which amount to the desired vinous compound.

Verse 12

12. Down to Capernaum Down, because Cana was on the high table land and Capernaum on the low sea coast. For a full account of Capernaum see note on Matthew 4:13, and map.

Brethren See note on Matthew 13:55. It seems a truly family party; Jesus’s natural relatives and his spiritual. The natural family may have accompanied him to Capernaum with the desire to be with him until his departure to his public life at the approaching Passover. The Passover caravans passed through that then most populous maritime town.

There were three well known routes by which the caravans could go from Lake Gennesaret to Jerusalem. The FIRST was the great thoroughfare from Damascus to Egypt, which, passing near the lake, and leaving it two or three miles W.S.W. of Nain, proceeded south through Samaria by the Shechem valley. See note on John 4:2. The SECOND proceeded along the lake and the river Jordan, southwardly, to Scythopolis, or Beisan, and thence, by the ancient Egypt route, to Ginea; and so onward by the Jerusalem and Galilee road, through to Shechem. THIRD, the most usual route, though now but little explored, from the south end of the lake, on the east side of Jordan, to avoid Samaria, through Peraea, and across the Jordan at Bethabara, through Jericho to Jerusalem. Leaving his relatives, and taking his disciples, (see John 2:17,) we may suppose our Lord to have taken this last route.

Verse 13

13. Jews See note on John 1:19. It is universally agreed among evangelical commentators that there were two cleansings of the temple; one at the beginning, the other at the close of Christ’s ministry. In this first, given by John alone, (see note on Matthew 21:11-13,) Jesus uses language less severe than in the second, but performs the act with an evident exertion of supernatural power, by a positive and overruling miracle. The reasons for supposing two cleansings are: First, The propriety of both opening and closing his ministry by such a symbolic act. Second, The clearness with which the first is related by John and the second by Mark. Third, The distinct and rational connections which each has with its own immediate surrounding circumstances.

Went up Up to Jerusalem as down to Capernaum. (John 2:12.) The natural language of one familiar with the country. For the Passover see our notes on Matthew 26:2; Matthew 26:17-20.

Verses 13-25


By his baptism Jesus was externally inaugurated in his office; by his temptation he proved his internal fitness; by his miracle at Cana he showed forth his glory to his own circle of disciples; and now he proceeds to make his announcement to the nation at the FIRST PASSOVER of his ministry. His method is to claim a Lordship over the temple of God, sustained by miracles, reserving his profounder teachings for the earnest inquirer awakened by his miracles. John 2:13 to John 3:21.

Verse 14

14. Found in the temple Doubtless it was after the solemn performance of the Passover sacrifice (which was on the first day) that Jesus, as Lord of the temple, proceeded to this stern act. He enters the temple as a visitation of God. He finds abominations there which he must chastise with a terrible significance.

In the temple Not in the Holy Place, (see temple plan;) neither in the courts either of the priests, the Israelites, or the women. But in the court of the Gentiles, which was at most separated from the outer world by a single wall. This court was divided by lattice-work from the inner courts. Over the entrance through the lattice, which was reached by a flight of three or four steps, was the inscription, “Let no foreign-born enter.”

Verse 15

15. Scourge Not mentioned in the second cleansing.

Drove them Striking the cattle with the scourge; giving the doves to their owners; and terrifying and driving the men from the court; dealing with each class according to its nature. Meantime the rulers of the nation and the keepers of the temple, as if spell-bound and dumb-struck, retreat in confusion, or look on with a strange and tame submission.

Verse 16

16. My Father’s house As in his childhood, (see note on Luke 2:49,) so now, Jesus claims the temple as his Father’s; and as his own, therefore, by heirship. In the most natural and spontaneous manner, yet with a profound significance, he claims to be God’s son.

Verse 17

17. His disciples Only, as yet, the five from Bethsaida. See notes on John 2:2, and John 1:40-51. Among these was John himself, and therefore a witness of this cleansing.

Remembered As at John 2:22, afterward. But it called to mind the psalm at the time.

Written In Psalms 69:9. This Psalm, though written in the person of David, was applied even by the ancient Jews to the Messiah. Aben Ezra has on the last verse of that psalm this note: “The sense is, they and their children shall inherit, not in the days of David, but in the days of the Messiah.”

Zeal of thine house Rather, zeal for thy house.

Eaten me up A figure in all ages to express the consuming, emaciating effects of care and passion.

Verse 18

18. Answered the Jews Said in response to what he had done. For though he, an unarmed man, did all this, they did not, like the Nazarenes, rush upon him to cast him out; nor take up stones, as subsequently, to cast at him; nor send their officers to apprehend him, as at his last Passover They only came to ask for a sign (as Moses gave) attesting his authority to do these things. Plainly his display of might, and their paralysis, were of themselves a sign, had they not been too blind of heart to see it.

Verse 19

19. Destroy this temple Our Lord gives them a sign, and at the same time a test. They are welcome to try the experiment. It was a suitable sign too; for as his mastery over the temple was the very point in question, he tells them he can rebuild the temple in a much shorter time than they can destroy it. Herein he asserts, as the eternal Son of God, his absolute omnipotence. It is this they understand; and they are so deeply impressed with the utterance that it meets him afterwards as a charge, namely, at his trial before their tribunal! That this was a true but not the only meaning will soon appear.

Verse 20

20. Forty and six years The first temple was built by Solomon in seven years. The second temple was originally built by Zerubbabel; but when Herod assumed the government he proposed to build it anew. Such, however, was the jealousy of the Jews that Herod dare only repair and replace parts at a time, so that the rebuilding was a much longer work than the building, and Herod had a harder task than Solomon. Herod began his repairs about sixteen years before Christ; and as Jesus was now about thirty years of age, the reckoning seems to be exact. The work was not finished until the time of Nero. Nor was it, nevertheless, considered a third temple. Josephus, for instance, says the temple was destroyed twice; once by the Chaldeans, and once by Titus.

Wilt thou rear it up in three days? Accepting the outermost meaning of his words, (which was the true one for them,) the Jews rightly understood our Lord’s announcement. His I will proclaimed him infinitely higher than Herod, than Zerubbabel, than Solomon. For surely the power that could rebuild the temple in three days, could rebuild it in three seconds of time.

Verse 21

21. Temple of his body That the body is a building has been recognized by both the science and the literature of all the world. And religious thought specially recognizes that it should be a temple; the temple of the Holy Spirit. And Christ’s body was the temple; of which the Jewish material temple was the type. When, therefore, the disciples subsequently found that after three days of destruction Christ revived his bodily temple, a new inner meaning flashed upon their minds. The meaning now is, Destroy, ye Jews, this sacred frame, (as you surely will,) and in three days it shall by my divine power rise again. Before fulfilment it would indeed have taken a prophet to extract this inner meaning; yet, none the less we see, after the fulfilment, that none but a prophet could have uttered the prediction. And to us may they not bear a third still deeper meaning? Destroy this old dispensation of which this temple is the symbol, and my three days of death will build it anew. Abolish old Judaism, and in brief time I will rear young Christianity. So that there are in these words three strata of meaning: an outside, an inner, and an inmost sense; each true for its own class of searchers.

Verse 22

22. Said this unto them The them of this clause must refer to the Jews.

They believed the Scripture That is, they believed this new matter and meaning now first discovered as concealed in the Scriptures. See note on John 2:11.

The word which Jesus had said That word unfolded its new force and true divinity to their belief. And that new force gave a conclusive corroboration to the whole body of Messianic Scripture. They had in a true sense never before believed the Scripture; for they did not know herein what Scripture contained.

Verse 23

23. Many believed We have here the net result of our Saviour’s announcement at this first Passover. A party of external, historical believers arose; convinced of his miracles in the head, untouched by his gospel in the heart. They believed that he was a supernatural being, just as they believed that Tiberius was emperor; without any feelings of sin to be by him forgiven, or any love for his holy teaching or character.

Saw the miracles They recognized the majesty with which he awed his opponents when he cleansed the temple. What other miracles he performed is not said. Miracles are important as the bases of historical belief. At commencement they prove, and so produce a logical faith. So the reasoning of Nicodemus, who was clearly one of this many, “No man can do these things which thou doest, except God be with him,” was conclusive. But this logical faith alone does not regenerate or save the soul; and Jesus proceeded, therefore, to lead Nicodemus to deeper truths. The hearts of these many believed not on Jesus. They gave themselves not to him; he did not therefore trust himself to them as adherents.

Verse 25

25. Knew what was in man Some men are penetrating judges of human character. But this is not what John means of this the Word made flesh. In this chapter, indeed, we have repeated instances of John’s view, that the glory of the Divine nature was continually shedding its rays through the tenement of flesh. The first miracle (John 2:11) manifested forth his glory; he claims all power to rebuild the demolished temple; and now he is described as knowing the secrets of our nature.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on John 2". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/john-2.html. 1874-1909.
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