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Bible Commentaries

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann
John 2

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1-2

The Marriage at Cana.

The invitation:

v. 1. And the third day there was a marriage in Calla of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there;

v. 2. And both Jesus was called, and His disciples, to the marriage.

On the third day after the incidents which were narrated last; for so long it took for the journey from Judea, if this was made in a leisurely manner. There was a marriage with a wedding-feast, the only one of which the gospels tell us that Jesus attended. Marriage is a divine institution, and it is well-pleasing to the Lord; it is fully in agreement with His design and will that people enter into this holy estate in a proper way, and with a full understanding of its rights and privileges, as wells its duties. "Since, then, the estate of marriage has that basis and comfort, that it was instituted by God, and that God loves it and Christ Himself honors and consoles it, it should rightly be held dear and valued highly by everyone, and the heart should be of good cheer in the certainty of this estate which God cherishes, and gladly suffer all that is hard to bear therein, though it were ten times as hard to bear. For that is the reason for so much trouble and displeasure in the wedded state according to the outward man, since all that is God's Word and work must experience this, that it is sour, bitter, and difficult for the outward man, if it is to be blessed. Therefore it is also an estate which exercises faith in God and love toward our neighbor by manifold trouble and work, disinclination, cross, and various adversity, as must follow upon that which is God's Word and work. " This marriage was celebrated at Cana, a little town a few miles north or northeast of Nazareth, on the road to the Sea of Galilee. It is distinguished from another Cana, situated in Judea. Only the mother of Jesus is mentioned as having been there, Joseph having probably died meanwhile. For the sake of the mother, out of deference to her, both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the marriage. There were at least five men in the company of Jesus at this time, and there may have been more, Jesus had been in Judea for some time after leaving His home to be baptized of John, and the exact date of His return was not known. When He came, therefore, in the company of these other men, the number of guests was considerably increased. "The presence of Christ, with His mother and disciples, at a wedding-feast, and His performing His first miracle there, is a silent condemnation of monkish asceticism, and a recognition of the marriage relation as honorable and holy. Christianity is no flight from the world, no annihilation of the order of nature, but the sanctification of it; no moroseness of spirit, but joy and gladness."


Verses 3-5

The embarrassing situation:

v. 3. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto Him, They have no wine.

v. 4. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.

v. 5. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it.

The wedding-feast seems to have been planned and carried out on a large scale, and yet not all contingencies had been provided for. Since the increased number of guests required more wine than had been furnished, the supply was shortly exhausted. There was not a bit left to take care of the wants of the festival. In this emergency, Mary, who seems to have been a very close friend of the family, if not indeed a relative, took it upon herself to provide help. She had not forgotten the sayings and prophecies concerning her Son. She believed that He was able to help, and trusted that His willingness would not be wanting. She went over to Jesus and simply stated that one fact to Him: There is no wine. Her words implied that she was looking to Him for counsel and practical aid. Her statement is a model prayer. If we but tell our Lord what we lack and are in need of, we may fitly leave everything else to His gracious helpfulness. We should learn to trust in His mercy without the slightest doubt and hesitation, "The example of faith is very strange in this gospel. There He lets things come to the last emergency, that the want is felt by all those present and there is neither counsel nor help; wherewith He proves the manner of divine grace, that no one can become partaker of it that has sufficient and does not feel his need. For mercy does not feed those that are full and satisfied, but the hungry, as we have often said. He that is wise, strong, and pious, and finds something good in himself, and is not yet poor, miserable, sick, a sinner ant! a fool, he cannot come to Christ the Lord nor receive grace."

The answer of Jesus seems unduly harsh. His address is that of respect, for the word "woman" was used in addressing queens and persons of distinction. But His words are those of a rebuke in form. They are a common Hebrew expression, which occurs often in the Old Testament, as Jdg_11:12. The Lord means to say: What have we two in common in this matter? By what right do you assume that I must help? The performance of miracles was a matter of Christ's Messianic office; Mary's plea verged on the exceeding of parental authority, was tantamount, in fact, to an interference in the manner of Christ's work. "Although there is no greater authority and power on earth than that of father and mother, yet it is at an end when God's words and works begin. " (Luther.) The Lord's hour for bringing relief, for revealing His glory, had not yet come. The manifestation of His might was entirely in His own hands, no matter what form, manner, and time He would choose to help. The authority of parents extends over, and governs, only the matters of this earthly life. Where divine matters are concerned, their interference is wrong. They should bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and in no wise hinder them from serving God, from going to church, and placing themselves at the Lord's disposal. If parents transgress their authority in this respect, if they attempt to hinder their children in working for the Church, in following the call of the Lord for the performance of His work, it is quite right for children to resent the interference. The children, on their part, will be guided by love, and will not presume to create a want where none exists.

Mary understood her Son correctly; she found comfort in the word "not yet. " She did not resent the rebuke, but accepted it meekly. She was sure His reply was not all refusal. And therefore she went over to the servants near the entrance, who were now serving at the tables, and told them to do whatever the Lord chose to tell them,—they might otherwise not have obeyed an unimportant guest,—no matter what it may be that He says, no matter what form and manner He will choose to help. Mary trusted that He would help speedily, a trust even when it seemed that trust must be foolish; preparing for help when help seemed a vain expectation. "Here faith stands in the right battle; behold how His mother does here and teaches us. How harsh His words sound, how unpleasant His attitude is! Yet she does not interpret all that in her heart as a show of anger, against His goodness,... as those do that are without faith and fall back at the first rebuff,... but remains firm in her mind that He must be good. For if the mother had permitted herself to be frightened back by these bard words, she would have gone away quietly and full of discontent. But now that she commands the servants to do what He tells them, she proves that she has conquered the rebuff, and still expects nothing but pure goodness from Him."


Verses 6-11

The miracle and its effect:

v. 6. And there were set there six water-pots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.

v. 7. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the water-pots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.

v. 8. And He saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.

v. 9. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was, (but the servants which drew the water knew,) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,

v. 10. and saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine, and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse; but thou hast kept the good wine until now.

v. 11. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth His glory; and His disciples believed on Him.

The number of the water-pots would be immaterial but for the fact that the evangelist wants to bring out the greatness of the miracle and the largess of Christ in providing such a rich present for the bridal couple. The water-pots held two or three firkins apiece, for upon this occasion there was a great deal of water needed; each measure being equivalent to nine gallons, the combined capacity of the water-pots may well have been 120 gallons. The pots were standing there, they had their accustomed place near the door, after Oriental and Jewish custom, the guests either washing their feet themselves, or, if servants were present, having their feet washed upon entering, after their sandals were removed. Jesus now went over to the entrance-hall and told the servants to fill the pots with water. Either the water had all been used for the guests, or Jesus wanted clean, fresh water, the water being specified in view of what was to follow. Note: Jesus makes use of natural tools and vessels, does not command angels to bring wine from heaven. Christ wants to help and bless, but men should use the means which God has given them. The servants were careful to obey the order of Jesus literally. They filled the jars to the very brim; no room was left for adding anything to the water. Jesus then had the servants draw out some of the liquid contained in the jars, as a sample for the chief steward, caterer, or inn-keeper, the man that had charge of the physical needs of the guests in the line of eating and drinking. And here came the surprise. For when the chief steward tasted the wine in the vessel submitted for his approval, he supposed that the groom had sent him this sample of a fine wine which he had kept back as a surprise, for it was exceptionally good wine, Jer_2:21. Only the servants were in the secret, and they did not tell. So the ruler of the feast sent for the bridegroom to instruct that man as to custom and propriety. He informed the astonished groom that it was the invariable rule to serve the finer grades of wine first, and after their inebriating effects were becoming evident, when the guests were in a condition in which they were unfit to discriminate between good wine and bad, then he might bring forth the less good. As one commentator has it: "The ignorance of the ruler of the feast commends the fine quality of' the wine; the knowledge of the servants proves the truth of the miracle. " Note: The action of Jesus upon this occasion is absolutely at variance with the demands of a false temperance, The miracle of Jesus was evidence of His almighty power, but also incidentally of His love. It was not absolutely necessary for the guests to have wine, especially as some had been served. Nevertheless, it was a disagreeable situation, and Jesus was glad to help them out of the difficulty. That is His pleasure at all times, that not only the great and pressing needs of men engage His help, but also the small embarrassments of life. Our trust in His kindness and love should be unlimited. This beginning of miracles did Jesus; Jesus performed this as the first of His miracles, All those ascribed to Him in the apocryphal gospels, as having taken place in His childhood and youth, are mythical. His ministry had begun with His baptism, the revelation of His glory began at Cana, with this miracle. He revealed His glory, the glory peculiar to Him, Even as man, in the state of humiliation, He possessed the glory, the majesty which is God's, It was the work of the almighty Creator to change the creature according to His will. And His disciples believed on Him. They realized that this was a revelation of His glory. They had known Him as the Messiah and had put their trust in Him. But now their faith received a solid foundation, it was strengthened mightily. They were now absolutely certain that this was the promised Savior. Note: That is one of the purposes of the miracles, of the signs of the divine glory, to strengthen faith. We should believe the Word of the Lord and permit this faith to be strengthened also by the recital of the miracles of Christ. Knowing that Jesus did so many wonders in the days of His earthly sojourn, we are sure that He is able to perform also that miracle of bringing us to faith and keeping us in the faith to the end, as well as having all the powers of earth serve us, whether by the laws of nature or not.


Verse 12

The First Purging of the Temple and Its Results.

A brief stay at Capernaum:

v. 12. After this He went down to Capernaum, He, and His mother, and His brethren, and His disciples; and they continued there not many days.

John, in accordance with his purpose of supplementing the account of the first three gospels, has only brief references to the Galilean ministry of Jesus, narrating here only the important point that Jesus made Capernaum His second home. The location of this city on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, on the chief caravan road between Damascus and the Mediterranean Sea, made it a distributing center, a nucleus for all Galilee. The Apostle Paul followed Jesus in this, that he made the chief cities the centers of influence for his missionary work. Jesus was not alone on this trip. His mother Mary accompanied Him, as also the few disciples whom He had gained in Judea, who at this time, or shortly after, returned to their former occupation. His brothers are here mentioned with great definiteness. See Mat_12:46; Mat_1:25. "Here people are concerned how Christ the Lord could have had brothers, since He was the only son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary was not the mother of any more children. Therefore some say that Joseph, before he married Mary, had a wife, of whom he begot children, who were afterwards called brothers of Christ the Lord; or that Joseph had another wife in addition to Mary, which was permitted to the Jews that they had two wives at the same time... Since, then, these were begotten of Joseph and the other woman, they would be half-brothers of Jesus. This some have alleged; but I prefer to take the part of those that say that brothers here means cousins; for the Jews and the Scripture call cousins brothers. But let this be as it may be, not much depends upon it; it gives nothing to faith, nor does it take anything from faith, whether they were cousins or brothers, begotten of Joseph; they went down with Him to Capernaum."


Verses 13-17

The first purging of the Temple:

v. 13. And the Jews' Passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,

v. 14. and found in the Temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting;

v. 15. and when He had made a scourge of small cords, He drove them all out of the Temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables,

v. 16. and said unto them that sold doves, Take these thing hence: m' My Fathers' house an house of merchandise

v. 17. And His disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of Thine house hath eaten Me up.

Jesus was a circumcised member of the Jewish Church, and He was very strict in observing its rules and laws. Since the male members of the nation were required to be present three times a year in Jerusalem, at Passover, at Pentecost, and at the Feast of Tabernacles, He was probably present at each celebration. At the Passover festival the deliverance from the bondage of Egypt was commemorated. But when Jesus came to Jerusalem, He was deeply grieved by the evidences of contempt of all holy things which was paraded before the eyes of all visitors. Since it was impossible for many Jews to bring their sacrificial animals to Jerusalem from their distant homes, the practice had been sanctioned of permitting them to buy the sheep and Iambs and bullocks and doves at Jerusalem. It was a profitable business, and one which brought the leaders of the Jews, who controlled the concessions, many a welcome piece of money. Instead, however, of keeping the market in the lower part of the city, it had been brought up to the gates of the Temple, and finally into the very courts of the sanctuary. There were the stalls of the oxen and sheep, there were the coops of the doves, there were also the tables of the bankers, where they made change. So a regular market was conducted in the courts and halls of the Temple, with all the accompanying noise, haggling of the venders and buyers, lowing of the cattle, bleating of the sheep, clinking of the coins, and shouting of children. Jesus was not satisfied with a mere protest, which might have been received with jeering and insults. He quickly braided a scourge out of reeds or cords that could easily be procured in such a busy mart, not to employ it as a whip, but to swing it as a symbol of power and to drive out the animals with it. Incidentally, He turned over the tables of the bankers, of the money changers, causing the small change to roll in every direction. And to the sellers of doves, who were equally guilty with the rest, He gave the command to carry all the paraphernalia of their business away from there; for the house of His Father should not be made a market house, where marketing, buying and selling, trading and bartering, was carried on. It was an exhibition of zeal for pure and uncontaminated service of God. See Psa_69:9. Christ was consumed with His zeal for the honor of His Father. And no man dared to withstand Him. They all gave way and went out of the court with their property. Some of the Lord's divine glory and power must have been evident in His bearing, which caused them to shrink before the fire in His eye. Jesus wanted to show that He was the Messiah, the Lord, who must cleanse and purge His people of all abominations. And He showed also that such bartering and trading and marketing in the sanctuary is extremely distasteful to Him. In this He ought to be an example to all Christians, especially to pastors. "The more pious a pastor or preacher is, the more zealous he will be. " (Luther.) Every servant of Christ, every believer, should be zealous for the purity of the house of God, of the Christian congregation, in order that it may not be contaminated by great sins and offenses.

There are commentators who claim that John destroyed the chronology of the gospel-story altogether by inserting this story at this point, for they maintain that there was only one purging of the Temple. But the story of John follows chronological lines,. and there is no reason for not assuming two cleansings of the Temple. "But they are questions and remain questions which I do not want to solve; and nothing much depends upon it, only that there are many people that are so keen and sharp-witted and bring forth so many questions, desiring exact speech and answer upon them. But if we have the right understanding of Scriptures and the right articles of our faith, that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, suffered and died for us, then we do not miss much, even if we cannot answer every question that is otherwise asked. The evangelists do not observe the same order; what one has at the beginning, the other occasionally has at the end. It may very well be that the Lord did this more than once, and that John describes the first purging, Matthew the second. But be that as it may, whether it be first or last, whether it happened once or twice, it takes nothing away from our faith."


Verses 18-22

The challenge of the Jews:

v. 18. Then answered the Jews and said unto Him, What sign showest Thou unto us, seeing that Thou doest these things

v. 19. Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple; and in three days I will raise it up.

v. 20. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this Temple in building, and wilt Thou rear it up in three days?

v. 21. But He spake of the temple of His body.

v. 22. When therefore He was risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this unto them; and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.

The Jews resented the implication of authority; it meant that He claimed for Himself a supernatural origin or mission, either as a prophet or as still more. So they demanded some sign, some special manifestation, some extraordinary revelation, which would give evidence of His authority. "The blindness of the Jews is enough to put external evidence forever out of repute. They never will see the sign in the thing itself. The fact that Jesus by one blow accomplished a much-needed reform of an abuse over which devout men must often have sighed, and which perhaps ingenuous Levites had striven to keep within limits, fact that this unknown youth had done what none of the constituted authorities had been able to do, was surely itself the greatest sign. " Jesus therefore gave them an answer which fitted their foolish demand. His saying was meant to be puzzling. Jesus always spoke in parables when He wished to be understood by the spiritual and to baffle the hostile. "Those who cross-question Him and treat Him as a subject to be investigated find no satisfaction. " The sign which Jesus proposed to them was that they should destroy this temple, and in three days He would raise it up. See Joh_10:18. It was the Lord's first reference to His death and resurrection. The Jews in their blindness did not understand the statement in its true sense, but supposed that He was referring to their sanctuary, to the wonderful Heroin Temple. They point to the fact that this great structure, with all its buildings, approaches, porticoes, and chambers, had been in course of construction for a matter of forty-six years at that time. Herod began work on the Temple in the year 20-19 B. C. "The old Temple was taken down and the new one erected in the course of eighteen months. But much remained to be done, and the work dragged along until after Herod's death. It was finished only in 64 A. D. , six years before it was finally destroyed. " To tear down this building and erect it anew in the short space of three days was obviously beyond human conception. But Jesus had stated correctly the great sign of His authority, His death and resurrection for the atonement of the world's sin. Although Jesus, therefore, spoke of the temple of His body, which was in truth the temple of the living God for all times, though He Himself is the great sanctuary of mankind for all times and. His body comprises the mercy-seat and all the other sacrificial appointments of the true temple for the believers of all times, the Jews did not understand Him. They attempted to use this prophecy against Him two years later, upon the occasion of His trial before the high priests. Even the disciples did not understand the saying at that time; in a way they were just as ignorant as the Jews. But they remembered it after the Lord's resurrection, and lot that time drew their conclusions correctly. Then they understood and believed also the corresponding Scripture-passages of the Old Testament. Mark: A Christian must never grow weary in comparing type and antitype, prophecy and fulfillment; for only in that way will he gain the full and firm conviction that Jesus Christ is truly the Messiah of promise, the Savior of the world.


Verses 23-25

The result of Christ's manifestation in Jerusalem:

v. 23. Now, when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, in the feast-day, many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles which He did.

v. 24. But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all men,

v. 25. and needed not that any should testify of man; for He knew what was in man.

Since the Passover festival in the wider sense, including the days of Unleavened Bread, lasted for eight days, and since there were pilgrims in Jerusalem from all parts of the Jewish country at that time, Jesus had the best opportunity to reveal Himself by word and work. And the result was that many believed on His name. For the time being, at least, they had the firm conviction that He must be the promised Messiah. And they were strengthened in their conviction by the signs, by the miracles in and through which He revealed His glory. But faith resting on external, physical miracles alone has not the foundation it should have; it should have the basis of the Word alone. Therefore Jesus on His part did not commit Himself. He did not enter into such close relationship with these people but with His disciples, who were gained by His Word only. Christ will commit Himself to the man that commits himself unreservedly to Him. He put no faith and confidence in these people. He had a deeper knowledge of man. He knew that, for the most part, their faith was of a transitory character. There are always many such persons, in the very midst of the Church, as believe for a time only. Human beings cannot see into their hearts and foretell how long faith will last. But Christ knows. He had no need, it was not necessary, that anyone should testify with regard to man, humanity in general, for human nature with all its foibles and weaknesses was very well known to Him. He knew the motives, governing ideas, and ways of man. He was the omniscient God; He knew their inmost thoughts and desires, He also had a knowledge of what would happen later. Note: This proof of the divine omniscience is a warning to the people that make their Christianity a desultory, haphazard manifestation, with only occasional attendance at church and a corresponding use of the Sacrament. The Lord knows the heart. And this same quality is a source of comfort to all sincere Christians. He knows the weakness of the human heart, and will surely come to the aid of those that firmly trust in Him alone.

Summary.Jesus performs His first miracle at the marriage-feast of Cana, establishes His headquarters at Capernaum, goes to Jerusalem for the Passover, purges the Temple for the first time, and answers the challenge of the Jews.

 


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Bibliography Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on John 2:4". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kpc/john-2.html. 1921-23.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, September 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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