John 2 Part 1

From the House of The Nazarene. This will be a very in-depth deep dive study of the Book of John.

Let’s begin with a prayer. Lord, we thank You for this opportunity to gather together and for us to study Your word together. We pray that You would give us discernment and clarity and give us ears to hear, eyes to see and a heart willing to obey and respond so that we are not merely hearers but doers of Your word. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
We are looking at John chapter 2 and if you recall, there are no chapter and verse distinctions in the originals. You always want to remember that. It’s very important for you to see the smoothness of this because it then goes on to say in chapter 2 verse 1, on the third day. The question some scholars have is you identify earlier days, for example, John 1:35, again the next day and so forth. Some scholars identify four previous days and then three more days after those days and that is to say, His journey up to Galilee would perhaps be for a total of seven days. The sixth day would have been passed over in silence according to this view and in that setting, you’d have the idea of seven days of witness and of revelation in the knowledge of Christ.
Book Of Signs
Now I like a particular application or a particular way of seeing that I found in a book by Gary Burge in the NIV application commentary that says that in John you actually have two books. The book of signs is chapters 1-12 and the reason why it’s called the book of signs is that you have this first main part, which looks at semeion rather than dunamis. Dunamis is the word used in the synoptic gospels of Jesus’ works of power and it means miracles. Signs, semeion, points beyond the miracles to the spiritual revelatory power and meaning of the miracles. So that it’s one thing to believe in Him because you see miracles but it’s another thing to see that the miracles actually point beyond themselves as signs for us to recognize who He is. See the concept there. There’s the idea that John uses this phrase in contradistinction from the synoptic gospels or the distinction made by contrasting the different qualities of the synoptic gospels. As the book of signs, he’s developing a case very generally with a sign followed by discourse (written or spoken communication or debate) and then another sign and a discourse. Although in chapter two we do not have a discourse until after Nicodemus in chapter 3. Then speaking of the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist in the 2nd half of chapter3, there is another discourse. You have this kind of back and forth movement but the signs are designed to teach us something about who He is. We’re also invited to see that there is a response. There are some people who accept and some who do not embrace Him. There’s movement between the forces of light and the forces of darkness.
Book Of Glory
There’s also the book of glory, which are chapters 13-21. The reason why it’s called the book of glory is that Jesus interprets the hour of glorification, namely His departure to the cross. This is the time where God Himself honors and exalts Himself through His Son so that the cross, rather than something being ultimately dishonorable turns out to be a sign of great victory, power, and authority where He is in fact lifted up before all men.
Replacement And Fulfillment
Within the book of signs though, I want you to notice especially as John 2 opens up to us that we see John concentrating on both the festivals of Judaism and the institutions of Judaism. The reason why he’s doing this is he’s contrasting what Jesus is offering in the new covenant with what was found in the old covenant under Judaism both in terms of its institutions and its festivals. If we were to consider, for example, the institutions in John we would look particularly at chapters 2-4. There we would discover a wedding in Cana (2:1-12), the temple in Jerusalem (2:13-25), a Rabbi in Jerusalem (3:1-24) and a well in Samaria (4:1-42). You have various powerful symbolic institutions that are repeated over and over again in the Old Testament. In the Hebrew Bible, you have a contrast between what Christ has been providing and you have these institutions there, the wedding was a major feast, the temple, the Rabbi and the well. Then there are the festivals. They’re particularly found in chapters 5-10. The festivals would be the Sabbath in chapter 5, Passover in chapter 6, then Tabernacles in chapter 7, and Hanukah, the festival of lights in chapter 10. We have a symbolic portrait of how Jesus consistently does something here. There’s a theme of replacement and fulfillment in each of these cases. He’s going to be replacing the temple, a whole new way of teaching, a whole new approach to the Sabbath, the Passover and the festivals. All these things now are being replaced in one way and being fulfilled in another. He’s actually going to fill them with the wine of His own life and revelation. We have a radical transformation that’s taking place.
Typically here is what we see throughout the action. You usually see a four-fold pattern:
First, Jesus would appear at an important event in Judaism- that’s the first thing. So whatever the important event is, He shows up, whether it’s a marriage, at the temple, one of the members of the Sanhedrin approaches Him or a well which symbolized a very big theme in the old covenant. Jesus exploits symbols that are associated with those very events to make His own identity clear. Each of these things exposes something about His actual identity. There’s a progressive exposure of His very identity. John is a book of increased exposure and increased revelation just as the whole bible is a progressive revelation as you go. God Himself in His very nature and character is being exposed in a revelatory manner. We increase in our grasp of the light and He builds to a crescendo so that we have a fairly clear grasp of who He is and what He claims to be by the end of the gospel. We, the readers, are given the opportunity to decide whether we embrace Him as being the Christ, the Son of the living God, and by embracing Him we receive life in His name. There’s a wonderful literary structure using subtle sub-themes and layers like this.
Secondly, He exploits the symbols that are associated with the event to reveal something about Himself.
Thirdly, He shows or provides something in abundance that the event actually promises. At the wedding, He provides an abundance of wine. The temple had been dead but now He clears it of the old and cleanses it so He can replace it with Himself- with a temple that is His actual body.
The fourth characteristic is He’s misunderstood along the way. Typically what we’re going to see is that whatever He does seems to also be misunderstood often by the religious leaders. There is this motif that John exploits as he develops his material in this gospel.
I still see it today with those that don’t read that only look at and comment on the cute kitty pictures, and troll to only say something when they disagree with something.
Okay back to the Sermon!~
The Wedding In Cana Explained
Let’s take a look then first of all at the wedding in Cana of Galilee and we’ll see this pattern here. Mary, His mother, is there. She’ll be showing up again at the cross in John 19. John 2:1-5, “On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there: and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” Some people regard that as being a little harsh. I’ll explain what’s really going on there in a bit. John 2:5-11, “His mother said to the servants, ‘Whatever He says to you, do it.’ Now there were six stone water pots set there for the Jewish custom of purification containing twenty or thirty gallons each. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the waterpots with water.’ So they filled them to the brim. And He said to them, ‘Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.’ So they took it to him. When 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, and 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.’ This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee and manifested His glory and His disciples believed in Him.”
The first thing we want to look at is the importance, the symbolic meaning of the wedding and the importance of this context here. Some critics believe this is a luxury miracle that wasn’t necessary. I want to argue that this is not at all purposeless. It really reveals some important principles of supernatural power and also it is a miracle of deep significance. Again we have in verse 11 this semeion, the miracles of Jesus, signs displaying the glory of Jesus and the wonder of His redeeming love. We have here the seventh day of the new creation week, which manifests His glory if we take that approach to it although it can’t be demonstrated. Scholars disagree over the structure of the days but unlike the other signs in this gospel, this one is not followed by a discourse explaining a spiritual truth. I think it does, however, show how Jesus is exposing the inadequacies of Judaism as a religion of salvation and initiating his own disciples into the necessity for His own redeeming death. You have these stone water pots that are going to be for purification and Jesus is going to take them and use them in an entirely different way. The water for ceremonial purification is now going to be transformed into wine and that wine gives life. As it says in Psalm 104:15, it makes man’s heart glad. This is a fitting symbol of the new spiritual power that’s made available for humanity by the shedding of the blood of Jesus. We have a picture as well of a great abundance and great quality. I believe in one way it’s the miracle of the kingdom. It’s a miracle of what Jesus is going to inaugurate. There’s an eschatological dimension to it or the ultimate destiny. You have to understand this- weddings in those days really were the chief celebrations of the year. They were a big thing- even bigger than in our culture. They often lasted for a week of celebration. It would be very easy for the wine to run out especially if you had more guests than you expected. Jesus says His mother, Himself and the disciples were invited there because Cana really wasn’t very far as a village, maybe four miles from Nazareth. Folks in that environment would’ve been invited and very likely they ended up with more than they expected and more people hung around as well. This was a huge embarrassment as you can well imagine and so this is a cause of concern.
Why did Jesus’ mother feel the need to take upon herself the burden of that? It’s not explicitly answered but there is indeed a concern or compassion for the painful situation that actually implies. It’s as though they are insulting the guests by not providing for them. This is no minor thing. I want to suggest that this whole image here of weddings in the Jewish mindset was their best way to typify the glories of heaven, the glories of the kingdom. The idea of table fellowship is a big thing in the scripture as you can imagine. Table fellowship is the idea of people enjoying food and drink together in the context of communion and community and doing it in the context of worship. So the Eucharistic meal or the Lord’s Supper became the ultimate portrait of the heavenly banquet. The idea here is that we have something that seems to point beyond itself and Jesus now is actually filling it with something far, far greater.
The key verse for interpreting this is verse three where we see His mother saying, “They have no wine.” She didn’t say do something about it. She just makes this observation. They are out of wine. Of course, Jesus knows very well that she is pointing this out to Him. She doesn’t know what He’s going to do. This is the beginning of the signs. I don’t believe she expected Him to actually do a miracle here. What did she expect Him to do? I’m not quite sure but the point here is He did more than she expected.
But then He makes a statement here so different really that His concern is really different from Mary’s. That’s why He says and this is literal, “Woman, what to me and to you.” – Greek literally translates- what to me and to you. Now the woman in modern English conveys the erroneous impression that Jesus is reproving His mother. That’s not the case. Actually, He used that word in other contexts as well with others, for example, the woman of Samaria, Mary Magdalene at the tomb and so forth. It’s not unusual to use that term but the context tells us that they don’t have the same concerns. What He’s really saying is this- what do you and I have in common in this issue. You’re being concerned about the human and I’m concerned about My Father’s will. If what you’re asking me to do does not really move in the direction of what My Father’s called me to be then it’s a different concern. We see that the word hour is used in a very special way as it consistently refers to the hour of the Passion and it hasn’t come yet. The certainty of that hour would condition everything Jesus would say and do. That hour is a critical theme. We see it again and again in this gospel. It’s an important motif because it’s God’s timetable in the life of our Lord. I want to say that in verse 5 Jesus’ greater concern didn’t prevent Him from acting according to His mother’s unspoken question.
Here’s what happened. Instead of saying anything back to Jesus at that point, she turns to the servants and says, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” She has no idea what He is going to tell them to do. But she does know that He’s there for a reason. She was sure He was going to take some action and this is the point I want to stress- He will act in His own way. He will not come to our beck and call in the way we might expect. He will act for His own reasons. He will act in His own time. May I tell you that that is a portrait of prayer. We often want God to act in our way for our reasons. I want you to see that He has sovereign authority. I also want you to see that His actions would not only satisfy the physical need there but also point beyond that to a greater abundance and provision of spiritual needs.
The physical in John is always ultimately pointing beyond itself to the spiritual, which would be won by His coming sacrifice. We see in verse 6 as we go beyond this- 6 stone water pots for the purification. Clay water pots would not do. They could become contaminated. They’d need to be broken. A stone water pot according to the Mishna which was the Jewish oral tradition that was later written down was still available in the oral tradition at that time. Later, around 200 A.D. the Mishna would be written out and actually become part of the Talmud with the Gemara, the commentary. You also had the Babylonian Talmud and the Palestinian Talmud. You had theses Talmudic commentaries, which were being memorized from Rabbi to Rabbi and part of the oral tradition was that you needed to have stone water pots for it to be adequate for purification. Note too that the temple was made of stone and there’s a connection between this miracle and the cleansing of the temple and the fact that the temple was empty or had something wrong in it that needed to be cleansed before that which is of the Spirit can enter. (Mentioning this there was a particular conversation that a good friend and I were having though words are hugely inadequate there was a point that I failed to mention to him which was that we can do nothing to cleanse ourselves it is the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit to cleanse us of all unrightiousness!)

 

John 2 Part 1

 

 

 

 

 

2 Replies to “John 2 Part 1”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s