John 2 Study Notes
2:1-2 Third day is probably counted from Jesus’s encounter with Nathanael. Cana of Galilee was later the site of Jesus’s third sign (“the second sign” performed in Cana, 4:54). Jewish weddings were community events, a time of special focus not just on bride and groom but also on their extended families. Jesus’s mother may have been a friend of the family, helping behind the scenes. Jesus’s disciples probably included the five mentioned in 1:35-51.
2:3 The wedding party’s running out of wine ironically calls to mind the spiritual barrenness of first-century Judaism.
2:4 Jesus’s use of woman to address his mother established a polite but firm distance between them, as did his question: What does that have to do with you and me? On Jesus’s hour has not yet come, cp. 7:6,8,30; 8:20. Because of misconceptions about the coming Messiah, Jesus chose not to reveal himself openly to Israel (though he did perform numerous messianic “signs”; see note at 2:11). John portrays Jesus as the “elusive Christ” via Jesus’s pattern of occasional withdrawal (7:6-9; 10:40-41; 11:56-57), his realism about people’s true motives (2:23-25), and his ability to elude his opponents when charged with blasphemy (7:44; 8:59; 10:39). Jesus remained elusive until his time finally arrived (12:23,27; 13:1; 16:32; 17:1).
2:6 The number of jars (six) may indicate incompleteness since seven represented fullness. Since each contained twenty or thirty gallons, this added up to as much as one hundred eighty gallons. The Jewish purification ritual may have involved the washing of the guests’ hands and certain utensils used at the wedding.
2:8-9 The headwaiter was in charge of catering. He supervised the serving of food and drink, and employed several servants.
2:10 John shows Jesus not only miraculously making wine, but making high-quality wine.
2:11 The fact that Jesus’s turning of water into wine at the wedding is called the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, leads the reader to expect more signs to follow. The corresponding reference in 4:54 is to Jesus’s healing of the royal official’s son again while at Cana, “the second sign Jesus performed after he came from Judea to Galilee.” Beyond this, Jesus’s signs include the nonmiraculous but prophetic temple clearing (2:13-22, one of Jesus’s Judean signs; cp. v. 23; 3:2); his healing of a lame man (5:1-15); the feeding of the crowds (6:1-15); the healing of the man born blind (chap. 9); and the raising of Lazarus (chap. 11).
In each case, the emphasis is on the way the “sign” revealed Jesus’s messianic nature (12:37-40; 20:30-31) and on the striking nature of the feat. These signs pointed unmistakably to Jesus as Messiah—whether it be the large quantity and high quality of wine (2:6,10); the short span required by Jesus to “rebuild” the temple (vv. 19-20); the long-distance healing of the royal official’s son (4:47,49-50); the lame man’s thirty-eight years as an invalid (5:5); the abundance of food Jesus produced (6:13); the man’s congenital blindness (9:1-2); or Lazarus’s four days in the tomb (11:17,39). The phrases he revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him hark back to 1:14.
2:12 Jesus went down from Cana (in the hill country) to Capernaum (situated by the Sea of Galilee). Capernaum was about fifteen miles northeast of Cana and could be reached in a day’s journey. Capernaum served as Jesus’s headquarters after John the Baptist’s imprisonment (Mt 4:12-13; Lk 4:28-31; cp. Mt 9:1).
2:13-22 Jesus’s first major confrontation with Jewish leaders in John’s Gospel took place when he cleared the Jerusalem temple at Passover. The Synoptic Gospels record a later clearing, just before the crucifixion (Mk 11:15-19). By clearing the temple, Jesus displayed zeal for God’s house (Jn 2:17; cp. Ps 69:9) and performed a sign of judgment on the Jewish leaders who had allowed worship to deteriorate into commerce. His action also prophetically foreshadowed his crucifixion and resurrection, which would establish him as the new center of worship, replacing the old temple.
2:13 This is the first reference to a Jewish festival in John’s Gospel and the first reference to Passover. Later, John referred to two more Passovers at 6:4 (Jesus in Galilee) and 11:55; 12:1 (Jesus’s final Passover in Jerusalem). Beyond this, Mt 12:1 may refer to another Passover not recorded in John. If so, Jesus’s ministry included four Passovers and extended over about three and one-half years, spanning from AD 29 to 33 (see note at Jn 1:28). Apart from these Passover references, John also mentioned Jesus’s activities at an unnamed Jewish festival in 5:1 (possibly Shelters); at the Festival of Tabernacles (or Shelters in 7:2); and at the Festival of Dedication (or Hanukkah) in 10:22. People are described as traveling up to Jerusalem because it was located at a higher elevation than Galilee.
2:14 Merchants (selling oxen, sheep, and doves) and money changers (exchanging idol-free coins for those tainted with pagan engravings) eased the logistical burden on pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem from afar by providing them with appropriate animals and coins for sacrifices and offerings. By conducting their business within the temple, however, they disrupted worship (esp. for Gentiles) and obstructed the temple’s purpose.
2:17 Jesus’s clearing of the temple reminded his disciples of the righteous sufferer in Ps 69:9. First-century Jews expected Messiah to purge and reconstitute the temple. Jesus was passionately concerned for the holiness and purity of God’s house.
2:20 This temple took forty-six years to build seems to indicate that the reconstruction of the second temple had taken forty-six years. Alternatively, it can be read: “This sanctuary was completed forty-six years ago [and has stood since that time].” The Jews were amazed that Jesus claimed he could raise it up in three days, an impossibly short time. The misunderstanding is cleared up in v. 21.
2:23-25 Believed . . . would not entrust himself is a wordplay in the original Greek. Jesus’s knowledge of people’s hearts was displayed in his encounters with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman; see note at v. 4.