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For New King James text and comment, click here.
John 2:1-4:42 Listen
In this passage, we see the following events in Jesus' ministry:
Back up to Cana for a wedding (John 2:1-11)
1 And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:
2 And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.
3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.
4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.
5 His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.
6 And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.
7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.
8 And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.
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,
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.
11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.
It's at least an 80-mile trip back up to Cana in Galilee (northern Israel). (See the map to the right.) Jesus and his disciples go to Cana for a wedding to which they were apparently invited (verse 2). When the wine was gone, Mary looked to Jesus for a solution. The reply Jesus gave to his mother in verse 4 was not one of any disrespect; our English translation coupled with our cultural expectations make it sound that way, but the phrase in the Greek is actually quite respectful. As a matter of fact, the absence of a Greek verb in the first clause of that sentence requires that the English translation provide one. A word-for-word substitution (Greek to English) would be as follows: "What (why or who) to me and to you? Woman!" In other words, Jesus seems to be pointing out that the provision of wine for the guests is not really the responsibility of him or his mother. His explanation to that reply in verse 4 is also quite significant. Jesus was not there to be the center of attention. That's why he said "mine hour is not yet come." This "hour" Christ speaks of keeps coming up through the Book of John; Jesus is talking about his crucifixion. Nonetheless, he fulfills his mother's request by turning the water into wine - approximately 120 to 180 gallons of wine (1 firkin = approximately 10 gallons) that is better tasting than the wine served at the beginning of the feast. Would you expect anything less?
The real story is in verse 11, "This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him." Why did Jesus perform this miracle? It was for the same reason he performed all of his miracles - to "manifest forth his glory." Paul characterizes his Jewish brethren in I Corinthians 1:22 (see notes), "For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:" All right Jews - here's your first sign! That's why Jesus performed the miracle of water to wine - for the Jews.
The temple incident (John 2:12-25)
Here's the first Passover Feast recorded during the ministry of Jesus.
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.
13 And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,
14 And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:
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;
16 And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.
17 And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.
18 Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?
19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.
20 Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?
21 But he spake of the temple of his body.
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.
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.
24 But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men,
25 And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.
It is obvious that the original point of the animal sacrifice had been lost somewhere along the way. When Jesus goes to Jerusalem for the passover, he finds a disgusting sight in the temple - merchants selling sacrificial animals - so much for the firstlings of one's flock. People who are short on longsuffering often point to this occasion to justify their own actions when they lapse into a rage. There was no unbridled rage here on the part of Christ. The money changers were abusing the temple, and Christ invited them to stop...albeit with some persuasive force. Why do you suppose all those merchants allowed one man and only one man to drive them all out as he was able to do? Now it doesn't say in verse 17 that this incident was, in fact, a fulfillment of Psalms 69:9 (see notes), but that's the verse that came to the disciples' minds when the incident took place where we read, "And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up."
In verse 18 the Jewish leaders ask Jesus for a sign - a sign that would assure them that Jesus is within his authority to do what he has just done in the temple. That verse is packed with implications. First of all, there they are looking for a sign; obviously this crowd had not been present at the wedding in Cana to see that miracle (it was a three days' journey away from Jerusalem). But wait! There's more! Jesus, as far as they were concerned, had no authority to take temple-abuse matters into his own hands; everyone knew that. So, this must be a question about Messiahship they are asking. In their minds, if he is the Messiah, of course he has authority over the temple; but, they're thinking, show us a sign first to validate who you are. I'm convinced that these Jewish leaders were not open to the possibility of Jesus being the Messiah, but they felt that they needed to save face before all the those who had just viewed this incident.
Then Jesus replies with a prophetic word that was well beyond their spiritual condition to receive in verse 19 when he says, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." Their reply in verse 20 demonstrates that they naturally assume that Jesus is referring to Herod's Temple with his comments, but he's obviously referring to his own resurrection (verse 21). In other words, "You want a sign? My resurrection will be your sign!" Perhaps even the disciples (verse 22) were a little slow in recognizing the implications here, but after his resurrection, everything fell into place for them. At one of Jesus' illegal trials prior to his crucifixion, false witnesses were quick to point out to Caiaphas in Matthew 26:61 (see notes) that Jesus had declared he would destroy the temple and rebuild it back in three days.
We notice in verses 23-25 that this Passover gathering of Jews yields many people who believe on Jesus as a result of his miracles. It's interesting that Jesus did not use these Believers as a springboard into prominence among the Jews.
Incidentally, Jesus makes another trip through the temple taking these same actions during the week prior to his crucifixion, recorded in Matthew 21:12-17; Mark 11:11-19; Luke 19:41-48 (see notes). It is interesting then that Jesus makes this visual statement of temple abuse during his first and last Passover Festival during his ministry.
Ye must be born again! (John 3:1-21)
1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?
10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?
11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.
12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?
13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
Only a select few of the Pharisees were on the 71-member ruling council known as the Sanhedrin, but Nicodemus was "a ruler of the Jews." That means, as we see in verse 1, he was a member. His night visit probably is indicative of the fact that he did not want to be seen visiting one-on-one with Jesus. He gets right to the point acknowledging Jesus as a "teacher come from God" (verse 2) based upon all things - miracles (remember I Corinthians 1:22, see notes). As a matter of fact, Nicodemus uses two titles of Jewish respect when addressing Jesus as "Rabbi" (Greek: rabbi) and "teacher" (Greek: didaskalos). Both are terms that demonstrate Nicodemus' regard for Jesus as a master teacher regarding the things of God. Jesus then gets right to the point, the born-again experience.
Some misdirected would-be Bible scholars have taken this passage as a water-baptism-for-salvation mandate because of the mention of water in verse 5. Actually, Christ is differentiating the born-again experience from the physical birth here. Midwives often referred to the physical birth as a water birth due to the water that is released at the birth of a child. I'm certain that's the reference here based upon the context before and after verse 5. In verse 4, Nicodemus asks Jesus for a clarification when he asks if Jesus is talking about a second physical (water) birth. Then in verse 6, Jesus goes on to further clarify that the spiritual birth is different from the birth in the flesh (water birth). Don't allow people to read more into this verse than was intended. This water birth has nothing whatsoever to do with water baptism as a prerequisite to a completed salvation experience; read it in context (considering verses 4 and 6), and you must agree. If that concept seems difficult to comprehend for Nicodemus, Jesus adds to his explanation that...so is the wind (verse 8). You can see its effects and hear it, but you cannot see the actual wind.
The exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus in verse 9-13 would indicate that Nicodemus was open, but not accepting of this new spiritual concept, the work of the spirit. The question Nicodemus asked in verse 9 is not to be understood as one expressing disbelief, but rather an honest inquiry about procedure. Literally, the Greek wording for that verse is best understood, "How is it possible for these things to become?" In other words, "How does one go about making this happen?" Jesus reacts to Nicodemus in such a way that signals the irony of a master teacher having no understanding of spiritual issues. The Pharisees were all about doing and legalism; spiritual leadership was foreign to them.
It would appear that Nicodemus is present all the way down to verse 21. In verse 12 we get an indication that Nicodemus is still not convinced about the true identity of Jesus as the Christ. So, what sign will be given to Nicodemus (remember I Corinthians 1:22, see notes)? The crucifixion and resurrection! There it is in verse 14 where Jesus talks about the serpents that were sent by God among the Israelites when they murmured against God in Numbers 21:4-9 (see notes). How did they get healed from the bite of the serpents back then? A brass serpent was elevated upon a pole; when those bitten looked upon this serpent, they were healed. Here's yet another reference to the cross and resurrection as a sign of his Messiahship...given right here at the beginning of the earthly ministry of Jesus. Then Jesus gives a clear presentation to Nicodemus of the spiritual battle that exists between light and darkness - salvation and condemnation. Incidentally, we don't know the outcome of this meeting with regard to the salvation of Nicodemus. However, we do see Nicodemus paying his respects to Jesus after the crucifixion in John 19:39 (see notes).
It is also important to recognize that Jesus presents himself to Nicodemus as a solution to a problem that all Jews wanted remedied. They looked for a day when they would find favor with God once again as it was in the days of King David. Jesus makes the comparison: The sickness of verse 14 and the serpent-on-a-pole remedy is like the spiritual blindness experienced by Nicodemus along with the other Jews and the cross. Nicodemus reflects the attitude of his fellow Jews in this passage as he does not recognize the spiritual problem of Israel, just their governmental predicament. Therefore, verses 15-21 are to be understood in light of the illustration of verse 14. The people were spiritually ill before Jesus' manifestation, just as the snake-bitten people. Those who refused to look upon the brass serpent for healing in Numbers 21:4-9 (see notes), died. Likewise, those who refuse to trust Jesus as Savior by being born again spiritually will die spiritually. This is succinctly expressed in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." And...why will people decline such an offer of spiritual life? There's your answer in verse 19, "...because their deeds were evil." That's because truth and light are compatible. People miss the truth (decline salvation in Christ) because their deeds are compatible with darkness i.e. "evil." Psalm 10:4 (see notes) expresses it like this, "The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts."
Hey, John the Baptist! What do you think? (John 3:22-36)
22 After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.
23 And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.
24 For John was not yet cast into prison.
25 Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying.
26 And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.
27 John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.
28 Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.
29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.
30 He must increase, but I must decrease.
31 He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all.
32 And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony.
33 He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.
34 For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.
35 The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.
36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
These events are not recorded in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). So, here's John the Baptist preaching and baptizing when along comes Jesus. Can someone please put this into perspective for us? The disciples of John the Baptist require a clarification regarding John's mission compared to the mission of Jesus. John begins addressing this issue in verse 27 and clearly identifies his own role in verse 30, "He must increase, but I must decrease." John the Baptist is then very clear about the identity and mission of Jesus in verse 36, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." If there had been any question about the respective roles of John the Baptist and Jesus, this settles it.
Matthew, Mark and Luke begin recording the earthly ministry of Jesus after the imprisonment of John the Baptist. Therefore, only John's Gospel has this early exchange regarding the differences between Jesus and John the Baptist. In retrospect, you can see from this incident that it was necessary for John's ministry to come to a close at the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. For more information regarding John the Baptist and his ministry, click here to read the article entitled, "Was John the Baptist Elijah?"
The Samaritan woman gets her own lesson on water (John 4:1-42)
1 When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,
2 (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)
3 He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee.
4 And he must needs go through Samaria.
5 Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.
6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.
7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.
8 (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)
9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?
12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?
13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.
16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.
17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband:
18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.
19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.
20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.
26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.
27 And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?
28 The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,
29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?
30 Then they went out of the city, and came unto him.
31 In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat.
32 But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of.
33 Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat?
34 Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.
35 Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.
36 And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.
37 And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.
38 I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.
39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.
40 So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days.
41 And many more believed because of his own word;
42 And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.
Staying around Judaea (Jerusalem and surrounding area) was always intense. That's where the Sanhedrin members lived; that's where Jewish religious scrutiny abounded. It would appear that, from even the early portion of Jesus' ministry, an all-points-bulletin had been issued on Jesus around Jerusalem. Galilee was in Northern Israel and seemed to serve as the home base for Jesus and his disciples at this point in time. In between Jerusalem and Galilee was Sychar, a city in Samaria. (See the map to the right and top of this page.) The reference in verse 5 regarding Jacob and Joseph goes back to Genesis 48:22 (see notes). The Samaritans were a mixed breed of not-fully Jewish people as far as the Jews were concerned (see the inset frame to the right for more information on them). The Jews usually avoided any contact with them, but not Jesus. On his way back to Galilee, Jesus walks right up to the Samaritan woman and begins conversing with her at Jacob's well. She's obviously surprised that a Jew would stop to talk with her. She explains her religious beliefs to Jesus and identifies Mount Gerizim, just above where they were standing, as the established Samaritan worship location as opposed to the temple in Jerusalem where Jews worshipped (see the inset frame to the right for more information on Mount Gerizim).
In the course of the conversation about the well water, Jesus says in verse 10, "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water." The woman obviously understands the implications here when she says in verse 15, "Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw." Jesus demonstrates his revelatory ability to the woman's satisfaction in verses 16-19, and then the conversation turns to worship.
Let's get right to the important principle that Jesus established here - worship. Jesus explains that there is coming a day when people will not go to a specific place to worship. He says in verse 24, "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." Paul would later explain in I Corinthians 3:16 (see notes), "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" That literally means that today God's house is not any particular physical location, but every Believer is God's house because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at salvation. I Corinthians 12:13 (see notes) says, "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body..." We see that all Believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:9, "...Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." We (Believers) are the equivalent of the temple in Jerusalem. God dwells in us (not in a physical building) through the Holy Spirit. That's the point Jesus makes to the woman. Worship now should take place 24 hours a day, 7 days a week within each Believer; that's the normal Christian life. If you only worship once or twice a week, you're falling waaaaaay short on worship time. Well, many Samaritans gladly received this message and Jesus stayed on to teach this new concept of worship for a couple days afterward.
A distinction should be made here in verse 19 between this woman's early realization as compared to later in the passage. When Jesus reveals his knowledge of her marital history, she declares him to be "a prophet." However, after Jesus explains the nature of true worship in verse 24, the woman acknowledges her understanding of the enlightenment that will come at the appearance of the Messiah. Jesus acknowledges that he is that Messiah in verse 26, "Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he." At that point, the woman fully accepts the role of Jesus as the Messiah as she heads back to the city to tell her friends and relatives. As these Samaritans approach for a teaching session from Jesus, the disciples express concern about Jesus' welfare with regard to exhaustion. Jesus explains to them that they must minister when the opportunity avails itself (verses 35-38). As a result, many more believed on Jesus as the Messiah in the subsequent two days.
A reference point in Jesus' ministry
We seem to have some indication of when this event with the Samaritan woman took place in verse 35 when Jesus says to his disciples, "Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest." That's an obvious reference to the barley harvest which turns from green to almost white when it's time to harvest it. That harvest typically ran from mid-April through the end of May. The Feast of Firstfruits was the annual celebration of this harvest, the date (first Sunday after Nisan 15) to which Jesus would be referring here. That date falls two to three weeks after the Passover. That would place this woman-at-the-well incident somewhere between December to the first part of January between the first and second Passovers of Jesus' ministry. That fits nicely with the notion that the "feast of the Jews" in John 5:1 (see notes) is, indeed, a reference to the second Passover feast during the ministry of Jesus.