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John 2:1-4:42     Listen Podcast


In this passage, we see the following events in Jesus' ministry:

Back up to Cana for a wedding (John 2:1-11)

1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.
2 Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.
3 And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”
4 Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”
5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”
6 Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece.
7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.
8 And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it.
9 When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom.
10 And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!”
11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in 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 "My hour has 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 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 signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in 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 Jews request a sign, and 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, His mother, His brothers, and His disciples; and they did not stay there many days.
13 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business.
15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables.
16 And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!”
17 Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.”
18 So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?”
19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
20 Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”
21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body.
22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.
23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did.
24 But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men,
25 and had no need that anyone 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, "Then His disciples remembered that it was written, 'Zeal for Your house has 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.
“Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter 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 Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.’”
8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?”
10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?
11 Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness.
12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?
13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who 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 whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done 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 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 whoever believes 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 in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts."

Hey, John the Baptist! What do you think? (John 3:22-36)

22 After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized.
23 Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized.
24 For John had not yet been thrown into prison.
25 Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification.
26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!”
27 John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.
28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, “I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’
29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.
30 He must increase, but I must decrease.
31 He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.
32 And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony.
33 He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true.
34 For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.
35 The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.
36 He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides 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 who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides 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 Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John
2 (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples),
3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee.
4 But He needed to go through Samaria.
5 So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.
6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.”
8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.
9 Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.
10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
11 The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water?
12 Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again,
14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”
17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’
18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”
19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.
20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”
21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.
22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.
23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”
26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”
27 And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?”
28 The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men,
29 “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”
30 Then they went out of the city and came to Him.
31 In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”
32 But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.”
33 Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?”
34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.
35 Do you not say, “There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!
36 And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.
37 For in this the saying is true: “One sows and another reaps.’
38 I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.”
39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.”
40 So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days.
41 And many more believed because of His own word.
42 Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior 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 you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." The woman obviously understands the implications here when she says in verse 15, "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here 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 Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." Paul would later explain in I Corinthians 3:16 (see notes), "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells 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 we were all baptized into one body..." We see that all Believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:9, "...Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not 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 said to her, “I who speak to you 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, "Do you not say, “There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for 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.