John 2:1-11

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Discussion of the wedding in Cana. Also discussion on Jesus' replacing the temple.


The Miracle at Cana

John calls Jesus’ miracles ‘signs’, and not miracles or wonders. He is trying to demonstrate something by showing us Jesus’ signs.
John 20:30–31 ESV
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
“But these were written you may believe.” John specifically chose the signs he did in order to show that Jesus is the Christ. His signs are meant to be symbolic. While they demonstrate his power and witness to his authority, John could have put any number of signs. He chose these for a reason. What is the reason?
Let’s start by looking at John 2:1-11.
John 2:1–11 ESV
1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
There are a lot of different Old Testament hyperlinks in this passage that need to be examined before we can fully understand what the sign represents. Can you think of any symbols in this passage that need to be further examined?
The purification jars
The wine
First, let’s look at the wedding. What do Jewish weddings symbolize? Where else does marriage/wedding language come up in the Old Testament?
Israel and God’s relationship is often cast in the light of a marriage. For example:
Isaiah 1:21 ESV
21 How the faithful city has become a whore, she who was full of justice! Righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers.
Jeremiah 3:6–8 ESV
6 The Lord said to me in the days of King Josiah: “Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore? 7 And I thought, ‘After she has done all this she will return to me,’ but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. 8 She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce. Yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore.
Isaiah 62:5 ESV
5 For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.
The jars were made of stone, since stone was viewed as unable to become ceremonially unclean because it was impervious. The focus here by John is on their intended use of purification.
The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Gospel according to John 1. The First Sign: Jesus Changes Water to Wine (2:1–11)

Their purpose provides a clue to one of the meanings of the story: the water represents the old order of Jewish law and custom, which Jesus was to replace with something better (cf. 1:16).

Finally, what does wine represent in the Old Testament? Can you think of any verses in particular that demonstrate how we should understand it here?
Think of the spies in Numbers:
Numbers 13:23 ESV
23 And they came to the Valley of Eshcol and cut down from there a branch with a single cluster of grapes, and they carried it on a pole between two of them; they also brought some pomegranates and figs.
The prophets also take up this theme.
Isaiah 25:6–8 ESV
6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. 7 And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.
Isaiah even directly compares Israel to a vineyard that produces no grapes (read: wine).
Isaiah 5:1–7 ESV
1 Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 2 He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. 3 And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. 4 What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? 5 And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. 6 I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. 7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!
With all of this extra information, what do you think is John’s purpose in telling this particular sign?
John is using the typical Jewish symbols to demonstrate how Jesus came to replace them. Jesus replaces the old ways of the Jewish traditions with the new wine. He does this at a wedding, framing the story in a covenantal context.
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