STUDY 3: JOHN 2:1-25 – THREE KEY ISSUES

Copyright © Rosemary Bardsley 2009

At first glance Chapter 2 does not seem to contain very much, compared with the intense and sustained teaching and debates reported by John in many chapters. But in this chapter John focuses on three significant issues in the life of Christ: the role of Christ’s miracles, Christ’s concern for his Father’s honour and glory, and the problem of inappropriate or false responses to his words and his works.

 

A. ISSUE ONE: THE MIRACLES OF JESUS

In 2:1-11 John reports Jesus’ first miracle. It is easy to wonder here: what is the point? Why do we need to know this? It’s just a wedding party. It’s just a face-saving result for the host. No one’s life or health depended on it. No undoing of the effects or impacts of the Genesis 3 condemnation or curse is involved.

A.1 John’s comments on this miracle

John tells us two things about this first miracle:

      • He calls it ‘the first of his miraculous signs’. The Greek is semeion which is John’s preferred word for referring to Christ’s miracles [he never uses the normal word for miracle – dunamis]. A ‘sign’ is significant only because of what it signifies. John, in calling Christ’s miracles ‘signs’, is pointing us beyond the miracle itself to a greater reality.
      • The effect of this miracle: ‘He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.’

    A.2 The impact of the miracles

    For John, the miracles of Jesus were ‘signs’. He does not record many specific details, but when he does report them he does so with the intention that these ‘signs’ will generate genuine belief in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. He also points out the incongruity of two things: [1] the failure of these signs to generate faith, and [2] the fact that on a number of occasions these signs generated false or fake faith.

    Ref

    Content [the italicised words translate the word semeion]

    Impact of the signs. [Read additional verses where indicated]

    2:11

    ‘This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee . He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.’

    2:18

    ‘Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”’

    2:23-24

    ‘Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men.’

    3:2

    [Nicodemus said] ‘Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.’

    4:48,54

    ‘“Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” … This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee .’

    [53]

    5:1-15

    The healing of the man at the pool.

    [16]

    6:2

    ‘… a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick.’

    6:14

    ‘After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”’

    [15]

    6:26

    ‘Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.”’

    6:30

    ‘So they asked him “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?...”’

    [66?]

    7:31

    ‘Still, many put their faith in him. They said, “When the Christ comes, will he do more miraculous signs than this man?”’

    9:16

    ‘Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others asked, “How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?” So they were divided.’

    11:47,48

    ‘“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him …”’

    12:18

    ‘Many people, because they had heard that he had given his miraculous sign, went out to meet him.’

    [19]

    12:37

    ‘Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence they still did would not believe in him.’

    20:30

    ‘Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.’

    [31]

    From these references, and those in the next section, we understand clearly that the only appropriate response to the miracles of Jesus is the acknowledgement that he is indeed the One he claimed to be: God in human flesh, the divine Son of the Father, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father, worthy of the same honour as the Father.

    A.3 John’s references to the miracles of Jesus as ‘works’

    As you study John’s Gospel you will notice Jesus repeatedly referring to his ‘works’. It is clear that he believes that his works are the works of God, his Father, and that these works are his normal, divine activity. As far as he is concerned, his ‘works’ speak for themselves. The amazing thing, to him, is not that he actually does these works, but that people seeing these works do not recognize them as the works of God, and from that recognition also recognize that he, Jesus, is the divine Son of the Father.

    The table below contains a selection of relevant references to the ‘work’ or ‘works’ of Jesus in John’s Gospel.

    Read the references below. They all contain the Greek ergon – ‘work’, even where the English has ‘miracle’. Comment on the nature of the ‘works’, and on what is said about the impact that these ‘works’ of Jesus had or should have had on those who observed them. [You may need to study the context indicated in the bracketed references.]

    5:17

    [5:1-15,19-23]

    5:31,36

    7:3

    [4]

    7:21

    9:3,4

    [Note the connection between doing the work of God and being the light of the world. This puts a clear revelatory significance on the ‘work’. Read the whole chapter for a report on this miracle.]

     

    10:24-26

    10:30-39

    14:10-11

    15:24,25

    A.4 Spiritual lessons from the miracle at Cana

    Quite apart from the role of the miracles of Jesus in John’s Gospel, there are specific significances that we can draw from this particular miracle at Cana , just as there are from each of the other miracles that John reports in detail.

    [1] In this miracle Jesus reveals his transforming power. Leon Morris states points out that

        • Jesus transforms the water of Judaism into the wine of Christianity
        • Jesus transforms the water of Christlessness into the wine of the richness and the fullness of eternal life in Christ
        • Jesus transforms the water of the law into the wine of the Gospel.

      [2] We can note that this miracle also focuses on the transcendent quality of the ‘new’:

      The new wine is recognised as far superior to the old. Even so the new covenant ushered in by Jesus Christ surpasses the old covenant. All the way through this Gospel the Jews would seek to hem Jesus in to their traditional interpretations and expectations; equally all the way through Jesus will refuse to be confined to these expectations. In him the ‘new’ thing that God had promised to do would be brought into effect.

      [3] Jesus used the symbolism of a wedding feast when teaching about the kingdom of God . See Matt. 22:1-14; 25:1-13. Unlike Matthew and Mark, John makes no reference to Jesus preaching ‘the kingdom of heaven is at hand’; he reports none of Christ’s many parables about ‘the kingdom’. But here at this wedding feast he silently proclaims his kingdom, a kingdom that ‘flesh’ cannot enter [John 3:3,5] and that is ‘not of this world’ [John 18:36] by means of this seemingly pointless, earthbound, fleshy miracle. By this time/space miracle he initiates his eternal/spiritual kingdom ministry.

       

      B. ISSUE TWO: THE HONOUR AND GLORY OF GOD THE FATHER

      B.1 The cleansing of the temple

      There were probably two occasions on which Jesus cleansed the Temple - one at the beginning of his ministry [John 2:12 -16] and one at the end of his ministry when he entered Jerusalem during the final week [Matthew 21:12f; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45f]. Irrespective of whether there were two or one, the key issue for Christ is his concern for his Father’s honour. For the Jews looking on the key issue was the authority of Jesus to do such a thing [ 2:18 ].

      In responding to the Jew’s demand for a sign to prove his authority, Jesus referred to his body as ‘this temple’ [ 2:19 -22]. And here we are confronted by an important perspective:

      B.2 The temple of God

      The temple in Jerusalem [and, previously, the tabernacle] was the place where the glory of God was displayed to his people. There he met with them. There his eternal and holy presence was symbolised [2Chronicles 6:39 ].

      What do these verses teach about the presence and glory of God in the tabernacle and temple?

      Exodus 40: 34-38

      2Chronicles 7:1-3

      Haggai 2:7,9

      Here, in John 2, Jesus dealt severely with those who had dishonoured God by dishonouring his ‘Father’s house’.

      But, lest we give too much significance to the physical temple, the New Testament teaches us that this physical temple, great and magnificent though it was, was a mere symbol of a greater reality. The greater spiritual reality anticipated and embedded in the physical temple is twofold:

      [1] That Jesus Christ is the real presence of God on earth. In Christ the glory of God is seen by man; in Christ God dwells among us, not in symbolic form as in the physical temple, but in reality. This man, Jesus, is God dwelling among us, pitching his tent among us. Here we no longer deal with a symbolic presence, but a real incarnation.

      Note these verses from John’s Gospel:

      1:14

      When John states that the Word ‘made his dwelling among us’ the word he uses means ‘tabernacled’ or ‘pitched his tent’ among us.

      Also in this verse John reports the evident manifestation of God’s glory in Christ.

      10:38 ;14:10,11; 17:21b

      Christ teaches that he is in the Father and the Father is in him.

      12:44-45; 14:9b

      Jesus teaches clearly that to look at him or see him is to look at and see God.

      17:1-5

      The glory of God in Christ

      And check out these verses from other parts of the Scripture where the glory of God is seen in Jesus Christ:

      Isaiah 40:5

      Habakkuk 2:14

      Matthew 17:1-13

      Acts 9:1-9

      Romans 16:27

      2Cor 4:4,6

      Hebrews 1:3

       

      [2] That those who believe in Christ, are, both individually and corporately, the dwelling place of God. This is the second spiritual reality symbolised and anticipated in the physical temple.

      John 14:16-23

      The Father, Son and Holy Spirit dwelling within the believer

      John 17:23

      Christ dwelling in the believer

      1Corinthians 3:16

      Christians as the temple of God in which God’s Spirit lives

      1Corinthians 6:19

      The body of the individual Christian as the temple of the Holy Spirit

      Ephesians 2:21

      Christians corporately as the holy temple

      Ephesians 2:22

      Christians corporately as the dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit

      This high and holy role or calling of the believer as the dwelling place of God has a flow-on effect: that we, as Christians, are, and are to be, the place where God is honoured, the place where his glory is present and is seen:

      How do these verses describe the glory of God in the believer individually or the church corporately?

      John 17:10b

      1Cor 6:19 -20

      Eph 1:6,12,14

      Ephesians 3:21

      Philippians 2:11

      Colossians 1:27

      2Thess 1:12

      1Peter 4:14

       

C. ISSUE THREE: FALSE BELIEF

      When we engage in witness, preaching or teaching it is very easy to blame the various responses on our inadequate presentation of God’s truth. But here, and elsewhere, we see that Jesus, who was himself ‘the truth’, and in whom there was no error or lack of understanding, is confronted with the issue of inappropriate responses.

      This failure to respond appropriately, either with negative responses or with fake, superficial responses, draws repeated comments from John. Never does he attribute it to any inadequacy in the message. Rather the fault lies in the hearer.

      Here in John 2:23-25 we read that many people ‘believed in his name’ [23] when they say the miraculous signs he was doing, but that Jesus, for his part, did not believe [that is the exact meaning of the Greek text] in them [24]. Here we have an outward expression of belief in his name, but Jesus, knowing what was in their hearts [24,25] knew that that obvious expression was not the kind of faith he sought. Some expression of ‘faith’ was made and was evident, but Jesus knew that it was not genuine.

      Consider these other occasions on which there is inappropriate response to the words or the works of Jesus. What wrong or inappropriate response is reported? Is there any way to identify what caused that inadequate or inappropriate response?

      1:10

      1:11

      3:10-12

      3:18-20

      5:16,18

      5:38-40

      5:45-47

      6:2

      6:26-27

      6:41-44

      6:60-66

      8:30-32

      8:42-47

      12:48

      Inappropriate, or false, belief is inevitable. People do and will either reject Jesus, or respond to him with a superficial faith grounded in unbiblical reasons and perceptions. Such faith is not, and never was, saving faith. Jesus was quite aware of this. While on the one hand he condemns their unbelief and their wrong belief, on the other hand he understands it even better than the people in question. While on the one hand he strives to bring people to genuine biblical faith, on the other hand he acknowledges and accepts the reality that some people’s apparent faith is not at all the faith that is required. A clear evidence of this is seen in Jesus’ comments about Judas Iscariot [6:66-71; 13:10 -11; 17:12 ].