John 2:1-23 "A Sign From Jesus"
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.
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.
Introduction: Who is Jesus? Why is he important? What does he teach? Someone may think that the answer is best found by looking up the answers in some book of theology. But Jesus does not reveal himself simply by making wise statements, or in a book of theology, but in real life. We know about Jesus not just from what he says, but by what he does, and not just in heaven, but here on earth. This is important because the Jesus in whom we believe, the real Jesus Christ, lived in history, lived on the earth, and we can know about him from what he said, and from what he did.
We read in verses 1 and 2, “On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.” This tells us something important about Jesus, something we may sometimes ignore. Jesus went to a wedding. Someone will say, “So?” It’s important because Jesus was like us. He went to parties. He didn’t think that such a thing was beneath him, or sin in itself. That doesn’t mean he was saying by his presence that all kinds of parties or wedding are OK, but, he went. Some people seem to want us to think that any kind of pleasure, such as going to a party, is sin, but, Jesus was there!
And we read as well that his mother was there. Notice it does not call her Mary, although that was her name. But, her importance is not in herself, but that she was the mother of Jesus, and so, she is called his mother.
And so we read what happens. There was some wine to drink, but they had run out, and so Jesus´ mother speaks to him, and says, "They have no more wine." (verse 3). This seems like an innocent enough statement, just saying what was true. But Jesus understood what Mary meant. I don’t know what Vietnamese culture is like, but Mexican and American cultures are different on this point. If an American says, “You have beautiful lemons on your tree”, Americans say “thank you”, and that’s it. But if a Mexican says, “You have beautiful lemons on your tree”, Mexicans will pick some lemons and give them to the person who says “you have beautiful lemons.” So it was when Mary said, “They have no more wine.” By implication, she wasn’t just making a statement, but she was saying that Jesus should do something about it.
And so, it’s important how Jesus answers. He says, "Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied, "My time has not yet come." (verse 4) On the one hand, he speaks to her respectfully, calling her “Dear woman”, but, there is a certain distance. I don’t call my mother “dear lady”, and most of you probably don’t either. And no, it’s not a question of Greek or Hebrew. Jesus was telling his mother that she was not to direct his ministry. He says to her, "My time has not yet come." That is, he responds to the will of his Father in heaven, and has not come to do the will of man, of a human being like Mary. Yes, he loved and respected his mother, but, he makes it clear here that it is God the Father who directs him in his ministry.
And this should not have been a surprise to Mary. He had told her about this many years before, when his mother and step-father had taken him to the temple in Jerusalem. They had returned home, but he had stayed behind to learn from the elders. When they discovered that he was not with them, they went back to Jerusalem, and found him teaching in the temple. When Mary asked him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Jesus answered by saying, "Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" (Luke 2:48, 49) Even at the age of twelve, Jesus had told his mother that he had come to do his father’s will, and now here again, at the beginning of his ministry, he is doing the same.
But note as well that Mary, unlike so many who worship her today, does not take offense. On the contrary, she gives a command that we would do well to listen to. She says, "Do whatever he tells you." (verse 5). She submit herself to her son, because she understands that he is much more than her son, that he is the son of his Father in heaven, and so she gives a general command to "Do whatever he tells you."
Unlike the “miracle workers” of our modern world, Jesus does not announce that he is about to do a miracle. Instead, he simply commands them to fill six jars with water, each holding about twenty or thirty gallons. He then commanded them to take some to the master of the banquet. When the master of the banquet tastes the wine, he asks the bridegroom why he saved the best wine until the last, showing that Jesus had changed the water into wine, even the best wine.
In some ways, although the first of his miracles, it was the least of the miracles. Surely, giving sight to the blind, or giving life to the dead, or forgiving sins, are far more than changing water into wine. But which of these can you do? None, of course, and neither can I. A true miracle, that is, doing that which is impossible for man, is something that only God can do. That’s why we read in verse 11, “He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.” His miracles, the reality that he could do things that only God could do, show that he is God, that he has glory, as it says in verse 14 of chapter 1, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” In seeing his miracles, his disciples understood that he was indeed the Son of God the Father, for they had seen his glory even in this, the least of the miracles.
And then, we seem to be changing the subject, but in a moment, you’ll see that they are very connected. Jesus goes down to Jerusalem. It was the time of the Passover, and so Jews from many nations had come to celebrate the feast in the city as well. Coming from long distances, it was not easy or convenient to bring animal sacrifices or Jewish money to the temple. As a result, when they came to Jerusalem, they would buy the animals necessary for the sacrifices or change their foreign money for Hebrew coins. There was no sin in any of this, and indeed, it was necessary and prudent.
But we read in verse 14, “And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business.” The problem was not that people were selling oxen and sheep and doves, or changing money as such. It was that they had chosen to use the temple as a place of buying and selling. Our Savior takes some cords, and makes a whip out of them. He was angry, but he took the time to make a whip, indicating that what he was about to do was something very deliberate. We read in verse 15 that “he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables.” He is angry, and acts upon his anger by driving them out of the temple. I can think of only one other place where Jesus is angry—when the disciples don’t want to let the little children come to him. He is not easily provoked to anger, but when people want to prevent others from coming to him and his father, he is angry, and so here he enters the temple and drives out those who have perverted the temple.
But there is a little detail here, when he explains his actions. We read in the first part of verse 16, “And He said to those who sold doves.” He had already driven out the sellers of animals and the moneychangers, apparently without explanation. But here he stops to explain himself to the people who sold doves. Those who sold the animals and changed money were well-to-do, but those who sold the pigeons were poor people, who had probably gathered them in the countryside and brought them to the temple to make money to survive (Lev. 5:7, 11). As such, they were not as guilty as those who just came there to make money. It’s like a man who steals just to get richer, like people who cheat on their taxes. They already have money, they just want to get more. But a man who steals some food to feed his family, although still a thief, is not as guilty. So Jesus explains his actions to the poor people selling doves, and says to them, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” (verse 16). Even the poor were guilty, for they had taken that which is holy, the temple of the living God, and made it into a place for making money. We see the same thing today when churches have sales to make money. Even worse, there are churches that exist for the very purpose of making money. I know a church where they offer healing, but you have to pay $400. They won’t take $300, or even $390, it has to be $400. They do take credit cards and checks, but before they do the healing, they run a credit check to make sure the check or credit card is good. Such people think of God as a way of making money, and have perverted the Gospel into nothing more than something to be bought and sold. Jesus is angry with them, in a way that he rarely gets angry, because the attitude of such people is nothing more or less than a complete rejection of the spiritual nature of our faith. That’s why Peter says to Simon, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money!” (Acts 8:20)
And it’s at this point that the disciples begin to understand, for they remember the words of Psalm 69:9, where we read, “Because zeal for Your house has eaten me up.” They understood that Jesus here, by his actions, was declaring himself to be the one that God had sent.
But the doubters are there as well. We read in verse 18, “So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?” In effect, they are saying that only the Chosen One of God could do these things, although why that is true is unclear to me. But then they go a step farther, and ask Jesus for a sign. Wasn’t it enough that Jesus was doing the will of his Father in heaven? But they want a miracle, because they are not content to listen to the word of God. It is as Jesus says in Matthew 12:39, “ He answered and said to them, An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign.” Yes, Jesus did signs and miracles, to demonstrate that he is indeed the Son of the living God, but no matter how great or small the sign, they will not listen. Jesus had performed a miracle, changing water into wine, and that wasn’t enough for them, so now he says to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (vs. 19) Since they were in the temple at that moment, or at least had been there moments before, they naturally thought he was talking about the temple of Jerusalem, and so they say to him, “Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” (verse 20) They objected that he could not build a temple in three days, as if that were something that were too difficult for God to do. A lot of people think that way about God—he can do wonders and miracles, but, there are a lot of things he cannot do, and building a temple in three days would be impossible. Well, their view of God is way too small.
So the Lord tells us that the temple that he was speaking about was not the temple in Jerusalem, but his own body. He would die, and in three days, he would rise from the dead. And so we read in verse 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.” Jesus was going to give both his doubters and his disciples a sign. But that sign was not the kind of sign that his doubters were looking for. They wanted him to perform for them, like a magic show. They wanted someone to do their bidding, to entertain and perform for them, to do their will. And that’s what a lot of people want in God. Someone who will do what they want, when they want it. And when God doesn’t cooperate, and instead does His will, and calls upon them to believe in him, they refuse. They refuse, not because Jesus hasn’t done miraculous works, but because he hasn’t done what they wanted or expected.
And for a while, Jesus was that for many people. We read in verse 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.” For a while they followed him, not because he was the Son of God, but because they were fascinated by his miracles. But such a faith is not true faith, its just fascination. That’s why we read in verses 24 and 25, “But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” Jesus was not going to be guided by the desires and will of men, or his popularity with people. Yes, they enjoyed the wine, and they sought for miracles, but, they did not come to really understand who Jesus is.
To really understand Jesus, we need to listen to his words here, and look at his actions. He declares, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” He here declares that he would die, and after three days he would rise again, and that is what he did. Changing water into wine was a miracle that no man could do, but Jesus would go on to give sight to the blind, healing to the lame, he would drive out demons and forgive sins, he would raise the dead, and finally, the greatest of all miracles, he would rise from the dead.
The problem with the doubters, and even some of his followers, was that they focused on the miracles, instead of what they meant. The changing of water from wine showed that Jesus is God, as well as man. The cleansing of the temple showed that he was the Son of God with authority over his Father’s temple. And the resurrection from the dead showed that he was the eternal Son of God, over whom death had and has no power. His doubters looked at the miracles and saw magic and tricks, and looked no farther. But when Jesus rose from the dead, he not only performed the sign that they were looking for, but much more. He was not the only one to be resurrected. Lazarus and others had come back to life, but they were not the Son of God. Jesus had not simply died as a martyr. He had died as the Passover Lamb of God for our sins, and so his resurrection from the dead signified his eternal victory over sin and death forever. Yes, it was a miracle and sign, but much more. He accomplished our salvation by dying for our sins, and rising for our justification (Romans 4:25) Amen.