Authority Acknowledged (or not)

I. The Wedding in Cana – On the third Day, this could be on a Tuesday or on the third day after his baptism [1:35, 40]. The challenge is to fit in the time of temptation in the wilderness [Matthew 3:17; 4:1].  Broadus’s Harmony Places the entire narrative of John 1:19-51 subsequent to the temptations, assuming, with support from the tense of the verbs used by John the Baptist, that John gives a summary of his knowledge of Jesus gained during the events of his baptism as he bears witness to him subsequent to the temptations. This witness occurs again in John 3:22-30.

A. This wedding probably involved a friend of the family in light of the presence of Jesus’ mother being there (1).

B. Jesus also was invited and his disciples were included in the invitation. This strengthens the assumption of a long term relationship between the wedding party and the family of Jesus. 

C. A Social Crisis occurred when “the wine ran out.”

1. Mary intervenes to save the host family from embarrassment. If these were common friends, then Mary would have been concerned for the embarrassment that such an event would cause on this celebrative occasion. She was not trying to flaunt the powers of her son, but she knew that only he could do something about this.

2. Jesus reminds her that the success of this social situation has nothing to do with the purpose of his coming [4]. He would select his own hour for the manifestation of his glory, power, and prerogative over all creation.

3. Mary believed that even in a matter so inconsequential, Jesus would show compassion [5] “Do whatever he tells you.”

D. Jesus transforms an inconsequential issue into an opportunity for the blessing of his disciples.

1. The order of observable events. – Verse 6-10.

      • Jesus noticed the stone jars used for rites of purification.
      • He instructed the servants to fill them to the brim with water.
      • Then, according to his instruction, they scooped out some and took the cup to the master of the wedding feast.
      • The master drank the cup and discovered a fine wine, better than that that had been used first.
      • He congratulated the groom on this strategy of serving the more excellent wine during the later part of the feast so as not to diminish the pleasure and joy of the occasion.
      • Jesus went to Capernaum, along with his mother, his brothers (children born to Joseph and Mary subsequent to his own birth, see also Matthew 13:55, 56), and his disciples for a few days. Eventually Jesus would use Capernaum as his center for operations and would perform great signs there, far transcending what he had done at the wedding, and would find hostility and accusation (Matthew 8:5, 9:1, 11:23).
      • John does not intend for us to draw conclusions about the abundant use of wine, or to argue about the kind of wine it may or may not have been. Nor does he want us to make a judgment on the position of the groom as to whether or not he actually took credit for this bit of hospitality that he knew he had nothing to do with. He wants us to marvel both at the power and the condescension of Jesus.

2. As Jesus took advantage of the situation, what meaning did he intend to convey?

      • Jesus would transform Jewish ceremony as a type of his death and give a foretaste of the complete satisfaction of the ceremonies fulfilled. When Jesus’ work was complete, no longer would such purification rites as these pots subserved be of any use. All acts of ceremonial purification would be fulfilled by the new birth and sanctification given by the Holy Spirit whose work in bringing in the new covenant is an extension of the redemptive mission of Christ.
      • The disciples have followed him because they were admonished by John the Baptist to do so, and they also heard the teaching of Jesus in their conversations. They had not as yet observed any of the signs of his. Now they see firsthand his power and that the processes of nature are directly under his control. As he has designed the world to be the fit environment for our bodies and all of our senses are met by some fitting provision for the enhancement of the joy of natural life, and he does this through a variety of operations of nature, so now he bypasses all that and makes wine directly to meet the exigencies of this occasion. This was the lesser matter, but one to which Jesus mercifully condescended; the revelation of the glory of his person to his disciples was the greater matter.
      • The attraction of attending a wedding at the initiation of his ministry, and the performance of his first sign for his disciples there would be intriguing to Jesus. That he was invited, surely resonated with the reason for his coming. One day an angel under his authority would say, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9). He himself will issue such invitations as will not be refused.

II. Verses 13-22 – From a Wedding to the Passover – From the standpoint of the Christological focus of Scripture, John’s juxtaposition of these two events is quite striking. Jesus sustains the happiness of a wedding and then Jesus manifests the holiness of his house and the necessary purity of the Passover event. On the one hand, he shows that he will fulfill all the ceremonies and rites of purification involved in Old Covenant observances, but at the same time he was filled with anger at the flippancy, carelessness, and covetousness that surrounded the observance of that particular ceremonial sacrifice that foreshadowed his own blood-shedding redemptive act. Jesus would shed his own blood to purchase his bride, and the requirements of the Passover, both in form and in heart, were peculiarly vivid to the mind of the incarnate Lord of glory. The wedding was symbolic of the victory won and the bride bought to be his forever; the Passover depicted the purchase price, redemption through his blood, the infinite human trauma and it must not have even a hint of the casual and perfunctory about it, much less the irreverent profiteering which would be consummated by Judas’s betrayal at the price of a slave.

A. Jesus cleansed the Temple twice, once at the beginning of his public ministry as recorded here and once at the end of his public ministry as recorded in Matthew 21:12, Mark 11:15 and Luke 19:45. Whereas the first sign, changing the water to wine, was intensely private, this sign is intensely public. The first was quiet and subdued in a controlled setting, this was ostentatious, at the most important and highly attended festival of the year in Jerusalem, and at the center of the religious life of the Jews. Jesus, relatively unknown to the religious leaders at this time, immediately comes to their attention.

B. This is one of three Passovers mentioned by John. The other two are in 6:4 and in 11:55 with references to this third also found in chapters 12, 13, 18, 19. It is one of three festivals during the year when all males were required to “appear before the Lord.” The Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Booths were the other two (Deuteronomy 16:16). 

C. Jesus found in the Temple area, probably in the court of the Gentiles, both sellers of sacrificial victims and money changers. People visiting Jerusalem for this festival needed fitting animals for sacrifice and legitimate coin acceptable for the treasury. Why did Jesus respond the way that he did?

1. It is possible that the victims did not meet the standards necessary for the observance of the meal. We know that this had been the case in former days for Malachi speaks of their offering animals that were blind, or lame, or sick (Malachi 1:7, 8). At that time God showed zeal for his name in contrast to their despicable conduct: “For from the rising of the sun to its setting, my  name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.” (Malachi 1:11) 

2. The concern, on the other hand, seems to indicate, from the language Jesus used, to relate more to the location than to the quality of the sacrifices or even the nature of the activity. Surely throughout Jerusalem at this time, one could find places for exchange of coin and for the purchase of appropriate sacrificial animals. These particular ones, however, with greater zeal for “location, location, location,” saw an opportunity for higher prices and perhaps a clandestine interest charged on exchange. It was simply much more convenient for the pilgrim to wait until he arrived at the temple to obtain what he needed than to have to deal with it on the journey and through the streets. Rather than steer clear of the very place of worship and solemnization of sacrifice, they pressed themselves as near as possible to its vicinity in the interests of trade, not worship. 

3. Jesus, knowing this (see verses 24, 25), showed his zeal for the holiness of the name of God and the purity of the worship that is due him. As had been done in his public baptism, he claims a unique relationship with God in calling him “My Father” (See John 1:18, 24). 

4. Again, as in the wedding, this event impressed the disciples, for they remembered the Scripture “Zeal for your house will consume me,” and realized its messianic significance (See Psalm 69:7-15).

D. Verses 18-22 – This manifestation of authority and zeal draws a response from the religious leaders. Even as punctilious as these Jews were about certain aspects of ceremony and religious observance, they had not taken it on themselves to forbid this particular activity. They are offended, therefore, that one that is not among them has usurped their normal sphere of determining those things that are and are not consistent with the Law. We know from Matthew 5-7 and many other Scriptures that Jesus did not follow their authority but challenged it and spoke in accordance with the authority that was original and intrinsic to him. His concern for reverential fear in the presence of his Father as well as for the spirituality and truth-centeredness of worship is a continual theme of John (John 3:3; 4:14, 21-23; 5:24, 42; 6:63;; 7:17, 37-39; 8:31). See Particularly Jesus’ teaching in the Temple in 8:12-20. The very place in which he set forth his authority to determine the nature of the purity of true worship, he claimed to be the light of the world and to give to his followers the “light of life.”

1. They asked for some palpable manifestation that his actions were warranted, that he had authority to perform an act reserved for the Messiah. Throughout John, as he continually unfolds the evidence for which they ask, they develop more intense and determined hostility toward him. For another Temple confrontation on this issue see 10:22-33. 

2. Jesus, immediately perceiving that they were offended to a degree that would ferment into a murderous hatred, gave the sign of their eventual killing of him and his overcoming of death by the resurrection. “Destroy this temple, and in three day I will raise it up.” Jesus based the credibility of every prerogative he took to himself, and every title he claimed for himself, and every act of obeisance and worship he received and accepted on the resurrection that would follow his crucifixion. Leon Morris points to an instructive idea based on the prophetic and providential power of this confrontation: “It is possible also that we should discern something of the prophetic method wherein the spoken word initiates the action in which the purpose of God is worked. There is irony in the fact that ultimately the Jews themselves were to be the means of bringing about the sign they asked the Christ to produce, and which they did not recognize when it came. There is further irony in that to put Jesus to death was to offer the one sacrifice that can truly expiate sin, and thus doom the temple as a place for the offering of sacrifice.” (Morris, John, 199). When they crucified Jesus, thus fulfilling his prophecy, they also destroyed the temple as having any further relevance in the preparatory status of the Jewish nation and its religious sacrifices.

3. Obviously, they are without a clue as to his meaning. He reaches to the fundamental meaning of biblical prophecy, continuity, and typology in speaking of his own body in terms of the Temple in which they presently stood. This is a bold and absolute claim of messiahship and deity, and it passes right through them, though that is the very evidence for which they were fishing. They had no idea of who they were talking with or of what all this meant. They only saw it as a challenge to their religious preeminence. Such jealously-held self-importance justified Jesus’ woes to them as killers of the prophets (Matthew 23:29-36). It demonstrated his revelation that while they were the biological seed of Abraham they were not partakers of his faith (John 8:37, 39). 

4. Again John points out that the disciples of Jesus (many of whom will yet leave him for they find his sayings too hard) remembered that Jesus had said this. Probably in reference to those disciples that remained with him in true belief, John adds “and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.” Jesus’ words have full canonical authority. They express the true meaning of the Old Testament and also show its proper fulfillment in him. This expresses another theme that John summarized in John 1:17: “The law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.”

III. There are disciples, and then there are disciples. Verses 23-25

A.  In spite of the questioning and unbelieving spirit of most of the leaders, many people “believed in his name.” 

1. The signs that he was doing convinced them, at least mentally and temporarily, that the long-awaited Messiah had come. They would be eager to see him unveiling his conquering power in the near future. They would encourage crowds to follow him for this purpose. They would listen to him, and wait for that revelation of conquering power. That Jesus could have done so becomes more and more obvious from the demonstrations that he gave of his authority even over natural forces (e.g. John 6:11-15; 16ff) but they were not ready for the shedding of blood and the necessity of a Spirit-generated faith. 

2. After the feeding of the 5000, the knowledge that Jesus had of the character of this “belief” and the political and worldly advantage that they sought becomes even more obvious. Even as the people were saying, “This is truly the prophet who is to come into the world” (6:14), Jesus withdrew for they were on the verge of coming and taking him by force to initiate the rescue of the nation (6:15).

3. This becomes even clearer when Jesus spoke of the necessity of his incarnation in true manhood and the central importance of his sacrificial death: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves” (6:53). After this and a statement concerning the necessity of the Spirit’s operation in granting spiritual life as a foundation for belief, Jesus said, “But there are some of you who do not believe” (6:64).

4. Jesus would clearly state the substance of their disappointment in his words to Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm” (John 18 36).

B. Jesus is not fooled by this acclamation based on personal interest and misperception, so he does not commit himself to this increased following. He knew what was in man. He knew that:

1. Man is sinful, filled with self-interest and quick to embrace something that holds promise of personal advantage. 

2. Sinful man does not receive readily a message that gives life only after it brings to one the verdict of death and asks for complete assent and consent to the justice of God in holding one under condemnation (John 3:18, 36). 

3. Sinful man does not submit to the prerogative of God to give life to whom He will (John 5:21-23).

4. Sinful man is not drawn to loyalty by a manifestation of holiness and righteousness, but by the possibilities of personal advantage through following power.

IV. Jesus still had before him the ultimate and consummate act of righteousness. It is this that would qualify him to be Savior and this that would be most derogatory to his greatness in the eyes of the crowd: “obedient unto death even the death of the cross. … He saved others; himself he cannot save” (Philippians 2:8; Luke 23:35, 37).

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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