The Wedding at Cana
Perspectives on John 2
Written by Martin Ellgar 2007
There were two weddings held at Cana, one more glorious than the other. The first was well into its festivities when the second began. The bride and groom, who are the focus in any wedding aren’t even named in the text. The other wedding is veiled and even more obscure for detail unless one has the eyes of faith in Jesus. Some of the textual oddities of the wedding at Cana are explained in the following commentary. Through it, the veil is partly lifted to see who is getting married to whom, and to reveal the glory of Jesus.
In order to find a deeper meaning in the text other than that there was a wedding at Cana then, it is important to understand John, the traditional author of the Gospel and his methods. John uses symbolism and dual meanings throughout his writing. He uses this technique as a means to teach and tease out the spiritual meaning behind a God given event on earth.
Spiritual blindness is part of the fallen human condition. In this state many people are unable to see how God is active in their life. In their spiritual blindness they pass by the blessings that God has given them. John has continued through his writing what Jesus had first started. Jesus’ endeavour amongst others is to heal people of their spiritual blindness. Everything that Jesus did on earth also had a spiritual meaning behind it pointing to the kingdom of heaven.
At the time of Jesus, many people had various spiritual beliefs. A common belief was that the ‘gods’ were part of the heavenly body. It was believed that the deities generally did not get involved with earthly affairs and the needs of people. Therefore, with the arrival of Jesus as the revelation of God the Father meant that God was on earth and getting involved in people’s lives. God had always been involved with all his creation from the beginning. And it has always been difficult for many people to see him at work in their own life or in the life of others. With the arrival of Jesus, as the Son of God he became the visible link through which people could see God in action.
Jesus is both man and God, physical and spiritual in nature. It is important not only to understand him in his physical form but also in his spiritual nature. A God given event on earth also has a spiritual meaning with it. For example, the physical death of Jesus on the cross also underscores the more important spiritual event that was combined with it. Jesus died for the atonement of all sins for all people. If Jesus is not seen through the eyes of faith as the Son of God, then his death was just another like any other without any further meaning. Similarly, the wedding at Cana would then remain just another wedding like any other.
The following two examples from amongst many others in the Gospel briefly show the human condition of spiritual blindness. And in that condition Jesus is not recognized for who he really is. In the first example, when Jesus was standing before the Temple in Jerusalem, he replied to those in authority, “Destroy this temple and I will raise it in three days.” (v. 2: 19). They could only think about the physical and in earthly events and so reminded Jesus that it took forty six years to build the current stone temple. But Jesus was speaking in spiritual terms about his own body as the temple and its bodily resurrection on the third day.
In the second example, Nicodemus, one of the Pharisees came secretly to meet with Jesus to find out more about him. In their discussion Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (v. 3: 3). Nicodemus’ reply was one given out of human reasoning related only to earthly matters. He said, “How can a man be born when he is old?” (v. 3: 4). Jesus’ reply was in spiritual terms, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” (v. 3: 5).
In chapter one, John begins the Gospel with a cosmic scene. He draws the reader back to the first book, Genesis, where God first created the universe. From the beginning of the Gospel, John beckons the reader to consider a heavenly perspective of life. John challenges the reader to consider a further dimension other than the physical world that they are familiar with, that is the reality of an active God and that we are part of his creation.
The story, the Wedding at Cana can plainly be told from a cultural or social perspective. It can be told as a simple wedding where Jesus steps in to save the celebrations by providing more wine. But it is much more than that, the wedding is primarily the foundation that holds up a much larger spiritual story. It is a story that tells of God’s wondrous act at Cana in Galilee, an event that impacts on the lives of all people.
1a. On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee.
A wedding is a glorious event for many people. It is an event that unites individuals as it also does families. Through the uniting of people, the event ushers in a period of new hope, and gives rise to great expectations for life. The traditional author, John uses the context of the wedding with its glorious endeavour to signal the start of Jesus’ public ministry. The wedding theme encapsulates the promise of new life given by Jesus.
The glory and the importance of the wedding at Cana is further emphasised in the text by the preceding words, “On the third day.” Those words aren’t merely a time reference but primarily a formula that points to an up coming glorious and significant event. Those words imply that God will be involved in some way making it an extraordinary event impacting on the welfare of the people involved.
The expression, “on the third day” is used elsewhere in the Bible in relation to significant events. It was used by the apostle Paul in relation to the resurrection of Jesus. Paul used this formula of words to testify to the glory of Jesus and the involvement of God the Father in the resurrection of Jesus according to the Scriptures. (1Corin. 15: 4). Another reference of great importance is where God meets with the people of Israel at Mount Sinai and a covenant is made between them. There at Mt. Sinai the Lord asked Moses to have the people ready, he said, “be ready by the third day, because on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.” (Exodus 19: 11).
The wedding at Cana becomes increasingly important in relation to the story of Israel at Mt. Sinai because, they both share a parallel theme. Both stories tell about a people uniting with God through a covenant. Many scholars agree that the story of the Lord making a covenant with Israel at Mt. Sinai is pinnacle to the Old Testament of the Bible. Therefore, one can assume that the wedding at Cana has a similar importance in the New Testament of the Bible.
The importance and significance of the wedding at Cana can be better appreciated with an understanding of the covenant made at Mt Sinai. The book of Exodus in the Bible tells of God’s chosen people. In it, God called the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt and out of slavery. They travelled with his guidance and deliverance through the wilderness to Mt. Sinai. Through a covenant made at Mt. Sinai the people of Israel were bonded to God. In the presence of God they became a holy nation, a nation of priests. Israel promised to be faithful to God and live a holy life as a testament of Gods goodness to Israel. Their intended witness as a nation of priests was to draw all nations back into the love and protection of God. The rest of the Old Testament in the Bible in part tells of Israel’s struggle to be faithful to God. Despite Israel’s failings, God’s intention has always been and continues to be to restore his creation to life, to bring salvation to all people.
The relationship between God and Israel, and the event at Mt. Sinai has frequently been described in symbolic language throughout the Bible. Israel has been described as both the faithful and unfaithful bride of the Lord. The covenant made at Mt. Sinai has been acknowledged by many as the marriage between Israel and the Lord. The Exodus story of Israel from Egypt to Mt. Sinai contains the basic elements of a cultural marriage of the times. The bride, Israel who has been acknowledged as a possession of the Lord from long ago was called out of her home, Egypt to go and be the bride of the Lord. As the bridegroom, the Lord accompanies the bride on a journey to the place of marriage. Usually, that place was the home of the bridegroom, and in this case it was Mt. Sinai. The marriage takes place through a covenant and both parties promise to be faithful to the agreement. These basic elements of a wedding also appear prior and after the wedding at Cana where God is present through Jesus. They help to conclude who is getting married to whom, and they will be pointed out as they come up in the commentary.
Like any invited guest who is related to the bride they want to know more about the groom. Common questions asked are: “Where is he from?” “Who are his family?” and “What is he like?” From a spiritual perspective of the wedding these questions are answered. The beginning of chapter one immediately points to Jesus’ origins. Jesus in essence is God who is the creator of all things. The groom is royalty, a heavenly prince; Jesus is the Son of God.
Many royal weddings have a herald who is sent by the King to announce the coming princely groom and the occasion. John the Baptist is this herald and he was sent by God. (Jn. 1: 6). He was sent: to point out the groom (1: 7, 34), to declare his origins that Jesus came from God the Father in heaven (1: 14), to declare his nature that he is full of grace and truth (1: 16, 17), and to proclaim his purpose in coming that is, Jesus came to take away the sin of the world (1: 29).
The story of the wedding at Cana moves rapidly as if there is some urgency to it. As early as verse six of the Gospel the royal herald, John the Baptist is sent. The urgency can be gathered from the purpose in Jesus coming to earth. The purpose is redemption, to take away the sin of the world (1: 29), and to give the light of life to every human being (1: 9). The theme of redemption is also recalled when God delivered Israel out of bondage to Pharaoh in Egypt. The Lord came to take Israel as his bride and to give her a new life. In the same light of redemption Jesus has come to take a bride and to give her a renewed life.
There are the days of preparation before any wedding. After the Lord had collected and brought his bride out of Egypt, Israel prepared herself to meet the Lord on the third day (Ex 19: 10, 11). Likewise, the days of preparation for the wedding at Cana are signalled by the words, ‘the next day’ which occur three times (Jn 1: 29, 35, 43). They contain important elements of a wedding that help confirm the identity of the bride.
The next day (1: 29), John the Baptist identifies and reveals the groom to all the people (1: 31). The next day, and the next day (1: 35, 43), Jesus collects his first disciples. Within the content of the ‘next day’ preparations there is a sense of great movement as on a journey. Jesus is moving about collecting his disciples, and they follow him where ever he goes. In a similar movement, the Lord collected Israel and brought her out of Egypt to take her to Mt. Sinai. The disciples followed Jesus to the wedding at Cana. Therefore, from the days of preparation the disciples who are collectively known as the Church belonging to Jesus are identified as the bride of Jesus.
The journey of the bride and groom to the wedding at Cana is marked with joy. Usually as custom would have it, the groom together with his friends would collect the bride. As they travelled to the wedding his friends would cry out with joy bestowing praises upon the groom at the treasure he had found. But here, the bride of Jesus is also overjoyed with her find. The disciples after having found Jesus would go out to bring others to Jesus saying, “We have found the Messiah” (1: 41) as if they had found a treasure themselves. This is very much like a ‘Cinderella’ story where the prince falls in love with a lowly servant. And so is the joy of both the bride and Jesus to each other. Royalty, the Son of God has chosen a lowly servant for his bride and partner through life. The bride of Jesus has further reason for joy other than being lifted up into the royal household; her primary joy comes from knowing that Jesus is full of grace and truth as testified by John the Baptist (1: 16).
In comparison, Israel the bride of the Lord grumbled on her journey to Mt. Sinai supposing that she was still better off in slavery to Pharaoh (Ex 16: 1-3).
Throughout the journey to Cana there is a fanfare of praises for the royal groom. All of Jesus’ titles are publicly announced. As the disciples meet Jesus they acknowledge and confess who he is. From John the Baptist onwards, Jesus has been proclaimed as: the Lamb of God, the Son of God, Rabbi (which means Teacher), the Messiah (that is, the Christ), Jesus of Nazareth, and King of Israel. Amongst all these exalted praises, what does Jesus say of himself? Jesus says that he is the Son of Man (1: 50). All the titles combine to reveal the nature and role of Jesus on earth. He is full grace and truth towards all people. The Son of Man is a title that has more humility behind it than the others. It suggests that on a personal and daily level, Jesus identifies and deals with every person’s pain and needs in order that they may have life abundantly.
The two wedding locations are in stark contrast. Mt. Sinai was located in a wilderness. It was where the Lord chose to show himself to the people of Israel and make a covenant with her. It was a fearful place. There was thunder and lightning, and smoke upon the mountain. The bride waited there and trembled in fear (Ex. 20: 18). In contrast, Cana was a town in Galilee. Family, friends, and neighbours were guests at the wedding. There was no fear, only joy. The joy of the wedding was marked by the joy of bride and groom in each other, and by the celebrating guests who in one way marked it by the running out of wine and the calling for more (2: 3). The two covenants of union with their respective context, one of fear and the other of joy reveals the relationship they had with each other from the beginning and as they continued through life. Only one relationship has survived. The resurrected Jesus lives today through the Holy Spirit and therefore the covenant of joy made at Cana continues with his bride forever.
Text & Commentary
1b. Jesus’ mother was there,
2. and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.
The names of the bride and groom for the wedding at Cana aren’t even mentioned. They’re not significant. The wedding at Cana indirectly infers to a much more glorious wedding taking place. Its function is similar to that of John the Baptist. He was used as a messenger from God and would not identify himself more than that to those who asked for his identity. He recognised that his standing and function in the community must diminish as someone greater than he was present. John the Baptist said of Jesus, “He must become greater; I must become less.” (3: 30).
As the wedding of Jesus with his bride takes on more significance, then what spiritual relationship or union was being diminished? The short answer is the covenant between God and Israel. Jesus’ mother plays a role in this outcome. She is listed first of all the names mentioned at the wedding. Her priority listing implies that she has great significance in the wedding at Cana. She may have been closely related to the unknown bride and groom, and therefore seen concerning herself with the ceremonies (2: 3). Many scholars argue that Mary the mother of Jesus like her husband Joseph was also a descendant from the House of David. The House of David represents the best of Israel. Therefore, Mary the mother of Jesus through her heritage and status at the wedding becomes a type of representative for Israel. In a sense Mary is a messenger from and to the House of David. This perspective will become clearer from the commentary on the following Bible verses. Furthermore, Mary also has a connection to the other wedding taking place. Her eminent presence there reaffirms the she has also the role of parent host to the wedding of Jesus with his bride.
It appears that Jesus and his disciples are written into the text as if they were an after thought, a late addition to the wedding guest list. Jesus and his disciples attended but the text initiates a feeling of distance and alienation in the relationships at the wedding.
3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
4 “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied, “My time has not yet come.”
5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Jesus’ mother is concerned that the wine has been consumed before the end of the festivities. Mary knows that this could ruin everything. She approaches her son knowing that he can in some way remedy the problem. Mary continues and commands the servants to listen to Jesus.
From a spiritual perspective Jesus’ mother in the context of the wedding is the prophetic voice from and to Israel. Mary pleads to Jesus on behalf of Israel that their fortunes and joy be restored. Again, Mary in the prophetic voice commands Israel to listen and do whatever Jesus says. Mary, like John the Baptist directed Israel by pointing to Jesus as the means of salvation.
Jesus reply continues to transmit a feeling of distance and alienation to those at the wedding to which he was invited. The Old Testament between God and Israel is diminishing in importance while the New Testament of salvation between Jesus and his bride is at the threshold. Jesus reply also transmits an air of urgency as the groom makes his final preparations to meet his bride and to bring in salvation for all people. Israel is no longer counted by the Lord as a holy nation, a nation of priest but as a people counted amongst others, all in need of salvation.
6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.
7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.
The one place for large stone jars would have been in a synagogue for use in ceremonial washing. The stone jars of that kind were commonly made from limestone, turned and shaped on a lathe. They were large, heavy, and rather immovable items that could hold between twenty and thirty gallons of water. The servants would fill them using more portable and manageable clay jars. These stone jars became the main water supply for the synagogue during times of public gatherings or private functions. A wealthy community at large or a benefactor that supported the synagogue could afford to lavish the synagogue with so many large stone jars. It is more than likely that the wedding at Cana was held at the local synagogue.
The synagogue is part of a distant shadow of the Tabernacle and later the Temple at Jerusalem. They were all primarily places of worship in which people came to be reconciled and restored to the God of Israel. They were all imperfect in fulfilling their purpose. Both the Tabernacle and the original Temple in turn have passed away. This has left the people with a need for a reassuring and lasting presence of God.
The stone jars have been listed as six. The number six in its symbolic use describes something incomplete, whereas the number seven has been used to indicate the fullness of something. And so, the number six is left wanting. Imagine, six round large and heavy stone jars used for ceremonial cleansing standing near the entrance of the synagogue. They stand there like six large ancient stone pillars of witness giving testimony to the incompleteness of the cleansing required before God. Their testimony gives rise for the need of completeness and the hope of a Messiah. When Jesus asked the servants to fill the six stone jars, they filled them to the brim. That the six stone jars were filled to the brim further indicates that they weren’t enough on their own for the purposes of cleansing the people before God. Ironically, Jesus who stands amongst them is the awaited Messiah. In a sense he is the seventh and final vessel for the purpose of purifying all people. He is the one who gives the living water for eternal life (4: 14).
Furthermore, the filling again of the stone jars used for ceremonial washing marks the beginning of another wedding and a new covenant. This is the wedding that everyone has been waiting for, the wedding between Jesus and his bride.
8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so,
9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realise where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside
10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”
These few verses are only a small window that gives us a glimpse into the drama that unfolded at the wedding. There was pain for some and joy for others at the occasion. After the master of the banquet tastes the new wine he called the bridegroom aside. The translation of calling the bridegroom aside would be better understood as; the bridegroom was summoned to promptly explain about the situation with the wine. The tone of voice was one of anger. This was a serious matter that demanded immediate explanation and remedy.
The problem arose when a much better wine was produced after the first lot was consumed. The better wine brought into question the matter of honour and respect towards his guests. Did he cheat on his guests by holding back the good wine? The master of the banquet would have felt that his own reputation and standing in the community was about to be ruined since he was in charge of the ceremony. Usually when guests have too much to drink they are less able to distinguish between a good or poor wine, and more importantly they drink less. That’s the time everyone brings out the cheap wine, but to bring out the best wine later was considered an insult. It showed that the host did not want to share the good things with his guests. It further revealed his nature of being careless and selfish.
The master of the banquet did not know that the wine given to him by the servants to taste was the water turned to wine by Jesus. None the less, the master of the banquet, like the mother of Jesus both in what they said and did can also be understood in a prophetic sense. That is, through the actions of the master of the banquet, he passed judgement upon Israel as being unfaithful in their covenant with the Lord. As part of the judgement upon Israel, he declared that the best wine is here now, and by doing so marks the beginning of a new and better union to replace the former.
In contrast, the wine that Jesus produced for his wedding was the best from the start. That reveals something about the nature of Jesus. He cares for his guests and he honours them with the very best. Not only does Jesus look after his own guests, but the blessings flow on to others. The best wine did go on to all the guests at the wedding even though many did not know where it came from. They continued in joy unaware of what they had received from Jesus. Their joy would last as long as the wine flowed at the ceremony.
The servants who had drawn the water from the stone jars knew where the wine came from. Unlike the others, there joy would continue since it came from being in the presence of Jesus. The servants witnessed and were part of the process of Jesus’ activity at the wedding. Since Jesus works to bring about the fullness of life therefore, from being in the presence of Jesus flow the gifts of hope, joy, love, and peace into a person’s life. Those gifts will last longer than the wedding feast.
Precisely when and how did the water become wine? It is a question that is not worthy of debate, it simply does not matter. It is simply in the presence of Jesus that life is transformed. Jesus is here to restore life to all, how and when he does it is simply his business. After all, he is the creator and knows what is best for all of us and how to go about it.
The climax of the wedding at Cana is the miracle itself. The miracle of turning water into wine proclaims the making of the New Testament. It bonds the partners of Jesus and his bride in a glorious union of grace and love forever.
The stone jars, the kind that were used by the Jews for ceremonial washing feature again, and this time towards the making of a miracle. They clearly represent the Law and all the various regulations within it that Moses gave to Israel at Mt. Sinai. The Law given by Moses defined that which was holy and profane for Israel. It defined what was good and bad. Through the Law, Israel failed to fulfil it as required by God. Their strength and weaknesses were no different to any other nation, or any other person. All people fail to meet the standard of holiness set by the Law of Moses. Washing and becoming clean was an important prerequisite before entering the Temple or coming into the presence of God. Without it a person could not present their sacrifice before God in order to receive forgiveness of sins and continued blessings from God. The vessel and the water had to remain clean and pure for the purpose of ceremonial washing.
So, what does Jesus do to them? He turned the water jars into vats of wine. They have become polluted and no longer acceptable for ceremonial washing. Jesus who has been proclaimed as the Lamb of God, the Messiah, the King of Israel, and the Son of God has by his royal authority annulled everything that Moses declared through the Law. The burden of striving to present oneself clean and holy before God has been turned into wine.
The Law of Moses came to Israel inscribed on stone tablets. That was the covenant between God and Israel. Now, that it has been annulled, something new is here. The New Testament between Jesus and his bride is not written in stone. There is neither a written nor verbal agreement between the two parties. The arrangement is simply one of grace given by Jesus. Through his grace, Jesus will forgive and uphold his bride, the Church whenever she fails. He will nurture, shelter, and strengthen her at times of need. He will give her fullness of life with hope, peace, love, and joy. Jesus is the new wine that gives renewed life and joy.
Jesus not only gives grace to his bride but also to the whole world. Like at the wedding where the blessings of the new wine flowed on to all the guests, so the blessings of the new covenant will flow on to all people. At the end of his ministry, Jesus as the Lamb of God was crucified and died on the cross so that all people have had their sins forgiven and made presentable before God. Through his actions and sacrifice on the cross, Jesus has annulled the fear that people had of God, so that we may all confidently say of God and intimately call upon him as, “Our Father in Heaven.” The grace and blessings that come from Jesus flow beyond just the Church. They flow to all people even though many would be unaware of the gift they have received.
Jesus is full of grace and truth that his is nature. He is therefore the reason that the disciples, his bride followed Jesus with joy to the wedding at Cana. From the grace that Jesus gives, people respond and follow him into life. As Jesus draws people to himself so a new union is formed and the two become one. All people who are in the union with Jesus share in the grace and truth that is in Jesus. In this union with Jesus, the Church and all believers are able to give in turn grace and truth to others. Since the death and resurrection of Jesus, he lives and continues the union with his bride in all grace and truth for the purpose of giving new life to people everyday.
11 This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.
At the wedding, Jesus turned water into wine. On its own, it does not seem to be that glorious especially coming from the Son of God. It appears like a cheap party trick. Therefore, what is the real glory of Jesus that he revealed at the wedding? The miracle is a sign that points to something much greater. It does not point to the power of Jesus in mastering chemistry whereby he turned water into wine. Rather, it points particularly to the bride of Jesus. Usually, at a wedding, the veil of the bride is lifted as they depart revealing the bride who is the glory of the groom. Therefore, in the context of a wedding, the glory of Jesus is none other than his bride, the Church, and all who have put their faith in him.
The bride and groom leave together. In the new union the bride puts her trust and faith in him as he leads her out into a new life together. As the disciples leave with Jesus they put their trust and faith in him. All people who have put their trust and faith in Jesus are also part of the same union with Jesus. All who follow Jesus are the glory of Jesus, his bride.
12 After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.
After a wedding feast the bride usually resides with the groom at his family home. The text of the wedding at Cana finishes with the disciples following Jesus and his family back to Capernaum where they were staying. Like a honeymoon, Jesus and his bride stayed in Capernaum for a few days before starting for Jerusalem and their public ministry of salvation.
The wedding at Cana is a story about Jesus getting ready for his public ministry. He does this by first gathering a partner for his mission. His partner or bride is none other than his disciples. The Christian church and the body of all believers share in the title of the bride of Christ.
The wedding at Cana is also the making of a new covenant. The miracle of turning water into wine is simply a sign pointing to the new union between Jesus and all his followers as his bride. This union is one of grace. Jesus gives of himself to enrich and lift up his bride into the royal household where he is the Son of God. The bride responds to the grace given by Jesus with joy and puts her faith in him.
Together, they go forward to bring salvation to the world. Jesus through the new covenant pays for everyone’s debt of sin towards God by giving his life on the cross for all people. Through sheer grace, Jesus has wiped away the record of sin with his life. Many are unaware of their blessings and the giver of them. They are unaware of the lasting joy, peace, hope, and love that they could have today from Jesus.
Through the resurrection of Jesus from death to life, he continues with his bride, the church to bring about the blessings that all people could have now. The Christian church has now become the visible partner in the marriage union today. With the help of the resurrected Jesus, the Christian church continues to give what Jesus had first given. He gave grace to all in need. Like Jesus, the Christian church is called to give hope, peace, love, and joy into people’s lives, into their daily circumstances. Jesus is the New Testament, the elixir of life, and the Christian church is gathered to him to be his faithful bride and partner in his mission to the world.
John 2: 13-25 (NIV)
13. When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
14. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and sitting at tables exchanging money.
15. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.
16. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”
17. His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
18. Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”
19. Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
20. The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?”
21. But the temple he had spoken of was his body.
22. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
23. Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name.
24. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men.
25. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.
The last section of chapter two contains the story of Jesus at the temple courts. Jesus went from Cana to Jerusalem; from the wedding feast to overturning the tables at the temple courts. The two stories in the chapter are theologically connected. The activities of Jesus and what he says at the temple courts brings clarity and reality to the meaning of the new covenant that began at the wedding at Cana.
Jesus in partnership with his disciples went up to Jerusalem to begin his public ministry of salvation. In the temple courts, Jesus dispersed the animals and the traders, and overturned the tables of the money changers. Imagine, Jesus and probably his disciples in partnership running around creating havoc, confusion, and noise. And that’s how they began their public ministry of salvation.
The temple courts have been legitimately used as a place to buy and sell animals, and to exchange money for the purpose of presenting a suitable sacrifice to God. In essence, it was all part of the Law and the ordinances given by Moses to the people of Israel in the process of their worship of God.
The effect and reality of the new covenant made at the wedding at Cana, made redundant the purchase or giving of a suitable sacrifice to God. The new covenant has superseded the old. In the temple courts stood Jesus who is the new covenant, the Lamb of God, the only and final sacrifice required for salvation. Therefore, all other means of sacrifice to please God has been made redundant. This does not only mean material sacrifices but also all human endeavours to be right with God. Jesus demonstrated the reality of the new covenant and its meaning by driving out all other means of sacrifices to please God. Freedom and grace had arrived in the temple courts in the form of Jesus especially for all who could not meet the requirements to please God. Jesus has fulfilled all requirements, for all people, for all time by giving his life on the cross as the ultimate sacrifice. Nothing more is required.
The temple authorities were of course troubled by the actions of Jesus. They wanted to see some proof that he had authority from God for his actions, so they demanded a miraculous sign from him. In Jesus’ reply to them, he inferred that his body is the new temple. The effect and reality of the new covenant made at the wedding at Cana has replaced the old temple with the new. Jesus has become the new temple for the purpose of giving life. The very thing that the old stone temple was meant to do, give life, but failed is replaced by Jesus the new temple. The stone jars for ceremonial washing at the wedding were no longer useful in their purpose because Jesus has taken its place. Likewise, Jesus has taken the place and function of the stone temple. All who come to Jesus will find renewed life without cost.
At the end of Jesus’ ministry on earth when he was raised from the dead, the disciples remembered what Jesus had said about himself as the new temple. Then they began to believe in the Scriptures and the words of Jesus. The disciples were already familiar with the content of Scripture and the words of Moses, but now they could see that Scripture was inferring and pointing to Jesus as the promised saviour. In a later reply to the Jews, Jesus said, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.” (John 5: 46). Anyone would be hard pressed to find the name of Jesus in the words of Moses. Jesus was implying that the spiritual meaning of the words of Moses was referring to the coming saviour that we now have in Jesus. Like the miracle at Cana so the words of Scripture point to something much larger and glorious than their direct and obvious meaning. From with in those words of Scripture comes a spiritual meaning and the true message from God can be found. After the resurrection of Jesus, the disciples began to understand the deeper meaning of the spiritual nature of Scripture and its message of salvation through Jesus.