A Bible Lesson on John 2:1-11

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This lesson concerns the first sign/miracle recording in the book of John.  Jesus is at Cana of Galilee, at a wedding.

John 2:1  On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.

This takes place in the home of an ordinary family, in a small village, in the backwater province of Galilee.  It’s completely ordinary, in the way your life and mine are completely ordinary.  But it’s also completely wonderful, in that such is the way God has ordained it, and in that He’s present with us.  Life in these times and this place was hard, but here we drop in on one of the really good and joyous parts of life, a wedding.

Mary is here.  Commentators have speculated from early times that it’s a relative of the family that is getting married, and that perhaps Mary is helping with arrangements.  These feasts, even for poor people, could go on literally for several days.  Hospitality on these occasions was a very important matter, a matter of family honor.

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.”

A crisis arises.  This is potential humiliation for the family of the bridegroom, something that its members will never live down, something that is going to cast a dark cloud over what should be a joyous event.  How could this happen?  Some commentators see here an indication that the couple is very poor and may have made the minimal provision, hoping for the best.  But Calvin says “What is related here often happens, especially when wine is not in daily use.”  In any event, Mary brings it to the attention of Jesus.  She doesn’t prescribe any action on the part of Jesus, but comes to him, probably concerned for the honor of the bridegroom’s family.

4  And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”

The ESV and KJV have here “woman.”  That is harsh in English, but not was not so in the original language.  The NIV’s addition of “dear” is probably closer in feel, if not in exact wording than the ESV here.  It’s the same form of address that Jesus used from the cross.  Notice, though, that Jesus doesn’t call her “mother” at this point.  His public ministry has begun and their relationship will never again be like it was growing up in Nazareth.  Intimacy with Jesus is available to Mary, but now only in the same way it is to each of us.

“What does this have to do with me?” is more literally something like “What to me and to you?”  The sense of it could be “What have I to do with thee?” or “What have you to do with me?”  The Amplified renders it “What is that to you and to me?”  There may be a lingering impression in Mary’s mind that Jesus will take direction from her.  If so, this phrase is correction of that.  It is no longer her place to be directing Him.

Throughout John, Jesus is shown to be very conscious of “His time.”  He is in control of His march to the cross, and things will happen as the Father wills, and in the Father’s time.  At this point, He may be saying that the time for out-in-the-open-for-all-to-see miracles isn’t yet.

5  His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now Mary doesn’t prescribe for Jesus, but she does tell the household servants to do whatever He says.  He’s not promised to intervene, but she clearly hopes He will.  Bruce says “Mary knew (despite her Son’s unforthcoming reply) that the situation was saved when it had been committed to Him.  She did not know what He would do, but she did know He would do the right thing.”

6  Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.

What, if anything, to make of the six stone jars?  There are various lines of thought on the inclusion of this detail.  For one thing, there is the simple fact that this is a large number of these vessels.  A family would have only one.  This is the whole neighborhoods’ supply and they hold a lot of water in total.  For another, 6 is not 7.  This is short of a perfect number.  The jars were used for ceremonial washing, and while that washing was part of the Jewish law, that law was not sufficient to bring men to perfection before God.

7  Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.

J.C. Ryle says, “Duties are ours.  Events are God’s.  It is ours to fill the water-pots.  It is Christ’s to make the water wine.”  So now there are 120-180 gallons of water sitting in stone jars.

8  And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it.

Imagine having this job.  You’ve just filled the jars with water and now you are carrying wine to the master of the banquet (who most commentators think is probably an honored friend of the groom’s family).  You know what’s happened … but does it change you?  There is no indication that this miracle ultimately did anything in the ones that filled the jars and carried the wine.  They apparently see all there is to see, but leave untouched.

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

This fellow is oblivious to what has happened.  He does, however, see the result as superior.  This is good wine!  It is so good that he calls the groom aside and compliments him, and in doing so he speaks prophetically.

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.”

The master of the banquet doesn’t know what has happened and he doesn’t understand the double meaning of what he’s saying.  On one level he describes standard practice of starting with the best provisions at a celebration like this.  But indeed in God’s economy, the best has been saved for the last.  The perfect One is here at the wedding.  The fulfillment of the plan of redemption is on the premises.  What was incomplete in the Jewish law now finds completion in Jesus.  He says it, but he doesn’t see it in anything but natural terms.  He himself stands in the place of one of the dissolute folks who get drunk and can then be satisfied with the cheap stuff.

11  This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

But the effect on the disciples is different.  They see and put their faith in Jesus.  They rely on Him, trust in Him, cleave to Him, cast themselves upon Him.  The servants observe and remain unmoved.  The master of the banquet is oblivious.  But the disciples see this for what it is, a sign that points to who Jesus is.  John always intends his readers to understand that miracles are “signs.”  They point people to who Jesus is.  They are pointers from God to the Truth.  They are not just isolated powerful acts.  Rather, they have the purpose of revealing Jesus.  They are, as the NIV renders it, “miraculous signs.”  For those in whom the Spirit works, they reveal His glory.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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