|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
2:1-11 It is very desirable when there is a marriage, to have Christ own and bless it. Those that would have Christ with them at their marriage, must invite him by prayer, and he will come. While in this world we sometimes find ourselves in straits, even when we think ourselves in fulness. There was want at a marriage feast. Those who are come to care for the things of the world, must look for trouble, and count upon disappointment. In our addresses to Christ, we must humbly spread our case before him, and then refer ourselves to him to do as he pleases. In Christ's reply to his mother there was no disrespect. He used the same word when speaking to her with affection from the cross; yet it is a standing testimony against the idolatry of after-ages, in giving undue honours to his mother. His hour is come when we know not what to do. Delays of mercy are not denials of prayer. Those that expect Christ's favours, must observe his orders with ready obedience. The way of duty is the way to mercy; and Christ's methods must not be objected against. The beginning of Moses' miracles was turning water into blood, Ex 7:20; the beginning of Christ's miracles was turning water into wine; which may remind us of the difference between the law of Moses and the gospel of Christ. He showed that he improves creature-comforts to all true believers, and make them comforts indeed. And Christ's works are all for use. Has he turned thy water into wine, given thee knowledge and grace? it is to profit withal; therefore draw out now, and use it. It was the best wine. Christ's works commend themselves even to those who know not their Author. What was produced by miracles, always was the best in its kind. Though Christ hereby allows a right use of wine, he does not in the least do away his own caution, which is, that our hearts be not at any time overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, Lu 21:34. Though we need not scruple to feast with our friends on proper occasions, yet every social interview should be so conducted, that we might invite the Redeemer to join with us, if he were now on earth; and all levity, luxury, and excess offend him.
Verse 1-ch. 3:2-4. The testimony of signs to the glory of the Word made flesh. Verses 1-12. -
(1) The first sign, the beginning of signs, Mastery over the old creation. Sign of love and power. The description of the preceding narrative, given in ver. 11, is the true key to it. It is impressive on several accounts. Christ had not yet given any "sign" of the invisible and eternal glory which the evangelist in his prologue had claimed for him. He had not in his own person "manifested" the unique majesty of his will, nor revealed the direction in which the power he wielded would most freely move. John, by this statement,
(1) puts down a positive disclaimer of the whole cycle of portents which, when he wrote, had begun to hover in romantic and exaggerated fashion around the infancy and minority of Jesus.
(2) He shows that his purpose is to bring back from forgetfulness the primary and most impressive events which did in reality characterize the earliest ministry of Christ.
(3) He emphasizes the scene of some of these manifestations as restricted to a spot which, however difficult actually to identify, was nevertheless in Galilee, in which prophecy had foretold a great manifestation of Divine light.
(4) He lays stress on the fact that the prime object of it was to convey to his disciples, to men who knew that he was the Messiah, the Son of God, the Lamb of God, something of the power which he had for meeting any emergency that might arise. He did not seek to promote, nor did he succeed in exciting, the village wonder at a magical entertainment; nor did the bridegroom, nor the governor of the feast, nor so far as we know even Mary herself, fully apprehend in the event what "the disciples" saw. These disciples were probably acting the part of the διακονοί. They were admitted to a great sign of superhuman power. They believed on him. This is all we are told of the effect of the "sign."
(5) The entire originality of the sign, one for which the previous narrative and prologue do not in the least prepare us, is one of the continual surprises of this Gospel. The introductory notes of this great symphony are such that we might be disposed to conjecture beforehand that One who is the Logos made flesh, whose glory is that of an only begotten Son of God, who is the predestined Baptizer with the Holy Ghost, who is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, and the Link and Ladder between heaven and earth, the predicted Messiah and Son of Man, will with Divine aloofness scarce touch with his feet this common earth. Human homes and love and festal rejoicings are so immeasurably beneath him that he can neither augment their earthly exhilaration nor take part in such carnal and mundane considerations. Such ideas may have crowded the imagination of the sons of Zebedee, of Philip too and of Nathanael. Already they may have been losing in a maze of mystery the Divine humanity, the intense and tender sympathy of Jesus with our everyday life, the profound interest felt in our earthly career. They may have needed to be taught some great lesson of the blending of the sacred with the secular, of the water of purification with the true, strong, fragrant wine of the kingdom. They may have needed, at this moment, the prosaic return to ordinary life over which their new Lord would preside, and from which he would never stand aloof.
(6) All this is, moreover, highly accentuated by the peculiar character of this sign. It was a creative act. The idea that it was merely a hastening by his will of the natural processes by which water is always being transformed into wine by the vine, seems contradicted by the fact that the vine does not transform water into wine, but combines with the water other substances, cunningly and wondrously mixing with it the organic compounds which it subtracts from the air and soil, and which are necessary for the purpose. Water which has become wine is not transubstantiated into wine. The water is still there; but there are added to it other elements and compounds. The lesson is undoubtedly taught that he who performed this prodigy called certain elements and forces into being by the simple flat of his will. Evolutionary hastening of natural processes do not in the least apply. If that took place which the disciples (John among them) saw and handled and tasted, then we have an undeniable act of creation. There was then no other antecedent to this new category of existence except the will of Christ. This is the obvious intention of the historian. Other explanations are offered. The rationalistic hypothesis of a quiet and pious fraud on the part of Mary is too gross for belief. The mere magic, or sleight of hand, is so utterly foreign to the narrative that, though Renan seems to favour it, the entire place assigned to the "miracle" renders it utterly inconceivable. Some have gone so far as to say that the interesting discourse of Jesus during the repast inclined the guests to believe that, though their thirst had been quenched with pure water, it was veritable and precious wine. This Reuss call un surcroit d'absurdite. To suppose, with Ewald and Lange, that it was a miracle upon the minds of the guests, who believed they had drunk wine, when in reality they had only tasted water, is, as Weiss admits, another form of the natural explanation. Why, moreover, should the didactic energy of Jesus not more frequently have produced a like impression? The hypothesis of Strauss is far more rational, viz. that we have here the mythopoeic tendency at full work. Seeing that Moses sweetened the bitter waters, and transformed the Nile into blood, and that Elijah multiplied the oil in the widow's cruse, so Strauss contended that the Messiah must have done the like, and that this "miracle of luxury" is one of the glorifying myths by which Jesus is supposed to have transformed the water of Jewish ceremonial into the wine of the kingdom of grace. This theory is refuted by the enormous difficulty of finding any party in the Church, or of discovering any tendency in the Christian community or outside in the Hellenic schools, which could have evolved such an event - so capable of being misinterpreted - and that too out of a moral consciousness diametrically opposed to such an idea of Messiah. Certainly a vastly preponderating element of the gospel is clean contrary to such an idea of the Christ. Apart from there being some historic fact underlying the story, it seems incredible that it should have been invented by Christian, or Gnostic, or Hebrew tradition. The same may be said of Baur's hypothesis and of Keim's,
(1) that the pseudo-John invented the miracle to embody the idea of contrast between the disciples of John the Baptist and of Christ; or
(2) that the saying of Jesus, "Shall the children of the bridechamber fast while the Bridegroom is with them?" needed embodiment in some concrete fact; or that of Reuss, who supposes that the author, having invented a series of imaginary interviews, and testimonies, must need cap them with a miracle. Thoma sees in the representation the evangelist's sublimation of the banquet in the house of Levi, under the form of the Wisdom or Logos festival of Proverbs 9. and Ecclus. 1:16-18 and Proverbs 24:1-25. The Logos is here the symposiarch, and the feast corresponds with the bridal festival of the Apocalypse. Several hypotheses have been fashioned, in order to explain the forgery of the narrative, and they are quite as numerous as the attempted solutions by orthodox expositors of the purpose or significance of the miracle. It is perfectly gratuitous and arbitrary on the part of Baur to condemn the narrative because he could not find support for it in the synoptic Gospels. We have seen (see Introduction) that each evangelist, and especially Matthew and Luke, had separate access to a group of facts and sayings peculiar to himself, and nearly as numerous and memorable as those which characterize the Fourth Gospel. Baumgarten-Crusius is wrong in placing this event at the lowest point of the series of miracles of this Gospel. It is necessary to complete the view which the evangelist formed of the miraculous power of Christ, for him to demonstrate authority over the matter (ὕλη) of the created universe. In ch. 6. he illustrates Christ's relation to the forces of nature, when the Lord hushed the storm and walked on the sea; in ch. 21, by narrating a miraculous draught of fishes, he exhibits the Lord's control over the animate creation; and in other instances, the like mastery over the human body, over its diseases, necessities, and death (see ch. 4. 5, 6, 11.). If the other evangelists have passed it by, we must remember that they ignore the entire period of our Lord's activity which intervened between the temptation and the imprisonment of John the Baptist. The disciple to whom Jesus on the cross entrusted the care of his mother might have special reasons for recording almost the only scene in which that mother played any part. The most impressive circumstance is that the disciples of John, who had learned his stern denunciation of sin and his call to repentance, were to be taught that the highest life was not to be secured by abjuring marriage, and throwing a tragic gloom over human life, but by hallowing and consecrating the home, the source and nurse of the natural life. Christ first purifies the home, then the temple, then the individual. Verse 1. - On the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Should the supposed discovery of Bethabara or Bethany beyond Jordan, at a spot a short distance south of the Lake of Gennesareth, be verified, then there is no difficulty in accepting the view of Baur as to the identity of the "third day," reckoning it as the morrow of the day on which Nathanael was called to be a disciple. The first day mentioned would be John 1:29; the second day, John 1:35; and the third identical with the day mentioned in John 1:43, 45. There would be time for the rapid journey from the Jordan to Cana. But if the third day be interpreted more naturally, as the third after the day mentioned in John 1:44-51, time is given for the journey from the traditional site near Jericho to either of the sites which claim to be the scene of this earliest miracle. It is a march of twenty hours, which would occupy two or three days. Moreover, as wedding feasts often occupied in Palestine seven or even fourteen days (Genesis 29:27; Judges 14:15; Tobit 8:19 Tobit 9:4 Tobit 10:1), the festivities may have been advanced, and some explanation be thus given of the exhaustion of the supply of wine. Consequently, there are several justifications and explanations of that which is condemned by Baur and others as an unhistorical element. It' the first day was that on which John bore his testimony before the Sanhedrin; the second, John 1:29; the third, John 1:35; the fourth, John 1:43, 45; - the day of the wedding at Cana would be the seventh, and thus a sacred week, corresponding with the solemn week that terminated with Easter Day, would be seen to have found place in the earliest periods of the ministry. The mother of Jesus was there. Since Nathanael of Cana was summoned as a friend, and since the first group of the disciples were familiar with each other and him, the inference is that the bride or bridegroom was an intimate friend of the entire party. Weiss claims the reference to the little town of Cana "as another of those recollections, which testify indubitably to the historical character of the Gospel" ('Life of Christ,' vol. 1. p. 377). The presence of the mother of the Lord at Cana makes it also probable that she had, after the death of Joseph, removed from Nazareth to Cana. This is confirmed by the casual remark in Mark 6:3 that his sisters only were still resident in their former home. Moreover, it would explain the return of Jesus from the scene of his baptism to his temporary home (but see ver. 12). The traditional Kefr Kenneh is situated on rising ground four miles and a half northeast of Nazareth, and the remains of a Greek church are still to be seen there. The site is not inconsistent with the conditions. We may suppose it to be called "of Galilee" to distinguish it from a Cana in Peraea mentioned by Josephus ('Vita,' 16:1); but more probably from the Kanah in the tribe of Asher, mentioned in Joshua 19:28. The situation of this town in Phoenicia may have been so far from Galilee proper as to have rendered the expression desirable. Dr. Robinson believed that he had hit more certainly upon the site by finding a small village bearing the name Cana el Djelil, or Khurbet Kana, which lies some seven miles northeast from Nazareth beyond Sepphoris. The adjunct, el Djelil, suggested the preservation of the old designation drawn from this very narrative. This identification was accepted by Ritter and Meyer; Stanley considered it very doubtful, and so do Westcott ('Comm.,' in loc.) and Dr. Selah Merrill, in 'Pict. Palestine,' 2, pp. 59-63. The more recent investigations of the Palest. Expl. Society have led once more to the recognition of the traditional site, independently maintained by Hengstenberg, Godet, Moulton, and others. Its site is picturesque, and resembles the position of many Italian towns perched on the slope of a low hill at the head of valleys forming roadways to the coast and to the lake. Its Greek name, Cana, meaning "a reed," was probably derived from the reeds which grow in the marshy plain below it (compare Cannae, Canossa, Cannes. So Hugh Macmillan).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And the third day there was a marriage,.... Either from the second testimony bore by John the Baptist concerning Christ, and from the call of Simon Peter, which seem to be of the same date; see John 1:35, or from Christ's coming into Galilee; or from the conversation he had with Nathanael; from either of which the date is taken, it matters not; the first is as agreeable and plain, as any. There is much dispute, and many rules with the Jews about the times, and days of marriage:
"a virgin, (they say (z),) marries on the fourth day (of the week), and a widow on the fifth, because the sanhedrim sit in the cities twice in the week, on the second, and on the fifth days; so that if there is any dispute about virginity, he (the husband) may come betimes to the sanhedrim.''
This was a law that obtained since the times of Ezra; for it is said (a),
"before the order of Ezra, a woman might be married on any day;''
but in after times, feast days, and sabbath days, were particularly excepted. One of their canons is (b).
"they do not marry women on a feast day, neither virgins, nor widows:''
The reason of it was, that they might not mix one joy with another; and lest a man should leave the joy of the feast, for the joy of his wife. The account Maimonides (c) gives of these several things is this;
"it is lawful to espouse on any common day, even on the ninth of Ab, whether in the day, or in the night; but they do not marry wives neither on the evening of the sabbath, nor on the first of the week: the decree is, lest the sabbath should be profaned by preparing the feast; for the bridegroom is employed about the feast: and there is no need to say, that it is unlawful to marry a wife on the sabbath day; and even on the common day of a feast they do not marry wives, as we have explained; because they do not mix one joy with another, as it is said in Genesis 29:27, "fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also": but on the rest of the days it is lawful to marry a wife, any day a man pleases; for he must be employed in the marriage feast three days before the marriage. A place in which the sanhedrim do not sit, but on the second and fifth days only, a virgin is married on the fourth day; that if there is any objection to her virginity, he (her husband) may come betimes to the sanhedrim: and it is a custom of the wise men, that he that marries one that has been married, he may marry her on the fifth day, that so he may rejoice with her on the fifth day, and on the evening of the sabbath, (i.e. the sixth,) and on the sabbath day, and may go forth to his work on the first day.''
But elsewhere it is said (d), that
"now they are used to marry on the "sixth day of the week".''
Yea (e), that
"it is lawful to marry, and to make the feast on the sabbath day.''
But whether this marriage was of a virgin, or a widow, cannot be known; nor with certainty can it be said on what day of the week it was: if that day was a sabbath day on which the disciples abode with Christ, as Dr. Lightfoot conjectures, then it must be on the first day that Christ went into Galilee, and found Philip, and conversed with Nathanael; and if this third day is reckoned from John's second testimony, it must be on a Tuesday, the third day of the week; but if from Christ's going into Galilee, then it must be on a Wednesday, the fourth day of the week, the day fixed by the Jewish canon for the marriage of a virgin. This marriage was
in Cana of Galilee. The Syriac and Persic versions, read, in "Kotne, a city of Galilee"; and which, in the Jewish map, is called "Katna" in "Galilee", and is placed in the tribe of Zebulun, which was in Galilee, and not far from Nazareth; and bids fair to be the same place with this; though it is more generally thought (f), that Cana, in the tribe of Asher, mentioned in Joshua 19:28, which was also in Galilee, is here meant; and is so called to distinguish it from another Kanah, in the tribe of Ephraim, Joshua 16:8. Josephus (g) speaks of a town, or village, of Galilee, called Cana, which was a day's march from it to Tiberias, and seems to be the same place: and another Jewish writer (h) says,
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Joh 2:1-12. First Miracle, Water Made Wine—Brief Visit to Capernaum.
1. third day—He would take two days to reach Galilee, and this was the third.
mother there—it being probably some relative's marriage. John never names her [Bengel].
John 2:1 Parallel Commentaries
John 2:1 NIV
John 2:1 NLT
John 2:1 ESV
John 2:1 NASB
John 2:1 KJV
Bible Hub: Online Parallel Bible