Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
[2. Manifestation of Jesus. Varying Degrees of Acceptance (John 1:19 to John 4:54).
(1)THE WITNESS OF THE BAPTIST (John 1:12-40):
(a)To the messengers of the Sanhedrin (John 2:19-25);
(b)At the appearance of Jesus (John 1:29-34);
(c)To the two disciples (John 1:35-40).]
And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:II.
(1) The third day—i.e., from the last note of time in John 1:43, giving one clear day between the call of Philip and the day of the marriage.
Cana of Galilee has been identified with both Kânet el-Jelîl, or Khurbet Kânet, and Kefr Kenna. The monks of Nazareth and local tradition claim the latter place as the scene of the miracle, but this tradition has not been traced earlier than the seventeenth century, and the best modern authorities do not accept it. (But comp., in support of Kefr Kenna, Zeller in Report of Palestine Exploration Fund, iii. 1869.) Kânet el-Jelîl, on the other hand, is the rendering of the Arabic version, and Sæwulf, as early as A.D. 1103, describes it as the place “where the Lord turned water into wine at the wedding” (Early Travels in Palestine, p. 47). The strength of the argument is in the identity of name in the original, whereas Kenna is quite distinct. Travellers describe it as an obscure, uninhabited village in ruins. They were formerly shown the house where the marriage took place here, and even the water-pots, but these are now shown at the rival Kefr Kenna. The ruins are on the side of a hill looking over the plain of El Buttauf, rather more than six miles to the N. or N.E. of Nazareth, and so answering Saewulf’s description. It is some fifteen or sixteen miles from Tiberias and Capernaum, and six or seven more from Tell-Anihje. (Comp. John 1:28.) The writer knows the place by its common name Cana of Galilee, by which it was distinguished from the Cana of the tribe of Asher, S.E. from Tyre (Joshua 19:28). The mother of Jesus was already there, as a relation or friend, assisting in the preparations.
And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.(2) Was called, or invited, after His arrival in Cana; but we may still think of Him, in whom purpose and result were one, as coming to Cana for the marriage. Nathanael would have known of it, and was perhaps also connected with one of the families. It is quite in accord with Eastern hospitality that the disciples, who are now spoken of under this collective title, and formed with their Rabbi a band of seven, should be bidden with Him.
And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.(3) When they wanted wine.—Better, the wine having failed.
They have no wine.—The question “What was the import of this remark?” has been often asked, and very variously answered. And yet the answer does not seem far to seek. The next verses fix its meaning as the expectation of an outcome of supernatural power. This is quite in harmony with the mother’s hopes and musings, without any previous miracle on which to base them (John 2:11). For many long years she had kept in her heart the Son’s words and deeds (Luke 2:51). She must have heard of John the Baptist’s witness, of the events of the Baptism six weeks now past, and on that very day every hope must have started into new life, as she heard from those who came with Him how conviction had seized upon their own minds. To cause the. increase of meal, and prevent the failure of the cruse of oil (1Kings 17:14), was within the power of the prophet whom they expected as herald of the Messiah. Here was an unexpected need, caused, it may be, by the presence of Himself and followers at that festival. Can He not, will He not, supply the need, and prove Himself indeed the Christ?
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.(4) Woman, what have I to do with thee?—This is an old battle-ground between Protestant and Romanist expositors. The former have found in each clause of the sentence a condemnation of Mariolatry; the latter have sought explanations not inconsistent with their faith and practice. It may be hoped that the day is now past, when anything other than thoughts of reverence and honour is to be connected with the title “Woman,” least of all in the words of One who claimed as His own highest dignity Sonship of, identity with, humanity; and who was here addressing the mother to whom He had been subject, and from whom His own humanity had been derived. Were proof needed of the tenderness which underlies the word as used by Him, it would be found in the other instances which the Gospels supply. . It is spoken only to the Syro-Phœnician whose faith is great (Matthew 15:28); to the daughter of Abraham loosed from her infirmity (Luke 13:12); and, in this Gospel, to the Samaritan embracing the higher faith (John 4:21); perhaps to the sinner whom He does not condemn (John 8:10); to the same mother from the cross (John 19:26); and to Mary Magdalene in tears (John 20:13; John 20:15).
Still the second part of the sentence declares beyond all doubt that the two regarded His life-work from stand-points so different that there is nothing common between them. It is literally, What is that to me and to thee? The parallels for the form of the question are Joshua 22:24; Judges 11:12; 2Samuel 16:10; 1Kings 17:18; 2Kings 3:13; and the thrice-recorded question of the demoniac (Matthew 8:29; Mark 1:24; Luke 8:28). The real parallel is in this Gospel in John 7:6. Mother and brethren alike regarded life in its events; for Him it is an unchanging principle. For them, action is determined by the outer stimulus; for Him, by the eternal will of the Father. Their hour is always ready; His is the development of a law. His answer is another form of that question kept in her heart: “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?” but “they understood not the saying which He spake unto them” (Luke 2:49).
His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.(5) Whatsoever he saith unto you.—His answer has not repelled her. She still believes and expects. Her command to the servants confirms the opinion that the marriage is of some member of the family. This opinion has taken strange traditional forms; one being that here, too, the Evangelist casts a veil over an incident in his own life, and that he was himself the bridegroom; but that, guided by the miracle, he from that moment left all and followed Christ. The Prologue to St. John attributed to Jerome says that “John, wishing to marry, was called from the wedding by our Lord” (Trench On Miracles, p. 98). See Matthew 19:29 et seq., and Luke 14:26.
And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.(6) Waterpots, or pitchers, like to but larger than the vessels used for carrying water, as in John 4:28. These were placed in the outer court, away from the guest-chamber, for the governor of the feast is ignorant of the circumstances (John 2:9). It is natural that an eyewitness should remember the number and know roughly their size. There were six of them, containing about twenty gallons apiece; but hidden meanings referring to the number or the quantity are brought to the text, not derived from it. The measure rendered “firkin” is metretes, which is used for the Hebrew, “bath” in 2Chronicles 4:5. This (Jos. Ant. viii. 2, § 9) gives nearly nine gallons as the value of the “firkin,” which multiplied by two or three gives the contents of each pitcher as from about eighteen to twenty-seven gallons; or, approximately, from 100 to 150 gallons for the whole. Our own word “firkin” is probably “a little fourth,” and equal to nine gallons, or the fourth of a barrel (comp. Tierce, which is one-third). It is used only here in the Bible.
Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.(7) Fill the waterpots.—It is implied that the pitchers were wholly or in part empty, the water in them having been used for the ablutions before the feast. The persons ordered are the servants (John 2:5). “Up to the brim” marks the willing care with which the order was obeyed, and an expectation through the household of some work to be wrought.
And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.(8) Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast.—A vessel was let down into the pitcher, and was then carried to the ruler of the feast, who would distribute the wine in it to the guests. Ruler rather than “governor.” The same English word should be used throughout the two verses. What exact office is denoted by the Greek word is uncertain, as it occurs nowhere else in the Bible, and is very rare in the classical authors. The chief English commentators (Alford, Wordsworth, Trench) are agreed that he was chosen by the guests from among their own number, but this opinion has not commanded the general assent of scholars; and there seems more reason to think that the person intended is what we should call the “head-waiter,” whose duty it was to taste the viands and wines, to arrange the tables and couches, and to be generally responsible for the feast.
When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,(9) Water that was made wine.—Better, water that had become wine. At what moment did the transformation take place? What water became wine? The text itself does not speak of “water now become wine” until the ruler of the feast tasted it, and immediately afterwards speaks of it as “water,” when the servants drew it, for the plain reference of the parenthesis in brackets is to the drawing of the water from the pitchers (John 2:8), not to a previous drawing of water to place in the pitchers, which has not been even hinted at. Unless, then, there is a strong reason which does not appear in these words, this simple meaning is the true one;—that the change took place during or after the drawing from the pitchers, and that that portion only was changed which was carried to the ruler and actually needed to supply the guests. The reason based upon the mention of the number and contents of the pitchers (John 2:6) is certainly not a strong one. It is quite natural to find these stated in the picturesque style of this Gospel, and there is no care to give more than a rough estimate of the size from a remembrance either of these pitchers or of pitchers generally used for this purpose. There is more force in the general impression derived from John 2:7. It may be fairly asked why was more water placed in readiness than was needed? But the pitchers would be in any case re-filled for ablutions after the feast. They were at hand, meeting the eye. All possibility of collusion is thus excluded. They had been used not long before; they would very soon be used again. The filling of all leaves to the servants the choice of one or more from which to draw. There is an unfailing potential supply; it becomes an actual supply only when needed and appropriated by human want. This, as every supernatural work, is made to depend upon faith. There is no demand for this faith in filling water-pots with water; it is otherwise when they draw it, and bear it in the usual tankard to the ruler, in answer to the demand for wine. Here, as everywhere in divine action, there is an economy in the use of power. There is no miracle of “luxury” or “waste” or “excess.” These cavils of the higher criticism are—like the additions of expositors, as that the feast lasted for a week or more, or their perversions, as that the wine was in no sense intoxicating—superstructures without a foundation.
And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.(10) When men have well drunk.—The same Greek word is used in the LXX. in Genesis 43:34, and rendered in the Authorised version “were merry;” but its general use in the Old Testament, as in classical writers, and its invariable use in the New Testament (Matthew 24:49; Acts 2:15; 1Corinthians 11:21; Ephesians 5:18; 1Thessalonians 5:7; Revelation 17:6, are the only passages) is to express the state of drunkenness. Our translators have shrunk from that rendering here, though it was before them in the “When men be dronke,” of Tyndall and Cranmer. The physical meaning of the word is to saturate with moisture, as we say, to be drenched, which is the same word as drunk. There is clearly no reference to the present feast. It is a coarse jest of the ruler’s, the sort of remark that forms part of the stock in trade of a hired manager of banquets.
This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.(11) This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, or, more exactly, This did Jesus in Cana of Galilee as the beginning of His signs. The form of the sentence makes it certain that it is the absolutely first and not the first in Cana which is meant.
It is important to note here that St. John uses only once, and that in our Lord’s test of the courtier, and connected with “sign” (John 4:48), the word which represents “miracle,” “wonder,” “portent,” and that he nowhere uses the word which represents “powers” or “mighty works.” For him they are simply “works,” and these “works” are “signs.” He thinks of our Lord as the agent in all creation, and the source of all life (John 1:2-3); but this being so, no display of power impresses him, and no wonder startles him. All is the natural “work” of the divine worker; but like Himself, every work is also a word. It speaks to him who hath ears to hear. It is a “sign” to him who can spiritually interpret. That at His will water became wine, is as natural as that, by that will, the rain passing through earth and vine and grape should become wine. From his point of view both are equally explicable; from any other, both are in ultimate analysis equally inexplicable. “Voici le vin qui tombe du ciel!” is the French peasant’s expression for the one (comp. Trench’s note).
“The conscious water saw its God, and blushed,”
[“Nympha pudica Deum vidit, et erubuit”]
is the English poet’s expression for the other.
This gives the key, then, to the selection of “miracles” by St. John, and to their interpretation. He gives those which mark stages of fuller teaching. They are “signs” of a new revelation, and lead to a higher faith. What was the fuller teaching in this first sign? The heart must seek to read it. Words can only seek to guide. Would not those Jews remember the first miracle of Moses, and later, if not then, see here the contrast between the Law which came by Moses, and the grace and truth which came by Jesus Christ (John 1:17)? Would not those exact observers of traditional rites see a living principle growing out of the rite practised at every meal (comp. Mark 7:3, Note), and feel that it is the letter which killeth, it is the Spirit which giveth life? Would not those who thought of Him as the Messianic King of Israel read in His presence at the festal tide of family life the meaning of the claim to be Son of Humanity? Would not the followers of the hermit John learn that Christianity’s message is not for the wilderness, but for the hearts of men; and that its life is not one of seclusion from the world, but of moral power in it (John 17:15)? Would not those who had heard the Baptist’s record, and had felt and uttered their own convictions, hear now the secret voice of Nature joining in the witness? Some such thoughts as these came to them in a fulness of power they had not known before. It was to them as a new manifestation of His glory, and the disciples again believed.
The other signs recorded in this Gospel are, the Healing of the ruler’s son (John 4:46-54); and of the impotent man at Bethesda (John 5:1-9); the Feeding of the five thousand (John 6:5-59); the Walking on the sea (John 6:15-21); the Giving of sight to the man born blind (John 9:1-7); the Raising of Lazarus (John 11); the Draught of Fishes (John 21:1-8) See Notes on these passages, and on John 20:30.
(a)In Jerusalem—the Temple (John 2:12-22);
Belief (John 2:9-15);
Judgment (John 2:16-21);
(c)In Judœa (John 3:22-36). The Baptist.]
After this he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples: and they continued there not many days.(12) After this he went down to Capernaum.—For the position of Capernaum comp. Note on Matthew 4:13. It was on the shore of the lake of Tiberias, and He must have gone “down” to it from any locality among the hills of Galilee. The words do not imply that they went to Capernaum direct from Cana. The “after this” allows of a return to Nazareth, and the mention of the “brethren” makes such a return probable. The place of this sojourn in the order of events belongs to the narrative of the earlier Gospels, and here, as elsewhere, questions which recur are treated when they are first mentioned. To deal with them on each occurrence would be to save the trouble of reference at the cost of much space; and this would be ill-saved; the spiritual profit arising from constant reference is one which no earnest student of the Gospels could desire to lose. He will wish to study every event in that life in every word which records it. (Comp. Matthew 4:13 et seq., and Matthew 9:1; Mark 3:21-31; Mark 6:3; Luke 4:16-30). For the “brethren of the Lord,” see Note on Matthew 13:55.
And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,(13) And the Jews’ passover was at hand.—Here, again, we are on common ground with the earlier Gospels. They place a cleansing of the Temple at the close of our Lord’s ministry at the only Passover which comes within the scope of their narrative. The subject has been dealt with in Notes on Matthew 21:12 et seq. (Comp. also Introduction: The Chronological Harmony of the Gospels, p. 35) The careful reader will not fail to observe the graphic touches peculiar to this narrative—the money-changers sitting, the sacrificial animals, the making of the scourge, the money poured out, the order to remove the doves which could not be driven out. We feel all through in the presence of an eye-witness. It is worth remembering that on the eve of the Passover the head of every family carefully collected all the leaven in the house, and there was a general cleansing. He was doing in His Father’s house, it may be, what was then being done in every house in Jerusalem. The remark will be seen to have an important bearing on the question of the repetition of the cleansing.
And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables;(15) And the sheep, and the oxen.—For this read, both the sheep and the oxen. The change is of only one word, but it gives an entirely different sense. The driving out with the scourge was not of “all (men) and sheep and oxen,” but of “all,” i.e., both sheep and oxen.
And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.(16) My Father’s house.—Some among those present now (John 2:18) may have been present in that same house when He, a lad of twelve years, was there at the Passover, and after questions and answers, higher and deeper than these doctors could grasp, claimed God as His true Father (Luke 2:49). What that repeated claim meant now must have been clear to all. Their own messengers had brought them John’s witness; later reports must have come before, and come with, the crowd of Galilæan pilgrims; the disciples are themselves with Him (John 2:17), and their hearts are too full for silence; but there was more than all this. Those expounders of the oracles of God who remembered that Elijah was to come before the day of the Lord, must have remembered, too, that the Lord was to come to this Temple, like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap (Malachi 3:1-3; Malachi 4:5). That fire was in their midst, and from that Presence buyers and sellers and changers shrunk back in awe, none daring to resist; that cleansing was then taking place, and the Son was claiming the sanctity and reverence due to His Father’s house. He has before claimed to be Son of Man. The Messianic title is publicly claimed before the official representatives of the people at the great national festival, in the Temple, at Jerusalem. If, while this scene is fresh is our minds, we think again of the marriage at Cana, we shall feel how different the manifestations are, and that this latter was not, and was not intended to be, a public declaration of His person and work. Now we understand what seemed hard before, that the assertion “Mine hour is not yet come” (John 2:4) immediately precedes the first sign. This sign was at a family gathering known only to few, probably not to all who were there, for “the ruler knew not whence it was” (John 2:9), and no effect is described as resulting from it, except that the little band of disciples believed (John 2:11). The “forth,” which in the English version seems to mark an effect upon others, is not found in the Greek. It is within the circle of the other Gospel narratives, but is included in none of them. It left no such impression in the mind of St. Peter as to lead him to include it in the Gospel of his interpreter, St. Mark, or upon Mary herself as to lead her to include it in the answers she must have given to the questions of St. Luke. It was, indeed, the first sign in Cana of Galilee, but the scene before us is the announcement to the world.
And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.(17) Was written . . . hath eaten me up .—More literally, is written . . . shall eat me up. The verse is full of interest in many ways. It gives us the thought of the disciples at the time (comp. John 2:22) which could be known only to one of their number. It shows us what we too seldom realise in reading the New Testament, that the Jewish mind was filled to overflowing with thoughts of the Old Testament. The child was taught to say by heart large portions of the Law and Psalms and Prophets, and they formed the very texture of the mind, ready to pass into conscious thought whenever occasion suggested. With the exception of the 22nd Psalm, no part of the Old Testament is so frequently referred to in the New as the psalm from which these words are taken (Psalm 69:9), and yet that psalm could not have been in its historic meaning Messianic (see, e.g., John 2:5; John 2:22-25). This reference to it gives us, then, their method of interpretation. Every human life is typical. The persecution without reason, the wrong heaped upon the innocent, the appeal to and trust in Jehovah, the song of thanksgiving from him whose parched throat was weary of calling—all this was true of some representative sufferer of earlier days, and we may hear in it almost certainly the voice of Jeremiah; but it was true of him in that he was a forerunner of the representative sufferer. The darker features of the psalm belong to the individual; the Life which sustains in all, and the Light which illumines in all, was even then in the world, though men knew Him not. The words of Jeremiah are Messianic, because his life—like every noble, self-forgetting, others’ sorrow bearing, man and God loving life—was itself Messianic.
The change of tense, from the past of the Psalmist to the future here, is itself significant. The words were true of the inner burning which consumed the prophet-priest. They come to the heart as true, with a fuller truth, of Christ’s spirit burning with righteous indignation, and cast down by deepest sorrow; but shrinking not from the painful task, which leaves its mark falling on that face as the shadow of a deeper darkness. They are to be, in a deeper sense, truer still.
Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?(18) Then answered the Jews.—Comp. for the meaning of “the Jews” John 1:19; and for their question, Matthew 21:23. The Mosaic legislation contained a warning against the efficiency of the test by signs (Deuteronomy 13:1-3), but it was of the essence of Pharisaism to cling to it (Matthew 12:38; 1Corinthians 1:22). It supplied an easy means of rejecting the moral conviction. A sign can only be evidence to the mind open to read the underlying truth. For “an evil and adulterous generation” it has no voice, and they can, after the feeding of the thousands, still demand “What sign showest Thou?” (John 6:30). There are bigots of incredulity. Knowledge is dependent upon action and will (comp. John 7:17). There is a mental condition which no evidence can convince, for it can always demand more. “If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:31).
Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.(19) Here, as in Matthew 12:38, a sign is given referring to His resurrection. The sign is in its nature an enigma, meaningless to him who does not seek to understand it, but full of meaning for him who earnestly examines into the thing signified, and in such a form as impresses itself on the memory and educates the moral powers. We have had an example of this enigmatic teaching in John 1:15; John 1:27; John 1:30. We shall meet with others. (Comp. John 4, 6; John 16:25.) The enigma turns in the present case upon the double sense of the word “temple.” It meant the sacred shrine of the Deity, the Holy and Most Holy place, as distinct from the wider Temple area. But the true shrine of the Deity was the body of the Incarnate Word. The Temple of wood and stone was but the representative of the Divine Presence. That Presence was then actually in their midst. They had no reverence for the one; for, like its outer courts, it had become a house of merchandise, and was fast becoming a den of thieves. This very demand for an outward sign, while all around them feel a spiritual power, shows they have as little reverence for the other. They will destroy the real shrine; the shrine of wood and stone even will not be left to represent a Presence no longer among them. He will raise up the temple of His body the third day, and in that resurrection will be the foundation stone of the spiritual temple for the world. The use of the word “temple” by the Jews in this double sense is attested by their interpretation of the Old Testament. We have an example of the use of “tabernacle” in a parallel sense in John 1:14 (comp. 2Peter 1:13-14), and the full idea of a spiritual worship and presence in John 4:21-24. The sign may have been suggested by the double thought then present—the Jews destroying the sanctity of the material Temple, the disciples seeing in Him one consumed by zeal for it. (Comp. 1Corinthians 3:16-17.)
Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?(20) They profess to seek a sign for evidence; they use it for cavil.
Forty and six years was this temple in building.—It is implied that it was not then finished. The date of the completion is given by Josephus (Ant. xx. 9, § 7) as A.D. 64. The same author gives the eighteenth year of the reign of Herod the Great (Nisan 734—Nisan 735, A.U.100) as the commencement of the renewal of the Temple of Zerubbabel (Ant. xv. 11, § 1). This would give A.U.C. 781-782, i.e., A.D. 28-29, as the date of the cleansing. In another passage Josephus gives the month Kislev A.U.C. 734, as the date of the festival connected with the building of the Temple (Ant. xiv. 16, § 4). This would fix our present date as the Passover of A.U.C. 781, i.e., A.D. 28. St. Luke furnishes us with an independent date for the commencement of the ministry of John the Baptist. If we count the “fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius (comp. Note on Luke 3:1) from the commencement of his first reign with Augustus (A.U.C. 765, i.e., A.D. 12), this date will be A.U.C. 780, i.e., A.D. 27. The present Passover was in the following year, i.e., as before, A.D. 28. The sole reign of Tiberius commenced two years later (A.D. 14), so that while we have certainly no discrepancy between these independent dates, we have probably a very striking coincidence. Its bearing upon the authenticity of the present Gospel is evident.
Rear it up represents the same Greek word as “raise up,” in the previous verse; but the word fits the double meaning. It is the regular term for raising from the dead; but it is also used of rearing up a building, as, e.g., in 3 Ezra 5:44; Ecclesiasticus 49:11.
But he spake of the temple of his body.(21) But he spake.—Literally, was speaking. This is the solution of the enigma as the disciples read it in the after history. It is remarkable that we have the interpretation of the spiritual temple in Mark 14:58 (see Note there, and comp. John 4:21; John 4:23).
When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.(22) That he had said this unto them.—The better texts omit “unto them.” For the way in which the saying, hard to be understood, fixed itself in men’s minds, comp. Matthew 26:61; Matthew 27:40; Mark 14:58; Mark 15:29; Acts 6:13. It becomes in the mouth of false witnesses the accusation by means of which its meaning is accomplished. The death on the cross is the destruction of the Temple, but it is not unaccompanied by the rent veil; the two meanings are linked together.
It fixed itself, too, on the disciples’ minds; but weeks, months, years, did not cast any light upon it until the Resurrection. These passages of those familiar Old Testament writings then came to men who had been slow of heart to see them, with the quickening power of a new life. They saw that Christ ought to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory. They saw in Moses and the Prophets the things concerning Him, and they believed in a new and higher sense the written and the spoken word. (Comp. Luke 24:26 et seq.)
Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did.(23) In the feast day.—Omit the word “day” after feast. The italics show that there is no word to express it in the Greek, and it gives the impression of one day, whereas the feast extended over a week. The idea of time, moreover, is not expressed by “in the feast.” The sentence means, When He was in the feast (engaged in keeping the feast) at Jerusalem, during the Passover.
Many believed.—The persons are distinct from the official representatives of the nation (John 2:18-19), as the place, Jerusalem, is distinguished from the Temple.
When they saw the miracles.—Better, as before, signs. The original words imply that their faith was dependent upon the signs which they gazed upon, without entering into their deeper meaning. It was the impulsive response of the moment, not based upon a previous preparation, nor resulting in a present deep conviction. It came far short of the faith of the disciples, who passed from a true knowledge of Moses and the Prophets to a true knowledge of Christ without a sign; but it came far above the disbelief of scribes and Pharisees, who after a sign rejected Him. It was not the prepared good ground bringing forth abundantly; but neither was it the hardened wayside which did not receive the seed at all.
But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men,(24) But beneath this shallow surface there is the unbroken ledge of rock. They are easily moved just because they are not deeply moved. The eye which looked at, looked into, others (comp. John 1:47 et seq.), saw to the very depth of their hearts too, and knew all. It saw in that depth that the true inner man did not believe, did not commit itself to Him; it found not the spiritual receptivity, and there could not therefore be the spiritual revelation. He, on His part, did not commit Himself unto them. (Comp. John 8:31, Note.) Our version gives the correct sense, but it should be noted that “believed” in John 2:23, and “commit” here, represent the same Greek word.
And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.(25) And needed not.—Better, and because He needed not.
For he knew.—Better, for He of Himself knew. The verse is a wider statement of the general truth of which John 2:24 is a particular instance. He did not in that instance need any testimony of spiritual state and character, because He then, as always, read what was in man.