John 2:11
This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.
Jump to: AlfordBarnesBengelBensonBICalvinCambridgeChrysostomClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctExp GrkGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsICCJFBKellyKingLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWMeyerParkerPNTPoolePulpitSermonSCOTeedTTBVWSWESTSK
(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.

[(3) JESUS MANIFESTS HIMSELF PUBLICLY (John 2:12 to John 4:54):

(a)In Jerusalemthe Temple (John 2:12-22);

(b)In Jerusalemthe city (John 2:23 to John 3:21);

Nicodemus: The new birth (John 2:1-8);

Belief (John 2:9-15);

Judgment (John 2:16-21);

(c)In Judœa (John 3:22-36). The Baptist.]




John 2:11

The keynote of this Gospel was struck in the earlier verses of the first chapter in the great words, ‘The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, full of grace and truth.’ To these words there is an evident reference in this language. The Evangelist regards Christ’s first miracle as the first ray of that forth-flashing glory of the Incarnate Word. To this Evangelist all miracles are especially important as being signs, which is the word he generally employs to designate them. They are not mere portents, but significant revelations as well as wonders. It is not, I think, accidental that there are just seven miracles of our Lord’s, before His crucifixion, recorded by John, and one of the Risen Lord.

These signs are all set forth by the Evangelist as manifestations of various aspects of that one white light, of uncreated glory which rays from Christ. They are, if I may so say, the sevenfold colours into which the one beam is analysed. Each of them might be looked at in turn as presenting some fresh thought of what the ‘glory . . . full of grace and truth’ is.

I begin with the first of the series. What, then, is the ‘glory of the only Begotten Son’ which flashes forth upon us from the miracle? My object is simply to try to answer that question for you.

I. First, then, we see here the revelation of His creative power.

It is very noteworthy that the miraculous fact is veiled entirely in the narrative. Not a word is said of the method of operation, it is not even said that the miracle was wrought; we are only told what preceded it, and what followed it. Itself is shrouded in deep silence. The servants fill the water-pots.-’Draw out now,’ and they draw, ‘and bear it to the governor of the feast.’ Where the miraculous act comes in we do not know; what was its nature we cannot tell. How far it extended is left obscure. Was all the large quantity of water in these six great vessels of stone transformed into wine, or was the change effected in the moment when the portion that was wanted was drawn from them and on that portion only? We cannot answer the question. Probably, I think, the latter; but at all events a veil is dropped over the fact.

Only this, we see that in this miracle, even more conspicuously than in any other of our Lord’s, there are no means at all employed. Sometimes He used material vehicles, anointing a man’s eyes with clay, or moistening the ear with the spittle; sometimes sending a man to bathe in the Pool of Siloam; sometimes laying His hand on the sick; sometimes healing from a distance by the mere utterance of His word. But here there is not even a word; no means of any kind employed, but the silent forth-putting of His will, which, without token, without visible audible indication of any sort, passes with sovereign power into the midst of material things and there works according to His own purpose. Is not this the signature of divinity, that without means the mere forth-putting of the will is all that is wanted to mould matter as plastic to His command? It is not even, ‘He spake and it was done,’ but silently He willed, and ‘the conscious water knew its Lord, and blushed.’ This is the glory of the Incarnate Word.

Now that was no interruption of the order of things established in the Creation. There was no suspension of natural laws here. What happened was only this, that the power which generally works through mediating links came into immediate connection with the effect. What does it matter whether your engine transmits its powers through half a dozen cranks, or two or three less? What does it matter whether the chain be longer or shorter? Some parenthetical links are dropped here, that is all that is unusual. For in all ordinary natural operations, as we call them, the profound prologue of this Gospel teaches us to believe that Christ, the Eternal Word, works according to His will. He was the Agent of creation. He is the Agent of that preservation which is only a continual creation. In Him is life, and all living things live because of the continual presence and operation upon them of His divine power. And again I say, what is phenomenal and unusual in this miracle is but the suppression of two or three of the connecting links between the continual cause of all creatural existences, and its effect. So let us learn that whether through a long chain of so-called causes, or whether close up against the effect, without the intervention of these parenthetical and transmitting media, the divine power works. The power is one, and the reason for the effect is one, that Christ ever works in the world, and is that Eternal Word, ‘without whom was not anything made that was made.’ ‘This beginning of miracles did Christ . . . and manifested His glory.’

II. Then, again, we see here, I think, the revelation of one great purpose of our Lord’s coming, to hallow all common, and especially all family, life.

What a strange contrast there is between the simple gladness of the rustic village wedding and the tremendous scene of the Temptation in the wilderness, which preceded it only by a few days! What a strange contrast there is between the sublime heights of the first chapter and the homely incident which opens the ministry! What a contrast between the rigid asceticism of the Forerunner, ‘who came neither eating nor drinking,’ and the Son of Man, who enters thus freely and cheerfully into the common joys and relationships of human nature! How unlike the scene at the marriage-feast must have been to the anticipations of the half-dozen disciples that had gathered round Him, all a-tingling with expectation as to what would be the first manifestation of His Messianic power! The last thing they would have dreamed of would have been to find Him in the humble home in Cana of Galilee. Some people say ‘this miracle is unworthy of Him, for it was wrought upon such a trivial occasion.’ And was it a trivial occasion that prompted Him thus to commence His career, not by some high and strained and remote exhibition of more than human saintliness or power, but by entering like a Brother into the midst of common, homespun, earthly joys, and showing how His presence ennobled and sanctified these? Surely the world has gained from Him, among the many gifts that He has given to it, few that have been the fountain of more sacred sweetness and blessedness than is opened in that fact that the first manifestation of His glory had for its result the hallowing of the marriage tie.

And is it not in accordance with the whole meaning and spirit of His works that ‘forasmuch as the brethren were partakers of’ anything, ‘He Himself likewise should take part of the same,’ and sanctify every incident of life by His sharing of it? So He protests against that faithless and wicked division of life into sacred and secular, which has wrought such harm both in the sacred and in the secular regions. So He protests against the notion that religion has to do with another world rather than with this. So He protests against the narrowing conception of His work which would remove from its influence anything that interests humanity. So He says, as it were, at the very beginning of His career, ‘I am a Man, and nothing that is human do I reckon foreign to Myself.’

Brethren! let us learn the lesson that all life is the region of His Kingdom; that the sphere of His rule is everything which a man can do or feel or think. Let us learn that where His footsteps have trod is hallowed ground. If a prince shares for a few moments in the festivities of his gathered people on some great occasion, how ennobled the feast seems! If he joins in their sports or in their occupations for a while as an act of condescension, how they return to them with renewed vigour! And so we. We have had our King in the midst of all our family life, in the midst of all our common duties; therefore are they consecrated. Let us learn that all things done with the consciousness of His presence are sacred. He has hallowed every corner of human life by His presence; and the consecration, like some pungent and perennial perfume, lingers for us yet in the else scentless air of daily life, if we follow His footsteps.

Sanctity is not singularity. There is no need to withdraw from any region of human activity and human interest in order to develop the whitest saintliness, the most Christlike purity. The saint is to be in the world, but not of it; like the Master, who went straight from the wilderness and its temptations to the homely gladness of the rustic marriage.

III. Still further, we have here a symbol of Christ’s glory as the ennobler and heightener of all earthly joys.

That may be taken with perhaps a permissible play of fancy as one meaning, at any rate, of the transformation of water into wine; the less savoury and fragrant and powerful liquid into the more so. Wine, in the Old Testament especially, is the symbol of gladness, and though it received a deeper and a sacreder meaning in the New Testament as being the emblem of His blood shed for us, it is the Old Testament point of view that prevails here. And therefore, I say, we may read in the incident the symbol of His transforming power. He comes, the Man of Sorrows, with the gift of joy in His hand. It is not an unworthy object-not unworthy, I mean, of a divine sacrifice-to make men glad. It is worth His while to come from Heaven to agonise and to die, in order that He may sprinkle some drops of incorruptible and everlasting joy over the weary and sorrowful hearts of earth. We do not always give its true importance to gladness in the economy of our lives, because we are so accustomed to draw our joys from ignoble sources that in most of our joys there is something not altogether creditable or lofty. But Christ came to bring gladness, and to transform its earthly sources into heavenly fountains; and so to change all the less sweet, satisfying, and potent draughts which we take from earth’s cisterns into the wine of the Kingdom; the new wine, strong and invigorating, ‘making glad the heart of man.’

Our commonest blessings, our commonest joys, if only they be not foul and filthy, are capable of this transformation. Link them with Christ; be glad in Him. Bring Him into your mirth, and it will change its character. Like a taper plunged into a jar of oxygen, it will blaze up more brightly. Earth, at its best and highest, without Him is like some fair landscape lying in the shadow; and when He comes to it, it is like the same scene when the sun blazes out upon it, flashes from every bend of the rippling river, brings beauty into many a shady corner, opens all the flowering petals and sets all the birds singing in the sky. The whole scene changes when a beam of light from Him falls upon earthly joys. He will transform them and ennoble them and make them perpetual. Do not meddle with mirth over which you cannot make the sign of the Cross and ask Him to bless it; and do not keep Him out of your gladness, or it will leave bitterness on your lips, howsoever sweet it tastes at first.

Ay! and not only can this Master transform the water at the marriage feast into the wine of gladness, but the cups that we all carry, into which our tears have dropped-upon these too He can lay His hand and change them into cups of blessing and of salvation.

‘Blessed are they . . . who, passing through the valley of weeping, gather their tears into a well; the rain also covereth it with blessings.’ So the old Psalm put the thought that sorrow may be turned into a solemn joy, and may lie at the foundation of our most flowery fruitfulness. And the same lesson we may learn from this symbol. The Christ who transforms the water of earthly gladness into the wine of heavenly blessedness, can do the same thing for the bitter waters of sorrow, and can make them the occasions of solemn joy. When the leaves drop we see through the bare branches. Shivering and cold they may look, but we see the stars beyond, and that is better. ‘This beginning of miracles’ will Jesus repeat in every sad heart that trusts itself to Him.

IV. And last of all, we have here a token of His glory as supplying the deficiencies of earthly sources.

‘His mother saith unto Him, “They have no wine.”‘ The world’s banquet runs out, Christ supplies an infinite gift. These great water-pots that stood there, if the whole contents of them were changed, as is possible, contained far more than sufficient for the modest wants of the little company. The water that flowed from each of them, in obedience to the touch of the servant’s hand, if the change were effected then, as is possible, would flow on so long as any thirsted or any asked. And Christ gives to each of us, if we choose, a fountain that will spring unto life eternal. And when the world’s platters are empty, and the world’s cups are all drained dry, He will feed and satisfy the immortal hunger and the blessed thirst of every spirit that longs for Him.

The rude speech of the governor of the feast may lend itself to another aspect of this same thought. He said, in jesting surprise, ‘Thou hast kept the good wine until now,’ whereas the world gives its best first, and when the palate is dulled and the appetite diminished, then ‘that which is worse.’ How true that is; how tragically true in some of our lives! In the individual the early days of hope and vigour, when all things were fresh and wondrous, when everything was apparelled in the glory of a dream, contrast miserably with the bitter experiences of life that most of us have made. Habit comes, and takes the edge off everything. We drag remembrance, like a lengthening chain, through all our life; and with remembrance come remorse and regret. ‘The vision splendid’ no more attends men, as they plod on their way through the weariness of middle life, or pass down into the deepening shadows of advancing and solitary old age. The best comes first, for the men who have no good but this world’s. And some of you have got nothing in your cups but dregs that you scarcely care to drink.

But Jesus Christ keeps the best till the last. His gifts become sweeter every day. No time can cloy them. Advancing years make them more precious and more necessary. The end is better in this course than the beginning. And when life is over, and we pass into the heavens, the word will come to our lips, with surprise and with thankfulness, as we find how much better it all is than we had ever dreamed it should be: ‘Thou hast kept the good wine until now.’

Oh, my brother! do not touch that cup that is offered to you by the harlot world, spiced and fragrant and foaming; ‘at the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.’ But take the pure joys which the Christ, loved, trusted, obeyed, summoned to your feast and welcomed in your heart, will bring to you; and these shall grow and greaten until the perfection of the Heavens.

John 2:11. This beginning of miracles did Jesus, &c. — Grotius supposes the meaning to be, that this was the first miracle wrought at Cana, another being afterward mentioned, John 4:46. But it is plain there must have been a long series of miracles wrought here to justify such a manner of speaking, which doth not at all appear to have been the case. The sense of the expression seems much rather to be, that this was the first of Christ’s public miracles; for probably the necessities of the family might sometimes have engaged him to have done something miraculous in private for its relief. And manifested forth his glory — And that in such an illustrious manner, that his fame was spread over all the neighbouring country; and his disciples believed on him — Namely, more steadfastly than before. Being the first miracle they had ever seen Jesus perform, it tended not a little to the confirmation of their faith.

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.This beginning of miracles - This his first public miracle. This is declared by the sacred writer to be a "miracle" - that is, an exertion of divine power, producing a change of the substance of water into wine, which no human power could do.

Manifested forth - Showed; exhibited.

His glory - His power, and proper character as the Messiah; showed that he had divine power, and that God had certainly commissioned him. This is shown to be a real miracle by the following considerations:

1. Real water was placed in the vessels. This the servants believed, and there was no possibility of deception.

2. The water was placed where it was not customary to keep wine. It could not be pretended that it was merely a mixture of water and wine.

3. It was judged to be wine without knowing whence it came. There was no agreement between Jesus and the governor of the feast to impose on the guests.

4. It was a change which nothing but divine power could effect. He that can change water into a substance like the juice of the grape must be clothed with divine power.

Believed on him - This does not mean that they did not believe on him beforehand, but that their faith was confirmed or strengthened. They saw a miracle, and it satisfied them that he was the Messiah. "Before this" they "believed" on the testimony of John, and from conversation with Jesus John 1:35-51; now they saw that he was invested with almighty power, and their faith was established.

From this narrative we may learn:

1. That marriage is honorable, and that Jesus, if sought, will not refuse his presence and blessing on such an occasion.

2. On such an occasion the presence and approbation of Christ should be sought. No compact formed on earth is more important; none enters so deeply into our comfort in this world; perhaps none will so much affect our destiny in the world to come. It should be entered into, then, in the fear of God.

3. On all such occasions, our conduct should be such that the presence of Jesus would be no interruption or disturbance. He is holy. He is always present in every place; and on all festival occasions our deportment should be such as that we should welcome the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. "That is not a proper stale of feeling or employment which would be interrupted by the presence of the Saviour."

4. Jesus delighted to do good. In the very beginning of his ministry he worked a miracle to show his benevolence. This was the appropriate commencement of a life in which he was to go about doing good. He seized every opportunity of doing it; and at a marriage feast, as well as among the sick and poor, he showed the character which he always sustained - that of a benefactor of mankind.

5. An argument cannot be drawn from this instance in favor of intemperate drinking. There is no evidence that any who were present on that occasion drank too freely.


11. manifested forth his glory—Nothing in the least like this is said of the miracles of prophet or apostle, nor could without manifest blasphemy be said of any mere creature. Observe, (1) At a marriage Christ made His first public appearance in any company, and at a marriage He wrought His first miracle—the noblest sanction that could be given to that God-given institution. (2) As the miracle did not make bad good, but good better, so Christianity only redeems, sanctifies, and ennobles the beneficent but abused institution of marriage; and Christ's whole work only turns the water of earth into the wine of heaven. Thus "this beginning of miracles" exhibited the character and "manifested forth the glory" of His entire Mission. (3) As Christ countenanced our seasons of festivity, so also that greater fulness which befits such; so far was He from encouraging that asceticism which has since been so often put for all religion. (4) The character and authority ascribed by Romanists to the Virgin is directly in the teeth of this and other scriptures. The sense is not, that this was the first miracle which Christ wrought in Cana of Galilee; but this was the first miracle which Christ wrought after he was entered upon the public ministry, and it was wrought in that Cana which is within the confines of Galilee, either in the lot of Zebulun or Asher: yet there are some who would not have it the first miracle which Christ wrought, but the first which he wrought in that place; but there is no reason for such an interpretation; for then there had been no reason for the following words, for Christ did not manifest his glory there only; though some object those wonderful or miraculous things happening at our Saviour’s birth, of which we read, Matthew 2:9 Luke 2:9. Yet as some distinguish between mira and miracula, so others give a more plain and satisfactory answer, telling us those were miraculous operations more proper to the Father and the Spirit, thereby attesting the Deity of Christ, than to Christ considered as God man. This was the first of those miraculous operations which were wrought by Christ Jesus as God man, by which he manifested his glory, the glory mentioned in John 1:14, as of the only begotten of the Father; his Divine majesty and power.

And his disciples, who before believed on him, John 1:41,45, now more firmly believed on him, John 14:1, as Mediator. In Scripture that is often said to be, which doth not commence, but increase from that time and occasion.

This beginning of miracles,.... This miracle of turning water into wine, was the first miracle Christ ever wrought, either in public or private; for as for what miracles he is said to do in his infancy, there is no reason to give credit to them: and this he

did in Cana of Galilee; not that this was only the first he did in that place; he afterwards working another there, namely, the cure of a nobleman's son, John 4:46, but the first he did any where, and it was in this place; and which the Syriac and Persic versions again call Kotne of Galilee; See Gill on John 2:1;

and manifested forth his glory; the glory of his deity and divine sonship, which was hid by his assumption of human nature, but broke forth and showed itself in his miraculous operations, and particularly in this:

and his disciples believed on him; the above five disciples; see John 2:2; whom he had called, and who were with him at this marriage, and were made acquainted with this miracle: and though they believed in him before, and had declared, and professed him to be the Messiah, Moses and the prophets spoke of, and the Son of God, and King of Israel; yet they were, by this miracle, more and more confirmed in the faith of these things: besides, others might be made his disciples at this time, and be hereby brought to believe in him.

This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.
John 2:11. The τὴν before ἀρχήν being spurious (see critical notes), we must translate: This, as beginning of His miracles, did Jesus at Cana. See on John 4:54, and Bernhardy, p. 319; Stallbaum, ad Plat. Gorg. p. 510 D. From this it is clear that it is the first miracle in general, and not merely the first of those that were wrought in Cana (John 4:46 sqq.), that is meant (so already τινές in Chrysostom and Paulus). This concluding remark of John’s simply serves to express, on occasion of the first of them, the teleological nature of the miracles of Jesus generally.

τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ] not “His excellent humanity” (Paulus), but His divine Messianic majesty, as in John 1:14. The miracles of Jesus, as He Himself testified, had for their object not only the δόξα of the Father, but also His own, John 11:4 (in opposition to Weizsäcker, Jahrb. f. Deutsche Theol. 1857, p. 165). The former is really the latter, and the latter the former. Observe how in John (as well as in the Synoptics) Jesus begins His Messianic ministry in Galilee, even in this His first miracle.

καὶ ἐπίστευσαν, κ.τ.λ.] and His disciples became believers in Him. The faith which they already had (John 1:35-51) was only introductory, belonging to the commencement of their connection with Jesus; now, upon the basis of this manifestation of His glory (John 1:14), came the more advanced and fuller decision, a new epoch in their faith, which, moreover, still continued susceptible of and requiring fresh additions even to the end (John 11:15, John 14:11). There is no hint here of any contrast with the unbelief afterwards manifested by the people (Brückner), nor can this be inferred from John 2:12 ff. Comp. Weiss, Lehrbegriff, p. 102.


This turning of the water into wine must be regarded as an actual miracle, for John as an eye-witness (see on John 1:41-42), in the most simple and definite manner (comp. John 4:46), represents it as such, and as the first manifestation of the divine glory dwelling in Christ in the direction of miraculous working (not as portraying beforehand the heavenly marriage supper, Revelation 19:8, Matthew 26:29, as Hofmann, Schriftbeweis, II. 2, p. 407, and Baumgarten, p. 99, take it). Every exposition which explains away the miraculous element contradicts the words and the purpose of St. John, infringes on his credibility and capacity for simple observation, and places even the character of Jesus in an ambiguous light. The physical inconceivability, which nevertheless is not identical with absolute impossibility (against Scholten, p. 215), pertains to this work in common only with every miracle;[137] and hence the appeal made to a supposed accelerated process of nature (Olshausen, comp. already Augustine and Chrysostom), which must have been at the same time an artificial process, is only a superfluous crutch on which the representation is made to lean, inapplicable to the other miracles, and as arbitrary as it is (in the absence of a vine) inadequate. Its inconceivableness in a telic point of view John himself removes in John 2:11; and remembering its design as there stated, the miracle was not an act of luxury (De Wette), but of abounding human kindness in blessing (see on John 2:6). To suppose another design, viz. that Jesus wished to show how opposed He was to the strict asceticism of the Baptist (Flatt, Olshausen), is pure and arbitrary invention, in opposition to John 2:11. Further, the fact that the Synoptics have not the narrative really amounts to nothing, because John selected and wrote independently of the synoptical series of narrations; and as they have not the first, so neither have they the last and greatest miracle. We must, after all, abide by the simple statement that there was a change of substance (John 2:9), effected by the power of Jesus over the sphere of nature, in conformity with a higher law of causation. Granting this power, which the whole range of the Gospel miracles demands, there is no ground whatever for contenting oneself (against John 2:9) with the assumption of a change of attributes merely in the water, whereby (after the analogy of mineral waters) it may have received the colour and taste of wine (Neander). It is levity of an equally objectionable kind, and a wronging of a writer so serious as John, to explain what occurred as a wedding joke, as Paulus (Jesus had a quantity of wine brought into the house, and had it mixed with water out of the pitchers and put upon the tables, John 2:4 having been spoken jestingly) and Gfrörer (Mary brought the wine with her as a wedding present, and during the feast, at the right moment, she gave her son a sign to bring out and distribute the gift) have agreed to do. Thus, instead of the transmutation of the water, we have a frivolous transmutation of the history.[138] Lastly, the mythical explanation contradicts the trustworthiness and genuineness of the Gospel. According to it, fact is resolved into legend—a legend derived from the analogies of the histories of Moses (Exodus 15:23 sqq.) and Elisha (2 Kings 2:19), as Strauss will have it, or from a misunderstood parable, as Weisse thinks; while De Wette—without, however, adopting the mythical view, but not fully recognising the historic character of the narrative—regards the dispensing of the wine as an act corresponding with the dispensing of the bread, and both as answering to the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper. This he holds to be the most appropriate explanation; but it is all the more inept, because there is not the least hint of it in the narrative, and because the Lord’s Supper is not once mentioned in John. According to Schweizer and Weisse, the paragraph is to be reckoned among certain interpolations which have been added to the genuine Johannean nucleus,—an arbitrary assertion; whereas Baur, whose criticism rejects the whole Gospel, transforms the narrative into an allegory, wherein water is the symbol of the Baptist, wine of the Messiah’s dignity (i.e. the bridegroom’s), and the transformation typifies the transition from the preparatory stage of the Baptist to the epoch of Messianic activity and glory (comp. Baumgarten Crusius, p. 82); while Hilgenfeld (Evang. p. 248) looks upon the turning of the water into wine as intended as a counterpart to the synoptical narrative of the temptation, and to illustrate how Jesus was raised above all narrow asceticism. Thus, too, some of the Fathers (Cyril, Augustine, and many others) allegorize the miracle, without, however, surrendering its objective and historical character as a fact; whereas Ewald, while renouncing any investigation into the historic probability of the narrative, regards it as the gilding of the idea of the beneficent power of the Messianic spirit, whereby even now water ought to become wine. Luthardt holds, indeed, the objective historical reality, but regards the manifestation of the δόξα to have been in contrast with that given in the O. T.,—the gift of God occupying the place of the command, and the higher life, which Jesus the bridegroom makes known in this miracle, the place of outward purification. Similarly Scholten, p. 164. But while the representation of Christ as bridegroom is quite remote from the narrative, John gives no support or sanction to the idea that the miracle was symbolical, either in the remark of John 2:6 (κατὰ τ. καθαρ. τ. Ἰουδ.) or in that of John 2:11 (ἘΦΑΝΈΡ. Τ. ΔΌΞ. ΑὐΤΟῦ).

The miracle at Cana is, finally, the only one to which the Synoptics have no one that corresponds. Therefore the miracles in John are all the less to be used in support of the assertion that, in John, Christ, after the manner of the Gnostics, announces another and higher God than the God of the O. T. (Hilgenfeld, Lehrbegr. 281). According to Keim, the marriage in Cana, the first great beaming forth of the divine glory, stands in John as “a loving portrait” of Christ, and designedly in place of the painful temptation in the wilderness. But this glory beamed forth still more grandly and more significantly in its bearing upon the Saviour’s whole ministry in the threefold triumph over Satan.

[137] It does not become more conceivable by Lange’s fiction (L. J. II. p. 479), which is quite unsupported by the text, viz. that the company were elevated to a higher tone of feeling, as the disciples were at a later time upon the mount of transfiguration, and that Christ, from the full spring of His highest life-power, made them drink creatively “in the element of the higher feeling.”

[138] Ammon also, L. J. I., falls back upon an erroneous idea and representation on the part of John: “What took place in the intervening time, when the water-pitchers were empty, and soon after were filled to the brim, is unknown to us.” The miracle is thus reduced into a natural event behind the scenes. Schenkel simply enough removes every miraculous element from the history, as being legendary adornments.

John 2:11. No answer of the bridegroom is recorded, nor any detail of the impression made, but John notes the incident as “the beginning of signs”.—ταύτην εποίησεν ἀρχήν, deleting the article with Tisch[34] and W.H[35], and rendering “This as a beginning of signs did Jesus,” from which it can scarcely be gathered that no insight mentioned in the first chapter was considered by John to be supernatural. It is characteristic of this Gospel that the miracles are viewed as signs, or object lessons. The feeding of the five thousand presents Jesus as the bread of God; the strengthening of the impotent man exhibits Him as the giver of spiritual life; and so forth. So that when John here says that by this miracle Jesus ἐφανέρωσε τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, we are prompted to ask what particular aspect of His glory was manifested here. What was there in it to elicit the faith and reverence of the disciples? (1) He appears as King in physical nature. He can use it for the furtherance of His purposes and man’s good. He is, as declared in the Prologue, that One in whom is life. (2) A hint is given of the ends for which this creative power is to be used. It is, that human joy may be full. These disciples of the Baptist perceive a new kind of power in their new Master, whose goodness irradiates the natural joys and domestic incidents of human life. (3) When John recorded this miracle he saw how fitly it stood as the first rehearsing as it did the entire work of Christ, who came that human happiness might not untimely close in shame. Wine had become the symbol of that blood which brought reconcilement and renewal. Seeing this sign and the glory manifested in it ἐπίστευσαν εἰς αὐτὸν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ. “Testimony (John 1:36) directs those who were ready to welcome Christ to Him. Personal intercourse converts followers into disciples (John 2:2). A manifestation of power, as a sign of divine grace, converts discipleship into personal faith” (Westcott). “Crediderunt amplius” (Bengel). The different grades, kinds, and types of faith alluded to in this Gospel are a study. Sanday remarks on the unlikelihood of a forger making such constant allusion to the disciples. That they believed would seem a truism. If they had not, they would not have been disciples. It would have been more to the point to tell us the effect on the guests, and a forger would hardly have failed to do so. But John writes from the disciples’ point of view. Not happy are the attempts to interpret this seeming miracle as a cleverly prepared wedding jest and gift (Paulus); or as a parable (Weisse), or as a hastened natural process (Augustine, Olshausen). Holtzmann finds here an artistic Lehrdichtung, an allegory rich in suggestion. Water represents all that is mere symbol as contrasted with spirit and reality. The period of symbolism is represented by the water baptism of John: this was to find its realisation in Jesus. The jars which had served for the outward washings of Judaism were by Jesus filled with heart-strengthening wine. The O.T. gift of water from the rock is superseded by the gift of wine. Wine becomes the symbol of the spiritual life and joy of the new kingdom. With this central idea the details of the incident agree: the helplessness of the old oeconomy, “they have no wine”; the mother of the Messiah is the O.T. community; and so forth. The historical truth consists simply in the joyful character ascribed to the beginning of Christ’s ministry. (1) Against all these attempts it is the obvious intention of John to relate a miracle, a surprising and extraordinary manifestation of power. (2) Where allegory exists he directs attention to it; as in this chapter, John 2:21; also in chapters 10, 15, etc. (3) That the incident can be allegorised is no proof that it is only allegory and not history. All incidents and histories may be allegorised. The life and death of Caesar have been interpreted as a sun myth.

[34] Tischendorf.

[35] Westcott and Hort.

Few, if any, incidents in the life of Jesus give us an equal impression of the width of His nature and its imperturbable serenity. He was at this juncture fresh from the most disturbing personal conflict, His work awaited Him, a work full of intense strife, hazard, and pain; yet in a mind occupied with these things the marriage joy of a country couple finds a fit place.

11. This beginning, &c.] Better, this, as a beginning of His signs, did Jesus in Cana; i.e. it is the first miracle of all, not merely the first at Cana. Thus S. John agrees with the Synoptists in representing the Messianic career as beginning in Galilee. This verse is conclusive against the miracles of Christ’s childhood recorded in the Aprocryphal Gospels. See on John 4:48. Our translators often in this Gospel, though very rarely in the other three, turn ‘signs’ into ‘miracles.’

manifested] The same Greek word occurs in connexion with His last miracle, John 21:1; John 21:14, and the same English word should be used in all the passages. Comp. John 7:4 and see on John 1:31.

his glory] This is the final cause of Christ’s ‘signs,’ His own and His Father’s glory (John 11:4), and these two are one.

and his disciples believed on him] What a strange remark for a writer in the second century to make! His disciples believed on Him? Of course they did. Assume that a disciple himself is the writer, and all is explained: he well remembers how his own imperfect faith was confirmed by the miracle. A forger would rather have given us the effect on the guests. Three times in this chapter does S. John give us the disciples’ point of view, here, John 2:17 and John 2:22; very natural in a disciple, not natural in a later writer. See on John 11:15 and John 21:12.

Two objections have been made to this miracle (1) on rationalistic, (2) on ‘Temperance’ grounds. (1) It is said that it is a wasteful miracle, a parade of power, unworthy of a Divine Agent: a tenth of the quantity of wine would have been ample. But the surplus was not wasted any more than the twelve baskets of fragments (John 6:13); it would be a valuable present to a bridal pair. (2) It is urged that Christ would not have supplied the means for gross excess; and to avoid this supposed difficulty it is suggested that the wine made was not intoxicating, i.e. was not wine at all. But in all His dealings with men God allows the possibility of a temptation to excess. All His gifts may be thus abused. The 5000 might have been gluttonous over the loaves and fishes.

Christ’s honouring a marriage-feast with His first miracle gives His sanction (1) to marriage, (2) to times of festivity.

Four hundred years had elapsed since the Jews had seen a miracle. The era of Daniel was the last age of Jewish miracles. Since the three children walked in the burning fiery furnace, and Daniel had remained unhurt in the lions’ den, and had read the hand-writing on the wall, no miracle is recorded in the history of the Jews until Jesus made this beginning of His ‘signs’ at Cana of Galilee. No wonder therefore, that the almost simultaneous appearance of a Prophet like John and a worker of miracles like Jesus attracted the attention of all classes.

John 2:11. Ταύτην, this) The early miracles of Christ are put before us in singular abundance; because the beginnings of faith rested on them. [And indeed the first miracles, in this place, and ch. John 5:8, “Rise, take up thy bed and walk” (Jesus to the impotent man); Matthew 8:13, “Jesus said to the centurion, Go thy way, and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee,” He did not perform by His hand, but by words: in order that it might be manifest, His healing power teas divine. A natural force is sometimes in men, so that even rather severe infirmities of body yield to their hands. But Jesus’ healing power was of a different character; since, when subsequently He stretched out His hands, or employed other ceremonials, in miraculous healings, He did so for the sake of those on whom the benefit was conferred: Mark 7:33, etc. (The deaf mute; whom Jesus “took aside, put His fingers into his ears, spit, and touched His tongue”); ch. John 8:23 (The blind man; whom Jesus “led out of the town, spit upon his eyes, and put His hands upon him”), etc.—Harm., p. 159, etc.]—ἀρχήν, beginning) Whence now it might be supposed, that more [miracles] would follow.—καὶ ἐφανέρωσε, and manifested) And thus began to manifest His glory. Previously He had not wrought miracles. [He, it seems, gave [præmisit] doctrine before signs. When He made this beginning of signs, the beginning of His doctrine had been previously made with His disciples, who became confirmed in their faith by this very miracle, as also with others, through John the Baptist, and also through Jesus Himself. John 1.—Harm., p. 160.]—ἐπίστευσαν) They believed the more fully [comp. ch. John 1:50, a “Because I said, etc., believest thou? Thou shalt see greater things than these.” Even in a marriage-feast a progress in faith is to be sought after. Thenceforth the disciples were prepared to embrace whatever their Lord was about to do and say.—μαθηταί, the disciples) His mother had previously believed: Luke 1:45, “Blessed is she that believed, for there shall be a performance,” etc.

Verse 11. - Jesus made this beginning of signs in Cana of Galilee, and manifested his glory. The beginning, the earliest of the tokens which he gave of his higher nature and lofty claims and faculties. The word σημεῖα, corresponding with the Hebrew אות, is generally, in the Acts as well as in the LXX., associated with τέρατα, or "portents;" when it occurs in the synoptists it is translated "signs." The word by itself does not connote miraculous energies, but any event, natural or human, which becomes a token or witness to unseen or Divine energies. When Christ's wonderful actions (often called δυνάμεις by the synoptists) are referred to by John, he calls them simply ἔργα; so that operations which, if wrought by other persons, might have been portents, miracles, or marvels, are to him perfectly normal, and are called simply "works." Weiss leaves the question of the manner in which this supply of wine was provided entirely unsettled, but declares that, whether by some fortunate providential opportunity, by the forecast of the mother, or by concealed methods of meeting the exigency, this great gift was brought about by the Son of Mary, the effect was the same as if it had been wrought by the Creator's hand. The glory of his power and love and sympathy was manifested. This appears to us utterly inconsistent with the intention or idea of tim evangelist. The impression previously made upon John the Baptist was of his supreme submission to the Divine will, his sacrificial yielding to that will for the taking away of sin; further, that in some sense he was Son of God, and Minister and Organ for the dispensation of the Spirit of God. The few disciples admitted that, by his penetration of their character and hidden inner life, his wisdom was of a different kind from that of men. Now, however, they see a manifestation of his glory as power. He has unlimited resources at his disposal, and his disciples believed on him to that extent. This expression asserts the truth of the selective and discriminating force of the mission of Christ, and the negative fact that the company assembled received no religious impression beyond the most superficial one. "The disciples" who came with him "believed" more than they had done before. It may be that they, especially John and Nathanael of Cana, were among the honorary διάκονοι who were alone fully conscious of what happened on the occasion. They apprehend the "glory," and entirely trust themselves εἰς αὐτόν, to him, and follow him with an added momentum. There are new and wonderful suggestions made in this passage which unveil the glory of the Divine love and power now wrought in man. A point of connection with the synoptic Gospels is that they too record Christ's own description of the contrast between the austere prophet and the Son of man (Matthew 11:18, 19) in terms almost taken from this very scene. Compare also the mode in which Christ vindicated his own social freedom from Pharisaic exclusiveness, and the conduct of his own disciples from that of John the Baptist's disciples in the matter of ceremonial purifications, by his parable of the old wine skins bursting with the new and potent fluid put into them (Matthew 9:14-17 and parallel passages). John gives here a deeper apprehension of the mystery, a keynote to a whole cycle of instructions, on the "glory" of his love. By manifesting his Divine sympathy with marriage, with human life and fellowship, with innocent gladness, he proves himself to be the same Christ of whom the synoptic tradition speaks, the same Jesus who took the children to his arms, and constituted a "marriage supper" the great type of the eternal union between God and man in the gospel of his love (cf. Matthew 22:2, etc.). But this same evangelist is filled with the same imagery dating back to experiences of Cana, when he describes the final victory of the "Lamb of God" (Revelation 19:7; Revelation 21:2). John 2:11This beginning

Or, more strictly, this as a beginning.

Of miracles (σημείων)

Rev., correctly, signs. See on Matthew 11:20; see on Matthew 24:24. This act was not merely a prodigy (τέρας), nor a wonderful thing (θαυμάσιον), nor a power (δύναμις), but distinctively a sign, a mark of the doer's power and grace, and divine character. Hence it falls in perfectly with the words manifested His glory.

Believed on Him (ἐπίστευσαν εἰς αὐτὸν)

See on John 1:12. Literally, believed into. Canon Westcott most aptly says that it conveys the idea of "the absolute transference of trust from one's self to another."

John 2:11 Interlinear
John 2:11 Parallel Texts

John 2:11 NIV
John 2:11 NLT
John 2:11 ESV
John 2:11 NASB
John 2:11 KJV

John 2:11 Bible Apps
John 2:11 Parallel
John 2:11 Biblia Paralela
John 2:11 Chinese Bible
John 2:11 French Bible
John 2:11 German Bible

Bible Hub

John 2:10
Top of Page
Top of Page