THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN
CHAPTER 2:
THE WEDDING AT CANA: The First Sign
JESUS CLEANSES THE TEMPLE

Awake, my harp, your songs in praise of the Virgin Mary!  Lift up your voice and sing the wonderful history of the Virgin, the daughter of David, who gave birth to the life of the Word." [stanza 1,1] "This Virgin became a Mother while preserving her virginity; and though still a Virgin she carried a Child in her womb; and the handmaid and work of His Wisdom became the Mother of God. [Stanza 1, 20].
St. Ephraim ca AD 306-373: Hymns on the Blessed Mary

Thus, the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary.  What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the virgin Mary loosed through faith.
 St. Ireaneus, Against Heresies 3,22,4 AD 180

Look, I shall send my messenger to clear a way before me.  And suddenly the Lord whom you seek will come to his Temple.
Malachi 3:1

+ + +

 

III. THE PRESENTATION OF THE SON OF GOD IN THE GALILEE

2:1-12
DAY 7

GALILEE – Cana (3 days later)

 
"

               A.  The wedding at Cana

2:1-11
"

1.  The Woman and her Seed

2:1-5
"

2.  SIGN #1 (Old Covenant vs. New Covenant)

2:5-10

   

3.  The Disciples believe

2:11
A few days later

GALILEE –Capernaum
               B.  Jesus, Mary, His kinsmen and His Disciples

2:12

Please read John 2:1-12
John1:1-2: On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee.  The mother of Jesus was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited.

Cana in Galilee is probably the modern village of Keb Kenna, which is about four miles northeast of Jesus' hometown, Nazareth and a two day walk from the site of Jesus' baptism on the Jordan River.  The Jewish Talmud directs that the marriage of a virgin should be on the fourth day of the week, our Wednesday.  The only day with a "name" was the Sabbath, Saturday.  Sunday was the "first" day of the week [Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1-2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1], therefore, as the ancients counted the "fourth" day is Wednesday [there was no concept of a 0 mathematical place-value in the 1st century AD].  Today this custom is still observed and marriage feasts are generally held in the afternoon or evening.  If this custom was observed in Jesus' day that would make the day Andrew and John were called as disciples the Jewish Sabbath, Saturday.  That they "stayed with him the rest of the day" would certainly make sense since travel was (and still is for Orthodox Jews) restricted on the Sabbath.

John 2:1: On the third day...

Question:  On the third day from what?

Answer: On the third day from the previous day mentioned in 1: 43.  In chapter 1 verses 29, 35, and 43 you may have noticed the repetition of the words "the next day."  In each case the Greek word epaurion is used.  The literal translation of this word is "on the morrow." If there is "a tomorrow" that suggests that there was a previous day:

The next verse, which is John 2:1, begins 3 days later, "on the third day" from the last day mentioned in verse 43

It is important to notice how St. John's Creation imagery from the prologue is continued.  In John 1:1-5 of the prologue John gave us Creation imagery in his use of the words "light" and "darkness" and in the "Word" of God who brought Creation into being.  Then in verse 32 [I saw the Spirit come down on him like a dove from heaven and rest on him] there is the imagery of God the Holy Spirit descending from heaven and hovering above the waters of the Jordan River over Christ just as God's spirit descended and hovered over the waters of creation in Genesis chapter 1.  Chapter two is a continuation of that creation imagery.

Question: What day is it then, numerically, at the beginning of chapter 2?

Answer: The fourth day (v. 43-51) plus three more days yields the 7th day.

Day #1

1:23-28, This was the witness of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem..."  "This happened at Bethany, on the far side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Day #2

1:29-34, The next day,.."  "I have seen and I testify that he is the Son of God.

Day #3

1:35-42, The next day.."  "You Simon son of John; you are to be called Cephas, which means Rock.

Day #4

1:43-51, The next day.."  "...you will see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending over the Son of man.

Day #5-6  
Day #7

2:1, On the third day...[from the last day which was day 4] there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee.

Question: Recalling the "Creation" imagery from Genesis chapter 1 in St. John's prologue with words like "light" and "darkness" and the creative Word of God, what is the connection between Genesis' seventh day and the 7th day of John 2:1?

Answer: In the story of Creation on the 7th day God rested.  Yes, but there is more. On the 6th day of Creation God created the beasts and Adam, and then knowing that Adam needed a companion [in chapter 2 of Genesis] God put Adam into a deep sleep and created the woman [Adam would not name her Hawwah, "Eve," "the mother of all living," until after their fall from grace in Genesis 3:20].  According to Old Covenant Hebrew tradition Adam and the woman awoke from their deep sleep the next day, the 7th day, and God joined them together with Adam acknowledging the union by saying these words: "This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!  She is to be called Woman because she was taken from Man." And Scripture continues: This is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife and they become one flesh [Genesis 2:23-24]. 

On the 7th day of Creation, according to tradition, there was a WEDDING!  This is why, in the Old Covenant tradition, a wedding celebration lasted 7 days.  It was the father of the groom who would decide when the wedding could take place.  The usual festivities consisted of a procession in which the bridegroom and his friends would escort the bride to the groom's house.  The blowing of a trumpet (shofar) signaled the beginning of the procession [see 1 Thessalonians 4:16 where the shofar announces Christ the Bridegroom coming for His Bride, the Church]. After the Bridegroom escorted the Bride to His Father's house, the wedding feast would last 7 days.  For a Biblical reference see Genesis 29:27; Judges 14:8-10,18; Tobit 11:15-20; also see the Talmud where the "7 blessings", the Sheva Berachot, are repeated each day; and The Jewish Book of Why, vol. I, page 45).

According to the ancient custom, it was on the 7th day of the feast that the bridegroom finally lifted the veil that covered the face of his bride.  For the first time she would be fully revealed to Him and the marriage could be consummated.  In the first century this moment of revelation in the lifting of the veil was called "the apocalypse," which means, "the unveiling."  Understanding the significance of this moment is a significant key to understanding St. John's other great book: "The Apocalypse of Jesus Christ to His Servant John."  It is the last book in the New Testament and it is a book about the "unveiling" of the Bride as she is received by Christ, the Bridegroom.  The Bride is the Church.

In John chapter 2 St. John brings the Creation imagery established in chapter 1 to the 7th day of Creation which recalls the wedding of the Adam and Eve and now unites that imagery to the wedding at Cana.  It was immediately after that first wedding that Adam and Eve fell from grace.  Now Jesus, the "new Adam" [1 Corinthians 15:22-45] will begin His ministry and restore the grace that was lost through Adam and Eve's sin.  The connection between this wedding and the Genesis story of the woman's connection with man's fall from grace is further connected, as we will discuss, through Jesus' peculiar way of addressing His mother when she makes her request to him.  The wedding at Cana is the 7th day of the New Creation.

But there is a nagging question that must first be addressed: Why didn't John just number the days up to the Wedding at Cana in a more straightforward manner?  Why did he purposely establish a "third day" reference [John 2:1 On the third day..] which is also the 7th day?  Remember, nothing in Sacred Scripture is just an accident.  There is always a reason why the inspired writers use certain wording or word order.  The answer is that there is another Old Testament connection to the 3rd and the 7th day.  The Old Testament book of Numbers lists the prescribed rules and regulations for water purification when an Israelite comes in contact with a dead body.  The "holy water" to be used in this rite must be mixed with the ashes of a red heifer that was without fault or blemish and has never borne a yoke [Numbers 19:1-10].  These ashes were then mixed with the water and blessed by a priest.  This "holy water" was to be used for ritual purification. 

Please read Numbers 19:11-13.  Anyone who touches the corpse of anyone whatever will be unclean for seven days.  Such a person must be purified with these waters on the third and seventh days and will then be clean; otherwise he will not be clean.  Anyone who touches the corpse of anyone who has died and is not purified, defiles Yahweh's Dwelling [Tabernacle]; such a person will be outlawed from [dead to] Israel, since the water for purification has not been sprinkled over him; he is unclean, and his uncleanness remains in him.  Note: the literal translation of verse 13 is: such a person will be dead to Israel. Please also read Hebrews 9:11-13. The sacrifice of the red heifer is a foreshadowing of Christ's self-sacrifice: But now Christ has come, as the high priest of all the blessings which were to come.  He has passed through the greater, the more perfect tent, not made by human hands, that is, not of this created order; and he has entered the sanctuary once and for all, taking with him not the blood of goats and bull calves, but his own blood, having won an eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkled on those who have incurred defilement, may restore their bodily purity.  How much more will the blood of Christ, who offered himself, blameless as he was, to God through the eternal Spirit, purify our conscience from dead actions so that we can worship the living God.  (see CCC# 1214-15, 1002-4)

Question: In Numbers 19:11-13, a person who has become impure through contact with a dead body becomes "as though he were dead" to his community through his contamination.  How is this person restored or resurrected to his community?

Answer:  He must be ritually purified on the 3rd day and the 7th day in order to be restored/ resurrected.  In other words, under the old Law two resurrections are required before the impure individual can be completely restored or resurrected to the covenant people of God.

Question: What is the connection to Christ and the salvation that He will give to us through His Passion, death, and resurrection?  We who are "dead" to sin, are we meant to experience two resurrections?

Answer: Yes. We also have the promise of two resurrections.

 

Question: What is our first resurrection?  Hint: see Revelation 20:6a "Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection; the second death has no power over them.." and Ephesians 2:4-6; Romans 5:8-11; and especially Colossians 2:12-13.  Also see CCC# 1002-4, 1214-1215

Answer: In the Sacrament of Baptism we are buried into Christ's death from which "he raises [us] up by resurrection with him, as 'a new creature.'" CCC# 1214

Question: If baptism is the first resurrection symbolized by the sprinkling of water on the 3rd day in the Old Covenant purification rite, what is the second resurrection symbolized by sprinkling of water on the 7th day? See 1 Thessalonians 4:16; CCC# 1002-1005, and the document "The Significance of Numbers in Scripture," on the significance of the number seven.

Answer: 7 is the number of spiritual perfection, fullness and completion. The 2nd resurrection will be experienced with the 2nd Coming of Christ in the resurrection of the dead.  It is at that time that the living and the dead will receive their glorified bodies. Christ promises that those who experience the "second resurrection" will not experience the "second death" (see Revelation 2:11; 20:6; 21:8).  This is the fullness of Christ's promise to us. 

The Fathers of the Church expressed this teaching of a double resurrection and a double birth as: born twice, die once; born once, die twice.  >The "born twice" refers to natural, physical birth and the supernatural re-birth that is the gift of God through the sacrament of baptism.  Those who are born twice will only experience physical death.  But to those who are born only once through a natural, physical birth will not only experience physical death but also spiritual death, the "second death."

Question: What is the symbolism then illustrated by the reference to the 3rd day and the 7th day in John's Gospel and its connection to the old Law ritual cleansing of those made impure by contact with the dead?

Answer: Jesus has come to cleanse the defiled people of the Old Covenant who are dead in their sins.  Cleansed by Christ they will no longer be cut off from God but will be able to approach Him in His Tabernacle.

Question: Where is God in His Tabernacle?  See John 1:14

Answer: "And the Word became flesh and Tabernacled among us." Christ is preparing His people to be able to approach Him.

The first resurrection in Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism will be more fully discussed in chapter 3.

Returning to John 2:1

The mother of Jesus was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited.

We will discover in verse 12 that Jesus' brothers (and perhaps sisters) also attend this wedding: After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and his brothers and his disciple.  The Greek word "brothers", adelphoi (meaning from the womb, plural) can be used to refer to both kinds of siblings, brothers and sisters, when used in the plural form.  This however, does not mean that Jesus had brothers and sisters born of the marriage between Mary and Joseph.  It has always been the tradition of the Church from the time of the Apostles that Mary remained a virgin all of her life [CCC# 496-7; 499; 502-507].  In Hebrew and in Aramaic (the common language spoken at the time of Jesus) there is no single word for cousin or stepbrother or stepsister. All of these relationships were expressed with the Aramaic word "brother", which we would translate as "kinsmen".  Even though there are words in Greek for "cousin" or stepbrother, etc., the sacred writers used the Aramaic/Hebrew tradition.  This is obvious in Acts 1:16 where Peter addresses the 120 believers of the New Covenant Church in the Upper Room, both men and women, as Adelphoi'"brothers." In the Western Rite Catholic tradition these kinsmen are assumed to be cousins but in the Eastern Rite tradition they are believed to be both cousins and stepbrothers and stepsisters from Joseph's earlier marriage (see the ancient document The Protoevangelium of James). Since Joseph, the legal father of Jesus, is not mentioned it is assumed that he is already dead. [For more information on Jesus' "brothers" and the use of the word "brother" for kinsmen in Scripture there is a good article in This Rock magazine, September 2003 issue, entitled "Bad Aramaic Made Easy: there is no word for cousin;"  and CCC# 500].

We do not know how many of Jesus' disciples attended the feast, but from the information given in chapter one we know of at least six.  Notice that John has given Mary prominence over Jesus and the other men because she is named first.  She is the central part of this story.  John will mention Mary as Jesus' mother eight different times in his Gospel in 2:1, 3, 5, 12; 6:42; 19:25, 26 (twice), and 27, but he will refer to Mary by the title "the mother of Jesus" only three different times: 2:1, 3; and 19:25.  John only physically places the Virgin Mary in his Gospel narrative at the beginning of Christ's ministry in this passage and at the end in John 19:25 at the foot of the cross on Cavalry. 

John 2: 2-3 And they ran out of wine, since the wine provided for the feast had all been used, and the mother of Jesus said to him, 'They have no wine.'

During the seven days of feasting the women in attendance would have looked after the food preparation, therefore it is not unusual that Mary would have been aware of the emergency caused by the lack of wine.

John 2:4   Jesus said, 'Woman, what do you want from me?  My hour has not yet come?'

This verse is a scandal to some and a stumbling block to many.  It becomes a stumbling block to those who incorrectly interpret this passage as an expression of Jesus' separation from Mary, that she is not any more important to Him than any other sinner in need of salvation.  It is also a scandal for Catholics who love Mary and cannot understand why Jesus would speak so disrespectfully to His mother!  The problem lies in the interpretation of a Hebrew idiom, which is rendered in Greek as ti emoi kai soi.  This idiom should be literally translated: 'What to me and to you?,' which means, "What has it to do with you and me?"  This expression implies a divergence of views but the precise meaning must be determined, as always, from the CONTEXT of the passage.  The context of this passage clearly shows that His comment to His mother was not a rebuttal much less a rebuke!

Question: Did Jesus keep the Laws of the Sinai Covenant?

Answer: Yes, he kept them perfectly...He was the only one who could keep them perfectly.

Question: What is the Commandment that concerns a child's relationship to his parents? Hint: see Exodus 20:12; Leviticus 19:3; Deuteronomy 5:16.

Answer: The commandment is to honor one's parents.  Did you know that this is the only commandment that contains a promise? The promise is long life.  However, the penalty for not showing honor and respect to one's parents was death [Leviticus 20:9].

Question: Is it possible that Jesus rebuked his own mother publicly in this passage?

Answer: Absolutely not.  He would have been in violation of the Law and a scandal at the wedding feast.  It is unthinkable that He should do such a thing!

It is helpful to look at this Hebrew idiom in verse 4 in other passages in Scripture. The Hebrew idiom is used in Old Testament passages 5 times:

  1. Judges 11:12 where Jephthah responds in a hostile challenge to the King of the Ammonites.
  2. 2 Samuel 16:10 where David says tiemoi kai umin (plural, in the Greek Septuagint translation) to his cousins, the sons of Zeruiah, meaning that he does not agree with their advice. [Also see 19:23].
  3. 1 Kings 17:18 when the woman of Zarephath reproaches Elijah for the death of her son.
  4. 2 Kings 3:13 the prophet Elisha refuses the King of Israel's request to consult with him.
  5. 2 Chronicles 35:21 when Neco, King of Egypt, tells King Josiah there is no quarrel between them to cause them to go to war.

The phrase, in Greek "ti emoi kai soi" = "what to me and you," is used 6 times in the New Testament:

  1. It is repeated in Matthew 8:29 when the demoniacs of Gadara shouted to JesusWhat do you want with us ["what is it to me and you"], Son of God?
  2. Mark 1:24 when Jesus cures the man possessed by a demon at Caperanum when the man shouts What do you want with us [what to me and to you/plural], Jesus of Nazareth?
  3. Mark 5:7 when the man with the unclean spirit says the same thing to Jesus in his attempt to urge Jesus to let him alone.
  4. Luke 4:34 which is a repeat of the exchange with the demoniac of Capernaum and
  5. Luke 8:28 which is a repeat of the story of the Gadara demoniacs. 
  6. John 2:4 when Jesus responds to his mother's request concerning the wine.

The phrase does not always imply a reproach, but it suggests a divergence of opinion.  The shade of meaning can be determined only from the context.  In this passage Jesus' objection is only that his hour has not yet come.

Question: What did Jesus mean by the statement my hour has not yet come?

Answer: References to "the coming hour" will be made repeatedly in John's Gospel.  I have counted 12 references to the "coming hour."

Scripture reference in John's Gospel

Scripture passage referring to the "coming hour"

1.  2:4

Jesus: "hour has not yet come"

2.  4:21

Jesus to the Samaritan woman:  "Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem."

3.  4:23

Jesus to the Samaritan woman: "But the hour is coming–indeed is already here–when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth..."

4.  5:25

Jesus to the Jewish crowd: "In all truth (amen, amen) I tell you, the hour is coming–indeed it is already here–when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and all who hear it will live."

5.  5:28

Jesus to the Jewish crowd cont.: "Do not be surprised at this, for the hour is coming when the dead will leaven their graves at the sound of his voice..."

6.  7:30

They wanted to arrest him then, but because his hour had not yet come no one laid a hand on him.

7.  8:20

He spoke these words in the Treasury, while teaching in the Temple.  No one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

8.  12:23

Jesus replied to them: "Now the hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.

9.  12:27

Jesus to His disciples: "What shall I say: Father, save me from this hour?  But it is for this very reason that I have come to this hour.

10.  13:1

Before the festival of the Passover, Jesus, knowing that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father, having loved those who were his in the world, loved them to the end.

11. 16:25

Jesus to the disciples: I have been telling you these things in veiled language,  The hour is coming whin I shall no longer speak to you in veiled language but tell you about the Father in plain words.

12. 17:1

After saying this, Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said: "Father, the hour has come: glorify your Son so that Your Son may glorify you...

To some scholars this reference to "the hour" refers to the "hour" of his glorification.  To others it is the "hour" that marks the beginning of His public ministry and His manifestation as the Messiah.  But all scholars will agree that in John's Gospel the reference to Jesus' "hour" most often points to the "hour" of Christ's passion and death on the cross, an hour that man will not determine but an "hour" that completely in God's control.  That interpretation fits in the context of this passage where He mentions the "hour" of his death in association with the "best wine" in John 2:10 that was provided through Jesus' miracle at the wedding at Cana, for it will be His blood that is shed that will become the "best wine" of Holy Communion that provides the blessings for all of mankind through His sacrificial death.

Question: Did God know this event would take place? 

 Answer: Of course, God knows everything; therefore, Jesus could not have been surprised by her request.  The purpose of this incident is to instruct us and to help us to understand the power of Mary's intervention not just on behalf of the bride and groom at Cana but her concern and power to intervene for all her children.  The wonderful thing about Mary is that when we petition our holy Mother for her assistance she always prays for us according to the Father's will for our lives–not just according to our request. 

The understanding of the idiom in John 2:4 coupled with the context of the passage and Jesus reference to His "hour" indicates that although it was not part of God's plan to use His power to solve this problem of the wine, Mary's request moves Him to do precisely what she requested. St. Irenaeus in addressing this passage points out that it could not be a reproach but is instead, as Jesus indicated by the mention that "his hour had not yet come" that Jesus is telling Mary, "this is not the plan but leave it to me." [St. Ireaneus, Against Heresies III.17.7].

Question: The question remains if Jesus isn't rebuking His mother, why does He call her "Woman"? Hint: Remember the reoccurring Genesis imagery and see Genesis 3:15: I shall put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring [seed] and hers [her seed]; He will strike at your head while you strike at his heel.  This prophecy is known as the Protoevangelium = the first Gospel.  It is the first prophecy of the future Messiah who will redeem mankind and defeat the serpant.

Answer: Jesus calls Mary "Woman" because that is her title. She is the "Woman" whose seed will defeat the serpent.  Only two women in salvation history have been given the title "Woman," Eve and Mary. (see Genesis 2:23; John 2:4, 19:27). 

In Greek the word "woman" is gune which does not have the force of the English equivalent "woman" but is instead a more gentle expression.  It was not unusual for a man to refer to a woman as "gune" in the 1st century, but it is unusual that in Mary's case that there is no article or pronoun associated with the word (i.e. "the woman", " my woman", etc.).  However, at various times Jesus addresses women simple as "gune"[for example see Matthew 15:28; Luke 13:12; John 4:21; 8:10; 20:15].  But only here in this passage as well as in chapter 19, Jesus used the word "gunai" in addressing his own mother Mary, which some scholars translate as "dear woman"'a clear reference to her role as the new Eve promised in Genesis 3:15.

Question: Who is the "serpent" in the Genesis 3:15 passage? See Revelation 12:9.

Answer: The devil

Question: Was it part of Jesus' mission to defeat Satan?

Answer: Absolutely.  See 1 John 3:8: Whoever lives sinfully belongs to the devil, since the devil has been a sinner from the beginning.  This was the purpose of the appearing of the Son of God, to undo the work of the devil.

Question: How is it that sin and death came into the world?  Did God create sin and death?  See Wisdom 2:23-24.

Answer: Sin and death, which is the consequence of sin, came into the world through the Devil who seduced the first man and woman to disobey God.

Question: How is it that sin and death (spiritual death) have been defeated by Jesus Christ? See Romans 5:12-21, CCC# 504

Answer: Through Christ's sacrifice He has defeated sin and death.  He is in effect the "new Adam". CCC# 504 Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary's womb because he is the New Adam, who inaugurates the new creation: 'The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven' [1 Corinthians 15:45, 47]..."

Question: If Jesus is the "new Adam" [see Romans 5:12-14; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 45] what role does Mary have in the "New Creation"? See CCC # 411

Answer: Mary is the "new Eve."  St. Irenaeus writing circa 180AD expressed Mary's role as the "new Eve" this way: Eve, however, was disobedient; and when yet a virgin, she did not obey.  Just as she, who was then still a virgin although she had Adam for a husband,--for in Paradise they were both naked but were not ashamed; for having been created only a short time, they had no understanding of the procreation of children and it was necessary that they first come to maturity before beginning to multiply,--having become disobedient, was made the cause for death for herself and for the whole human race; so also Mary, betrothed to a man but nevertheless still a virgin, being obedient, was made the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race...Thus, the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary.  What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the virgin Mary loosed through faith. St Ireaneus, Against Heresies 3,22,4 written circa AD 180.

Approximately 30 years later the great Christian apologist Tertullian wrote:

For it was while Eve was still a virgin that the word of the devil crept in to erect an edifice of death.  Likewise, through a Virgin, the Word of God was introduced to set up a structure of life.  Thus, what had been laid waste in ruin by this sex, was by the same sex re-established in salvation.  Eve had believed the serpent; Mary believed Gabriel.  That which the one destroyed by believing, the other, by believing set straight.  Tertullian, The Flesh of Christ, 17, 4 AD 208-212

This view of Mary's role in the plan of redemption is also expressed in the Catechism # 411, 511 and 975.

The two Eves contrasted:

THE VIRGIN EVE

THE VIRGIN MARY

Daughter of the first Covenant

Daughter of the Sinai Covenant

Pledged obedience under the covenant

Pledged obedience under the covenant

Eve's disobedience resulted in the fall into sin of the entire human race.  The result was death, physically and spiritually.

Mary's obedience to God resulted in the offer of the gift of salvation to the entire human race.  The result was eternal life

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 1991 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Catechism of the Catholic Church CCC# 494  ..... 'Being obedient she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.' Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert 'The knot of Eve's disobedience was united by Mary's obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith.' Comparing her with Eve, they call Mary 'the Mother of the living' and frequently claim" 'Death through Eve, life through Mary.

[CCC quoting St. Irenaeus, Epiphanius, and St. Jerome]

 

Question: How is it that Mary is, as expressed in CCC# 511, the "Mother of the living," the meaning of the Hebrew name "Eve" [see Genesis 3:20]?

Answer: Because of her "yes" to the angel Gabriel the Virgin Mary became a part of God's plan of salvation.  Through her son's sacrifice, those who believe in Him have the promise of eternal life.  Because He has given His mother to us as the mother of the Church, she is indeed the "Mother of the living" because the only kind of "life" that matters is the eternal life that is the gift of her son to His Church.

How perfect is God's plan that although sin and death entered the world through the disobedience of the woman Eve who led the man Adam into sin, now we can compare the role of women in salvation history to the woman Mary, the new Eve, who leads her son, Jesus, the new Adam, to His first glorious work at Cana!  All women now have Mary as their role model in fulfilling their vocation as mothers to raise up holy children who will continue to work for God's plan of salvation.  Satan used the virgin Eve to bring destruction and God used the Virgin Mary to bring about our redemption from sin.  Just as a woman and a man cooperated to bring sin into to world now a woman [in her obedience to God] and her Son will cooperated to bring salvation. Without Mary's role as the new Eve, women, as a sex, would still bear the burden and condemnation for leading Adam into sin.  Mary releases women from that burden.

However, there may be more to Mary’s petition that simply helping out a young couple in an embarrassing situation during their wedding celebration. Her petition has theological significance. What she is asking Jesus to provide is wine that is a divine gift at a wedding banquet attended by the covenant people. In the reoccurring symbolic images of the prophets, drinking the best wine at banquet in the presence of God is the image of Israel in restored communion with her God (see the study "How to Study the Old Testament Prophets" and the chart "Symbolic Images of the Old Testament Prophets." Her request is for Jesus to initiate a prophetic act that will launch His ministry.

THE SYMBOLIC IMAGES OF THE
OLD TESTAMENT PROPHETS:
The Image of Drinking Wine
Image Group Part I
Covenant
Relationship
Part II Rebellion Part III
Redemptive
Judgement
Part IV
Restoration
Fulfilled
Drinking Wine
Joy of drinking
good wine
Becoming drunk Loss of wine and
drinking the
"cup of God's wrath"
Rejoicing in the best
"new wine"
at the Master's table
examples in Scripture Jeremiah 40:12;
Isaiah  62:8-9
Isaiah 5:11-12; 28:1;
Jeremiah 8:13; 48:26; 51:7;
Joel 1:5
Joel 4:13;
Isaiah 51:17; 63:2-3;
Jeremiah 13:12-14; 25:15-31; 48:26;
Ezekiel 23:32-33
Promise:
Zech.9:15-16
Filled:
Luke 22:19-20;
1 Corinthians 11:23-32;
Revelation 19:7-9

In the book of Revelation, the passage that speaks of the fulfillment of the New Covenant people's relationship with God is presented as a wedding feast–the wedding feast of the Lamb and His Bride the Church (Rev 19:6-9).  In her petition, Mary, the faithful daughter of Israel, is asking God the Son to begin His mission to bring the restoration of covenant union to her people with Yahweh in a prophetic ot, a symbolic act by a prophet that points to a future work of God in salvation history.  Jesus providing the best wine to a faithful remnant of the old Israel at a wedding banquet prefigures the promised restoration of the new Israel in the Eucharistic banquet that will sustain Mary’s New Covenant children on their journey to salvation until the time when they enjoy the wine of salvation at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb and His Bride in the heavenly Sanctuary (Rev 12:17 identifies those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus as Mary’s children).

John 2:5-6:  His mother said to the servants, 'Do whatever he tells you.'  There were six stone water jars standing there, meant for the ablutions that are customary among the Jews: each could hold twenty or thirty gallons.

Question: What is it about Mary's directions to the servants that indicates her understanding of Jesus comment to her in 2:4?

Answer: That she has understood from Jesus response to her that He will solve the problem of the wine.  She has confidence that her Son will fulfill her request and so she instructs them to do exactly as He tells them.  This is the same advice Mary gives to all her spiritual children in the family of God: to do as her Son tells them to be obedient to the will of God in their lives.

Writing to a predominantly Gentile-Christian community, John once again instructs his readers about Old Covenant customs. Ritual purification was very important under the Laws of the Old Covenant.  We know that these jars held "holy water" because John tells us that they are stone vessels not the usual fired pottery vessels that held wine.  Holy water was kept in stone vessels.  Using the symbolism of numbers, John may be calling attention to the number 6 as just short of perfection, which according to tradition is the number 7.  The Old Covenant rituals of purification were not complete or perfect but were only a preparation for the purity and perfection promised in the New Covenant.

 There are many Old Testament passages that deal with purification rites found in the books of Leviticus and Numbers:

These purification rites were an important part in Old Covenant Law and sanctity.  We can appreciate the importance of the purification rites practiced by the Jews of the 1st century AD as they are recorded in the Jewish Talmud.  The Talmud is composed of the Old Covenant Jewish Oral Law passed down from Moses to the Jewish priesthood that was written down after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70AD [Mishnah /Mishna] and completed with a commentary compiled by Jewish Rabbis the next century [Gemarah].  The whole Mishnah is divided into six Sedarim [Orders] of which the last is the Seder Tohoroth, 'the treating of purifications.'  It consists of twelve tractates [Massikhtoth], 126 chapters [Peraqim] and contains no fewer that 1001 separate Mishnayoth.  The first tractate in the 'Order of Purifications' treats the purification of vessels used in the purification rites and contains no fewer than 30 chapters.  The treatment of hands [Yadayim] is the eleventh tractate and contains four chapters. The 6 stone vessels, which John mentions, that were placed outside the wedding reception room are the same type of vessels especially mentioned in Chel. 10.1 [Keley Abhanim] of the Talmud as being expressly used for the purification of the hands (see The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah page 247 and the Mishnah, Seder Tohoroth).

It was customary to have these large water jars of stone in or near the room where a feast was being held so that water might be available for the ceremonial washing of hands prescribed before and after means [see Mark 7:3; 2 Kings 3:11; etc.].  During the Feast of Unleavened Bread when on the first night the Passover lamb or kid was eaten, hands were ritually washed three times: before, during, and after eating the food.  In this case, each of the stone vessels held two or three measures.  A measure is about eight gallons so each jar held between 20 to 30 gallons of water for a total of approximately 150 gallons of water!

John 2:7-9  Jesus said to the servants, 'Fill the jars with water,' and they filled them to the brim.  Then he said to them, 'Draw some out now and take it to the president of the feast.' They did this; the president tasted the water, and it had turned into wine.  Having no idea where it came from–though the servants who had drawn the water knew..

Since this event took place part way through the feast some of the water had already been drawn out of the jars for the purification of hands before the meal.  Now Jesus instructs the servants to make sure the jars are filled to the brim, which emphasizes the superabundance and magnificence of the gift produced by the miracle. 

Sacred Scripture promised that the Messiah would bring an abundance of gifts to the people: Psalms 85:12; Joel 2:24; Amos 9:13-15, etc. These passages emphasize the superabundance of the riches of Redemption and Salvation. 

Question: In order for the miracle to be performed Mary stressed to the servants that they must be obedient to Jesus' commands. What does that suggest to us?

Answer: It suggests to us the importance of obedience to the will of God in even the smallest details of our lives.

I always see the humorous side of this part of the story.  You can imagine the expression of the faces of the servants worrying that they will be blamed for bringing water to the president of the feast instead of wine and then their amazement when the president of the feast enthusiastically pronounces what they have brought him the most choice wine?

John 2:10 The president of the feast called the bridegroom and said, 'Everyone serves good wine first and the worse wine when the guests are well wined; but you have kept the best wine till now.'

 

The president of the feast is not a servant but is a friend of the groom.  Some scholars suggest that he is what we would call "the best-man" and I like this suggestion because it fits well theologically with what John the Baptist will teach at the end of chapter 3.

Question: What does this superior wine coming at the end of the feast suggest to you symbolically?

Answer: St. Thomas Aquinas and other Fathers of the Church saw this abundance of good wine kept for the end of the celebrations as symbolizing the crowning moment in Salvation history when God has sent His own Son whose teaching will perfect the old revelation of God received by the patriarchs and Old Covenant Church.  Now the graces Christ brings will far exceed their expectations.  The wine replacing the water in essence symbolized the replacement of the Old Covenant and the superabundance of the New Covenant–the temporal blessings of the Old Covenant with the eternal blessings of the New.  They also saw this good wine coming at the end as prefiguring the reward and the joy of eternal life, which God grants to those who desire to follow Christ in obedience. [St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on St. John]. 

John 2:11-12 This was the first of Jesus' signs: it was at Cana in Galilee.  He revealed his glory and his disciples believed in him.  After this he went down to Caperanum with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, but they stayed there only a few days.

This was the first of Jesus' signs:  John uses the term "signs," semeion in the common Greek, 17 times in his Gospel [Fr. Brown, The Gospel of John].  Since these "signs" or miracles are concentrated in chapters 1-12 many scholars call the first half of John's Gospel the "Book of Signs." 

Question: Why do you think John uses the Greek word for "signs" instead of the word for miracle?

Answer: John uses the word semeion, "sign," because these works performed by Jesus are not just supernatural miracles but are signs that unveil the glory and power of God working through Jesus the Messiah.  These "signs" also recall the signs performed by God's first holy prophet Moses in Exodus 4:8; 4:28-31.  In John's Gospel Jesus performs 8 miracles, 6 of which are not recorded in the Synoptic Gospels, but 7 of these miracles are public "signs" that reveal Jesus as the Messiah.  That John records 7 public signs draws attention to 7 as a number indicating perfection and fullness (see the Significance of Numbers in Scripture in the Charts section). 

The Seven Public Signs of Jesus in St. John's Gospel

  #1  2:1-11

The sign of water turned to wine at the wedding at Cana

  #2  4:46-54

The healing of the official's son

  #3  5:1-9

The healing of the paralytic

  #4  6:1-14

The multiplication of the loaves to feed the 5,000

  #5  9:1-41

The healing of the man who was born blind

  #6  11:17-44

The raising of Lazarus from the dead

  #7  2:18-20*

The Resurrection of Jesus that will be fulfilled in 20:1-10

*this sign is prophesized by Jesus in 2:18-20 but not fulfilled until chapter 20.

The private sign is found in chapter 6 when Jesus walks on the Sea of Galilee and calms the storm, a private revelation for the Apostles that identifies Jesus as the prophet "greater than Moses."  In John's Gospel there are a total of 8 miracles, 7 public and 1 private.  7 is the number of symbolizing perfection [especially "spiritual" perfection], and 8 is the number symbolizing rebirth [circumcision is on the 8th day of a boy's life when he is "born" into the Sinai Covenant] and it is the number of salvation and resurrection; 8 people were saved in Noah's Ark.

There is also another Old Testament reference we should not miss connecting stone jars and Moses.  You will remember that in John chapter 1 there was Creation imagery as well as references to Moses the great prophet and "Lawgiver" of the Old Covenant.  Now in chapter 2 these "signs" of Jesus recall the "signs" of Moses in Egypt.  Jesus is the new Moses, the prophet and lawgiver of the New Covenant [see Matthew 5-7 for Jesus as the Lawgiver of the New Covenant]. 

Please turn to Exodus chapter 7 to review the "signs" of Moses.

Question: What was the first great miracle or "sign" that Moses performed in Pharaoh's presence that the Pharaoh and the Egyptian people might believe in Yahweh and let God's people leave Egypt?

Answer: He turned the water of the Nile, which was "holy water" to the Egyptians, into blood.

Please read Exodus 7:19 Yahweh said to Moses, 'Say to Aaron, "Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers and canals, their marshland and their reservoirs'and they will turn to blood.  There will be blood throughout the whole of Egypt, even in sticks and stones.' The last line is a poor translation.  The literal translation is even in vessels of wood and stone.

Jesus is the new Moses sent by God to perform "signs" so that the people will believe.

Instead of turning water to blood He turns the water in stone vessels into "the blood of the grape"'into the best new wine which prefigures the best "new wine" which is His precious blood given to His New Covenant people in the sacrament of the Eucharist.  It is a promise given in the Old Testament before the event of the Sinai Covenant.

One of the best known Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah which links the Messiah to the house of Judah (King David's tribe) is found in Genesis 49:8-12. It is part of the prophecies Jacob/Israel made concerning his twelve sons before his death.  Please read that passage. You will recognize the prophecy that was fulfilled Palm Sunday in verse 11 but after that passage please note the phrase He washes his clothes in wine, his robes in the blood of the grape.  Of course for us water and wine and blood are all connected with the Sacrament of Eucharist [you will recall that the priest will pour a little water into the wine after he receives the "gifts" of bread and wine].  This miracle of the "blood of the grape" prefigures Christ's passion and His gift of Himself to us in the "sign" of His real presence in the most holy Sacrament of Eucharist. Also see the "blood of the grape" in Deuteronomy 32:14.

He revealed his glory and his disciples believed in him. 

Question: How did the sign at Cana reveal the glory of Jesus the Messiah?

Answer: The promise of messianic replacement of Old Covenant institutions and promise of the gift of abundance of God's grace in the prophecies of Sacred Scripture was dramatically illustrated in this first sign at Cana.  Jesus' disciples were all intimately familiar with the prophesies concerning the coming of the Messiah.

Question: How did the sign at Cana complete the call of the first disciples?

Answer: Seeing, they believed! All they had read and studied in the books of the Prophets now'in their response to faith, came together to open their eyes to the understanding that what had been promised was now fulfilled.

John frames his Gospel account with Mary in the beginning of her son's ministry with the events at the wedding at Cana and again at the end of his Gospel at Calvary–from Cana to Calvary her role is significant.

There are several analogies that can be drawn between the two events of Cana and Calvary:

  1. The two events are located at the beginning and at the end of Jesus' public life and link Mary with His ministry from the beginning to the end.
  2. Her two titles "mother" and "woman" are used in both episodes.
  3. At Cana wine flowed from vessels intended for the cleansing of impurity while at Calvary the blood of Christ flowed from his side, which "cleanses us for all sin". (1 John 1:7).
  4. In both episodes Mary demonstrates her special concern toward everyone: In Cana she intercedes when "the hour" has not yet come and at Calvary, when "the hour" has come, she submits humbly to God the Father’s plan in accepting the redeeming death of her Son and accepts from her Son the mission to be the mother of all believers who are represented at Calvary by "the beloved disciple".  Mary is the first Christian and the model disciple for all of us.
  5. Both events signal the beginning of a family: the wedding at Cana is the beginning of family life for the couple being married, and at Calvary Jesus gives His beloved mother to His Apostle John, who represents the Church and all Jesus' "beloved disciples."  Through this "adoption" Mary becomes the mother of all the Christian brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.  She is our inheritance from the altar of the cross!

Of the seven signs performed by Jesus and narrated by John in his Gospel, three are recounted with variations in the Synoptics and three are similar to miracles found in the Synoptic accounts (i.e. the raising of Lazarus from the dead is only found in the fourth Gospel but Jesus raises Jairus' daughter in Mark 5:22ff and Luke 8:41ff). Only the miracle at Cana has no parallel in the Synoptic Gospels.  The event is unique.  It is the event of the first sign performed by Christ inaugurating the New Creation and the first Sacrament of the New Covenant Church, the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. On the 7th day of the New Creation Jesus was present at the wedding at Cana just as God was present at the first marriage in Salvation history.  His presence was a sign that He blesses the love between a man and a woman united in the covenant union of marriage.  The Navarre scholars sum up Jesus' presence at Cana this way: God instituted marriage at the beginning of creation; Jesus confirmed it and raised it to the dignity of a sacrament.

There is one other connection to be made between this first sign at Cana and Jesus' relationship to the New Covenant Church, which is expressed in terms of a marriage covenant just as God expressed His relationship to the Old Covenant people as a marriage between Yahweh and Israel.  After Israel had fallen into apostasy and God's judgment had fallen on Israel in the form of the Assyrian destruction, God promised through the prophet Isaiah that He would take Israel back as His bride:  No more will you be known as 'Forsaken' or your country be known as 'Desolation'; instead, you will be called 'My Delight is in her' and your country 'The Wedded'; for Yahweh will take delight in you and your country will have its wedding. Like a young man marrying a virgin, your rebuilder will wed you, [so shall your sons marry you] and as the bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so will you God rejoice in you. ...Say to daughter Zion, 'Look, Your salvation is coming;... Isaiah 62:4-5, & 11b

Wine flowed from holy water vessels at the wedding at Cana and at Calvary blood and water flowed from the holy side of Christ, God's vessel of sacrifice, giving birth to the New Covenant Church in the Sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist.  Christ is the Bridegroom of the New Covenant Church and John's other great book, The Apocalypse of Jesus Christ to John, also known as The Book of Revelation, ends with the Marriage/ Wedding supper of the Lamb when Christ takes the New Covenant people as His bride in fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy.  Cana and Calvary are linked to Mary, the virgin daughter of Israel (Zion) and to Christ the Bridegroom of the new Israel, the Holy Catholic (universal) Church, the spotless virgin Bride of Christ.

Note: most translations reword verse 11 of the Isaiah 62 passage because it seems to make no sense. How is it possible for sons to marry "a virgin" who in this passage is clearly the Church?  If one thinks in terms of the Church as the bride and her priests, serving in place of Christ the bridegroom, and it makes perfect sense.  The ministerial priesthood serves as the "sons" of Mary, who is symbolic of the Church, and yet also, as they consecrate their celibate lives to her, they are "married" to the Church, the spotless bride of Christ.  This passage prefigures Jesus' teaching in Matthew chapter 19:11-12 where He says in verse 12  ...and there are eunuchs [men living celebrate lives] who have made themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven.  In ancient kingdoms eunuchs protected and served the wife/wives of the king, just as our celibate priesthood serves and protects Christ's Bride, the Church.  Jesus continued that passage in Matthew 19 by saying: "Let anyone accept this who can." In response to Jesus' request, the Roman Catholic Church asks all ordained ministers of the Latin Church, with the exception of permanent deacons, as a higher discipline of faith and service, to answer Christ's request to serve as a celibate priesthood [CCC# 1579-80].

John 2:12 After this he went down to Capernaum: The town of Capernaum was on the lake shore of the Sea of Galilee while Nazareth and Cana were on higher ground in the hills of the Galilee; therefore, they traveled "down to Caperanum."

Jesus Cleanses the Temple in Jerusalem

"When did prophet and vision cease from Israel?  Was it not when Christ came, the Holy One of holies?  It is, in fact, a sign and notable proof of the coming of the Word that [the] Jerusalem [Temple] no longer stands, neither is prophet raised up nor vision revealed among them.  And it is natural that it should be so, for when He that was signified had come, what need was there any longer of any to signify Him?...but if there is neither king nor vision, and since that time all prophecy has been sealed and city and temple taken, how can they be so irreligious, how can they so flaunt the facts, as to deny Christ who has brought it all about?"

-St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation [40] 4th century

 

Please read John 2:13-25

JUDEA JERUSALEM (Spring)
  P    #1;
  A
  S
  S
  O
  V
  E
  R
IV.  THE PRESENTATION OF THE SON OF GOD IN JUDEA 2:13-3:36
  A.  Jesus cleanses the Temple –
            The prediction of the 3-day sign
2:13-23
  B.  Jesus witnesses to Nicodemus 3:1-21
  C.  John the Baptist witnesses concerning Jesus 3:22-36

 

St. John's Gospel, as we have seen, is built on Old Testament imagery.  In the Prologue we had the creation imagery of "Light", "Darkness," and the creative "Word".  In John the Baptist's witness of Christ John gave us the image of God's Spirit descending from heaven and hovering above Jesus over the waters of the Jordan River, just as His Spirit had descended and hovered over the waters of creation in Genesis 1:2.  The Greek word John used for God's Spirit introduces us to the first of the "double meaning" words John will use repeatedly in his Gospel.  In Greek the word "spirit" is pneuma, which means either "spirit," "breath," or "wind," just as the Hebrew word used in Genesis 1:2, can mean "spirit," "breath," or "wind."  Then in Chapter 2 we come to the 7th day which images the 7th day of the first creation when God "rested".  God presided over the first wedding of the first man and woman and blessed their union and then God "rested" on His divine Throne, the "Glory Cloud" surveying and judging His the Creation-Temple and the Holy of Holies of creation, the Garden of Eden, that He had given Adam and Eve as the place to be "in communion" with Him.

Question: As God surveyed and judged creation, what element of destruction entered this holy place of communion with man, contaminating man and making him unfit for communion with a pure and holy God?

Answer: Sin had entered Eden and contaminated all of Creation.

Question: What did God do to Eden, the holy Sanctuary where man communed with God and how does that action compare with Jesus' action in Jerusalem at the Feast of the Passover?  Hint: see Genesis 3:24

Answer: God cleansed Eden by casting those contaminated by sin out of that holy place just as after "the seventh day" Jesus would cleanse the Temple in Jerusalem, the holy place of communion for God and His Covenant people.

John 2:13-16 When the time of the Jewish Passover was near Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and in the Temple [hiero] he found people selling cattle and sheep and doves, and the money changers sitting there.  Making a whip out of cord, he drove them all out of the Temple [hieron], sheep and cattle as well, scattered the money changers' coins, knocked their tables over and said to the dove sellers, 'Take all this out of here and stop using my Father's house as a market.'  Note: the Greek words hiero and indicate that this was the "court" / "outer court" of the Temple area.  This area is also called the "Court of the Gentiles" and was the place designated for the teaching of the Gentile nations about the one true God.  It was the only place where Gentiles could offer prayer to God.

This is the first of the three Passover Feasts mentioned in John's Gospel (please refer to the Gospel outline).  Passover was one of the Seven Sacred Feasts decreed by God at Mt. Sinai.  It was the feast which began the liturgical year and was to be celebrated yearly on the 14th of Nisan [Abib /Aviv], which corresponds to our March/April time frame [Exodus 12:1].  The day after the Passover sacrifice began the 7 day Feast of Unleavened Bread [the next day always began at sundown].  This feast was also one of the three "Pilgrim Feasts" where every man of Israel was to present himself before God at His holy Temple in Jerusalem [Exodus 23:14-17].  It was held in association with the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Nisan 15-21) and the Feast of Firstfruits. Eight days were spent in celebration and remembrance of the Exodus experience. Please consult the chart "The Seven Sacred Feasts of the Old Covenant" in the Charts section.

Jesus went up to Jerusalem...   Jerusalem is approximately 2,600 feet above sea level and is built on three mountain ridges.  God's Holy Temple was built on the mountain known as Moriah on the site when Abraham was willing to offer up his son Isaac to God as a sacrifice.  The Temple in Jerusalem was the only place where sins could be atoned–covered by the blood of a sacrificed animal, so that communion with God could be restored.

and in the Temple he found people selling oxen, sheep, and doves..

Question: What was the significance of these animals?

Answer: These animals were sold to be sacrificed.  The doves and pigeons were the sacrifices of the poor (Leviticus 5:7).

and the money changers sitting there.. It was required by the Law of the Covenant that a Temple tax of a half-shekel was to be paid once a year.  Coins that bore the portraits of the Roman Emperors or other pagan portraits were not permitted to be used in paying the tax [Exodus 20:4] and so moneychangers, for a profit, exchanged these coins for legal Tyrian coinage which was not stamped with an image.

making a whip out of cord he drove them all out of the Temple.. The Temple police strictly enforced the rule that no weapons or sticks were allowed in the Temple precincts.  Jesus may have taken the rushes used as bedding for the animals to fashion his whip. The area where the "market" had been set up was called the Court of the Gentiles.  This court was the place where the Gentile peoples were to be instructed in the Covenant of the One True God and where they could pray.  They were prohibited from any other part of the Temple precinct.  Since they had not been received into the Covenant, Gentiles could not offer sacrifice at the Temple altar or attend Temple services.  This was the one place where the Gentiles had the opportunity to come close to God in His Sanctuary.

...and said to the Dove sellers, 'Take all this out of here and stop using my Father's house as a market.'

Perhaps because the doves were the sacrifices for the poor Jesus seems to be less harsh with the dove sellers and offers an explanation for his behavior.

Question: Why did this activity in the Temple make Jesus angry? Does it surprise you that Jesus should experience real human anger?

Answer: Jesus is both full God and fully man.  He experienced all the human desires and conditions that we experience, but unlike us, He was not tempted to sin nor did He sin.  His anger is righteous anger.  He is angry at the pollution of His Father's house.  The moneychangers and merchants are robbing Israel through their inflated exchange rates (the priests had a cut of these profits) and He is angry because the Gentiles are being robbed of the opportunity to worship, robbed of the opportunity to be instructed in the true faith, and robber of the opportunity to pray in peace without the stink and clamor of the animals and the haggling of the money-changers [CCC# 583-84].

John 2:15 should read He poured out the coins of the moneychangers and overturned their tables.  The words "poured out" are significant in Scripture, this is liturgical language. These words are used in the Hebrew of the Old Testament, in the Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint translation, and the New Testament in connection with the "pouring out" of the blood of sacrifice on the altar and with the "pouring out" of God's wrath.  In this case it is the pouring out of God's wrath and this action is a prophetic sign performed by Jesus as "The Prophet" of Deuteronomy 18:14-20.  Such a sign performed by a Prophet is called in Hebrew an ot and indicates a future fulfillment.  In this case Jesus' action signifies the Temple's destruction which took place in 70AD when God brought His judgment on the Old Covenant people for the rejection of the Messiah and therefore, rejection of God's Covenant of salvation.

John 2:16 should read: Make not the house of my Father a house of trade.  There is a play on the double use of the word "house" but Jesus is also making a very powerful statement about His identity.

Question: What claim is Jesus making here?

Answer: He is the Messiah and He is God's Son.  Did you notice when John the Baptist identified Jesus as "THE Son of God" in John 1:24 he was not identifying Jesus as "a son of God" like David or the other Kings of Israel but as God's only begotten Son (1:18).  Jesus is affirming this claim.  The early Church father, Origen, in his Homilies on St. John writes: And from thenceforth Jesus, the Anointed of God, always begins by reforming abuses and purifying from sin; both when he visits his Church, and when he visits the Christian soul.. [Homily on St. John, 1].

John 2:17 Then his disciples remembered the words of scripture: I am eaten up with zeal for your house.

This is a reference to Psalms 69:9(10).  This passage expresses the suffering of the righteous who call out to God to save them from the wounds they suffer through the insults that sinners heap upon God.  This Psalms ends in a promise that God will save Zion.  Zion always refers to Israel but in the sense of a redeemed Israel – The Church.  The disciples connect this passage to Jesus' righteous anger in response to the misuse of His Father's house and the promise of Psalms 69 that He will redeem His people.

John 2:18-19 The Jews intervened and said, 'What sign can you show us that you should act like this?' Jesus answered, 'Destroy this Temple [naon], and in three days I will raise it up.'  Note: the Greek words naon/naos indicate the Sanctuary of the Temple area, which includes the Holy Place and the "inner sanctum" or place where God dwells, which is usually called the Holy of Holies.

In 1 Corinthians 1:22 St. Paul wrote: While the Jews demand miracles [semeion = signs] and the Greeks look for wisdom, we are preaching a crucified Christ...

The Jewish authorities ask for "signs" because every true prophet must have "signs" or miracles worked in God's name: Isaiah 7:11; John 3:2; 6:29, 30; 7:3, 31; 9:16, 33.  It was expected that the Messiah would repeat the "signs" of Moses (see John 1:21).  Jesus will work "signs":

  1. to stimulate faith in His divine mission (John 2:11, 23; 4:48-54; 11:15, 42; 12:37
  2. to show that God has sent Him (John 5:36; 10:25, 37) and
  3. to show that the Father is within Him/ He and the Father are One (John 10:30; 10:38; 14:10).

Question: What is the Temple that Jesus will raise up in 3 days? Hint: see vs. 21

Answer: This is a prophetic statement of His death and resurrection. 

The body of the risen Christ is one of the great symbols of Christianity (see Revelation 21:22 and 1 Corinthians 12:12ff).  Christ's resurrected body is the focus of worship "in spirit and truth" (John 4:21ff), it is the shrine of the Presence of God (John 1:14), and it is the spiritual temple from which the living waters of salvation flow (John 7:37-39; 19:34; Revelation chapter 22). 

Question: What is the declaration that Jesus is making about His Body in John 2:18-22?

Answer: In this passage Jesus is declaring His Body, Himself personally and His Body the Church–to be the true Temple!  The physical resurrection of Christ's Body is the foundation for His New Covenant people being constituted as the Temple for in receiving Christ in the Sacrament of Eucharist our bodies become the Temple. Christ lives in us, therefore, we are the Body because we have received the body of Christ [1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-17; Ephesians 1:20; 2:5-6].

John 2:20-22:  The Jews replied, 'It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple [naos]: are you going to raise it up again in three days?' But he was speaking of the Temple [naon] that was his body, and when Jesus rose from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and what he had said.

Jesus is challenging the Temple authorities to destroy his own body.  The irony is that the physical Temple will be destroyed in 70AD never to be rebuilt again [the Arab shrine the Dome of the Rock stands on the site today], while Jesus' Body will be raised from the grave in divine glory [ CCC# 586 & 994].

It has taken 46 years to build this Temple.. This comment can help us date this event. 

The Jewish historian Josephus confirms that Herod the Great spent 46 years re-building the Temple. He records that Herod began reconstruction on the Temple in 19BC [Antiquities of the Jews, 15.11.3].  That would make the date for this event the Spring of AD28 [agrees with Luke's statement that John the Baptist and Jesus began their ministry in the 15th year of the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius = 27/28AD]. 

There is a problem with this account of Jesus' cleansing the Temple.  It seems to conflict with the accounts in the Synoptic Gospels.  In the Synoptic accounts this event occurs during Jesus' last week in Jerusalem [see Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; and Luke 19:45-46] just prior to His crucifixion.  The question is: did John purposely relocate this event to the beginning of Jesus' ministry or did Jesus in fact clear the Temple twice, once in the beginning and once near the end of his public ministry?

Until the 1900s Biblical scholars relatively uniformly agreed that these are two different accounts of Jesus performing the act of cleansing the Temple: one at the beginning and the other at the end of His public ministry.  Modern Biblical scholars who support the two cleansings theory point out that the two accounts have very few words in common when describing the Temple cleansings. Only the fourth Gospel speaks of cattle, sheep, a whip of cords, and coins.  The key sayings attributed to Jesus are entirely different in John's account and so are the Old Testament quotations.

 

The Fourth Gospel Account

The Synoptic Accounts

Jesus' protest against the commercialism of the selling of goods in the Temple precincts in vs. 16.

Jesus accuses the Temple authority of turning His Father's house into a bandit's den.

The cryptic prediction of Jesus' death

 

Quotation from  Psalms 69:9

Quotations from Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11, and Psalms 8:2

Cattle, sheep, a whip of cords, coins

 

Money changers and dove sellers

Money changers and dove sellers

 

Curing the blind and the lame

The children shouting "Hosanna"

The chief priests conspire to kill Him

In view of this evidence Biblical scholars like Dr. Scott Hahn and Fr. Raymond Brown and the Navarre scholars support two different Temple cleansings.

It makes perfect sense that Jesus should cleanse His Father's house twice: first at the beginning of His ministry in preparation for the people of the Old Covenant to receive Him and again at the end when He prepares the Old Covenant people to be joined in the New Covenant of His blood.  The first cleansing is a fulfillment of the prophecy from Malachi 3:1 that had already been linked to John the Baptist as the messenger who precedes the Messiah: Look, I shall send my messenger [John the Baptist] to clear a way before me.  And suddenly the Lord whom you seek will come to his Temple [Jesus]That passage continues in verse 3: He will take his seat as refiner and purifier; he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they can make the offering to Yahweh with uprightness.

However, there may have been not two but three Temple cleansings.  The first Temple cleansing is recorded in St. John's Gospel when Jesus begins His three year ministry.  The second cleansing of the Temple is on Palm Sunday, recorded in Matthew's Gospel.  But there may be a third cleansing.  The Gospels of Matthew and Mark do not agree on which day Jesus cleansed the Temple during His last week in Jerusalem:

Matthew Chapter 21 Mark Chapter 11
21:1-9: Palm Sunday Jesus rides into Jerusalem and is proclaimed the Messiah. 11:1-10: Palm Sunday Jesus rides Jerusalem and is proclaimed the Messiah.
21:12-13: Jesus then went into the Temple and drove out all those who were selling and buying there; he upset the tables of the money-changers and the seats of the dove-sellers.  He said to them, 'According to Scripture, my house will be called a house of prayer; but you are turning it into a bandits den.' 11:11: He entered Jerusalem and went into the Temple...
21:14: There were also blind and lame people who came to him in the Temple, and he cured them.  
21:15-16: At the sight of the wonderful things he did and of the children
shouting, 'Hosanna to the son of David'
in the Temple, the chief priests and the scribes were indignant and said to him, 'Do you hear what they are saying?'  Jesus answered, 'Yes. Have you never read this: 'By the mouths of children, babes in arms, you have made sure of praise?'

 

21:17: With that he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night. 11:11b: ... and when he had surveyed it all, as it was late by now, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
21:18-19: As he was returning to the city in the early morning, he felt hungry.  Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it and found nothing on it but leaves.  And he said to it, 'May you never bear fruit again,' and instantly the fig tree withered. 11:12-13: The next day as they were leaving Bethany, he felt hungry.  Seeing a fig tree in leaf some distance away, he went to see it he could find any fruit on it, but when he came up to it he found nothing but leaves; for it was not the season for figs.  And he addressed the fig tree, 'May no one ever eat fruit from you again.  And his disciples heard him say this.
  11:15: So they reached Jerusalem and he reached the Temple and began driving out men selling and buying there; he upset the tables of the money changers and the seats of the dove sellers. Nor would he allow anyone to carry anything through the Temple.  And he taught them and said, 'Does not Scripture say: 'My house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples? But you have turned it into a bandit den.'
  11:18: This came to the ears of the chief priests and the scribes, and they tried to find some way of doing ways with him...

The accounts of the purification of the Temple in Matthew and Mark's Gospels do not agree unless Jesus cleansed the Temple on two successive days during His last week in Jerusalem:

Concerning the Temple cleansing during His last week in Jerusalem, it is not that Mark contradicts Matthew but perhaps that each Gospel writer describes a prophetic act of Jesus on two separate days, one following the other.  If Jesus did disrupt the Temple activities on two consecutive days it would help to explain why, after three years of putting up with the difficulties concerning this Galilean rabbi, the Temple priests finally had enough!  Three is an important number in Scripture signifying importance or competition.  Jesus gives three prophetic statements concerning His Passion, He is anointed three times, He cleanses the Temple three times, and He rests three days in the tomb.  Perhaps further action was not necessary after the Jesus purified the Temple on Monday because the money lenders refrained from setting up their tables after two successive days of disruption and approval of Jesus' actions by the crowd.

Ever since the Temple's rebuilding after the return from the Babylonian exile in the late 6th century BC, the Temple in Jerusalem had been an "empty house."  God had not taken possession of the Temple the way He had filled and indwelled the desert Tabernacle [Exodus 40:34-45] and Solomon's Temple [1 Kings 8:10-11].  The Holy of Holies was an empty room because no Ark of the Covenant graced its sacred space [2 Maccabees 2:1-8; Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 14.4.4 & The Jewish War, 1.7.6 & 6.4.7].  When God was at rest on His Glory Throne He judged His Creation-Temple and when He found wickedness contaminating it, He cleansed it, banishing the offenders [Genesis 3:24].  In this event in John's Gospel Jesus, the Son of God, comes to the Temple on the Sabbath, He assessed the Temple, judges it as contaminated, and cleanses it by banishing the offenders.  God has returned to claim His holy house, and His presence, for the first time in centuries, is in His Temple!

his disciples remembered... John continually reminds us that much of the true meaning of what he and the other disciples witnessed was not revealed to them until after the resurrection.

Question: What should we think about in connection with this episode of Jesus judging the Temple in Jerusalem and our relationship to Christ?

Answer: It is good for us to remember that it is on the New Covenant Sabbath, Sunday, the Lord's Day, that we come to appear before God's throne of judgment to be examined, and if we are free of sin we can enter His rest: Holy Communion [Hebrews chapters 3-4]. 

Question: Is there an eschatological warning in this event?  The word eschatological means "last things" and can refer to God's judgment as it was visited on peoples of the earth down through Salvation History [i.e. the judgment on Jerusalem and the Old Covenant for the rejection of Christ in 70AD], as well as to God's judgment at the end of creation as we know it.

Answer: It is also good for us to remember that Jesus banished the offenders from His Father's house in a very dramatic manifestation of His righteous wrath–His fierce judgment.  In the same way on the final 'Day of Judgment" Christ will return to judge the world as His Temple–and His judgment will be fierce!: ...but now he has given this promise: 'I am going to shake the earth once more and not only the earth but heaven as well.'  The words 'once more' indicate the removal of what is shaken, since these are created things, so that what is not shaken remains.  We have been given possession of an unshakeable kingdom.  Let us therefore be grateful and use our gratitude to worship God in the way that pleases him, in reverence and fear.  For our God is a consuming fire [Hebrews 12:26-29].

Please read John 2:23-3:1

During his stay in Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he did, but Jesus knowing all people and did not trust himself to them; he never needed evidence about anyone; he could tell what someone had in him.  There was one of the Pharisees called Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews, who came to Jesus by night...  

We miss the force of this statement in the modern translation.  The literal reading of this passage is: But himself Jesus did not trust himself to them, because of his knowing all, and that no need he had that any should testify concerning man, for he knew what was in man.  But there was a man of the Pharisees....  In the modern translation we miss the very important 3-part repetition of the word "man."

Question: What does any repetition of 3 or mention of 3 indicate?

Answer: The theological importance of the next event.

Question: What does this passage mean when it says that Jesus did not trust himself to those men who believed?

Answer: Since He is fully man but also fully God Jesus can read the intentions of the hearts of men.  Here he detects deficient faith in those men who have been amazed at his signs but who fail to grasp the significance of his mission. 

Question: How does this relate to the Pharisee Nicodemus?

Answer: Nicodemus, whose name means "people crusher" [demos = people, nico = crusher or conqueror], is representative of such inadequate belief.  See CCC #473

Question: And how would you categorize yourself?  Are you one who needs "signs" to bolster your faith?  St John Chrysostom writing in the late 4th century commented that Many people are like that.  They carry the name of faithful, but they are fickle and inconstant.. [Homilies on St. John, 23, 1].  Faith is a matter of obedience and trust.  It takes courage to have faith but even more, it takes love.  If you obediently place your love and faith in Jesus you will never be disappointed. 

St. Paul had this advice for believers: 2 Thessolonians 3:3-5 You can rely on the Lord, who will give you strength and guard you from the evil One, and we, in the Lord, have every confidence in you, that you are doing and will go on doing all that we tell you.  May the Lord turn your hearts toward the love of God and the perservance of Christ.

Resources for Chapter 2

  1. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Alfred Edersheim
  2. Mishnah (Jewish Oral teaching)
  3. Navarre Bible Commentary – St. John
  4. The Anchor Bible Commentary – The Gospel of John, Fr. Raymond Brown
  5. The Works of Josephus [Antiquities of the Jews and The Jewish War]
  6. The Works of St. John Chrysostom - Homilies on St. John
  7. The Historical Reliability of John's Gospel, Craig L. Blomberg
  8. Ignatius Catholic Study Bible – The Gospel of John
  9. The International Critical Commentary-St John
  10. Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament

Catechism references for chapter 2 [* = verse paraphrased in CCC citation]

2:1-12

1613, 2618*

2:18

575

2:1

495

2:18-22

586*

2:11

486*, 1335*

2:19-22

994*

2:13-14

583*

2:21

586*

2:16-17

584

2:25

473*


Michal Hunt, Copyright © 1998 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.