A Journey Through John – Ch 2-3

Chapter two begins a longer section that runs from 2.1-12.19, focused around 7 miracles or “signs”.

More so than the other gospels, John desires “to see beyond the miracles to their significance”…these are…”special actions by Jesus which reveal his glory to those who believe and which confront others with the need to decide about Jesus.” – Stott. The Message of John. p. 62.

I. Sign One: Water into Wine (John 2:1-12)

2 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. 12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days. 

  • John ties in this story with “on the third day.”
  • Interestingly enough, Jesus isn’t considered a party pooper, so he is invited.
  • Evidently, Mary, Jesus’ mom, has some sort of lead hosting role because she is seeking to remedy the problem with the families’ lack of wine.
  • Some weddings could last as long as a week in this culture and it would reflect extremely poorly on the groom’s family if wine were not present.
  • When we ask Jesus: 2 Thoughts: 1. Bring the request before him and trust he will respond, 2. Asking without a willingness to obey demonstrates a fault in our own character.
  • There is an interesting change in relationship here between Jesus and Mary which is hinted at by the slight correction of Jesus, “what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” Mary approaches Jesus as a mother, but responds as a believer with “Do whatever he tells you.”
  • So, what does this miracle communicate about Jesus and why is it important enough for John to include it here? (Think of the old wine as Judaism and the new wine as Jesus’ ministry and the gospel.) The time for doing things the old way has come to an end, and Jesus offers a much better way.
  • The disciples must have understood this, at least in some way, because John reports that this demonstrated Jesus’ praiseworthiness and the disciples responded with belief.

II. Ministry In Jerusalem (2:13-3:21)

A. Cleansing the Temple (2:13-2.22)

13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. 

Scholars debate if there is one cleansing of the temple (the other gospels place it at the end of their writings) or two (meaning one cleansing here, recorded by John and another recorded by the synoptic gospels).

So, the question becomes (wether there be one or two cleansings of the temple), why did John put this story here?

In short, he’s demonstrating why the world wine of Judaism has run out and why the world needs the bette wine of Jesus.

3 Options: 1. John is right chronologically, 2. Synoptics are right chronologically, John is using the story to communicate a theological need. 3. Two cleansings. The words of John 2.19 are used in Mat. 26.61 and are not specifically recorded in the synoptics. Your best options are 2. or 3.

“Destroy this temple” – is probably intentionally ambiguous. Is he referring to a physical shrine or of God’s dwelling place within a person? Of course we know to what Jesus is referring and here he predicts his death, burial, and resurrection. This became obvious to the disciples 3 years later.

B. Jesus Knows the Heart of Man (2:23-25)

23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. 

Jesus cannot be misled by shallow, outward professions of loyalty which are not accompanied by faith and repentance.

C. Jesus and Nicodemus: Born Again (3:1-21)

3 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” 

“Pharisee” – one who strove to uphold the law.

“ruler of the Jews” – a highly regarded teacher.

Nicodemus comes with a lot of religious street credibility.

“came to Jesus by night” – several reasons exist for this nocturnal approach, 1. time, 2. fear, 3. etc. However, let’s not forget John’s use of light and darkness. Could John not be communicating something about Nicodemus’ spiritual state?

QUES: What is odd about Jesus’ response to Nicodemus?

QUES: What would be so shocking to Nicodemus about Jesus’ comment? With Nicodemus’ family heritage and his position of religious authority, he would assume that his place in the kingdom was assured. Here, Jesus says it is not.

“Kingdom of God” – the rule and reign of God. John prefers the use of the term “life” or “eternal life”. Literally, “Life of the age to come”.

‘unless one is born again” – Jesus tells Nicodemus that his family and position have absolutely nothing to do with his being in God’s Kingdom.

Verse 4 demonstrates Nicodemus’ confusion. It is physically impossible to have two physical births.

Jesus responds by offering two statements of clarification.

  1. In verse 5, Jesus says that a person must be born physically and spiritually. The two births are different in nature. One is physical, the other spiritual.
  2. In verses 7 and 8, Jesus says that a spiritual birth isn’t physically seen, but you certainly can tell when it occurs.

What do we learn from this encounter so far?

  • For kingdom entry, earthly clout means nothing. What we need is a new spiritual life from God.
  • Our spiritual birth is supernatural. It is beyond human control and human knowledge.

(v. 9-10) Nicodemus’ own inability to grasp what Jesus means further illustrates Jesus’ teaching in the preceding verses.

Verses 12-13 must be taken together to find understanding. After all, others have ascended to heaven such as Enoch and Elijah. Verse 13 is actually a quote from Proverbs 30.4a.

The man declares, I am weary, O God; I am weary, O God, and worn out.  Surely I am too stupid to be a man. I have not the understanding of a man.  I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.  Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name? Surely you know! 

Jesus’ point is that one only understands these things rightly if they go through God’s son.

In verse 14-15, Jesus uses the story found in Numbers 21:4-9. Just as the bronze serpent rescued the Israelites from God’s judgment, so too would Jesus be lifted up on a pole to rescue men from judgment.

BUT WHY? Why would God bother?


“world” – It is important to remember that John more often than not uses the term negatively.

God’s limitless love is given so that people might experience the free gift of eternal life. Eternal life is based upon God’s giving, not man’s credentials.

“If the depth of love is measured by the value of its gift, then God’s love could not be greater, for his love-gift is his most precious possession-his only, eternally beloved Son. He could not love more.” – Stott. The Message of John. p. 77.

God’s salvation is effective for each person that places their faith in Christ. There has never been a person to turn from sin and embrace Christ that has not been saved.

“to condemn the world” – Jesus does not need to condemn, non-belief condemns. We are born condemned. It is our default condition.

Just as the snake rescued people from judgment, so too, does Jesus.

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned” – A truth believers often forget. Romans 8:1. Too often we begin our salvation embracing grace, but often end up like Nicodemus, evaluating ourselves in light of personal religious achievement.

Verse 19-20 explains the basis for judgment and the need for a second birth. Men, apart from God, love darkness. See Rom. 3.11-12, 2 Cor. 4.4, Eph. 2.1-3. This theological doctrine is known as Total Depravity.

Verse 21. Becoming a believer is always a God thing.

“The specific contribution which regeneration by the Spirit makes to our understanding of salvation is in its stress on salvation as a supernatural work of God involving a radical change of nature. Only God can save. – Stott. The Message of John. p. 79.

To understand salvation is not merely a matter of illumination, but is a matter of regeneration. It is not a new seeing, but a new being.

III. John the Baptist’s Testimony: Magnify the Son (3:22-36)

22 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized 24 (for John had not yet been put in prison). 25 Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.” 31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. 

Verse 27. In a larger sense, this verse is true. However John is most probably recognizing that his mission is to accomplish the task God has given him, not compete ministerially with Jesus, whom he recognizes as being superior than himself.

Verse 36. A Summary of chapter 3, specifically verses 16-21. After discussing the love of God in such a profound way, it becomes difficult to now conclude this chapter with a warning about His wrath. However, both of these find balance in God’s perfect character. We should not assume that God excuses those who resist him. He is intolerant of evil and sin and all evil and sin will undergo the divine judgment of God.