A Study in Contrasts
Tim Temple


There is a sense in which the whole life of the Lord Jesus Christ was a study in contrasts. First, He was both God and man; what greater contrast could there be than that? There were times when He was very stern and other times when He was gentle and kind. Many times when He was gentle and kind, no one else was being that way. There were all kinds of contrasts in the life of Jesus. As we come to chapter 2, we find a whole chapter where that is more or less the theme of the chapter.

We have three situations in this chapter which offer great contrasts to each other. First, in verses 1-11, we are going to see what I am going to call Courtesy at the Wedding . You will see why I am calling it that when we come to it later. Then in verses 12-17, we have The Cleansing of the Temple , and in verses 18-22, we have The Confusion of the Skeptics .

Jesus, in those first eleven verses, does a very kind, loving and gentle thing in performing a miracle; but in verses 12-17, we see Him at His sternest. It was not the only time that He was stern, but probably it was the most well known time. In verses 18-22, as He deals with disciples who were following Him for some of the wrong reasons, we have a combination of both.

Courtesy At the Wedding

In this lesson we want to begin by looking at the courtesy which Jesus showed at the wedding in Cana of Galilee in verses 1-11. The first thing that we want to look at is the place where this wedding was held. That is brought out in verses 1-2:

John 2

1And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:
2And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.

The third day, which begins this chapter, probably refers to the third day after Jesus' baptism by John. Back in chapter 1, John's ministry was described, but Mark is the one who gives us some details about Jesus actually being baptized by John the Baptist.

The Apostle John, as he writes his Gospel, uses several references to days, which shows how concise he was. He says, in a couple of places, “The next day…” and “On the same day….” Here he says, “On the same day…” Now, he says, “On the third day…” One of the results of his being concise like that is that it has provided food for conversation for seminary students in coffee shops about what those various days referred to. There is much discussion about how many days are involved here, because he uses various terms about days, and it is hard to piece all of that together.

The best guess here is that he was talking about the third day after He was baptized and recognized as being the Lamb of God. John the Baptist gave testimony of how he knew that when he saw the Spirit of God descending upon Him like a dove. They would have needed some time to get to Cana, which was about sixty miles away. It was a little village located in the hills above Nazareth. It would probably never have been famous if it hadn't been for this little incident that is recorded here in these verses. They had to walk some sixty miles from the Jordan River, where John was baptizing, up into the hills above Nazareth, so that would be about the third day. They came to this wedding, and at this wedding a very serious problem developed. Notice verse 3:

John 2

3And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.

In looking at this verse we can put together that very probably this wedding involved some member of Jesus' family. That would explain Mary's concern about the wine and her position of authority at the wedding. You notice in verse 5 that she told the servants to do whatever He told them to do, so she had some level of authority to be able to tell the servants what to do. That would also explain why Jesus was invited and that He felt free to bring all of His disciples. At that point, He had about five disciples and to bring them to the wedding, He would have had to be closely involved with them to feel free to do that.

To run out of wine at a wedding would have been a terrible social blunder in that day. Most of us are not familiar enough with weddings at which wine is served to even be able to know what kind of a problem that would be in our day and time. In those days wine was the drink of choice for almost everything, and in a little village the size of Cana probably everybody in town had been invited. It was a good opportunity for free refreshments for everybody, and to fail to provide adequately for guests who had been invited like this would really be a social disgrace. It would probably haunt this newly married couple the rest of their lives. They would be the couple remembered for running out of wine at their wedding.

Hospitality then and even now is considered a sacred duty in the Middle East, to the extent that nothing could be more humiliating than to invite guests into your home and then not have planned well enough ahead to feed them and to give them wine, etc. In addition to that, this may have been a poor family or a low income family. Jesus' family was not wealthy, and if I am right about this being part of His extended family, they may not have been wealthy either, which would have made the crisis even more serious.

Another reason that I think they might have been a low income family is that nobody suggested just going down to the local winery and buying more wine. Just the way Mary put this together indicates this. She said, “We are out of wine. Jesus, You are going to have to do something about it.” You can see that it was really a problem. This family may have had a feeling of despair and failure as they realized there was no way out of this social disaster, so it is no wonder that Aunt Mary, or whatever her relationship was to the bride and groom, thought of coming to Jesus.

The Miracle of Turning Water Into Wine

With all of that as background, the next verses where Jesus performs this miracle show the compassion of Jesus on a family that was in such a time of dire need. I have done some guesswork in this. I can't say unequivocally that Jesus was part of the family. I can't say unequivocally that it was a poor family, but from what we do know from the social setting of that part of the world in that day and time, it was a critical situation for that family, and Jesus showed great compassion in doing this miracle for this family. Whether it was His own family or not, whether they were poor or not, He intervened in a time of real need.

That is the kind of background as Mary turns to Jesus in the last line of verse 3, and tells Him what the problem is. From the way Jesus answers her in the next verse, we know that she knows He is able to take care of the situation. She wasn't just asking Him, “What are we going to do?” She wasn't asking Him for advice. She knew that He could do something about this, and she wants Him to do something spectacular. Apparently from His answer, she wants Him to do something that will show everybody Who He is. Even though, in verse 11, John clearly says that this was Jesus' first miracle, you can tell from this text and other places we will come across as we move through the Gospel of John, that she knew Who He was and that He was able to show other people Who He was.

We don't know how much she knew, but it is clear that she knew He could do something about this situation. Of course, she had known since His conception Who He was and what He was going to do. God had announced that to her. After thirty years of waiting, Jesus had been publicly declared to be the Son of God Who taketh away the sins of the world. Therefore, she felt sure that He would, perhaps at this point, demonstrate His power and authority to the world. This might just be the perfect opportunity to demonstrate Who He was to whatever extent she knew Who He was, but she had been told that He was going to be the Messiah.

In that place and with that problem, we find the production of wine in verses 4-8. First, we want to look at this seemingly harsh statement that Jesus makes to His mother in verse 4:

John 2

4Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.

If you think about it objectively, that sounds like a pretty hard thing for Jesus to say. We appreciate Jesus so much that we don't often stop to think about this, but look at how He addresses her. Before we can get the full impact of what He does, we need to get past this little part of the conversation. The form of address, Woman , that He uses here was actually a polite form of address. It doesn't translate very well into English. Our vocabulary is different enough from the Greek and Aramaic of that day that it doesn't translate very well, but it was a term of polite address. It is the same term that He used when He spoke to her from the Cross after He had just committed her to John's keeping. He said, “Woman, behold thy Son.” It was a loving term, and so He wasn't speaking to her disrespectfully when He used that term. It is the same word that He greeted Mary Magdalene with at the tomb on the morning of the Resurrection. It was a gentle, tender address.

He goes on to say, “What have I to do with you? What does your concern have to do with Me?” Again, that is a term that doesn't translate very well into English. That phrase really means, “This isn't your burden to carry. It is My responsibility, so don't you worry about it.”

I don't believe that it was spoken in any kind of rebuking way. It was just a gentle statement that He made to her there. It was not disrespectful at all. Mary probably did not realize the extent to which she was not going to be able to control Jesus in what He did because of Who He was. When He really began to manifest Himself to the world and to do very spectacular things that would be hard to understand and to teach things that would not make very much sense to people who really weren't interested in understanding what He was saying, Mary had no way of knowing how much less and less influence she would have over Him. All of that was part of God's plan for Him to demonstrate to the world Who He was, but Mary couldn't have predicted that in her own thinking.

Turn to Matthew, chapter 12, where there is an incident recorded that brings all of this out when Jesus is in a house teaching. Notice verse 46:

Matthew 12

46While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.
47Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.
48But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?
49And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!
50For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

Jesus didn't mean that He was disowning Mary and His siblings. He didn't mean that they were no longer related to Him. What He meant was that from an eternal standpoint, anyone who trusted Him was His family. What He also meant was that even Mary and His physical brothers and sisters would have to put their trust in Him as Savior because they, too, were sinners.

It is hard to think of Mary as a sinner, but the Scripture says that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. There is no scriptural evidence whatsoever of the immaculate conception of Mary—that she was sinless before and after her conception of Christ. As much as we revere her, as much as we thank God for the holy life that she must have led to be able to be chosen of God for this tremendous opportunity, she was a sinner just like everybody else. Jesus says in these verses, “My family is anyone who does My will.” The keynote of His will would be to trust Him as Savior.

Mary could not have predicted that in her own thinking, and so this gentle reminder back in John, chapter 3, was the beginning of her coming to more and more of an understanding that she was moving from that place as His mother who had some influence over what He did. He says it very gently, but He does remind her very clearly that this is something that is His problem and not hers.

Go back to chapter 2 and notice this other phrase:

John 2

4…mine hour is not yet come.

That little phrase is much more important than just a statement that He makes to Mary. It actually is one of the key phrases in John's Gospel. We are going to find it again and again. Throughout His lifetime, Jesus knew that He had come into the world for a definite task. Even in the human aspect Jesus knew that He had a job to do and that that job had a definite time-frame. Certainly He knew that as God. As God He had been in on that since before the foundation of the world, but even as a human being He had come to understand through the ministry of the Holy Spirit what He was there to do and that there would be a sequence of events that would lead to all of this.

When we get to chapter 7, we are going to find that time when His human brothers mocked Him, actually. They pointed out to Him that the Feast of Tabernacles was coming up and they said to Him, “Why don't You go to the feast and show people Who You really are?” Jesus' answer to His brothers was, “My time has not yet come.” In fact, He said that twice in chapter 7. He said it in verse 6 and again in verse 8. That verse goes on to say that Jesus' brothers had not yet believed in Him.

Later, in chapter 12, verse 23, when He entered into Jerusalem a week before the crucifixion, He said:

John 12

23…The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.

Jesus knew the time-frame. He knew there was a definite sequence of events. A little later in chapter 17, just before His crufixion in His final prayer, which we have come to call His Priestly Prayer, He said as He prayed for His disciples and for us who were to come:

John 17

1…Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:

Jesus did not do this miracle at the wedding in Cana to show Himself to the world. He told Mary, “It's not time for that,” but He did the miracle. He did it to encourage His disciples. We will see that down in verse 11. He also did it to help the family of the bride and groom. He showed compassion on that family. We will have more to say about that when we get to verse 11. With that troublesome reply out of the way, the actual response in the form of the miracle takes place in verses 6-8:

John 2

5His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.
6And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.
7Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.
8And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.

As it says there in verse 6, those waterpots were used for the purification ceremonies that were part of the law—the washing of feet when people came to the home and the washing of the hands as they participated in eating. In order to do all of those washings prescribed in the Old Testament, they would have to have a lot of water. These pots held twenty or thirty gallons apiece, and that would have been a lot of water.

Just think what these servants must have thought as they heard this instruction. They had heard the conversation, no doubt, even if they had not heard Mary tell Jesus what the problem was. They were already aware that they were out of wine. Jesus comes to them and says, “Fill the waterpots with water.” He made that very specific in verse 7. “Fill the waterpots with water.” They probably wondered how that was going to solve the problem of wine. We read, however, that the servants did it. Not only did they do it, but they filled them to the brim. He just said, “Fill them up,” but they filled them to the brim.

As simple as that seems, there is a lesson for us here and that is that sometimes we, or in some cases somebody else, may ask the Lord to do something for us and the beginnings of the answer seem very strange. He begins to answer our prayers by telling us or leading us to do something that doesn't seem to be a part of the solution at all. How could filling up the waterpots with water even be a part of the solution of not enough wine? If we have asked God to do something for us, we need to let Him do it in His way and act accordingly, no matter how strange it may seem, not demanding that He do it the way we thought He would do it.

I think that when we pray, even if we are asking for God's will to be done, it is perfectly legitimate to tell God what we have in mind. But we need to always make it clear to ourselves as we tell that to God that we are only telling Him what we have in mind; we are not telling Him how to do this thing. Most of the time, when we see a problem, we can visualize how that problem could be solved even if it required a miracle. Sometimes we even face problems that it would take a miracle to solve, but God can do a miracle. So we visualize a miracle or some other way that God could solve that problem. Be careful when you pray that you don't demand that God do it that way. There is nothing wrong with telling God what you have in mind; that will make you feel better. If He does it some other way, you will know He knew how you wanted it done. You will have some peace of mind about that, and you won't wonder if He misunderstood, but don't tell God what to do.

It may be that this is exactly what Mary had in mind, but the servants must have thought that it was very strange. So, if we ask God to do something for us and He begins to lead us in a way that is different from what we had visualized as being the answer to our prayer, be like those servants and fill it to the brim. Do whatever He tells you to do and do it as fully as you can.

Something else I notice here also. Verse 8 records that Jesus told them to draw some out and take it to the master of the feast. The very last phrase of verse 8 says:

John 2

8…And they bare it.

Think about this for a minute. The last they had seen, this was water; and He said to them, “Draw some of that out of the pot and take it to the master of the feast.” These were just poor servants. They didn't have any control. They were just the messengers, and if the master of the feast got upset about this, they would probably be the ones to hear about it; but it says that they did just as Jesus told them to do. They had the faith to take this water to the caterer and present it to him as wine.

Verse 9 makes an interesting statement also: “The master of the feast didn't know where the wine came from, but the servants knew.” They understood that this was a miraculous thing, but the master didn't. You know, there is a tremendous difference in just a vague belief that all power is given unto Jesus and actual experience of His power in our everyday living. One of the beautiful benefits of taking things to the Lord in prayer is that as we do that, sooner or later—perhaps sooner than we think—we are going to see something that truly demonstrates this is the hand of God. God doesn't always work that way, and many times even when He does work that way, it is in ways that can't be visibly seen as a miracle as these miracles that Jesus did physically on earth were; but if we come to the Lord with confidence that He is going to meet our need, along the way we are going to see that indeed He does have all power and that He can do that which is simply impossible for us to do.

The Pronouncement About the Wine

We have talked about the place of the miracle and the problem which caused the need for the miracle. We talked about the water being changed into wine, and now we find the pronouncement about the wine. Look at verse 9:

John 2

9When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,
10And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.

The master's comment in itself is just a statement of the custom of the day. That was just the way they did things. They served the best wine first while everybody still had their wits about them and could know the difference between good and bad wine. Then later, when everybody was tipsy, they would serve the wine that didn't matter whether it was good or bad.

Since all Scripture is profitable for doctrine, let's think about the deeper meaning that is in this statement. In this miracle, I think Jesus was presenting a picture of Himself and what He came to do. The old wine is a picture of the old order of things—the Jewish religious system that they were all frustrated with. We have read so much in Romans that the reason for giving the law was to demonstrate that we are unrighteous and that we cannot save ourselves. Here was a whole nation of people who were frustrated with their inability to have true heart religion.

The old wine is a picture of that old order of things—the Jewish religion—but the new wine was something that was produced by a new creation just like that new wine was something new and fresh produced miraculously by the Lord Jesus, and that was something only Christ could do. The new life in Christ that we have is pictured by that new wine, and it is infinitely better than the old wine of Judaism which just set the stage to show us how much better the new wine is.

That original water in the jar that was used for part of the ceremonies used in the Old Testament reminds us of the fact that those legal cleansings, as the Pharisees referred to them in another place—the washing of hands and the washing of feet that those pots were there for—were just a part of the shadow of the picture of what was going to be done in fulfillment when Jesus came. The wine that is created by Jesus pictures that by the fact of His death on the Cross, complete cleansing has taken place. What they used the water pots for was just a picture of what would someday take place in reality. I think Jesus was giving a little object lesson by creating this new wine.

The Purpose of the Miracle

Finally, in verse 11, we have recorded for us very clearly the purpose of the miracle. Look at verse 11:

John 2

11This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

Notice the word signs . John always refers to the miracles of Jesus as signs . Sometimes he also refers to them as miracles . I don't mean that he never uses the word miracle , but he always refers to them as signs as well as miracles because that was what the miracles were. The miracles were a sign of Who He was and what He had the power to do. In fact, it goes on to say, in verse 11, that He manifested His glory.

I believe that much of the mixed-up thinking that we have in our world today by good, sincere people who love Jesus Christ is because they do not understand what Scripture itself tells us about the purpose of miracles. The grace of God is that as Jesus did these miracles, He did them to manifest His glory, but as He manifested His glory, He also chose to do things that benefited people.

What a gracious God we have. Jesus could have manifested His glory at the wedding or anywhere else in some way that didn't benefit people, but here is this family who had run out of wine. What a terrible situation they were in with this social blunder, and Jesus chose this as a time to manifest His glory, at least to His disciples. It is indicated that they came to a much deeper understanding of Who He was. He could have done that without benefiting this family, but if you look at all of the miracles, you see that Jesus chose not only to accomplish His main purpose, but also to be a blessing to people.

One problem that we face in our Christian world today is that people get the focus in the wrong place. We have these radio and television evangelists talking about how if you will just believe God hard enough, He will give you a miracle. All you need to do is name it and claim it and it will be yours. That is not the purpose of miracles, you see.

We no longer have to have proof of Who God is, because now we have written down in the Bible for us all things that pertain to life and godliness. Jesus was doing these things when it was a totally new situation. They didn't have the New Testament, and the Old Testament wasn't clear about these things. Now we have the fulfillment of all of these things and we have it down in writing. God does not have to do miracles in order to prove Who He is.

From time-to-time God does do miracles. Anytime I am talking about this kind of distinction, I always try to make clear that I am not saying that the day of miracles is over; but I am saying the day of miracles being commonplace is over, because the purpose for which the miracles were done has been inscripturated. We have many, many written miracles of Christ, so we don't need to see Him keep doing them. We have a written, historical record of who He was and what He did.

God, in His grace, does sometimes still work miraculously to meet the needs of people. But we don't have the right to demand a miracle for us just because He did do miracles in response to people's demands or requests in the New Testament because that is not the purpose of miracles. If Jesus only came to help people with His miracles, then He was a failure, because He left many needs that were not met. For every wedding in Cana that He performed a miracle, there were probably five other weddings in Israel that ran out of wine. Jesus didn't come to make water into wine.

Jesus didn't really come to heal people. If He did, He was a failure. At the pool of Bethesda, He healed one man and there were dozens of people lying around on cots who were still lying there when He left that day. Jesus didn't come to heal. Jesus didn't come to create wine. Jesus didn't come to raise people from the dead. We know that because of all the things that He did not do along those lines.

Jesus did miracles to show Who He was and what He did come to do. Here we have an example of it. He did this to manifest His glory, and His disciples believed in Him. But, in doing that, He showed compassion on this family who was about to be embarrassed socially. Helping that family was just a secondary purpose in doing the miracle. What a gracious Savior He was!

This is a gracious picture that Jesus presents in doing His first miracle. It is interesting that He manifested Himself first at a wedding ceremony, a family occasion. I don't think that it is stretching the point too far to think that He was also demonstrating that when Christ is given His rightful place in a marriage and in a family, all kinds of temporal and spiritual blessings will spring from that. He was emphasizing the importance of marriage and family by doing that first miracle there. It was not an accident.

Jesus Wants Us to Have Deep, Pure Joy

Another thing to think about is that Jesus often talked about the joy that He wants us to have. In John, chapter 15, verse 11, He said:

John 15

11These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

In that High Priestly Prayer in John, chapter 17, He prayed that believers would have His joy fulfilled in themselves. Let me ask you something. Is the core of your joy the joy that He created in you when He indwelt you with the Holy Spirit? Even Christians sometimes are seeking joy in the wrong places, and we get mixed up about the difference in joy and happiness. Because Jesus Christ has died for us and made us a part of His family and forgiven us of our sins, we have the basis for a deep, pure joy. That is what He wants us to have.

He went on to say in John, chapter 15, that as we keep His commandments and as we walk in fellowship with Him, we will have that joy. Many of you have had that experience, and you know the difference in trying to meet your own needs and satisfy your own pleasures and being without that joy and maybe feeling like a hypocrite when you sing those songs about joy in serving Jesus. You know the difference in that and the times that you are walking in fellowship with Him. When we are keeping His commandments and abiding in Him, there is that indescribable joy and satisfaction that comes from Him.

A clue to one of those ways for that joy is back in verse 5, when Mary said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” That is where our joy comes from. It is from walking in fellowship with the Lord, putting away evil and doing good. I think it is not by accident that John records that they obeyed Him by filling the water pots to the brim. We need to be careful that whatever we do for Him, we do it to the brim. We need to be as careful as we can that we are doing all that He asks us to do. Let Him prove to you as He did to those servants that day what He can do when we are willing to obey Him fully from the heart.

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