The Ministry of Messiah, 2:1-12:50

1. Jesus offers abundant new life, 2:1-3:36

i] The wedding at Cana, 2:1-12


Jesus and his disciples have been invited to a wedding. His mother is also present and so when the wine runs out she asks Jesus to do something about it. Using six water jars used for purification purposes, Jesus turns the water into wine; a quality drop according to the master of ceremonies.


The first sign performed by Jesus testifies to his glory such that "his disciples believed in him" - the new age of God's free grace has dawned like the pouring out of "new wine", Jer.31:12.


i] Context: See 1:1-13/14. In Dodd's arrangement of John's gospel, the wedding in Cana of Galilee is the first sign of seven in John's Book of Signs, 2:1-12:36/50. This arrangement is followed by a good number of modern commentators, eg., Beasley-Murray. Dodd argues that the function of John's sign + dialogue / discourse structure serves to reveal the gospel as a whole. Each sign announces the dawning of the kingdom of God, and as a consequence, each sign and its associated discourse serves to prompt belief, cf., 20:30-31 - "blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

Reflecting Dodd's approach to the gospel, these notes proceed on the assumption that our author has built this first part of his gospel, 2:1-12:50, around a series of homilies / sermons, usually illustrated by a particular significant event / sign. Each sign-discourse element proclaims the gospel; it announces that Jesus is Israel's long awaited messiah, the Christ, Son of God, Son Man. These sign-discourse elements are then tied together in three itinerary divisions: Cana to Cana, 2:1-4:54; Jerusalem to Jerusalem, 5:1-10:42; and Jesus final visit to Jerusalem, 11:1-12:50. So, by means of illustrative signs, and argument / dialogue / discourse, our author seeks to persuade his readers (primarily Hellenistic Jews of the dispersion) that Jesus is the Christ and that through him the promised blessings of the covenant are now available to all who believe.

1. Jesus offers abundant new life, 2:1/13-3:36

He gives the Spirit without measure

2. Jesus the source of life, 4:1-54

Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst again

3. Jesus the giver of life, 5:1-47

The Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it

4. Jesus the bread of life, 6:1-71

I am the bread of life

5. Jesus the water of life 7:1-8:59

Whoever believes in me, a river of living water will flow from within them

6. Jesus the light of life, 9:1-10:42

I am the light of the world

7. Jesus the resurrection and the life, 11:1-12:36

I am the resurrection and the life

Epilogue, 12:37-50


Jesus offers abundant new life, 2:1-3:36

He gives the Spirit without measure

In this first section of the Argument Proper, part I, John details Jesus' messianic self-disclosure / testimony to a range of people in both signs and words.

First we have the miracle of water into wine, 2:1-12, followed by Jesus' cleansing of (judgment upon) the Temple, In this act Jesus demonstrates his radical break with Judaism and thus his inauguration of a new order of things, 2:13-22. Then follows the discourse with Nicodemus on the subject of the new life in the Spirit now available through faith in Jesus, 3:1-15. John then moves into a meditation / reflection on God's love for humanity, a love which is powerfully expressed in the cross, 3:16-21. Finally we have the Baptist's discourse on the new order of things now replacing his ministry, 3:22-36.


Where does this first sign fit in the structure of John's gospel? It is possible that John intends the miracle of water into wine as the concluding element of his testimonies to Christ, 1:19-51. The statement made by the master of ceremonies and John's comment in v11 may support this view.

In Dodd's arrangement of the gospel, the first sign of water into wine is linked to Jesus' discourse with Nicodemus, 3:1-21, yet there is little correlation between the two. The Nicodemus discourse makes the point that the old has passed away and the new has come, and it is the cleansing of the Temple that best illustrates the old being swept away with the coming of the new age of the Spirit. Arguments about water pots in the wedding at Cana pointing to the abolition of the Old Testament system of purification, now replaced by the an abundance of the "new wine" of the Spirit, is somewhat of a stretch. cf., Jer.31:12. Do we really want to argue that "they have no more wine", v3 = "Judaism now has no more to offer humanity by way of salvation", Stibbe? True! but....... We do need to recognize that the argument rests on the proposition that the miracle is an example of Johannine irony, given that it is devoid of any clues as to how it relates to the cleansing of the temple and the discourses that follow. Commentators that try to make the link end up spiritualizing the water pots, the water, the wine, and the wedding - sometimes all four! Dodd's work is brilliant, but even he struggles to make an intelligent link, resting on Philo's comment on Gen.14:18, that "Melchizedek .... shall bring forth wine instead of water and give our souls a pure draught."

None-the-less, only a fool would totally discount Dodd's argument (supported by numerous commentators, eg., Beasley-Murray) that the wedding in Cana of Galilee is the first sign in the Book of Seven Signs. The best we can say is that John's statement, "this beginning of signs Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee", seems to indicate an intended sign-discourse cycle ending with the healing of the official's son at Cana.


ii] Structure: Jesus turns water into wine:

The passage presents as a chiasmus:

A1. Setting / introduction, v1-2;

B1. Mary discusses the issue of wine with Jesus, v3-5;

C. Jesus instructs the servants, v6-8;

B2. A discussion over wine with the bridegroom, v9-10;

A2. Conclusion, v11.


iii] Interpretation:

This miracle story rounds off the testimonies to Christ. The narratives in chapter 1:19-51 testify that Jesus is the messiah, the incarnate Word of God. Jesus himself testifies to this reality by revealing his glory in the first sign of water into wine. John indicates that this sign is but the first in Galilee of many where Jesus will reveal his glory, signs which will prompt belief. The statement "you have kept the good wine until now" probably says it all. For John, Jesus' ability to produce such a fine drop out of water, is a revelation of his glory, a sign-post of the realization of messianic fulfillment in Jesus, the confirmation of which comes in the comment that the "disciples believed in him."


How do the commentators handle this the first of Jesus' signs?: Most commentators move forward on the theory that many of the elements in the miracle are symbolic, ie., the narrative is artificially constructed. This prompts a range of allegorical interpretations which move from the sublime to the ridiculous. Schnackenburg makes a point of warning against reading too much into the story. Yes, there is mystery in the narrative. What does Jesus mean by "my hour has not yet come"? Still, in the end," the "sign allows for only of a preliminary, though comprehensive, view of Jesus' glory", Schnackenburg.


"My time / hour has not yet come", 2:4. In John the term "hour / time" often refers to the glorification of Christ in his death, resurrection, ascension and enthronement. Yet, why would Jesus make an enigmatic aside about his coming death in response to a rather innocent comment from his mother? Carson's line here has much to commend it. Christ's glorification will usher in the messianic age of Kingdom blessings, a day when wine will flow liberally, cf. Jer.31:12, Hos, 14:7, etc. That day is still in the future, although Jesus is now about to symbolize its coming. So, Jesus' words may well be a prophetic riddle, and particularly so if Mary is still unsure of Jesus' messianic credentials. "In any case, mother, the day when your son will usher in an age when wine flows freely, is still in the future." With the hook nicely baited, Jesus performs the sign and the disciples, having witnessed "his glory" (this sign of his glory!), "put their faith in him" (is Mary included in the term "disciples"?).


iv] Synoptics:

This miracle story is unique to John. Bultman suggests it is the reworking of a pagan story, others that it is an expansion of the saying "you have saved the best wine till now." It is worth noting that the unease of some believers with respect to miracles is a modern phenomena.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 2:1

Jesus turns water into wine, v1-11. i] Setting, v1-2: Mary, along with Jesus and his disciples, attends a wedding. Much is made of the symbolism of the "third day", eg., Dodd believes it ties the miracle to the glory of the resurrection, but it is more likely telling us that it is two full days since Jesus' promised that his disciples would see "greater things than these", 1:51-52.

th/ hJmera/ th/ trith/dat. "on the third day" - Dative of time. Probably meaning two days after the call of Philip and Nathaniel, ie., it is now the seventh day since the Baptist's first testimony, 1:19-28.

gamoV (oV) "wedding" - a wedding [became]. Nominative subject of the verb "to become." Referring to the festivities that follow the arrival of the bride at the grooms home, festivities that may last up to seven days.

Kana "Cana" - [in] cana. A village some nine miles north of Nazareth in the Galilean hill country - only mentioned by John.

thV GalilaiaV (a) gen. "of Galilee" - The genitive may be classified as adjectival, idiomatic, locative; "Cana located in Galilee."

hJ mhthr "the mother" - [and was] the mother. Nominative subject of the verb to-be. A title of honor for a woman who has given birth to a son.

tou Iasou (ouV ou) gen. "of Jesus" - of jesus [there]. The genitive is adjectival, relational.


de "-" - Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative; untranslated.

kai ..... kai "and [Jesus] and" - and [jesus] and. Correlative use of the two conjunction, "both Jesus and his disciples"

oiJ maqhtai "[his] disciples" - the disciples [of him]. With "Jesus", nominative subject of the verb "to call." Note how John uses the term "disciples" rather than "apostles", which usage is historically correct.

eklhqh (kalew) aor. 3rd. sing. "invited" - was called, invited, summoned [to the wedding]. As is typical in Greek, with a combined subject, as here, the number of the verb is controlled by the first subject, here "Jesus", singular.


ii] A shortage of wine, v3-4: Some commentators argue that Mary's words are a request for Jesus to do something, but they are more likely an agitated comment driven by embarrassment. Jesus, now a rabbi, along with his disciples, would not have contributed to the occasion, unlike the other invited guests, particularly the relatives. One suspects that the sense of Jesus' response to his mother is something like: "now mother, don't drag me into this mess, I don't have anything to do with it." As already indicated in Interpretation a bove, the second sentence is even more enigmatic. The "hour" does seem like a reference to the full glorification of Christ, his death and resurrection. On that wonderful day the blessings of the messianic kingdom will be poured out on God's people; they will drink the "new wine" of the new age, Jer.31:12. When it comes to Mary's response, there is little indication that she understands what Jesus is talking about. Many commentators argue that her words are a faith response, but they are more likely an expression of frustration - mothers are often frustrated with their children, even when fully grown! For Mary, this is not a time for riddles, but for action; "Do something! Go down to the bottle shop and get something for the toast" (A "bottle shop", or "the bottle-O", is what we Australians call a retail outlet that sells alcoholic beverages).

uJsterhsantoV (uJsterew) gen. aor. part. "when [the wine] was gone" - [and wine] was running short, lacking, failed. The genitive participle, along with the genitive noun "wine", forms a genitive absolute construction introducing a temporal clause. Note the longer reading in some texts, "Now they had no wine for the wine provided for the feast had been used up."

tou Ihsou (oV) gen. "Jesus' [mother]" - [the mother] of jesus. The genitive is adjectival, relational.

legei (lego) pres. "said" - says [to him, they do not have wine]. Narrative present tense. Fanning notes that 78% of narrative present tense verbs in John are related to speech. Given the context, "asked" seems to be implied, but why would Mary think Jesus is willing or able to do anything about the situation? See above.


gunai (h) voc. "dear woman" - [and Jesus says to her, what to me and to you] woman. Vocative. Normally used respectfully, rather than in an abrupt way, therefore, the NIV "dear woman." Some commentators suggest a better English equivalent would be "mother".

ti emoi kai soi "why do you involve me?" - what to me and to you?. A Semitism, rather than a simple dative of possession or interest. It is used where a person is asking why they are being involved in something that has nothing to do with them. "This situation is the responsibility of the groom. You and I, mother, should not interfere." "Woman, what has this concern of yours to do with me?" Harris.

mou gen. pro. "my [hour]" - [the hour] of me. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, or attributive / idiomatic, "the hour which the Father appointed for my glorification; "appointed for me", Cassirer. Novakovic suggests purpose, "the hour destined for me."

oupw adv. "[has] not yet [come]" - not yet [come the hour of me]. Temporal adverb, emphatic by position.


toiV diakonoiV (oV) dat. "[said] to the servants" - [the mother of him says] to the servants. Dative of indirect object. Note again the use of a historic / narrative present, commonly used by John in speech.

poihsate (poiew) aor. imp. "do" - [whatever he tells you] do. The general consensus is that this response by Mary is a faith response, ie., she is sure Jesus will aid the situation, although she doesn't know how, so tells the servants to "follow his lead." Yet, it is more likely that Mary hasn't properly understood Jesus' riddle and that the situation demands action, not riddles, and so instead of a suggestion that something needs to be done, she is now telling the boys that something must be done - beg, borrow, or buy some more wine.

o{ ti an + subj. "whatever" An indefinite relative construction giving the sense "what-ever" = oJstiV, "whatever", with an emphasizing its indefinite sense. Note that the construction is somewhat conditional, 3rd. class; "whatever, as the case may be, he says to you, then do." "Mind you do whatever he tells you", Phillips.


iii] Jesus instructs the servants, v6-8: The stone jars, holding about 500 liters all up, were used for ritual purification - the washing of utensils, hands.... They were stone to guarantee the purity of the water. Jesus directed that the jars be filled with water and that servings of the water, now turned into wine, be taken to the head waiter. It is sometimes argued that John is making the point that what blessings were gained through the rites of ritual purification are now totally superseded by the blessings of the dawning new age. Such is true, but it is unclear whether John is making this point here.

kaimenai (kaimai) pres. part. "[nearby] stood" - [but/and there were six stone water jars] lying, standing [according to = for the purification of the jews]. The participle with the imperfect verb to-be hsan forms a periphrastic imperfect construction, "six stone jars, for the purification of the Jews, were standing there"; "Now the Jews rinse their hands before meals, and for this purpose six twenty-gallon stone jars were standing there", Rieu.

liqinai uJdriai "stone water jars" - water jars made of stone. Nominative subject of the verb to-be. Much has been made of the fact that the jars are stone rather than earthenware, and also that there are six of them. Little can be made of the number six, but it is possible that John is underlining the ritual cleansing function of these water jars. The new is dawning; the old system of purification is no longer needed. Of course, it's all too easy to allegorize such details.

twn Ioudaiwn gen. adj. "used by the Jews" - [according to the purification] of the jews. The adjective "Jewish" is used as a substantive, while the genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "ceremonial washing"; "Jewish ceremonial washing."

kata + acc. "for [ceremonial washing]" - according to. This preposition sometimes expresses purpose, so possibly "for the purpose of Jewish ceremonial washing", as Rieu above, but also possibly, "in accordance with" = "as the Jewish ceremonial customs of purification required", Barclay. Either way, the prepositional construction is adjectival, limiting "six stone water jars"

cwrousai (cwrew) pres. pat. "[each] holding [from twenty to thirty gallons]" - having room [each measures two or three]. The participle is again adjectival, attributive, limiting "six stone water jars", "six stone water jars ......... which had room for about twenty gallons." The "measure", metrhtaV, is a volume of liquid measuring about 10 gallons. The preposition ana is distributive here, so as NIV, "each measuring." The disjunctive h], "or", gives the sense "twenty or thirty gallons", ESV.


The jars, when filled, would hold about 500 liters - sufficient wine for an extended celebration.

autoiV dat. "to the servants" - [jesus says] to them. Dative of indirect object. The word "servants" is assumed by most translations.

uJdatoV (wr toV) gen. "[fill the jars] with water" - [fill the pots] of water [with water]. A dative of content is assumed with the verb "to fill", "fill something with something", here "water pots" with "water". The genitive "water" is adjectival, attributive, "water pots."

e{wV a[nw "to the brim" - [and they filled them] until = up to + above = the top. Here e{wV is local + a[nw, an adverb of place = "completely full", TH. Presumably the choice of an aorist tense here for the verb "to fill" serves to express the perfective nature of the action, "they filled them up to the brim", NRSV.


autoiV dat. pro. "[then he told] them" - [and he says] to them. Dative of indirect object.

antlhsate (antlew) aor. imp. "draw" - draw [now]. Westcott argues that the verb is used of drawing water from a well and so therefore, the servants fill the jars (purification is complete) and then continue to draw, which water is turned into wine. Carson goes with this interpretation, but it is unlikely that John would be so pedantic with his use of the verb. The aorist verb (perfective) "to draw" and the present verb (imperfective) "to carry" simply express aspect. The action of filling up is a completed action, while the carrying is ongoing. It is likely that the water in the jars is now wine.

tw/ arcitriklinw/ (oV) dat. "the master of the banquet" - [and bring] to the feast master, the head steward, the head waiter. Dative of indirect object. Possibly the best man or a guest appointed for the occasion, but more likely someone employed to manage the feast.

oiJ de "they [did so]" - but/and they [brought it]. Again the postpositive (ie., 2nd. in the clause) conjunction de is being used to denote narrative transition - indicating a step in narrative. Here with an article cf., BDF#251. The servants, having filled the water jars, now bring the water turned to wine to the master of the feast.


iv] The master of ceremonies discusses the issue of the "good" wine with the bridegroom, v9-10: The "new wine" of the new age is "the best" (choice, good, beautiful).

de "and [the master of the banquet]" - but/ and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

wJV "-" - as / while. This comparative conjunction is temporal here, serving to introduce a temporal clause; "when the manager of the feast tasted the water which had become wine", Moffatt.

gegenhmenon (ginomai) perf. pas. part. "that had been turned into [wine]" - [the head steward tasted the water, wine] having become [and did not know from where it is]. The participle is adjectival. Technically the participle limits the noun oinon, "wine", given that "wine", as with the participle, is anarthrous (uJdwr, "water", is articular). As such it would be classified as epexegetic, specifying the wine in mind; "he tasted the water, wine which had become through the miraculous intervention of Jesus." Most translation ignore the syntax and treat the participle as attributive, limiting "water"; "The master tasted the water which by now was wine", Rieu.

de "though" - but/and. Indicating narrative transition, probably introducing a parenthesis which is often translated as concessive, as NIV; "did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master ....", ESV.

oiJ hntlhkoteV (antlew) perf. part. "[the servants] who had drawn [the water]" - the ones having drawn [the water]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "servants", as NIV.

fwnei (fwnew) pres. "called [the bridegroom aside]" - [the head steward] calls [the bridegroom]. Narrative / historic present, often used with speech, although usually translated in the past tense, as NIV. The bridegroom was responsible for the provisions and so he is the correct person to congratulate.


The practice alluded to here is unsupported, but quite likely, particularly for a shrewd host. The point John is making is that the new wine of the dawning age is "choice" wine (lit. good, beautiful).

autw/ dat. pro. "-" - [and he says] to him. Dative of indirect object.

tiqhsin (tiqhmi) pres. "brings out" - [every man] sets out, places. "Serves", Zerwick.

prwton acc. adj. "[the choice wine] first" - first [the good wine]. The accusative adjective is adverbial, modifying the verb "sets out."

o{tan + subj. "after" - when [they have become drunk]. Introducing a temporal clause, indefinite future time.

ton elassw (mikroV) comp. adj. "the cheaper wine" - [he sets out] the smaller, lesser = worse wine,. Comparative adjective, and with the assumed noun "wine", stands as the accusative direct object of the assumed verb "to set out." "Then the poorer wine", Moffatt.

e{wV arti "till now" - [you have kept the good wine] until now. Here again e{wV serves as a temporal preposition, "until, up to" while the temporal adverb arti serves as a substantive, "now" = "the present"; "until now", as NIV, cf., BDAG 423c.


v] Conclusion, v11: Signs are not just miraculous displays of divine power, they actually reveal divine mysteries for those who seek the divine. John tells us that the sign of water into wine reveals something of Jesus' "glory", something of the mystery revealed in the cross and empty tomb. The blessings of that "hour" can be imaged in the abundance of the "new wine" that will flow at the kingdom banquet. The sign of water into wine displayed that the hour is close at hand; the old age is passing away, the new has dawned, and how choice it will be. The disciples understand and believe.

Note how NIV11 reworks this verse: "What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him."

tauthn pro. "this" - [jesus did = performed] this. "This" = the miracle of turning water into wine. Backward referencing demonstrative pronoun, serving as the accusative direct object of the verb "to do", standing with its complement "archn", "beginning", in a double accusative construction.

archn (h) "was the first" - beginning. See above. Jesus did this as the first of his signs performed in Galilee. Most likely "first" in the sense of first in a series, rather than first in importance, or primary, even representative.

shmeiwn (on) "of his miraculous signs" - of signs. The genitive is adjectival, partitive. Instead of "miracles" or "wonders", John likes to use the word "sign" in that Jesus' miracles are not just displays of divine power. Signs are "significant displays of power that point beyond themselves to the deeper realities that can (only) be perceived with the eyes of faith", Carson.

en + dat. "in [Cana]" - Local, expressing space; "in the location known as Cana."

thV GalilaiaV (a) gen. "of Galilee" - The genitive is adjectival, attributive, idiomatic /local; "in Cana which is located in Galilee."

kai "-" - and. Coordinate. John often piles up paratactic (side by side) statements / propositions linked by kai. In the epistles we are more likely to find a statement / proposition further modified or explained by a series of sub-clauses - participial clauses, etc. For this reason, the gospel of John is easy to read, whereas a letter like Hebrews makes for hard reading.

thn doxan (a) "glory" - [he manifested] the glory [of him]. Accusative direct object of the verb "to manifest." For John, Jesus' glory is fully displayed in the cross, which event encapsulates Jesus' resurrection, ascension and enthronement. What is seen in the sign of water to wine is a partial manifestation of the glory of that coming "hour", cf. v4. The image painted by the prophets of the coming day is of God's people siting on their back porch, underneath their grape vine, drinking freely of a luscious new wine. So, the wine of the dawning new age is freely flowing - the kingdom of God is at hand.

kai "and" - As above.

eiV "[his disciples put their faith] in [him]" - the disciple of him believed] into [him]. The use of eiV "[believed] to/into", rather than en "in/on" is characteristic of John's usage.


vi] Narrative setting. In this transitional note John records the relocation of Jesus' headquarters from Nazareth to Capernaum during the early part his ministry, cf., Mk.4:13. Jesus' whole family, along with his disciples, make the move. The village of Capernaum was situated on the NW shore of lake Galilee about 30 kilometers from Cana.

meta touta "after this" - This temporal construction is used by John to indicate narrative transition.

katebh (katabainw) aor. "he went down" - Cana is in the hill country so they travel down to Capernaum. In Australia to travel down somewhere is to travel South; to go down is to go off, like "off the mountain" - a little confusing! So for Australians, "They headed off to Capernaum."

oiJ adelfoi (oV) "brothers" - [he and the mother of him and] the brothers [of him and the disciples of him]. This noun, along with all the other members of the party, serves as the nominative subject of the verb "to go down." Mentioned also in the synoptic gospels, the brother's of Jesus are most likely the younger children of Joseph and Mary, although some commentators argue that they a relatives, cousins, or even the children of Joseph by a former marriage.

ou pollaV hJmeraV acc. "a few days" - [and there they remained] not many days. Adverbial accusative, extent of time. Idiomatic; Semitic phrase indicating a short period of time; "only a few days", JB. The chances are that we have here a misleading example of short-talk (elliptical). John is probably telling us that Jesus has now set up his family home / base of operations in Capernaum, but that he is only there for a few days before leaving again on mission, this time to Jerusalem for the Passover festival.


John Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]