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Song of Solomon
John 2 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)
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And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:
Verse 1-ch. 3:2-4.
The testimony of signs to the glory of the Word made flesh.
The first sign, the beginning of signs, Mastery over the old creation. Sign of love and power.
The description of the preceding narrative, given in ver. 11, is the true key to it. It is impressive on several accounts. Christ had not yet given any "sign" of the invisible and eternal glory which the evangelist in his prologue had claimed for him. He had not in his own person "manifested" the unique majesty of his will, nor revealed the direction in which the power he wielded would most freely move. John, by this statement,
puts down a positive disclaimer of the whole cycle of portents which, when he wrote, had begun to hover in romantic and exaggerated fashion around the infancy and minority of Jesus.
He shows that his purpose is to bring back from forgetfulness the primary and most impressive events which did in reality characterize the earliest ministry of Christ.
He emphasizes the scene of some of these manifestations as restricted to a spot which, however difficult actually to identify, was nevertheless in Galilee, in which prophecy had foretold a great manifestation of Divine light.
He lays stress on the fact that the prime object of it was to convey to his
, to men who knew that he was the Messiah, the Son of God, the Lamb of God, something of the power which he had for meeting any emergency that might arise. He did not seek to promote, nor did he succeed in exciting, the village wonder at a magical entertainment; nor did the bridegroom, nor the governor of the feast, nor so far as we know even Mary herself, fully apprehend in the event what "the disciples" saw. These disciples were probably acting the part of the
. They were admitted to a great sign of superhuman power.
believed on him. This is all we are told of the effect of the "sign."
The entire originality of the sign, one for which the previous narrative and prologue do not in the least prepare us, is one of the continual surprises of this Gospel. The introductory notes of this great symphony are such that we might be disposed to conjecture beforehand that One who is the Logos made flesh, whose glory is that of an only begotten Son of God, who is the predestined Baptizer with the Holy Ghost, who is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, and the Link and Ladder between heaven and earth, the predicted Messiah and Son of Man, will with Divine aloofness scarce touch with his feet this common earth. Human homes and love and festal rejoicings are so immeasurably beneath him that he can neither augment their earthly exhilaration nor take part in such carnal and mundane considerations. Such ideas may have crowded the imagination of the sons of Zebedee, of Philip too and of Nathanael. Already they may have been losing in a maze of mystery the Divine humanity, the intense and tender sympathy of Jesus with our everyday life, the profound interest felt in our earthly career. They may have needed to be taught some great lesson of the blending of the sacred with the secular, of the water of purification with the true, strong, fragrant wine of the kingdom. They may have needed, at this moment, the prosaic return to ordinary life over which their new Lord would preside, and from which he would never stand aloof.
All this is, moreover, highly accentuated by the peculiar character of this sign. It was a creative act. The idea that it was merely a hastening by his will of the natural processes by which water is always being transformed into wine by the vine, seems contradicted by the fact that the vine does
transform water into wine, but combines with the water other substances, cunningly and wondrously mixing with it the organic compounds which it subtracts from the air and soil, and which are necessary for the purpose. Water which has become wine is not transubstantiated into wine. The water is still there; but there are added to it other elements and compounds. The lesson is undoubtedly taught that he who performed this prodigy called certain elements and forces into being by the simple flat of his will. Evolutionary hastening of natural processes do not in the least apply. If that took place which the disciples (John among them) saw and handled and tasted, then we have an undeniable act of creation. There was then no other antecedent to this new category of existence except the will of Christ. This is the obvious intention of the historian. Other explanations are offered. The rationalistic hypothesis of a quiet and pious fraud on the part of Mary is too gross for belief. The mere magic, or sleight of hand, is so utterly foreign to the narrative that, though Renan seems to favour it, the entire place assigned to the "miracle" renders it utterly inconceivable. Some have gone so far as to say that the interesting discourse of Jesus during the repast inclined the guests to believe that, though their thirst had been quenched with pure water, it was veritable and precious wine. This Reuss call
un surcroit d'absurdite.
To suppose, with Ewald and Lange, that it was a miracle upon the minds of the guests, who believed they had drunk wine, when in reality they had only tasted water, is, as Weiss admits, another form of the natural explanation. Why, moreover, should the didactic energy of Jesus not more frequently have produced a like impression? The hypothesis of Strauss is far more rational, viz. that we have here the mythopoeic tendency at full work. Seeing that Moses sweetened the bitter waters, and transformed the Nile into blood, and that Elijah multiplied the oil in the widow's cruse, so Strauss contended that the Messiah must have done the like, and that this "miracle of luxury" is one of the glorifying myths by which Jesus is supposed to have transformed the water of Jewish ceremonial into the wine of the kingdom of grace. This theory is refuted by the enormous difficulty of finding any party in the Church, or of discovering any tendency in the Christian community or outside in the Hellenic schools, which could have evolved such an event - so capable of being misinterpreted - and that too out of a moral consciousness diametrically opposed to such an idea of Messiah. Certainly a vastly preponderating element of the gospel is clean contrary to such an idea of the Christ. Apart from there being some historic fact underlying the story, it seems incredible that it should have been invented by Christian, or Gnostic, or Hebrew tradition. The same may be said of Baur's hypothesis and of Keim's,
that the pseudo-John invented the miracle to embody the idea of contrast between the disciples of John the Baptist and of Christ; or
that the saying of Jesus, "Shall the children of the bridechamber fast while the Bridegroom is with them?" needed embodiment in some concrete fact; or that of Reuss, who supposes that the author, having invented a series of imaginary interviews, and testimonies, must need cap them with a miracle. Thoma sees in the representation the evangelist's sublimation of the banquet in the house of Levi, under the form of the Wisdom or Logos festival of
. and Ecclus. 1:16-18 and Proverbs 24:1-25. The Logos is here the symposiarch, and the feast corresponds with the bridal festival of the Apocalypse. Several hypotheses have been fashioned, in order to explain the forgery of the narrative, and they are quite as numerous as the attempted solutions by orthodox expositors of the purpose or significance of the miracle. It is perfectly gratuitous and arbitrary on the part of Baur to condemn the
because he could not find support for it in the synoptic Gospels. We have seen (see Introduction) that each evangelist, and especially Matthew and Luke, had separate access to a group of facts and sayings peculiar to himself, and nearly as numerous and memorable as those which characterize the Fourth Gospel. Baumgarten-Crusius is wrong in placing this event at the lowest point of the series of miracles of this Gospel. It is necessary to complete the view which the evangelist formed of the miraculous power of Christ, for him to demonstrate authority over the matter (
) of the created universe. In ch. 6. he illustrates Christ's relation to the
of nature, when the Lord hushed the storm and walked on the sea; in ch. 21, by narrating a miraculous draught of fishes, he exhibits the Lord's control over the
creation; and in other instances, the like mastery over the human body, over its diseases, necessities, and death (see ch. 4. 5, 6, 11.). If the other evangelists have passed it by, we must remember that they ignore the entire period of our Lord's activity which intervened between the temptation and the imprisonment of John the Baptist. The disciple to whom Jesus on the cross entrusted the care of his mother might have special reasons for recording almost the only scene in which that mother played any part. The most impressive circumstance is that the disciples of John, who had learned his stern denunciation of sin and his call to repentance, were to be taught that the highest life was not to be secured by abjuring marriage, and throwing a tragic gloom over human life, but by hallowing and consecrating the home, the source and nurse of the natural life. Christ first purifies the home, then the temple, then the individual.
On the third day there was a marriage in
Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.
Should the supposed discovery of Bethabara or Bethany beyond Jordan, at a spot a short distance south of the Lake of Gennesareth, be verified, then there is no difficulty in accepting the view of Baur as to the identity of the "third day," reckoning it as the morrow of the day on which Nathanael was called to be a disciple. The first day mentioned would be
; the second day,
; and the third identical with the day mentioned in
John 1:43, 45
. There would be time for the rapid journey from the Jordan to Cana. But if the third day be interpreted more naturally, as the third after the day mentioned in
, time is given for the journey from the traditional site near Jericho to either of the sites which claim to be the scene of this earliest miracle. It is a march of twenty hours, which would occupy two or three days. Moreover, as wedding feasts often occupied in Palestine seven or even fourteen days (
; Tobit 8:19 Tobit 9:4 Tobit 10:1), the festivities may have been advanced, and some explanation be thus given of the exhaustion of the supply of wine. Consequently, there are several justifications and explanations of that which is condemned by Baur and others as an unhistorical element. It' the first day was that on which John bore his testimony before the Sanhedrin; the second,
; the third,
; the fourth,
John 1:43, 45
; - the day of the wedding at Cana would be the seventh, and thus a sacred week, corresponding with the solemn week that terminated with Easter Day, would be seen to have found place in the earliest periods of the ministry.
The mother of Jesus was there.
Since Nathanael of Cana was summoned as a friend, and since the first group of the disciples were familiar with
other and him, the inference is that the bride or bridegroom was an intimate friend of the entire party. Weiss claims the reference to the little town of Cana "as another of those recollections, which testify indubitably to the historical character of the Gospel" ('Life of Christ,' vol. 1. p. 377). The presence of the mother of the Lord at Cana makes it also probable that she had, after the death of Joseph, removed from Nazareth to Cana. This is confirmed by the casual remark in
that his sisters only were still resident in their former home. Moreover, it would explain the return of Jesus from the scene of his baptism to his temporary home (but see ver. 12). The traditional
is situated on rising ground four miles and a half northeast of Nazareth, and the remains of a Greek church are still to be seen there. The site is not inconsistent with the conditions. We may suppose it to be called "of Galilee" to distinguish it from a Cana in
mentioned by Josephus ('Vita,' 16:1); but more probably from the Kanah in the tribe of Asher, mentioned in
. The situation of this town in Phoenicia may have been so far from Galilee proper as to have rendered the expression desirable. Dr. Robinson believed that he had hit more certainly upon the site by finding a small village bearing the name
Cana el Djelil
, or Khurbet Kana, which lies some seven miles northeast from Nazareth beyond
, suggested the preservation of the old designation drawn from this very narrative. This identification was accepted by Ritter and Meyer; Stanley considered it very doubtful, and so do Westcott ('Comm.,'
) and Dr. Selah Merrill, in 'Pict. Palestine,' 2, pp. 59-63. The more recent investigations of the Palest. Expl. Society have led once more to the recognition of the traditional site, independently maintained by Hengstenberg, Godet, Moulton, and others. Its site is picturesque, and resembles the position of many Italian towns perched on the slope of a low hill at the head of valleys forming roadways to the coast and to the lake. Its Greek name, Cana, meaning "a reed," was probably derived from the reeds which grow in the marshy plain below it (compare Cannae, Canossa, Cannes. So Hugh Macmillan).
And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.
And both Jesus was called
, aorist, not pluperfect, and contrasted with the
of ver. 1) - after his return from Bethany -
and his disciples to the marriage.
Jesus had no disciples before the events recorded in the previous chapter. These men may have been friends of each other and of the bridal party, and received such an invitation before their visit to the banks of the Jordan; but it is far more probable that these individuals already mentioned, or that some of them, and that most certainly John his near relative (see Introduction), were invited, because they were in the society of Jesus.
And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.
- A large accession of guests in such a humble home might easily be supposed to make a famine in the provisions, and so we read,
And when the wine failed
- either from this cause, or from the poverty of the hosts, whose willingness and welcome were larger than their means, or by reason of an advanced stage in the festival -
the mother of Jesus saith to him, They have no
. The simple presence of the Lord and of his mother, of such guests as these. at a wedding feast, is a Divine rebuke of all that morbid asceticism which crept from Essenism and Orientalism into the Christian Church, of all that false pietism and fancied purity which made marriage a contamination, and exalted virginity to an unnatural elevation. The tender hearted interest felt by the blessed mother of the Lord in the condition of the hosts, and her tone of authority towards the
, are eminently natural; her tacit request for help, though she does not specify the way in which the help should be given, implies on her part something of presumption in indicating to our Lord the course he should adopt. A question of great interest arises - What did she mean by her appeal? Bengel suggested that Mary simply intended: "Let us depart before the poverty of our hosts reveals itself." This makes Christ's reply an acceptance of her hint; but along other lines the rabbis were accustomed to say that wine and life were in the mouth of a rabbi (see Geikie's 'Life of Christ,' 1:475; Wunsche,
). We are expressly told that this is the beginning of signs, and therefore we have no right to conclude that, previous to this, in the home at Nazareth, Jesus had been accustomed to conquer fate and master poverty and compel circumstances by miraculous powers for his own or for his mother's support. We know that it was a temptation of the devil that he should perform some such miracle for his own sustenance, and that he had sternly suppressed the suggestion of the evil one. The mother must have known his powers, and must have known his mind on this very matter. What did she suggest? Was she thinking mainly of the need of wine, or firstly and chiefly of the honour and glory of her Son? She supposed that a moment had arrived when he should by some royal act assert his imperial rights, and give an order which would be obeyed as that of Sovereign Prince. Precisely the same spirit prevailed always in his home and among his disciples - an eager desire that he should manifest himself to the world (cf.
). The disciples did not lose it on the night of the Passion, or the eve of the Ascension (
). If this was the real meaning of the remark, "They have no wine," it becomes singularly interesting to observe the method of our Lord. The request for a supply of additional solace and refreshment
complied with. The suggestion to show himself to the world was as resolutely withheld. There was no pomp, no claim, no self-assertion; there was quiet, boundless, affluent love. The glory of Divine love was manifested, the need was satisfied; but the impression was not intended to go beyond the hearts of those beings who would partially understand it, at the right time.
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.
- With this thought, the reply of Jesus to the premature suggestion of the mother becomes perfectly comprehensible.
What is there to me and thee, O woman? Mine hour has not yet come.
The appellation "woman" was used by him upon the cross, when he was concerned most humanly and tenderly with her great grief and desolation, and therefore had no breath of unfilial harshness in it (cf.
; Dio Cassius, 'Hist.,' 51:12, where Augustus addresses Cleopatra,
Θαρσεῖ ῶ γύναι
. Maldonatus admits that Catholics "in varias tamen de sensu hujus loci sententias distracti sunt"). But the proverbial
Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί
; wheresoever the words occur, imply, if net personal estrangement, yet as to the matter in hand some divergence of feeling (see
; see also
2 Samuel 16:10
1 Kings 17:18
2 Chronicles 35:21
). Almost all commentators seem to suggest that our Lord refused to be guided by a mother's direction; that he wished her to understand that he was breaking off from her control and from that silent submission which he had hitherto willingly yielded (so Meyer, Hengstenberg, Godet, Westcott, Tholuck, Ebrard, and Lange). Schaff has quoted from the Fathers before the Nestorian controversy dear proof that they admitted censure, and therefore blame, in the blessed Virgin Mary. Still, it seems to me that the cause of the censure, coupled with an immediate response to her special request about the wine, has not been sufficiently appreciated, he said, "Mine hour is not yet come." It would have come if the provision of wine was the ground of divergence of sentiment; if the moment for the supply of these temporal wants were the point of difference between them. The "hour" for Christ to tell the world all that Mary knew had
come. The hour of the full revelation of his Messianic claims had not come, nor did it come in the temple, or by the lake, or in the feast day; not till the awful moment of rejection, when death was hovering over him, and the blow was about to fall, did he say, "The hour has come" (see
) - the hour of his greatest glory. "The hour had not yet come." The hour would come when rivers of living water would be supplied to all those who come to him; when the blood he would shed would be a Divine stream, clear as crystal, for the refreshment of all nations; when at another marriage supper of a saved humanity the precious blood should be an ample supply of costly wine for all the world. Moreover, the link at the present moment between our Lord and his mother must begin to shade into something more spiritual. It was not possible that he should be holden by it. A sword would pierce through her maternal heart when she became gradually alive to the fact that they that do the will of his Father, the same were his "brothers, sisters, and mother."
His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do
His mother saith unto the servants
). The habits of Oriental life at the present day make it extremely probable that the disciples of Jesus were themselves taking the place of those who graciously waited upon the guests. If so, the language of Mary to them, and the special effect of the whole scene upon their minds, become marked and suggestive. Be that as it may, the mother of Jesus clearly understood by the gentle rebuke she received, that Christ, her Son, had read her heart, and was going in some way, not to gratify her darling wish, but at least to take her hint for the consolation of her young friends, and to attend to her suggestion.
Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.
Though in some sense slighted or reproved, she exhibits the most entire confidence in her Son and Lord. She encourages the servants to do whatever he might command. More may have passed between them than is reported. The evangelist often suggests omitted details (as in
John 3:1, 2
; and elsewhere). The faith of Mary was not depressed by the discovery that there were depths of character in her Son which she could not fathom. Obedience to Christ will always be our duty, even though we cannot penetrate the reasons of his command. An interesting illustration of Mary's words may be seen in
, where Pharaoh gives the like injunction to his servants concerning Joseph. Archdeacon Watkins records a curious tradition, mentioned by Jerome in his Prologue to the Gospel, that John was himself the bridegroom, but that, guided by the miracle, he left all and followed Christ (see Sears' 'Heart of Jesus,' Trench, 'Miracles,' p. 98).
And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.
Now there were
placed there six water pots of stone, after the Jews' manner of purifying, containing two or three firkins apiece.
Stone was often used for these receptacles, as more calculated to preserve the purity of the water (Wunsche refers to 'Beza,' 2:2; Westcott quotes 'Sofa,' 4; Barclay, in his translation of 'Mishna,' § 17, enumerates earthenware and other material as lawful). It is interesting that these stone jars are still used in this very neighbourhood for like purposes ('Pict. Palestine'). This large number of jars of considerable magnitude was doubtless due in part to the number of the guests, and to the scrupulous attention to ceremonial purity that was enjoined by the oral law (see 'Mishna,' § 17; and Lightfoot,
). They were accustomed to wash, not only the hands, but "cups, brazen vessels, and tables" (see
and parallel passages). (For this use of
2 Timothy 1:1
, in which "according to" easily passes into the sense of "for the sake of, after the manner of.") The Attic measure
was equal to the Hebrew
(Josephus, 'Ant.,' 8:02. 9), and stands for it in the LXX. of
2 Chronicles 4:5
, and this equalled 1.5 Roman
, 8 gallons + 7.5 pints. So that six jars containing 2 or 3 metretes, say 2.5 = 6 x 2.5 x 8 gallons + 7.5 pints = 6 x 2.5 × 71.5 pints = 134 gallons and a fraction. The jars may have differed in shape, according as they were adapted for different purposes; but
must be translated distributively, and we cannot evade the enormous capacity of the jars, and therefore the abundance of the gift thus provided. Various efforts have been made to reduce the extent of the provision; but the obvious implication of the narrative is that the six jars were the
of the miracle. Dr. Moulton and Dr. Westcott suggest that these water pots were filled with pure water, but that the wine was "drawn" from the water supply to which the servants had access, and that no more wine was provided than that which was borne to the governor of the feast. Others have supposed that simply the water
from the jars was transformed in the process. These suppositions make the entire reference to the water pots extremely obscure and unnecessary. The large quantity of wine thus offered to these humble folks corresponds with the affluence of Nature in all her moods - the munificence of spring blossoms, the harvest of the sea, the exuberance of sunlight, the superfluity of rain that falls on the oceans, the copiousness of all God's ways. When, on other occasions, the Lord added to the supplies of food in fishes and bread, his lavish abundance corresponds with the riches of his loving kindness on this occasion. There was provided, not the material for a meal, but an ample dowry for such a bride. No mere magical change, momentarily confounding perception and leaving no trace behind, but a supply which would be a standing proof of the reality of what had been done.
Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.
Jesus saith to them, Fill the water pets with water. And they filled them to the brim.
They had, therefore, been emptied already for the purifying purposes and processes of the large party, probably suggesting that the friends of the bridegroom were solicitous to obey the religious discipline which was believed to be in harmony with the Divine will. The expression,
, seems added to emphasize the quantity of wine thus provided. The miracle took place between the filling of the jars and their being drawn upon. We are not permitted to look more closely into this mystery. The finger of God, the will of the Creator, determines the result. The servants knew that they had filled the jars with water. The next thing, and all that we know, is that the Lord said -
And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare
(the object of the verb is not in the sentence. He did not say the "water" which you placed there, nor the "wine" into which it has been transformed, but simply, "Draw forth"),
and bear to the governor of the feast.
The traditional interpretation, that the water jars were the source of the unwonted supply, and the measure of it, strongly commends itself in preference to the suggestions of Westcott, Moulton, as well as Barnes, Olshausen, and others. The
, the "master of the table," is the chief servant presiding over the arrangements of the feast. This was an Attic official, referred to by Athenaeus (4, 100, 70) as
(cf. Heliodor., 7:27). The "symposiarch,"
, is not to be confounded with him. The latter was one of the guests chosen to taste the wine, etc. (see Ecclus. 32:1, where he is called
). The "governor" is one who occupies a still higher position of importance in Greek feasts. There is no other trace of the Attic usage among the Jews. As the passage in Ecclesiasticus indicates a different custom, and the references to something similar describe the officer by different names, no very sure conclusion can be drawn. Wunsche says that, ordinarily, the master of the house was bound to serve his guests, and preside over the distribution of food and presents. Thus, at the marriage of his son, Rabbi Gamaliel served all his invited guests. Trench, Alford, and Wordsworth think that the governor here was one of the invited guests, from the freedom with which he addressed the bridegroom. Meyer, Godet, take the view that he was not.
And they bear
, conscious of a wondrous fact, which must have filled them with consternation. At first the order must have seemed like folly, as when Moses called on Israel to "go forward" into the Red Sea, or as when Jesus said to the paralytic, "Take up thy bed, and walk." "They bear it."
When 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,
When the governor of the feast tasted the water which had become wine.
Luther translated, "Den Wein der Wasser gewesen war" - "The wine which had been water." No other explanation is possible than one that asserts an astounding contravention of the ordinary evolutions and sequences of nature. If wine has taken the place of water, there has been added to the water that which was not there before. The vine, with all its wondrous processes - the vineyard, the wine press, and other appliances - have all been dispensed with, and the same power which said, "Let there be light," called these additional elements together, originated them by his will. The new properties presented themselves to the percipient senses. In this respect the transformation is profoundly different from the supposed change which occurs in the Holy Eucharist. There the accidents and elements all remain; the
underlying them is supposed to be replaced by another
; but neither the one nor the other substance has ever been present to the senses. Here a new substance, with previously undiscovered attributes, presents itself. The uncompromising opponents of the supernatural will accept almost any interpretation but that which lies on the surface. The rationalistic, mythical, poetic mystic explanations all alike are encumbered with special difficulties. The evangelist who held Christ to be the Logos incarnate saw nothing inconceivable in the event. It was one of many phenomena which accompanied his life as the "Son of man," which helped to create the underlying presupposition on which the Gospel was written. Like the testimony of the last of the prophets and the earliest of the disciples, it is part of the evidence that the Logos dwelt among us. When the governor tasted wine drawn from these water pots,
and knew not whence it was.
He had known all the resources of the feast, but this puzzled him by its novelty. "Whence has it come? Where has it been stored? Whose is it?" An interesting parenthesis is here introduced, to contrast the ignorance of the ruler of the feast with the overwhelming mystery of knowledge given to the servants (the disciples of Jesus himself), [
But the servants
who drew the water knew
, whence it was and, it seems to me,
it was. Meyer and others say they did not know that they had brought wine. It is impossible to assert as much as this. They knew the plain fact that it was not a wine vat or wine cask, but a water jar, from which they had drawn in order to fill the chalices in their hands. They became, therefore, guarantors of the mysterious sign. How much more than "whence" it was had dawned on their mind we cannot say.
The governor of the feast calleth the bridegroom.
We may judge from this that this responsible person was not in the room where the six water jars were placed, and that he either approached the bridegroom in his seat of honour, or called to him from his own, and expressed, by a convivial boast and equivocal compliment, his sense of the excellence of the wine which had thus, at the end of the feast, been lavished on the guests, who had been hitherto kept strangely ignorant of the resources of the host. It is unnecessary to put into the words any meaning deeper than the epigrammatic humour in which he revealed his sense of the reality of the objective fact which had been brought to his knowledge.
And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse:
thou hast kept the good wine until now.
And saith, Every man at the first setteth on the good wine, and when men have drunk deeply, then that which is worse
thou hast kept
the good wine until now.
The classical passages supposed to illustrate this jovial saying throw little light upon it. The meaning is obvious enough, and there is no need to search in ancient wit for the original of a speech which is not too recondite to have been originated on this occasion. The best wine is appropriately given when the seneca are keenest, but when the climax of the festival has come, when they have drunk too deeply, or are intoxicated, then the weaker, poorer, and less fragrant wine is acceptable. There need be no reference whatever to the present company. Tholuck and the Revised Version modify the force of
; Meyer, Godet, and others see no difficulty in assigning to the word its proper meaning (cf.
1 Thessalonians 5:7
). The whole saying simply asserts, by an outsider, the concrete reality of a wonderful change that had occurred. He knew nothing of a miracle. He merely guaranteed unwittingly the phenomena that came within the range of his senses. This becomes more impressive because he knew nothing of the cause, and was profoundly ignorant of the claims of his strange and wonderful Guest. No further remark is offered. We are not told how the fact was referred to the will or authority of Jesus, to the kindness or generosity of the mother; or whether the company generally learned the mysterious powers of their fellow Guest. The bridegroom thus honoured made no reply that is recorded; and, by emphatic silence, the impression is conveyed that this manifestation of the power of the Lord was not, in his opinion, the coming of his "hour." Strange reticence is observed, but this is added -
This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.
Jesus made this beginning of signs in Cana of Galilee, and manifested his glory.
The beginning, the earliest of the tokens which he gave of his higher nature and lofty claims and faculties. The word
, corresponding with the Hebrew
, is generally, in the Acts as well as in the LXX., associated with
, or "portents;" when it occurs in the synoptists it is translated "signs." The word by itself does not connote miraculous energies, but any event, natural or human, which becomes a token or witness to unseen or Divine energies. When Christ's wonderful actions (often called
by the synoptists) are referred to by John, he calls them simply
; so that operations which, if wrought by other persons, might have been portents, miracles, or marvels, are to him perfectly normal, and are called simply "works." Weiss leaves the question of the manner in which this supply of wine was provided entirely unsettled, but declares that, whether by some fortunate providential opportunity, by the forecast of the mother, or by concealed methods of meeting the exigency, this great gift was brought about by the Son of Mary, the effect was the same as if it had been wrought by the Creator's hand. The glory of his power and love and sympathy was manifested. This appears to us utterly inconsistent with the intention or idea of tim evangelist. The impression previously made upon John the Baptist was of his supreme submission to the Divine will, his sacrificial yielding to that will for the taking away of sin; further, that in some sense he was Son of God, and Minister and Organ for the dispensation of the Spirit of God. The few disciples admitted that, by his penetration of their character and hidden inner life, his
was of a different kind from that of men. Now, however, they see a manifestation of his glory as
He has unlimited resources at his disposal,
and his disciples believed on him
to that extent. This expression asserts the truth of the selective and discriminating force of the mission of Christ, and the negative fact that the company assembled received no religious impression beyond the most superficial one. "The disciples" who came with him "believed" more than they had done before. It may be that they, especially John and Nathanael of Cana, were among the honorary
who were alone fully conscious of what happened on the occasion. They apprehend the "glory," and entirely trust themselves
, and follow him with an added momentum. There are new and wonderful suggestions made in this passage which unveil the glory of the Divine love and power now wrought in man. A point of connection with the synoptic Gospels is that they too record Christ's own description of the contrast between the austere prophet and the Son of man (
Matthew 11:18, 19
) in terms almost taken from this very scene. Compare also the mode in which Christ vindicated his own social freedom from Pharisaic exclusiveness, and the conduct of his own disciples from that of John the Baptist's disciples in the matter of ceremonial purifications, by his parable of the old wine skins bursting with the new and potent fluid put into them (
and parallel passages). John gives here a deeper apprehension of the mystery, a keynote to a whole cycle of instructions, on the "glory" of his love. By manifesting his Divine sympathy with marriage, with human life and fellowship, with innocent gladness, he proves himself to be the same Christ of whom the synoptic tradition speaks, the same Jesus who took the children to his arms, and constituted a "marriage supper" the great type of the eternal union between God and man in the gospel of his love (cf.
, etc.). But this same evangelist is filled with the same imagery dating back to experiences of Cana, when he describes the final victory of the "Lamb of God" (
After this he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples: and they continued there not many days.
After this he went down
- from the high lands of Galilee to the borders of the Sea of Galilee, depressed as we now know it to be below the level of the Mediterranean -
. Three competing sites for this small town have been advocated by Eastern travellers; all of them on the shore of the lake, all near to Bethsaida and Chorazin, in "the way of the sea," combining more or less the characteristics required by the New Testament narrative and the references in Josephus ('Bell. Jud.,' 3:10, 8). Keim is in favour of
; but there is no abundant spring such as Josephus describes, nor are there any ruins which indicate an extensive town. Caspari has argued in favour of
, a mile and a half to the west of
, in which, though water is abundant, there are no remains of buildings. The old travellers, and the most recent explorations, have coincided in fixing on
as the site; and Dr. Farrar, Dr. Westcott, Major Wilson, incline to this conclusion. Abundant ruins are found there, and, what is more than probable, the remains of the very synagogue built by the Roman centurion, and one certainly dating back to the Herodian age.
, or "the Mound of Hum," is an easy corruption of the
, or village of
He, and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples.
They may have returned home to Nazareth, though some recent commentators suggest that Cana had become the home of his family in late years. This is contradicted by the express statement of ch. 1:45, and the utter obliteration of the name of Cana from the synoptic narrative. We cannot identify this possible return to Nazareth with the account in
, because it assumes a previous period of activity in Capernaum, and further, because the commencement of Christ's public ministry is expressly made synchronous with the imprisonment of the Baptist (
), which did not take place till weeks or months afterwards (
). Consequently, this journey to Capernaum preceded the journey to Jerusalem and the return to Nazareth, of which Matthew speaks. The fact that "the mother and brethren "of Jesus accompanied him, but not "the sisters," suggests what is implied in
that the sisters were married in Nazareth and in
that they did not accompany the non-believing brothers in their endeavour "to lay hold of him." The fact that Joseph is not mentioned induces the common assumption that he was already dead. Volumes have been written on "the brethren of Jesus." The determination of their parentage is one of the most perplexing points in the evangelic history. There are three hypotheses, which are alike beset with difficulties.
The view propounded by Helvidius in Rome, in the fourth century, and to which Jerome replied, that the "brothers" are brothers in the ordinary sense, children of Joseph and Mary. This supposition is sustained by the statement of
, each of which implies that the mother of our Lord had other children. The sentiment of the Church in favour of Mary's perpetual virginity, and in favour of the uniqueness of her maternity, has powerfully contested this supposition. Further, apart from any sentiment, it has been said that the Lord would not have commended the mother to the beloved disciple, if he had living brothers who had a previous claim. To this, however, it is replied that John, the son of Zebedee and Salome, may have been his near relative, if Salome were the sister of the Virgin; and also that, up to the time of the Ascension, there is no proof that the brethren believed in him, but the contrary. The effect of a special manifestation to James (
1 Corinthians 15
.) may have led to a general admission of the brethren, who are distinguished from, but yet
, the eleven apostles and the mother on the eve of the Ascension (
To obviate the difficulties of a sentimental kind, it was suggested by Jerome, and it has been often assumed since, that these brothers were in reality
, not the children of Salome the sister of the Virgin, but of Mary the wife of Cleophas, who is supposed to be the sister of Mary the mother of Jesus (see ch. 20:25, note), and further that this Cleophas = Clopas =
= Alphaeus = Chalphai for the Aramaic guttural might be omitted as in Alphseus, or turned into
, found in John's text. Jerome, however (Lightfoot), never referred to this confirmation of his theory; but it has been hence conjectured that James the son of Alphaeus was identical with the celebrated "James the brother of our Lord," mentioned in
Galatians 2:9, 12
; and in ecclesiastical history. If, however, this James were the "son of Alphaeus," then
) (not Iscariot) - "Judas of James" (
1:13) - was also one of the "brethren;" also Joses and Simon, sons of Cleophas, were of their number; and some have gone further, and made Simon the Canaanite the other brother. This might possibly be the solution of the puzzle, if the entire theory did not break down under the clear distinction drawn in evangelic narrative between the twelve apostles and the brethren.
in this passage they are discriminated from "disciples." In
the "brethren" are said not to believe on the Lord. In
they are mentioned in addition to the apostles. Though in
and 2, James might seem from his great eminence to be classed with apostles in some wider sense, yet in
he seems to take precedence of
apostles, at the Council of Jerusalem, and in presidency of the Church there. Moreover, the identification of Cleophas with Alphaeus is very doubtful. Clopas is Aramaic, Cleophas a Greek name; and the identification of his wife Mary with the sister of the Virgin is also very doubtful; while to have two sisters of the same name in the same family is highly improbable. We cannot believe, further, that so distinguished a man as James the brother of our Lord could have been designated as "James the Less" in the evangelic narrative (
). If the "cousin theory" holds, this must have been the case. Finally, "cousins" would hardly so persistently have been spoken of as
, and this would be still less likely if their mother was living.
The third hypothesis, which is the suggestion of Epiphanius, is that these brothers were the children of Joseph by a previous marriage, to whom the blessed Virgin had acted the part of mother. This is based on a legend of the apocryphal 'Protevang. of James' (ch. 9. and 17.), where Joseph speaks of his "sons." The theory saves the virginity of Mary, but sacrifices that of Joseph. Such a conclusion, in some ecclesiastic circles, is almost as unwelcome as the former. Against Jerome's hypothesis the greatest number of difficulties present themselves, and it must be abandoned. Therefore the choice really lies between that of Helvidius
and that of Epiphauius
. These are alike encumbered by the perplexity that among the twelve apostles there were two Jameses, two Judases, and two Simons; and among the "brethren" there must have been also a James, Judas, Joses, and Simon, with sisters. Moreover, there was a Joses or Joseph, who was son of Alphseus, and therefore a brother of James. This is not an insuperable difficulty, because of the frequency with which personal names recur in Oriental families. Whether this multiplicity be true or not, there are, at least, ten
Simons in the New Testament, and nearly as many Josephs or Joses; and Judas Barsabas (
) must be discriminated from the two Judases here supposed. We must, however, choose between suppositions
. On the one side, it is said, if the brethren of Jesus were not the own sons of Mary, the language of Jesus on the cross would be entirely explicable. This is true; but, on the other side, if
were indeed a blood relation and beloved disciple (even if James was so also, but did not believe on him), the difficulty of the language is reduced to a minimum. There is no scriptural authority for the Epiphanian theory, but it is made plausible by the 'Gospel according to St. Peter' and the ' Protevang. Jacobi,' which refer to Joseph's sons. The whole history of its reception in the Church may be seen in the masterly essay of Bishop Lightfoot. The view of Alford, Mill, Farrar, Coder, and many others is in favour of a plain common sense interpretation of the letter of Scripture. Christ, who honoured marriage by his first display of miraculous power, and this at the suggestion of his own mother, and in the society of those who passed undoubtedly as his brothers, would not feel that the faintest shadow of a shade fell on the lofty purity of his mother by this hypothesis. Certainly the Evangelist Matthew had not a vestige in him of that adoration of virginity, or Mariolatry, which has led ecclesiastical historians and commentators to reject the Helvidian hypothesis. Godet and some other harmonists endeavour to find, during the residence in Capernaum, the occasion for the first miraculous draught of fishes, and the final call of the two pairs of brothers; but it is. excluded by the notes of time subsequently given.
The second sign Supremacy over the theocratic house. Illustrations of righteousness, reverence, power, and sacrificial ministry.
Verses 12, 13.
- They abode there not many days. And the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. The narrative at ver. 22;
John 4:1, 27
, etc., shows, that some disciples were with him; but there is no reason for believing that the whole group were there. The fact is important that Jesus personally is said (
) to have gone up to Jerusalem, and that no reference is made to his disciples, mother, or brethren doing so. This undoubtedly assumes that he was not attended by any compact group of followers. It is more than probable that Simon and James, if not Nathanael and Philip, remained in Galilee to receive their final call in due season. One cannot doubt that John and Andrew were his auditors and witnesses. He went up to utter his prophetic summons to the metropolis of the nation, to take his place in the palace temple of his Father, in the centre of the old theocracy. After showing his perfect human sympathy, his power over physical nature, his abounding resources, and the glory of his love, he resolved that there should be no misunderstanding of his moral mission, and proceeded to institute a public demonstration of his loyalty to the theocracy, to the temple, and to its worship. Just at the moment when the One who, greater than the temple, was about to display his unique claims to a service which would outlive all the pomp of temple worship, it was profoundly significant that he should demand from it a right presentation, and not a corrupt defilement, of its true significance. Modern criticism refuses to accept the statements of the synoptists and of John as alike true, and endeavours to explain away one or the ether account. We are content to say here that a repetition of the Christ's claim to sanctify the temple was again made on the eve of that awful day when that blood should be shed which would exhaust all the significance of the hecatombs of victims slain in its precincts, and when the veil of the temple should be rent in twain. Weiss here shows that Baur and Hilgenfeld are inconsistent in repudiating the historical character of an early conflict of Jesus with the authorities at Jerusalem, and that they forget, in their eagerness to demonstrate the anti-Jewish character of the Johannine Christ, that he here is represented as a pious Jew, attending the national festivals and jealous for the honour of the temple. The chronological difficulties that arise if the two cleansings are identified amount to the grossest inaccuracy on the part either of the synoptists or John. Lucke, De Wette, Ewald, treat the synoptists as inaccurate, and John's account, being that of an eyewitness, as the reduction of the event to its proper place in the history. It is obvious that the synoptists (
) knew that words which John recounts had, at an earlier period, made a deep impression upon the multitude. The thief on the cross (
), and the insulting crowds
), and Stephen afterwards (
), reveal familiarity with an utterance which John alone recounts, but which had been misunderstood. An ingenious writer in the
, 1857 (Mr. R.H. Hutton, "Theological Essays"), believes, not only that the entire scene in the temple, but that Christ's claim to be the Head of the kingdom, the parables of "wicked husbandmen" and "two sons," and the reference to the "baptism of John," should all be transferred, together with the triumphal entry, to the period in which John has placed the first temple cleansing. He thinks that the reference to the "baptism of John" was more reasonable at that period than two years after the death of John, and that (
) the reference to "Jesus of Nazareth" was more appropriate at the beginning than at the close of the ministry. But, on the other hand, the inscription on the cross, "Jesus of Nazareth," and the numerous references to the "baptism of John" at a much later date, quite refute this argument. There are those who strenuously assail the historicity of St. John's account, and plead for the greater accuracy of the synoptists (Strauss, Baur, Hilgenfeld, etc.). But, seeing that the synoptic tradition takes no notice of this
ministry, in which our Lord gives specimens of all his powers and glory, no reason presents itself why they should have singled out one narrative and misplaced it. So long as John's Gospel is held to have a genuine historicity, his narrative cannot be suffered to be a romantic transposition to meet a preconceived idea of chronological development. The early foreshadowing of the Lord's death and resurrection, coupled with the reference to Ms being "lifted up" like the serpent of brass, and the cruel treatment received from the people at Nazareth and from scribes and Pharisees at Capernaum, are in living harmony with one another, and combine to refute the idyllic reproduction of the public ministry, which Renan and many others have attempted to fashion, by which the early life is represented as enacted in one blaze of sunshine, and that its close alone was shrouded in clouds and darkened by the Lord's reckless and suicidal rushing on his fate. We therefore conclude, with numerous critics, that there is
no reason to believe that John misplaced the temple cleansing; and
that he does not preclude the second act of the like kind recorded in the synoptists;
while the synoptists imply occurrences which are detailed in John, but omitted in their narrative, yet the character of the proceeding differs on both occasions.
And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,
And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:
He found in the temple
); the vast enclosure, surrounded by colonnades, where the courts of the Gentiles were situated beyond and outside the courts of "the women" and "the priests." Within the latter was the sanctuary (
), or sacred
, where the altars of sacrifice and incense faced the veil of the holiest of all. In the court of the temple had been allowed a secular market for sacrificial beasts. An exchange for money was also set up,where Jews were ready to furnish, on usurious terms, the proper coin, the sacred half shekel (value, one shilling and threepence), in which form alone was the temple tax received from the provincial visitors or pilgrims from distant lands. No coin bearing the image of Caesar, or any foreign prince, or any idolatrous symbol then so common, would be allowed in the sacred treasury. So the Lord found those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the exchangers of money sitting; a busy bazaar, deteriorating the idea of the temple with adverse associations. The three sacrificial animals mentioned were those most frequently required. The strangers, doubtless, needed some market where these could be obtained, and where the sufficient guarantee of their freedom from blemish could be secured. It was also indispensable that exchange of coins should have been made feasible for the host of strangers. The profanation effected by transacting these measures in the temple courts was symptomatic of widespread secularism, an outward indication of the corruption of the entire idea of worship, and of the selfishness and pride which had vitiated the solemnity and spirituality of the sacrificial ritual. Geikie has given a very brilliant description of this scene; so also Edersheim, 'Life of Jesus the Messiah.' The money (
) was probably derived from a word (
) meaning "to cut," and referred to the minute coins which were required for convenient exchange. The
, which gives its name to
of the following verse, is also the name of a small (
, equivalent to "mutilated") coin used for purposes of exchange. The smaller the coin the better, as the minute differences of weight of the foreign coins would thus be more easily measured.
And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables;
And when he had made a scourge of small cords
of twisted rushes from the scattered fodder or litter of the cattle). This feature of the Lord's action was not repeated at the close of the ministry. Observe that John singles out this punitive element in the first public appearance of the Lord for especial notice, and adds it to the otherwise resistless force which he was accustomed to wield by the glance of his eye or the tones of his voice. The "scourge," as Godet says, is a symbol, not an instrument. It was in Christ's hands a conspicuous method of expressing his indignation, and augmenting the force of his command, by an indication that he meant to be obeyed there and then.
He drove them all out of the temple court
); that is, the intrusive sellers of the sacrificial beasts, the herdsmen, and traffickers.
the sheep and the oxen,
which moved at once in a vast group, turning, fleeing to the great exits; and
he poured out
on the ground, and with his own hand,
), and overthrew the tables. "Christ had," as Hengstenberg says, "a powerful confederate in the consciences of the offenders." The presentiment of coming revolution and overthrow aided the impression produced by that majestic countenance and commanding glance, manner, and voice, that so often made men feel that they were utterly and absolutely in his power (cf.
And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.
And he said to those that sold the doves.
The vendors of tethered or caged birds were as guilty of profanation as the rest. Some sentimental comments have gathered round this verse, as though the Lord were more tender in his treatment of the turtle doves than in that of the oxen or sheep. But there would be no meaning in such a distinction. No other way of scattering the doves was so simple as to command their removal. At "the Ammergan Passion play," the doves are let loose, fly away over the heads of the audience, and disappear. The lifting of the scourge, accompanied, doubtless, with words of solemn warning and command, said in effect what he now put into words.
Take these things hence. Make not the house of my Father a house of merchandise
. In this act our Lord simply assumed the
of any and every Hebrew prophet. The Talmud enjoins the sanctity for which the Saviour pleads. He called the temple "my Father's house" (cf.
), and therefore claims especially to be the Son of God Most High. The Eternal, the Holy One of Israel, stands in this mysterious relationship to him. He does not say, "our Father's house." When, however, alter the second cleansing of the temple, he spake of the temple, from which he finally withdrew (
), he called it by no other name than "your house," "left unto you desolate." Moreover, on that subsequent occasion, he used, in place of "house of merchandise," the bitter description, "den of robbers" (
). This first act was reformatory of a gross abuse; the latter was judicial and condemnatory (see Hengstenberg, 'Christology' and 'Comm.,'
). Archdeacon Watkins has wisely called attention to the contrast between this scene and sign and that given at Cana. Here we see how true it was that his hour had not yet come.
And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.
His disciples remembered that it was written,
The zeal of thy house will consume
. The future tense, affirmed by the best manuscripts, never (Meyer) bears the present meaning. The disciples, familiar with the Old Testament, remembered at the time the words of
. In that psalm the theocratic Sufferer approached the climax of his sorrows, and admitted that a holy zeal for God's house will ultimately consume him - eat him up. Tile word is used for consuming emotions (cf. Aristoph., 'Vespae,' 287), and there is a foreshadowing of the reproach and agony which will befall the righteous Servant of God in his passion for God's honour. The parallelism of the second clause of the verse, "The reproaches of them that reproached thee have fallen upon me," confirm the application, though the words are not cited. Several other citations are made in the New Testament from this psalm, which, whether it be Messianic in the oracular sense or not, is dearly one that furnished the mind of the early Church with abundant illustration of the suffering of the Christ (
Romans 11:9, 10
; cf. also
with the narrative of the Crucifixion). Thoma labours to find in the Old Testament prophecies generally the true source of the Johannine narrative. He points to
Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?
The Jews therefore answered
and said to him.
That which the disciples thought at the very time is here recorded by one who affects at least to know their inmost minds and most confidential meditations and talk with one another. John, at least, saw the rising storm of enmity already hurtling, but says nothing. Nevertheless, as if in reply to the imperial prophetic act (which corresponded with John the Baptist's prediction of One who would come axe in hand), the Jews approached with answer (of., for this use of the word "answer,"
). The "answer" here is in the form of a question, which shows that they had not recognized the sign he had already given, that this temple was his "Father's house," and that he had solemnly claimed the authority of "Son" over the house.
What sign showest thou, because
thou doest these things?
). Thou art bound to give us some "sign" that thou hast a right to deal thus with established customs and to assume the position of a public reformer. Upon what does thine (
) authority rest? Give us some miraculous proof of these high assumptions, "seeing that (
) thou art doing these things," whose consequences are now so conspicuous. It might be supposed that the extraordinary effect just produced upon the crowd of traffickers was sufficient proof of power, if not of authority. The Jews were within their right in asking for these authentications; but their continuous demand for outward signs is one of the conspicuous features of their character (
1 Corinthians 1:22
). In the fundamental nature of a "sign" there is a hint of the true solution of the enigmatical saying which is the first public utterance of our Lord. He gave to the act which he was about to perform the characteristic of a "sign." It would be an outward and visible manifestation of a stupendous spiritual event. This, among other reasons, refutes the modern speculation of Herder, Ewald, Lucke, Renan, and even of Neander, Geikie, and others, that the evangelist was wrong in the explanation of this remarkable saying which he offered in the twenty-first verse. John, who, better than modern commentators can do, ought to have known what the Lord meant, declares that Jesus was speaking of "the temple of his body" when, as the context shows, he was vindicating his right to cleanse the existing temple; and by
, "this sanctuary," he was also pointing to and referring in some sense to the temple structure in the midst of which he and the Jews were standing. The commentators have said, "John was wrong, and was led astray by his own fancies. There was no reference to the death or resurrection of Christ. The Lord meant," say they, "as follows: 'Persist in your lawless, irreverent, unbelieving treatment of the temple, and so destroy it. Let it cease by this handling of yours from being a temple, and I will prove my right to cleanse it, and to reform, rebuke, or condemn your immoral practices in it, by building it again, or rather erecting a spiritual temple, a temple without hands, and in three days,
in a short time after you have consummated your impiety, I will complete my restorative work - I will build a new temple and fill it with my glory.'" If John had not appended the twenty-first verse, "Howbeit he spake concerning the temple of his body," the above interpretation would deserve very close attention and perhaps acceptance. But there are sundry difficulties in it, even if the evangelist had not supplied the true key: -
Christ does not say, "I will raise up 'another' temple or a 'spiritual' temple on the ruins of the old;" but "I will raise
up," viz. the temple which I challenge you to "destroy." Though
ἐν τρισὶν ἡμέραις
, "in three days," is used in this indefinite sense, in Hosea (
, LXX.), yet it is the accepted term for the period of three days, which counted from the death to the resurrection of the Lord, and which in the synoptic Gospels (
) is distinctly foretold to be the great "sign" given to that generation. Moreover, from the Jewish misunderstanding of the words which appear in the synoptic narrative, viz.
δια, τρίων ἡμέρων
, "during three days," the literal character of the time specified had laid hold, not only of the disciples, but of the multitude. Again, the erection of the spiritual temple would not be an
outward and visible sign
of the grace and authority of the Lord; but rather the great spiritual reality itself - invisible indeed, and requiring signs to manliest and demonstrate its own occurrence and existence. We conclude, then, that the apostle knew better than his critics, and that we are to believe that, when the Lord said to the Jews,
, dissolve, break up)
, "he was speaking of the temple of his body," and at the same time linking and identifying the two temples, relating the one to the other so closely that the destruction of his body became
the demolition of the temple character of the building where they then stood. The temple of stone and gold, of stately decoration and ceremonial, derived all its true meaning from its being the gorgeous crystallization of a Divine idea embodied in his life. The temple had no value save as a meeting place for God and man, where by sacrifice and worship man might approach the Father, who declared himself to be reconciled, long suffering, and yet just. The Lord has come to the temple, but was himself One holier and "greater than the temple."
is manifested in the glory of that holy life, and man is set forth also in Christ's perfect high-priestly approach to and commerce with the excellent glory. The Lord knows that he is the Lamb, and the only begotten Son of God, and he knows also that his death is part of the awful method in which the vast designs of his righteous love will be secured. He has a baptism to be baptized with, and he is straitened until it be accomplished. He anticipates the end. As he said afterwards to Judas, "That thou doest do quickly;" so at this moment he said,
Destroy this temple
(of my body), and you will destroy therein the temple character of this historic embodiment of a grand prophetic hope; and
I will raise it up,
viz. - the temple of my body -
in three days
(not, I will raise it by quiet, unobserved, spirit processes in the souls of men, but) the very temple which you will bring down shall henceforth be the living and eternal temple of all the glory of God and all the possibilities of man. The great bulk of expositors of many types, who do not repudiate St. John's own words, see thus (with more or less of a double reference in it) the first main significance of the enigma. Whether our Lord pointed to his own Person as he uttered these words cannot be determined. It is said by some - If he had done so, all ambiguity would have been removed, and the misunderstanding which followed would have been impossible! Surely the Jews were not usually ready to receive parabolic truth of this kind so readily, and after their fashion were almost sure to misconceive and falsely to misrepresent it. Even the disciples did not see into its meaning until after the Resurrection (ver. 22). How could they? Verily, then, and not till then, was it seen that the sign of the Prophet Jonas had been given to that generation.
Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.
Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?
Verses 20, 21.
- The immediate reference of the words to the building before them was only one of a thousand misapplications of the words of Jesus. The seeds of truth which his words contain would take root in after days. Meanwhile
the Jews answered and said
- taking the obvious and literal sense of the words, and treating them with an ill-concealed irony, if not scoff, to which our Lord made no reply -
In forty and six years was this temple built
as we see it today. This is one of the most important chronological data for the life of our Lord. Herod the Great, according to Josephus ('Ant.,' 15:11 1), commenced the rebuilding of the second temple in the autumn of the eighteenth year of his reign. We find that his first year reckoned from Nisan, A.U.C. 717-718. Consequently, the eighteenth year must have commenced between Nisan, A.U.C. 734-735 and 735-736. The forty-sixth year after this would make the. Passover at which this speech was delivered - the spring of A.U.C. 781 (Wieseler, 'Chronicles Synopsis of the Four Gospels,' translation; and Herzog, 'Encyc.,' 21:546. The fact that Josephus, in his 'Bell. Jud.,' 1:21, gives the fifteenth year of Herod's reign instead of the eighteenth, is shown by Wieseler to be an error of the transcriber, see p. 152, note), which, if we compare with the other hints, is a fixed point from which to reckon the birth year and death year of our Lord. The "about thirty years old" of the Lord at his baptism throws us to about A.U.C. 751,
, for the year of his birth, and
there be only one Passover mentioned in John's Gospel between this and the last Passover, it gives A.U.C. 783 for the year of his death. This date is at least coincident with the date derived from the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, as that of the commencement of the mission of John (see my examination of these dates in appendix to 'John the Baptist'). The temple which Herod began to repair in the eighteenth year of his reign was not completed until A.D. , under Herod Agrippa II., a very short period before its utter destruction. The irony and scorn are manifest:
Wilt thou raise it up in three days?
John shows, in ver. 21, that, in the deep sense in which our Lord used the words, he abundantly justified his promise.
, the Lord, not the people, not the disciples -
spake of the temple of his body.
This is the reflection which was made upon the word of Jesus by the evangelists in after days. Even Mark (
) reveals the presence of a spiritual interpretation of the words by some of his unsympathetic listeners. It must not be forgotten that, in the synoptists, we find the presence of the idea that his service was a temple service, and that he was greater than the temple (
; cf. also
1 Corinthians 12:12, 27
1 Corinthians 6:15
Ephesians 1:22, 23
; with Ephesians 2:19-22). Nor must it be forgotten that the Logos itself was, in the figurative language of Philo, spoken of as the house, or temple, of God. Later rabbinical representations also describe "the body of man as the temple in which the Shechinah operates" (Wunsche). A difficulty arises from the Lord's having claimed in these words to be on the point of raising himself from the dead, whereas elsewhere his resurrection is referred to the mighty power of God, as in ver. 22;
, etc. Without doubt, God and the Father, the Supreme Power, was thus seen in living activity; but the Divine nature of Christ not infrequently so steps forward into his
that he can say, "I and the Father are one;" and (ch. 10:17, 18) "I will lay down my life that I may take it again" (cf.
But he spake of the temple of his body.
When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.
When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he spake this
and believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus said.
This frequent contrast instituted by the apostle between the first impression produced on the disciples (himself among them) and that which was produced by subsequent reflection after the resurrection of Jesus and gift of the Spirit, becomes a powerful mark of authenticity (compare the passages which Godet has here cited,
John 4:32, 33
John 12:16, 33
; with many others). "A pseudo-John imagining, in the second century, this ignorance of the apostle in regard to a saying which he had invented himself, is 'criticism' dashing itself against moral impossibility." These quiet "asides" and reflections of the biographer on the mistaken ideas which he cites and corrects, are of consummate value, as pointing out the stages by which the most stupendous ideas that have taken human spirits captive dawned on the most susceptible minds. The "Word" and the "Scripture" helped the disciples to subsequent faith. Why is "Scripture" in the singular, seeing that John used this form of expression ten times when he had one definite passage of Scripture in his mind, and used the plural when the general authority of Scripture was appealed to? Many have looked to one or another definite Scripture text supposed to predict the resurrection of Christ, such as
(some, very wrongly, to
, where no reference can be established to this great event). Dr. Moulton points back to
, and the impression which the Lord's "zeal" had produced on the disciples. It seems better to recall Christ's own words, and the comment of Luke, in Luke 24:25-27, where the whole Scripture seems to have been laid under contribution to establish the grand expectation. Further, of
, where John, referring to the same subject, uses the word
in the singular, for the general tendency of Scripture. All the passages which couple suffering and apparent defeat with triumph and victory, did prepare the mind of thoughtful men for the better understanding of the Resurrection. Thus
. and the closing words of
thereupon come into view; and, in fact, all the Scriptures which anticipate the glorious reign and victory of the Christ and the extension of his kingdom, when coupled with those which portrayed the sorrows of Messiah and of the ideal Sufferer, implicitly convey the same thought. Consequently, numerous passages in Isaiah, Micah, Daniel, Zechariah, Malachi, with
and Psalms 72, 45, etc., taken in connection with prediction of the sorrows of Messiah, did prepare the disciples to believe that the Holy One could not be holden by the pangs of death (
, etc.). Before closing this paragraph, we must notice that, in this entire transaction, the Lord is not separating himself from the existing theocracy, but interpreting its highest meaning. In the cleansing of the temple at the last he was judging and condemning. The vindication by our Lord of his own action was very different on the latter occasion from what it is here (cf.
), and numerous other accompaniments are profoundly different; nor did he then speak of the destruction of the temple, although, as we have seen, much exaggerated and mis-apprehensive talk concerning him had been floating among the people (
Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast
, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did.
Verse 23-ch. 3:2.
Numerous signs in Jerusalem, with their twofold effects.
- A new paragraph is commenced here. The conversation with Nicodemus is prefaced by a very remarkable summary of facts, and a hint of principles of action, which are intended to throw light on the great discourse, which hears the same kind of relation to St. John's Gospel that the sermon on the mount does to St. Matthew's Gospel. It is a compendium of the Christian faith. The very fulness and sufficiency of it suggests the doubt of its authenticity. Is not the Lord's reticence on other occasions, and even his enigmatic, parabolic methods of teaching, in decided contrast with the abundance of the revelations with which Nicodemus was favoured? We are tempted to ask - What was the evangelist's source of information? The only reply that seems to me rational is that John himself was the auditor of this discourse, and has preserved it for the edification and solace of the world. The disciple whom Jesus loved never left him, but was perpetually drinking in his words, and, with a genuine Hebrew retentiveness, preserved them intact; at all events, he so reproduced the leading ideas of the conversation. This is, we maintain, a far more scientific treatment of the authorities than the hypothesis of a Johannist of the second century having gathered up and idealized the synoptic records of the scribes, who, by sundry questions, brought forth from the Lord some of his most characteristic teaching. Thoma urges that we have here a spiritual
of "the rich young man," of "the lawyer," and of the story of Paul, himself a Pharisee, when finally convinced that he needed a new creation and a spiritual life! First of all, then, we have the place, general period, and specific time referred to:
Now when he was in Jerusalem
- not the temple, but in the houses and streets, and perhaps suburbs, of Jerusalem (
the plural form used generally in the Gospel, while
is used in the Revelation in symbolic sense) -
at the Passover
; a period generally covering nine or ten days of celebration, extending from the first purifying of the houses from all leaven and the drawing of pure water on the thirteenth Nisan, the paschal meal on the fourteenth Nisan, the feasts in the evenings of the great days of convocation, fifteenth and twenty-first of the month, and the ceremonies of the intervening six days.
In the feast
must refer to one or ether of the great days of convocation, worship, and feasting.
Many believed on his Name;
on his Messiahship, rather than on himself, as their Prophet, Purifier, self-sacrificing Priest, or than on himself as Lamb of God or Son of God. They accepted on easy terms, with a fickle and perhaps eager fanaticism, the first impression produced by him
when they saw the signs which he was making
of his heavenly mission and nature. We must conclude, therefore, that he did in many ways partially unveil himself. Nicodemus heard of these "signs," and referred them to a Divine commission. John does not here, nor elsewhere, say what these signs were - whether they consisted of effects produced on nature or on men, whether they were deeds of healing, or of moral compulsion, or repression, or reformation. Great expectations with reference to a coming Christ had been excited in the breasts of tens of thousands by John the Baptist's fiery ministry. The result was that men now flocked to Jesus in greater numbers than they had done to him (
). The faith that they exercised was neither deep nor appreciative, yet it was worthy of the name of faith.
But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all
Verses 24, 25.
But Jesus did not
trust himself to them;
not even to those who had "trusted on his Name." This remarkable expression corresponds with many actions and methods of Jesus. When he was offered the homage of devils, he forbade them to speak. When those who had been simply healed of bodily disease began garrulously to proclaim his praises, he silenced them. He had no faith in their faith, and consequently did not open to them more of his nature; still less did he assume, as they would have liked him to do, an immediate and outward Messiahship of political revolt. He did not break the bruised reed nor quench the smoking flax, and often made use of the smallest remnant of spiritual apprehension; but even in Galilee, when they would by force have made him a king, "he sent the multitudes away." The apparently arbitrary permission given to others to proclaim his Name (as,
, to the healed demoniac of Gergesa,
; cf. Luke 9:57-62) suggests the precise inquiry which John had felt from the first Jerusalem visit, and which, with profound insight, he thus meets: "He did not trust himself to them,"
owing to the fact that he knew
by apperceptive and continuous processes) -
. He penetrated their thoughts, discerned their character, saw the meaning of their faith, the burden of their wishes, the regal passions that consumed them - he knew all.
And also because he had no need that any should testify what was in
man; for he himself
- without such aid -
knew what was in
. The definite articles here may either restrict the meaning to the men who happened one by one to come under his searching glance (
; Meyer), or it may mean "man" generically, "human nature" in all its peril, weakness, and self-deception. Geikie ('Life of Christ,' 1, 508) gives a novel, though entirely indefensible, translation: "He needed not that any should bear witness respecting him as man." The better and more accurate translation is the first; but since his glance is universal and contact with souls continuous - man by man - the statement thus embraces even
more than is
involved in the generic sense. The knowledge of man (
) "generically" would not embrace his individualities - would leave out the specialities of each case. The particularism of Christ's penetrative glance gives the stronger and better explanation of the reserve of Christ in dealing with these half-believers, than the generic or rather universal knowledge which is supposed to be involved. N.B. -
There is a so called faith to which Christ will
unveil himself - will not give himself.
The great reward of faith in Christ is the faith
Faith in the Name of Christ, produced now by "signs," real or artificial, fictitious or sacramental, mystic, or miraculous, or aesthetic, by
, or exaggerated ideas of special providence, is not comparable to the faith in Christ himself, which the truth about him excites.
It is to the latter rather than to the former that the golden gates of the heart of Jesus are opened.
And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.
Courtesy of Open Bible
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