John 1-11: An Overview

Well tomorrow morning my Sunday School class will be diving back into the book of John.  But before we dive headlong into where we left off 3 months ago, I wanted to provide a few notes by way of an overview of the first 11 chapters.  By no means are these comprehensive, but rather they express the key ideas from the first half of John’s gospel.  I hope they prove helpful – please note that they are my notes and not meant to be much more than an outline with some thoughts, so if I’ve erred in grammar or spelling feel free to chuckle and continue on!  (:

The Gospel of John: An overview of the first 11 chapters

Chapter 1

The Prologue

John begins his gospel by describing the eternality of the Second Person of the Godhead, and by stating in no uncertain terms that Jesus is that Person.  Jesus is the Messiah, He is the Christ, and the Word of God incarnate.  By Him and through Him and for Him are all things created and made that have been made.

Verse 14 says: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

The very word that called all being into being has condescended into His created being with the mission of inaugurating a new creation within His chosen ones in order that they would fulfill that for which He originally created them: the bear His image, to rule over all creation, and to bring Him glory and joy (Jn. 10:10).

The Calling of the Disciples and the Angus Dei

John the Baptist’s mission is described here, as well as his relation to the Christ, “he whose comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie” (vs. 27).

When John saw Jesus coming toward him the next day he proclaimed “behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”  This is what is known as the “Angus Dei” (Latin for the Lamb of God), and by stating this John is saying that Jesus has come to die for the sins of His people – a people not limited to ethnic Israel, but rather from all nations and ethnicities (“the world”).

After this, Jesus called His disciples – and John makes special mention of the calling of Nathanael “an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” Nathanael marveled at the knowledge of Christ – supernatural knowledge that only God could know.  Yet Jesus surprised him further and invoked the image of Jacob’s ladder by stating, “truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (vs. 51).

Chapter 2

The Miracle at Cana – Water to Wine

Jesus’ ministry opens in this gospel not with a description of His desert temptation, but with a miracle at a wedding feast.  John’s intentions in his gospel are set forth near the end of his gospel:

…but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31)

Therefore, John sets forth 7 signs and 7 discourses throughout his book to show forth the deity of Christ and make the case that we ought to believe, and by believing “have life in his name.” Each sign points to something greater than itself (hence the name “sign” used by John as opposed to “miracle”).

At the wedding feast Jesus scandalizes our traditional thinking about wine, and what is “necessary.”  For He didn’t come to simply heal some people, but rather to give life and that more abundantly.  The wine He made was good wine, and it was abundantly served to a group of people who were already likely a bit tipsy.  The point is that the wine Christ has come to give overflows, as does His grace.  It is the best kind of wine, it is rich and full and deep and never ending. His wine is the new wine of the gospel and it makes the heart glad!

The First Temple Cleansing and Christ’s knowledge

One of the first things Christ did was enter into the temple at Jerusalem and drive out the corrupt businessmen who had been charging ridiculously high interest rates.  This was done in a premeditated way (vs. 15 states that He made a whip of cords which would have taken some time).  This wasn’t an uncontrollable anger, it was a righteous anger.

In this act of cleansing, He signified the importance of the temple as the house of God, and pointed to Himself as the greater fulfillment of the temple:

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” [19] Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” [20] The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” [21] But he was speaking about the temple of his body. (John 2:18-21)

After this John tells us that when He was teaching in Jerusalem many started to believe in Him, but that Christ didn’t “entrust himself” to any man.  The reason?  Because He knew what was in man.  Christ knew the nature of man; He knew his depravity and his deceit.  He didn’t entrust Himself or His mission to others but took upon Himself the entirety of the mission and trusted in the will of the Father alone.

Chapter 3

Nicodemus and Being Born Again

Perhaps one of the most important passages in Scripture is found in the first parts of the third chapter of John.  A ruler of the Jews named Nicodemus comes to Jesus in secret at nighttime and begins to ask Him what he needs to do to be saved. Jesus gives a seemingly enigmatic answer:

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)

What He meant was this: you cannot by the work of your own hands, or deeds be admitted into the kingdom of God.  You must be born again of the Spirit. The Spirit must quicken your soul to life before you can “see the kingdom of God.”

Jesus also sets forth the sovereignty of God in salvation:

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

In other words, it is God who chooses who is saved, and you cannot control this, but rather you must obey the Spirit and submit to the work of God, for He is sovereign and His ways are not our ways. The conversation ended with a rebuke of Nicodemus, who though he was a teacher of Israel did not understand these things. The implication is that as a teacher of Israel and one familiar with the Scriptures, he should have been able to put two and two together. Therefore condemnation would indeed have been just.

Moses’ Serpent, and the Love of God

Christ tells Nicodemus that the Son of Man must be “lifted up” as Moses “lifted up the serpent in the wilderness” – this is a reference to a time in Israel’s history when they were dying in droves of poisonous snake bites in the wilderness. Moses was instructed by God to set upon a poll a bronzed serpent, and whoever looked upon the serpent would be healed. Of course the implication here is that by looking to the cross and the work of Christ alone we are saved.  There was nothing the Israelites had to do other than look and have faith and God would heal them.  They simply had to obey and believe – now the implication is that some did not even do this. It seems so easy, so simple.  Trust and obey.  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved (vs. 15 says “whoever believes in him may have eternal life). But because of man’s depravity we still protest and refuse the great gift.

Jesus goes on to explain that God’s love has been made manifest to the entire world in His Son, and that because of this manifestation the entire world stands under condemnation. How many of us are familiar with verse 16 but stop without reading 19-21? Listen to these important verses:

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. [20] For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. [21] But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:19-21)

The chapter ends with John’s description of John the Baptist’s desire to see Christ’s ministry set above his own and we read the famous words, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” The reason the Baptist wants to decrease if for his own joy.  For he remarks:

The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. (John 3:29)

There was no improper pride in John the Baptist, his joy was completely in Christ, and he reveled in the glory of his own humility before the Son of God. He counted himself nothing before the ministry of Christ.

Lastly, John sets the stage for further arguments about the authority of Christ by stating:

He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. [32] He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. [33] Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. [34] For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. [35] The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. [36] Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3:31-36)

Chapter 4

The Samaritan Women and the Official’s Son

Most of chapter four is spent describing the scene of Christ at the well with a woman of Samaria.  We find here in this encounter that Christ has a divine knowledge that surprises the woman, and that He is the bearer of eternal life, a theme which John weaves throughout the book.  Listen to what Christ says to this woman:

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, [14] but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

The woman doesn’t understand this saying at first, but Christ is so gracious and so condescending that He reveals to this Samaritan woman more than He does to the leader of the Jews. He tells her no parable, but give her a beautiful description of His person and gift:

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” [26] Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:25-26)

Furthermore, He reveals to her something we ought to note, namely that in His coming there was a change in paradigm. He came to usher in a new covenant, and with it a change in the nature and even geography of worship.

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. [24] God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24)

Here is where so-called “temple theology” comes to the fore. We need to understand that there is a certain amount of discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament we see a central place of worship, God dwells with man but it is in a temple in the Holy of Holies. Now, the greater manifestation of the Temple has come, and when He ascends to heaven He will send His Spirit to indwell His children thereby making His dwelling with men, and transforming us into His temples.  No longer do we need a temple to gather close to God, for His dwells in each of us, just as Jeremiah predicted.

Lastly, in going to the Samaritans Christ is showing that salvation has come to all men, not simply to the Jews, and in this crucial way God’s covenant with Abraham is going to be fulfilled:

I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, [18] and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” (Genesis 22:17-18)

And what is perhaps most amazing to me about this is the call of Christ for us to enter into His work, for He states:

Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. [36] Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. [37] For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ [38] I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” (John 4:35-38)

Therefore John has laid forth both the sovereignty of God in salvation (chapter 3) and now the privilege of entering into His work as His hands and feet to take the gospel to the field which are white for the harvest.

The chapter ends with John telling of how Christ healed the son of an official – the second of the signs that John describes in his gospel. The key to this sign is understanding that it was these miracles that were confirming the word of Christ. The miracles in and of themselves were only a way to point people to the person and word of Christ, and that is why John notes that the miracle led to belief in the household of the official (vs. 53).

Chapter 5

The Healing at Bethesda on the Sabbath

By this time in John’s gospel we have seen how the signs that Christ is doing point to a larger significance about who He is and what He has come to do. In a similar way, Jesus has been showing how Old Testament traditions, laws, and even buildings such as the temple, point to Him.  Thus Christ is the great fulfillment of what was only previously seen in shadow.  The way Paul sums this up in 2 Corinthians is worth noting:

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. (2 Corinthians 1:20)

Now we find that as Christ heals a man who was both blind and paralyzed the Jewish leaders become incensed. Why? Because He healed on the Sabbath (vs. 16). They are not happy for the healed man, and have no joy over the work of God.  Christ’s healing on the Sabbath was meant to point to two great realities:

  1. He was/is the fulfillment of the Sabbath.
  2. He is Lord of the Sabbath

The former is a matter of typology, and the latter of authority.

About the fulfillment of the Sabbath, the author of Hebrews says, “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his (Hebrews 4:8-10).” And Paul says, “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord” (Rom. 14:5-6a).

Concerning the authority of Christ, John focuses on this for the remainder of the chapter, and he shows that the Jewish authorities were also focused on this point – for they saw that Christ was making Himself equal with God” (vs. 18).

In this chapter, Christ sought to show that His authority came directly from God, and that the prophets pointed toward Him (vs. 46-47). A few key passages are as follows:

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. [20] For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. [21] For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. (John 5:19-21 ESV)

“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. [31] If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. [32] There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. (John 5:30-32 ESV)

But more than just describing the authority He had from God, Jesus also described how He had authority in himself granted by the Father simply because of who He was:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. [26] For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. (John 5:25-26 ESV)

This is an amazing statement of power.  Christ had been given the power to grant life, and the power to deal out judgment leading to death. Is there a greater authority in the universe as we know it?  No indeed.

Lastly, the blindness and depravity of man is set forth by Christ as the reason for their mishandling of His ministry:

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, [40] yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. [41] I do not receive glory from people. [42] But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. [43] I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. [44] How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? [45] Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. [46] For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. [47] But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:39-47)

They cannot believe because they seek their own glory and have not the Spirit of God within them.  I don’t think He could have made the case any more plain to these puffed up men.

Chapter 6

Jesus Feeds the 5000 and Walks on Water

The 4th and 5th signs are performed by Christ in the first part of chapter 6 which boasts of some of the most difficult and profound doctrine we have encountered thus far.  First, we learn that the Passover is once again at hand (vs. 4 – probably the 2nd of 3 Passover feasts that mark His ministry) and thousands of men and women and children have been following Him to hear His teaching. This is perhaps one of the pinnacles of His ministry as far as shear mass of following is concerned, but as we’ll see soon, by the end of chapter 6 many of these people will fall away because they cannot stomach the difficult doctrine of predestination and God’s sovereignty.

When Christ feeds the 5000 here, there is a beautiful sense in which once again His bounty and overflowing grace is on display. We also see that He doesn’t want any of the food to be lost (vs. 12), perhaps pointing toward His own power of preservation for those who have been saved. After the miracle is finished, the people are so enraptured by His power that they move to take Him by force and make Him their king. He alludes them, however, and goes up onto a mountain by himself – a picture of what we ought to do when the world tries to force its will upon us, we need to flee to the mountain or the quiet place and commune with God, taking safety in the cleft of His might.

After the feeding of the masses Christ’s disciples have gotten into a boat and are attempting to cross over to Capernaum. But the sea, which often becomes tempestuous due to its geography, became enraged and made the crossing very difficult. It is then that John describes Christ’s coming to them – but not on a boat or another vessel – rather, He has come to them by walking on the very surface of what is not a surface at all: He is walking on water. It is worth noting that the reaction of the disciples is one of fear (vs. 19).  They were perhaps more frightened by the sight of Christ walking on water than of the prospect of losing their lives in the storm.

After Christ comes to them, the boat immediately finds itself on the opposite side of the water. His words are telling “It is I; do not be afraid.”  When Christ is with us, all objects of fear melt in the face of His calming power.  Indeed, the God incarnate was the only object worth of their “fear”, and He was the one ministering to their souls, and bringing them safely (if not instantly) across the sea.

The Bread of Life and a Hard Saying

In this difficult discourse, Jesus shows men for who they really are, and sets forth a doctrine that is most difficult – the doctrine of the sovereignty of God in salvation. Let’s look at how the chapter unfolds in a few succinct bullets:

The Nature of Man: People come seeking Jesus but really only seeking his bread – we seek after the things he can give us but not himself (vs. 26). We want the benefits of God. But no one seeks after God himself (Rom. 3:11-12).

Faith Alone: How do we do the works of God? This is the work of God, to believe in him whom he has sent. (vs. 28-29) This passage shows faith alone apart from works is what leads to salvation.

The Claims of Christ and Eternal Life: I am the bread of life (vs. 35) – whoever comes to me shall never hunger and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

Assurance: All who believe in Christ are those whom the Father gives to Jesus, and these people He doesn’t cast out (vs. 37-40) and will raise up on the last day. What a powerful statement! We can lean on His power to keep us until the end.

Sovereignty: Christ proclaims now that no one can believe – or “come to Jesus” – unless the Father draws him! (vs. 44-46) Therefore, God is the sovereign initiator of the drawing of men to Christ and therefore salvation.

The Response: The disciples say, “This is a hard saying!” (vs. 60) Not because it is tough to understand, but because it is tough to swallow. But Christ responds and says that the flesh will not help them understand the things of the Spirit (vs. 63).  Then in verse 65 Jesus says that it is the Spirit who gives help in coming to the Father.  Therefore we see that the role of the Spirit is being set forth here: it is the Holy Spirit who brings us into newness of life and draws us to the Father.

The Result: The people can’t stomach His doctrine, just as they can’t stomach it today!  How dare He impinge upon the freedom of mankind to make their own choices without aid from God! So they leave Him: “After this many of disciples turned back and no longer walked with him” (vs. 66). But the disciples stayed with Christ, but even in this Jesus exalted His own work in them (“did I not choose you, the twelve?” vs. 70).

Chapter 7

The chapter opens with Jesus being rejected by his brothers (vs. 5), and ends with Him declaring himself to be the bearer of “living water.” Chapter 7 is the first of three chapters whose background is the Feast of the Tabernacles, and this is the final fall feast before the last 6 months or so of Christ’s earthly ministry.

The progression of events once Christ goes up to the feast is as follows:

He speaks with divine knowledge even though He’s never been formally trained – people marvel at this (vs. 15)

He once again asserts His authority, and claims that His teaching is from the Father (vs. 16-18)

The Sabbath question comes up again and Jesus uses the rite of circumcision as an example of “lawful” work that takes place on the Sabbath as a way to show their lack of understanding of (and lack of ability to keep) the law. (vs. 19-24)

The reaction in Jerusalem is mixed – but all are fearful of speaking outwardly about Him – such is the tension in the city over this man from Galilee (vs. 13). People even begin to declare that He is the Messiah (vs. 31).

Christ begins teaching about half-way through the feast, and due to the response of the people, the Pharisees issue an arrest warrant but are unable to apprehend Him (vs. 32, 45-49) due to the power of Christ’s speech (vs. 46), the sway of the populace (vs. 43-44), and the sovereignty of His timing (vs. 30).

The chapter ends with an interesting vignette of Nicodemus discussing the matter of Christ before others on the council, and their rejection of all justice or lawfulness indicates that the spirit of lawlessness has completely taken hold of the religious leaders of the day (vs. 50-52).

Chapter 8

The Woman Caught in Adultery

John now takes us to an incident that presumably occurs during the feast, where a young woman has been brought before Jesus as a way of testing His teaching and knowledge of the law. The woman has been caught in adultery, but given the circumstances it seems likely that this is a vile and reprehensible setup that the religious leaders have used in order to take Jesus down (see James M. Boice’s excellent commentary on the passage).

Christ’s response to the circumstance is one we’re familiar with: “let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  It is an amazing rebuke of the crowds.  So often we are hungry to judge others – we want justice until it comes to our own sentence, then we want mercy!

The Light of the World and the Freedom of Christ

Christ began again to teach in the temple and proclaimed that He was the “light of the world” – He used the metaphor of light and darkness to draw people to Himself, and show them what kind of life he came to impart to them.

It was here also that Christ taught about the freedom He offered to all who believed:

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. [35] The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. [36] So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:34-36)

Paul also expounded on this:

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, [18] and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18)

The Sonship of Christ, and the Children of the Devil

One of the key concepts of Chapter 8 is the Sonship of Christ. He begins to explain this to the leaders and other listening in verse 19:

“They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” (John 8:19)

He is claiming to be the very Son of God – a bold and clear statement of deity.

Another key concept from this chapter is that there are only two kinds of people: sons of God and sons of Satan.  You are either under the power of the Devil and a pawn in his control, or you have been born again and adopted into the family of God, having Christ as your brother.

These statements irked the Pharisees who thought of Abraham as their father, but when Christ explained to them that they were not sons of Abraham, they winced and desired to kill Him.

Once again Christ was explaining what it meant to be a true son of Abraham.  Paul explains this to the Galatians:

“Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.” (Gal. 3:7)

What had merely been a physical promise to Abraham of blessings of land, children, and blessing the nations was now being realized in a spiritual way. This angered the Pharisees to no end as I mentioned above, and the resulting conversation ensued:

Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” [52] The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ [53] Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” [54] Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ [55] But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. [56] Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” [57] So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” [58] Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” [59] So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. (John 8:51-59)

These are just excerpts of one of the most intense and important conversations that Jesus had amongst the people during the feast.

Chapter 9

The Man Born Blind

This chapter centers on an amazing miracle (the 6th one of the 7 major signs) of healing to a man who was born blind. Like Job’s friends, the disciples saw the man and naturally thought that he or his parents had committed a sin in order for him to wind up in such a state. But Christ corrects their misunderstanding, and adds to it a level of profundity that places the will and prerogative of God above our understanding:

Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. (John 9:3)

Indeed it was the sin of mankind that has led to disease and calamity, but it isn’t necessarily specific sins that cause sicknesses or trouble in this world. Rather, God works through all things to sharpen us, and cause us to be conformed to the image of God, thereby bringing Him glory (Romans 5:1-8) and us great joy.

The resulting upheaval from the healing was amazing. The religious leaders questioned the man’s parents, then questioned him, and since he didn’t know who Jesus was he didn’t really have much to answer. After questioning him and his parents they questioned the man a second time (vs. 24) and demanded that the man recant of giving any credit to Christ, but rather demanded that he give “God glory” (vs. 24).  The response of the man is truly great reasoning and evoked the following exchange:

He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” [28] And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. [29] We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” [30] The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. [31] We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. [32] Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. [33] If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” [34] They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out. (John 9:27-34)

It was after this that Jesus found him, and the man became a believer.

Chapter 10

The Good Shepherd

The I AM statements of Christ are prevalent throughout the gospel of John, and here we have two more of those famous statements: I am the good shepherd, I am the door.

The key to understanding Christ’s teaching here is understanding the role of a shepherd and the role of the sheep. The sheep come at the voice of a shepherd. Shepherds in the ancient near east did not herd their sheep, they led their sheep, and the sheep would only follow those whose voices they recognized.  Also, the door of the sheepfold was the one way in or out of the sheepfold. By saying that He was the door, Christ was saying that He was the only way into the kingdom of God.

The themes here tell us of God’s sovereignty in salvation (vs. 4, 14, 15), His goodness in provision for His sheep (vs. 10), and His abundant love for us that ensures not one of His sheep will be lost (vs. 16) and that He will lay His life down for the sheep (vs. 11, 17, 18).

The Divinity of Christ and the Deadness of Man

This next section takes place “during the feast of the dedication” which was in winter, about three months from the final Passover of Christ’s earthly ministry.

The crux of what occurs here is a dispute between Jesus and the Pharisees over His divinity. Christ claims that His works bear witness about who He is (namely the Messiah). But the Pharisees still can’t find it in their hearts to believe, and Christ addresses this using the same motif He used earlier in this chapter (no doubt why John chose to put these two in sequence):

Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, [26] but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. [27] My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. [28] I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. [29] My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. [30] I and the Father are one.” (John 10:25-30)

So Christ tells them in plain language that:

  1. They don’t know Him because they are not of God
  2. They aren’t of God because they aren’t His sheep
  3. They aren’t His sheep because they don’t have His spirit
  4. Those who aren’t His sheep will perish: therefore they will perish
  5. He is the giver of eternal life: eternal life is for His sheep
  6. He gives eternal life by the power of His Father who is more powerful than all
  7. The Father will not allow anyone to snatch His sheep out of His hand
  8. He and the Father are one

It is this last statement that offends them so much because, like in 8:58, He is using the divine name as His own personal moniker, and saying in plain language that the God of the universe and Himself are “one.” What an astonishing claim!  The response to this is:

The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. (John 10:31 ESV)

Jesus ends up talking them down from their folly, but leaves and goes into the countryside across the Jordan River. This is the last time many of these people will see Him before the triumphal entry.

If there are two things we can learn from this chapter, they are that the nature and operation of salvation is a mysterious thing that God sovereignly ordains and brings to pass, and secondly, that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God and equal with God the Father the creator of heaven and earth.

Chapter 11

The chapter begins by Jesus learning that Lazarus is ill, and we see Him making plans to visit Lazarus, but only in His divinely appointed time. Throughout the chapter the great love of Jesus for people in His care is made manifest (vs. 3, 5, 33, 35 etc.), and His humanity shines through so that the chapter combines the power and wisdom of His divinity with tenderness and empathy of a man who fully understood what it meant to suffer.

The entire chapter is a grand display of Christ’s majestic character, but perhaps the most significant texts are as follows:

Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, [15] and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” (John 11:14-15)

Christ says that the purpose of Him staying behind was so that they might believe.  He did all of this for His purposes.  He heard that Lazarus was sick, and He knew that Lazarus was going to die, and what was His response?  He waited. He stayed put.  Can we doubt His complete control over all things?  He is sovereign!

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, [26] and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

Christ asserts that He is the resurrection and the life.  The Jews (other than the Saducees) believed in the resurrection of the dead on the last day. But here Jesus is again taking a truth understood from of old and claiming that HE fulfills that truth.  He is the second Adam, He is the great son of David, He is the prophet that Moses spoke of, He is the fulfillment of the temple, He is the center of all history and He is the resurrection and the life. There is no life that has life or will have life or did have life apart from Him. He claims here nothing less than full control and power over life and death, and therefore nothing short of ultimate divinity.

The upshot is that we are to place our faith in Him – see how He leads Martha to that “Do you believe this?”  This is the question that all people who live are faced with. Do we believe the claims of Christ?

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. [34] And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” [35] Jesus wept. (John 11:33-35)

Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. (John 11:38)

We forget the sense of what it means here that Christ was “deeply troubled” – this essentially means that He was not pleased, perhaps even angry.  He was disturbed, but not by the death of Lazarus, rather He was disturbed by the unbelief of the people, as well as being saddened for the loss.  These people were likely professional mourners, so their display of grief would have (perhaps) been less than sincere. It is hard to know, of course, but the sense of the situation here is that it is the unbelief of the people in the power of God that has caused Christ to be “deeply moved” and therefore He responds in vs. 40, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”

When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” [44] The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (John 11:43-44)

The picture of Christ’s sovereign power over death is unmistakable.  Not only that, but the method in which He loosed Lazarus from the grace was emblematic of how He called life into being thousands of years before. By His voice He commanded Lazarus out of the grave – like the Divine Fiat (Augustine) He commands life into existence.

Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” [51] He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, [52] and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. (John 11:50-52)

Caiaphas unwittingly and prophetically pronounces the coming of the kingdom and the further fulfillment (assuming a partial fulfillment in the work of God through Joshua) of the Abramatic Covenant in verse 52 and, of course, the atonement offered by Christ in verse 50. An amazing thing to consider from this passage is the way in which God uses the mouths of the wicked to show forth the excellencies of His plan. Not that these wicked men have been singled out by some kind of privilege, but rather the plan that was put in motion from the beginning of time was not going to be stopped by any evil force – they even confess the plan of God and His sovereignty unknowingly, so complete is His power and so inevitable is His victory.


Study Notes 7-1-12

6:1 After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias.

  • Commentators note that there is a special emphasis on this event (the feeding of the 5000) in the gospels.  Carson says, “This is the only miracle during Jesus’ ministry that is recorded in all four Gospels.”  This is the fourth major sign recorded for us in John’s gospel.
  • Some say this was not an actual miracle of Christ multiplying/creating new fish and bread.  I dismiss this, as do most serious scholars.  Leon Morris says that, “there are three principle ways of understanding what happened.”  Those include Christ working a “miracle in people’s hearts”, thus having them share all their packed lunches with each other. This is more a miracle of ethics, rather than creation from nothing, and its strain upon the text cannot stand.  A second way to look at this would be that Christ divided out the small amount of food into tiny samplings, and a kind of sacramental communion was held – of course this doesn’t square well with verse 12 which indicates that they were all “filled.”  The last way in which this could be seen is the way it actually happened, which is how I believe it to be.
  • Sproul points out that theological liberals state that Jesus and His disciples hid food in a cave ahead of time in a sort of clandestine attempt to show a false miracle. This liberal viewpoint runs contrary to the obvious thrust and text of Scripture.
  • When it says “after this” the text seems to indicate some time between Jesus’ talking in chapter 5 and the event we’re about to read of.  The ESV study notes say that as much as a year could have been indicated – and several other commentators indicate something similar.  It all depends on whether or not the undisclosed “feast” in 5:1 was the Passover Feast.  As Carson notes, “The expression is vague: it establishes sequence, but not tight chronology.”
  • The Sea of Tiberias was the same, as we see here, as the Sea of Galilee.  It was named after Tiberias Caesar, and was a more common name among gentiles and those living several years after Christ.  Tiberias was also a city on the seaside that Herrod Antipas had built (about A.D. 20).
  • Calvin tells us that, “the whole lake did not bear that name, but only that part of it which lay contiguous to the bank on which Tiberias was situated.”

6:2 And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick.

  • It is not insignificant that John notes the motivation for the following Jesus was producing.  Ryle comments, “There seems to reason to suppose that this multitude followed our Lord for any but low motives.”

6:3-4 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. [4] Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.

  • These verses serve to give us the context of where we are, and that it was again a time of an annual feast.  And as to the location, Carson notes, “The Greek to oros does not necessarily refer to a particular mountain or hillside, but may simply mean ‘the hill country’ or ‘the high ground’, referring to the area east of the lake and well known today as the Golan Heights.”
  • Calvin notes (and there is agreement among others on this point) that Jesus was undoubtedly looking to sit down and rest here.  But the crowds were not going to allow this to happen.  Calvin says we ought to take a lesson from this, “We are therefore taught by this example to form our plans in conformity to the course of events, but in such a manner that, if the result be different from what we expected, we may not be displeased that God is above us, and regulates everything according to his pleasure.”  He talks about how Christ submitted to God’s will in everything, and that here, despite wanting to rest, Christ submits to the Father’s plan for him in that moment.

6:5-6 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” [6] He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.

  • John adds the editorial disclaimer in verse six so that we understand the deity and vast knowledge of Jesus.  It is almost as if to say, “Jesus had a plan already, but He was using this as a teaching moment for Philip.”
  • Carson notes that the word “test” here is peirazo and is “commonly used by the Evangelists in the bad sense of ‘tempt’, to solicit to do evil. The word itself, however, is neutral, and is entirely appropriate here.”
  • Mark’s gospel makes it clear that Jesus had already begun teaching them and had perhaps taken a break to consider or begin to deal with feeding them.

6:7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.”

  • So here is Philip’s response to the “testing” of our Lord.  Does he pass the test?  How do you think Christ would have had him respond?  I wonder if some faith would have been appropriate in the circumstances, given the number of amazing things Christ had already done.  In other words, instead of just giving a mere accounting of their financial situation, it would have been better if Philip had said, “Lord, we only have 200 denarii, but with you all things are possible, what would you have us do?”  Instead Philip answers by giving the accounting, and adds to it a negative inflection that what they have in money won’t be enough to satisfy the needs of all of these people.  What was predominant in his words are what can’t be done, rather than what can be done.  So, in my estimation, Philip failed to give a faith-filled answer (Sproul agrees with me and says he “flunked” the test).

6:8-9 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, [9] “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”

  • Similar to the response of Philip, Andrew says “what are they for so many?”  What is at the heart of this?  Unbelief.  They were not quick in prayer and supplication, but were quick to doubt what could be done for these people.
  • John’s gospel is the only one to tell us that this bread was “barley.”  Barley was really inexpensive bread.  D.A. Carson provides more detail, “The ‘small fish’ were probably pickled fish to be eaten as a side dish with the small cakes of barley bread. Andrew’s point of course, was that this tiny meal was ludicrously inadequate to the need. John mentions it to heighten the miracle.”

6:10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number.

  • First, we see that the grass is still green (from Mark’s account) and this tells us that it is likely the spring time (Passover connection grows stronger), before the sun had burnt the grass.
  • Secondly, it’s evident this number is only a count of the men.  The ESV study notes say, “The men numbered about five thousand, plus women and children, totaling perhaps as many as 20,000 people.”  Carson says it could have even well exceeded this number.
  • MacArthur brought something to my mind about what this organization must have been like – when he says “can you imagine twelve men serving 15,000 people!?”  What an amazing spectacle.  It also brought to mind the fact that it would have taken a long time to get everyone food.  The people would have to wait on the Lord, and be patient for His provision – how much do we need to take that lesson to heart!

6:11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted.

  • Note that the first thing Christ does is “give thanks.”  Unlike the disciples, His first action is to prayer.  Carson notes something that I never would have thought of before, and it’s really got me thinking about our own prayers before meals.  He says, “If Jesus used the common forth of Jewish thanksgiving, He said something like this: ‘Blessed are though, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who bringest forth bread from the earth.’ Jesus ‘blesses’ God, i.e. He thanks God; He does not ‘bless’ the food.”
  • I can’t help but think about how much sense that makes.  When we pray prior to a meal, are we asking God to somehow do something miraculous to the food by “blessing” it?  I’ve often thought about what we are actually asking of God here.  Are we asking Him to make sure that the food does its job?  Are we so small in faith that we need to ask God that He look out for the digestive work to be done while also ensuring that all the necessary protein and vitamins get properly distributed to our bodies???  Are we not better off blessing/thanking the Lord God for His provision for us, in order that we may give glory and worship to Him for taking care of our needs?  I think this may seem a small thing, but it is important that when we pray to the Lord God Almighty, that we are cognizant of our words.  We must not allow ritual to replace reverence.
  • Note secondly that He distributed “as much as they wanted.”  This is similar to the way He operated at Cana when He filled 180 gallons of wine for the wedding.
  • I always think of how abundant His blessings are to us.  We cannot comprehend the how good Heaven is going to be – and how horrible Hell is going to be. But everything Jesus did and said was a “sign” of something even more full that was to come, I think.  When He feeds 20,000 people here, and then goes on to say later that He is “the bread of life”, our thoughts immediately ought to run to what we know about Jesus and His actions here on earth.  Everything points to Him going above and beyond our expectations.  It reminds me of my dad growing up.  There were so many times when I would ask for something, or desire something – maybe I just wanted to make a trip with Dad to the store, or go with him golfing – but what would normally happen would be his going above and beyond my expectations.  It was his modus operandi to bless me beyond my limited expectations.  He would always make those times just wonderful.  There would always be something he’d do to go above and beyond.
  • That is how Jesus acted.  And His actions mirror His teaching about how the Father acts toward us in comparison to our earthly fathers.  Matthew 7:11 tells us that Jesus said, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”  Calvin says, “But as flesh solicits us to attend to its conveniences, we ought likewise to observe that Christ, of his own accord, takes care of those who neglect themselves in order to follow him.”
  • But not only is Jesus the great giver of good gifts, but secondly, He is also the creator of all things, and the fact that He could make something from nothing is not lost of J.C. Ryle who says, “he can call into being that which was not before, and call it out of nothing.”  To Ryle this has a specific application for the gospel, and follows up by adding, “We must never despair of anyone being saved.”
  • Thirdly, Calvin points out that this miracle shows not only the specific power of the gospel to certain men, but in another way, it shows God’s earthly provision of food for all mankind – in theology we call this “common grace.”  He notes, “we shall be compelled to discern the blessing of God in all the creatures which serve for our bodily support; but use and frequency lead us to undervalue the miracles of nature.”
  • Fourthly, I think this section of scripture, and this miracle in particular, show us that Christ identifies with us in our humanity, and feeds His children.  He knows that they have needs, He knows that we have needs (Matt. 6:8), and He moves to fulfill them, while pointing to His even greater fulfilling power – that of the bread of life.
  • This leads to my fifth point, which Ryle called “the sufficiency of the Gospel for the wants of all mankind.”  And what I think he is getting at is what I just mentioned above, namely that Jesus Himself is the “bread of life” (6:35) and that those who come to Him will no longer hunger.  His gospel will satisfy that vacuum in your life, that longing for something better – what R.C. Sproul calls “The soul’s quest for God.”  As noted above, the abundance of Christ’s blessings in salvation are evident in the blessings He showed here to these people.  As Ryle puts it, “There can be no doubt that this was meant to teach the adequacy of Christ’s Gospel to supply the necessities of the whole world. Weak, and feeble, and foolish as it may seem to man, the simple story of the Cross is enough for all the children of Adam in every part of the globe. The tidings of Christ’s death for sinners, and the atonement made by that death, is able to meet the hearts and satisfy the consciences of all nations, and peoples, and kindreds, and tongues. Carried by faithful messengers, it feeds and supplies all ranks and classes.”

6:12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.”

  • It occurs to me that John left this part of the even in the gospel account for a reason.  And it is an unusual thing to remark upon, but let me try to explain why it is significant (for all scripture is significant and we can learn from each verse 2 Tim. 3:16).  This verse is about stewardship.  But it does beyond what we might normally apply it to.  Specifically, there are two things that I think must be noted here.
  • First, He is reminding us by this instruction to his disciples, that we ought to always be thankful for what He has provided us, and to be good and careful stewards of His blessings so as to not seem unthankful and capriciously waste our blessings, and in a manner, show a distain for His provision and an arrogance toward God for what He has given, as if we will certainly be blessed again (this is an attitude of self-righteousness).
  • The second thing, and probably the most significant, is that He is showing His disciples that they are to be stewards of the men and women who He entrusts to their care here on earth.  J.C. Ryle says that this is one of the main themes of this section of Scripture, in fact.  He says this section shows “The role and office of a minister – to distribute the bread of Christ with no power in himself, but all from Christ.”  At the heart of this role, the minister is Christ’s hands and feet to carry out His purposes and spread His gospel here on earth, “That none may be lost.”  The fact that Jesus uses this phrase “none may be lost” is significant because it sets the stage for the teaching He is about to lay before them about His role as the Good Shepherd.  We will see in the following verses that in this role, He loses none of His sheep.
  • Note also here that they were gathering “fragments” of what remained – this is significant because as part of the picture of this great miracle, Jesus is not only concerned with the whole pieces, but also the fragments which represent the sick, the needy, the sinful, those in need of salvation (Matt. 9:12).  He came into this world to seek and save the lost so that no one of His children, His elect, would be lost (Luke 19:10).  If this isn’t comforting to you, then you must have no feelings at all. For this is the most wonderful thing to me.  Jesus Christ cares about me.  He cares about the least of His children.  No detail is left to chance, no small thing beyond His notice, no weak soul will be unaccounted for when the Book of Life is opened.
  • Now you might be thinking, “I am not a leader in the church, so this doesn’t apply to me.”  But there you would be wrong.  For every parent, every father, every mother is a leader in their home.  We are all stewards of God’s gracious gift.  We ought to always bear that in mind and act with care so that “nothing is lost.”  That is our charge as careful stewards of the gifts we have been given (1 Pet. 4:10) – especially the most important gift of salvation, which we are stewards of (1 Cor. 4:1).

6:13-15 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. [14] When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” [15] Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

  • The reaction of the people here was perhaps different than what we ought to take from it.  In fact, at first I thought about taking verses 14 and 15 separately because they both seem to have plenty to say on their own, however, I think its vital to put them together, and this is why: when the people react to the miracle in verse 14 by calling Jesus “the prophet”, it is tempting to think that they have finally got it right.  They finally see Him as the Son of God and the Messiah in the full spiritual sense for which He wanted them to see Him.  But our hopes are dashed by verse 15 which tells us that they wanted to make Him “king” – evidently their hearts and minds were still set on a political ruler being the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies.  In other words, they still didn’t “get it.”
  • Calvin deftly points out that, “…they erred egregiously in taking upon themselves the liberty of making a king; for Scripture ascribes this as peculiar to God alone, as it is said, I have appointed my king on my holy hill of Zion (Ps. 2:6), again what sort of kingdom do they contrive for him? An earthly one, which is utterly inconsistent with his person.”  He goes on to say that we need to learn an important lesson here, “Hence let us learn how dangerous it is, in the things of God, to neglect His word, and to contrive anything of our own opinion; for there is nothing which the foolish subtlety of our understanding does not corrupt.”
  • What precipitated their desire for Him to be “king”?  I think it was probably a combination of what has been mentioned above, along with an understanding of the role of the Passover feast and how that would have been drumming up nationalistic fervor among them.  Carson notes that, “It was a rallying point for intense, nationalistic zeal. This goes some way to explaining the fervor that tried to force Jesus to become king.”  Carson goes further and explains that, “The juxtaposition of vs. 14 and vs. 15 presupposes that the people who think Jesus may well be the eschatological Prophet understand this Prophet’s role to be simultaneously kingly. If the first prophet, Moses, had led the people out of slavery to Egypt, surely the second would help them escape servitude to Rome.”
  • Sproul also says something similar about the nature of the Passover being like our 4th of July, “it was the supreme celebration of national pride,” he says.  “So while this frenzy was going on, stoking the people’s hopes for someone to deliver them from the yoke of Roman tyranny, the perfect political candidate appeared on the scene. He even provided that which wins political votes everywhere – a chicken in every pot, or a loaf and a fish in every lunch. It doesn’t get any better than that. The people said, ‘This is the kind of king we want – one that will care for us from the cradle to the grave.’ But Jesus read their hearts, and He knew that the kind of king they were looking for had nothing to do with the kind of kingdom He had come to inaugurate. They were looking for the kingdom of man; He came to bring the kingdom of God. It was His mission to provide His people with so much more than bread and fishes.”
  • The next thing we need to note here, and perhaps it seems a small thing in comparison with the large political and spiritual issues at hand in the verses prior, is that Jesus had times of solitude.  This is something we often neglect in our own lives, and something we ought to keep in mind as we seek to model the behavior of Christ.
  • Now, you should ask, “to what end?”  The end for Christ was to spend more time with the Father. In Luke 5:16 we’re told that, “…he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.”  We too ought to withdraw for times of solitude for the purpose of prayer.  We need to free ourselves from the distractions of this world, and spend some time in prayer with our Father.

3-4-12 Study Notes

2:1-2 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. [2] Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.

  • This is said to be the final day in the series of the first seven days since Jesus started His ministry.  The “third day” is a reference to the third day since the call of Nathanael and indicates to us that the wedding was taking place on the 7th day of this series of first days of Jesus’ ministry.
  • The wedding was likely on a Wednesday because that was the day normally required by Jewish law/tradition for the weddings of a virgin.

2:3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”

  • To run out of wine was more than just an inconvenience, it was a major embarrassment. As John MacArthur points out, in this culture and at this time in history it was the groom and his family who were responsible for the cost and setup of the wedding celebration, which could last as long as a week.  It would have caused great angst to run out of wine, and reflected poorly on the groom and his family on a day that was supposed to be dedicated to joy.
  • But there was more than just embarrassment at stake here.  For Morris and MacArthur both point to the fact that “it was possible to take legal action in certain circumstances against a man who had failed to provide the appropriate wedding gift.
  • The wedding feast is a picture the great wedding feast we’ll have when the bride of Christ (the church) is presented to her groom (Christ).  On that day there will be no lack of anything, for we will have abundant joy in Christ.  Wine, as we see later, is a symbol of joy in the Bible, and Christ providing them abundant wine is a foreshadowing of the joy He provides His church during their time on earth, and then later at the consummation of His kingdom (Amos 9:13-15).
  • I don’t know exactly what Jesus had in mind here, but His compassion is certainly what shines through in the act itself.  I’m reminded of why He came, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

2:4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”

  • It should also be noted that the title “woman” here seems irreverent, but is, in fact, a title of respect.  Boice likens it to “lady.”  MacArthur says the title is equivalent to “ma’am.”
  • What MacArthur sees in this statement is significant, it “signaled a major change in their relationship.”  He said the phrase “was a polite, but not intimate, form of address.”  MacArthur sums up the scene well: “The statement, coupled with Jesus’ addressing Mary as “Woman” instead of “Mother”, politely but firmly informed her that what they had in common in their relationship was no longer to be what it had been while He was growing up in Nazareth.  His public ministry had begun, and earthly relationships would not determine His actions. Mary was to relate to Him no longer as her son, but as her Messiah, the Son of God, and her Savoir.”
  • When He says “My hour”, He is referring to His death and glorification (He uses this throughout the gospels).  I think that MacArthur is correct in saying that, “this supports the possibility that Mary was knowingly asking Jesus to reveal Himself at that time.”
  • Jesus answers not the words of a man, but what is in their heart.  So here Jesus seems to be addressing Mary on the basis of the timeline of His ministry, where she had addressed Him on the matter of the wine, therefore it is logical to conclude that He read her to mean something in her heart that was not in her words.

2:5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

  • Boice points out that maybe Mary saw Jesus come to the wedding with disciples – at least 5 of them at this point I think.  As I mention above, she might have been thinking ‘This could be it! This could be His time where He is revealed as the Son of God!’
  • Whatever Mary was thinking, she obviously knew that it would be up to God.  So she simply instructed the servants to obey whatever Christ told them to do.  As R.C. Sproul says, “no one ever received better instructions from anybody in al of history than these servants received from the mother of Christ when she told them to follow Jesus’ orders.”

2:6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.

  • These stone water jars were huge, and were used to wash the hands of the guests as a way to purify themselves before the feast.  MacArthur notes that, “they believed that, unlike earthenware pots, they did not become unclean.”  Sproul notes, they used them “for the simple reason that the water contained in these pots would not become contaminated with bits of dirt (unlike the earthenware pots).”
  • This would have been about 180 gallons of fine wine!  That was more than enough.  So it is with the joy (which is what wine symbolizes, Ps. 104:14,15) with which Christ supplies our needs.  He gives us abundant joy and promises never to leave us hungry.  He doesn’t just give our needs though, so often He overflows our cup!

2:7-8 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. [8] And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it.

  • These servants are obedient to exactly what Jesus says, and their obedience marks both Jesus’ personal authority, as well as Mary’s authority as a person involved/tasked with helping with the wedding.
  • The master of the feast would have been like the best man or the emcee.

[9] When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom [10] and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

  • Why did people serve the best first?  Because people would have been too drunk to enjoy the new wine!  But Christ has the best last – I think this is a picture for the fact that heaven will be better than earth, and that it is better and sweeter (more joyful) to be last rather than first.
  • What is interesting to me is how many different things we see metaphorically developing here.  Morris says that “this particular miracle signifies that there is a transforming power associated with Jesus.  He changes the water of Judaism into the wine of Christianity, the water of Christlessness into the wine of the richness and the fullness of eternal life in Christ, the water of the law into the wine of the gospel.”

2:11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

  • Here we see plainly what the goal of the miracle was.  It was to manifest the glory of Jesus – miracles were done for people to believe in Jesus.  This miracle had the result of the disciples believing in Jesus, which leads me to wonder if they were not yet convinced to this point – in fact, sometimes I wonder how long it really takes them to be convinced!  He does so many miracles and yet we see their faith falter.

2:12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.

  • Just imagining the internal family dynamic right now in Jesus’ family blows my mind.  What are the brothers thinking?  What is Mary thinking at this point?  It’s a new day for these men and women, for Jesus has begun His earthly ministry, and from this point forward millions of lives will be changed forever.


How do we teach this to our children?  If you were to tell your children on the way home today that you learned about how Jesus was and is the Word of God, what would you say?

EXAMPLE:  Today we learned about how Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding in Galilee.  Jesus provided so much wine, and it was so good, that the wedding guests were overjoyed.  The wine that Jesus made done by a miracle, and it can symbolize the miracle that He does in our hearts at salvation.  Jesus transforms our hearts from bland (and even dirty) water, into rich, delicious wine.  What is wine?  Wine is a rich, strong juice made from grapes that some adults enjoy.  Wine was a staple of most meals during Jesus’ time.  In the Bible, wine symbolizes joy.  So when Jesus provided the wedding guests with so much wine that they had tons left over, it was a picture of how much joy Jesus provides us when we trust upon Him for salvation.