Category Archives: JOHN 2:1-12

The marriage in Cana

JOHN 2:1-12



In John chapter 2 we find that the Lord Jesus manifested Himself in a twofold way to the nation of Israel, first in a domestic scene, verses 1-12, and then in a national scene, verses 13-25.  We could set out the comparisons and contrasts in the following way:

Verses 1 to 12,    
The wedding in Cana of Galilee  
New beginning in life   
Emphasis on grace   
The disciples believed as a result. 
Christ supplied a lack   
Love and humility expressed  
Christ remains in the background 
Went by invitation   
Spoke of “His hour”, at Calvary. 

Verses 13 to 25.
The Passover at Jerusalem
New beginning in religious year
Emphasis on truth
The Jews should have repented.
Christ purged the excess
Zeal and holiness expressed
Christ at the forefront
Went on His own initiative
“Destroy this body”, at Calvary


(a) 2:1-12  The Wedding in Cana of Galilee.
(b) 2:13-22  In the Temple at Jerusalem, with the Passover at hand.
(c) 2:23-25  In Jerusalem at the Passover.

As He presents Himself to Israel, the Lord Jesus confronts the three main sins that marked the nation generally.  These were immorality, infidelity, and hypocrisy.  So it is that Christ manifests His glory at a wedding in Cana of Galilee, the jurisdiction of the profligate Herod.  Then He goes to the sphere of influence of the Sadducees, the temple, and asserts the truth of resurrection, which they denied.  Then He speaks with Nicodemus the Pharisee, to show that religious orthodoxy in not enough, for “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”.


 2:1  And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:

 2:2  And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.

 2:3  And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.

 2:4  Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.

 2:5  His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.

 2:6  And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.

 2:7  Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.

 2:8  And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.

 2:9  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,

 2:10  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: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.

 2:11  This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

 2:12  After this he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples: and they continued there not many days.


Verses 1-2 The glory of His graciousness.
Verses 3-5 The glory of His gentleness.
Verses 6-8 The glory of His greatness.
Verses 9-12 The glory of His genuineness.

Verses 1-2 The glory of His graciousness.

2:1  And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:

 We now come to the sequel of the incident with Nathaniel.  The last verses of John chapter 1 presented to us a preview of the millennial kingdom.  Hosea makes it clear that during that kingdom earth and heaven will be linked together by a common interest in the Messiah, Hosea 2:14-23.  So it is that the land of Israel shall be called Beulah Land, Beulah meaning “married”, Isaiah 62:4.  Ephesians 1:9,10 tells us that all things, whether in heaven or earth, will be gathered together by Christ. By not telling us what happened during the fifth and sixth days of the week he is chronicling, John establishes a break, so the scene is set for a new departure for Christ, even His presentation of Himself to Israel.  Having introduced Himself to individuals, the Lord Jesus now begins to introduce Himself to the nation of Israel, and it is significant that He does it, first of all, at a marriage.  It is interesting to notice that the vine shrub or tree was created on the third day, and now we have the third day after the end of John chapter 1.  The Son of God is the creator of all things, as verses 1-3 of chapter 1 have told us, and this He is demonstrating by his first miracle.  It is God who sends the rain, which falls on the roots of the vine which transform it into grapes.  Then another process takes place by which the ripe grapes are made into wine.  Thus the long process of turning water into wine is now compressed into a moment of time as the Son of God shows conclusively that He is the creator of all things.  In Genesis 1:1 the three things that go to make up the universe are introduced.  There is the time word “beginning”, then heaven and earth tell of matter, and then the notice of their separate positions, indicating space.  Time space and matter are the three components of God’s creation, and the Lord Jesus in His first miracle at Cana showed Himself to be the master of time and matter.  In His second miracle at Cana, He showed space was no difficulty to Him, for He healed the sick boy at a distance.

2:2  And both Jesus was called, and His disciples, to the marriage. 

 Graciously the Lord Jesus accepts the invitation, and manifests Himself in a way undreamed of by those who invited Him.  John the Baptist had shunned the company of men, living for many years in the deserts, and as a Nazarite, he totally abstained from wine, see Luke 1:15.  By contrast, the Lord Jesus, come in grace not law, sought the company of men, and came to bring the joy of which wine is the symbol. 
The fact that the mother of Jesus was at the wedding and was not called as the Lord Jesus and his disciples were, and the fact also, that His brethren were present, would indicate that perhaps the wedding was of someone closely connected to the family, but not one of the family.  Perhaps some relative of Mary, given that she has some sort of authority at the occasion. 
It is significant that the Lord Jesus should introduce himself to Israel at a wedding, thus supporting the concept of marriage.  The Scripture says that marriage is honourable in all, Hebrews 13:4.  The Lord underlined that by His presence.  He would later refer to the beginning of the history of man, when marriage was instituted by God, and now God manifest in flesh is reinforcing that primary truth, Matthew 19:3-6.  The fact that He was called shows that those being married were sympathetic to Him and His teaching. When the Lord contrasted John the Baptist’s ministry with His own, He likened John’s ministry to a funeral, and His to a wedding, Matthew 11:17.  The first plague of Egypt was to turn water into blood, Exodus 7:17, the symbol of death and sorrow, here water is turned into the symbol of joy, Judges 9:13.

Verses 3-5 The glory of His gentleness.

2:3  And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto Him, They have no wine. 

 It was customary to give gifts of wine or oil to the couple to be married, thus supplying their needs as they embarked upon life together.  It was necessary to drink wine, since the water supply could not always be relied upon to be clean. This is why, if the gospel banned the drinking of wine, it would condemn converts to dysentery or similar illnesses.   The apostle Paul exhorts Timothy to take a little wine, for his stomach’s sake, and his often infirmity, 1 Timothy 5:23.  He does not exhort him to drink wine, but rather to take it or use it as medicine.  In fact, the word “use” is connected with the word “necessary”, so the apostle is talking about necessities, not excesses.  There is no prohibition of wine in the New Testament, only a warning about excess.  The believer must ask the question about everything he allows, “Will is cause others to be led astray if they do what I do?”  Put that way, it is clear that Christians should not drink wine.  The wine of those days would not have been very potent and dangerous, unlike that available to us today.  “They have no wine” is a simple statement of fact, with the possible implication that He should do something about it.

2:4  Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.

The term woman is not rude, but respectful, but on the other hand is not especially a term of endearment.  The Anglo Saxon word quene or woman is the word from which the word queen is derived.  John does not make her prominent in this scene, for she is nothing like the person that Catholics worship, to whom they give the same titles as to Christ.  Such a person is more like the Semiramis of the Babylonian mythology, who was called “Queen of Heaven”, Jeremiah 7:18; 44:17,18,19,25.  Mary would be the first to disown such a title, for she described herself as “the handmaid of the Lord”, Luke 1:38.
“What have I to do with me” indicates that at the outset He establishes that it is the spiritual relationship with Him that matters.  In Matthew chapter 12:46-50, when His mother and His brethren wanted to speak with him, He replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brethren?  Whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother”.  Note that every true believer is brother, sister, mother, as is shown by the singular verb “is”.  It is not that some believers are brothers, some are sisters, and some are mothers.  Note the parallel passages in Mark 3:31-35 and Luke 8:19-21, which show that to hear the word of God and to do the will of God are vitally linked.
The same title that He gives to his mother here, He gave to her when He was on the cross, thus indicating that He has no intention of rebuking her by the use of the word.  The Lord Jesus honoured His earthly mother and legal father, and thus magnified the law and made it honourable, Isaiah 42:21, for the command to honour father and mother is the first commandment with a promise attached to it, Ephesians 6:1-3.  It was also the only commandment to do with conduct toward men which was found on the first, Godward, table of stone, (assuming there were five on each table).  And yet for all that He was hung upon the cross as if He were a lawbreaking son who would not obey His mother and father, see Deuteronomy 21:18-23. 
In John 20:17, He forbids Mary Magdalene to touch him, the reason being that He had not yet ascended to His Father.  Believers “touch Him” as He is in heaven.  The apostle exhorts the Colossians for instance to “hold the head”, Colossians 2:19.
The last mention of Mary is in Acts chapter 1:14, where she is found in the upper room waiting for the Spirit to come on the Day of Pentecost, when she, along with all believers of this age, would be united to the Lord Jesus in a far higher relationship.  “Mine hour is not yet come” indicates a time when this relationship would be initiated.  At the cross earthly links are broken, Galatians 2:20, and at Pentecost spiritual links are established, 1 Corinthians 6:16; 12:13.  It is interesting to note that He goes to a marriage where a natural relationship and joining is enacted, and yet He implies by His word that natural relationships must give way to spiritual ones at the appropriate moment.  We should ever hold natural relationships in their proper place, and not allow them to hinder love to Christ.  He Himself said, “He that loveth father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of me”, Matthew 10:37. Yet at the same time the apostle condemns those who have no natural affection, 2 Timothy 3:3, so we should keep these things in their proper balance.

2:5  His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it. 

This shows that Mary has not been offended by being called “woman”. She is no doubt convinced He is the Messiah.  The disciples will have told her of the descent of the Spirit and John’s comment about it.  She does not seem to think by the words “Mine hour is not yet come” that He means that now is not the time to remedy the lack of wine.  She clearly has confidence in His ability to cope with this situation, for she tells the servants to do whatever He tells them.  This is a telling insight into the way the Lord had conducted Himself during those years of obscurity in the home at Nazareth.  He had always shown Himself capable, but His actions had never been designed to draw attention to Himself.  He had been about His Father’s business then, but it had been a different sort of business during those years before He was manifest to Israel.  Let us rise to the challenge of these words, being careful to do whatsoever He commands, Matthew 28:20; 1 Corinthians 14:37. The fact that Mary spoke to a servant like this without going through the governor of the feast, tends to confirm that she was in some way responsible at the marriage.

Verses 6-8 The glory of His greatness.

2:6  And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.

 The expression “set there” can mean “lying there”, on their side as if empty. Thus we are assured there is nothing in the pots to start with, which is why the Lord commands the servants to fill the waterpots with water.  The word “containing” need not mean any more than that they could hold 2 or 3 firkins if filled. 
In Mark 7:1-4 we learn that the Jews were very particular about handwashing, and had made it into a legalistic ritual.  The disciples did not eat without washing their hands, nor did they engage in the elaborate ritual.  Compare also 3:25.  Two or three firkins apiece indicates about 54 gallons or 432 pints.  This is the Lord’s wedding present to the happy pair.

2:7  Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.

 Note the immediate and unquestioning response of the servants to the Lord Jesus command, and the fact that they filled the pots to the brim.  There was no room left for any substance to be added, so there was no trickery. 

2:8  And He saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. 

 To “draw out now” means to pour from the pots to other containers to take to those at the feast.  In fact, they are commanded to go straight to the governor or head waiter in charge of the arrangements.  Note the confidence of the Lord in His ability even though this is His first miracle, for He is acting, as ever, in line with His Father’s will, and simply doing what His Father is doing.  This had been true of Him in the obscurity of the years at Nazareth, as Luke 2:49 shows, and now it is true as publicly manifested.  Note also that the servants have been given commands in stages and they obey each one in turn.  They must have been puzzled at the idea of bearing water to the guests.  It would add insult to injury to run out of wine and then offer the guests water.  Despite this, the servants obey unquestioningly, as we should.  Those things which the Lord commands us to do are not what the natural man would do, but they are what Spirit-led men would do.  Note that the Lord respects the role of the governor.  He did not impose Himself upon the occasion, nor did he come to impose a new social order upon men, but to radically change the men themselves.  The apostles continued in this way, and did not seek to initiate social reforms.  Their only concern was that men would be saved, and thus be reformed.

Verses 9-12 The glory of His genuineness.

2:9  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. 

 It would be normal for the governor to taste the wine to ensure that it was a suitable quality.  He is an independent witness.  He is convinced it is wine, yet he knows not what has happened.  Note that John’s comment, found in parenthesis, assures us that there was no collusion between the servants and the governor, any more than there was collusion between Christ and the servants.  All is genuine and open.  The servants can now testify that the pots were empty; that they filled them with water; that they filled them with water to the brim; that the Lord Jesus had not prayed over the pots.  He had not perhaps even been present when they were filled.  So we have the governor and the servants as independent witnesses of the genuineness of the miracle. The servants can testify that it began as water, and the governor can testify that it finished up as wine. The servants do not know what is going to happen.  So they are not complicit in any deception.  The governor does not know what did happen.  So he is not complicit in any trickery such as colouring the water.  The bridegroom is called, but he was unaware of what had happened, so he is not advanced as a witness.

2:10  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: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. 

 After the governor had tasted the water that became wine his verdict is that the first wine is inferior.  The governor thinks that the bridegroom has reversed the normal order, and set on the good wine at the end.  In fact, the bridegroom had set on the good at the beginning.  The bridegroom’s good wine is described by the governor as the worse, and therefore the wine supplied by Christ, by the confession of the governor, who is unaware of the miracle, is declared to be better.  In fact, both lots of wine had come from Christ, the first from Him by way of processes He as Creator had initiated, the second by His miraculous intervention in those processes.  It is now disclosed that there is a joy that is beyond natural joy, and He is the one who brings it in.  The apostle Peter calls it joy unspeakable, and full of glory, 1 Peter 1:8.

2:11  This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth His glory; and His disciples believed on Him.

  Glory is the expression of inherent worth.  The Lord Jesus does not look for public reputation.  He made himself of no reputation yet manifests Himself as the creator of all things in the world His hands had made.  He retires quietly, because he does not want the guests to believe on Him only as a miracle-worker, as the end of the chapter and His interview with Nicodemus show, for He must be believed on as a Saviour who died on a cross for sins.

2:12  After this He went down to Capernaum, He, and his mother, and His brethren, and His disciples: and they continued there not many days. 

Probably to stay at Peter’s house, for the move from Nazareth to Capernaum had not taken place yet, Matthew 4:12,13.  Perhaps His mother was freer to move about now that her children were grown up.  Note the distinction made between the disciples and His brethren, for sadly they have not yet believed on Him.  These men lived with Him for thirty years and did not believe on Him.  They saw His miracles, and still did not believe on Him.  From the language they use in John 7:1-5, which has an Old Testament character about it, they were zealous for the coming Messianic Kingdom.  When Christ did not live up to their expectations by defeating their enemies, they refused to believe on Him as the Son of God.  When He was crucified, this would only confirm in their minds the impression that He was not the Messiah, yet when He rose from the dead they believed.  Such is the genuineness of the resurrection of Christ, for it convinced hardened unbelievers of the truth as to His person.  If He had not really risen, they would not have changed their minds.