Amazing Grace Baptist Church, Hamburg – Bible Study Material on John 2:1-11
Memory verse: John 2:11
There have been diverse commentaries on John 2:1-11 even as there exist different methods of biblical interpretation. This lesson demonstrates that a combination of historical-critical and allegorical interpretation of Jesus’ miraculous sign at the Cana Wedding is helpful in putting the story into the general purpose of John’s gospel. Accordingly, the studies purposes to bring out three lessons from John 2:1-11 namely historical, doctrinal and practical.
1. The Historical Significance (2:1-12)
The words of John the Baptist in John 1:26 showed that Israel was ignorant of its own Messiah. This wedding feast is a picture of the nation of Israel. The wine had run out, the people’s supply was emptied, yet their Messiah stood there to help them. The six water-pots were used for ceremonial cleansing (see Mark 7:3). Normally the Jews used the water from the jars to purify themselves. But the water-pots were empty depicting the emptiness of Jewish ritual when true faith is absent.
The Jewish ceremonies could not help the spiritually poor nation. The people had external ceremonies, but they had nothing to satisfy them within. “They filled them to the brim.” This “filling to the brim” showed that nothing could be added to the water. When Jesus performed the miracle, all the water was changed to wine. It portrays the abundance of Jesus’ gracious work. This miracle illustrated the emptiness of the Jewish rituals versus what Jesus came to bring (4:13; 7:38-39). The water of ceremonial cleansing has become the wine of the Messianic age.
2. The Doctrinal Lessons – How the sinner is saved
From the introductory notes to John, we learned that out of the many miracles that Jesus performed, John selected seven to prove Jesus’ deity. These seven signs are given in a specific order forming a picture of salvation. The first three signs show how salvation comes to the sinner and so John 2:1-11(Water into wine) teaches that salvation is through the Word. Thus, this first miracle teaches us that salvation is through the Word of God. From this perspective, the symbolic meanings of the words and phrases embedded in the miracle story are worth reflecting on.
A. A thirsty crowd
Can this be a picture of lost people today? They are tasting the world’s pleasures but finding no personal satisfaction. Their worldly fulfillment eventually runs out. The Bible invites thirsty sinners to come to Jesus the Messiah for salvation and satisfaction (John 4:13-14, 7:37; Isaiah 55:1; Revelation 22:17).
B. Empty water pots
They represent the human heart, which is hard and empty. The Word of God compares the human being to a vessel (2 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Timothy 2:20-21). The sinner’s life may look lovely on the outside, but God sees it is as empty and useless unless He is able to work a divine miracle on the inside.
C. Filled with water
In the Bible, water for washing is an image of the Word of God (Ephesians 5:26 and John 15:3). All that the servants had to do was fill the empty water pots with water, which is like the servant of God filling the heart of the unbeliever with the Word. It is not our job to save souls, but it is our job to give people the Word and let Christ perform the miracle of salvation.
D. Water to wine
When the sinner’s heart has been filled with the Word, then Jesus can perform the miracle and bring joy. In Acts 8:26-40, Philip filled the Ethiopian with the Word, and when the man believed, the miracle of salvation took place. The Ethiopian went his way rejoicing. Note John 1:17 (The law was given through Moses). In the Old Testament, water was changed to blood (Exodus 7:19), which indicates judgment. But the Messiah turned water into wine, which speaks of grace and joy. Wine symbolizes the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).
E. The third day
This foreshadows the Resurrection since Jesus the Messiah arose from the dead on the third day. It was the third day from “the next day” (1:43), which was the fourth of the days John wrote about in chapter 1. Perhaps John had Genesis 1 in mind when he wrote of this first week of “a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
F. The beginning of miracles
Salvation is the beginning of miracles. After a person is saved, God performs one miracle after another for him. The miracles we experience bring glory to Jesus.
3. Practical Importance – How to serve the Messiah
All who would serve Jesus should heed Mary’s words: “Do whatever He tells you” (2:5). It must have seemed foolish for the servants to fill those water-pots, but God uses the foolish things to confound the mighty (1 Corinthians 1:27). If we want to see people saved, then we must obey Jesus and give them the Word of God. It is not entertainment or recreation that saves souls, but the preaching and teaching of the Word. If we do our part, Jesus will do the rest.
The servants knew where the wine came from, but the “important people” at the feast did not. When a person serves Jesus, he learns His secret (Amos 3:7). We are Jesus’ servants and His friends (3:29; 15:15) and He tells us what He is doing. It is better to be a humble servant of Jesus and share in His miracles than to sit at the head table of a great feast. We should use every opportunity to serve Jesus “in season and out of season.” Jesus brought glory to God at a wedding feast.
This lesson has thrown more light on the historical import of John 1:1-11 bringing our Israel’s timely need for Jesus’ gracious work. Doctrinally, this first miracle of John’s gospel has proved the uniqueness of Jesus as the Messiah. Practically, the study has drawn our attention to the need for obedience to Jesus. The study, therefore, confirms the purpose of John’s gospel that Jesus shows people what God is like.
1. How does the statement, “They filled them to the brim,” relates to the abundance of Jesus’ gracious work?
2. How do the water and wine symbolize the Word and Salvation respectfully?
3. Identify any spiritually thirsty crowd around you and show how you can invite them to Jesus for their salvation and satisfaction?
4. With reference to John 2:5, what does it mean to “do whatever Jesus tells you?”