This paper is taken from a little publication recently issued, Notes and Meditations on the Gospel of John, by R. E. (part 1). Our readers will perceive that chap. 1 first appeared in these pages. [ED.]
The second chapter is a chapter of signs throughout: the third day; the marriage; the vessels of purification empty; the wine failing; the water turned into wine; the, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" the casting out of the temple the profaners of His Father's house; and the raising up of the temple of His body.
The first and second days give us in John 1 the ministries respectively of John the Baptist and Christ. John directs to Christ, the Lord gathers to Himself. With the third day the scene is changed; we are here on resurrection ground. Jesus must come again, as they had seen Him depart. Great events belonging to that day are figured here in the marriage in Cana, and the cleansing of the house of God. The marriage of the Jewish bride will then take place, and judgment overtake the profaners of the house of the Lord. "For the day of vengeance is in my heart, and the year of my redeemed is come." "She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework; upon thy right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir." (Ps. 45.) We must not confound the description of the heavenly with that of the earthly bride. "Bride of the Lamb" applies to the heavenly assembly, which He presents to Himself all glorious, without spot, morally perfect. The earthly bride, or queen, is also "all glorious within;" but the "within" seems to refer to the chambers of the King, the nearest relationship to the King. Compare the hundred and forty-four thousand belonging to Judah who stood with the Lamb on mount Sion. (Rev. 14) This was anticipative of the glory coming in. They are, I believe, of Judah, not of Israel (the ten tribes); the latter class had no part in the sufferings of the rejected Messiah. What a privilege to be permitted to share in His rejection! "Ye are they who have continued with me in my temptations, and I appoint unto you a kingdom." The prophets who wrote after the captivity, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, speak of the Jews and Jerusalem in connection with Christ and the last day. Water pots without water will no more be found in that day. "Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord. The pots in the Lord's house shall be like the bowls before the altar." (Zech. 14:20, 21.)
But see how He gives. All is from Himself in John - Himself and the Father. "My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven." "The bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven and giveth life unto the world."
Verse 7. "Jesus saith unto them, Fill the water pots with water. And they filled them up to the brim." That was the measure, blessed word! oft repeated in various connections; but what marvel, from One in whom the fulness itself was pleased to dwell (Col. 1), and who but Himself could administer of this fulness? "Draw out now, and bear" - another word of power and grace. "The servants which drew the water knew." Those who do His will are let into the secret of their Lord's mind.
You will note the order: the water first, and then the wine; holiness and joy; separation to God; and then power in the Spirit. To think of wine first would be folly, the denial of the truth. "Fill the water pots with water" was the word; the obedience of the servants was shown in filling to the brim. The Holy Ghost, the living water, is the power of sanctification. Neither the heavenly nor the earthly people can be with God without it. "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." The way to real joy, to what God calls joy, is through sanctification, the Lord Himself being their righteousness.
Verses 9, 10. There were two mysteries here for the master of the feast: he knew not whence was the wine, nor how it was that the bridegroom had kept the good wine until now. The finger of God was there, nay, God Himself. Who but He could have wrought thus? And to keep the good wine until the last is not man's way at all; with him all ends with the wine out. Man's joy very soon passes away. Look at him in his most joyous and religious aspects, where Christ is not, how soon it withers away. Because it is only his, not the joy of the Lord, it all runs away from the beginning. "All flesh is as grass, and its glory as the flower of grass. The grass has withered, and its flower has fallen."
We realize purity by walking in the Spirit, and joy as the fruit of it. The joy that we realize from mere human things, or even God's providential dealings in our favour, runs out; but He gives the true joy in communion with Himself. We abuse God's natural gifts, so the wine runs out. The Lord keeps the good wine, and He gives it in His own good time. In communion we realize it; we often say, "Thou hast kept the good wine until now." Practically, we constantly find it thus in our pathway here.
With regard to verse 4, which we passed by, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" I may remark, that the relationship referred to here, represents that existing between Himself and the Jewish people. "Unto us," said the prophet, writing by the Spirit, "a child is born, unto us a Son is given;" but what had He to do with them, in accomplishing His Father's business, or they with Him? "His own received Him not;" "He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor;" "When He called, none to answer;" "When He looked, there was none to help, none to uphold." And so in the end, when dying for that nation, as well as for others, it is said, "When He had by Himself purged our sins." Blessed word! who could be with Him there? In His path on earth He had said, "Who is My mother?" but when all was over, and His work done, "Woman, behold thy son; son, behold thy mother."
To go back a little, I suppose it is clearly understood that the marriage figured here sets forth His relationship to His earthly people in that day. "Bride of the Lamb" is the designation of the heavenly bride. It was Jesus who said, "Fill the water pots with water;" Jesus who turned the water into wine. Considered apart from Him, how empty and unreal that festal scene in Galilee! The words of power were, "Fill with water," "draw out," and "bear."
Verse 11. "This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth His glory; and His disciples believed on Him." This is His glory in connection with His earthly kingdom, His power to bring in the blessing. It is not like that of the transfiguration, nor that spoken of in the first chapter, the glory of relationship to the Father. In the transfiguration it is the heavenly glory of the kingdom in His Person - His garments shone as no fuller on earth could whiten them. They are very distinct forms of glory. (That which moves us most, and is indeed the deepest of all, is His eternal relationship to the Father.) Peter says, "For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of His majesty." The glory of His Person shone there in heavenly radiance; along with that came the Father's voice, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I have found my delight." How attractive to the hearts of the saints, the Father's testimonies to His beloved Son! Peter would encourage them by telling them that it was no cunningly-devised fable; that what he saw was the confirmation of the prophetic word.
In this second chapter also, the contemplation of His glory moves the heart. He manifested His glory, and His disciples believed on Him.
Verse 13. "And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem." He goes up to Jerusalem, and, finding the temple profaned, drives out the traffickers - this was a sign of judgment to come - and on the Jews asking Him, "What sign showest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?" He answered, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." This was the sign of death and resurrection; also that God Himself was there. "I will raise it up." This passage also intimates that in His mind the house at Jerusalem was already judged. At the end He says, "Your house is left unto you desolate." His own body, then, was the only true temple of God. "He spake of the temple of His body." "When therefore He was risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this unto them." Previously we are told that His disciples remembered that it was written, "The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up." This reminds us of the words of His youth, "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" The thoughts of His youth were not different from those of His manhood, as we speak. What concerned the Father - His name, His house, His glory - was ever the first thought of the Son who is in His bosom. R. E.