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These small group study notes contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, lessons to learn, and applications. Feel free to print them, copy them, or share them. I only ask that you remember these are are personal study notes and are only meant as a supplement to your own study, not a replacement. I hope you can find some helpful information inside. Visit our inductive Bible study main page for more studies on this and other books of the Bible.
John 2:1-11 Inductive Bible Study Notes, Cross References, Outline, and Discussion Questions
Outline: Miracle at Cana
The event (2:1)
The characters (2:2)
The problem (2:3-5)
The resolution (2:6-8)
The response (2:9-11)
Key Words: Wedding, purification, wine, good wine, glory, believed, signs
What does verse four tell us about Jesus, his disciples, and his ministry?
Some people have said that the “wine” that Jesus made was non-alcoholic. Do you agree or disagree with this? Why?
Give some examples of things that God intended for good and which man twisted?
Was Jesus being disrespectful to his mother when he said “woman”?
What did Jesus mean when He said, “my hour has not yet come”?
Explain the custom of purification.
How big would you guess the wedding was from the information provided?
Why would the better normally be served first?
What, if anything, did it indicate that the better wine was served last in this case?
Why do you think John chose to record this miracle when there were so many to choose from?
Does this miracle have any special significance?
What was the result of the miracle?
What does this show us about Jesus and His character?
How about His relationship to His mother?
The third day since the calling of Nathanael. Weddings in Israel during this time period were huge events. Often celebrations would last a week or longer. Whole villages would be invited. Cana was the hometown of Nathanael. Also Jesus’ mother was invited. She seems to have a fairly important role in the wedding. Perhaps she was a helper to prepare food or drink or one of the coordinators.
Jesus and his disciples (just four at this point) were also invited to the wedding. Notice Jesus isn’t a celebrity figure that is too high up to invite. He is not separate from the people, someone to be looked up to and respected, but not to spend time with or develop a relationship with. He was a people person. He was not distant. He was close. You could talk to Him. You could develop a relationship with Him. He was someone you wanted to come to your party or wedding. John 15:15. He calls us His friends. He was friendly to the people around Him. The key point is that He was and is approachable. He did His ministry among the common people. He came as a servant. Also what a blessing for that couple to have the Savior Himself there to honor their marriage!
Mary didn’t command Jesus what she do. But she did imply that she would like Jesus to help with the situation. She obviously knew He had some miraculous power. Probably she had witnessed Jesus doing miracles before so had the confidence to ask Him to help. If anyone should have known Jesus’ ability to do miracles it should have been Mary.
Jesus was not being disrespectful when He said, “woman” (the same word used when he greeted Mary Magdalene after resurrecting and his mother when He talked to her from the cross). It was a common way to respectfully address women at the time. We know Jesus never would have done any sin. That does not mean that it is OK for us to address women like this today! Cultural standards have changed and it would no longer be a respectful way of address. If you try it I am sure you will find that out. We shouldn’t always copy what we see taking place in the Bible because it was happening in a different culture and context. We need to find the principles and apply them in today’s world. “My hour has not yet come” (Matthew 26:45). The hour sometimes refers to Jesus beginning public ministry. It would be like saying the “hour of his revealing”. Other times it refers to His death or His second coming. Here it probably refers to His beginning public ministry and revealing Himself to the world as the Messiah.
Mary had supreme confidence in Jesus. She knew Jesus was able to solve the problem. Though she was His mother, you can see her submissiveness. She didn’t tell Him what to do or take control. She brought the matter to His attention, told the servants (probably the ones helping with the wedding) to obey Him, and then left it to His discretion.
The practice of purification is alluded to in Matthew 15:2. According to Moses’ law all kinds of things needed to be purified. Pots and pans, houses, clothes, even people all needed to be purified if anything unclean touched them. (Leviticus 11-15). Numbers 32:23 also shows us that there were two ways to purify things, fire and water. Whatever could pass through the fire was to be purified by fire and whatever couldn’t was to be purified by water (again it is amazing how scientifically correct the Bible is). So those buckets held water for purification. They were likely used for the wedding guests to purify themselves before taking the food. They even had a saying, “he who uses much water in washing will gain much wealth in the world”. The containers held a total of about 120-180 gallons of water! That is a lot of water. It likely points to the fact that there were a lot of wedding guests.
Jesus didn’t do things halfway. The pots were filled up to the brim. When He did miracles He didn’t leave any room for doubt. He did them wholeheartedly. God is and pours out His blessings abundantly. See Ephesians 1:6-8. God is never stingy. Don’t be afraid to ask big things of God, even miracles. Don’t have low expectations. God wants to lavish His blessings on us.
We see here also that Jesus is above time and time restraints. Even if He used grape juice it would need a long period of time for the juice to ferment and become wine. However, He turned this water to wine immediately. There was no lapse in time. None was required. (Can’t God do the same with Creation?) Jesus simply wills it to happen. He doesn’t stand over it and recite some “magic” words. He doesn’t ask to taste it first to check and make sure that it “worked”. He confidently tells them to draw it and take it to the headwaiter.
Jesus’ hour had not yet come to reveal Himself publicly. He did do the miracle as His mother wanted, but He did not show the public that it was He who did the miracle. The headwaiter, and hence the bridegroom and guests, did not know that Jesus was the one who supplied the wine or how it was supplied. Only the servants knew, and it is apparent they weren’t talking. Here again, we see Jesus came as a servant. His goal wasn’t to be a folk hero or celebrity icon. He came with a purpose. See Mark 10:45 (to serve and give His life a ransom for many. He also knew there was a time for everything and didn’t hasten that time forward.
Jesus supplies the absolute best. In an instant He could create wine far tastier than the best (for a wedding) that man could make. Notice that the headwaiter is surprised because it is recognizably better than the other wine. And he didn’t know it came from Christ. Therefore if someone is truly objective they will recognize that the things from God are better. Because he didn’t know it came from Christ it shows even more clearly that the wine Jesus made was better than the other. Some have said that the wine was non-alcoholic. However, there is no basis whatsoever for this claim in the text. They come into the text with the idea that “surely Jesus wouldn’t help others get drunk” and so search for some way to justify their conscience and imagine that the wine was non-alcoholic. Having said this, normally wine drunk at that time in Palestine was pure juice that had been fermented. It didn’t have the extra alcohol that is generally added today. Also the fact that the head-waiter commented that at weddings people normally drink in no way says that Jesus supported people getting drunk. In Genesis 9:3 God says that He gives everything to us. It is for our enjoyment and our use. Do we blame God when He makes the plants by which people get drugs and do harm to themselves or others? God made the things in the world for our enjoyment. He also set boundaries for how we should use them (getting drunk is expressly forbidden Ephesians 5:18). We have only ourselves to blame if we twist what God intended for good and make it evil. Jesus miracles also had a purpose. John calls them signs because they are meant to teach us something about Jesus Himself. What they point to is more important than the actual miracle itself. When Jesus fed the people, He called Himself the bread of life. He called Himself the light of the world and then healed the blind man. He called Himself the resurrection and the life and raised Lazarus from the dead. What is the point in this case? It shows that the Son of God has the best to offer. Many say it is a comparison to the Old and New Covenants. The New Covenant is better and more full. While the facts of this are true, I wouldn’t support this interpretation because it reads a thought into the record that is not shown and likely not intended by the writer.
Notice again that John calls the miracles “signs”. He records them to show who Jesus is, not just for the sake of telling us about a miracle. They were signs which show us that Jesus is the Messiah. The disciples believed in Him. This phrase doesn’t mean that they didn’t believe in Him before. Rather their fledgling faith was confirmed and validated. Jesus told Nathanael just three days before that he would see greater things. Already His prophecy was coming true! The sign was simple and private. Few people knew about it. I watched a short part of a movie about Greek mythology. A supposed god, “Hercules”, was very arrogant. He just wanted to do an amazing feat to show the people how great he was. This is what the world thinks a god will do. But Jesus wasn’t like that. His first miracle was much like His birth, quiet and not well-known.
Jesus was a people person. He spent time with the common people and was simply a friend (see His relationship to Mary, Martha, and Lazarus). His ministry was among real people at a real event in a real location. We should make ourselves friendly. Be the kind of person that others will consider you are pleasant to be around.
Jesus was goal oriented. He was intent on His purpose. He viewed everything in light of it. When Mary came to Him about the lack of wine Jesus commented that His hour had “not yet come”. He came to “seek and to save” that which was lost (Luke 19:10). That was His goal. That was His calling. If anything would distract from that or not be useful towards that goal He would not do it. We also need to be goal oriented. When we are asked to do something, we should consider if it fits in with our goals or not. So set a goal or goals for your life (biblically) and then set your mind to pursue those in all of your activities.
Jesus did His work completely. The miracle wasn’t halfhearted. It shows how God treats people, richly. His blessings are abundant. They are full. They are better than anything man can produce. We need to do our absolute best for God (Colossians 3:23). Also we need to recognize that God gives the absolute best. Don’t settle for something merely “good”. You can only receive the best for your life from God.
Jesus was humble and a servant. His goal wasn’t to exalt Himself. Likewise our goal should be to help others. Do not seek honor in this world. A true servant is one who serves in the background. Do not do works of service so that others will see and praise you. If you do that will be your reward. Do them for God (Matthew 6:4) and He will reward you. 1 Peter 5:6 says to humble yourselves “under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time”.
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