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The miracle at the wedding in Cana is generally considered to be Jesus’ first miracle. He was obviously reluctant to perform that miracle, telling His mother, “My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4). What hour? Had He not already been baptized by John? Had He not already spent 40 days in the wilderness being tempted by the devil? Had He not “returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit?” (Luke 4:14). Why, then, had His hour not yet come?
The answer lies in the fact that John the Baptist was yet ministering as the forerunner. Jesus did not want His miracles to distract from John’s baptism of repentance. He knew that repentance was an important foundation, without which the people’s hearts would not be prepared to hear His own teachings. Carnal minds tend to be overly impressed by miracles and seek them instead of the word of God itself.
Secondly, in the eyes of God, John was the legitimate high priest in Judah, although the position was being held officially by Caiaphas, who had been appointed by the secular authorities. In order for Jesus to succeed John as high priest, John had to die. John was the last high priest of the old Aaronic order. Jesus was the first to hold office from the new Melchizedek Order.
There were many in the past who were of the Melchizedek Order, including David himself (Psalm 110:4). Yet David’s priesthood was still subordinate to the Aaronic priesthood until its time would expire. The Aaronic priesthood had to prove itself unworthy before it could be replaced by the greater order of Melchizedek. That did not happen until the Aaronic priesthood rejected and condemned the Messiah.
John was said to be “Elijah,” the prophet that the people expected to come at Passover of some year. For this reason, they customarily reserved a chair at the table for Elijah while keeping the Passover feast. John was born five or six months before Jesus. Jesus was born on the feast of Trumpets, so John was born near the time of Passover. Hence also, John turned 30 at Passover and then began to minister. Six months later, Jesus turned 30 and was baptized on the Day of Atonement.
The wedding feast of Cana probably took place around December of 29 A.D., about three months after Jesus was baptized. John was arrested in January or February of 30 A.D., and he was executed in April (Passover, 30 A.D.) after ministering just one year.
After John's arrest, Jesus began to minister more openly. John’s arrest incapacitated him, making it lawfully possible for Jesus to replace him. Even so, it was not until John was actually beheaded at the time of Passover (30 A.D.) that Jesus could fully replace him as his lawful successor.
Ironically, John’s execution took place on the occasion of Herod’s birthday (Matt. 14:6)—and John’s birthday as well!
The point is that Jesus did not want to infringe upon John’s ministry. Hence, He said at the wedding, “My hour has not yet come.”
The apostle leaves out many historical details, because his gospel was not designed to give another account of Jesus’ life and ministry. His gospel is different and supplemental, focusing on the manner in which Jesus manifested the glory of God through eight specific miracles. Even these miracles were not placed in the order in which they occurred.
John 2:12 says,
12 After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers, and His disciples; and there they stayed a few days.
Jesus went to Capernaum but not before going first to Nazareth. After the miracle at the wedding, the people of Nazareth heard that their hometown son (Jesus) was making a name for Himself, so they invited Him to come and teach at the synagogue. There Jesus offended the narrow nationalists, and they would have thrown Him off the cliff, if God had not protected Him. At that point, Jesus left Nazareth, saying in Mark 6:4, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown.”
Jesus essentially set up His ministry headquarters in Capernaum, where the synagogue was friendly and the people were much more receptive to His teaching. It appears that Jesus’ “mother and His brothers” had lived in Nazareth until the people nearly killed Jesus. Then they all packed up and moved to Capernaum, making it “His own city” (Matt. 9:1). No doubt it was the last time they saw Nazareth, leaving them to their bigotry and hardness of heart.
John 2:13 says,
13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
This statement turns the page and introduces us to the events of this particular Passover feast, which Jesus attended. If this were, indeed, the first Passover of Jesus’ ministry, then it was also the one in which John the Baptist was executed. We cannot say for sure, since the apostle arranged his gospel according to the events manifesting His glory, rather than following a strict chronological record.
Perhaps, when Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury, divided the Bible into chapters and verses in the 13th century, he ought to have begun a new chapter here in John 2:13. At any rate, this begins the story of the cleansing of the temple. Jesus cleansed the temple twice, once at the start of His ministry and again the weekend before He was crucified (Matt. 21:12).
John 2:14, 15 says,
14 And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers [kermatistes] seated. 15 And He made a scourge of cords and drove them all out of the temple with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the moneychangers and overturned their tables.
Here is where Jesus the Worshiper became Jesus the Reformer, based upon “zeal,” as we will see shortly. Those Sadducees who controlled the temple at the time had become very wealthy on account of their sale of animals for sacrifice.
Obviously, it was convenient for men to purchase animals at the temple rather than to bring them from afar. Secondly, if they brought their own animals, they were almost sure to be rejected as “imperfect” by the temple inspectors who used their authoritative position to their own advantage. Only the animals purchased from the temple priests came with a guarantee that it was “unblemished” (Exodus 12:5). These were sold at exorbitant rates to enrich the priests at the expense of the populace. In this way, the rich got richer, while the poor got poorer.
Likewise, the half-shekel temple tax, payable each year, had to be paid in temple coinage, rather than with coins bearing Caesar’s image. The priests thus had a “table” (banker’s office) to exchange Roman coins for temple coins, and the exchange rate made these banker priests a lot of money. So it was expensive to keep the feast of Passover, yet the people could do little about it.
Such trafficking at the temple ran contrary to the whole spirit of temple worship, which was for the temple to be a center of worship for all people (Isaiah 56:7). The temple was to be a place where sins were forgiven and where all men were equal before God. But the priests had built a dividing wall to separate Jew from Gentile and men from women, thus destroying the law that commanded equality and which encouraged all to draw near to God.
No doubt Jesus had seen the corruption in the temple in previous years prior to His ministry. The narrow nationalism at the temple was exceeded only by the settlement movement in towns such as Nazareth. The grinding poverty of the working class made Jesus angry, but He did nothing until He was authorized by God to drive the bankers out of the temple.
In doing this, He fulfilled the prophecy in Malachi 3:2, 3, about the messenger of the covenant,
2 But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness.
Both Jesus and John the Baptist had come as refiners in the spirit of Elijah. Elijah returned to Israel from Zarephath (“refinery”) to confront King Ahab and his priests of Baal (1 Kings 17:9). John came with the baptism of repentance, which was designed to refine the hearts of the people. Jesus came in a “mightier” way (Matt. 3:11) to “baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
John 2:16 continues,
16 and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.”
The Greek word skeuo, “place of business,” (“merchandise,” KJV) should be understood according to its Hebrew equivalent, ma’arab, whose root word is arab, “to pledge, exchange, mortgage, engage, occupy, undertake for, give pledges, be or become surety, take on pledge, give in pledge.” In other words, it has to do with trading in business, but it also carries the connotation of binding one’s self in pledges or being put into bondage (obligation) through mortgages. Yet the temple was supposed to be a place where men were set free from sin (debt). Hence, merchandising the temple ran contrary to God’s purpose for its construction and hindered the worshipers as well.
Jesus’ act of violence was properly motivated from the Christian point of view, but from the standpoint of the temple priests, He was interfering with their God-given right to make money in the guise of making sure the people offered acceptable offerings to God.
We wonder why the Roman guards from the Tower of Antonia did not come running to arrest Jesus, as they did when Paul’s speech caused a riot in Acts 21:32. I suspect that the soldiers rather enjoyed the spectacle, knowing how the priests had long taken advantage of the people for their own monetary gain.
After Jesus cast the money changers out of the temple, the disciples realized that His actions were prophesied in Psalm 69:9. The verse is quoted in John 2:17, which says,
17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Thy house will consume Me.”
Psalms 42-72 are collectively known as the Exodus Book of Psalms. Psalm 69 specifically is a Passover psalm, making it applicable at the feast where Jesus cast out the money changers. Perhaps that is how the disciples made this connection. Other statements in Psalm 69 that Jesus fulfilled in His ministry are:
Psalm 69:4, says,
4 Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs on my head.
John 15:23-25 records the fulfillment, saying,
23 He who hates Me hates My Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. 25 But they have done this in order that the word may be fulfilled that is written in their Law, “They hated Me without a cause.”
Psalm 69:21 says,
21 They also gave me gall [rosh, “poppies,” i.e., opium] for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
Matthew 27:34 records the fulfillment, saying,
34 they gave Him wine to drink mingled with gall; and after tasting it, He was unwilling to drink.
Psalm 69:25 prophesies of Judas, saying,
25 May their camp be desolate; may none dwell in their tents.
In Acts 1:16-20 Peter applied this to Judas, combining it with Psalm 109:8, “His office let another man take.”
Hence, there is no question that Psalm 69:9 also prophesied of Christ,
9 For zeal [kana, or Cana] for Thy house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach Thee have fallen on me [David/Christ].
John tells us that the disciples understood that this prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus cast the money changers from the temple. The rest of the prophecy in verse 9 above tells us that the priests were reproaching God Himself and that they took it out on Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus was the scapegoat for their hostility toward God.
This incident is part of the apostle’s commentary on the first sign, the wedding at Cana. Hence, John intended to make the connection between the Hebrew word cana (“zeal”) and “Cana of Galilee.” In doing so, he lets us know that changing 153 gallons of water into wine was a prophetic picture of cleansing our own personal “temples.”
We are being changed from water to wine, as it were. Our natural bodies are about three-fourths water, but we are to become filled with the new wine of the Holy Spirit. Christ is the one who drives from our hearts the love of money that desecrates our temples. Paul tells us later that “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Tim. 6:10, KJV). It is illustrated by Israel’s worship of the golden calf in Exodus 32:4.
Spiritually speaking, this is what the priests were doing in Jesus’ day, when He drove out the money changers. Their love of money had turned the house of God into a marketplace and a bank.
Cana is also the root word for a Canaanite, which, in Hebrew, is kena’aniy.
A Canaanite is a “merchant,” or merchant-banker. It also carries the meaning of being humble or lowly, perhaps derived from the “lowlands” of the land of Canaan. Being “lowly” can have a positive or negative connotation. Humility is a virtue but being a low-life is not. Hence, in Scripture one ascends to Jerusalem but descends to Canaanite territory. This is seen also in the 15 “Songs of Degrees,” or, better, “Songs of Ascents” (Psalm 120-134). These were customarily sung as people ascended to Jerusalem to attend the feasts.
Merchants of Canaan were known to be unscrupulous in their business dealings, so I think it is fair to say that the prophetic significance of a Canaanite is to be a lawless merchant-banker whose heart and lifestyle is far from godly.
Job 41:6 uses the term kena’aniy in this way, saying,
6 Will traders bargain over him? Will they divide him among the merchants [kena’aniy, “Canaanites”]?
No doubt this is also the meaning of Zech. 14:21, “And there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts in that day.” The context of this prophecy pictures a holy Jerusalem, which is actually a reference to the New Jerusalem, the “holy city” in Rev. 21:2.
When Jesus cleansed the temple in the earthly Jerusalem, He drove out the Canaanites, or merchant-bankers, from the temple as a type and shadow of both the New Jerusalem as a whole and its individual citizens, whose temples are being cleansed.
The earthly city, which the prophets call “the bloody city” (Ezekiel 22:2; 24:6, 9; Nahum 3:1) is fleshly, carnal, or “natural” and soulish. As such it is associated with the first Adam, who was both “earthy” and “natural” (1 Cor. 15:46, 47). Adam’s name has to do with “blood” (Hebrew, dam). Hence, the prophets identify the earthly Jerusalem as “the bloody city,” or the city of “blood” (dam) to distinguish it from the spiritual, heavenly city. The earthly city is full of bloodshed (“Blood City”), while the heavenly city is the true City of Peace (“Jerusalem”).
Likewise, the “zeal” of a Canaanite is to cheat his neighbor in order to make as much profit as possible. The “zeal” of Christ is to drive out the love of money, the root of all lawlessness.
We also notice the connection between Cana and nearby Nazareth. Nazareth was carnally zealous, and Jesus passed them by, showing that He was not in agreement with their form of zeal. Instead, He performed this miracle at Cana to show us what true zeal is, and John then connected the miracle at Cana to the cleansing of the temple, where Jesus showed godly “zeal.”
Godly zeal puts the interests of God first; carnal zeal puts the interests of men first (such as narrow nationalism), while claiming to act in the name of God. Zeal is only godly when one knows the mind of God and is willing to act accordingly.
John 2:18-21 continues,
18 The Jews therefore answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, seeing that You do these things?” 19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews therefore said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body.
Here it becomes clear that the real temple to be cleansed was not the building in the earthly Jerusalem but the temple of one’s body (1 Cor. 3:16). The “Jews ask for signs,” Paul says in 1 Cor. 1:22, and so Jesus gave them a sign that they would not understand. Signs are good, as long as one’s heart is free of heart idols, but when men have heart problems, they will inevitably misunderstand or misinterpret the signs that they are given.
This temple sign has at least two fulfillments. The first and most obvious is that Jesus’ body was “destroyed” (by crucifixion), and that He was raised up on the third day. But we too are part of the body of Christ. Our bodies are individual temples of God indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Collectively, we are also living stones in a greater temple described in Eph. 2:21, 22.
This greater temple is what God has been building, for when He abandoned Solomon’s temple in Ezekiel 10:18 and 11:23, He never intended to return to that location or to a building made with wood and stone. Jer. 7:12, 13, 14 prophesies that the temple of Solomon was to be forsaken “as I did to Shiloh.”
When God abandoned Shiloh, Eli’s grandson Ichabod was born and his name meant “the glory has departed” (1 Sam. 4:21). His glory never returned to Shiloh; neither will it return to the earthly Jerusalem. He is now building and cleansing a new and greater spiritual temple made of living stones, no longer a “bloody city” patterned after the soulish man, Adam.
The Second Temple, which was built by Zerubbabel in 515 B.C. was dismantled stone by stone by Herod the Great and replaced by a larger temple. The project started in 20 or 19 B.C. and continued long after Herod’s death in January of 1 B.C., and it had only recently been completed when Jesus cleansed it. The apostle tells us that it took 46 years to build (19 B.C. to 28 A.D.?).
The Greek word for temple is naos, a word that appears 46 times in the New Testament. The phrase, “It took forty-six years to build this temple,” carries a numeric value of 3588 (78 x 46). The numerics built into the text itself give us God’s fingerprints and are major signs of inspiration throughout the entire word of God.
Since our purpose from the beginning has been to be built into the final temple of God, it is not surprising that the Hebrew word Adam has a numeric value of 46. The sin factor brought death, and God’s solution is resurrection. The number 46 is built upon the number 23, because 2 x 23 is 46. Twenty-three is the number of death and resurrection, so it is not surprising that Jesus would speak of His death and resurrection (23) in the context of the temple (46).
The number 46 is also the foundation of 276, which is 46 x 6. Six is the number of man, and 46 is about the temple.
We find in Acts 27:37 that there were 276 people in the ship that was wrecked while transporting Paul to Rome. This is a prophetic story showing how all flesh will be saved (Acts 27:44).
37 And all of us in the ship were two hundred and seventy-six persons.
44 And thus it happened that they all were brought safely to land [literally, “saved thoroughly”].
The numeric value of “all flesh” (Hebrew, kol basar) is 276 x 2. So Genesis 6:12 says,
12 And God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh [kol basar] had corrupted their way upon the earth.
In Luke 13:4, “all the men” (in Jerusalem) has a numeric value of 276 x 12.
Likewise, the Greek term for “of our flesh” in Heb. 12:9 (KJV) carries a numeric value of 276 x 6. In Rom. 8:5, “those who live according to the flesh” has a numeric value of 276 x 3.
The Jews said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple.” As I said earlier, this sentence carries a numeric value of 46 x 78, or 3588. But 3588 is also 276 x 13, which relates it to “all flesh” (276) and rebellion (13). Men spend their lifetimes building fleshly temples, but these must all be destroyed by death. Jesus prophesied not only of His own death and resurrection but of ours as well, in that our own rebellious flesh is crucified with Christ.
So Paul says in Rom. 8:35, 36,
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written, “For Thy sake we are being put to death all day long;’ we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
Our corrupted, fleshly temples are being destroyed. Indeed, we crucify the flesh, putting it to death, in order that we might be raised in newness of life. “For he who died has been justified from sin” (Rom. 6:7, The Emphatic Diaglott).
By tying the temple sign to the first main sign of turning water to wine, we learn that the water in the waterpots of Cana points to Adamic flesh, while the wine points to the New Creation Man in His post-resurrection and perfected state. The temple sign, then, explains the miracle at Cana, telling us the process and even the timing through which we are atomically changed from water to wine.
Christ’s “zeal” for the house of God, then, is His determination to cleanse the temples of all flesh. This prophecy, however, was not at all understood by the temple priests. They later used His words against Him at His trial before Caiaphas (Matt. 26:61).
Apparently, Jesus did not explain the temple sign to anyone at the time, because the disciples—John in particular—understood the meaning of this sign only later. Thus, he concludes in John 2:22,
22 When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had spoken.