THE LIFE OF CHRIST
In our last lesson, we looked at Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, and we closed with John’s testimony of Jesus. Today, we will begin with John 1:35.
John 1:35 Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. 36 And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, "Behold the Lamb of God!"
On the next day, John proclaimed Jesus as being the Lamb of God in front of his disciples. John wanted his disciples to understand that Jesus is the Son of God who takes away our sins.
John 1:37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. 38 Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, "What do you seek?" They said to Him, "Rabbi" (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), "where are You staying?" 39 He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour).
John understood that he must decrease, and Jesus must increase. So, he was happy when these two disciples decided to follow Jesus. After all, John had taught them everything he knew, and only Jesus would be able to enlighten them further. We can see their eagerness to learn from Jesus, the master teacher, which is why they called Him Rabbi or teacher.
Even though Jesus knew what these men wanted, many times He would ask questions like, what do you seek, to make them think and acknowledge why they are seeking after Jesus. They inquired where He lived, and He said, “Come see.” When they went to see where He lived, it gave them an opportunity to listen to Jesus and learn more about Him.
John 1:40 One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated, the Christ).
One of these disciples was Andrew. The Bible does not teach us much about Andrew, but he was good at bringing people to Jesus.
The other disciple is not named, but many believe it was John because he never names himself in this book. We can tell the writer is giving us an eyewitness account of these events. So, I believe John is this unnamed disciple, which means that Andrew and John were two of the first disciples of Jesus.
John 1:41 He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, "You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas" (which is translated, A Stone).
Andrew and John had been looking for the coming of the Messiah. They were both disciples of John the Baptist, and they believed John’s testimony that Jesus was the coming one as prophesied by the Scriptures. So, Andrew brought his brother Simeon to Christ, and Jesus gave him a new name that means stone or pebble, which comes from the Greek word “Petros.”
John 1:43 The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, "Follow Me." 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
The next day, Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He encountered Philip and asked him to follow Him. Philip was from the same city as Andrew and Peter. Bethsaida means “house of fish,” which was a good name because this was a fishing village located next to the Sea of Galilee. Again, we do not know much about Philip either. After Pentecost, we do not find him mentioned again. Tradition teaches that Philip died a martyr at Hierapolis.
John 1:45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote -- Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." 46 And Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."
Philip was doing his best to bring people to Christ as well. Nathanael was hesitant at first because the city of Nazareth was just a poor city off the beaten path. He could not see how anything good could come from that city. Philip did not argue with him or try to convince him by more words; he simply said, “Come see”. Sometimes the only way we can convince a person of something is to allow him to see it with his own eyes and experience it with all his senses.
John 1:47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!" 48 Nathanael said to Him, "How do You know me?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." 49 Nathanael answered and said to Him, "Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!"
Nathanael decided to go to Jesus to see if He was the Messiah. He got more than he bargained for because Jesus called him by name and called him an Israelite without deceit. Nathanael was puzzled at how Jesus could know his name. Then Jesus blew his mind when He told him He saw him sitting under a fig tree. It was one thing to know his name, but to know he was sitting under a fig tree earlier was beyond comprehension. Jesus’ miraculous knowledge left no doubt in Philip’s mind that Jesus was the Messiah the prophets had talked about, which is why he proclaimed Him as the Son of God and the King of Israel.
It is believed that Nathanael is the same person as Bartholomew. John never mentions Bartholomew, and the other three Gospels never mention Nathanael. These differences are not uncommon in the Bible because one writer will use one name, and another writer will use a different name. For instance, the Gospel of John is the only one that teaches that Peter was called Cephas (Jn. 1:42).
John 1:50 Jesus answered and said to him, "Because I said to you, 'I saw you under the fig tree,' do you believe? You will see greater things than these." 51 And He said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."
Jesus was telling Nathanael that His being able to see him under the fig tree will not compare to the things that he will see Jesus do later. For instance, in chapter 2, Jesus is going to do His first miracle, which will set the stage for more miracles and signs that would prove that Jesus is the Son of God.
Next, Jesus said: “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man." The term, “most assuredly” or “verily verily” is unique to the Gospel of John, and it is used exclusively by Jesus. He used this word twice, which can carry the meaning of “amen amen”. He said this to emphasize the words that followed, but what did Jesus mean when he said: “hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."
I wish I could give you a definite answer, but I cannot. However, I can offer some possibilities. First, we do not know for sure if Jesus was talking about something literal or spiritual. If He is talking about something literal His disciples would see, then perhaps it describes the event when Jesus was taken up into heaven (Acts 1). Others have suggested it might refer to Jesus’ second coming when heaven will be opened and every eye will see Him.
Second, when we examine this as a spiritual event, it could be an antitype of Jacob’s vision (Gen. 28:12). Jesus would be the ladder that takes care of the gap between God and man. So, this statement could be talking about Jesus’ work on the earth, which also included His death, burial and resurrection.
John 2:1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.
“On the third day” refers to the 3rd day after Jesus met Nathaniel. Seven days have passed since John 1:19. Only the Gospel of John mentions this place called Cana. The traditional site of Cana is nine miles north of Nazareth. Even though Jesus had just begun His public ministry, He and His disciples took the time to be guests at this wedding. Some have speculated that these were friends or relatives of Mary. However, it also possible they were friends of Nathaniel because this was his hometown (Jn. 21:2). Historians teach that all the guests of a wedding usually dressed up in special garments. Jesus confirms this tradition in the parable about the wedding feast (Mt. 22).
John 2:3 And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine." 4 Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come."
To run out of wine would have been an embarrassing moment for this family and especially for the host of the wedding. It was the host’s job to make sure everything was taken care of, and that there was plenty of wine and food. Mary was concerned when the wine ran out, so she told Jesus about it knowing He would be able to help. Since Mary was concerned about this, it gives us another hint that this family was her friend or relative. It is believed that Mary’s husband was dead, and she was used to relying on Jesus. We need to remember that Mary has not seen Jesus perform a miracle yet, but she knows who He is. So, we should not assume that Mary thought Jesus was going to fix this problem by a miracle.
When Jesus responds to her as “woman,” some have thought Jesus was being rude to His mother. However, this was a common expression that they used, which was not rude at all (Jn. 19:26). Others view Jesus’ answer as a mild rebuke. When Jesus said, “My hour has not yet come,” there are two possibilities of what He meant. First, He could be saying, it is not time for me to work a miracle right now to fix this problem. Second, He could be referring to His death in the sense that when He works His first miracle, it would set into motion the events that would eventually lead to His death on the cross. The expression “My hour has not yet come,” is used to describe His death in many other passages (John 7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1; 17:1).
John 2:5 His mother said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it." 6 Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. 7 Jesus said to them, "Fill the waterpots with water." And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And He said to them, "Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast." And they took it.
Mary had complete confidence in Jesus’ ability to fix this problem with the wine. These water pots varied in size because they were made by hand. This is why it says they would hold 20 to 30 gallons a piece. Next, Jesus has them fill these water pots to the brim. Notice, He did not touch the water pots, and by having them filled to the brim, it would make it impossible to pour something in them. This was done to show that a real miracle was taking place. Then the servants took some of this liquid from the water pot and gave it to the master of the feast.
John 2:9 When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. 10 And he said to him, "Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!" 11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.
The master of the feast would taste the new wine before it was served to the guests. He did this to make sure the wine tasted good. When He tasted this water that was turned to wine, He was impressed with the quality of its taste. We can imagine how shocked these servants were who saw this miracle take place and then saw how much the master of the feast liked the wine. He calls for the bridegroom to find out why he has provided the best wine towards the end of the wedding feast. The custom was to bring out the best wine in the beginning and then the inferior wine after everyone had already had their fill. Of course the bridegroom would have been speechless because he knew he had not provided this wine. This first miracle was just the beginning of miracles that Jesus would perform that would reveal His glory as the Son of God. This miracle also caused His disciples to believe in Him.
We cannot leave this section of Scripture without discussing the question, did Jesus turn the water into fermented wine? The obvious answer is no, but those who want to find justification for social drinking will say, “Yes He did.” There was fermented wine available during that time period, but when people drank the fermented wine, they rarely drank it as it was. Plato said, “Wine was always drunk diluted, and to drink it unmixed was looked on as barbarism” (Living Soberly, Righteously And Godly p. 20). Other sources suggest that they would mix six parts water to one part wine. It was not uncommon for people to mix their wine with water or milk.
In the current English dictionaries the word “wine” is usually defined as fermented juice. However, if we look in older dictionaries, they will also show that it can mean unfermented juice as well. In the Bible, the word “wine” can mean fermented, which can clearly be seen in the following verses:
Genesis 9:20 And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. 21 Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. 22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father's nakedness. 24 So Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him. 25 Then he said: "Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants He shall be to his brethren." 26 And he said: "Blessed be the LORD, The God of Shem, And may Canaan be his servant.
Genesis 19:30 Then Lot went up out of Zoar and dwelt in the mountains, and his two daughters were with him; for he was afraid to dwell in Zoar. And he and his two daughters dwelt in a cave. 31 Now the firstborn said to the younger, "Our father is old, and there is no man on the earth to come in to us as is the custom of all the earth. 32 "Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve the lineage of our father." 33 So they made their father drink wine that night. And the firstborn went in and lay with her father, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose. 34 It happened on the next day that the firstborn said to the younger, "Indeed I lay with my father last night; let us make him drink wine tonight also, and you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve the lineage of our father." 35 Then they made their father drink wine that night also. And the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose. 36 Thus both the daughters of Lot were with child by their father.
These are clear examples of fermented wine being used, but we also have clear examples of unfermented wine as can be seen in the following verses:
Isaiah 16:10 Gladness is taken away, And joy from the plentiful field; In the vineyards there will be no singing, Nor will there be shouting; No treaders will tread out wine in the presses; I have made their shouting cease.
Isaiah 65:8 Thus says the LORD: "As the new wine is found in the cluster, And one says, 'Do not destroy it, For a blessing is in it,' So will I do for My servants' sake, That I may not destroy them all.
Joel 2:24 The threshing floors shall be full of wheat, And the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil.
We have to consider the context to decide if the wine is fermented or unfermented.
Those who argue this was fermented wine at the wedding, suggest the ruler of the feast was saying the tradition was to get the people drunk on the most intoxicating wine first. Then the water downed wine should be brought out because the guest will be too drunk to notice. However, that is not what is meant by the phrase “well drunk”. It simply means the guests were full of the good wine, so it is acceptable to bring out the inferior. Now, if we say that these guests were already drunk, and that Jesus made the strongest wine yet; then we have Jesus providing a way for these people to become more drunk with the 120 to 180 gallons of wine He made.
When you think about this, it becomes obvious that Jesus did not make fermented wine that would cause these people to become more drunk. The reason we know this is because there are many Scriptures that warn against the use of strong drink (Prov. 20:1, 21:17, 23:21, 31-35; 1 Cor. 6:10; Eph. 5:18). These few verses are enough to show that Jesus would not have made fermented wine. However, I want to make one last point that will prove this beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Everyone agrees that Jesus was a man without sin (Heb. 4:15). If Jesus turned the water into fermented wine that would make people drunk, then He would have been guilty of sin.
Habakkuk 2:15 “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbor, Pressing him to your bottle, Even to make him drunk, That you may look on his nakedness!
So, when the master of the feast said it was the best wine, he did not mean the most intoxicating, he meant it was the best tasting. The first juice that comes out the grapes is the sweetest and best tasting, which is what Jesus had created with His miracle.
Others have suggested the first century people did not have a way of preserving the grape juice without it fermenting. However, this is not true. There were at least three different ways they could do this.
The first method was to boil the grapes down to a thick mixture called defrutum. They would use this to put on their bread and they would add water to it for a drink.
The second method was to use wool or a similar material to filter the particles including the yeast from the grape juice (Isa. 25:6). This would prevent it from fermenting. Pliny said, “For all the sick, the wine is most useful when its forces have been broken by the strainer.” Pliny teaches us that they used this filtered juice for those who were sick, which means that Paul was most likely recommending unfermented wine for Timothy’s sickness (1 Tim. 5:23).
The third method was to put the wine in a sealed container and put into a pond or a well which would keep it from fermenting. The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary describes it this way, “If you wish to have grape juice all year, put grape juice in an amphora and seal the cork with pith; sink it in a fish pond. After 30 days, take it out. It will be grape juice for a whole year.”
All this evidence proves that they were able to preserve their grape juice in the first century. I have also shown from the Scriptures that Jesus did not create fermented wine with His miracle.
John 2:12 After this He went down to Capernaum, He, His mother, His brothers, and His disciples; and they did not stay there many days.
This is the first time the Gospel of John mentions Jesus’ brothers. We see that all of them went to Capernaum. Capernaum was an important city during the first century. It was located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus lived in Capernaum to fulfill Scripture (Mt. 4:13-16). Much of Jesus’ ministry occurred in and around this city.
This is not a complete list of what Jesus did in this area, but we can see that Jesus was very active in this area. One would think the people there would believe in Him after hearing Him speak and seeing all that He did, but this was not the case. Notice what Jesus says about Capernaum.
Matthew 11:23 "And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 "But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you." (also Luke 10:15)
It is so sad that these people saw all that Jesus did and yet they did not believe. We know how wicked Sodom was and how God destroyed them. Jesus is saying that Capernaum’s judgment will be harsher than theirs on the Day of Judgment. Later in history, Capernaum was destroyed. Just , archeologist found and confirmed the remains of this city.
This city teaches us some things about evangelism. Sometimes, we get frustrated because people will not look at the Scriptures for what they say because they are only interested in what they feel or think. We have just learned about how Jesus spent most of His ministry in and around Capernaum. Even though He was God in the flesh and worked many signs and miracles, the people still did not believe. So, if Jesus had trouble opening the eyes of the people with all that He did, then we need to realize that we are going to have trouble opening the eyes of people as well. So, we should never give up. Instead, we should rejoice knowing that we are making God happy even if no one listens.
I hope you will join us in our next lesson, as we will continue our series of the Life of Christ starting in verse 13. I hope you will glean as much as you can from these lessons.