Two Feasts

John chapter 2 describes two feasts, a wedding feast at Cana and a Passover feast at Jerusalem. The first was a local event and the second was a national one. The presence of the Lord Jesus proved crucial at both feasts and made them memorable. At the wedding He intervened quietly and averted a crisis. At the Passover He intervened boldly and caused a crisis. His action at the wedding prevented shame and confusion. His action at the Passover caused shame and confusion. At the wedding He was motivated by compassion for the families. At the Passover He was motivated by zeal for His Father. First He responded to human need, then He reacted against human greed. His action at the wedding caused gratitude and contentment. His action at the Passover caused hostility and resentment. He bestowed blessing at lowly Cana, and meted out judgement at exalted Jerusalem.

The Wedding Feast

Why did the almighty Son of God take time, so early in His public ministry, to attend a village wedding? In today’s world this would not have been a society wedding with national media coverage! The happy couple and their families are unnamed and unknown. Had He not more pressing matters to attend to? We conclude that He was there to place His seal of approval on marriage as the foundation of family life; indeed, He had ordained it from the beginning. Those who invited Him would be so glad afterwards that they had done so. They did not realize how desperately He would be needed! Nor do we, in advance of the next crisis. We will be wise to invite Him into all our affairs and into every department of our lives.

When Mary knew that the wine had failed, she referred the problem to the Lord in words which Prof. Hallesby, in his great book Prayer, calls a model prayer - model, because she simply told Him of the need and did not proceed to make suggestions as to how He should deal with it. He does not need our advice as to how best to solve our problems. Nor was Mary discouraged by an apparently discouraging answer, v. 4. She reveals outstanding insight here. She sensed that (i) He would do something; (ii) He would involve the servants; and (iii) He would give them a very unusual instruction, for which she prepared them with words of timeless wisdom, ‘Whatsoever he saith unto you, do if, v. 5.

Events vindicated Mary’s judgement, for when the servants obeyed the Lord’s unorthodox instruction, the problem was solved. The psalmist refers to wine as that which ‘maketh glad the heart of man’, 104. 15, but if the source of earthly joy ebbs away only the Lord Jesus can meet the need. In R.V.G. Tasker’s fine commentary on John’s gospel he writes (without approval) that ‘some critics have contrasted this ‘luxury’ miracle with the Lord’s merciful acts of healing. Was it really necessary?’ So much for the impertinence of unenlightened learning! By this sign the Lord indicated that His ministry and sacrifice would replace the water of outward cleansing by the wine of inward peace and joy.

The Passover Feast

The Lord cleansed the temple twice, once at the beginning of His public ministry and once at the end, John 2. 13-16; Luke 19. 45-48; Matt. 21. 12, 13; Mark 11. 15-18. On the first occasion He rebuked the traders for making His Father’s house ‘a house of merchandise’, and on the second, for making it a ‘den of thieves’. Clearly during the three years separating the two events, things had deteriorated badly. The temple was now more like a den than a house, and the traders were more like thieves than merchants.

It is sometimes implied that in cleansing the temple, the Lord acted in uncontrolled fury. That idea is false and blasphemous. But He is capable of righteous anger, see Mark 3. 4, 5; 5. 40; 10. 14. He was no detached observer of human conduct, disinterested and aloof, making cool assessments without getting personally involved. He was outraged by the sacrilegious conduct of the traders. He did not begin by appealing to their consciences. He made no attempt to persuade them to abandon their misconduct. Nor did He start by lodging a formal complaint with the Sanhedrin. Instead He made a whip of short lengths of rope and proceeded to drive out the livestock and their owners. He overturned the tables of the money changers. He insisted that those selling doves should remove them. He acted alone; the disciples were probably huddled together and watching, fearful for the consequences of what seemed such uncharacteristic behaviour by their Master! He strode through the temple courts as One Who owned them. He behaved as one having a perfect right to do what He was doing. He sought no permission and He offered no apology. He did not keep looking over His shoulder as though expecting to be arrested at any moment. The narrative is very terse, and it must have taken considerable time to clear the temple. Whilst the Jews asked Him for a sign they never tried to hinder Him. That seemed out of the question. The explanation lies in His words in verse 16, ‘make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise’. He was in His Father’s house. He had unique rights there and would tolerate no misconduct there.

Let us conclude on a practical note. The temple of God today takes two forms, i.e. the local church, 1 Cor. 3. 16 and the believer’s body, 1 Cor. 6. 19. We need wisdom, that we might exclude from both any activities or interests which might invite the Lord’s censure or incur His discipline.


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