Signs in John's Gospel
Arlen L. Chitwood
The Wedding Festivities
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.
Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.
And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”. . .
Now there were set there six waterpots of stone . . .
Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.
And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it.
When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine . . .
You have kept the good wine until now!"
This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee . . . . (John 2:1-3, 6a, 7-9a, 10b, 11a).
Christ’s performance of a miraculous work at a wedding festival in Cana of Galilee forms the first of eight signs recorded in the gospel of John. These signs, both at the time they were performed (during Christ’s earthly ministry) and at the time they were recorded (years later), had to do with a singular purpose. These signs were originally performed and later recorded in order to bring about belief among those requiring a sign, among the Jewish people (1 Corinthians 1:22).
These signs were performed in connection with a message. And this message — introduced by the forerunner of the Messiah, John the Baptist — had to do with a call for national repentance, with a view to the kingdom. Then, when John had been imprisoned, Jesus took up the same message, later calling out twelve, then seventy, disciples to help carry this message to Israel:
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand! (cf. Matthew 3:1-3; 4:17, 23-25; 10:5-8; 15:24; Luke 10:1ff).
The kingdom of the heavens was “at hand [or, had ‘drawn near’]” at this time because the Messianic King was present, extending an offer of the kingdom to the Jewish people, with the establishment of the kingdom conditioned upon the nation’s repentance.
Thus, at the time these eight signs were performed they were directed to a particular people, the Jewish people; and they had to do with a proffered kingdom. And, as previously noted, the King Himself was present in Israel’s midst, calling for repentance and extending the offer of the kingdom.
And, when these same signs were recorded in the gospel of John at a later time, they were directed to the same people and had to do with exactly the same thing, though the King was no longer present.
These eight signs had been performed during the original offer of the kingdom, during a time when numerous other signs were being manifested; and these signs were recorded during the re-offer of the kingdom, during a time when numerous signs continued to be manifested (through the apostles, et al.).
This continuance of signs, of necessity, had to occur between 33 A.D. and about 62 A.D. (time covering the re-offer of the kingdom to Israel). And the recording of the eight previously manifested signs in John’s gospel would, of necessity as well, have had to occur before the latter date, before about 62 A.D. (ref. chapter 1 of this book).
But, with Messiah no longer present, the people to whom the message continued to be proclaimed found themselves in the position seen in Acts 3:12-21 — awaiting the return of their Messiah before the kingdom could be established. And the call for national repentance — with the kingdom no longer proclaimed as being “at hand,” for Messiah was no longer present — is seen in keeping with Peter’s statements in the second chapter of Acts:
Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. . . .
Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,
and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before.” (Acts 2:38; 3:19, 20)
Thus, these signs — both at the time they were performed and at the time they were later recorded — had to do with and were directed to the Jewish people for exactly the same purpose, a purpose seen in John’s gospel at the conclusion of all eight signs:
. . . that you [the Jewish people, those requiring a sign] may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).
And “life,” resulting from belief, must be understood within context. These signs had to do with the Jewish people in relation to the kingdom. And “life” would have to be understood accordingly — life for the Jewish people in the Messianic Kingdom, whether in the original offer seen in the gospel accounts or in the re-offer seen in the book of Acts.
(For additional information relative to the preceding, see the author’s book, From Acts to the Epistles. Much of the material throughout the thirteen chapters of this book deals with this overall subject.)
On the Seventh Day
The first recorded sign in the gospel of John, stated to have been the beginning of signs in Christ’s previous earthly ministry (2:11), occurred after six days, on the seventh day (cf. 1:29, 35, 43; 2:1). And the seventh day, the seventh 1,000-year period, is exactly when the events to which this sign points will occur (ref. chapter 5 of this book).
This first sign is not about events occurring during a marriage per se but about events occurring during festivities following the marriage. This sign foreshadows both the nation’s restoration (a nation already God’s wife) and the wedding festivities that follow.
That to which the sign points will occur after Man’s Day has run its course, a day that will last 6,000 years; it will occur after God has completed His dealings with Israel during Man’s Day; it will occur not only after the present dispensation has run its course but also after the last seven years of the previous dispensation (Daniel’s unfulfilled Seventieth Week) have run their course, completing Man’s Day; and it will occur after Gentile world power has been put down and destroyed, in accord with Daniel 2:44, 45; 7:23-28; 8:23-25; 9:27; 11:36-45; Revelation 19:11-21.
The things that these marriage festivities foreshadow will occur after Israel has been brought to the place of repentance; they will occur during the Lord’s Day, at the very beginning of the Messianic Era; and they will mark the beginning point of Israel coming into a complete realization of the reason God called the nation into existence four millennia ago.
1) Two Wedding Festivals
Two separate wedding festivals will occur at this time. One will occur in heaven, having to do with Christ and His wife (Revelation 19:7-9); and the other will occur on earth, having to do with God and Israel (John 2:1ff). The former is the first thing seen occurring in the book of Revelation at the end of six days, on the seventh day; and the latter is the first thing seen occurring in the gospel of John at the end of six days, on the seventh day.
The wedding festivities seen in Revelation 19:7-9 will occur in heaven immediately preceding Christ’s return, and the wedding festivities foreshadowed by John 2:1ff will occur on earth shortly after Christ has returned. And the Tribulation will serve a dual purpose in the preceding respect.
2) Judgments During the Tribulation
The judgments seen within the seven-sealed scroll (Revelation 5ff) — judgments occurring during the Tribulation — have to do with the redemption of the inheritance, in the antitype of Boaz redeeming the inheritance at the gate of the city in Ruth chapter four. And, as in the type in the book of Ruth, the bride, previously singled out through events at the judgment seat (Ruth 3:6ff; Revelation 1-3), will become Christ’s wife through His subsequent redemption of the inheritance.
Then, with the marriage occurring in this manner, the very next thing that should naturally be seen in the book is exactly that which is seen — the festivities surrounding the marriage.
And the same judgments of the Tribulation, effecting the redemption of the inheritance and the marriage of the bride to Christ, will also serve to bring Israel to the place of repentance. The nation will be brought through such dire straits during this time that the Jewish people will be left without a place to turn other than to the God of their fathers.
This is the place to which God brought the Israelites in Egypt during Moses’ day, under the persecution of a past Assyrian (Exodus 3:1ff; cf. Isaiah 52:4). And, in complete keeping with later promises (Leviticus 26:40-42; 2 Chronicles 7:14 [God’s actions toward His people never change, in complete accord with His unchangeable, eternal Word]), God then sent a deliverer to His people.
Exactly as during the persecution under a past Assyrian in the type in Exodus, when the Israelites have been brought to the end of themselves and do that which is stated in the first part of Leviticus 26:40-42 or 2 Chronicles 7:14 (repent, confess their iniquity), God will then do exactly what He has stated in the latter part of these verses (forgive their sin, and heal their land). And, as in the type in Exodus, God will, at that time, send a Deliverer — the One greater than Moses — to bring that which He has promised to pass.
Through the judgments of the Tribulation, Israel will be brought to the place of repentance, allowing for cleaning of the nation’s harlotry and allowing for that foreshadowed by the first sign in the gospel of John — an event to occur following Israel’s cleansing, on the seventh day, during the seventh millennium, during the earth’s coming Sabbath. And, as the wedding festivities will occur in heaven immediately after the bride becomes Christ’s wife, the wedding festivities will also subsequently occur on earth immediately after Israel has been restored as the wife of Jehovah.
(For additional information concerning type-antitype teachings surrounding the seven-sealed scroll in Revelation 5, as it would relate to the Church, refer to the author’s book, Ruth, chapter 9, “Redemption of the Inheritance.”
For additional information concerning the judgments within the seven-sealed scroll resulting in Israel’s repentance and subsequent restoration, refer to the author’s book, The Time of Jacob’s Trouble.)
In Cana of Galilee
“Cana” is a name found in the gospel of John alone (2:1, 11; 4:46; 21:2), except for the probable reference to this village through the statement, “Simon the Canaanite” (Matthew 10:4; Mark 3:18).
(The use of “Canaanite” could refer to either a village in the land of Canaan or to the land itself (“Canaan” is an ancient name that covers all the land west of the Jordan, later called “Palestine” by the Romans [cf. Numbers 34:1-12; Joel 3:4]). But, since Simon is singled out as a “Canaanite” in both places among others from the land of Canaan, it would be far more likely that the reference would be to the village of Cana rather than to the land of Canaan.
Also, the only two places in the New Testament where the land of Canaan is specifically referenced [Acts 7:11; 13:19], a slightly different spelling of “Canaan” appears in the Greek text — Chanaan, as opposed to Kanaan, the root form from which the Greek word Kananites [“Canaanite”] is derived in Matthew 10:4 and Mark 3:18.)
The site of Cana of Galilee, however, is unknown today. Galilee formed the northern part of the land of Canaan, and two sites north of Nazareth have, at times, been regarded by archaeologists as the place where Cana existed 2,000 years ago. But all that can be known for sure about the location of Cana of Galilee at the time of Christ’s first coming is that this village would have been located in the proximity of Capernaum (John 2:12), which was on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee.
The meaning of the word “Cana” in the Hebrew text (kana [or qana]) has to do centrally with the thought of jealousy. And, since the wedding festivities in John chapter two foreshadow wedding festivities surrounding the restoration of Israel, such a meaning would be very fitting for the location of the festivities forming this first sign.
“Jealousy” has to do with exacting exclusive devotion, and in the case of “God and Israel,” it would have to do with God expecting/requiring devotion of this nature from His wife. Actions emanating from jealousy, in this respect, have to do with being watchful, being careful to guard one’s rights, with a rival’s influence in view.
The relationship existing between God and Israel in this respect, where the Hebrew word kana is used, can be seen in verses such as:
You shall not make for yourself a carved image — any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;
you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God . . . . (Deuteronomy 5:8, 9a)
You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are all around you
(for the LORD your God is a jealous God among you) . . . . (Deuteronomy 6:14, 15a)
Thus says the Lord God of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy.
I am exceedingly angry with the nations at ease; for I was a little angry, and they helped — but with evil intent. (Zechariah 1:14b, 15)
Thus says the Lord of hosts; “I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury.”
Thus says the LORD: “I will return to Zion, and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth, The Mountain of the LORD of hosts, The Holy Mountain.” (Zechariah 8:2, 3; cf. Isaiah 2:1-5)
God’s jealousy surrounding Israel has to do with any departure the nation might take from the proper Husband-wife relationship that the Husband Himself had established and set forth. And Israel, in her dispersion among the nations (having committed all types of departures — e.g., going after other gods, committing harlotry with the nations), has taken God’s jealousy, resulting in His fury, to a point where His wrath will be poured out without measure in order to effect repentance on the part of His adulterous wife.
This is the central thought behind the exhibition of God’s wrath during Daniel’s unfulfilled Seventieth Week. This wrath will fall centrally upon Israel, though the nations will feel this wrath as well. The nations will feel God’s wrath during this time, not only for reasons given in verses such as Genesis 12:3 and Zechariah 1:15 but because the Jewish people will be scattered among the nations, occupying the position seen in Revelation 17:1, 15 (existing as a people part and parcel with the nations of the earth).
God’s manifested wrath during this time will have to do with a jealous God being brought to a particular place, through His wife’s disobedience. And God will manifest His wrath as seen in Revelation chapters six through eighteen — a wrath previously revealed by prophet after prophet throughout the Old Testament.
And, through God’s sovereign control of all things, His wrath toward His adulterous wife is seen resulting in that for which this wrath will have been manifested.
Israel’s harlotry is seen reaching an apex during Daniel’s Seventieth Week. And at that time — resulting from God’s wrath, bringing the Jewish people to the end of themselves and to the place of repentance — the nation’s harlotry will be brought to an end. Only after Israel has repented can the events foreshadowed in John 2:1ff occur.
In this respect, it is very fitting that the first sign in John’s gospel occur in “Cana of Galilee.” This sign, through the location of the event, depicts the jealous nature of God toward Israel; and, as an ultimate outcome of God’s jealousy toward Israel, matters will be brought to pass exactly after the manner seen in the sign.
Water to Wine
The miraculous work surrounding the first sign in the gospel of John had to do not only with changing water to wine but with producing a particular type wine — undoubtedly the type wine seen in connection with God in Psalm 104:15, a “wine that makes glad the heart of man.” The steward of the feast referred to the wine that Christ had brought forth as “the good wine,” kept “until now” (a reference to this being the best wine at the feast, kept until last [2:10]).
And the imagery used — six waterpots of stone, filled to the brim, at a wedding festival in Cana of Galilee, on the seventh day — forms a complete and perfect picture of events about to occur surrounding God, His Son, and Israel.
First, the six waterpots of stone and their being filled to the brim point to things surrounding Israel’s coming restoration, with a view to that which follows. “Six” is man’s number, and “stone” points to the condition of the people’s hearts prior to the work of restoration, shown by the six waterpots being filled with water that was changed to wine. And being filled to the brim shows the completeness, the totality, of this work.
Note how Ezekiel stated the matter six centuries before events in John chapter two and over two and one-half millennia before that which the sign foreshadows is brought to pass:
For I will take you from among the nations [the Gentiles], gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land.
Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.
Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God. (Ezekiel 36:24-28; cf. Jeremiah 31:31-33; Ezekiel 16:8ff).
Then, carrying matters on into the wedding festivities, note a sequence of events alluded to at Christ’s first coming.
While partaking of the Passover meal with His disciples only hours before His crucifixion, Christ took the cup (containing wine), gave thanks, and then gave it to His disciples, saying,
. . . “Drink from it, all of you. [lit., ‘All of you drink out of it’ (ref. NASB)].
For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom.” (Matthew 26:27b-29).
The miraculous work in John chapter two had to do with changing water to wine. Aside from showing Israel’s coming restoration, why was this done?
One central answer is obvious. This was done to foreshadow the beginning of the fulfillment of Christ’s later statement in Matthew 26:29.
Exactly as Christ and His disciples had been called to a wedding festival on the seventh day in the sign, they will be called to a wedding festival on the seventh day yet future. And Christ, along with His disciples, will again drink of the fruit of the vine together. But this time it will be in the Father’s kingdom — exactly as the Son promised — at the marriage festivities surrounding the Father’s restored wife.
And, exactly as seen in John chapter two, the wine that Christ and His disciples will again drink together will not be just any wine. As described by the steward of the feast in Cana, it will be “the good wine,” which will have been kept “until now” (cf. Isaiah 25:6).
The wine that Christ made at the wedding festival in Cana was a type wine that man could not have produced at this time; nor could man produce this type of wine today. A wine of this nature though, in all likelihood, existed in the antediluvian world. That is the clear implication from Noah, following the Flood, planting a vineyard, making wine, and becoming drunk (Genesis 9:20, 21).
Atmospheric conditions preceding the Flood were entirely different than they were following the Flood. At the time of the Flood, the waters that God had placed above the atmosphere when he restored the earth (Genesis 1:6-8) were released and fell through “the windows [contextually, ‘flood gates’] of heaven” upon the earth, forming part of the waters that flooded the earth (Genesis 7:11ff).
This allowed the sun’s rays to shine directly through the atmosphere, resulting in accompanying changes, particularly meteorological changes. And these changes apparently resulted in something new and unknown to Noah when he made wine following the Flood — a wine that, rather than making “glad the heart of man,” instead, resulted in drunkenness.
The only type of wine that Christ would have produced in John 2:7ff — described in Psalm 104:15 — was apparently a type of wine that Noah thought that he was making following the Flood but could no longer produce. And drunkenness, associated with wine following the Flood, would, of necessity, have had to be something alien to the type of wine that Christ made at the marriage festivities in Cana.
And this foreshadows a condition that will exist during the Messianic Era when pre-Flood atmospheric conditions have been restored (cf. Acts 3:21). Not only will Christ bring forth this type of wine to drink with His disciples, but man, in that day, will apparently be able to plant a vineyard and produce a wine of this nature as well (cf. Isaiah 5:1ff; 65:21; Jeremiah 31:12; Joel 2:19; Zechariah 9:17).