Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | March 17, 2008

What is an interesting difference between the events at Cana and at Jerusalem? (Lesson 6: Question 3 Answer)

3. What is an interesting difference between the events at Cana and at Jerusalem?

In the next several questions we will be considering different issues related to these verses.  In this question we want to consider the differences between the responses received in Cana (John 2:1-11) and here in the following verses:

18So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

Here in these verses we are in the midst of a scene characterized by confrontation, as our Lord had just cleansed the temple (John 2:13-17) from being profaned by the “practical ingenuity” of the people.  It is highly unlikely that anyone within the audience was happy about this intense and passionate action by our Lord.  After the last money changer station was overturned and after the last remnants of the market products were driven out of the temple, the Jews spoke up demanding an explanation for our Lord’s action.  Their response is reminiscent of the inquisitors at the Jordan River when the Jews and Priest’s questioned John the Baptist about his credentials.   This is not the first time this group has asked questions like this nor will it be the last as we continue in the subsequent sections of the fourth Gospel (John 6:30-34).    Essentially, whenever the question is raised it is a demand to demonstrate that the one being questioned has the God-given authority to perform the actions in question.  Although, our Lord’s cleansing of the temple was a just and right action to preserve the sanctity of His Father’s house, the crowd rightly interprets the action as being done by one with authority to do so.  As discussed in previous sections, the proper way to validate these authoritative credentials was through the performance of  miracles, signs and wonders.

In the midst of a tense situation, the religious leaders within the temple are directly challenging the authority of our Lord demanding that a sign be given to justify His actions.  Jesus answers this challenge with a truly shocking statement that must have increased the intensity during this situation. In verse 19 the tension within the scene was raised when Jesus’ response was heard within the walls of the temple they presumed He was threatening to destroy.  Certainly, those who heard Jesus’ answer would have subscribed its contents as an extremely outlandish statement.  This is evident by the response recorded in verse 20, which we almost hear through the words on the page a tone of contempt and disdain for our Lord’s response.  The statement must have been taken as really ridiculous, especially due to the fact that they thought He was referring to the physical temple structure they were standing within.  It is probable that more dialogue was exchanged in this scene, however we have no record of it and the apostle wants us to focus on this statement of our Lord.

In verses 21-22 the apostle provides an interpretation of Jesus’ statement in verse 19 and clarifies that He was not speaking of the physical temple structure, but His own bodily resurrection.  As a result, we are not left with the un-interpreted words the audience that day were left with and can understand that our Lord provided a prophetic utterance that day to His adversaries.  Thus, the sign the Jews were seeking that day to justify the authority of our Lord was actually provided some time later in their lives.  It was provided in accordance with the prophetic utterance made that day to assure the children of Israel that Jesus was an authorized agent with the credentials necessary to perform the action that He did (Deuteronomy 18:21-22).

An interesting observation about this play on words is found when the original Greek version is examined.  There are two different words used in the New Testament that can be rendered temple in English ναὸς and ἱερον.  When the apostle is referring to the physical temple structure in verse 14 he uses τῷ ἱερῷ̔ερον in the dative case) and in verse 15 he uses τοῦ ἱεροῦ̔ερον in the genitive case).116 However, when the apostle is referring to the temple as Jesus’ body in verse 19 he uses τὸν ναὸν (ναὸς in the accusative case), in verse 20 he uses ὁ ναὸς (nominative case) and in verse 21 he uses τοῦ ναοῦ (ναὸς in the genitive case).  The term ναὸς used to refer to Jesus’ body in the discourse is also the same word the apostle Paul uses when employing the term temple in a spiritual sense in 1 Corinthians 6:19 and Ephesians 2:21. 117 Thus, in addition to his explanation of the meaning, a differentiation can be seen in the original language.  Unfortunately, in English this differentiation is not seen with only one word to translate the two different Greek terms.

It is also very interesting to consider that within the space of chapter two we possess two different scenes that produce different conclusions.  Although, in both instances Jesus is prompted to perform a miraculous sign, He does not fulfill this request directly in both instances.  The obvious answer is that our Lord exercises some measure of discrimination as He encounters different groups of people.  During the wedding at Cana, He was amongst friends and neighbors, and the extraordinary deed was performed with some unanimity at the time.  Doubtless, word would have spread after the event occurred, however the entire wedding did not at the time know what was transpiring.  On the other hand, within the temple a disruptive scene instigated by our Lord occurred to direct all subsequent attention upon Him.  Thus, when the Jews demanded the sign to substantiate the action all attention was fixed on our Lord.

Suppose that Jesus would have actually performed the sign with all attention fixed on Him within Jerusalem.  The likely outcome of that act would have played right into the false religious motives of the time.  Hence, before His time had come to accomplish the mission agreed to in eternity amongst the Triune parties, the theologians of glory would have immediately sought to crown Him king and overthrow the Romans (John 6:15).   Moreover, when Jesus did go on to perform the miracles in Jerusalem during that time of Passover the product was a disingenuous belief (John 2:23-25).  Thus, in order avoid an emotionally filled religious revival based on false assumptions and erroneous presuppositions our Lord refrains, deferring the performance of the sign until a more appropriate time.  Moreover, the sign He points them to, in this prophetic utterance, is the true reason for the Messiah’s first advent.

In this first advent Jesus did not come in glory or exaltation, but in humility and shame.  This low condition of emptying Himself unto death was to characterize His mission until after the resurrection being pointed to here in the utterance (See Westminster Larger Catechism Q and A 46-50).  Thus, He was unable to give these people what they wanted at the time, which was power, glory and dominance over foreign rulers.  These pursuits were sought primarily through a nostalgic desire to restore the promised blessings prescribed in the Mosaic covenant (Deuteronomy 28:1-14).  It was their hope and desire that the promised Messiah would usher in this age restoring the dominance realized under the reign of David and Solomon.  Of course, in order to hasten the advent of Messiah it was believed that their scrupulous observance of the Mosaic Law would induce this golden age.  Thus, whatever it took to get people to do their duty of observing Moses dictated the means they employed (i.e. “practical ingenuity”).  Essentially, their innate tendency to endeavor towards self-salvation is reminiscent of tower builders at Babel who incessantly corrupt true religion.  Furthermore, the intentions to reinstate the Mosaic covenant were in vain, since they had broken this covenant (Jeremiah 3 and Jeremiah 11) and were exiled from the land of promise.

Nonetheless, there was another covenant that was not conditioned upon the behavior of the people, however made by a promise (Galatians 4:21-28).  This covenant would be fulfilled by a promised seed (Genesis 3:15), a servant of the Lord who would fulfill with all righteousness the conditions (Isaiah 42) while also suffering the sanctions for His people (Isaiah 53).  This fulfillment would come by the way of the cross and humiliation before exaltation.  Jesus (Matthew 1:21) was this promised seed who came to fulfill the mission that was appointed to Him from all eternity (Ephesians 1:3-14).  Here in this passage he points those who demanded a sign to the only sign they would receive at this time, which was the sign of Jonah (Matthew 12:38-42).  For what they wanted, glory, could not be given until the cross had been endured.  Although, being a king He was not prepared to assume His throne until His initial priestly assignment was complete as is evident in this prophecy to the people.  Upon faithful obedience of the law as the perfect and unblemished Lamb of God, the covenant Savior, endured the curses of the covenant on behalf of His redeemed people.  The severity of these curses incurred, in their final culmination, the death of our Savior.  Hence, the “temple” was destroyed in He who was the embodiment of it, then buried in a tomb.  Then after three days this “temple” was raised again in the resurrection of our Lord who was vindicated as the perfect Lamb of God, the faithful servant of the Lord and the righteous branch (Jeremiah 33:14-16).  Subsequent to this event He was to be exalted, entitled to ascend to the right hand of the Father in glory where He would break the scroll (Revelation 5), rule and intercede for His people.      

The sanctions of the covenant curse made with Adam brought death to all of Adam’s progeny.  This curse is common to all and will continue throughout this age until the age to come is upon us.  Here in our text Jesus is foretelling His victory over this curse in His resurrection from the dead.  Death has been conquered by Jesus Christ who arose on the third day for our justification (Romans 4:25).  We are no longer in Adam when through faith we place our trust in this good news.  By faith we are united to Christ our Saviors’ death, which endured the curse on our behalf (Romans 6:3).  Moreover, by faith we are united to Christ our Saviors’ life, which He lived fulfilling all of the demands of the law on our behalf (Galatians 2:20-21 and Colossians 3:3).  As stated above, in our next several sections we will embark on a fuller examination of our Saviors mediatorial work as we consider His three-fold office as Prophet, Priest and King.

116 Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature/ revised and edited by FW Danker (Chicago:  The University Chicago Press) 470
117 Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature/ revised and edited by FW Danker (Chicago:  The University Chicago Press) 665-666



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