There is so much great material in these three chapters, but we are limited on what we can cover in this lesson.
We start off with one of the most famous miracles performed by the Master. It’s the turning of water into wine.
John 2:1-2 “And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples to the marriage.” Some including, LDS apostles Orson Hyde, Parley P. Pratt, Joseph F. Smith, James E. Talmage have taught that this was Jesus’ own marriage. Several factors combine to suggest that this would NOT be the case. For one thing, in that culture, the marriage would be held at the groom’s home town. If it were Jesus’ wedding, it would have been held in Nazareth, not Cana. Another thing is that Jesus and His disciples were invited to attend. This would be a bit strange if Jesus were the groom. It says, He left the wedding afterwards with His mother and the disciples, not with a wife. And if it were Christ’s wedding, one would expect the Gospel writers to mention it.
It does appear from the next verses that Mary, Jesus’ Mother, had a role in helping to host the guests at this wedding celebration. Perhaps she was a good friend of the family. Whatever the case, she knew who her Son was, and when they ran out of wine she requested His help. By-the-way, this was the last recorded words of Jesus’ mother, Mary in the Bible.
John 2:6-8 There were six water pots of stone with a total capacity of 100 to a, 150 gallons of water which Jesus turned into fermented wine. It was no small miracle! The LDS want to believe that the word “wine” refers to non-alcoholic grape juice because God would not want people to be intoxicated. But Jesus, himself drank wine during his ministry and had even been accused as being a winebibber (Matthew 11:19). John 2:11 “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.” This was a faith promoting miracle for His disciples.
Matthew, Mark and Luke don’t include this story in their accounts. Why did John? John wanted to show that Jesus was equating the red wine with his blood through this metaphor. The message is – if you really want to get cleansed, it’s not about water but about the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses us from sin.
Though it was the “beginning of miracles” recorded of his mortal ministry, it is certainly not the Lord’s first miracle – the first you recall, was when he created the heaven and earth.
Now we enter into the beginning of the Savior’s three-year public mortal mission. John 2:13 “And the Jews’ Passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” Three years from now, at this time of Passover in Jerusalem, the “Lamb of God,” will present Himself to be sacrificed that we might be saved.
But, here in John 2:14-23 we read about the first cleansing of the Temple. He is about to do some “spring cleaning.” He will cleanse the temple again in three years, during the last week of His life.
Modern-day LDS temples are vastly different from the Biblical temple. Not one LDS temple ceremony was practiced in the ancient temple in Jerusalem. Solomon’s temple was built only for animal sacrifice as stated in 2 Chronicles 2:6 “But who is able to build Him a temple, since heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him? Who am I then, that I should build him a temple, EXCEPT to burn sacrifice before HIm.” Temple work was for the living – not the dead. Everything that happened in that temple was public knowledge. Every ritual was spelled out in great detail in Exodus and Leviticus. Nothing was secret. God appointed only one temple on earth at a time to reflect that there is only one True God.
As the Savior approached the temple, He became indignant at what he saw and heard. The temple was his Father’s house, and he did not want to see it desecrated by greedy merchandisers. They had turned the temple into a shopping mall. John 2:14 “And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:” It had become big business for merchants to sell sacrificial animals and to exchange foreign money for temple coin. John 2:15-16 “And when he had made a scourge (a whip) of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s houses an house of merchandise.”
The religious leaders demanded to know where Jesus got the authority to cleanse the temple. John 2:19 “Jesus answered and said unto them. Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up.” In other words, Jesus is telling them that He is the Messiah. That is where He gets His authority. Perhaps, physically pointing to Himself he says, when they kill Him, as prophesied, He will resurrect in three days. John 2:20-21 “Then said the Jews (who missed the point completely), Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he (Jesus) spake of the temple of his body.” When Jesus was actually resurrected, his disciples will remember back upon this prophecy.
The manual asks, “How can we preserve the sanctity of the temple and other holy places?” The New Testament is replete with references to us being a temple. Acts 17:24 “God who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 1 Corinthians 6:16-17; Ephesians 2:18-22; Hebrews 9:11, 24).” It’s because of these teachings from the Bible that Christians have never been a temple building people. The Spirit of God now dwells in all believers by and through faith in Jesus Christ.
Even though God has moved into our hearts, we can defile the temple again to the point that we evict him. He doesn’t want to leave. It’s not because we did a bad thing or had bad thoughts. What brought him in? Our faith on his Son. What would evict him? To renounce his Son. To say, I have no more faith, I don’t accept Jesus anymore as my savior. Our sins have been paid for. It’s our lack of faith that he can do nothing about. The glory of God, which had filled the holy tabernacle and temple, was no longer in those structures. That glory was in Jesus though veiled within his humanity.
Next, we find ourselves in John chapter 3, which has some very important and often misunderstood teachings.
John 3:1 “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:” Nicodemus is a good man and will later defend Jesus’ right to a fair trial (John 7:50-51). In about three years, he will help Joseph of Arimathea take Christ’s crucified body, prepare it for burial and gently place it in the tomb (John 19:38-42). He now sincerely seeks Jesus out to ask Him questions. John 3:2 “The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” John 3:3 “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Mormonism interprets this to mean that being born again is to be baptized and then to be directed by the Holy Ghost to become a new person through keeping all the commandments in order to enter, into the celestial kingdom.
But it does not mean baptism. Baptism is not even mentioned here. Water and flesh are our first birth into mortality. Spirit is Spirit. You must be born from above, born of the Spirit.
Nicodemus doesn’t understand the symbolism at first, so he asks a question, seeking clarification. John 3:4 “Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” This is where the LDS get their belief that baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost are Essential. John 3:5 “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. Jesus is referring not to literal water, but the need for spiritual cleansing (Ezekiel 36:24-27). It is highly possible and very likely in the LDS Church to be baptized and receive the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and STILL not be born again.
Born again means to be born from above. John 3:6-7 “That which is born of flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” So, born of the water is born of the flesh – physically through the mother’s water. The fleshly birth precedes the spiritual birth.
Nicodemus had physical life, but he did not have spiritual life. It is receiving eternal life and a new heart, which Jesus Christ came to give. John 3:8 “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and wither it goeth: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.” Wind and Spirit are the same words in the Greek. Both can be felt but not seen. Though not visible, their effect is undeniable.
Moving on… we come to perhaps the most famous and powerful single verse ever written. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The gift of eternal life is available to every person. All we have to do is believe in Jesus and accept it. The work for us was finished on the cross. We don’t have to earn it – it’s a free gift for us to receive.
In the next chapter, among other things, John gives us the touching account of the woman at the well. Jesus takes his apostles directly through Samaria. When they arrived at the village of Sychar or Sheccum, they stopped at Jacob’s well to rest in the heat of the day. In the meantime, the disciples went into the village to purchase food. A Samaritan woman approaches the well to draw water, when Jesus asks her to give Him a drink. She was taken back that Jesus, a Jew, would have any dealings with a Samaritan – let alone, a Samaritan woman. But Jesus was neither a racist nor a sexist. Watch, now, as the Savior gets her curiosity up. John 4:10 “Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.” The woman asked Jesus “where do you think you are going to get me some of Your so called “living water” from? What makes you think Your water is better than the Prophet Jacob’s?” She is thinking literal H2O. John 4:13-14 “Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” At this point Jesus reveals to the woman that He knows about all the husbands she’d had. This causes her to perceive that He was a prophet.
She now brings up the point that the Samaritans have their place of worship that’s in the mountains, and the Jews have the temple to worship in at Jerusalem. Then, Jesus makes a very important prophesy. John 4:21 “Jesus saith unto her, Woman believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem worship the Father.” When Jesus is crucified, the temple veil will be torn in two from top to bottom. There will no longer be a need for animal sacrifices in the temple and in 70 A.D. the Romans will destroy the temple. From that point forward each, and every believer in Jesus Christ becomes a temple where the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in their heart. It doesn’t matter where we worship Him. Worship is the enjoyment of our relationship with Christ wherever we are at any moment. God lives within each one of us. John 4:23 “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.”
The final verse we will discuss is John 4:24 “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and truth.” Because Greek has no indefinite articles such as “a,” King James translators decided to include one here. The LDS claim that this verse is not translated correctly. That’s because Joseph Smith taught in Doctrine and Covenants 130:22 that “the Father has a body of flesh and bones”. But, according to the King James Version of the Bible and even the Book of Mormon – God doesn’t not have a body – He is Spirit.
Well, this concludes our review of John 2, 3 and 4.