*Scripture verses covered in this section's commentary are noted in italics

John 2:11-12 meaning

Verses covered in this passage:

  • John 2:11
  • John 2:12

John provides a brief commentary after the miracle. The wedding was Jesus’s first public sign, it showed His glory, and it caused His disciples to believe in Him.

There are no apparent parallel accounts of John 2:11-12 in the Gospels.

The wedding scene at Cana concludes with John’s brief commentary on the event: 

This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him. After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and they stayed there a few days (vs 11-12).

John says that this miracle was the first sign of Jesus’s ministry that manifested His glory and that, as a result of it, Jesus’s new disciples believed in Him (v11). The phrase This beginning of His signs is a perhaps another way John associates Jesus’s first miracle to Creation. The phrase evokes how Genesis and John describe God’s creation of the world—“In the beginning” (Genesis 1:1, John 1:1). 

To manifest something means to make it visible or apparent. When John says the miracle which Jesus performed at this wedding in Cana manifested His glory, he was expressing that it made Jesus’s glorious, divine nature visible and apparent to His disciples

When John writes His disciples believed in Him, John most likely means that His disciples’ faith in Jesus grew when they saw what He had done. It is unlikely that John means that this miracle was the moment those following Jesus first believed in Him. This is unlikely because they had already believed Jesus was the Messiah (John 1:43) and “the Son of God…King of Israel” (John 1:49). Therefore, when His disciples saw the sign at Cana, John seems to infer that the disciples believed in Him even more

Jesus desires His followers to grow in their faith. He intends for us to increase our trust in Him. 

That John calls Jesus’s miracles signs, which he does consistently throughout his Gospel, is particularly significant. John calls Jesus’s miracles signs to emphasize that the miraculous events are not just important for themselves, that is, only for the singular occasion in history that they happened. By calling them signs, John also emphasizes that miracles are not just random shows of force or party tricks. 

Instead, miracles reveal something true for all people about the nature and identity of Jesus, even if they did not witness the particular event. As the author of Hebrews says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). 

Of what, then, is this miracle a sign? For one thing, this miracle may show how Jesus fulfills Old Testament messianic expectations. The Old Testament prophets foresaw that the Messiah’s rule would be a time when wine and other provisions were abundant (Isaiah 25:6, Jeremiah 31:12, Hosea 14:7, Amos 9:13-14). For the prophets, wine signified God’s blessing and favor. So, Jesus’s first sign does more than just help a young couple on their wedding day; it announces something bigger—the arrival of the Messiah who was to come. 

From another perspective, this miracle is also a sign of God’s heart toward people. In Chapter 1, John emphasizes the cosmic scale and importance of Jesus and His mission. Jesus is the “Word who was in the beginning with God” (John 1:2). He is also the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). Given these grand introductions, it might be surprising that in Chapter 2, John reports Jesus’s public ministry beginning inconspicuously in the backwater town of Cana. Moreover, though Jesus performs a miraculous sign, He does so with very few witnesses. From the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, the reader is thus made to wonder: “If Jesus is so important, why is He spending His time and efforts in seemingly unimportant places?” 

As Jesus would later say of Himself: “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” (Matthew 20:28). It is fitting then that the beginning of His signs is a discreet but meaningful act of service. 

The setting of Jesus’s first public sign reveals that there is no person or concern too small for God. In the wake of John 1, the reader might have expected Jesus to get right to work on the most dire problems facing the human race. A young couple’s catering crisis seems hardly to qualify. It is a problem that some might even be surprised to hear that God cares about. But what does it say about God if not even the wedding of a poor, young couple escapes His notice? How much more, then, do life and death situations matter to Him? 

With the first sign, Jesus gives a hint that He came to transform desperate situations into joyful endings, especially for those who can make no claim to deserve it. This hint is then paid off in full with the “last sign” —His death on the cross (John 19:30) and resurrection three days later. From this beginning to that end, the glory (v 11) that Christ reveals is that God stooped down to replace desperation, brokenness, and sin with lasting joy. 

Therefore, the glory to which John refers (first in verse 11, but many other times in his Gospel account) is not glory as the world understands it. Worldly glory implies that someone receives widespread recognition, adoration even, for an exceptional ability or achievement from men. And while the wedding at Cana certainly showcases Jesus’s unique divine capabilities, and impresses His disciples to believe in Him, it comes with relatively little acclaim or fanfare. 

This demonstrates that Jesus is glorified not by what He receives from men. But rather He is glorified by what His actions accomplish for others. Jesus gloried in pleasing God through serving men, not lording over them (Matthew 20:28). And He instructed His disciples to do the same (Matthew 20:26-27). The personal example of glory that Jesus gave throughout His ministry, beginning with this sign at Cana all the way through the washing of His disciples’ feet (John 13:3-17), was to glory in pleasing God through serving men. 

Indeed, Jesus continually refers to His impending atoning death on the cross as the hour in which He will be “glorified” (John 12:23). How could dying a torturous and humiliating criminal’s death possibly glorify someone? It is only possible if one understands glory from God’s perspective—obedience unto death and sacrificial service. The glory Jesus first manifested in Cana was using His divine power to serve. As in the miracle at Cana, Jesus was glorified in death because of what it accomplished on behalf of others, not because of any benefit He received. 

Following His miracle at this wedding, John mentions that Jesus traveled with His family and disciples to the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee—to the town of Capernaum.

After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and they stayed there a few days (v 12).

Capernaum is located approximately 20 miles northeast of Cana and it is in the same district of Galilee. Capernaum will soon become the place where Jesus will establish His ministry’s headquarters. The reason John says He went down to Capernaum is to signify that Jesus was descending in elevation as He went. The town of Cana is nestled in the hills of Galilee; Capernaum is located lower down along the shore of a big lake.

John also tells us who went with Him from the wedding in Cana to Capernaum:

  • His mother, Mary, who was something of a catalyst in Jesus’s first miracle.
  • His brothers. Jesus had half-brothers who were born to Mary and Jesus’s adoptive father, Joseph. Apparently, Jesus’s brothers did not believe that Jesus was the Christ at this point (John 7:5). Jesus’s brothers, James and Jude, will later believe and write the New Testament epistles: “James” and “Jude.”
  • His disciples, this presumably includes the disciples mentioned in John 1—Andrew, Philip, Nathanael, the unnamed disciple (John 1:40) and possibly Simon Peter. John’s expression may have included others. Jesus’s disciples—Andrew, Simon Peter, James and John were all fishermen who lived in or near Capernaum (Matthew 4:18-21, Mark 1:21-29). 

John concludes this transition between his account of Jesus’s first sign at the wedding in Cana and his account of Jesus’s clearing of the Temple during Passover (John 2:13-23), by commenting that they stayed there a few days

Biblical Text

11 This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him. 12 After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and they stayed there a few days.

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