On the third day… (John 2:1)
Have you ever noticed that detail in John’s Gospel? It’s curious to me because of what comes before.
In John 1:19-28, John the Baptist reveals to priests and Levites sent by the Pharisees in Jerusalem, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”
“The next day” John sees Jesus coming toward him and proclaims, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (1:29-34)
“The next day” two of John’s disciples begin following Jesus (1:35-42).
“The next day” Jesus decides to go to Galilee (1:43-51).
And how does John 2 begin? “On the third day…”
Is John simply documenting for us what happened day-by-day from the start of Jesus’ ministry? Does he make an irrelevant, coincidental shift in language from “the next day,” “the next day,” “the next day,” to “the third day”? Perhaps. Or is there something more, especially in light of how his Gospel began?
“In the beginning” (John 1:1). That’s how Genesis 1:1 begins.
“God said,” Genesis 1:3 continues. John 1:1-3 reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
What did God say in Genesis 1:3? “Let there be light,” and there was light. “And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness” (Gen 1:4). How does John go on to describe “the Word”? “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).
On the second day of Genesis 1, God made the expanse and separated the waters from the waters. And on the third day?
God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day. (Gen 1:9-13)
Where was Jesus “on the third day” in John’s Gospel?
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” (2:1-5)
Well what did she expect him to do? What could anybody do? There was wine, now there wasn’t. And what did this have to do with Jesus, just a guest at the wedding?
Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” (John 2:6-10)
And what does John want us to see, believe, and understand?
This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. (2:11)
Glory manifested. Power revealed. Transcendence made evident. “Who then is this?” his disciples will repeatedly ask. Who is able to turn water into wine?
John has already introduced us in the prologue of his Gospel. The One who was “in the beginning.” The Word through whom all things were made. The true light. The gatherer of the waters and sculptor of dry land. Turning water into wine is no challenge for the One who made the vegetation, plants, and fruit trees to sprout from nothing in the first place. He is the God of the third day, and every day, forevermore.
So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you will raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When 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. (John 2:18-22)