John's Gospel

The Way It Happened

John 2:1, The Eschatological Feast Theme in John’s Gospel

And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there.

//John’s Gospel initiates Jesus’ ministry with a wedding in Cana. It is a marriage feast, where Jesus provides an excessive amount of wine, turning water into wine for the celebration. This is, of course, meant to remind us of the eschatological expectation of the final age, when God would provide food and wine in abundance.

With this wedding story, John sets the stage for his Gospel, which will repeat the feast theme over and over. John details the events of Sukkoth, Hanukkah, and an unnamed festival (probably meant to be recognized as Pentecost). Three different times John provides a Passover setting, leading chronological readers to assume Jesus’ ministry lasted about three years. Curiously, however, many of the events in Jesus’ life seem to happen twice, at different festivals. This is particularly true of the third Passover and the story of Sukkoth. It’s as if John tells the same story twice, with a different festival backdrop, as he leads up to the crucifixion.

This is not an unprecedented writing technique. The author of Revelation (the same as the Gospel?) does the same thing, often backing up to tell a story again from a different perspective. While the Gospel focuses on the joyous occasions of the spring festivals, Revelation points to the more solemn occasions of the fall festivals, the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement.

One can hardly probe the meaning of John’s writings without a study of Jewish celebrations. I try to bring the topic to life in my two books about Revelation and John’s Gospel.

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