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John 2 (Amplified Bible):

1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.

2 Jesus also was invited with His disciples to the wedding.

I have been trying to discover why this reference to the third day may have been placed here in the text. Why do we need to know the day, and what day is it counting from, for what purpose, or for all the purposes?

This wedding, says John, came “on the third day.”

Third day? Third day of the ministry? Third day since what went on in the chapter before?

Or was it the third day of the week?

End of Chapter 1 (for context):

49 Nathanael answered, Teacher, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!

50 Jesus replied, Because I said to you, I saw you beneath the fig tree, do you believe in and rely on and trust in Me? You shall see greater things than this!

51 Then He said to him, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you all, you shall see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man!

10 Answers 10

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Jn 1:43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”

44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida

Jn 2:1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.

2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.

On the third day after Jesus departed for Galilee there was a wedding in Cana, in Galilee. Jesus departed Bethsaida 2 days before the day of the wedding. The trip, 30-40 miles one way is possible in 2 days, but I also wonder if this is John telling us that Jesus was late to the feast.

  • that's interesting,...any findings about a possible spiritual or prophetic meaning about the third day? – Hello Mar 9 '15 at 16:04
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Has anyone noted that in Exodus 19...God comes down from the mountain and the people proclaim "We will do whatever the Lord says" on the third day

Mary on the third day asks Jesus to preform his first sign changing water to wine...but first she tells the servants to "do whatever he says" I think John wants us all to remember our covenant with God and Jesus our Lord and God once again makes His first public sign of just who he is..God ...as the disciples in the reading says did believe in Him>

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It was early in the third day of the week. In other words, Monday evening. Bear in mind that Jewish days began at twilight - not midnight as we understand it. So, the Sabbath always began twilight (6pm?) Friday to 6pm Saturday. So ...

  • 1st day = Sat/Sun
  • 2nd day = Sun/Mon
  • 3rd day = Mon/Tue

No, it was not the 3rd day of his ministry. It was the 5th day of his ministry, but the 3rd day of the Jewish week. We find this by going back to chapter 1:29 and follow the repeating phrase, "the next day ..."

As for the significance of this statement you are quite right that there is a prophetic meaning. However, we need to identify the year as 27AD before its meaning becomes recognisable. Then we have to find the lunar phases of those days in that particular year.

When we examine the lunar phases in the year 27AD, the declaration of John the Baptist, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29) was said over Christ on the 1st day of Nisan. This was the very 1st day of the year in the original Hebrew calendar (Exodus 12:2.17) and it also marks the beginning of Messiahs ministry.

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The two days journey is symbolic of the two days mentioned in Hosea:

After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. (6:2) [ESV]

That is, they are really 2,000 years in which the light of Messiah equips us to attend the wedding feast of The Lamb in the third day (the Sabbath millennium). One needs to bear in mind that a day with YaHUaH is as 1000 years and 1000 years as day (Psalm 90:4, 2 Peter 3:8).

Exodus 19:15 is also relevant symbolically in this regard as it provides instructions on how to prepare against the third day"

And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.”

The true Messiah of Israel descends twice as Bridegroom. First on Mt. Horeb in the third millennium when His marriage proposal is accepted but soon broken, causing Him to have to descend as the Suffering Servant in order to restore His wayward bride by dying and rising again with a different identity to avoid breaking the commandment concerning not remarrying divorced wives. So His first descent in the flesh is not as Bridegroom and no marriage proposal is brought. Just the message of repentance and the gospel of good news. Next time He descends it will be as Bridegroom again and Elijah and Moses will His two witnesses that prepare us against the third day again. Just as in Exodus 19:15. As in the beginning will be the end. God is declaring the end from out of the beginning.

Thanks for the interesting question.

  • Interesting observations. I added the verses you referenced. If you do not want these, you can rollback the edit. – Revelation Lad Sep 1 '18 at 15:33
  • @Peter Coch - welcome to BHSX. Thanks for your contribution. Remember that this site is about Biblical Hermeneutics so the answer must be inherent in the text. Your answers are highly theological but there is no connection between John 2 and anything you quote. – user25930 Sep 12 '18 at 21:00
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John is purposeful to include a chronological element to the beginning of the events of the Gospel by making three consecutive "the next day" (τῇ ἐπαύριον) statements, which has the effect of marking the first day in the sequence:

[The first day]: John the Baptist gives his testimony to priests and Levites who from Jerusalem.

"The next day" (1:29) [1st or 2nd day]: John the Baptist sees Jesus and identifies Him as "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" and "the Son of God."

"The next day" (1:35) [2nd or 3rd day]: John the Baptist sees Jesus a second time and calls Him "the Lamb of God." Two of John's disciples (Andrew and another) leave John to follow Jesus.

"The next day" (1:43) [3rd or 4th day]: Jesus decided to go to Galilee.

John's discussion with those sent from Jerusalem took place the day before the first "next day." So Jesus decided to go to Galilee on either the 3rd or the 4th day of this sequence, depending on which day is taken as the point at which to begin the count. Therefore, "the third day" which begins chapter 2 cannot be counted from the beginning of the Gospel. This leads some commentators to believe the third day is counted from the day referenced in 1:43.

There is a practical consideration which must be considered: the wine had run out. If the events are meant to take place during a week long celebration, it is unlikely the wine would be out by the first or even second day. Therefore a timeline connected to any of the previous "next days" of Chapter 1, is unlikely, instead, the "third day" should more likely be seen in reference to the third day of the week of festivities. This too is unlikely since the events seem to be described as taking place on the banquet of first day. (The comments made by the master of the ceremony make more sense if he was tasting wine during the first meal, not after several days of drinking.)

Because there is a specific mention of time to begin the Gospel, John's "on the third day there was a wedding..." should be considered as intentionally vague, or purposely ambiguous in order to cause the reader to question what is meant. This leads Craig R. Koester to see the symbolic nature of the reference:

The pregnant reference to Jesus' "hour," however, demands that the sign be understood in light of Jesus' passion (John 2:4). Cana was the first (archē) of his signs, and the cross marked the culmination (telos) of his works. The presence of Jesus' mother at Cana and the cross - and only in those two places in John's Gospel (2:1-12, 19:25-27) - reinforces the idea that the glory manifested in the wine and in Jesus' death must be understood together....Perhaps even the comment that the wedding took place "on the third day" may point in this direction, since the three days from his crucifixion to resurrection are mentioned in the next scene as well (2:1, 19-20). Jesus' messiahship would lead to Golgotha and his glorification would be accomplished through crucifixion and resurrection. The divine favor revealed by his gift of wine was a prelude to the gift of his own life.1

The emphasis is not when to start counting, but on "the third day." Therefore, after third day, the disciples believed in him (2:11); after which they were together for a few more days (2:12). In this case, John has presented the first sign in a way following the sequence of the glorification of Jesus:

Cana - Wedding                     Jerusalem - Passover
[The first day]                    Crucifixion
The third day - water to wine      Resurrection
  + Disciples believed in Him        + Disciples received the breath of Him
Stayed a "few days" in Capernaum   Met disciples by the Sea of Tiberias (John 21)  

The ambiguity of the date of the miracle in Cana, establishes the unambiguous point in time at which the first disciples first believed in Him (on the third day). This creates two symbolic parallels. One is that of the first disciples first receiving the Holy Spirit (three days after His crucifixion). Another parallel connects the events of chapter 1 which are spread over three days, during which the first disciples wanted to see where Jesus was staying before following Him to Cana to attend the wedding (to which they also were invited).

Adding "on the third day" brings the entire sequence from John the Baptist's pronouncement into the symbolic nature of the sign at Cana:

First "three" days:
Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (1:29)
This is the Son of God (1:34)
Behold the Lamb of God (1:36) - Rabbi, where are you staying? (1:38)
So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day (1:39)
Follow Jesus to the wedding (1:43) to which they were invited (2:2)

On the third day:
On the third drink the best wine at the wedding banquet and believe in Him (2:10)


  1. Craig R. Koester, Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel, Meaning, Mystery, Community, Fortress Press, 1995, pp. 80-81
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Interesting. Was pondering that this am and did Google search. Your post came up first. If you look at the context, the third thing is actually the fourth day. Starting in verse 19, the Pharisees couldn't confront John. Then it says the next day. So according to this the next day was the first day. What happened on the first day is the world became aware of who Jesus is. He removes sin. He immerses people with his presence. And on the basis of these two things is called the son of God. So our first day is when we become aware of our sin and God's answer to it which is Jesus. The second day is a day of seeking, having questions, having disputations- all while we seek to understand and follow this person. And in this day, they're a little encounters with him. But the third day is when it all makes sense and we see what we were told. The light goes on inside of us. The second day ( which is not a literal day but season) is so critical. Unless there is a seeking after hearing, there can be no third day. This is the true pattern disciple making.

  • Case in point. The next chapter is about Nicodemus. It is really His 2nd day. He had heard and now is inquiring. His 3rd day is recorded in John 19. – Tom andeeson Jun 11 '16 at 11:55
  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics SE, thanks for contributing! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other SEs. Please also note, that if you wish to add to your answer, you can click the "edit" button located above the comments ^^^ – James Shewey Jun 18 '16 at 4:28
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This is what, 'on the third day', stands for in John 2:1. The daily account in John actually begins when John the Baptist declares, "Behold the Lamb of God" (John 1:29), upon his seeing Jesus return after 40 days in the wilderness. Prior to this are 40 days during which Jesus was in the wilderness, which began immediately after Jesus was baptized. When Jesus emerged from the water, there was heard, a voice from heaven saying: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Mat_3:17). This was Jesus being chosen by His Father to be the Passover Lamb of God. This must always be done on the tenth day of the month Abib, except for the special case where the second month Passover is required. So when John the Baptist saw Jesus in John 1:29, it was day 41 counting from his baptism. Then, "Again the next day ....", was day 42, (John 1:35). "The day following ....", was day 43, (John 1:43). "And the third day ....", was day 45, (John 2:1). The third day is day 45 counting from Jesus' baptism, and this is now after both Passover days for that year are past. That is all the third day is, until 'The marriage' story is understood as a parable, and combined with some prophesies.

  • John did NOT say "passive lamb" but "Lamb of God". The reasoning is thus flawed. – user25930 Jul 6 '19 at 23:43
  • John did say 'the' Lamb of God, which is singular. This unique Lamb of God must then be the very special Passover sacrifice that God has chosen to die for all of our sins. – nwg Jul 21 '19 at 3:04
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While this may not completely solve the problem of finding the meaning behind John including this detail, there is an interesting cultural piece to it.

John is telling the reader what day of the week it is - "the third day" - which is a Tuesday. Jews didn't have names for the days of the week, but rather they were numbered, just like at creation.

Tuesday is a traditional day of the week for Jewish weddings. Why on the third day? Because on the third day of creation there is a double blessing of "it was good"

The first blessing...

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. Gen. 1:9-10

the second blessing...

The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day Gen. 1: 12-13

Obviously, the first thing to note is that Jesus is at a wedding. So this fits the cultural setting and the tradition of weddings on the third day. (Last I was in Jerusalem, we were walking through the Jewish quarter of the Old City on a Tuesday and we passed a number of wedding celebrations. So the tradition is still happening today).

So it's possible that the reason John includes the reference to the "third day" is that it is an invocation of the double blessing from God for the "first of the signs" that his glory will be revealed.

What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him. John 2:11

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Beginning in John 1:1 we learn that Jesus is the divine Lord who created by his word in Genesis 1:1ff. Now that he has come there is a new creation week commenced for the new creation of God. His miraculous conception in Luke 1:35 also parallels the first creation as the Spirit was over the waters. Because of his successful work as Redeemer, anyone in Christ is a part of that new creation (2Cor.5:17 & 4:6) Now as he is unveiled as Messiah to Israel, there is another week, one for creation and now one for redemption. There are day references to this new creation week in 1:29 (indicating the second day, since the first day was when Jesus was baptized and thus anointed with the Spirit for his official messianic task), 1:35, 1:39-41 (with v.41 "first" indicating what Andrew did the next day after staying over with Jesus), 1:43, and 2:1. The "third day" reference then, by the Jewish inclusive reckoning, so that the 8th day means a full week, marks the conclusion of this new week of God's work to make a new creation. Significantly, it is celebrated by a wedding and feast that would have brought shame were Jesus not there. Ultimately, at the conclusion of history, we look forward to the wedding feast of the Lamb when Jesus returns, a day that could only have meant shame and condemnation for us without Christ's saving work. And so we should believe, love, and worship the God-man Jesus Christ. Without him the wine always runs out.

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John starts his Gospel with similar language of Genesis. Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and so on. When he says on the 3rd day it is after 4 days so it is actually the 7th day. What happens on the 7th day in Genesis? The woman leads Adam into sin and loss of salvation. What happens on the 7th day of Johns Gospel? The woman leads Jesus to his first miracle to begin his ministry to lead us to salvation. Mary is the new Eve.

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    Welcome to the BH site, Liz. Very interesting insight. Can you please edit your answer and add the biblical verses. Perhaps you can put them into a table so as to make more obivous the paralel between Genesis 1 and John 1. Thank you – Constantin Jinga Dec 22 '18 at 9:37
  • Nothing in Genesis suggests the fall happened on the seventh day. – curiousdannii Dec 28 '19 at 13:25

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