Wednesday, January 10, 2007

First Pass at This Weekend's Bible Lesson: John 2:1-11

[Most weeks, I present as many updates on my reflections and study of the Biblical texts on which our weekend worship celebrations will be built as I can. The purpose is to help the people of the congregation I serve as pastor, Friendship Lutheran Church of Amelia, Ohio, get ready for worship. Hopefully, it's helpful to others as well, since our Bible lesson is usually one from the weekly lectionary, variations of which are used in most of the churches of the world.]

The Bible Lesson: John 2:1-11
1On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

General Comments
1. This text, appointed as the Gospel Lesson for the Second Sunday after Epiphany for all three cycles of the lectionary, is to me, one of the most mysterious passages in the Bible. I liken it to a huge Victorian mansion, filled with all sorts of passageways, some of them visible and vexing, others to which we may be oblivious in spite of countless readings, and probably others still that pass us by unnoticed. First-time readers of the Bible and scholars who've devoted their lives to studying John are likely to greet much of what they read here with more questions than answers.

2. That's why it's good to begin with a fundamental insight into the Gospel of John, one that comes from my one-time professor and mentor, Pastor Bruce Schein: In any given portion of John, you're likely to encounter four to six themes running at the same time. I have an acute awareness of that whenever I read this account of the first miraculous sign of Jesus' public ministry.

3. Our lesson constitutes the opening salvo in a section that most scholars say runs from John 2:1 to 5:47. They come as early and emphatic affirmations of what Jesus promises to Nathanael, amazed that Jesus knew him, in John 1:50:
“Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.”
This section is full of "greater things."

4. The New Interpeter's Bible and other commentators point out that this lesson has a lot in common with John's account of the feeding of the 5000, found in John 6. In both places, we find Jesus bringing extravagant, overabundant blessings. Outsized extravagance, with the wedding party getting more wine than it ever could use, seems to fulfill, from the very beginning of Jesus' ministry, what John said that those who believed in Him had found:
From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. (John 1:16)
That passage might be passage might be paraphrased:
From His extravagant Deity, God has granted us gift after gift!
[More tomorrow, I hope, when we can explore this big mansion together, verse-by-verse.]

1 comment:

Vera Cruz said...

Dear Mark,
On 10 January 2007 your piece carried an icon of the Wedding at Cana in Galilee. I need to use such an icon as an illustration in a forthcoming book.Is it copyright? Where does it come from? Can you help please. This is a bit urgent as well.
Fr Lawrence Cross