Friday, January 12, 2007

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

[Here is the first pass and an explanation of what these passes are all about. Here is the second pass.]

[Verse-by-Verse Comments, continued]
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.
1. These are uncommonly large jars, even for use by a wealthy family for a wedding feast. The point is that this is one enormous miracle Jesus is about to perform! (John 1:16)

2. Stone jars were deemed purer than earthen jars and therefore. useful for religious ritual.

3. It's a misreading of this passage to say that Jesus is repudiating Judaism in this miracle, employing jars made for use in Jewish ritual to enact it. In fact, John portrays subtly what Luke portrays explicitly throughout his Gospel: Jesus and His ministry represent the fulfillment of the promise of Judaism.

4. Whether in His mother's words to the servants or in the servants' responsiveness to Jesus' orders, we see here--as we do throughout John's Gospel--a Savior in command. Given John's connection of Jesus to the I AM (Yahweh) God of the Old Testament, it's no stretch to say that in this we see echoes of the first Genesis creation account, where God says it and it's so.

5. When the miracle itself happens isn't reported. This reminds me of Luke's account of Jesus' baptism, where we're not told about the actual moment when water was poured on Jesus' head. The Gospel writers are uninterested in the mechanics of divine-human interchanges, only that they happen.

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.”
1. Good wine was associated with the end times--the eschatology--when the Messiah sets all things right. (Amos 9:13; Joel 3:18) Jesus' miracle then, is more than the first sign of His Deity, it's also the indication that the end times, His Messiahship, has arrived.

2. The New Interpreter's Bible points out that the question of where the wine came from is a form of an important question in John's Gospel, the question of where Jesus is from. (John 4:11; 6:5) Knowing the answer to where the wine has come from "is a step toward the knowledge of where Jesus Himself comes from." (John 7:27-28; 8:14; 9:29-30)

3. Interpretations vary as to whether this story is meant to be seen sacramentally, about Holy Baptism (water) as the start of life with Christ and Holy Communion (bread and wine) as its continuation or sustenance or fulfillment. Traditionally, this account has been seen as the first bracket of a narrative inclusio that concludes with Jesus' crucifixion, when His side was pierced and water and blood flowed from the wound.

11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
1. The signs are never meant to point to themselves. Jesus didn't perform party tricks to wow people. The miracle at Cana pointed to His Deity, to His Messiahship and His ushering in of the eschatological age, and His capacity to bless abundantly. That's why the disciples believed.

2. Notice that we have any indication that, at least initially, anyone other than the disciples believed in Jesus. Because we're given no information on the mechanics of this miracle, we're left as we always are when it comes to deciding about God's revelation of Himself, to ponder if this is a blessing from God or sheer, strange happenstance. Faith is never forced on us nor does God try to wow us into belief. Because the disciples didn't actually see the miracle happen, their faith too is like the faith Jesus said would characterize the generations who came after His resurrection:
“Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:29)

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