Making wine and cleaning churches
August 31, 2014
(John 2:1-25) — There is a term used in literature that describes two ideas being placed side-by-side. The word is juxtaposed or juxtaposition. The idea is there is purpose in why the ideas, actions or events were placed where they were. The challenge for the reader is to try to understand the reason. Now, you may be wondering where this is going and how it fits with John 2:1-25. Well, let’s see what we can discover. Take a moment and read the second chapter of the Gospel of John; then let’s explore a lesson entitled “Making Wine and Cleaning Churches.”
As the reader moves from John’s proclamation of Jesus as the Word who became flesh, the next chapters tell of a series of events that took place in the early years of Jesus’ ministry. Oddly, in a short three-year ministry that was full of life-challenging words and life-changing acts, Jesus first miracle is not exactly one that might change the fabric of an individual’s life or community’s future. As a matter of fact, Jesus first miracle came at the request of His mother while she, Jesus, and his disciples were among the many guests attending a wedding in Cana of Galilee.
As you read in John 2:1-11, Mary was concerned about an embarrassing moment in the life of the wedding couple’s host. In the midst of a celebration, celebrations that often lasted several days, the host found his wine supply running low. We cannot begin to imagine the trepidation this reality brought to the host’s heart. Our modern mindset of “well, they’ll eat as much as we have and when it’s gone it’s gone” was not their mindset. It would be the height of social faux pas to run out of anything during the wedding celebration.
Perhaps Mary came to her son because she knew His heart. She simply reminds Him of the problem to which He replies, “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” (v.4). Jesus was not upset nor was He getting after His mom for putting Him on the spot. No, but rather He was saying that it was not time to be thrust into the limelight. Because of this, Jesus quietly helps the host out of his awkward and embarrassing situation. Jesus does it so quietly that only a few knew that a miracle had actually taken place. John concludes the story by reminding the reader that Jesus did this for the benefit of watering the sprouting faith of His disciples (v.11).
The next story finds Jesus taking a trip to the Temple in Jerusalem to another celebration. This will be His first of three trips to take part in three consecutive Passover celebrations. Once again we see Jesus at in a significant Jewish event. The wedding in Cana in Galilee would remind God’s people of the relationship not only between the new husband and wife but also served as a reminder that God was the husband of Israel. Passover was reminder of another expression of God’s love, providential care and protection of His people as the remembered how He to led them out of Egyptian slavery.
As Jesus made His way into the Temple that early spring day, He was angered by the blatant disregard for the sacredness of the Temple. Also, Jesus must have been both sad and mad about activity taking place in the outer court. This area of the Temple was the one place, in the entire thirteen-acre Temple complex, that Gentiles converts (non-Jewish people) could go into to worship God. It had been turned into a typical Middle East bizarre. Here in this holy place merchants were hocking their wares of sacrificial animals. If that was not enough, to buy the animals one had to use Temple currency, the shekel. Currency from around that part of the world was exchanged at a less than fair rate (v.14).
To these acts Jesus became angry enough to make a whip (v.15) and drive the merchants out of business – quite literally driving them. In the midst of it all, the Jewish leaders confronted Jesus and demanded a miracle to prove He had God’s approval to behave in such a way as to disrupt their work (v.18). To this demand Jesus answered in a riddle about destroying the temple and rebuilding it in three days (v.19). They didn’t get. They had no idea that Jesus was not speaking of the Temple they were standing but the Temple they were talking to. Jesus spoke the event of His death and resurrection (vv.21-22).
Now, juxtaposition. Why did the Holy Spirit lead John to place the stories of making wine and cleaning a church in the same chapter? Why, as the word suggests, did he put them side-by-side? Could it be that God was helping the Christian to see just how important it is to reach out to others in need and doing so without the need of accolades? Then might God, as well, be reminding believers that it is also paramount in the life of a Christian that we aid in leading others to Jesus? In the Temple, during that fateful Passover celebration, some of God’s people were keeping others from truly coming into a potentially life-changing experience with God. We, as modern believers, must take great care that we do not do the same by the way we act before a searching and empty world. Could it be in these two stories in John 2, Jesus is teaching us how we are to be and what is really important?
Now, just an aside. There may be some who are pondering the always present question, “Did Jesus make wine or just really good grape juice?” My answer, as a teetotaler by choice and conviction, “That’s not the point. The real issue is whether or not am I willing to be like Jesus and meet a desperate need in the life of another?”