Lord of All

Keeping it light today, we’ll get more heavy into this later on, but we are going to dive deep into those waters Jesus walked on so long ago.

The very next night after the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus is doing another of his great miracles.  He’s fed the masses, escaped those same masses who wanted to make him king by force, sent his disciples across the Sea on a boat, and gone up the mountain and prayed by himself.  And now his disciples are in trouble, out on the sea, and here comes Jesus, walking on water to come to them.

This is not Jesus doing tricks.  It’s not even primarily a miracle, although it’s obviously miraculous.  No, it’s a sign.  That’s what John wants you to know, he’s been telling us repeatedly.  He never uses the word miracle, he calls these signs.   But what does this sign point to?   There are only  seven signs in John’s gospel, which is very few.  Matthew, Mark and Luke have dozens, but John only has seven.  And what does this sign of Jesus walking on the water in the middle of the dark and stormy night point us to?

In many different ways, it’s pointing to this, and we will work it out, but it’s pointing to this – Jesus is Lord.

Jesus walks to the disciples in the middle of their storm, he walks to us in the middle of our storms, and he is Lord of all, even the winds and the waves and the sea.   Think about it.
 
“When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.”  John‬ ‭6:16-21‬ ‭ESV‬‬.  
 

 

John Lewis
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The Horses of History

The Horses of History
And now to finish out what I have to say (finally) about Jesus feeding the multitudes…
 
First…the paragraph I finished with last time.

Jesus says we don’t have to stay down here in the finite sphere worried and fighting.  We can trust in God and connect with the beauty of the infinite.  This is the life where trust replaces fear and faith replaces force.  This is the life that the sign of the feeding of the five thousand points us to.  It’s the life that we want to live.  It’s the life of peace.  But it’s challenging to enter into.  You can do it, but the fear of scarcity, the paradigm of insufficiency, the drive for economic self preservation is the greatest hindrance to entering into the Kingdom of God.

The people that have the hardest time connecting with that connecting point between the infinite heaven and our finite creation are not the poor down here, but the rich.   The rich that have few more of those grains in the hourglass.   I mean, the rich have twelve grains of sand, and after all, the poor only have one.  But, it is just twelve grains… Jesus says it’s hard for the rich to understand that there is the infinite provision of God…”How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”  ‭‭Luke‬ ‭18:24‬ ‭ESV‬‬, because they are so locked into their paradigm of scarcity and insufficiency.

We are dominated by our paradigm of scarcity, and we fear there will never be enough.  So we are committed to maintaining economic self preservation by force, and this is the way of Cain.  The force maintaining our economic self preservation is where we place our faith, and it’s idolatrous.  I’ll say it again.  The force maintaining our economic self preservation is where we place our faith, and it’s idolatrous…

What happens is, when we operate within our paradigm of scarcity and we put our faith in force to forcibly preserve ours, this creates competition.  Competition leads to conflict.   Conflict leads to conquest.  Conquest leads to resentment because people tend not to like to be conquered (go figure).  Resentment leads to retaliation and rebellion, and that leads to war.  And the whole thing becomes one big self-fulfilling prophecy that there is not enough because we squander it fighting one another…

Because we are dominated by our paradigm of scarcity, it leads to competition.  Competition leads to conflict, conflict leads to conquest, and people don’t like to be conquered and this leads to resentment, and then rebellion, and then retaliation and war, which leads to the self-fulfilling prophecy of scarcity and lack, also known as the haves and the have-nots.   Now what do we have?  Maybe you can recognize the four horseman of the apocalypse

The white horse of conquest.  Followed by the red horse of war.  Followed by the black horse of scarcity (or famine).  Followed by the pale horse of death.  People ask “Do you think those horses are about to ride?”  They’ve been galloping across human history several times a century since history began!!!!   And Jesus wants to SAVE us from the stupid cycle of the stupid four horseman!   He wants to save us from this cycle where we have conquest, we conquer, but people don’t like to be conquered.  So as soon as they get a little power and some kind of leader they retaliate, and that leads to WAR, which is the worst squandering of human resources, and it turns into that self-fulfilling prophecy of Look there’s not enough!  

Yeah, because you spent it all killing each other.  Of course there’s not enough now.  And in the end it’s always that pale horse that rides across history.  Jesus says, “Let’s do something else, because this isn’t working!   I’ve come to save you.”  Jesus came to save us from the stupid cycle of conquest, war, famine, and death.  Conquest, war, famine, and death. Conquest, war, famine, and death.   That’s human history.

The miracle of the the loaves and fishes is a sign pointing us to Jesus in a new way, but do we have eyes to see it, do we have faith to believe it?   Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.   We call him Lord Jesus Christ.   Christ means Messiah, Messiah means King.  Christ is King.  Jesus is the King.  Yet they come to make him king, and he runs off to hide.  What’s happening here?  The key word here is force.  Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force…the crowd wants to take Jesus by force to make him their forceful king to lead their forces.  This is exactly what Jesus will not do.  Jesus will not ride the white horse of forceful conquest, because that leads to the red horse of war, that leads to the black horse of famine, and that leads to the pale horse of death, and that’s what Jesus came to SAVE us from, not ride.
 
The Kingdom of Christ is without force.  It’s persuaded by love, spirit, witness, reason, rhetoric, and if need be laying down our lives, martyrdom.  Because we love not our lives, even to the point of death.  But never by force.  The kingdom of God does not come by winning the game of force in our finite sphere.  The kingdom of God comes by, in faith, connecting to Jesus Christ, and thus to the beauty of the infinite.

The Word became flesh and blood.  The Word didn’t become an idea, the Word didn’t become a theory, the Word didn’t become a sermon.  The Word became flesh and blood.  The flesh and blood of Jesus is the connecting point of the finite and the infinite.   I’ve used the word infinite, but the Bible uses another word for this, it’s called eternal life.  Instead of infinite, I could have used the words eternal life.  But I want to bring it in a fresh new way.  In the beginning was the infinite, the infinite was with God, the infinite was God, and the infinite became finite flesh and blood, lived among us, and we beheld the beauty of the infinite.

The beauty of the infinite.  It’s a sign.  It’s not just Jesus giving lunch one time.  It’s a sign that we can connect by faith with the word made flesh, and that opens us up to the infinite.

 

“After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.”
‭‭John‬ ‭6:1-15‬ ‭ESV‬‬
 

 

John Lewis

Sands in the Hourglass

The fourth sign in Johns Gospel tells us this – we no longer live in a zero based, closed system universe.  In the incarnation, the Infinite has made contact with the finite…

Imagine.  Imagine you are holding an hourglass.   You know an hourglass.  It’s a simple concept.  It contains two spheres, one is full, one is empty, one is above, one is beneath.  Two spheres, connected at a single point.   They look like they are each self contained, but they are not.  As we know, they are two spheres, self contained, except they are connected at a single point.   The problem with this illustration is the hourglass is made up of two spheres of equal size.  What you really need to imagine is one small sphere down bottom, this is us on earth, another sphere on top, this is heaven.  This is finite, this is infinite.  This is man’s domain, this is God’s.  

But for the top, you have to imagine a sphere the size of the room you are sitting in.  Well, not as big as the room you are sitting in, as big as your town.    Except not as big as Prince Frederick or Annapolis or Baltimore, but a sphere as big as the whole world.  Except bigger than the world, as big as the Milky Way galaxy.  Except not as big as the galaxy, as big as the universe.  Except even the universe can’t contain that sphere on top…because it’s infinite.   Infinite…  

But between our finite and heavens infinite, we have a point.  A point where the sand flows through the hourglass, the point where the two spheres meet, the one is finite, the other being infinite.  We have this point where the infinite is connected to the finite.  And from his fullness we have all received…Our problem is that we are convinced we are empty.  We live in our little sphere on the bottom of that hourglass, and we are convinced our lower sphere called earth is finite and it’s not enough..  And so we live down here, and in that upper sphere they watch and say “Oh look, they’re having a nice little war down here.  It’s like capture the flag except they’re really killing each other.”  They’re having a war down here, because they don’t know anything about the infinite upper sphere of the hourglass, or if they do know it exists they think it’s completely separate…

But “In the beginning was the [infinite], and the [infinite] was with God, and the [infinite] was God….“And the [infinite] became [finite] and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory…”.  John‬ ‭1:1,14‬ ‭ESV‬‬.   And we beheld the beauty of the infinite…

There is a place where the infinite of God connects the finite of man, and it is called Jesus Christ.   Because he is infinite and he is finite.  He is infinite God and he is finite man.  He is the connecting point between the two spheres, and through Jesus Christ God is pouring his love, his fullness, his grace, he’s pouring his infinite beauty into the world.  The connecting point is Jesus Christ.  For you to connect with the connecting point is called faith.  It’s called believing…

The universe is not a closed system.  Christ is the single point at which the infinity of God is poured into the finite creation.  We don’t have to fight down here.  We can connect with Christ, and thus the infinite.   This is why Jesus constantly tells us not to worry about scarcity but to trust in God.   Did you ever hear him say that?  He says it all the time.  Come on, think about the birds, think about the lilies of the field.  Why are you troubled?  Why are you worried?  YOUR FATHER IS INFINITE.  And he cares for you!  And he’s not on vacation, he’s not way off beyond the stars, he is pouring himself into the world through me!!!

Jesus says we don’t have to stay down here in the finite sphere worried and fighting.  We can trust in God and connect with the beauty of the infinite.  This is the life where trust replaces fear and faith replaces force.  This is the life that the sign of the feeding of the five thousand points us to.  It’s the life that we want to live.  It’s the life of peace.  But it’s challenging to enter into.  You can do it, but the fear of scarcity, the paradigm of insufficiency, the drive for economic self preservation is the greatest hindrance to entering into the Kingdom of God.

Still more to say..

 

“After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.”
‭‭John‬ ‭6:1-15‬ ‭ESV‬‬
 


John Lewis

I Shall Not Want

I Shall Not Want

So Jesus is giving is a sign as to just how mistaken we are when we go through life believing there is just not enough for us and for them, for me and for you, for mine and for yours…

We are back in Galilee.  The multitudes are coming to Jesus, and it is a beautiful thing.  The setting is beautiful in Galilee.  Grassy slopes rising up from the Sea of Galilee, and the people were coming to Jesus in great numbers.   And Jesus is teaching them, and of course he was teaching one and one thing only, the Kingdom of God.  He was teaching them the way that their creator, whom He calls his Abba, his Father, intends for human beings to live.  It’s an alternative social structure.  It’s not a social structure based upon systemic sin, it’s a social structure based in love.  

Because this government of God, this reign and rule of God, is only constrained by two laws.  Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  Love your neighbor as yourself.   The cynic will say, and maybe you agree, that you just can’t build a society around that kind of law and structure.  But Jesus says, “Oh, yes you can!”  And this is exactly what it is that Jesus teaches and preaches.   

We’re told that it was Passover.  There were three Passovers in John’s Gospel.  It is from John because of this that we get that Jesus’ ministry lasts 2 1/2 – 3 years, we don’t get that from Matthew, Luke or Mark.   If we only read the synoptic gospels, we might think Jesus’ ministry only lasted about a year, but it’s from John that we see it lasted 2 1/2 – 3 years, still a very short public ministry.   On the first Passover, Jesus had gone to Jerusalem, and events there had created some trouble for him.  

Now, it is the second Passover, and Jesus does not go to Jerusalem for the Passover because of death threats.  He’d been there for an earlier festival, probably Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, and there were death threats.  It says he was not going back to Judea because the Judeans were seeking to  kill him.   When the third Passover comes around, Jesus will go to Jerusalem, and he will be killed.

So it was Passover time, but Jesus was staying in Galilee.  Passover is a Jewish table rite.  It is remembering how God delivered the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt, and how God provided for them with the manna from heaven through the long journey to the promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey.   Jesus will take that Passover meal, and he’s going to innovate.  He’s going to rework it into what we call communion.  John gives us the Eucharistic theology of Jesus at the end of this chapter.

So we’re on a grassy hillside listening to Jesus teach about the government and social structure of God.  He’s teaching how God wants the world arranged.  Not how Cain and Pharaoh and Caesar and all those want it, but how God wants it.

Then he turns to one of his disciples, Phillip, and asks him Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?    These people have needs.  They can’t just live on my words.  They are human beings.  They need bread, maybe more.   Where are we to buy bread to feed these multitudes?  He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.  And of course Phillip answers, probably much as we would, Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.    Phillip breaks out the calculator and figures out it would take at least $12,000 to feed them all.   So Andrew, Peter’s brother, speaks up.  There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?   Andrew immediately feels silly for saying out loud that a little boy has five barley loaves and two fish for such a vast multitude of people.  When he hears himself say it out loud, and there’s such multitude of people, but what is five barley loaves and two little fish for so many people???   But it turns out he’s onto something.  

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.”   Jesus says, I think we can work with this.  Have everybody sit down.   Now there was much grass in the place.   Let them sit down in the green grass of this lovely place.  Now let’s go back to Psalm 23.   What does it say?   “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.   I shall not…what?  I shall not…come up lacking.  I shall not be insufficient.  I shall not be the victim of scarcity.  I shall not…not have enough.   “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.”   We should see that the Shepherd is present here.   He sees these people as his flock, and the Shepherd knows he needs to feed his flock, so he has the sit down.  So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted.   The little boys lunch of five barley loaves and two fishes are given to him, he takes them he gives thanks to the Father.  He gives a prayer, thanking God that he is the provider.  He gives a prayer of thanksgiving, because God is the king of the universe, God brings forth bread from the earth.  Jesus blesses the meal, and begins to give it to the disciples, bread and fish, bread and fish, bread and fish….Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted.   He keeps reaching into the basket.   It seems as though he keeps reaching, but where’s he reaching to?   There’s five to start with, but He’s reaching into something that seems to be infinite.   How long does it take to distribute 1, 2 ,3, 4, 5 barley loaves and 1, 2 fish?   One, two,  three, four, five, six, seven, you should be done, but he’s not.  It just keeps coming.  Where’s he pulling from?   He keeps passing it out, giving it to the disciples, and the twelve are passing it out.   And it just keeps coming.  Maybe this is not a closed system after all.  It just keeps coming, He keeps reaching in and giving and giving, and he’s giving, and he’s giving….

It’s his first hands on miracle.  Water to wine, the healing of the officials son, the healing by the pool are all spoken word miracles, but Jesus has got his hands on the bread and the fish.   He’s giving out these McFish sandwiches, there you go.   And people start eating.  And they have seconds, some have thirds.  They’re not worried about their low carb diet, they just want more bread!  They eat and they’re happy and they’re having a good time, and they eat until they are filled.  And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. 

They eat until they are filled.  Jesus says let’s not let anything go to waste, let’s take up the leftovers.   So from the leftovers of five barley loaves and two fish that had fed five thousand men plus women and children, there is now gathered up of the leftovers twelve baskets full.   When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”    Of course it’s a sign.  And of course it’s twelve baskets full.  It’s a sign of Israel being reconstituted.  Twelve tribes.  Twelve apostles.  Twelve, the number of God’s people.  There’s twelve baskets full, and John tells us this is what the Kingdom of God looks like!  The kingdom of Cain says there’s not enough!  We’re convinced there’s not enough!  There are only five loaves and two fish, and there’s not enough, and you better believe we’re gonna fight, because  I’m taking four…and both the fish!!!  Here, you can have this little loaf, I’m getting mine over here.   If you try to take mine, there’s going to be trouble…

And Jesus gives us a sign, another way.  There’s another way.  You’ve been lied to.   You’ve been told there’s not enough, but there is.  You’ve been lied to.  You’ve been told that scarcity and insufficiency is the paradigm through which you must view the world, but it’s a lie…

The fourth sign in Johns Gospel tells us this – we no longer live in a zero based, closed system universe.  In the incarnation, the Infinite has made contact with the finite…
 
So much more to say…
 

 

John Lewis

The Rules



Back to the story at hand.   Let’s not miss that after the healing narrative in this story of healing the man at the pool of Bethesda, the story says Now that day was the Sabbath.   It was the Sabbath.   “So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’ ” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.””  ‭‭John‬ ‭5:10-17‬ ‭ESV‬‬.  In this story, it says So the Jews said to the man who had been healed…  We need to recognize that when John says Jews here, everyone in the story was Jewish.   But when John uses the Jew, he almost always means the Judeans, or Jerusalem-ites.    These were a bit more austere and rigid in their various religious observations, and they were constantly clashing with Jesus.  This is who John is referring to when he says “the Jews”, because, again, everybody in the story is Jewish.  But he is referring here to those who were a little more religious, fanatical, and austere in their Judaism.  

The Pharisees had 39 activities considered as work and therefore prohibited on the sabbath.  The Torah has instructed the Jewish people that they were not to labor in the sabbath.  But what does that mean?   They came up with a list of 39 activities that were prohibited.  Among these was moving from one domain to another.   Changing addresses is prohibited on the sabbath.  We can’t move from Main Street to Park Avenue on the sabbath.  That is work for sure, isn’t it?  And that’s exactly what this man whom Jesus has healed is doing.   He has rolled up his mat and is moving on up!   He’s moving from one domain to another.  So the Pharisees see this man walking down the road carrying his mat, and all of a sudden it’s “ Citizens arrest!  It’s against the law!  You can’t do that!”   But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’   And go figure, he thought it was a good idea…

Isn’t this reaction from the Pharisees strange?   Shouldn’t they be struck by the miracle, by the healing that was done in this man?   Shouldn’t they be looking for the man who could simply by his word heal a man who had been disabled for thirty-eight years?    But that is not the reaction we see.

Instead, in the face of a great healing miracle, all the Pharisees could hear was that some guy on the sabbath had told someone else to take up his bed and move.  “We need to find out who this guy is.”    They weren’t looking for a miracle worker, they were looking for a sabbath breaker.   And so they missed the sign that something big was going on.  Something big was happening here, but there was nothing bigger to these Judeans than the rules.  Nothing was more important that keeping the rules.   So they missed the sign that God was at work healing the sick in marvelous ways.  All they knew was somebody out there is breaking the sabbath.  Somebody ain’t keeping the rules.  We need to find this man and prosecute him.  Which should show us just how crazy religion can be.

Maybe the lesson to be learned is something like this – if we are focused on the rules, we will likely miss what the spirit is doing.   Now, yes, we need rules.  I do understand rules are important to our lives.  We need rules in a family, in school, in civil society, you need rules in church.  But I will stand by the statement that if we are focused on the rules, if we think that what the Christian life is about is keeping the Christian rules (now you’re a Christian, here are the rules.  We don’t do this, we don’t do that, we don’t, we don’t we don’t…), if that is your focus, then you are mostly going to miss what the spirit is doing.  That’s what these Judeans missed.  They couldn’t see Jesus as a miracle worker, and that would be a sign, they could only see him as a sabbath breaker.   

The Spirit of God is a little bit wild.  We can’t tame the Sprit of God.   We can’t corral the spirit of God.  The Spirit of God seems to have little regard for petty rules.  The Spirit of God blows where the spirit of God wills.  Think about how the wind blows across borders.  Our national borders, political borders.  If we try to cross borders, there are LOTS of rules.  We stand in lines, have proper documentation, have your passport, your visa, stand behind the line until you are called, wait as they look at your documents, pass them through a scanner, finally out come the rubber stamps and you can pass through.  

But the wind, it starts up in Canada, blows down into the United States, down to Mexico, into Guatemala.  Or it’s up in Siberia, Russia, goes down into China, then down into India.  It never obtained a passport, got a visa, stood behind the yellow line or waited to talk to an immigration officer.  The wind just blows where it wills.  That’s very much like the Spirit of God.

Someone says it’s against the rules, you can’t heal on the sabbath!  The spirit of God says I just do what I want!   I blow where I want to go.  I don’t check with the men with the boots and the badges.  I just blow right by.   Don’t be so caught up in the rules that you miss the Spirit of God as it just blows right by you.   Or you just may be the one being left behind…

 

John Lewis

The Living Word

The Living Word
So what do we mean when we say that Jesus is the word of life, the wisdom of life, the logos of life, God’s divine logic of life?  We mean that Jesus is the translation of God’s love logic, his divine logic, into human form so that we can understand him.  This is what the second sign in John’s gospel points to.      That this divine logic, this love logic, this eternal word made flesh, has become a person in Jesus Christ.   And that to believe in Jesus is to believe that Jesus is the revelation of what God is like.   
 
So the sign is not just that Jesus can do miracles.  The sign is going “Right there!  Right there!  Right there!  Right there he is!  Jesus!  That is the word of life!”  That is the word that God has spoken into a sin-sick world to make everyone that believes in him well.   God has sent his word to heal us, and that word is Jesus, because Jesus is what God has to say.  Learn that, that Jesus is what God has to say.

This helps us to understand what the Bible really is.  The Bible is the spirit inspired, ultimate true sign that points us true to the true word of God who is Jesus.  The Bible is not an end in itself.    There is a sense in which you don’t put your faith in the Bible, you put your faith in what the Bible points yout to.  You put your faith in Jesus.  

Is there a difference?  Yes.  A huge difference.   Isn’t it six in one, half dozen in the other?  No.  It’s twelve in one, zero in the other.   Because the Bible can’t save you.   The eternal word of God that saves us is not a theory.  It’s not an idea.  It’s not even a book.  It’s a flesh and blood person named Jesus Christ. What the Bible does, it’s the ultimate spirit inspired sign pointing to Jesus.  If you’ve missed that, you’ve missed  a whole lot.  Kind of like everything…

Let’s look at what Jesus himself says about this, talking to people who know their bibles quite well.  They have bible studies, study aids, everything.   “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”  ‭‭John‬ ‭5:39-40‬ ‭ESV‬‬.   I’m about to get some people upset here.  But get this – the Bible can actually be the cleverest way for us to avoid the Word of God.   You’ve got the book, you read the book, your nose is in the book, studying the book, memorizing the book, the book, the book, the book, and you haven’t figured out  the book is a sign pointing to me.   Imagine Jesus, he can stand right in front of me, and I can keep my nose buried in my Bible, and I can avoid Jesus.   

The Bible is a true witness pointing to Jesus.   But here’s the problem with the Bible – it’s still a book.  And you can make the Bible say whatever you want to say.  You can make the Bible stand on its hind legs and dance a jig.   Go back 150 years, when of the Bible believing Christians of America,  most of them believed that God endorsed slavery.  Because if you’re just going to use your Bible, it’s “There is it is right there!  In the Old Testament and the New Testament too!  Slaves obey your masters!  Uh-huh!!   The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it!”

So, how many of you believe that the living God, the living Christ, has something to say about slavery other than Slaves obey your masters?   Hello!!??   If we want, we can just use the Bible, make it stand on its hind legs and dance a jig.   We can do that with the Bible, but we can’t do that with the living Christ.   You stand before the living Christ and tell him to roll over and dance a jig for you, he just looks at you with His eyes of fire and says no!

This is what writer of Hebrews is talking about when he says “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”   ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭4:12-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬.   In talking about  the word of God that is living and active and able to judge and reach down and penetrate into the deepest parts of us, and the word to whom we must give an account, the writer of Hebrews is not talking about the Bible.  It’s in the Bible, these words are in the Bible.  But it’s not talking about the Bible, it’s talking about Jesus.

This may be new stuff to you.  It’s new stuff you need.  Again go back 150 years.  The majority of the devout, religious, bible believing, amen, hallelujah, my sins are forgiven, church going, love Jesus, dying and going to heaven, people of the time supported, aggressively, slavery and defended it with the Bible.  They were willing to go to war defending slavery, believing God was on their side, because they had been able to use the Bible.  If they had been engaging with the living Christ they would have known better.  What they did was use the Bible to hide from Jesus.

That’s history, but here’s a modern example.   An extensive Gallup survey from a few years ago was done.  Should the United States government use torture in the interrogation of suspected terrorists.  Of course, torture is against the law of our land.  So now we call it “enhanced interrogation?”   Exactly how are we enhancing it???

So the question is, should the United States break its own laws and torture suspected terrorists.  A majority of Americans said.  A majority of Catholics said no.  A majority of Lutherans said no.  A majority of mainline Protestants said no.  Majorly of Jews said no.  Majority of non religious said no.  Majority of atheists said no.

A majority of evangelicals said “yes”.    There’s a problem here.  The people who most self identify as being all about the Bible, bible, bible, “What does the Bible say about the use of torture?”   Nothing.   So it must be ok, praise God!   “So it’s ok with me!”   The Bible says nothing about the use of torture.  But the living Christ has much to say, if you have ears to hear.   Even the agnostic, or the “non”, may not spend time studying the Bible, but they   have heard enough of Jesus that they have an idea of what Jesus is like.  The word of God has been spoken into the world, and they can not imagine Jesus standing in a room torturing somebody say “Talk, you filthy scum, talk!  Or I’ll waterboard you again!”    Maybe that’s not what we ought to do either.  But if we hide behind the Bible, we can imagine this is right…

Don’t be a modern version of a confederate Christian from 150 years ago, using the Bible to prevent yourself from hearing what God has to say.  What would Jesus do?   You can’t always know what Jesus would do, but sometimes it’s clear what Jesus wouldn’t do, isn’t it?   The Bible can’t say everything, or it would be bigger than this house I’m sitting in right now.  But the living Christ can speak constantly into our lives and world, if we will engage with him.  He is the living word, sharper than a two edged sword.  He is the one with eyes like fire.  He is the one to whom we have to give an account.   

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, the living word breathes out.   Sometimes we just have to work that out…

“So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.”
‭‭John‬ ‭4:46-54‬ ‭ESV‬‬

 

John Lewis

The Wine will Flow

The Wine will Flow

Still turning water into wine here…

Mary, despite not actually asking her son to fix the problem of the wine running out, clearly shows a trust in him to be able to do something.   So when Jesus says to her “What’s that for us?”, “His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”   So Jesus looks around and notices there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. He notices these six stone jars, or water pots.   These water pots are empty, they are for the mikvahs.  They use these water pots to fill the mikvahs.  If we ever were to visit Jerusalem, you will see these around.  Mikvahs are dug into the ground, into the stone, with steps leading into him.  What they are is baptistries.   They are not bathtubs, they are not ancient hot tubs.  They are used for ritual purification.  Several times a week. an observant Jew would properly fill his mikvah with the proper kind of water blessed, by the rabbi.  Then he would go down into the water, repeat the prayers, dunk himself seven times, and observe the rituals that he might be ceremonially pure.

So at this wedding we had some of these stone water pots used for filling the mikvah.  They are empty.   Each one has between 20-30 gallons of capacity.  If you fill six of them it’s between 120 to 180 gallons of water, so let’s call it 150 gallons here.  So Jesus tells says to the servants Fill the jars with water.”    To which I can imagine these servants rolling their eyes.  “Oh brother.  Another super religious guy.  Instead of partying all night we’re all going to have to go down to the mikvah and get baptized again.”   But they do it.  It’s going to take a while.  Remember, they don’t have hoses or spigots to use and easily fill these things up.  This required drawing the water out of the well, it takes a lot of time and effort to draw 150 gallons of water.

“And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.”   Ok Jesus.  Sounds a little strange.  But they do it anyway.  They take water out of the stone jar for ritual purification.  They put it in a wine cup and take it to the chief steward, but somewhere in transit, somewhere along the way, a miracle happens.  The water has turned to wine.

The steward doesn’t know anything that’s been going on.  He just knows the wine has run out.  But the servants come to him, “Here you go, try this out.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”    Think about the baffled bridegroom.  He has no idea what the steward is talking about.  All he knows is that he’s heard rumors that they are running out of wine, and all of a sudden now there’s tons of it.   The master of the feast is poking him in the side, grinning – “Oh, you’ve really fooled us!   You kept the very best wine until now!”   To which the bridegroom said what?   “Praise the Lord!!??

But Jesus has done it!!  The little wedding in Cana of Galilee, on the verge of catastrophe, suddenly is supplied with 1000 bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon.  And Jesus gives a wink to his mom.   “This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”  John 2:11 NLT.  And John says Jesus revealed his glory.  Jesus revealed his glory, which means his beauty.    Imagine being one his 6 disciples there.   Imagine following this rabbi, just starting to follow, then you see the sign, you see the water turned to water.

And Jesus revealed his beauty.   This is a beautiful story.  There is something fun, something whimsical about this story.  Later, most of Jesus’ miracles are framed in a life and death scenario.  A leper, his life ebbing away.  Disciples in a boat, threatened with imminent death from a storm.   Here’s a little girl who’s in fact already died.  There’s a deep, dark frame around a lot of Jesus’ miracles.  But this one, there’s none of that.  Yes, we might want to save the family from social embarrassment, but there is no way this is crucial to anything.  This is just a whimsical miracle, where Jesus, in order to keep the wedding going, gives a sign.  It’s not just a party trick, it’s a sign.

What’s the sign pointing to?   In the Old Testament, the abundance of wine was often symbolic of God’s favor and blessing.  Likewise, ruined vineyards and a scarcity of wine was symbolic of the absence of God.  So as the prophets began to imagine the time when God would come through his Messiah, anticipating the day when messiah would come and bring the righteous reign of God with all of its blessing and abundance, they use language like this  – “…the vats shall overflow with wine…” Joel 2:24 ESV, “the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.”  Amos 9:13 ESV, “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine…” Isaiah 25:6 ESV.  It’s as if they are saying Oh, and the rivers will flow with wine…

That’s the anticipation, the prophetic vision.  So, in a beautiful and artistic way, Jesus, in turning the water to wine and providing an abundance of it, has announced that the reign of God at last has arrived.   Remember, in the story, the steward says to the bridegroom But you have kept the good wine until now.   John’s gospel is very sophisticated.  It’s as if he knows and trusts his readers will read this over and over in a thoughtful way, and he hides all these gems in it.  So, Jesus is also the bridegroom, is he not?   Jesus is the bridegroom…

So think of it like this – in previous days, in earlier times Israel had had some good wine.  In the days of Moses, when they are brought out of Egypt, and God is present in a cloud by day and fire by night, giving them the Torah, they had some good wine.  In the days of David, when the kingdom was coming and the sweet psalmist of Israel was reigning and ruling, they had some good wine.  But then, the exile.  For about 500 years, all you could say is, they have no wine.  The wine has run out.  The good days are gone, they have no wine.

But now…JESUS IS ON THE SCENE!!!   Not only is there wine, it’s the best wine!!!   We can say, We had some good times with Moses, we had some good times with David, but the BEST has been saved for now!!   AMEN!

When Jesus is on the scene, good things are about to happen.  Why was Jesus at this wedding?  Because he was invited!   Hey, remember that carpenter guy over in Nazareth?  He did some work for us, he’s a cool guy.  What’s his name?   Oh yeah, Yeshua of Nazareth, 101 Olive Street, Nazareth.   And just because they invited Jesus, they got the miracle.  So when you’re going through your struggle, your thing, your situation, your problem, and you’re going through it, invite Jesus.  JESUS, want to come to my party, my mess, my marriage, my addiction, my life, my business, my thing?   I got this thing going on Jesus, want to come?   And don’t tell Jesus what to do, just invite him.  Because you never know what Jesus is going to do.  Think about it, nobody would have thought I know what to do, we’ll invite Jesus and he’ll perform a miracle and turn all this water into wine.  Nobody would have ever dreamed that up.  Only Jesus.  So don’t tell Jesus what to do, just invite him to your thing.  Because where Jesus shows up good things are about to happen.  But Jesus tends to show up where he’s invited.

So invite him.

John Lewis